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My Top Ten British Pubs

Written by documentary film maker and pub lover, George Cowie

Returning from the bar with scratchings, scampi fries and a round of overflowing beers all balanced on a sticky tray is a wonderful thing. You feel like a hunter gatherer bringing home a haul. You feel giddy like a Labrador that’s found the biggest stick in the park, sashaying across the beer garden, tail wagging, feeling a million dollars.

I love spending time in pubs whether it’s with a lively gaggle of pals, catching up one-on-one with an old friend, or in the corner just watching life happen around me.
Here are my top 10 favourites.

Kay’s Bar, Edinburgh

Tucked away in the shadows of the grey, granite Georgian terraces of Edinburgh’s New Town sits Kay’s Bar with it’s coal fires, whisky and steamed up windows. Whenever I’m in Edinburgh I take my book and while away a couple of hours pretending to read but really tuning in and out of the local gossip from the neighbouring tables.

Skehans, Telegraph Hill, South East London

Skehans is a lively South East London pub with lots of soul. With fiddle music, good Guinness and the occasional lock-in it’s a bastion of the rebellious, rootsy spirit that makes this corner of London so great. It’s worth a visit for the sunset views and the hanging baskets alone.

The Millbrook, Southpool

Nestled at the bottom of a creek in south Devon is the wonderful Milbrook. The best way of getting to the pub is by boat, but with fast moving tides you have to time it right. You may have to knock back the tail end of your second pint for risk of getting stuck in the mud on your return. The crab sandwiches are delicious and the mill stream at the back is home to a family of white ducks that live on chips.

The Shipwrights, Faversham

Faversham in Kent is the home of Shepherd Neame the oldest brewery in the country, and as a result the town is full of pubs. But a few miles across grassy marshland past the clank of sailing boat masts in the breeze and rusty thames barges lost to the sea, you will find the wood-cladded Shipwrights. Full of nautical bits and bobs and fun characters you can’t help but feel Dickens, who lived around the corner, must have drawn inspiration from these places.

The Seven Stars, Holborn

Another London favourite is the Seven Stars behind the Royal Courts of Justice. A sliver of a pub run by Roxy Beaujolais, an outrageous Australian who has been on the Soho circuit since the 70s – she is brilliantly bolshy and a wonderful cook. Thomas Paine is the pub cat who sleeps on the bar and wears a ruff. It’s home to misfit barristers and is open on Christmas Day for a pint after carols at St Pauls Cathedral.

The Turks Head, St Agnes 

On St Agnes in the Scilly Isles The Turks Head is an old pirate’s pub surrounded by crystal clear waters and white sandy beaches. Perfect place for drinking Navy Rum and ginger beer and spotting seals.

The Rose and Crown, Oxford

The Rose and Crown on North Parade in Oxford is a proper pub. If you want to really fit in you will need to grow a beard, get a PHD, and brush up on your knowledge of Norman castles and county cricket. Pickled egg eating is also mandatory.

The Square and Compass, Worth Matravers

A winning formula of homemade pasties sold through a hole in the wall, staggeringly strong scrumpy, far reaching sea views and it’s own fossil museum. A perfect stop-off when walking the Jurassic Coast.

The Pig’s Nose, East Prawle

With a recording studio in the village you get impromptu gigs at the Pig’s Nose. It’s reputed that the Rolling Stones and Radiohead have played, but when I was there last Atomic Kitten were on the bill. If you thought things couldn’t get anymore glam, the coconut shy at the annual fete in May is manned by none other than ex-royal correspondent and local resident Jennie Bond. If you can’t handle the glitz trundle down the cliff path to hidden beaches and lovely swimming.

The Plough, Bristol

Irreverent, anarchic Bristol at it’s best, this is the place for a big boisterous night out. The dancefloor is a mini minefield of bad dancing, spilled rum and sweaty bodies – in the best possible way.