The oldest pub in England. Probably*.
The claim of AD 1189 is a tad too quaint: this is the same year that Richard The Lionheart became king and at the bequest of Pope Gregory VIII lead the Third Crusade to the Holy Land, but not before the jolly knights filled up here before a little Saracen slaying. Hence the name. The lower, black and white timbered exterior almost certainly dates from 1650 and was still there in 1751 to feature in the book “History of the Antiques of Nottingham”, after which the taller outcrop was added. But here’s their claim as the oldest: the caves under the castle have been used to brew beer since construction in 1067. It could well be the oldest continuously serving pub in Britain.
It is carved into the caves of Castle Rock under Nottingham Castle- that same castle where the Sherif of Nottingham lived as his land was beleaguered by the legendary Robin Hood. As you can see below, much of the pub really is in the caves. In one small room, a chimney leads vertically up and emerges into the open air outside the castle walls- this was likely the malthouse.
A few legends persist- there is a very, very dusty ship which hasn’t been cleaned for hundreds of years for fear of death (it’s cursed) and the Pregnancy Chair that helps you, well, get pregnant. In The Ward Room you can play one of the oldest pub games: baiting the bull. One must swing a bull’s nose ring through the air and hook it onto a horn. This is pretty difficult if there’s anyone else in the room.
A real legacy pub. It may be owned by a large beer company that cares more about it’s market share and growth, but they have not at all ruined this landmark building. Old, quaint, storied and quintessential.
A very good range of ales, and the specially brewed ‘Olde Trip’ is one of my all-time favourites. Completely standard range of bland lagers though.
The ultimate ‘one for the road’ pub.
*Unsurprisingly, this is a fiercely contested title: in Nottingham alone, Ye Olde Salutation Inn and the Bell Inn both make such a claim. The Guinness Book of Records currently cites Ye Olde Fighting Cocks, St. Albans, as the oldest, but this is far from certain: it might not even be the oldest in St. Albans.
The debate is not helped by the confusion between oldest building and oldest continually serving premises, the lack of solid proof for the latter and whether the former makes the latter redundant: for example, the Old Ferryboat Inn, Cambridgeshire, has archeological evidence suggesting the building foundations date back to 460 AD and records that show liquor was served in 560 AD, however the building is much, much younger, and who knows what happened in-between? If one supports oldest building, then the 143 million year old caves into which Ye Olde Trip To Jerusalem is carved provide some gravitas to its’ claim.