Sunday, 13 March 2016


In a country where the pub forms such an important part of everyday life, it is no surprise to learn that there are a host of such establishments with film, TV and literary associations.  With Spring around the corner, why not get out and discover some of them.  The following is just a selection; if you know of any others, why not share them via the comments. 

Askrigg, North Yorkshire: The Kings Arms

In 1978 the popular drama All Creatures Great and Small arrived on our TV screens, set in 1940s Yorkshire, based on the books by real-life vet James Herriot, and featuring a trio of vets sharing a practice in a picturesque Yorkshire Dales village.  A number of different Dales locations were used for the filming, but the pub frequented by the vets, The Drovers Arms in Darrowby in the series, was actually the Kings Arms in the lovely village of Askrigg.  There are photographs inside the pub taken during the filming of the series.  For those who want to immerse themselves overnight in the Herriot experience, the pub does not offer accommodation, however Skeldale House just down the road, which acted as the frontage of the vets practice in the series, is a bed and breakfast.

Banff, Aberdeenshire: The Ship Inn

The heartwarming 1983 film Local Hero, about a small Scottish community called Ferness which was tempted by oil riches, was largely filmed in the village of Pennan in Aberdeenshire.  However, the interior of the local pub frequented by villagers and American visitors alike, called the Macaskill Arms in the film, was filmed in The Ship Inn in Banff, also in Aberdeenshire.  The exterior shots were filmed in Pennan itself, with ordinary buildings providing the basis for the facade.  Another pub, the Lochailort Hotel far away in Morar, was also used for some of the interior scenes.  All this has not prevented Pennan’s real-life local, the Pennan Inn, from cashing in on the film’s fame.  The inn, which is located opposite the red phone box which played a pivotal role in the story, has a plaque on the wall commemorating the film.    

Bolventor, Cornwall: Jamaica Inn

Jamaica Inn is Daphne du Maurier’s story of a young woman who, following her mother’s death, is forced to go and live with her aunt and drunken uncle in the creepy Jamaica Inn, perched on the wild, windswept moorlands of Cornwall’s interior.  The story was recently serialised for television, attracting widespread derision for the mumbling Cornish accents issuing forth from the actors’ mouths.  The inn of the title actually exists in real life; it used to stand right next to the A30, but improvements to the main artery whisking tourists into Cornwall left it slightly adrift, necessitating a turnoff from the road – just follow the brown tourist sign.  Overnight accommodation is available at the inn – not for the fainthearted, since it has been the scene of many paranormal activities over the years, not surprisingly given the inn’s past as a smugglers’ haunt, which no doubt led to a number of murders.  The main resident ghost is said to be that of a traveller who stepped outside in the middle of his pint and was found dead on the moor the next day.  Footsteps heard along the passage leading to the bar are believed to be that of the ill-fated visitor returning to finish his ale.

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Jamaica Inn.  Photo by Kenneth Allen, via Wikimedia Commons

Bristol: The Hole In The Wall

Long John Silver in Robert Louis Stephenson’s Treasure Island, surely the ultimate stereotype of the pirate-with-a-West-Country-accent, was the landlord of The Spyglass Inn in the novel.  The story’s narrator, Jim Hawkins, had orders to meet him there and when he arrived he realised with horror that the pub landlord had only one leg.  There are many pubs claiming to be the inspiration for The Spyglass Inn, but the one most closely matching the description is The Hole In The Wall in Bristol, not least because it has a spy-hole feature which was used to keep a look-out for the press gang, and it occupies a quayside position in line with the fictional pub.  Centrally located near Queen Square and the Arnolfini Gallery, the real-life pub continues to serve up food and drink to hungry and thirsty Bristolians and visitors.

Denton, Kent: The Jackdaw Inn

The wartime classic The Battle of Britain, released in 1969, is full of wonderful vintage scenes depicting the lifestyles of wartime Britain.  One of them features a pub where Squadron Leader Colin Harvey (Christopher Plummer) meets his screen wife (Susannah York).  The scene was filmed in Kent in The Jackdaw Inn, Denton.  Wartime memories live on in the pub with lots of wartime RAF memorabilia and vintage posters such as the one declaring “Don’t Help the Enemy! Careless Talk May Give Away Vital Secrets”, a poster which can be seen in the background in the film.   The pub used to be called The Red Lion, but it was renamed in 1962 because the Whitbread brewery felt there were too many pubs in the area with the same name.

