Britain’s most famous pubs

Along with red telephone boxes, double-decker buses and cups of tea – the British pub is an experience you simply must have in England.

Whether you have a pint of ale, a tall glass of Pimms or a cider doesn’t really matter. British pubs are all about the atmosphere.

Our list is by no means exhaustive. But it is a great place to start. These are the pubs where legends were made, crimes were plotted, famous books were finessed or where scientists celebrated breakthroughs that would change the world.

The Eagle and Child, Oxford

In the 1930s and 1940s a group of writers who called themselves “The Inklings” met at this pub regularly to discuss their works. They included J R R Tolkien, creator of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, and C S Lewis, creator of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

The Eagle and Child in Oxford.

Often referred to as The Bird and Baby, this pub was also used as accommodation for the Chancellor of the Exchequer during the English Civil War.

The Dog and Duck, Soho

This cute English pub was a favourite of George Orwell. The famous author reportedly downed celebratory absinthe here when Animal Farm was picked for the American Book of the Month Club.

The Star Tavern, Belgravia

The Star has seen its fair share of famous patrons over the past century. But it’s the infamous ones for which this pub is best known. The grand upstairs room was supposedly where the Great Train Robbers hatched their plan to attack the Mail service in 1963.

The French House, Soho

During the Second World War, The French House was once used as a meeting place for the French Resistance, including General de Gaulle. Ironically, the first known landlord was a German, Herr Schmidt, but he was deported after the outbreak of the First World War.

The Lamb and Flag, Covent Garden

This London pub was often frequented by British author Charles Dickens.

This laneway outside the Lamb and flag was once more dangerous.

The laneway outside the pub was known for bare-knuckle street fighting. The upstairs room is named after another famous patron, 17th-century poet John Dryden.

The Crown Tavern, Clerkenwell

Lenin reportedly drank in this English pub before the Russian revolution took him back to his homeland. Some say he even met Stalin here for a beer and a yarn. More recently this pub was also a set in the Cate Blanchett and Judi Dench film Notes on a Scandal.

Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese, Fleet Street London

This old dungeon-like pub was a favourite of Charles Dickens and Samuel Johnson. By now you are also probably realising that Dickens loved English pubs.

The George Inn Borough High Street

This cute little pub was once a coffee house visited by Dickens. The author even mentions it in his book Little Dorrit

The Royal Standard of England, Buckinghamshire

In 1213 this pub was known as The Ship Inn and its famous patrons included Kings who used the pub as lodgings while the hunted deer in nearby Knotty Green. During the English Civil War, the Ship Inn was a mustering place for the Royalists. According to local legend, King Charles I is said to have hidden in the priest hole. As thanks King Charles II allowed the pub to change its name once he was restored to the throne.

The Eagle, Cambridge

Not every pub is famous for its association with literary figures. The Eagle at Cambridge claims Francis Crick and James Watson, among their most famous patrons. Crick and Watson were the scientists who discovered DNA.

A plaque outside the Eagle is dedicated to Francis Crick and James Watson.

The Anchor Bankside, London

This pub would have been where patrons of Shakespeare’s Globe theatre came before and after plays. It’s also where diarist Samuel Pepys watched the Great Fire of London in 1666. Pepys wrote of taking refuge in “a little alehouse on bankside… and there watched the fire grow.”

The Blue Bell Inn, Lincolnshire

Take a look at the ceiling if you visit this wonderful country pub. It’s full of signatures from aircrew and ground crew who drank here during World War II.

The Spaniard’s Inn, Hampstead

This north London pub was once a favourite of poets John Keats and Lord Byron.

The Flask, Highgate

Another great pub with literary associations. The Flask was a favourite of the romantic poets Byron, Shelley and Keats, as well as William Hogarth. It’s also said to be haunted by the ghost of a barmaid.

The Dove, Hammersmith

The Dove is one of the most popular places to watch the Oxford Versus Cambridge race. As such it has a long list of famous patrons including Charles II and his mistress Nell Gwynne.

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