Proper Pubs

Oxpete

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Retro pub review from Tuesday 19th November 2019, and before catching the train back to Oxford there was enough time for a lunchtime session in Southsea at...

HUIS
62 Elm Grove
Southsea
Portsmouth
HUISSouthsea


...a small Belgian orientated bar and kitchen about five minutes walk north of the Palmerston Road shops and not too far from the King's Theatre on Albert Road. They'd half-a-dozen Belgian and one Danish draught beers on tap, and a list of maybe a hundred different (mainly Belgian, but others too) bottles available from a large cage at the end of the bar. The food looked good too, and I really liked the old cathode-ray tube looking telly that they seemed to have successfully wired into Belgian TV somehow. They seem to regularly sell off slow-moving lines at knock-down prices, and I picked up a few bargains for later consumption.

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Climate Change

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Retro pub review from Tuesday 19th November 2019, and before catching the train back to Oxford there was enough time for a lunchtime session in Southsea at...

HUIS
62 Elm Grove
Southsea
Portsmouth
HUISSouthsea


...a small Belgian orientated bar and kitchen about five minutes walk north of the Palmerston Road shops and not too far from the King's Theatre on Albert Road. They'd half-a-dozen Belgian and one Danish draught beers on tap, and a list of maybe a hundred different (mainly Belgian, but others too) bottles available from a large cage at the end of the bar. The food looked good too, and I really liked the old cathode-ray tube looking telly that they seemed to have successfully wired into Belgian TV somehow. They seem to regularly sell off slow-moving lines at knock-down prices, and I picked up a few bargains for later consumption.

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Ellisref

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Wrexham and a general look out for some of the friendly teams I've been observing at around the country.
No football theme at the moment (obviously) so will have to go to the railway theme. It involves a Heart of England Rover in June 2019 to allow me a little bit of line bashing. She who must be obeyed occasionally and Little White Monster were also present.

Day 1 was to Oxford - hopefully Oxpete won't accuse me of being a total tourist. Highlight of the journey (line bashing via Nuneaton, Coventry and Leamington) was an armed police exercise on Nuneaton station. The four legged officer with them was clearly unhappy and thought LWM was breakfast, fortunately his handler just about hung on to him.

First stop was Castle Tavern, 24 Paradise Street, a comfortable enough street corner place which allowed me to get reacquainted with Hook Norton beers.

Bit of tourist now, found The Wheatsheaf, 129 High Street down an alley whilst looking for The Chequers Inn, 130a High Street given that it was quite warm it was peaceful inside both. The former having a dark interior and beers from the Marston's stable, went for Brakspear Oxford Gold, the latter being part of the Nicholson's chain, opted for Bath Gem.

Totally underwhelmed by the next stop, St Aldates Tavern, 108 St Aldate's, the tourists were just starting to arrive but I can't even remember what I drank.

Heading back towards the hotel, Head of the River, Folly Bridge, always partial to some Fullers and being on holiday not unduly worried about the bank balance. Superb location, beer was average, tended to look more towards craft beer.

Final stop, including food, was Duke of Monmouth, 260 Abingdon Road, standard GK eatery that did the job.

Days 2-4 to follow,
 

Kingsmere

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No football theme at the moment (obviously) so will have to go to the railway theme. It involves a Heart of England Rover in June 2019 to allow me a little bit of line bashing. She who must be obeyed occasionally and Little White Monster were also present.

Day 1 was to Oxford - hopefully Oxpete won't accuse me of being a total tourist. Highlight of the journey (line bashing via Nuneaton, Coventry and Leamington) was an armed police exercise on Nuneaton station. The four legged officer with them was clearly unhappy and thought LWM was breakfast, fortunately his handler just about hung on to him.

First stop was Castle Tavern, 24 Paradise Street, a comfortable enough street corner place which allowed me to get reacquainted with Hook Norton beers.

Bit of tourist now, found The Wheatsheaf, 129 High Street down an alley whilst looking for The Chequers Inn, 130a High Street given that it was quite warm it was peaceful inside both. The former having a dark interior and beers from the Marston's stable, went for Brakspear Oxford Gold, the latter being part of the Nicholson's chain, opted for Bath Gem.

Totally underwhelmed by the next stop, St Aldates Tavern, 108 St Aldate's, the tourists were just starting to arrive but I can't even remember what I drank.

Heading back towards the hotel, Head of the River, Folly Bridge, always partial to some Fullers and being on holiday not unduly worried about the bank balance. Superb location, beer was average, tended to look more towards craft beer.

Final stop, including food, was Duke of Monmouth, 260 Abingdon Road, standard GK eatery that did the job.