Goathland: The Goathland Hotel

Heartbeat is a British TV series set in the 1960s in North Yorkshire, starring Nick Berry as PC Nick Rowan, which was shown between 1991 and 2009.  The filming of the series was centred around the village of Goathland,which lies on the Whitby to Pickering North Yorkshire Moors Railway line.  The local pub which featured in the story was the Aidensfield Arms, which was depicted by the Gothland Hotel.  The filming entailed the rebuilding of the interior of the bar as well as using the exterior for outside shots.

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The Goathland Hotel.  Photo by Nicholas Mutton, via Wikimedia Commons

London: The Grapes

Located at 76 Narrow Street, Limehouse, this inn was originally The Bunch of Grapes, built in 1583.  Its main literary claim to fame is that it was frequented by Charles Dickens.  In fact the opening sentences of Our Mutual Friend are believed to refer to it, describing it as “a tavern of dropsical appearance” in a “state of hale infirmity”.  Dickens went on to describe the inn’s waterside location as akin to “a faint-hearted diver, who has paused so long on the brink that he will never go in at all”.  The pub has a venerable history, particularly from the Elizabethan era, when Sir Walter Raleigh set sail on his third voyage to the New World from the river just below.  The present-day pub, now owned by the actor Sir Ian McKellen, has a small balcony overlooking the river, and Dickens fans will find a complete set of his works in the back parlour.

Newcastle Upon Tyne: The Victoria Comet

The premises now occupied by the Victoria Comet in Newcastle played a starring role in the 1972 Geordie gangster classic Get Carter starring Michael Caine, so much so that it is commonly referred to as the ‘Get Carter pub’.  When the venue started out as a pub in the 1800s, it was actually two pubs, The Victoria and The Comet, which later became a hotel known as The Victoria and Comet.  After a spell as a branch of O’Neills, it was revamped and renamed The Victoria Comet in a nod to its past, with posters depicting scenes from the film on the walls.  In the film the Caine character Jack Carter, following his arrival by train at the city’s main station, fetches up at the pub, where a young Alun Armstrong is serving behind the bar.  Allegedly some of the pub regulars were given roles as extras in the film and they took to their parts a bit too enthusiastically, including the imbibing of real beer, bringing them to various states of inebriation.  

New Quay: The Black Lion

High up above the harbour of this charming small resort on the coast of Ceredigion, The Black Lion boasts lovely views from its large garden.  In the mid-1940s the Welsh poet Dylan Thomas moved into Majoda, a house in an idyllic setting on the clifftop just outside the town.  It is a well-known fact that drinking was one of Thomas’ favourite pursuits, and The Black Lion was his favourite pub in New Quay.  The Dylan Restaurant in the basement has a large amount of Dylan Thomas memorabilia displayed on the walls.  Across the road from the pub is Gomer House, the former home of Captain Tom Polly, who was the inspiration for Captain Cat, the blind sea captain in Under Milk Wood.

Oxford: The Eagle and Child

Set among the venerable college buildings of Oxford University, the Eagle and Child was once a favourite haunt of J. R. R. Tolkien of The Hobbit fame.  He used to visit the pub as part of a group of writers called the Inklings, which also included C. S. Lewis.   Tolkien and Lewis were both at the English Faculty at the University.  Built in the mid-1600s, the pub’s name is said to have come from the crest of the Earl of Derby, which has an image of a baby in an eagle’s nest.  The pub recalls its literary past with photos on the wall and a plaque commemorating the Inklings.     

Slad, Gloucestershire: The Woolpack

With a beer terrace overlooking a beautiful valley in the southern Cotswolds, the interior of the Woolpack Inn in Slad looks as though it has never changed over the years, and certainly not since the times when local literary celebrity the late Laurie Lee used to prop up the bar here.  Slad was Lee’s home village, and his most famous work Cider With Rosie delightfully conjures up what comes across as an idyllic childhood.  After he married his wife Kathy, the couple made their home in a house just across the road.  The pub, which gets a mention in Cider With Rosie, has pictures of Laurie Lee on the walls, and there is a beer produced by the local Uley brewery named after him.  Fans of the writer who visit the pub for a pint can raise a glass to him while glancing up the road to the Church of Holy Trinity, where he is buried in the graveyard.

The Woolpack

Whitstable: The Old Neptune

Perched precariously on Whitstable’s shingle beach, the Old Neptune – or Neppy as it is affectionately called by the locals – is in prime position for admiring the town’s legendary sunsets.  In 2006 Peter O’Toole, in a rather frail state from a broken hip, starred in the film Venus as a veteran actor, and some of the filming took place in the Neppy.  O’Toole was  nominated for an Oscar for the role, but he was beaten to it by Forest Whitaker as Idi Amin.  The pub was taken over for the whole day for filming, but the crew finished early and O’Toole bought the entire pub a round of drinks before leaving. 

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