Category Archives: Pubs

Cambridge Pubs

Cambridge has plenty of good pubs, and after living here for over twenty years, I thought it was time I wrote a guide to them. Follow this link for a full round up of the best Cambridge pubs

For starters, here are four of my favourites:

Elm Tree

16A Orchard St, Cambridge CB1 1JT
Elm Tree
Friendly, relaxing pub with several real ales and a fridge full of Belgian beers including rarities, accompanied by detailed tasting menus. Outdoor seating along the alley at the side that becomes a sun trap in the summer. Live music several times a month. No food but the Free Press is just along the street – yes, two of the best pubs in Cambridge are just 50 metres apart…

Free Press

7 Prospect Row CB1 1DU Map | @FreePressPub
Free PressA wonderful little traditional backstreet pub, one of my favourite pubs anywhere, a must-visit Cambridge pub. Dating back to at least 1825, it was nearly lost forever to 1970s redevelopments, boarded up and awaiting its fate. Luckily, it was saved from the wrecking ball, refitted and renovated, and lives on. Two open fires in the winter, beer festivals in the beer garden in the summer, great food, draught beers are from Greene King and guests, and generally amongst the best kept beers in Cambridge.


14, Mill Lane, Cambridge CB2 1RX | @TheMillCam
Mill, Cambridge
Excellent pub in enviable riverside location, with Laundress Green serving as its unofficial beer garden, a perfect refreshment stop when punting. Great selection of cask, keg and bottled beer, very supportive of local breweries, good food – this pub has been doing everything right since it was refurbished and reopened under new management in 2012.

Pint Shop

10 Peas Hill CB2 3PN Map | @PintShop
Pint Shop
Opened in November 2013 in a handsome 1830s merchant’s house just off the Market Place in the city centre, it proved to be an instant hit. Impressive beer selection with 10 keg and 6 cask lines serving the finest beers from the likes of Buxton, Kernel, Magic Rock, Marble, Rogue and Southern Tier. Bar snacks available but separate dining areas keep the main bar and snug beer focused. An essential stop on any Cambridge pub tour.

Continue reading the full Cambridge Pub Guide with map

Cambridge Pubs with a Jukebox

The other night a friend visiting Cambridge wanted to find a pub with a jukebox and I could only be certain of one, so we ended up at the King Street Run. I probably hadn’t ploughed money into that particular pub’s jukebox since the 90s, but then most of the songs we put on were at least that old, and conversation revolved around the records being played.

Which prompted me to put together a list, with the help of Twitter, of which Cambridge pubs currently/probably have a jukebox:

Dobblers 184 Sturton Street CB1 2QF
Carlton Arms Carlton Way CB4 2BY
Earl Of Beaconsfield 133 Mill Road CB1 3AA
Empress 72 Thoday Stree CB1 3AX
Emperor 21 Hills Road CB2 1NW
Geldart 1 Ainsworth Street CB1 2PF
King Street Run 86 King Street CB1 1LN
Portland Arms 129 Chesterton Road CB4 3BA
Salisbury Arms, Tenison Road CB1 2DW
Six Bells 11 Covent Garden CB1 2HS

Earl of Beaconsfield Jukebox

Earl of Beaconsfield

Hickling pubs

Hickling is a village situated on the edge of Hickling Broad, the largest of the Norfolk Broads. The village has two pubs, the Pleasure Boat at the staithe, and the Greyhound Inn less than a mile away in the village centre. In 1735 there were apparently five beer outlets. Two of those – the Bull and the White Horse – survived into the 20th century and the buildings exist as private houses.

Pleasure Boat:

Pleasure Boat Inn

The Pleasure Boat has apparently been here since at least the mid 1700s. Situated at Hickling Staithe, with views across Hickling Broad, this waterside pub recently became a freehouse and has a new lease of life under new management. Ten beers were on tap, impressive for a village pub, and the ones we tried were in good nick. An extension to the pub has a dining room overlooking the broad, and even a small shop. There are great views across the broad from the beer garden which also has a marquee for the regular live music.