Days 2-4 to follow,
Castle Tavern, formerly The Brewhouse formerly The Paradise House one of the last pubs left from the old St Aldates. One of the many pubs I used at lunchtime when I was a college. No doubt all are now no more or at least re-named. RIP The Duke of York, The Wharf House, The Corn Dolly (topless dances, rubbish beer) and many more.
 

Ciderjon

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The Wharf House has been offices for some years now. I still see the last landlord, Shabby Tony, either at football or in a pub.,from time to time. He moved to The Valleys where he edits a local newspaper. BBC Wales did an hour long documentary about him last year.
 

Ellisref

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Wrexham and a general look out for some of the friendly teams I've been observing at around the country.
Day 2 - The serious line bashing, Oxford-Hereford on God's Wonderful Railway with a short stop in Worcester (came back here post Lockdown 1).

Have had to check my BITE posts and Whatpub to refresh the memory.

First stop - Worcester.

Cricketers, 6 Angel Street, up a side road near Foregate St station, friendly enough place with a good pint of Butty Bach which tended to be the beer of choice today.
Plough, 23 Fish Street, near the Cathedral, up some stairs with two small rooms either side. Mainly small local brews, opted for Hobson's Bitter.
Finally, Saracens Head, 4 The Tything, only a quick visit before the train, more details on next visit.

On to Hereford.

The Brewers Arms, 97 Eign Road, closest pub to the hotel, didn't see any ales and didn't stay long.
The Spread Eagle Inn, 2 King Street, near the Cathedral, has a small frontage with 3 or 4 rooms going back and a large sun-trap courtyard, stuck with the Butty Bach and came back in the evening for some good food reasonably priced.
The Barrels, 69 St Owen Street, this could almost be a Wye Valley pub but Whatpub says different. GBG regular and the beer reflects that status, had the Wye Valley HPA for a change.
Beer in Hand, 136 Eign Street,
closed on the way to the hotel, modern micropub (not normally my scene but quite tasteful) opted for Bristol Beer Factory Milk Stout. Has a glass fronted chilled stillage.

Days 3-4 to follow.
 

Steveb

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From Chorley, it was train to Salford, where I found one of my most fascinating pubs of the entire year, at...

The Racecourse Hotel
7 Littleton Road
Salford


...which sits just on the north bank of the River Irwell halfway along the walk from Salford Crescent railway station to Salford City FC's ground in the suburb of Kersal. The pub was originally built in 1930 to serve the old Manchester racecourse which sadly closed in 1963. From then on, this vast pub seemed to slowly deteriorate until the Oakwell Brewery of Barnsley finally closed it in 2013. However, the Samuel Smiths Brewery of Tadcaster came to the rescue, reopening the place in time for Christmas 2015, before undergoing a thorough renovation that included replacing all the oak beams on the building's exterior. On my visit, it was obvious that it was still a work-in-progress, but the sprawling interior is as from a time-warp: original oak panelling, stain-glass windows, a vast central bar, and the total absence of big-screens, noise and fruit-machines. I appreciate that Samuel Smiths is not necessarily everyone's favourite brewery and pub.co, but I do find their pubs a real antidote to most of the other big companies in the pub trade. This pub was a joy to visit, and I hope it works for them.
Drove past this place today and it was boarded up sadly.
 

Ellisref

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Wrexham and a general look out for some of the friendly teams I've been observing at around the country.
Day 3 - Hereford to Chester, no line bashing, already done many times before (including a Plymouth-Wrexham trip in the 60s).

Having dropped the bags off it was a bus ride back to Llangollen.

First stop was Corn Mill, Dee Lane, a converted mill spread over three floors, the top two being food orientated. Little White Monster was allowed on the ground floor. Mainly local beers and on this occasion I had Magic Dragon Ice Dragon. MD appears to be Plassey/New Plassey re-inventing itself.

Tried to attach a picture, but it didn't work. Lovely view across the River Dee to the preserved railway station.

Next up, across the road from the station Bridge End Hotel, Mill Street, a Robinson's house that had recently been refurbished, bar and restaurant on the ground floor with rooms above. Good pint of Unicorn.

On the bus back to Ruabon and The Bridge End, 5 Bridge Street, a former GBG National pub of the year. Sadly, they didn't have any of their own (McGiven) beers on but a perfectly good pint of Facer's Flintshire Bitter. Although it was quite busy the owner came over for a chat and we discovered we'd been together (although a few years apart) at the same school in Wrexham in the late 60s.

Got the train back to Chester and the Town Crier, opposite the station as recently reported by Oxpete. Enquired whether LWM was allowed in and it appears it's at the duty manager's discretion. This one said only in the garden, so a pint of the house beer and moving swiftly on.

