ALE Summer 2003 No. 311

Historic York

A pub tour of historic York one long weekend in March 2003.

This area is surprisingly unspoit though there are modern shopping areas (for instance around the Jorvik Viking Centre). It's very compact, being roughly 30-40 minutes walk across.


The Maltings
On the south-western side of the River Ouse, just down from Lendal Bridge (Museum Street) is the Maltings Free House. Its superb range of local beers (such as York & Black Sheep breweries) and guests on six handpumps means that it can get very full in this small pub. On my visit I tried Bristol Cabot (95p/half). There's also a range of Belgian beers. Good food is a further attraction - the chilli is specially recommended.


York Brewery
Along Rougier Street (past the bus station) and along Tanner Row and then Toft Green brings one to York Brewery. It's designed as a show brewery, with a visitor centre and gift shop.

Some visitor guides claim that Micklegate is famous for its pubs (the 'Mickelgate Run'): from what I saw it's now strictly a drinking circuit.


The Ackhorne
Off Micklegate, up the cobbled St Martins Lane is the Ackhorne, a quiet, friendly oasis of real ale, with an ever-changing selection of guests adding to Caledonian Deuchars IPA and Roosters Yankee on its six handpumps. On my visits I had St Austell HSD (1.15/half) and Yankee (2.00/pint). Ridleys Rumpus and Hydes Bitter were also on. They also sell Westons Old Rosie cider, Lindisfarne fruit wines and Yorkshire honey.


The Golden Ball
Carrying on in the same direction, along Bishophill Senior and then Cromwell Road, I didn't stop at the Golden Ball as Saturday afternoon sports noise was emanating from it - it sounded packed - a thriving community local. It's a Victorian pub, still with its glazed brick facade, and is in CAMRA's National Inventory of historic pub interiors. It still has a Bar Billiards table.


The Swan
At the end of Cromwell Road I turned right into Bishopgate Street and arrived at the Swan, there enjoying a nice drop of the current guest, Rudgate Ruby Mild (4.4%, 1.08/half); the main beer range is Tetley's. It's a quiet place - a great place for a chat or a read. Apparently it's in the classic "West Riding" pub layout: a passage down one side, with a front room, then a serving area then a back room leading off the passage. It's also in CAMRA's National Inventory.



The Royal Oak and the Golden Slipper
Starting at the north-east end of Goodramgate, near Monk Bar, the Royal Oak is a delight of a pub: three cosy rooms lead off the main corridor and there's an excellent choice of beers. On this visit, Greene King Abbot, Jennings Cumberland (2.10/pint), Landlord and Tetley Bitter were on but Burton Ale is also a regular. There's a good menu of pub grub, including the pub's own bread. The gents' loo is in a very basic shed out the back - rather a throw-back!

Next door is the Golden Slipper, another unspoilt pub full of character - and characters. On the Monday lunchtime I was there about 20 locals were having an informal, free-for-all quiz in one of the front rooms. Beers on included Wells Bombardier (1.10/half), John Smith Magnet and Greene King Old Speckled Hen. There's a back room lined with books.


The Snickleway Inn Further down, the Snickleway Inn is another characterful pub, with a sequence of rooms running back from the street - very friendly but somewhat smoky. Old Speckled Hen (1.15) and John Smiths were on and there was a good menu of pub grub.


The Old White Swan The Old White Swan consists of nine old buildings, giving a wide variety of spaces around its courtyard. The Gallery Bar to the right had TV and music playing. Worthington, Bass (1.10/half) and London Pride were on.


The Cross Keys The Cross Keys is at the junction with Deangate: to the right leads to York Minster. I didn't go in but pub guides say it caters for a wide range of tastes.



The Punch Bowl Inn Stonegate is the historic street between the River Ouse and the Minster.

Around 400 years old, the Punch Bowl Inn consists of a front bar, a middle dining area and a dark, snug rear bar. It's branded as a Bass place (now Mitchells and Butlers), with Bass, Worthington and York Brewery Terrier (1.05/half) on when I visited. It was spoilt for me by a very managed attitude from the staff. As the front and rear bars were packed, I sat down in the almost-empty middle bar but was immediately moved on by a member of staff claiming that all the empty tables were needed at any moment for diners (at 17:30 on a Sunday night)!


Ye Olde Starre Inn There's a big sign across Stonegate for Ye Olde Starre Inn as it's down a narrow passageway on the western side. Bass, York Terrier and Charles Wells Bombardier (1.10/half) were on. There was piped music but not too loud. The historic pub goes a long way back from the street.



The Last Drop Inn
The first pub opened by York Brewery, the Last Drop Inn was converted from a solicitor's office and the frontage still looks like a shop. It's cosy inside, within a range of spaces. There's a good range of the brewery's beers plus guests: e.g. York Brewery's Stonewall (95p/half), Terrier, Centurions Ghost and Guzzler; Norman's Dark & Delicious from Corvedale Brewery (Shropshire).

High Petergate

Going north-westwards, Colliergate becomes Low Petergate and then High Petergate.
In High Petergate is York Brewery's second pub, the Three-Legged Mare. It's modern-looking inside, with no piped music or jukebox. Again as well as the brewery's beers there are guests. I tried the Norman's Dark & Delicious (4.6%, 1.00/half) - rich & satisfying! The pump clip had the explanation(?) "Norman wasn't feeling himself!"


The Hole In The Wall Also in High Petergate is Mansfield's Hole In The Wall. Beers on included Mansfield Riding (98p/half) and Bitter. The interior was somewhat bland and ordinary - perhaps due to an inappropriate 20th-century refurbishment?


The York Arms Another pub in High Petergate, towards the Minster, is the York Arms (not visited.)


I didn't see any sign of the famous northern full heads on my pints (northerners are supposed to prefer their beer that way) - I think all pints (& halves) were served full-measure without my needing to ask.

Historic York, being so compact, is an amazing place to explore and it's lucky to have so many old pubs still. Whilst John Smith's and Bass seem to predominate, thankfully there are opportunities for smaller brewers.

Ian Kitching


Pubs were chosen largely guided by the Good Beer Guide (2003 edition).

Other pubs not visited but worth a passing mention.

The Roman Bath
In St Sampson's Square the Roman Bath is named after what lies beneath it, in the pub's cellars - the Roman legionary baths.


The Three Cranes To the right of the Roman Bath is the Three Cranes.


The Three Tuns
The Three Tuns in Coppergate has Mansfield beers. The jukebox and the pub's narrowness mean it can get very cramped and noisy.
The Jorvik Viking Centre is a short distance away, down Coppergate Walk shopping arcade.


The Golden Fleece
The Golden Fleece in Pavement, is reckoned to be the oldest surviving coaching inn in York, serving John Smith's beers.


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