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Tangled Up In Notts....

A return visit to Nottingham after a few years for football-related reasons, along with a tour of some of the city's pubs made for an enjoyable weekend in this fine city. Well, apart from the football, that is....

When the 2022-23 fixtures came out, one fixture that stood out as a potential stopover was Town's visit to Notts County on the last Saturday in January. Fast forward a few months and our group of 10 assembled in Huddersfield in dribs and drabs, some of us finding our original plan to visit the station buffet thwarted as it was closed. So necessity meant it was a trip to the nearby The Cherry Tree for the dreaded Spoons breakfast, which heralded the customary moans and mumbles about rubber eggs and cold beans but we all survived. Then it was the leisurely saunter down to Sheffield via the Holme Valley, Penistone, and Barnsley. Once in the Steel City we boarded an East Midlands train and landed in Nottingham around 12.30 and followed the same pre-match routine as last time.

So that meant that our first stopping point was Beerheadz, just outside the station, just as it had been when we had visited the city a few years ago. It was fairly busy when we walked in, although shortly after we'd arrived a large group disappeared leaving a couple of guys as the only other customers. There were 4 handpumps, and spotting a beer from the excellent Pentrich brewery, I ordered a pint of Cloud Chain, a 4.8% hazy, juicy pale ale hopped with Simcoe and Idaho 7. The beer likewise was excellent, a NBSS 4 rating making it a great way to start the day. Sadly those who opted for some of the other beers were not as lucky, finding they were less to their taste. The bar itself is a small single room in a former cabman's shelter which dates back to Edwardian times and is very pleasantly decorated with walls painted white, offset with a vibrant turquoise blue. The bar is in the middle of the room and seating is on wooden benches, converted beer barrels, plus a few stools. There are no toilets on the premises, but it is only a few yards walk to the remarkably clean and well-maintained station facilities. An essential calling point if you are arriving or leaving the city, or, indeed, if you are just passing by.

Beerheadz, Nottingham

From Beerheadz we walked the short distance to the Vat and Fiddle, situated in front of the large Castle Rock Brewery, whose presence seems to be everywhere you go in Nottingham. In fact, they have 22 pubs according to their website and their reach goes well beyond the city limits with outlets in Yorkshire, Lincolnshire, and Leicestershire, and are clearly big regional players. The pub, as last time, was busy with football fans, mainly from the home side, but a few Town fans appeared besides us. There was a varied range of beers, with several of the home side's beers available alongside a few guests. The beers were all ok but not outstanding, and tended to lose their head early. I tried both Session and Harvest Pale from Castle Rock, and Waddle It Be, a 4.5% hoppy pale from Dancing Duck Brewery which certainly had more flavour, but suffered the same loss of head. All I would rate as NBSS 3. A few of us decided to have some food and I have to say that the fish finger butty was excellent visit(NFFBSS 4.5). Overall though, as we found on our previous visit, the Vat and Fiddle is well worth checking out as a pre-match venue.

The Vat and Fiddle, Nottingham

The time to go had arrived, and it was about 15 minutes walk to Meadow Lane, the home of Notts County. We were placed in the Jimmy Sirrel Stand, named after a legendary former manager, and got in to the ground and seated pretty quickly. Good to see a lot of familiar faces there as well in what is a wonderful football stadium. This is not a football blog so I will keep the football talk to a minimum: suffice to say the home side prevailed as we posed no attacking threat whatsoever and the game finished Notts County 1, FC Halifax Town 0.

The view from the Jimmy Sirrel Stand at Notts County FC

After the game we got taxis to our hotel, which was a couple of miles out of town in a surprisingly rather rural area near to the racecourse. A quick turnaround, and we were on our way back to the city centre, heading for the famous Olde Trip to Jerusalem. This was another pub we'd called in on our last visit, but for some in our party it was their first visit. Parts of this Grade II listed pub are built into the rock on which Nottingham Castle stands and whilst it may or may not be the oldest pub in the country, there is no doubting its antiquity. It therefore attracts a large number of visitors, and when we arrived the small bar as you go in was busy, many of them not your typical pub-going crowd. We managed to get served pretty quickly, though, and as luck would have it, a large group were leaving, and all ten of us managed to get seated. The pub is owned these days by Greene King, and from a decent range of guests, I went for a pint of the Extra Pale from Nottingham Brewery, which was very pleasant and refreshing (NBSS 3.5). This sprawling pub, with four rooms downstairs and a further two upstairs, and an outside courtyard is a must-visit, but I would recommend you visited on a weekday if possible, when there is a chance it will be quieter and you can appreciate its history in more comfort.