Final stop, including very good quality food was Old Harkers Arms, 1 Russell Street, canalside by City Road bridge, same owners (Brunning & Price) as the Corn Mill. Spoilt for choice and had Rudgate Ruby MIld.

Day 4 to follow.
 
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Oxpete

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Retro pub review of Monday 25th November 2019, and a trip to my old stomping ground of Swansea, to chase up some old friends and chew the cud over past times.

The Swansea pub scene has changed a lot over the past thirty years, and not necessarily for the better. Being an economically poor city still with high unemployment, an awfully large number of pubs have closed down in the outer suburbs recently, while numbers in the Sandfields area fell from eighteen pubs in the late eighties to just two today in the wake of Swansea City moving away from the Vetch Field. With the local council in need of money, they seem to have been very quick in recent years to give out way too many late-licenses to the pack-'em-in-standing-room-only establishments in the city centre that increasingly cater for the growing student market - a move that in turn has led to a reputation for mess and night-time trouble in and around Wind Street (reputedly by some to be the most crime-ridden street in Wales). All too often, licensees will stay in place for only a short time, and the individual pubs can end up suffering as a result. I'm sure it's the same in lots of other places too, but I do find that Swansea does seem to struggle at time to keep hold of its good pubs.

Despite neighbouring such low-life as PopWorld, Slug & Lettuce, Pitcher & Piano, Jack Murphy's Irish Theme Pub, The Bambu Bar, Coyote Ugly, an enormous 'Spoons and countless numbers of unappealing holes designed to attract the under-twenties, there is still one last proper pub on Wind Street...

No Sign Bar
56 Wind Street
Swansea
NoSignSwansea


...an old haunt of Dylan Thomas's in the 1930s, with a front-bar that hasn't really changed that much in the time since. There's a real fire in the hearth, the place does a good job promoting small-scale live music several nights a week, and they make a thing of stocking local ales from small breweries (something that still seems to be a niche in this neck of the woods). The area towards the back of the building has admittedly been redesigned to cash in on the nighttime economy, and there's a disco and bands in the cellar on Saturdays, but the place still manages to keep its character and is by far the best place to sup in Swansea city centre.

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Oxpete

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This trip to Swansea was also the last time I managed to visit my old local of The Rhyddings in the Brynmill area of town, and perhaps my most regular haunt from 1986 to 1991. When TheWavendonian and I passed by a few weeks later in February 2020, during our Cymru League mini-break, the place had closed for good.

Plenty of memories for me (some of which I wrote up in post no.22 of this thread), but I've since come across someone else's ode to the place - written by Martyn Shrewsbury, a latter-day Dylan Thomas on the 'All To Human' blogsite...



"The Lost Pubs Of Swansea

It terrifies me, the fragility of these moments in our lives.

I have measured out my last 45 years visiting these pubs. It was a shock to see virtually every memory, political, personal and dramatic, now condemned to history. I caught myself this morning musing on these pubs, on who had been there with me, what was said and what happened next. These are the days of memories now, and there is a bitter sweet sadness over some of them, and an ecstatic celebration in others. The interlude in bars and pub gardens run back to 1976 and as late as 2008 in others.

The decline of these pubs measures many things. They represent the destruction of community and the semi-independent landlord. These are mirrored in the rise of the large company creating bland identical meals prepared by microwave in all its glory. "I grow old, I grow old, I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled" TS Eliot calls out to me as the bus reaches Godre Craig. These pubs take part of my history with them, and with it a generation's memory. I shake myself out of a maudlin mood and look out of the window... It's March and spring is coming... farewell The Rhyddings, The Cricketers, The Singleton, The Robin Hood, and many more... All things decay... Work out your own salvation with diligence."



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Oxpete

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Another of Dylan Thomas's old hang-outs is...

Uplands Tavern
42 Uplands Crescent
Uplands
Swansea


...just around the corner from the poet's birthplace at no.5 Cwmdonkin Drive. This is the pub where he started his drinking career at the age of fourteen, and that would take him on to his alcoholic death - he died in 1953, aged just 39, a few days after an enormous drinking session (eighteen whiskies, he claimed) in The White Horse tavern in New York City.

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Oxpete

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For something a bit more modern, a fairly recent addition to Swansea is...

Copper
38~39 Castle Street
Swansea


...a craft beer bar that opened a couple of years ago, and usually has at least two or three worthwhile real ales on too. A comfy place with a pleasant atmosphere, though they unfortunately managed to blot their copybook with the local authority recently with some 'disorganised' management during the city's extra lockdown restrictions.

