Visiting Every CAMRA Pub of the Year

So, I was idly thinking one day about what makes a pub interesting to visit.. to have a beer obviously. But why visit a particular pub, what are the things that make us travel and seek out particular pubs. I’ve been to the Tan Hill Inn, Britain’s highest pub, The Nutshell in Bury St Edmunds (I believe now disputed but certainly at the time was) the smallest pub in Britain, I’ve been to the oldest pub in Wales, I’ve checked out the DNA of a pub by going to the Eagle in Cambridge and visited various pubs that have a particular significance because of a record or a historical event or even because it was used as a film or TV set.

What I was looking for was some kind of list of significant pubs to visit back in the halcyon days when Corona was just a Mexican larger and I was thinking of places to go for a day out. Two things struck me, firstly that I really should visit Ye Olde Fighting Cocks Inn one day, still not made it to that one… and secondly that I should see how many of the CAMRA National Pubs of the Year that I had been to. I knew it was it least one and I’ve visited many pubs across these isles over the years and certainly knew that many were regional winners or placed regionally and so it was likely I had visited a few of them. I consulted the list, there are about 30 on there since 1988 as there are some that have won more than once and for some reason no 1992 winner (give it to Denmark?) and I found out that I had in fact been to a grand total of one. I double checked the list… still one, just The Fat Cat in Norwich.

So, my mission, should I chose to accept it, was to visit every CAMRA Pub of the Year since the award started, or at least those still a going concern. At this point I decided to accept the mission and the message did not self destruct.. unfortunately the world did and we went into various lockdowns with travel restrictions and I got Covid followed by suffering from long Covid for about 18 months afterwards. This resulted in the mission being put very much on the back burner and indeed not much happening on this site… until now! Or until last week when I didn’t have anything better to do and thought sod it, lets get the train to Cheltenham to get to the most accessible of the 30 pubs from where I am.

Pub one of my journey, The Sandford Park Ale House in Cheltenham, just next to the very pretty Sandford Park, many thanks to the good people at Ronseal for assisting in the naming of the pub. I’m not going to review every pub I visit on this journey because plenty of places already do that, visit what pub or beer this evening for that, but I will talk about my experience as I go. I found it to be a really good pub with a range of ales and some more crafty beers and chatted to the barman about one of my favourite topics, why don’t craft breweries do more traditional session bitters alongside some of the more adventurous stuff they do! I decided against a game of bar billiards against myself but was pleased to see a table there as I enjoyed my pint of Cotswold EPA with a lovely chicken burger. What I forgot to do (schoolboy error) is take a photograph with me actually in it at the pub. I may be out of practice at this whole blogging thing and only took the style of photographs that I typically use for Twitter and don’t involve my face. Live and learn, I shall endeavour to photograph myself at the subsequent pubs (sorry about that!). Many thanks to the Sandford Park Ale House for a lovely couple of pints and being the start of my journey.

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