Birds, Beasts and Fishes of the Norfolk Broadland (1895) describes a scene on Christmas Eve morning as crowds gathered for ‘coot-shooting’ on Hickling Broad:

“Long before the old church clock has struck eleven, crowds begin to collect at the ‘Pleasure Boat’ all crushing into the tap-room, and calling for jugs of mild whilst carts keep arriving; finally, the little green staithe is gay with laughing men and youths. Soon all the party has collected, some ninety persons, of strange dress and stranger accoutrements.There is much talk, and joking, and cheering as they crowd into the open boats – pleasure-boats, old cobles, marsh boats – some propelled by oars, others by quants (poles).

So the chaffing flotilla of forty boats, for many have brought their boats over-night from mill-outlets and distant broads and meres, goes shoving and rowing off on to the broad, whose hundreds of acres of water gleam and ripple in the cold morning sun.”

Later, after the shoot…

“You see the scattered flotilla of forty boats making for the inn… and soon the short winter day is over, and the noisy crowd at the inn disperses, making their way through the dark lanes and muddy roads for home”

Another account from the late 19th century, the Handbook to the Rivers and Broads of Norfolk & Suffolk (1891) records:

“Then we went to Hickling staithe, at the north end, where there is an inn, the ‘Pleasure Boat’… Boats of a rough kind can be obtained here for fishing purposes. They are long, narrow, and flat-bottomed, and the usual method of propulsion is by ‘setting’. The setter sits in the extreme stern, and pushes the boat along with a light pole, at a great rate. There are often setting races at local regattas, and great fun they are.

The number of broken-up lateeners on the shores of the Broad attest the decay of large pleasure-boat sailing on these remote waters, but the smaller class of centre-board boats are coming into favour, and are, perhaps, more suitable.”

Whereas propelling a ‘long, narrow and flat bottomed boat with a light pole’ is nowadays a familiar leisure pursuit in Cambridge, in Norfolk the former trading wherry Albion, all sixty feet and twenty odd tons of it, is still sometimes punted along a river when there’s not enough wind for the sails.

A photo published in 1897 (Sun Pictures of the Norfolk Broads – Payne Jennings) and a postcard from 1904 show the inn with a lean-to on the west side of the building:

Pleasure Boat Inn, Hickling C19th

A painting from 1905 shows a two-storey extension has replaced it:

Hickling Pleasure Boat

By 1913 a single storey extension was added to the east side, overlooking the staithe. It’s been rebuilt and enlarged several times to create the present dining area with views across Hickling Broad.



A wonderful village pub, friendly to visitors and with plenty of local characters inside. We’ve eaten here several times and always enjoy it – there are usually a couple of veggie choices. Beers on when visited recently were Marstons EPA straight from the cask, JW Lees Bitter, Greene King Golden Hen and the ubiquitous Woodfordes Wherry.

According to the Greyhound Inn, “It is believed that the Inn dates back to the 1600s though may well be earlier than that. There are records that only go back as far as 1735, when at that time the village boasted five pubs”. For over 300 years this brick and flint building would have had views across fields until the Green was developed in the late 20th century. There is a lovely beer garden that has the feel of sitting in a private cottage garden.

Greyhound beer garden

The Parish Magazine records some curious sounding dinners held at the Greyhound in the 1890s – the ‘Annual Coal Meeting’, the ‘Annual Meeting and Dinner of the Hickling Commissioners of Drainage’ and in 1898 “The Rational Sick and Burial Club Dinner, which was held in the Club Room at the ‘Greyhound Inn’ on February 4th, was a great success… a large number of members sat down to an excellent dinner. After dinner there were toasts and speeches and songs”

Closed pubs:

White Horse:

White Horse

A few doors north of the Greyhound, now a private house called White Lodge. In 1819 an auction for Hickling towermill took place at the pub. William Lambert, who was born in the village in 1916, said the pub was closed before he was born. However, the ‘White Horse P.H.’ was still shown on a 1957 Ordanance Survey map. The building recently sold for £275,000 and was described as having solid oak flooring and a beamed ceiling.



Situated on the outskirts of the village, on Town Street near St Mary’s Church, the Bull is listed in White’s Directory of Norfolk 1836 but Norfolk Pubs dates it back further to at least the late 1700s. It was closed around 1970 and is now Hickling House, a residential care home.

