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BEST OF MCR: Castlefield & Central Pub Crawl

A series of classic pub crawls in Manchester and the suburbs - from Jonathan Schofield

Written by . Published on December 15th 2014.

BEST OF MCR: Castlefield & Central Pub Crawl

This is part of three pub tours taking in 42 pubs around the Northern Quarter, Central And Over The River and South Central parts of Manchester and Salford city centres. 

The pub tour below takes in several pubs so if you drink in them all you're going to get very dizzy. Perhaps split the tour. All the places mentioned serve a range of cask ale in ever-changing combinations.

You can follow Jonathan Schofield on Twitter here @JonathSchofield


This tour crosses some grand urban landscapes and includes very modern pubs as well as three of Manchester’s most beloved specimens with the Briton’s Protection, the Peveril of the Peak and the Circus.

Begin at The Wharf (6 Slate Wharf, Castlefield, City, M15 4ST. 0161 220 2960. Click here). This is an epic reinvention of one of Manchester's worst pubs, the old Jackson's Wharf. Now it's an airy, light-filled feast of bric-a-brac on three floors, with a fine outdoor drinking terrace on the banks of the canal and good food as well. The latter is mainly British with the odd excursion elsewhere. There are good wine, beer and whisky ranges. The roominess, the real fires, the book lined rooms make for a very comfortable place to while away an hour or two. Part of the Brunning and Price group of upmarket boozers it feels cosy and confident, intimate and expansive at the same time.

Comfortable, roomy, smooth drinking and eating environmentThe Wharf: comfortable, roomy, smooth drinking and eating environment

With your back to The Wharf, away to the left is the curving white bridge over the Bridgewater Canal called Merchant's Bridge.

Cross the bridge, walk through Sugar Buddha's very large outdoor terrace and then turn left over the cobbled Rochdale Canal footbridge to the well-appointed Dukes 92 (19-20 Castle Street, Castlefield 0161 839 8646. Click here).

Dukes is now as much part of the city drinking scene as the White Lion up the road. The name arises from the building's former use as stables on the Duke of Bridgewater canal and its location adjacent to the 92 lock of the Rochdale Canal. The pub is airy, bright and very tasteful. The oldest section still has comfy, classic furniture and a useful space upstairs. Outside is the best sun-trap drinking area in the city, immensely popular too whenever the sun shines. Located on a quiet cobbled road, next to a Rochdale Canal lock it’s sort of perfect. Sometimes there’s a barbecue outside. Food is a feature either as bar food, sit down fare in the Grill or full restaurant service in Albert Shed. There are cask ales, and good wines available. Castlefield Estates who own the premises have to congratulated on the way they look after their external areas with plants and so forth.

Dukes 92Dukes 92

Leave Dukes by the bigger of the two outdoor drinking areas and turn right over the Rochdale Canal bridge up Duke Street. Turn right up the hill under the viaducts and past reconstructed Roman bits and bobs to Liverpool Road.

Immediately on the right is the late eighteenth century building which houses the Oxnoble (71 Liverpool Road, 0161 839 7740. Click here). This good-looking building houses a pub with a good food reputation and an easy-going comfortable atmosphere. The pub was named, uniquely, for a low-grade potato that came up the canals from west Lancashire and was sold in the market (now part of the Museum of Science and Industry opposite) opposite. Good ales and wines too, but as stated, food is the emphasis here and the Ox consistently provides some of the best in a Manchester pub. 

The OxnobleThe Oxnoble

After the Oxnoble, turn right up Liverpool Road to the White Lion (43 Liverpool Road 0161 832 7373) which also dates back to the late eighteenth century, maybe as early as 1778.

There is a good range of ales available here and another good outdoor drinking area. If you’re with kids they can go and play in the gardens and on the reconstructed foundations of the Roman fort outside. They’ll love running in and out of the fort ditches. By coincidence part of the remains outside include a mansio, a Roman pub from 1800 years ago. The pub does straightforward and cheap food, with an Eastern accent, as the landlady is one of the heroes of Manchester food and drink, Rose, ex-proprietor of Chinatown clubs and restaurants. City fans beware though it is emphatically a Red pub.

