Southampton is an old port town with proud nautical roots, being as it an ancient shipbuilding centre of the English and British navies, the point of departure for the Mayflower, and site where the RMS Titanic was constructed and launched. However, as much as the seafaring history of the town attracts tens of thousands of visitors each day, another crucial aspect of its character is the multitude of pubs found along its streets.
Whether older establishments that served British sailors as they departed for distant seas, or more modern businesses catering to international visitors coming from across those waters, there are plenty to see and visit.
We’ve chosen some of the more well established and popular pubs in this article, in a bid to persuade you why Southampton is also a town for pubs as well as pontoons.
The Duke of Wellington
Most of the best English pubs have timeless foundations, and the Duke of Wellington is no exception. Found on Bugle Street, the Duke of Wellington’s exact age is uncertain as it’s built upon Norman cellars. The current building was constructed in 1220, and it was converted into a tavern in 1494.
Naturally the pub is exceedingly proud of this history and makes no attempt to hide its ancient beams and rafters, revelling in its medieval character. As well as real ales, spirits, wines, and ciders, the Duke of Wellington offers a substantial menu as well. Food varies from light bites and snacks, to full three course meals, with the specials board updated daily. Diners can find themselves seated either in the historic setting of the pub, or outside in the bustling streets of Southampton if weather allows.
The Cricketer’s Arms
Just off Bedford Place is The Cricketer’s Arms, a well-established pub within the heart of the city. As opposed to some other gastro pubs, the Cricketer’s has grounded itself in a down-to-earth, no-nonsense approach to its food and drinks.
As well as a wide selection of beverages to choose from, the Cricketer’s Arms offers English favourites that are both generous in their portions and reasonable in their prices. It avoids trying to make its food too fancy, preferring substance over style. Its steaks are juicy, its gravy flavourful, its roast potatoes crisp and fluffy, and its vegetables are roasted to perfection.
The Cricketer’s Arms is friendly and non-assuming, making it a great place to visit for more traditional pub fare. The dining area is well lit, and the chairs can be moved around certain tables if additional space is needed.
The Red Lion Inn
Established in the 15th century on the High Street in a Grade II Listed building, The Red Lion Inn competes with the Duke of Wellington for the prize of being Southampton’s most medieval pub. Blackened rafters and pillars are joined with hanging pennants and flags, recreating what the pub may have looked like back during the height of the Hundred Years’ War.
Today the pub welcomes visitors from across the globe, and its food varies from light bites to Sunday roasts. As well as the stunning fixtures and scenery, the Red Lion also offers up very generous portions in its meals. Be warned if you decide to pop in, as what you order could very well be your main meal for the day! There is also a good selection of drinks, both soft and hard, to accompany your meal.
Be aware that the pub’s regulars can be a bit noisy, as the pub frequently airs sports on its television. Lighting can also be a little inconsistent due to the age of the building, with uneven floors and the occasional steps. That said the staff are friendly and welcoming and are happy to assist in any way they can.
The Dancing Man
Just down the road from the Duke of Wellington on Bugle Street, The Dancing Man is the youngest on our list even though the actual building is just as old. Formerly a warehouse for English wool being exported to the Continent, the building was opened as a tourist centre, microbrewery and restaurant in 2014.
The main reason to visit the Dancing Man is its welcoming atmosphere and good food, but visitors will also get a kick from its quirky décor that blends the building’s rich history with the own eccentric style of its current owners. The food is locally and ethically sourced, and cooked using only high-quality ingredients and the closest of attention. Everything is made on site, including its famous pies.
The Dancing Man also welcomes dogs through its doors, and even offers a Doggy Menu for furry visitors.
Due to the age and original design of the building, keep in mind that the floor may be uneven in parts, and that lighting can be patchy. During fine weather, seating can be found outside. Likewise, tables and chairs can be rearranged if needed – just ask the staff and they’ll do their best to accommodate.
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You may also be interested in our article about the top accessible attractions in Southampton.