Any debate over which is Bristol’s oldest pub usually boils down to two venerable city centre boozers – The Hatchett Inn in Frogmore Street or the Llandoger Trow at the end of King Street.
Dating back to 1664, the Llandoger Trow is certainly the more famous of the two thanks to its impressive literary links.
The pub – originally three timber-framed houses – is said to be where author Daniel Defoe met castaway Alexander Selkirk who later inspired the book Robinson Crusoe.
The Llandoger Trow’s bookish boasts continued when Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson used the pub as inspiration for the Admiral Benbow in Treasure Island.
Located on the cobbles between Welsh Back and Queen Charlotte Street, the pub was once a haunt of sailors, smugglers and salty sea dogs in the 17th-century.
Supposedly haunted with up to 15 ghosts – including a small child whose footsteps can be heard on the top floor – the pub was originally owned by a sailor who named the pub after the Monmouthshire village Llandogo, a place known for its boat building.
For many Bristolians, however, the Grade II-listed Llandoger Trow will always be fondly remembered as part of the popular Berni Inn restaurant chain famous for its prawn cocktails, steak and chips and Black Forest gateaux.
It was a Berni Inn from 1962 through to the 1980s and then it became a rather ordinary chain pub until it closed in April 2019, its future uncertain.
But after two years of closure, the Llandoger Trow was taken over this summer by the same owners of The Crofters Rights on Stokes Croft and The Lanes on Nelson Street.
The new custodians of this historic inn certainly have their work cut out for them as the sprawling property will require plenty of TLC after two years of being empty.
They have spruced up the ground floor areas, which boast some stunning original Jacobean plasterwork on the low ceilings and some wonderful 17th-century fireplaces – let’s hope they can get these fired up this winter.
In keeping with the formidable reputation of The Crofters Rights, the range of beers on offer is as overwhelming as it’s interesting. No bland mass-produced beer here.
There were at least 28 keg beers, lagers and ciders and four cask ales on when I visited, as well as a range of still ciders.
Even if you decided to have a ‘proper sesh’ seven days a week, you’d struggle to get through the list.
As well as local representation from the likes of Bristol Beer Factory, Arbor and Lost & Grounded, there are beers from many top breweries around the country including the brilliant Northern Monk from Leeds and Red Willow from Macclesfield.
Fans of European lagers are spoiled for choice, with German breweries Rothaus and Bitburger on tap as well as Czech brewery Cvikov.
This is not the cheapest place to grab a drink, and although some pints are £4.60, a few of the stronger brews will set you back £5.80 or more.
And if you’re looking for something really special, try the Arbor Ales Impy McImpface, an aged imperial stout. Such is its potency that you can only order it in half-pint measures for £4.
But then at 13.5%, it makes even The Coronation Tap’s infamous Exhibition Cider (a ‘mere’ 8.4%) seem like a lightweight option.
Llandoger Trow, King Street Bristol BS1 4ER.