The Mall Tavern, Notting Hill, London
Sarah Mitchell, assistant manager at the Churchill Arms, Britain’s ‘most festive pub’
Every Christmas the Churchill is decorated with loads of Christmas trees and lights. In 2016 we got a lot of media coverage in the UK and abroad, so suddenly everyone was talking about us as the most festive pub in the country. This year we have 95 trees; inside the walls are draped with lights and we play Christmas songs on a loop. I love it, but I think some staff get sick of hearing Mariah Carey 20 times a day. The pub we all head to after work is the Mall Tavern, two minutes away. It’s completely different to the Churchill – we are a cosy, traditional pub with a fire, whereas the Mall is a craft-beer gastropub with 20 beers and ales to choose from. At the moment they have a beer and burger pop-up with a choice of about five burgers.
• 71 Palace Gardens Terrace, London W8, themallw8.com, open 24 Dec midday-10.30pm, closed 25th and 26th. The Churchill (119 Kensington Church Street) is open 24 Dec from 11am-midnight, 25th noon-2pm (drinks only), 26th 11am-11pm
The Cairn Hotel, Carrbridge, the Highlands
Chosen by David McKinney, reindeer herder, Cairngorms Reindeer Centre
I look after our 150 free-ranging reindeer year-round, but Christmas is our busiest time – we lay on activities for kids and sometimes I have to dress up as an elf. I live in nearby Carrbridge, and my local is the Cairn, in the centre of the village. I’m a Guinness man, but there are some good beers on tap – including from the local Cairngorm brewery – and they have 70 Scottish whiskies, plus 40 Scottish gins. Carrbridge’s location in the Highlands means that a lot of locals work in the outdoor sector, and there are always fit, bearded, healthy types in the pub. It’s a really friendly atmosphere. There’s an open fire, so the smell of wood smoke hits you as you walk in. The food is classic pub grub but good quality – the haggis and fish and chips are great, and the onion rings are the size of my hand. • Main Road, Carrbridge, on Facebook, open 24 Dec midday-1am, 25th closed, 26th midday-midnight. Cairngorm Reindeer Centre’s Christmas fun weekends run throughout December from 12pm-3pm, cairngormreindeer.co.uk
The Crown Inn, Morland, Cumbria
Chosen by Father Christmas, Lowther Castle
I will be giving out presents to children from a carriage at the entrance of Lowther Castle every weekend in December. Father Christmas is supposed to like a drink but I probably won’t visit the Crown until after Christmas. It’s a traditional, family-run pub, just by the beck. In summer we get people on walking holidays staying in the village, but in winter it’s mostly locals. The fish and chips on Tuesdays are brilliant.
• Church Lane, on Facebook, open 24 and 26 Dec 5pm-midnight, 25th 12-3pm. Father Christmas is at Lowther Castle on Sat and Sun in Dec from 10am-4pm (£8.50 per child including a gift, lowthercastle.org)
The Cricketers Arms, Danbury, nr Chelmsford, Essex
Paul Kelly, turkey farmer, Kelly Turkeys
December on the farm is like an organised pantomime. We have 64 people hand-plucking 2,500 turkeys a day. It’s so busy that I try not to drink in December – and then I have a really wet January! We get about 2,000 people coming to pick up pre-ordered turkeys on the 23rd and 24th … it’s flat out till 4pm. It’s quite strange waking up on Christmas Day and realising there’s nothing to be done. I’ve been going to the Cricketers since I was 14 (18 officially!). It’s a great little village pub next to Danbury common. It used to be very traditional, with a saloon bar and a lounge; now the bars have merged and it’s more of a destination pub. It’s a dream of mine to own it one day and turn it into a turkey restaurant.
• Danbury Common, cricketersarmsdanbury.com, open 24 Dec 12pm-late, 25th and 26th 12-2pm. Kelly Turkeys sells free-range birds; last date for orders for delivery is 14 Dec, kellybronze.co.uk.
The Pivní, York
Chosen by Niall Costigan, shoemaker in The Elves and the Shoemakers at York Theatre Royal
My favourite pub is the Pivní on Patrick Pool, next to the Shambles market. It’s housed in a three-storey, 16th-century townhouse, but the best thing about it is its eclectic beer selection – about 50 bottled and draught beers, which are always changing. I often go after rehearsals or a show and have half pints or schooners – they do a lot of strong beers that you really don’t want a pint of. It’s a lovely spot to bring friends who don’t know the city, as it’s the sort of place you might walk straight past if you didn’t know it. It’s the sister pub to the Tap in York station, another great pub.
