Travelzoo's favourite quirky UK pubs
The UK abounds with history and legends, and our pubs are no different. Since we are all exploring our local areas more than ever before, and need refreshment along the way, the team here at Travelzoo has put together a list of our favourite pubs around the country. Some have quirky themes, some a gory history, and some boast enviable beachfront locations.
The Philharmonic Dining Rooms, Liverpool
Located opposite Liverpool’s Philharmonic Hall, this watering hole is designed in the style of a gentlemen’s club, and its male loos are a popular tourist attraction in their own right. The ornate marble urinals were the key feature that earned the bar its Grade I heritage status, making it the first purpose-built pub to gain the accolade.
Elsewhere in the venue, features include mosaic displays, wooden panelling, stone sculptures, and metal gates by designer Henry Bloomfield Bare.
Loved by locals, the Philharmonic Dining Rooms was a favourite of the most famous Liverpudlians of all, The Beatles. According to The Times, when asked what the price of fame is, John Lennon replied, "no longer being able to have a pint in the Phil".
Amy, a producer in London, says, "while this establishment may look pretty standard pie-and-a-pint fare from the outside, inside it's an architectural wonder, decorated in musical themes with a particularly ornate gents' toilet that attracts snap-happy tourists from across the globe. Keep your eyes peeled for celeb spots at the bar; Paul McCartney is rumoured to be a fan."
Amy, producer based in London
The Old Neptune, Whitstable, Kent
Affectionately nicknamed The Neppy by the locals, this pub is on the beach in the charming fishing town of Whitstable on the Kent coast. Sample British comfort food including fish and chips or pie and mash while watching the sun set. On sunny days, there is a beach barbecue, with burgers and hot dogs.
The Old Neptune was twice rebuilt after two storms destroyed the building, and there are plenty of photographs detailing its history.
Adrian, head of sales, says, "it's incredibly old, it’s on the beach, it oozes character, there’s always a great buzz, and where else can you get a better view while drinking your beer?"
Adrian, head of sales based in London
Jailhouse Bar at The Courthouse Hotel, London
Housed in what used to be the police station of the Old Magistrate's Court, this unique watering hole in Shoreditch is adorned by mug shots of the likes of Darth Vader and the Mona Lisa. You can spend a night in the clink, and Travelzoo sales manager Jon calls it "a secret little spot in the heart of the West End, perfect for cocktails in the privacy of your own jail cell".
Former famous prisoners of the Jailhouse Bar include the Kray twins and George Orwell. The building was also used for the filming of popular crime drama "Luther".
Jon, sales manager based in London
The Crooked House, Dudley, West Midlands
Visitors flock from all over the world to see the bizarre optical illusions created by this wonky pub. Built on a mine, subsidence has caused one side of the building to be four feet lower than the other, meaning you'll feel tipsy before you've even ordered your first pint. But don't worry, they have regular checks to ensure that the building is no longer moving.
With slanting floors, lopsided windows, and the illusion of marbles rolling uphill along the bar and windowsills, The Crooked House certainly lives up to its name.
"If you spill your drink here," says producer Emma, "the liquid will look like it's pouring uphill, and if the building starts looking straight, then you've probably had one too many."
Emma, producer based in Manchester
Tŷ Coch, North Wales
Tŷ Coch pub has an enviable position on the north coast of the Llŷn Peninsula Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It sits directly on a sandy beach in a remote cove, with views over the Irish Sea to the Yr Eifl hills and Snowdonia. It's in the village of Porthdinllaen, which is owned by the National Trust, and accessible only by foot from the car park (about 20 minutes' walk away).
Nick, Travelzoo's head of hotel sales, says, "kick back with a beer and watch the wakeboarders out at sea while listening to steel drums. It's almost like being in the Caribbean."
Nick, head of sales based in Manchester
The Sir Walter Tyrrell, New Forest
This traditional pub lies close to the Rufus Stone, which marks the alleged spot where King William II was killed by an arrow in a hunting accident by one of his archers. The Sir Walter Tyrrell is named after the man who shot the arrow, which ricocheted off an oak tree and hit the king in the chest.
The timber-framed interior is cosy, and there's also a beer garden and a children's play area.