The pub name ‘the Bull’ is apparently “an ancient and widespread sign, which may well have begun by referring to a papal bull, the leaden seal attached to the pope’s edicts” (Wordsworth Dictionary of Pub Names, 2006). This might be the meaning here, since the pub stands on land that borders the remains of Hickling Priory, founded in 1185 and dissolved in 1536. A History of the County of Norfolk (W. Page, 1906) refers to Hickling Priory and the papal bull:

In September, 1343, Martin de Hapesburgh, canon of the priory of Hickling, petitioned the pope to order the abbot and convent of St. Benedict, Holme, to receive him as a monk according to the mandate of Benedict III from which the abbot, at the suggestion of the prior of Hickling, did remove the bull. The petition was granted, provided it was found that Pope Benedict did make a special mandate. The following December Clement VI issued his mandate to the bishop of Norwich, the dean of Lincoln, and the chancellor of Hereford to cause Martin de Hapesburgh to be received into the monastery of Holme.

Hickling can be reached by the River Thurne and Hickling Broad, just over an hour by boat or 4 miles by road from Potter Heigham.

Oakington White Horse

The White Horse, Oakington is another of the Pubs along the Cambridgeshire Guided Busway – less than half a mile from the Guided Bus stop at Oakington, or a 30 minute cycle along the cycleway from Cambridge.

I visited this Greene King pub just after their Bank Holiday Beer Festival had finished, and had a Growler Umbel Magna from the low-ceilinged bar – also on, Greene King IPA – and took it out to the large beer garden at the rear, as the marquees were being packed away. Food was being served to a few tables inside, which seemed promising for a Tuesday lunchtime, as I’ve called at several nearby pubs recently that were closed on a weekday lunchtime.

Oakington White Horse

“The White Horse at Alehouse Green, which is recorded from the 1760s and was rebuilt after a fire in 1805.”

From at least 1879 to 1904 the White Horse also served as a butcher’s and the meat hooks are said to still be in the loft.

Oakington pubs
© OpenStreetMap contributors

From the bus stop you can see the New Inn which closed in 1989 and is now a house. This route passes two other closed pubs – Harvest Home, now a hairdressers/garage, and the Plough and Harrow which closed in 1905 and is now the village stores and Post Office.

Harvest Home, Plough and Harrow

Harvest Home, Plough and Harrow

The Plough & Harrow, and many others in Cambridgeshire, were closed “when Cambridgeshire magistrates started the task of extinguishing licences of public houses thought to be superfluous. The offers of compensation were accepted in all but three cases.” (Cambridge History). Seven or more pubs may have existed in Oakington – the King’s Head and Lion and Lamb were also closed under the scheme between 1906 to 1908 – only the White Horse is still serving.

More Pubs along the Cambridgeshire Guided Busway

History of the County of Cambridge and the Isle of Ely – A. P. M. Wright & C. P. Lewis, 1989

Pint Shop opening in Cambridge

UPDATE: Read the full review of the Pint Shop, Cambridge

Pint Shop have announced they will open in Cambridge in November. The new pub at 10 Peas Hill is due to open on 4th November and the three-storey building near the Market Square is currently undergoing a complete overhaul as the former offices are converted.

Pint Shop

Meat, Bread, Beer

The bar will have up to ten keg and six cask beers regularly changing, with beer from the likes of Buxton, Camden, Kernel and Magic Rock hopefully soon being served here, along with a small selection of bottled specials. There’ll also be around forty gins, twenty whiskys, and a small selection of European wines.

A weekly changing menu of simple, fresh, British food, mostly locally sourced, will feature spit roasted and slow braised meat, hot pies and ‘real bread‘.

Richard Holmes and Benny Peverelli have bagged an elegant building in a prime location, just off Market Square, opposite Jamie’s Italian and next to the recently opened CAU and Zizzi, an area that’s seen plenty of regeneration recently. The first new pub in Cambridge for over ten years, the Pint Shop promises to be an exciting addition to the city centre, providing a welcome new flow of great beer into Cambridge. We’re looking forward to joining them for celebratory drinks when the Pint Shop opens in ten weeks.

Ten weeks and counting…

UPDATE: Read the full opening review of the Pint Shop, Cambridge

The Bull, Lower Green, Langley

The Bull is in the hamlet of Langley Lower Green in Essex, near the triple point where the Essex border meets Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire, about 25 miles south of Cambridge.