These sort of bars are ten-a-penny in cities like Bristol and Cardiff, but this is a bit of a scarcity in Swansea.

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Ellisref

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Wrexham and a general look out for some of the friendly teams I've been observing at around the country.
Days 4 and 5, day 4 required a Cheshire Day ticket for line bashing on the Wirral and Merseyside (quite how Liverpool & Manchester counts as Cheshire escapes me, but never mind).

Off to New Brighton, first call was Ship, 58 Victoria Parade. First place we found that was open, no real ale but comfortable enough.

Next was Perch Rock Hotel, 7 Grosvenor Road, a street corner pub with a number of comfortable rooms, 'choice' of Doom Bar or TT Landlord. You can guess what won.

Under the river to Liverpool but a scan of the GBG suggested Little White Monster wouldn't be allowed in. A TPE was about to head east so off to Manchester. Not overly impressed with Piccadilly Tap, Station Approach, part of the craft revolution (not really my scene) and a below par pint of Adnams Southwold.

Next should have been The Jolly Angler, 47 Ducie Street, but it was closed at 3.30 on a Thursday afternoon with no indication of opening times and Whatpub didn't help. I remember it from training courses in the late 1970s as a back street boozer (Hydes).

Given that LWM isn't allowed on trams a tour of Manchester's finest wasn't an option so back on the train to The Buffet Bar, Stalybridge. Ticks all the boxes - beer, food, ambience and the views to the Pennine foothills. TT Boltmaker and a magnificent sausage roll hit the spot.

Back to Chester, just missed a connection at Piccadilly to line bash via Altrincham so evening was drawing in. Last stop, including food (another recommendation) was The Bear and Billet, 94 Lower Bridge Street, spread over three floors. Although it was busy due to an England game we got a ground floor table and a highlight was Okell's beers from the IoM.

Day 5 was the the journey home, memorable for the train hitting a cow and a 2 hour delay just outside Uttoxeter. A missed connection resulted in visits to Alexandra Hotel, 203 Siddals Road and Brunswick Inn, 1 Railway Terrace, Oxpete has summed up these two gems to perfection.
 

Oxpete

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One last Swansea pub to write up, and another of Dylan Thomas's former haunts...

The Queen's Hotel
Gloucester Place
Swansea


...another place that seems timeless. I can remember coming here in late 1986 with a group of friends, not long after first moving to Swansea, when this corner of the city was undergoing a bit of a development boom with waterside marina properties springing up all around the previously abandoned South Dock. The Queen's was a musty old dockers' and seafarers' pub in those day, finding itself quickly hemmed in by the supposed sophistication of new eateries like The Pump House, bars like The Bird Cage and a nightclub called Sloanes. With everyone so adamant that Swansea was finally entering the bright lights of the 1980s, one of the locals reminded us that we ought to appreciate and remember the traditional character of the Queen's Hotel, because the way things were going he was pretty sure it'd be some glitzy plastic wine bar within a couple more years. Well, I pleased to say that, a full thirty-four years later, the Queen's Hotel proudly continues as a musty old dockers' and seafarers' pub!

There is plenty of history in this little corner of the city centre, which keeps its peaceful atmosphere by being cut of from the noise of Wind Street thanks to the four-lane carriageway of Oystermouth Road. It is also one of the last remaining pockets of handsome late-Victorian architecture to survive in the centre of Swansea, partly thanks to the poor aiming of the Luftwaffe between 19th and 21st February 1941 when they mistakenly managed to flatten the city centre instead of the intended docks, and secondly the local authority who didn't bulldoze the place like they did so much else in the sixties and seventies. This little neighbourhood goes quite some way to showing what an architecturally beautiful place Swansea actually was once.

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Oxpete

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Retro pub review for Tuesday 26th November 2019, and a quick stop-off in Bridgend, while heading off to tick the new Cardiff City Stadium, grabbing a pint at...

The Coach
37 Cowbridge Road
Bridgend
Mid Glamorgan


...which is a proper free-house with its own micro-brewery on the premises, a row of half-a-dozen or more handpumps of stuff from all around south Wales, plus a couple of casks on stillage for pouring by gravity, and a few real ciders too. Looks pretty ordinary from the outside, but a top-notch proper pub once you're through the door.

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Oxpete

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Once in Cardiff, there was only time for one pint before heading to Cardiff City v. Stoke City, so I popped into...

Crafty Devil's Cellar
16 Llandaff Road
Canton
Cardiff
CraftyDevilBrewing


...which is a micro-pub and off-licence for the local Crafty Devil Brewing Company, who operate nearby out of a corrugated metal lock-up on an industrial estate next to Ninian Park railway station (and they also have another bar in Penarth). They only brew and stock craft-keg and bottled stuff, but I gotta say that their keg Frankenstein Black IPA made for an enjoyable pre-match gulp.