• 6 Patrick Pool, pivni.co.uk, open 24 Dec midday-8pm, closed 25th and 26th. The Elves and the Shoemakers runs from 11 Dec-5 Jan, yorktheatreroyal.co.uk
The Maypole Bar (Ned’s), Holywood, Belfast
Chosen by Alicia Peyrano, owner, Little Citizens Boutique toy shop
I’m from the States and the first time I visited Northern Ireland my (now) husband took me straight to Ned’s, officially called the Maypole (Ireland’s only surviving maypole is on the same street). Everyone went silent when we walked in. When I moved to Holywood I ended up working in the same building as the pub and we used to roll down after work. Now I run the toy shop a couple of streets away, and it’s still my local. It’s not glamorous or trendy, there’s no food, the walls are still yellowunless you count crisps, but I love the camaraderie. It’s the kind of place where you end up talking to someone on the next table. They do the best Guinness, and still do table service. I also love the fact that they have strict rules about drunkenness, so you see these big men being chucked out for being the worse for wear and coming back with their tails between their legs.
• 55 High St, nedsbar.co.uk, open 24 Dec 11.30am-10.45pm, 25th closed, 26th 11.30am- 12.45am. littlecitizensboutique.com
The Swan, Porthcawl, Bridgend
Chosen by Lucy Jones, secretary, Porthcawl Christmas Swim committee
The swim has always been part of my Christmas morning. My dad used to do it, so we’d go down to the beach to watch, and grumble about wanting to go home and open our presents. He’s 78 now and still swims some years. He remembers being excited the year they almost had 100 people registered to swim. This year is the 54th annual event and there will be 1,200 swimmers. Porthcawl is a tourist town – Coney beach, where the swim takes place, is broad and sandy – so there are pubs where visitors tend to go, but my favourite is the Swan in Nottage, a proper local. It’s really friendly, they often have live music, and if Wales are playing rugby the atmosphere is great and they come round with free chilli and rice – I guess it means you can drink more!
• West Road, Nottage, on Facebook, Christmas opening times unavailable. The Porthcawl Christmas Day swim is at 11.45am, registration at 10.30am (christmasswim.org)
The Peach Tree, Shrewsbury
Chosen by Caroline Jones, postmistress, Foregate post office
My local is the Peachtree, five minutes’ walk from my post office, just outside the town centre. It’s not strictly a pub – it’s a noodle restaurant, bar, cafe and nightclub – but I love it; so much so that I’m having my wedding party there next year. You can pop in there for breakfast, early dinner with the kids (£10 for two courses before 6pm) or an after-work drink. I probably go there three times a week. It’s owned by a local family and I think the reason it’s so popular is that it has moved with the times… a bit like I’ve had to. My father was a postmaster so it’s all I’ve ever known, but I never thought I would have to be on Twitter and Facebook to remind people I exist! Having a sausage dog puppy helps though – he’s already dressed up as my little Christmas helper!
• 18-21 Abbey Foregate, thepeachtree.co.uk, open 24 Dec 8am-9pm, 25th midday-3pm, 26th midday-3.30pm
The Prince Albert, Ely, Cambridgeshire
Chosen by Paul Trepte, director of music, Ely Cathedral
For me, the Christmas season starts on advent Sunday (2 December) and then quickly progresses with our carol concerts. The one on the Saturday before Christmas is the most popular. The pub the (adult) choir and I descend on is the Albert, a good old-fashioned pub with no blaring music. It’s always got some interesting local beers, like my favourite, Ghost Ship, from Adnams in Southwold. I’m in my 29th year as music director and at Easter I’ll be stepping down, so this will be my last Christmas – but the Albert will still be my local.
• 62 Silver Street, on Facebook, open 24 Dec 11am-11.30pm, 25th and 26th 11am-5pm. Ely Cathedral’s advent procession with carols is on 3 Dec; Hark! the Herald carol concert is on 22 Dec (elycathedral.org)
Mary & Archie, Chorlton, south Manchester
Chosen by Lucy Dusgate, digital programmer at The Lowry and creative producer at Quays Culture
As part of my job I organise Lightwaves, an interactive light festival at Salford Quays. I think of it as a contemporary art version of the Christmas fairy lights. Mary & Archie, in Chorlton, has fairy lights outside year round, so they’ve got me with that, plus it’s open for breakfast and the eggs benedict is excellent! It’s got a trendy vibe without being at all pretentious.
• 111 Manchester Rd, maryandarchiemcr.co.uk, open 24th, 10am–11pm, closed 25th and 26th. Lightwaves is on from 7-16 Dec, 4pm-10.30pm, free (thelowry.com)
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