Fourfoot Said, over on the twitter, the other day, that to relieve the lockdown boredom he was composing a Top Ten list of pubs in Cardigan in the 1990s (he put it much more eloquently than I).
And I thought to myself, that’s a wonderfully fruitless pursuit. I’ll have some of that.
Except mine would be a different flavour of ‘that’, obviously, having been to Cardigan no more than ten times.
So here, on a complete whimsy and composed during some of my more random moments when I’m not working, and presented for the half-dozen or so of my former schoolfriends who pop by occasionally is, in reverse order…
My Top Ten Pubs In Abergavenny, (Just Before I Left)*
10. Hen & Chickens, Flannel Street
The Hen & Chicks was a friendly pub, and Flannel Street is bang in the centre of town. On the downside the pub always seemed smoky, poorly ventilated, a bit gloomy and the windows never seemed to let in much light. A smokers pub. Relatively easy to get served provided you weren’t wearing school uniform – probably due to all the gloom
9. The Black Lion (opposite the market)
Another smokers pub, where you could cut the air with a not very sharp thing, and that was entirely down to the regular gang of heavy smokers who seemed to live in there, and not the atmosphere. Usually full of early-20s hardened drinkers you wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of. Not easy to get a drink here unless they knew you
8. The Sugar Loaf (formerly The Golden Lion), Frogmore Street
I used to love the Golden Lion. It was a fantastically friendly, proper, small town pub. Never full to the brim, never empty. The kind of place where you could go with a friend for a quiet drink and a chat and a gossip. And they kept a fairly decent cellar. So why doesn’t The Golden Lion figure at the top of the list? In the last year I lived down there the pub got taken over by a new landlord. It was extensively refurbed and it became a plastic watering-hole with piped music of very dubious taste. And I got banned on my first visit, by the new landlord who, unfortunately, had recently received a sense of humour bypass. The last laugh is on him though. He got thrown out and the pub was closed. For good
7. The Bridge Inn (on the river, opposite the actual castle)
I wasn’t a regular ‘regular’ at The Bridge Inn. but the few dozen times I visited, it was a really nice pub to go to. A really nice pub to visit
6. Kings Arms (Cross Street, near the town hall)
Very convenient for a swift half. Not a huge pub, but comfortable. Prone to fairly frequent visits from the rozzers
5. King’s Head Hotel (opposite the post office)
At this time in my history The King’s Head was the best pub in Abergavenny. A really nice lounge, occupants of a bar who didn’t make you feel like you were a visiting alien. Great staff. Relaxing and relaxed. And a tidy cellar
4. The Clytha Arms
Tucked away on what was then the A40 and is now a very minor, rural road, The Clytha did decent food, very nice ales and ciders, had a tidy garden, and was just a lovely place to go
3. The Skirrid Inn, Llanvihangel Crucorney
Perhaps getting a higher rating than it should, but The Skirrid Inn was another way-out-of-town rural pub worth visiting. Quiet, good ambience, well looked-after and comfortable, good for a couple of friends or a small group. And historical. If you go to the staircase you can see the rope burns from where Judge Jeffreys (the Hanging Judge) would send the unlucky defendants after he found them guilty in his totally fair ‘trials’, which he used to hold in the Inn
2 The Foxhunter Inn, Nant-y-derry
People, old school friends like him, like her, like her, and like him and him, who I used to hang around with a lot, would think The Foxhunter is an odd inclusion on this list, considering the quality of the other pubs. But The Foxhunter had one very special quality none of the other pubs had. And no, that quality isn’t that the pub was named after the most famous horse belonging to Aberdare’s most famous son, Colonel Sir Harry Llewellyn (though it was, obv). The special quality is that I could walk up the lane from the house, climb down onto the railway line, and walk the 3/4ths of a mile to the pub. And after an evening in the pub, the close proximity and straight-line of the railway track made getting home again very straightforward. Never had to worry about the traffic. The trains didn’t run by hourly timetable on that little line, they barely ran by calendar
1. Goose & Cuckoo (in the middle of absolutely nowhere)
I shall forever associate The Goose with its long departed landlord, Uncle Alf. Alf used to serve me cider from the bar and, when nobody was looking, cider from the special corner of his cellar. The location of The Goose can redefine ‘isolated’. Uncle Alf used to laugh at people who said he should put signs up to guide customers in. He didn’t actually want too many people coming in. Alf liked the pub how it was: so quiet that he rarely opened the lounge, just the bar would do. No food, no music. Just conversation and a decent pint of the very best
home-made brewery supplied beers and ciders. This is a worthy winner
*I told you it was whimsy, right?