The pub dates back to the 1740s when it was known as the (Three) Horseshoes, becoming the Old Castle and eventually the Castle Inn (not to be confused with the Castle on St. Andrews Street). A pub guide from the 1970s describes it as a two room pub, “the blackened beams festooned with antiquated copper, brass and pewter utensils”. It was purchased by Adnams in 1994 from Allied Breweries and was renovated, extending into the neighbouring building, opening the upper storey to enlarge the area for drinking and dining, and adding a patio area at the rear against the Castle Bank. There are now about five different drinking areas downstairs and three more upstairs, plus the two-level patio.
In 1990 it was described as “an unpretentious, easygoing pub”, its CD jukebox considered to be one of the best in town, “loud in the evening”, and with a good collection of rock posters, including “the celebrated indictment of Jim Morrison”. It still felt unpretentious and easygoing on this visit, the music playing softly, as befits a Sunday afternoon, an eclectic mix of jazz, Sam Cooke, and the El Michels Affair. The pub these days has more illustrious musical connections; incumbent landlords the Halsey family include John Halsey, a drummer perhaps best known as Barry Wom from The Rutles.
I’ve always found the Timothy Taylor Landlord to be a very enjoyable beer here (I’m struggling to think of anywhere* else in Cambridge that has it regularly), and I thought I was just unlucky on the last few occasions I’ve visited and it’s not been on. Again on this visit there was no sign of it, so I asked when it would be back on, only to be told it was no longer being served here.
It was a bombshell. I was shocked. And stunned.
Unfortunately, it seems it proved to be a troublesome beer that didn’t keep well. I should add, it’s not the first time I’ve heard this said just recently – I know another Cambridge pub that’s found TT beers “don’t travel well”.
In the absence of Landlord, I had a very enjoyable pint of Adnams Nordic Red Ale ‘Longboat’. Other beers included Adnams Ghost Ship, Southwold Bitter and Lighthouse, with Blackshore, Ease Up IPA and Mosaic on keg – a line up one might expect with the Castle Inn being an Adnams owned pub, the only one in Cambridge, and the brewery’s westernmost until they took on the Bridge House in London c.2002.
A pub for over 270 years, having outlived so many other beerhouses and inns that existed in Castle End, the Castle Inn has proved to be a living legend that will live long after other living legends have died.