York's Historical Pubs Tour, York

York's Historical Pubs Tour (Self Guided), York

Yorkshire is a haven for real ale enthusiasts and York does live up to this reputation. Many of local pubs are as old as churches, having served their clients for centuries.

There's a plethora of historic pubs in the heart of York, offering an array of quality cask ales alongside a menu of hearty British food, served in a cozy, traditional atmosphere. Low ceilings, wonky floors and open fireplaces are in abundance; most pubs also have resident ghosts.

Here are some of the city’s ancient drinking establishments that have been an integral part of its fabric:

Ye Olde Starre Inn – the longest serving pub in York, licensed since 1644; offers spectacular views of York Minster plus a range of real ales and good old English grub.

The Golden Fleece – operational since the early 1500s; rumored to be the most haunted public house in York, especially for Lady Peckett.

Black Swan Inn – the most authentic pub in York, housed in a 1417 building; reportedly linked to St Cuthbert's Church via underground passage.

The Royal Oak – a perfect spot for real ale enthusiasts, situated inside a stylish 14th-century building; renowned for several resident ghosts, plus an array of real ales and comforting cuisine.

Snickleway Inn – the only 15th-century galleried inn in the city, with at least five active spirits on the premises.

The Old White Swan – one of York’s most loved and oldest watering holes; famous for its association with an 18th-century world's tallest man and some ghostly tales.

If you feel like having a bit of a pub crawl whilst in York, either to quench your thirst for local ale or some other cultural experience, consider taking this self-guided walking tour. You won't regret it!
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York's Historical Pubs Tour Map

Guide Name: York's Historical Pubs Tour
Guide Location: England » York (See other walking tours in York)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 6
Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.3 Km or 0.8 Miles
Author: val
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Ye Olde Starre Inne
  • The Golden Fleece
  • Black Swan Inn
  • The Royal Oak
  • Snickleway Inn
  • The Old White Swan
Ye Olde Starre Inne

1) Ye Olde Starre Inne

Ye Olde Starre Inne in York is a captivating monument to the city's rich history. Established with a timber-framed main block around the mid-16th century and an added wing from around 1600, this pub is heralded as York’s oldest and longest-serving drinking establishment. It has held its license continuously since 1644, and its iconic sign has been a feature on Stonegate since 1733, making it a prominent historical marker. In recognition of its historical and architectural significance, Ye Olde Starre Inne was designated a Grade II listed building in 1954.

Originally named "The Starre," the inn paid homage to King Charles I, reflecting the Royalist sentiments of the landlord during the tumultuous times of the English Civil War. However, following the Royalists' defeat, the property witnessed a dramatic shift as the victorious Roundheads took over, repurposing its ancient 10th-century cellar into a hospital and mortuary for their wounded and deceased soldiers.

The interior of the inn retains many period features, including an early-18th-century staircase, 17th- and 19th-century wooden paneling, and an array of stained glass and benches that contribute to its old-world charm. Visitors are often drawn not only to these historical elements but also to the pub’s strategic location, which offers stunning views of the upper parts of York Minster.

Ye Olde Starre Inne is also famed for its extensive selection of real ales and traditional English cuisine, enhancing the authentic pub experience. Moreover, it boasts a thrillingly spooky aspect with legends of ghosts haunting its premises. Among the spectral residents is a Royalist officer from 1644, complete with period attire, two mysteriously entombed black cats, and an old lady whose presence is only revealed to children. The cellar, a silent witness to the horrors of war, reportedly echoes with the agonizing screams of soldiers long past.
The Golden Fleece

2) The Golden Fleece

The Golden Fleece is a historic inn located in the heart of York, known for its distinctive blend of heritage and haunting tales. With its foundations dating back to the early 16th century, this establishment is not only one of the oldest but also famously holds the title of the most haunted public house in York. Historical records from the York City Archives mention The Golden Fleece as early as 1503, attesting to its longstanding presence in the city.

This inn features a free house pub on the ground floor and four guest bedrooms on the upper floors, offering both locals and tourists a taste of York's rich past. The ground level hosts a front bar that leads through a corridor with staircases and essential facilities into a second bar area, followed by a dining space adorned with an old-fashioned ambiance, including an armor display. Additional dining facilities are located upstairs, enhancing its old-world charm.

The pub's exterior is marked by a large golden fleece sign hanging above the entrance, symbolizing its name and heritage. Despite its narrow frontage, the property extends deeply, presenting multiple areas for patron enjoyment.

The inn's reputation for being haunted has not only drawn attention but has also been featured on the television series "Most Haunted," which explores paranormal phenomena. Adding to its mystique, the backyard of the inn is named "Lady Peckett's Yard" after Alice Peckett, wife of the former Lord Mayor of York, John Peckett, who owned the premises around 1702.

