My favourite pub
Few institutions are as universally cherished as the great British pub. Boozers serve as community hubs, sanctuaries to unwind and the perfect place let your hair down. While Westminster has its fair share of beloved drinkeries, The House wanted to shine a light on some of the wonderful hostelries that lie beyond SW1. Here, parliamentarians tell us about their favourite local, and why it is special to them. Compiled by Noa Hoffman and Georgina Bailey
Liberal Democrat peer
The Ulbster Arms, Halkirk, Caithness
In best parliamentary style I must declare an interest. From 1995 to 2009 I owned this wonderful hotel and pub. It is also named after the family – Sinclair of Ulbster. So I probably should have chosen somewhere else, but under its new ownership it has become such a great place it deserves nomination.
It is the heart of the community. You will find all the many characters in the village there at some point in the week. It hosts the senior citizens’ lunch club and it is from the Ulbster that the parade launching the annual Halkirk Highland Games (one of the best on the professional circuit) starts.
It is where all the fishermen who fish the river Thurso stay, and the pictures on display show great catches, flys, and “well kent characters”.
But a pub, however atmospheric, is only as good as its offering. The Ulbster does great local produce well and without frills. The beer is good, and the wines interesting. The service is friendly and, as they say in the north, the craic first rate. In summary, friendly faces of fellow guests and staff, a warm welcome, good local food, and all at the heart of the community.
Conservative MP for Stockton South
The Parkwood, Hartburn
As an MP, choosing your favourite anything in your constituency is always a dangerous game. I am sure that I will be making a rod for my own back by naming one specific pub, so I must preface this by saying that Stockton South has an incredible selection of quality boozers.
From The Masham to The Roundel, The Black Bull and The Fairfield, one thing I always make sure of is that canvassers, campaigners and constituency staff alike are well acquainted with the top-class watering holes on offer.
But one pub stands out as my personal favourite. It’s fair to say that I am a regular at The Parkwood in Hartburn, which doubles up as a hotel which Ann Widdecombe recently bestowed with her nod of approval after enjoying a glass of Courvoisier at the bar.
The Parkwood is full of character. Its quaint fireplace and clean, traditional decor give it the atmosphere of a proper local. But nothing gives it more character than its owner, Jason, whose passion for his pub is evident. Every guest is his priority and regulars are treated with the respect they deserve. In my opinion, the personal touch Jason adds to The Parkwood just about edges it ahead of its competitors and always keeps me looking forward to my next visit.
Labour MP for Warrington North
The Albion, Warrington
Warrington North has a fantastic range of pubs, from CAMRA-award winning real-ale pubs like The Pack Horse Inn in Culcheth, to family-friendly community pubs like The Club in Burtonwood, pubs with a rowdy karaoke on a Friday like The Famous King and Queen in Padgate, to pubs to enjoy a pint with the match like the Hoop and Mallet in Callands – so it very much depends on what you’re looking for, as we’ve really got it all!
I live in Orford, which has a fine selection around Orford Lane, but my personal favourite has got to be The Albion, not only because it’s my local, has a good range of ales on (including from local Warrington breweries like 4T’s) and for a good price – but because it is one of the centres of our community. The regulars are proper characters and all pitched in to keep the community connected and supported throughout the pandemic, as well as doing lots of events to help raise money for charity, and regular live music which helps support our thriving local music scene. You’re always guaranteed a warm welcome, and Dave’s “Walking Taxi” can help anyone that needs it to get home safely!
Conservative MP for Tewkesbury
Having been an MP for nearly 25 years I’ve frequented a great many excellent pubs in the constituency of Tewkesbury, so it would be far too difficult to single one out! Typically, I enjoy those which source their beers and ales locally, as I think it’s really important to encourage and support local production wherever possible. I am also incredibly fortunate that Gloucestershire produces some of the best ales in the country.
One of the things I missed during lockdown was the sense of community spirit that British pubs provide in abundance, which in addition to a good evening out has a particularly positive effect on mental health as well. The cheerful and convivial atmosphere found at many traditional British pubs is something that is hard to rival and even harder to surpass, and I immensely enjoy speaking to constituents about both local and national issues over an IPA in pubs across Tewkesbury.
Since the end of lockdown, I have been trying to get out there and visit local businesses in order to hear concerns and see what more the government can do in terms of support. The hospitality sector has, unfortunately, been hit quite hard over the last few years but as a long-time pub enthusiast I will continue to push their case in Parliament and support one of the nation’s favourite institutions!
Baroness Smith of Basildon
Labour peer and shadow leader of the House of Lords
The Waverley, Bognor Regis
It’s surprising that even when you live close to the sea, there are so few places where you can sit out and just watch the waves or the sun shimmering on the water. That partly explains the attraction and affection of my favourite pub in Bognor Regis, The Waverley. Located on a corner between a park and the promenade, there’s nothing more relaxing than enjoying a drink with friends as you look towards the sea.
Throughout the seasons, rain or shine, it’s where community groups are welcomed (including the ukulele players!) and during the day friends catch up for a coffee – and there’s always the seaside favourite of fish and chips on the menu. Pre-pandemic, the music nights were always popular and who couldn’t get into the festive spirit listening to White Christmas from a local singing group? My favourite time is early summer on arriving home from Westminster late on a Thursday to walk the 10 minutes or so from home, for a last drink, watching the sun set while breathing in the sea air. With sociable, friendly staff, a welcoming atmosphere and a great selection of gin, what more could I want?
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