A Whitbread ‘Beefeater’ pub, the Travellers Rest is a mid 19th century roadside inn, apparently on the site of a much older inn. It has been significantly altered and extended over the years, and it’s difficult to appreciate its character, overwhelmed as it is by the large Premier Inn built next to it. But get close up and face on to it, and it’s really quite a handsome building of Cambridgeshire gault brick, with sash windows on the upper floor and a hipped tile roof.
The pub is an unlikely survivor. In 1961 Lacon’s brewery wanted to demolish the pub and erect another one further back so a petrol filling station could be built in front of it. Earlier still, in 1909 attempts were made to extinguish the license owing to it being “very remote from police supervision” and “frequented by people of bad character and with a married woman living there in the guise of a single person”. Its almost 2 miles from the city centre and a mile from the next pub, and I expect this might be one least frequented by Cambridge residents, drawing its trade mainly from the adjoining Premier Inn, although maybe it is a food destination for some – the menu helpfully points out that among the accompaniments one can have with a steak, the béarnaise sauce is vegetarian. It turned out to be much easier to reach than I’d presumed – a Citi 5 or 6 bus from the centre gets there in less than 10 minutes, and runs every 10 or 15 minutes for most of the day.
Despite the alterations, the bar in the original part of the building still retains some character, mostly from the weathered brick arches and dark wood beams which came from an old mill in Lancashire and were added when it was refitted in 1982. There’s also a large fireplace dividing up the raised level at the front. The walls have colour photos of Cambridge on them – I couldn’t find the old picture of the pub shown on Tripadvisor, and added to the bottom of this post. The only real ale was Doom Bar at £3.50 a pint (I would have tried the keg Tetley’s Smoothflow but it was so smooth the attempted pint consisted entirely of foam), accompanied by the usual suspects, Guinness and lagers. The piped music was firmly rooted in the 80s – Nik Kershaw, Suzanne Vega, and Tina Turner’s wretched attempt to destroy Ann Peebles’ I Can’t Stand The Rain, which had me hastily finishing my Doom Bar and running for the exit. On the way out, I took a moment to explore the multi-level layout of the restaurant extension, and was pleasantly surprised – I feared the whole place would be devoid of character, but ended up glad to have taken the time to visit. It doesn’t help that the entrance has been relocated to the side, so first and last impressions are of a large, ugly Premier Inn leant up against a small pub. It looks nicer on old photos. They always do.
Sources – Mike Petty, Cambridgeshire Collection