White LionWhite Lion

CaskCaskContinue up Liverpool Road to the junction with Deansgate. On the way you'll pass Cask (29 Liverpool Road) a cracking little bar with a fine selection of local and national ales plus a superior number of overseas beers. This is a lively place with a younger crowd but also sporting an odd but sweet terrace around the back. Regulars approve of the jukebox. 

At Liverpool Road, turn right.

Under the first railway bridge but over Castle Street, and in the railway arch of the second bridge is Knott Bar (374 Deangate, 0161 839 9229). Yes, this is called a bar, but it's definitely a pub. It's got fabulous ales, a good old fashioned jukebox, real charm, atmosphere and character, plus robust, gut-busting food. The rumbling of the trains overhead seems to add an extra element. For a while in the nineties it had the worst name ever dreamt up. It called itself 'Nowhere' so people as a joke could respond to the question, "Where are you going tonight?" with the answer "Nowhere". The result was nobody went anywhere near nowhere and so fortunately it converted into this bar that's a pub. 


After Knott Bar, retrace your steps up Deansgate, but cross over the road. The Deansgate pub (321 Deansgate. M3 4LQ.
0161 839 5215. Click here) occupies a handsome 1920's exterior under the towering 169m high Beetham Tower. The Deansgate has lots of dinky little rooms, a big function area on the first floor, and some of the oddest outdoor terraces in the city. The one on the first floor at the back, right under Beetham makes for an unusual drinking destination. There's a range of ales, good food in the upstairs restaurant called 3 Twenty One, and the most intrusive, disabled ramp known to Man. The pub was formerly the Crown and has one of the oldest licences in Manchester dating from the nineteenth century.

View of The Deansgate roof terrace


View of The Deansgate roof terrace

Continue past Beetham Tower and turn sharp right onto Great Bridgewater Street. 

After trawling under the bridges you’ll see over the traffic lights the Briton's Protection (50 Great Bridgewater Street, 0161 236 5895) on the other side of Lower Mosley Street. This is a multi-roomed gem full of elegant wood, tile and plaster detailing 200 years of pub history – it dates from June 1811, although several accounts put that back five or ten years. The straight-from-the-street bar area is particularly handsome - note the ceiling. But also try the cosy snug behind and, if sunny and warm, venture into one of the most unsophisticated but oasis-like pub gardens in the city. Aside from the pints Jennings, Robinsons, a couple of guests, you should take a sip or two from the over 230 whiskies (mostly single malt) and bourbons. The first floor function room is a rare survivor but lacks the period detailing of the other areas – the room plays host to a variety of gigs, clubs and associations. Lunchtime food is good value. The name comes from the pub being a recruiting office in the past.

The bar in the lovely Briton's ProtectionThe bar in the lovely Briton's Protection

Turn right out of the Briton’s to Peveril of the Peak (127 Great Bridgewater Street 0161 236 6364) another gem, this time a festival of ceramics. This late Georgian end terrace has lost its fellow houses but gained (in the 1890s) an emerald external tiling scheme with Art Nouveau lettering. Internally the design is period but maverick, the weirdness climaxing in the triangular, squashed bar area with the legendary period table football – apparently the oldest pub table in continuous use in the UK, dating from 1955. Check out the beautiful Art Nouveau bar as well. Ales and pies, plus a small selection of wines feature here. There’s pool, darts and occasional music nights. The pub name comes from the original owner’s stagecoach which made him enough money so he could open the pub in the 1820s.

