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
1
Ye Olde Starre Inne

1) Ye Olde Starre Inne

Ye Olde Starre Inne is one of York’s most historic pubs. It also claims to be the oldest and longest serving in the city, with its timber-framed main block built in the mid-16th century and a wing to its left added circa 1600. The pub's licence has been continuous since 1644 and its advertising sign has hung proudly over Stonegate since 1733.

Originally, the inn was called "The Starre", honouring King Charles I, as per the then landlord’s Royalist stance in the English Civil War. Sadly for the landlord, after the Royalist defeat, the Roundheads gradually invaded the property and made use of its 10th-century cellar as both a hospital for the wounded soldiers and a mortuary.

In the early-18th century, and then in the late-19th century the place was extended and renamed Boddy's Inn. In 1954, it became a Grade II listed building.

Among the surviving internal features here are an early-18th century staircase, some 17th- and 19th-century panelling, an assortment of benches, stained glass, and other elements.

The pub’s spectacular views of the upper part of York Minster make it well worth visiting, not to mention the huge choice of real ales and good old English food. Also, the depths of the cellar are said to be infested by ghosts.

The local resident spirits include a massive figure of Royalist officer from 1644, donning a beaver hat, doublet and smart breeches; two black cats – probably buried alive, bricked up, in the large pillar in the bar (a strange custom at the time); and an old lady seen slowly climbing the stairs – the apparition witnessed only by children. Also, from time to time, there are bloodcurdling screams of pain heard downstairs – probably from the suffering Civil War soldiers who met their end there.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
2
The Golden Fleece

2) The Golden Fleece

The Golden Fleece is an inn which has a free house pub on the ground floor and four guest bedrooms above. It was first mentioned in the York City Archives as far back as 1503 and is rumoured to be the most haunted public house in York.

The back yard of the inn is named "Lady Peckett's Yard" after Alice Peckett, the wife of John Peckett, who owned the premises and served as Lord Mayor of York around 1702. The lady Peckett is said to be the one haunting the place – in fact so much so that it was even featured in Most Haunted television series about supposedly paranormal phenomena.

Many guests have reported seeing the late Lady Peckett wandering the endless corridors and staircases in the wee hours. Including ghostly apparitions and moving furniture, hers is just one of the five resident spirits.

The inn was rebuilt in the 19th century and in 1983 was designated as a Grade II listed building by English Heritage.

The pub has a recognisable large golden fleece (sheep) hanging over the entrance. Whilst the the frontage is narrow, it is very deep, with a front bar, a corridor containing staircases and toilets leading to second bar, and past that a space with dining tables. There is further dining space upstairs, in an old-fashioned room with a set of armour.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
3
Black Swan Inn

3) Black Swan Inn

One step inside the Black Swan makes you understand why it is considered the most authentic pub in York to enjoy local brew.

The public house sits on Peasholme Green, on the site of an important medieval house which used to be occupied by various Lord Mayors of York and Members of Parliament. The original building dates back to 1417. In 1560 it was rebuilt, and in 1670 saw further substantial alterations: rebuilding parts in brick, and altering the interior.

In the late-18th century the property was converted into a pub, although much of its interior survives intact from the 1670 modifications, featuring giant fireplaces, massive staircases, roasting pits and slanted windows in the entrance hall, the Smoke Room, and a room upstairs with a trompe l'oeil painting. Externally, the timber-framed central section of the facade with a jettied first floor, dating from 1560, is still in place also. To its right is a brick and timber extension from 1670, and to the left, an extension built in 1940, with a wing of 1670 behind.

In the 1930s, the pub was owned by the Tadcaster Tower brewery, which undertook a major renovation intended to preserve its historical character. The building later came into the ownership of Bass, and in 1954 was Grade II listed.

One tradition claims that the Black Swan is linked to St Cuthbert's Church by an underground passage. The pub is also said to be haunted by several ghosts. Since 1978, it has hosted a folk music club, and since 2003 – an annual folk festival.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
4
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!
5
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!!!
6
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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