The bar is in an old converted shop only about ten minutes walk from the new CCFC stadium, just north of Canton Cross road junction. I've got to confess that Canton isn't a part of Cardiff I know terribly well, but there seems to be plenty other choices in and around the area for pre/post-match drinking. However, I do know enough to recommend possibly avoiding the large pub on the opposite corner of the crossroads called The Corporation, 188 Cowbridge Road East - this has long been the notorious hang-out of some of Cardiff City's more 'excitable' fans, and I doubt if my Swans loyalties would be much appreciated in there...

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Oxpete

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Enough time to jump off the train at Newport while heading home, to tick a couple of places close to the town's railway station. First grabbing a drink at...

Tiny Rebel
22 High Street
Newport
Gwent
TinyRebelNewport


...which is obviously part of the Tiny Rebel Brewery's estate, selling the beers and bottles that they brew up the road in Rogerstone, plus a couple of guests. I really like the beers that Tiny Rebel make, but the bar itself (in common with their bar next to the Principality Stadium in Cardiff) is a bit of an echoey barn of a place, probably not helped by all those noisy young people in the place. On a warmer day I'd have probably taken the opportunity to sit outside with a second pint, but instead headed just a few doors further up the High Street to...

Ye Olde Murenger House
52~53 High Street
Newport
Gwent


...a Samuel Smiths pub housed in the town's last remaining timber-framed building, dating back in parts to 1530 (though it became a pub in the 17th century, recorded as the Fleur De Lys). Inside, it's a sprawl of old wooden panelling, leaded windows and dark little cubby-holes, with the pub proclaiming itself as "a haven in a superpub ghetto" - it's certainly a calm and peaceful place to sup a pint, what with those Sam Smiths characteristics of no screens, no music and no mobile-phones (oh, and no young people, either!) The beer choice in a Samuel Smiths pub is obviously limited to their own stuff, but I have always been partial to their bottles of Old Russian Imperial Stout at 7%.

A very pleasant stop-off...

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Ellisref

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Wrexham and a general look out for some of the friendly teams I've been observing at around the country.
Enough time to jump off the train at Newport while heading home, to tick a couple of places close to the town's railway station. First grabbing a drink at...

Tiny Rebel
22 High Street
Newport
Gwent
TinyRebelNewport


...which is obviously part of the Tiny Rebel Brewery's estate, selling the beers and bottles that they brew up the road in Rogerstone, plus a couple of guests. I really like the beers that Tiny Rebel make, but the bar itself (in common with their bar next to the Principality Stadium in Cardiff) is a bit of an echoey barn of a place, probably not helped by all those noisy young people in the place. On a warmer day I'd have probably taken the opportunity to sit outside with a second pint, but instead headed just a few doors further up the High Street to...

Ye Olde Murenger House
52~53 High Street
Newport
Gwent


...a Samuel Smiths pub housed in the town's last remaining timber-framed building, dating back in parts to 1530 (though it became a pub in the 17th century, recorded as the Fleur De Lys). Inside, it's a sprawl of old wooden panelling, leaded windows and dark little cubby-holes, with the pub proclaiming itself as "a haven in a superpub ghetto" - it's certainly a calm and peaceful place to sup a pint, what with those Sam Smiths characteristics of no screens, no music and no mobile-phones (oh, and no young people, either!) The beer choice in a Samuel Smiths pub is obviously limited to their own stuff, but I have always been partial to their bottles of Old Russian Imperial Stout at 7%.

A very pleasant stop-off...

View attachment 6427
You've summed up the two in Newport very well. It was our stopping off point to/from NW Wales a couple of years ago and visited both. As I posted in BITE Ye Old Murenger House was the only pub on the High Street that didn't require door staff on a Friday night. Also liked Pen & Wig, 24 Stow Hill, a Brains house with guests and reasonable food.
 

Oxpete

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Retro pub review from Monday 2nd December 2019, and a visit to the wonderful town of Leighton Buzzard, TheWavendonian's favourite town and home to the legends that are: Alan Biley, Kajagoogoo, the brilliant Black Circle Record Shop, the Leighton Buzzard Brewing Company, the 2ft-gauge Leighton Buzzard Light Railway, Leighton Town FC, and the excellent...

Black Lion
20 High Street
Leighton Buzzard
Bedfordshire
BlackLionLeighton


...a proper free-house with a fine range of half-a-dozen or more imaginative ales from in and around Bedfordshire and its neighbours.

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