Bull Inn Langley

Formerly the Old Black Bull, apparently there has been a pub here since c.1780. There are two bars, the lounge bar has a settle for Pitch Penny, a game which involves tossing a coin at a hole in the seat – it is still played here and old pennies are kept behind the bar for such occasions.

Bull, Langley

Two real ales were on, Greene King IPA and Adnams Bitter, which we enjoyed in the beer garden overlooking thatched cottages and fields.

Bull, Langley

North of the pub, just over a mile as the crow flies, the highest points in Cambridgeshire and Essex can be found at Great Chishill and Chrishall Common, about 480 feet above sea level. Heady heights for East Anglia.

White Horse, Swavesey

Twenty-five public houses, inns and beer retailers have been recorded in the village by Swavesey Pubs History. The White Horse dates back to 1668 and is the only remaining pub.

White Horse Swavesey

Branch Pub of the Year in 2009, the White Horse is a two-bar pub, with a lounge bar and a public bar leading to a pool room and an outdoor area. In the 1850s there were apparently 10 pubs in Swavesey, serving a population of about 1,400. Today only the White Horse survives to serve a population of over 2,500. Even so, like many pubs it is ‘hanging in there’ and needs more support. It no longer opens for lunch from Monday to Thursday, disappointing for the ‘one man and his dog’ that would turn up during those times. It does however, host a series of events throughout the year, recently holding its 13th annual beer festival from 3rd – 6th May, with music, a bbq and over twenty beers including a rare sighting of Elgoods Double Dog strong mild, as well as beers from Salopian, Ossett, Green Jack and local breweries Milton and Moonshine.

It is also the venue for the East Anglian Pinball Show, now in it’s 8th year, taking place from June 28th – 30th 2013. Landlord Will switched on the 1980s pinball machine ‘Night Moves’ in the public bar so we could experience a piece of the action. A ‘sit-down’ table, we sat down on seats made from wooden barrels and played while supping a nice drop of Castle Rock Harvest Pale. The pub has plenty of games – as well as pinball there is bar billiards (the pub has a team in the local league), darts, pool, fruit machines and two TVs showing sport. It is not a ‘Sports Bar’ though, still very much a friendly village pub with a cosy public bar, a place for conversation and good beer.

White Horse Swavesey

Less than 10 miles from Cambridge, the pub is just a few minutes from the Guided Bus stop, so is easily reachable by bus or cycle. We visited as it featured on the Ale Trail, but we won’t wait for another excuse to return.

Swavesey Pubs History
Cambridge CAMRA

Related posts:
Pubs along the Guided Busway

Ale Trail – Four Pubs by River and Roman Road

Plough & Fleece – Sun Inn – Red Lion – Jolly Brewer

Cambridge CAMRA Ale Trails 2013

Prompted by the Ale Trails to visit some pubs I haven’t been to or don’t visit often enough, this is another route that follows cycle paths and avoids roads where possible. A fairly easy route, about 15 miles. No punctures on this occasion.

Cambridge Ale Trail 2013

From the Green Dragon, joining the riverside path just past the former Penny Ferry Inn, the path leads to Waterbeach and beyond, but at Baits Bite Lock there’s a bridge over the river Cam and a footpath to Horningsea.

Baits Bite Lock

Baits Bite Lock

Before crossing the river, a short detour northwest along Fen Road leads to the Jolly Brewers in Milton.

Jolly Brewers

Jolly Brewers

A recently refurbished, late seventeenth century Inn, it seems there was a brewery here from at least the 1830s, William Essex the brewer and publican, his son Thomas taking over in the 1870s and continuing into the last century. Now a freehouse, I had a drop of Milton Pegasus (when in Milton…), also on – Lord Conrads and two from Greene King.

Crossing the river at Baits Bite Lock, it’s not far to the Plough and Fleece.

Plough and Fleece

Plough and Fleece Horningsea

Recently awarded Community Pub of the Year (Rural) by Cambridge CAMRA, this pub has been bought from Greene King by the villagers so it can be protected and turned into a freehold (apparently the money has now been raised and the deal agreed, although it’s currently tied to Greene King on a short term lease). It is listed as an 18th century inn, but the building may date back to the 16th century.

Low timber beams, tiled floors and a large fireplace in one room, the rear bar leads to a beer garden with views across the meadows, woodpeckers drumming as I supped a Timothy Taylor Best. I’d be happy if this was my village local.

