I had been planning on visiting Leamington for a few weeks and I finally decided to visit on one of the coldest nights of the year so far. I was hoping it would make the pubs more inviting if my face was frozen when I entered. It's not a bad theory actually. One of my favourite pub crawls of all time was when I organised a walk around Norwich with snow falling and with two feet of snow already accumulated.
From the station I walked north until I reached Regent Street. The first thing you notice in Leamington is how the roads are nicely laid out in a grid so a quick look at the map before setting off was all I needed (or so I thought). Regent Street was off to the left and right but a quick look to my left and The Woodland Tavern was in sight. It is very much a traditional street-corner local with a bar and separate lounge. It is a regular outlet for Slaughterhouse Beers so I chose a pint of Saddleback (3.8% ABV). A delightful pale session bitter that started off the evening nicely. The alternatives were another Slaughterhouse beer (Boar D'Eau) and Hobgoblin. I sat in the lively bar where there was a group playing darts which is always good to see. There was also a selection of newspapers to read as well as the local CAMRA publication where I discovered the local branch was also having a Leamington pub crawl this evening which was finishing where I was starting from. A shame I did not know about this in advance.
Time was short due to train timetable changes in December which brought the last train back to Stratford-on_Avon forward to before 10.00.pm so it was quickly off to pub number two. It was back to the main road and I was sure I couldn't miss it with Clarendon Avenue supposedly off to the right. However, I found Clarendon Place and Clarendon Square but I went too far and had to backtrack to find it. It didn't take me long, once I had retraced my steps, to come across the White Horse. At first glance it looked like a tidy modern pub but after walking past the 'white horse' standing guard at the entrance to a large covered courtyard it was apparent that this pub is massive. The cavernous bar had plenty of sofas and other seating options. At the bar I chose a pint of Pride of Oxford from Oxfordshire Ales. This was a brewery I was not familiar with and at 4.2% ABV the beer was a delightful pale golden well balanced bitter with plenty of citrus flavours as well as a bitter finish. The other choices were Doom Bar and UBU. Upon leaving I noticed the pub also consisted of two very nice snugs to the front so for those who do not like sitting in a large cavernous lounge there was the option to get more cosy. Overall a lovely pub if you don't mind the fact that it is a pub of Wetherspoon proportions. However, it does have much more character and personality than your average 'Spoons.
From here it was back down towards town on a parallel road to the one I came up. Upon reaching Regent Street I turned back to the right towards the first pub but before I went as far as the Woodland Tavern I came across Murphy's Bar. It looked totally out of place in a street full of shops and the place was empty except for a few old drunken guys falling of their bar stools. I chose the only real ale available, my second pint of Saddleback Bitter of the evening, and sat at the table in the window looking out into the street. From where I sat the loud colourful language of the drunks was still overpowering but it was not a problem as time was running short and I had a train to catch. This pub deserves much better clientele though. The pint was a mere £2.20 (80p cheaper than the Woodland Tavern a few hundred yards away) and the bar was full of interesting artefacts as well as a good supply of reading material.
After leaving Murphy's Bar I retraced my steps and then turned right back in the direction of the station. It was doubtful whether I had enough time for a final stop and by the time I reached the two Wetherspoon pubs I knew I probably didn't so I headed back to the station. However, I had got to visit three very different pubs, each with their own distinctive appeal, and I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to this picturesque town.