"I love going to this pub as its in the heart of the New Forest," says sales manager Chris. "It is enriched with surrounding beauty and has an excellent outside space for families to enjoy."
Chris, sales manager based in London
The Blind Beggar, London
London's East End has a notorious crime history, being the setting for Jack the Ripper's murders, and later, the stomping ground of notorious London gangsters the Kray twins. The Blind Beggar pub in Whitechapel is famously where Ronnie Kray opened fire and shot rival George Cornell in the head.
William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army, preached his first sermon outside the pub, and a statue of him stands nearby.
This pub is a favourite of sales manager Anand, who says, "I love visiting this pub on a Friday night. The atmosphere is unrivalled and it's notoriously good fun. A true East London bolthole."
Anand, sales manager based in London
Frankenstein & Bier Keller, Edinburgh
This spooky pub is in a 19th-century former church in Edinburgh’s old town. With eerie lighting, electric static charges, an animatronic Frankenstein's monster, and original black-and-white films playing on screens around the bar, Frankenstein & Bier Keller caters for those looking for a fun, themed night out.
Travelzoo producer Adam says, "spooky cocktails, Gothic décor, screenings of the original "Frankenstein", steins of German beer, and the Oktoberfest spirit served in the cellar; what’s not to love? Keep an eye out for Frankenstein from the bar, too!"
The famous Royal Mile, which leads up to Edinburgh Castle and is lined with tartan and whiskey shops, is less than 20 minutes' walk away.
Adam, producer based in London
Ye Olde Fighting Cocks, St Albans, Hertfordshire
Several pubs lay claim to being the oldest in the UK, but Ye Olde Fighting Cocks in Hertfordshire is recognised as such by Guinness World Records. The inn dates from about 793 AD, and is in a pretty setting overlooked by St Albans Cathedral. The inside is cosy and adorned by wooden beams across the low ceiling.
The pub has tunnels that were used by monks leading from its beer cellar to the cathedral.
"I love this pub, located in the heart of the picturesque Verulamium Park. Ye Old Fighting Cocks is the perfect place to grab some great food and a pint of local ale," says James, Travelzoo's general manager.
James, general manager based in London
The Temple of Convenience, Manchester
This subterranean bar is a much-loved Manchester institution, with a loyal crowd of local punters who praise the jukebox as the best in the city. Housed in a former public toilet, from the street it looks unimposing, with a white canopy covering stone steps heading underground.
"It's one of Manchester's smallest bars, with friendly staff and good music", says sales manager Claire, and it's the lively, intimate, and friendly atmosphere that makes The Temple of Convenience a city favourite. It is known to be frequented by Manchester's musicians — Elbow's frontman Guy Garvey mentions it in one of their songs: "a hole in my neighbourhood down which of late I cannot help but fall".
Claire, sales manager based in Manchester
Purleigh Bell, Purleigh, Essex
Perched high on a hill in Purleigh, this tiny old pub with sweeping views of Essex opened in the 17th-century, and serves comfort food by a roaring open fire, with hops hanging from wooden beams.
The owners of the Purleigh Bell run cinema nights where punters can bring their own deck chairs, as well as wine tastings and meet-the-brewer events.
Travelzoo photo editor Alexandria says, "this pub is perfect for cosy homemade food by the fire or sitting outside and admiring the far-reaching views during the summer. My favourite dish is their homemade chicken Kiev. The owners also have a really friendly dog who likes to watch over the punters."
Alexandria, photo editor based in London
The King William IV Pub & Rooms, London
Found on upmarket Hampstead High Street, The King William IV Pub & Rooms is less than 10 minutes’ walk from the sprawling greenery of Hampstead Heath. The interior is decorated with photos of local celebrities, and has a cosy log-burner and leather sofas. There’s an outdoor courtyard, too.
The pub is said to be haunted by the ghosts of two women, one who was murdered and bricked up in the cellar by her pub-landlord husband, and one of a young girl who gazes through the windows sorrowfully.
"With weekly live bands and friendly locals, this pub should be on everybody’s list," says Travelzoo accountant Nargis, "not forgetting the crêpes from the famous La Crêperie de Hampstead next door to end the night with."
Nargis, accountant based in London