Bridge Inn, Clayhithe

Bridge Inn, Clayhithe

A short piece of road leads to the Bridge Inn, not part of this year’s Ale Trails, but a landmark along the way. There’s been a pub here since at least the 18th century when the Jack and Eel is recorded, perhaps later rebuilt as the House of Lords, becoming the Clayhithe Bridge Inn in the 1880s. A nice enough pub with a riverside beer garden, a previous pub sign showed a horse and cart crossing an old stone bridge, with a narrowboat on the river – the more recent pub sign has chosen the Cambridge Bridge of Sighs instead. I saw the first swallows of the year here before heading to Waterbeach.

Sun Inn, Waterbeach

Sun Inn Waterbeach

The Sun is nearly 250 years old at least, licensed by 1765. It overlooks the village green, opposite the White Horse. A two room pub, the cosy lounge featuring a large fireplace, albeit filled with a collection of empty beer bottles. I had a nice drop of Woodfordes Bure Gold (named after the River Bure which passes within half a mile of the brewery in Norfolk) on the outside seating overlooking the green before heading west to Landbeach, crossing over the A10.

Mere Way between Landbeach and Impington

Mere Way

Past Landbeach, turning south along Mere Way, the Roman Akeman Street, south passing Chivers fruit farm, to Milton Road and a cycle path to Impington and Histon.

Red Lion, Histon

Red Lion Histon

Here since c.1840, the Red Lion is an impressive pub outside and in and serves good beer. There other several other pubs in Histon, all worth a visit, but the Red Lion is hard to beat.

From here it’s an easy ride back to Cambridge, joining the guided busway cycle path at Impington, to Chesterton and the city centre.

Haymakers, Chesterton, Cambridge

The Haymakers in Chesterton reopened on Friday. Closed for the past couple of years, it seemed like it would be lost to housing or become a restaurant, but is now under the ownership of Milton Brewery. The refurbishment has added interest to what was previously a large open space with a stage at the end during its time as a music venue. A new snug now separates the space into two rooms, with wooden bench seats and tables fixed to the walls. The work has also uncovered an impressive beamed ceiling. Eight real ales were on when visited, the Milton Nike particularly good.


History in the Haymaking

The Haymakers may date back to at least 1851 when Thomas Keath is listed as a beer retailer, although the pub is not named. By 1869 the Haymakers is named with Thomas Keath the publican and ‘hay dealer’, so it’s possible he gave the pub its name. In the 1850s the Haymakers would have stood opposite two other pubs – the Wheatsheaf on the east corner of Union Lane and the High Street, and the Bleeding Heart/Hart on the east corner of Chapel Street and the High Street. There have been many pubs on the High Street, but only the Haymakers has survived.

Haymakers map

The Bleeding Heart may have dated back to at least 1786, possibly becoming the Maltsters Arms (a large malthouse and kiln stood behind the pub, in the area now named Maltsters Way) by the late 1800s, before being converted into a Co-operative store by the 1920s, demolished in the 1970s. The Wheatsheaf has also been demolished and replaced by modern housing.

Prior to the First World War:

“Parish meetings, dances (like the St Patrick’s Night dance) and childrens Christmas parties were held… on occasions, in… the Haymakers public house in the High Street… mass had been celebrated in a room attached to the Co-operative Stores in High Street, Chesterton. This room formerly belonged to an inn known as the bleeding Hart” (Catholics in Cambridge, Nicholas Rogers 2003)

In the late 1800s, the Haymakers publican Robert Green is listed as a “farmer and brewer”, followed in the early 1900s by Charles Green, also a “farmer and brewer”, so it seems possible they supplied their own beer for the pub, although by the 1930s the Haymakers was owned and supplied by the Star Brewery.

Haymakers during WWII

An 83 year old former resident of Chesterton, Peter told me

“The Haymakers was the centre of entertainment in Chesterton. There was music and dancing. Jack Mays would be thumping it out on his accordian, there’d be shouting and balling. It was a rough and rowdy pub. If women were seen going in there, people would turn their noses up at them! It was more gentlemanly in the Wheatsheaf opposite. There was a little island outside the Haymakers at the entrance to Chapel Street, which used to have a Police Box on it.