In 1983, The Golden Fleece was designated a Grade II listed building by English Heritage, securing its status as a protected structure and a vital part of York’s historical landscape. Whether visitors are drawn by the allure of ghost stories or the appeal of stepping back in time, The Golden Fleece offers a unique window into the past and the paranormal in one of England's most storied cities.
Black Swan Inn

3) Black Swan Inn

Walking into the Black Swan, it's clear why it's deemed the quintessential spot in York for local beers. Located on Peasholme Green, the Black Swan occupies a site that once held a significant medieval residence where various Lord Mayors of York and MPs lived. The original structure was built in 1417 but was rebuilt in 1560 and then significantly modified in 1670, including new brickwork and interior changes.

By the late 18th century, the building had been transformed into a pub. Remarkably, many features from the 1670 overhaul remain, such as large fireplaces, expansive staircases, roasting pits, and uniquely angled windows found in the entrance hall, the Smoke Room, and an upstairs room decorated with a trompe l'oeil painting. The front of the pub still showcases the timber-framed center from 1560, with a jettied first floor. Next to it, there's a brick and timber extension from 1670 and a 1940-built extension on the other side, with another 1670 wing at the back.

In the 1930s, the Tadcaster Tower Brewery took over and refurbished the pub to maintain its historical essence. Bass later acquired it, and in 1954, the pub was designated a Grade II listed building.

There’s a local legend that an underground passage connects the Black Swan to Saint Cuthbert's Church. The pub is rumored to be haunted by several ghosts. Since 1978, it has been the venue for a folk music club and, since 2003, has also hosted an annual folk festival.
The Royal Oak

4) The Royal Oak

Found on the historic Goodramgate, just a short walk from York Minster and a stone's throw away from Monk Bar, is a perfect spot for real ale enthusiasts to refuel after a day of touristic exploration of York.

The place is called the Royal Oak and it sits inside a 14th-century building decorated in a charming old-fashioned style. There is a high degree of probability that some kind of structure had been on this site since as early as Viking Times. One of York’s oldest pubs started off as a coaching inn. In 1772 it was known as the Blue Boar, which also went by the name Blue Pig under a certain landlord called John Dickinson. Its mock Tudor frontage was added in the 1800s.

The building is reputedly haunted by several ghosts. There is an old prostitute in the front bar; ghosts of children playing by the fire; a tall, gaunt man in the back room and two female ghosts, one on the first floor, called Alice, and one in the flat above the pub, called Mary.

Overall, the Royal Oak offers guests the full Yorkshire pub experience. An array of real ales, including three permanent ones as well as a number of guest ales on tap, is richly complemented by comforting cuisine and some good old Yorkshire hospitality!
Snickleway Inn

5) Snickleway Inn

The Snickleway Inn is a traditional pub and the only 15th-century galleried inn in York. The historic building has served many different purposes over its lifetime. During the siege of York in 1644 it was used as the Royalist magazine, and then later as a brothel.

It has also changed several names over the centuries, from The House of Tudor to The Anglers Arms to finally The Snickleway Inn in 1994. The latter name derives from the term coined by Mark W. Jones in a 1983 book “A Walk Around the Snickelways of York”, with Snickelway being an amalgamation of Snicket (a North Yorkshire word for an Alley) and Alleyway.

Despite numerous renovations, the building has retained many of its original features. The beams and woodwork are in immaculate condition. The interior is rich in breweriana, beautiful dark wood panelling, and open brick. There are cosy little nooks with a few open fires and a quaint room leading out to a little walled yard area with some alfresco seating.

The Snickleway Inn is also reputed to be one of York’s most haunted locations. Reportedly it has at least five active spirits on the premises. Among them are: the ghost of a young girl; an old gentleman; a man in Elizabethan-era clothing; Marmaduke Buckle – an 18th-century person who hanged himself from the beam upstairs; and the rarely seen spirit whose presence is identified by the strong smell of lavender which was applied for stifling the stench of rotten corpses during the great plague.

But the scariest of them all is the malevolent spirit that causes havoc in the cellar. Described by mediums as a “creature of great age and intelligence, surrounded by utter evil”, it turns off gas taps and throws things at the staff. Spooky!!!
The Old White Swan

6) The Old White Swan

The Old White Swan is one of York’s most loved and oldest drinking establishments. The place represents a collection of about nine buildings with a rather colourful history dating all the way back to the 16th century.

The timber-framed structures seen at the rear of the courtyard are truly medieval. Also, in the courtyard there is a stone rock – of four steps – that in the past was used as 'mountings' to help passengers get aboard stagecoaches.

On the 5th of August 1781 the pub made history when Mr. O'Brian, the world's tallest man at the time – 8 feet tall, came visiting. By permission of the Lord Mayor he was exhibited to the public at the cost of one shilling, charged by the landlord.

Similarly to many other historic pubs in the city, the Old White Swan lays claim to be haunted and has its own ghostly tales to tell. One of them has it that the pub once served as a secret meeting place for papists who planned fleeing to France. Apparently, their ghostly figures have been seen huddled around the fire one morning. What's remarkable is that the fire itself was re-lit after the staff had extinguished it earlier. Also, there are tales of furniture being flung around by themselves and muffled voices and footsteps. Wicked stuff!!!

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