Our start point is the Pickerel on Magdalene Street, one of two claimants to the position of the city's oldest pub (the Green Dragon Chesterton being the other). Although what must once have been a warren of little rooms has been opened out, it retains many nooks and crannies and its low, heavily-beamed ceiling (plus it has a real fire, very welcome in the recent weather). Landlord Nathan Donnelly has been here since 2005 and has maintained the pub's fine real ale reputation. The regulars are that Norfolk stalwart, Woodforde's Wherry and the same brewery's Nelson's Revenge. The pub is on the SIBA direct delivery scheme which gives direct access to selected microbreweries, so all sorts of interesting ales turn up on the other three pumps.

Over the river and running the gauntlet of the punt touts, we come to Bridge Street and the Baron of Beef. This Greene King pub underwent refurbishment last year which included a degree of internal rearrangement to create more seating in the back area. It also now sports a tasteful, muted colour scheme. Just a pity that the screens which once separated the cosy front bar from the long narrow back one couldn't have been reinstated – maybe next time. Anyway, the bank of five handpumps offers Greene King IPA and Old Speckled Hen plus three from the GK guest list – Olde Trip, Hook Norton Old Hookey and Roosters Good Cheer Beer on my last visit (nice to see ales from smaller breweries appearing in GK managed pubs – I had some excellent Wyre Piddle in the Bath House the other day). Beer quality here is always good and there's also meal deals to be had and a wide selection of burgers. Older readers may recall the redoubtable Bob Wass, landlord here for many years and a resolute champion of top pressure beer.

Right next door is the Mitre where new licensee Adam is settling in well. The quality and choice of real ales here has led to it becoming a Good Beer Guide regular; Fullers London Pride, Sharps Doom Bar and Tim Taylor Landlord are accompanied by up to five guests – my last visit found Cropton Endeavour, Inveralmond Ossian, Copper Dragon Pippin (lovely) and Harviestoun Bitter and Twisted. Prices, at £2.75 to £2.90, are lower than the city centre norm (as, indeed, they are at the Pickerel). The interior still betrays vestiges of the Ale House look it was given many years ago e.g. the stone flagged floor in the lower portion, but it has an essentially smart, contemporary feel, the large windows to the street being especially attractive. Lots of good value food here as well, including a choice of pies.

A short cut through the bowels of the Park Street multi-storey brings us to another GBG pub, the Maypole, home of our 2010 Real Ale Champion, Vincent Castiglione. Since his family bought the freehold of the pub from Punch in 2009, Vincent has been able to indulge fully his passion for real ale. The eight handpulls in the front bar dispense a beguiling mix of East Anglian beers and those from further afield. Buntingford Brewery is one of Vincent's favourites and they supply the splendidly hoppy house beer, Maypole. A couple of real ciders can also be found along with a growing selection of bottled beers from Belgium and elsewhere. Excellent, good value food as well.

Back down Park Street, left into Jesus Lane and right into Malcolm Street where, on the corner with King Street, stands the Bun Shop. I don't propose to write much about this pub because, as reported in the last issue, it's closing for major alterations and will emerge with a new name (indeed, work may have started by the time you read this)

Of the other pubs in King Street, two (the Champion of the Thames and the Radegund) receive ALE deliveries from a colleague whilst the former Cambridge Arms, now d'Arry's, can hardly be described as a pub anymore (though it does sell real ale). That leaves my final stop, the decidedly quirky King Street Run. Whitbreads (remember them?) turned this into a “fun pub” many moons ago and quite a few relics from that era survive. It also has that relative rarity these days – table football. The U-shaped drinking area surrounds a large central bar where handpumps dispense Greene King IPA and Old Speckled Hen plus Wychwood Hobgoblin. My calls are always at lunchtime when it's generally quiet so I don't know what things are like later in the day. It's certainly a characterful place to finish this particular sortie.