During the war, it was the hangout of the American Servicemen from G23 Camp (where the Science Park now stands). There’d often be fights between black and white Americans – they had separate nights for a time. The Military Police would go in and sort them out when there was trouble and they’d ban them. After D-Day, the Americans vanished overnight. When I was in the Army Cadet Forces, we’d come out of the drill hall on East Road on Wednesday evenings and walk home past the Haymakers. Sometimes one of us would open the door and throw in a thunderflash. Then there’d be a commotion!”

“It was a rough pub in the sixties too!” another former resident of Chesterton told us. “We hardly came in here, we used to go to the Prince Albert just along the road” (the Prince Albert stood on the same side of the High Street, the next pub west of the Haymakers, it was demolished in the 1970s).

Haymakers Chesterton

The refurbished Haymakers is certainly not that ‘rough pub’ anymore, but it was ‘the centre of entertainment in Chesterton’ when it reopened this weekend. Long may it reap the rewards.

Ale Trail – A Bumble Through Beer Gardens

Whittlesford ChurchTicking off a few of the most southerly pubs on the Cambridge CAMRA Ale Trails, all with beer gardens, a twenty mile round trip following good cycle paths pretty much all of the way to Whittlesford and then roads through Duxford to Ickleton. Despite losing the cycle path as it goes through Stapleford, it was a pleasant route that even goes through the churchyard of St Mary and St Andrew’s at Whittlesford.

Bees In The Wall

Bees In The Wall

Built in 1851 as the Exhibition, the pub’s name was changed in 1950 when bees were discovered living in different sections of the walls as the pub was being redecorated. Initially the hives were actually cleared away and the walls sealed up, with 25lbs of honey extracted and used to make mead. However, a couple of years later in 1952, the bees returned and were allowed to remain. The bees still live here and can be seen going in and out of a hole high up on the outside of the building. Apparently upstairs in the private lounge, the landlord can view the nest through glass. They usually swarm once a year around May – on occasions they have left in autumn before returning in spring.

I have to say this pub has been one of the highlights of the Ale Trails for me. I enjoyed an excellent drop of Timothy Taylor Landlord and a friendly chat with Marie, who was happy to explain the history of the pub and the bees. The landlord Lawrie has been here for thirty years making him the second longest serving landlord in Cambridgeshire. A cosy two room pub with a large beer garden bordering the pub’s own wood! I look forward to visiting again soon, perhaps taking the short train journey from Cambridge to Whittlesford, followed by a 30 minute walk to the pub. Marie said they’d had more people passing through on the Ale Trail than in previous years. It was quiet when I visited during a weekday lunchtime, some companies that used to provide lunchtime trade have recently moved out of the area, so I hope more people discover this gem of a pub.

Tickell Arms, Whittlesford

Tickell Arms

Nearby, the Tickell Arms, formerly the Waggon and Horses from c.1810, is a pub and restaurant that was refurbished and reopend last year. There are usually four real ales on and on May 26th they’ll hold the pub’s first mini beer festival. I enjoyed a Milton Pegasus in the beer garden before cycling further south.

Ickleton Lion

Ickleton Lion

Furthest south of the pubs on the Ale Trails, Ickleton Lion, formerly the Red Lion, is a building thought to date back to the 1700s, with beamed walls and an inglenook fireplace. A pleasant Greene King pub busy with lunchtime diners, I had a rather insipid Old Golden Hen in the beer garden before retracing the route to Duxford.

Plough, Duxford

Plough Duxford

The Plough, a timber framed pub with a thatched roof and porch, also dates back to the 1700s. I liked this pub and had a decent Adnams bitter – also on were Holdens Golden Glow, Bombardier and two from Everards. By this time I was seeking shelter from the sun so only sat in the beer garden briefly.

Three Horseshoes, Stapleford

Three Horseshoes Stalpeford

Here since the early 1800s, the Three Horseshoes reopened in February, and has been steadily getting busier as word has spread. An unfussy pub, recently refurbished, serving a good range of real ales and bottled beers from around the world.

Route map:

Map of all the Ale Trail pubs (from @YvanSeth)

Cambridge CAMRA
Mike Petty – Down Your Way
Roger Protz – Best Pubs in East Anglia
Ted Bruning – Cambridgeshire’s Best Pubs