We finished our drinks, and headed out into the evening. A guy in some kind of period address pointed us in the direction of the Navigation pub, which was a few minutes walk away, beside the canal, and on the way to one of the pubs I had on my list of Nottingham pubs we should try. The Navigation wasn't on my list, but to be fair it was decent enough. A large group sat at a long table facing the bar were eating, and I'm not sure what they thought of this ragged group of Yorkshiremen stood between them and the bar. From one of the four hand pumps I ordered a pint of Oakham JHB, which was a pretty acceptable 3 rating. We shuffled into another room where there was a DJ playing some tunes from the past adding to the atmosphere. It turned out as well that the couple who were behind the bar had in a previous life run the Hare and Hounds at Old Town, on the hills above Hebden Bridge.

A few minutes' walk along the towpath and soon we were at another iconic Nottingham pub, The Canalhouse, which is based in a Grade II listed former warehouse turned canal museum. A spur of the canal runs into the building, in which resident barges are moored, and a footbridge near the bar entrance takes you towards the bar. It is a large building, and despite there being a lot of people around, there was still plenty of room. It is another Castle Rock house, and Harvest Pale was on the bar, alongside a number of guests, on both cask and keg. I ordered a pint of Debut on cask from Sheffield brewers Triple Point, a hazy 5.5% NEIPA, with Simcoe and Mosaic hops, but despite having enjoyed several beers from these guys in the past, it was pleasant without being a stunner (NBSS 3). Back to the Canalhouse, it is another place that you must visit as it is somewhere rather different!

The Canalhouse: beer and barges

We moved on, and after about 15 minutes walk we arrived in the Sneinton area of the city where as well as the pub we had been aiming for there were another two pubs listed in the Good Beer Guide within a very short distance. First up, we called in the Partizan Tavern, a micropub which only opened in 2021. It is a single, L-shaped room and was quite busy when we arrived. The guy behind the bar with his shaven head and long beard looked as if he could easily have been in a metal band but here he was, dispensing the drinks with much bonhomie. From a choice of 4 beers on hand pump I went for another local brew, Lenton Lane 36 degrees North. This is a 3.9% copper-coloured bitter, and was in excellent condition (NBSS 4). Incidentally, the name comes from connections forged by owner Tony (who is a Notts County fan) with the Partizan Belgrade club from Serbia. A poster explains how the link came about, and several Partizan programmes are displayed on the wall. A smashing little place.

A few doors down was another pub in the Beer Guide, the King William IV, or King Billy as everyone seems to call it (opening picture). This Victorian gem is situated on a street corner, and was busy when we walked in, with a good, friendly atmosphere. Amongst the 8 beers available on hand pump I spotted Snake Eyes from Black Iris, whose beers had recently been available in Halifax, and I ordered a pint. It is a pale gold coloured beer with a hoppy aroma and slightly bitter finish. Very nice! (NBSS 3.5). There was also a range of beers on keg. This was probably my favourite pub of the visit, and if I found myself marooned in Nottingham, I am sure I would gravitate towards this as a regular haunt. 

The bar at the King Billy

The third pub in the vicinity in the Beer Guide is the Fox & Grapes, and I left the lads in the King Billy to give it a quick once over. It is another Castle Rock pub, an attractive-looking Victorian building with single L-shaped room broken in to different areas by raised flooring. It was reasonably busy when I walked in. The pub sells a range of Castle Rock beers along with a number of guest ales, but as it was a flying visit I just ordered a half of Harvest Pale, which was pleasant enough (NBSS 3), but to be fair, I wasn't really there long enough to give the place a proper assessment.

I re-joined the rest of them back at the King Billy and somebody asked the guys behind the bar if there was a decent curry house in the vicinity. We were recommended Desi Downtown, which was only a few minutes walk away. I think we all agreed that our food was excellent, my Lamb Saag was wonderful, so many thanks to the guys at the King Billy for suggesting we visited! And then it was a fleet of taxis to take us back to the hotel. Aside from the football, it had been a great day in a wonderful city which I look forward to revisiting soon....

Follow me on twitter: @realalemusic


  1. A nice write-up Chris, and useful for the trip to Nottingham I'm planning to make - as soon as the current industrial disputes on the railways are sorted, and I can reliably book an advanced ticket without running the risk of cancellation, due to strike action.

    The same applies to Manchester, only more so, with the added complication of Avanti West Coast only releasing advanced tickets, just a few days ahead of any planned travel dates.


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