Whether you are visiting Bath for sightseeing, shopping or relaxation, you will need to stop for food and drink at some point. There is no shortage of places to choose from, including lots of pubs in the city centre. Many of these are very old: this is just a small selection of the historic pubs in Bath.
Coaching Inns And Taverns
Historically there was a difference between inns (which offered accommodation) and taverns and alehouses (which provided drinks and food). Coaching inns catered for passengers and drivers on long stagecoach journeys, and had large courtyards to accommodate the coaches and the horses.
Bath was an important stop on the road between London and Bristol, and as a consequence it had a large number of coaching inns. However, the stagecoaches disappeared with the coming of the railways in the 19th century, and the distinction between coaching inns and taverns gradually diminished.
The nature of inns and taverns has changed over the years, gradually evolving into the pubs that we are familiar with today. The number of pubs in Bath has steadily declined over the centuries, but there are still more than 50 to choose from in the central area.
Historic Pubs In Bath
The Garrick’s Head was originally an 18th century house, and was home to Beau Nash, the flamboyant Master of Ceremonies in Bath. It became a pub in 1805, and was named after David Garrick, a famous actor who often performed in Bath.
The pub serves a choice of beers, including a house ale, and has an extensive wine and whisky menu. Food includes pub classics and fine dining (the menu features Bath chaps, a local pork speciality).
The Garrick’s Head is reputed to be haunted by Juliana Popjoy, at one time the mistress of Beau Nash.
The Saracen’s Head
Possibly the oldest pub in Bath, the Saracen’s Head was built in 1713 on the site of an earlier inn. It was a minor coaching inn: the stables were in what is now the dining area and you can still see some of the original windows. Charles Dickens stayed in the Saracen’s Head during one of his visits to Bath.
Over the years the pub has housed a shop and a library, and its interior has changed. Food and drink are standard pub fare, but it is worth visiting to soak up the history.
The Raven is housed in two former Georgian town houses. In the early 20th century it was a wine shop, and was later converted into a pub. Today it has a downstairs room with the atmosphere of a traditional local, and an upstairs bar which is perfect for those who are planning to eat.
In my opinion The Raven is the best place for a pub lunch in Bath: I particularly recommend the pies (which include vegetarian and vegan options). It also has a choice of real ales, including the Raven and Raven’s Gold labels which are exclusive to this pub.
Coeur De Lion
The Coeur de Lion is the smallest pub in Bath, with a small downstairs bar and an upstairs room. The building dates from the 18th century, but the pub is mostly Victorian, including some original stained glass. No-one knows how it got its name, but it has the distinction of being the only such named pub in the country.
Owned by Abbey Ales, the oldest brewery in Bath, the Coeur de Lion serves real ales and bar meals.
Although it doesn’t serve food, the Star Inn is one of the best choices if you want a quiet drink in historic surroundings. Dating from 1760, possibly on the site of an earlier tavern, it retains the traditional multi-room layout, with four separate areas with wooden benches and Victorian bar fittings.
Also owned by Abbey Inns, The Star serves real ales. It is on the National Inventory of Heritage Pubs.
The Old Green Tree
The Old Green Tree was built in 1716, on a former bowling green. It is said to have been named after an old tree that stood on the site.
The pub features three small wood-panelled rooms and an old fireplace. At one time it brewed its own beer but sadly the brewery disappeared 100 years ago. However, the Old Green Tree does still serve a selection of real ales, as well as bar food.
The Bell Inn
The Bell Inn was a coaching inn during the 18th century (it is said that the concave structure of the shop across the road was designed to give coaches space to turn around). Today the pub is owned by a co-operative of around 500 people, and is known as a slightly bohemian live music venue.
The Bell serves a choice of beers, and there is a “pizza bike” in the garden.
If you have visited Bath, do you have a favourite historic pub that is not on this list? Let me know in the comments below.
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