The PevThe Pev

Across the road from the Pev is Rain (80 Great Bridgewater Street 0161 235 6500. Click here), a modern pub in a conversion from an umbrella factory – hence the name. It’s the work of local brewer JW Lees. This is a popular place especially at weekends and has an especially good terrace down to the Rochdale Canal, it vies with Dukes 92 in some ways – see above. You can walk directly between the two down the canal as well. There’s typical food available, uninspiring but filling, plus JW Lees’ excellent ales including the lush Moonraker at 7%. Function rooms are available upstairs. Use Rain for the terrace in sunny weather, use it when it's not living up to its name.

Follow the Great Bridgewater Street to its junction with Oxford Street. Turn left on Oxford Street and then right on Portland Street. Cross over Princess Street past the dowdy and hard drinking Joseph Holt’s pub the Old Monkey.

A few doors down you’ll find the Circus Tavern (86 Portland Street 0161 236 5818) dating from before 1800. This provides proper minimalism…in size rather than aesthetic. How this little beauty survived is a wonder, perhaps it’s down to having very few landlords in its 200 year history. The most peculiar feature is a bar so small (perhaps the smallest in the UK) that it fits the bar person and no-one else. There’s an interesting pub history panel near the entrance and a playing-it-safe back room dedicated to United and City. Crisps and snacks are left on the few tables for guests to snack on, and bar staff come to the table to take orders. If you love pubs you have to visit this place, it’s a charmer, although it does get packed. The name comes from an equestrian circus that was founded nearby by Mr Handy. In 1797 his circus went on tour to Liverpool and then Dublin. The boat sank and performers and horses died. Mr Handy survived because he was catching a later boat. The pub kept the name.

The Circus and The Grey HorseThe Circus and The Grey Horse

Turn left out of the Circus and two doors down is the Grey Horse (80 Portland St, 0161 236 1874) run by local brewer Hydes. Another rare survival from the eighteenth century with weavers windows on the top floor (they gave extra light for intricate textile work), this also got its name from the horse circus of Mr Handy. Worth a stop even if it’s not quite so cute as the Circus. 

Turn left out of the Grey Horse and then left down Nicholas Street past the Chinese Arch. On the right you'll encounter  The Seven Oaks (5 Nicholas Street, 0161 237 1233), with another building boom of the 1920s tiled exterior. There's basic food provided and a good selection of drinks, it gets very busy during the footbal. There's one downstairs bar and an upstairs function room, very handy for small scale events. In character this is more of classic 'town' pub. 

 Seven Oaks


Seven Oaks

Continue down Nicholas Street to the junction with Mosley Street and turn right. Over the junction with Charlotte Street you reach the high and elegant columned entrance to The Bank (57 Mosley Street, 0161 228 7560). From 1806 until the 1920s this was the reading room of the Portico Library which still exists in the upstairs rooms of the building. The interest in The Bank, a fairly average chain bar otherwise, lies in its grand scale and its history. The food and drink is standard but the atmosphere is alive with big personality. This room, when it was part of the library, hosted Charlotte Bronte, John Dalton, Elizabeth Gaskell, James Prescott Joule, Friedrich Engels, Richard Cobden, John Bright, William Fairbairn, Ernest Rutherford and many others. If you don't know who these people are, get yourself a pint, get out the smart phone. 

The Bank pub beneath The Portico Library

The Bank pub beneath The Portico Library

Continue straight over the tramlines onto Booth Street and then first left into Cooper Street. Look to the right and you’ll see the handsome pair of the City Arms (48 Kennedy Street, 0161 236 4610) and the Vine (46 Kennedy Street, 0161 237 9740).

Sweet, drinking conjunction, the City Arms and The Vine on Kennedy StreetSweet, drinking conjunction, the City Arms and The Vine on Kennedy Street

The City Arms is a busy little conversation breeder with one of the best ranges of beer in the Half Square Mile - as Manchester's business district is called in this area. Predictably popular with office workers and with Town Hall staff – the Council Leader is often in here - the City Arms, cuddles and coddles every type of citizen. Cask ales include Tetley bitter and mild, plus several guests. There’s lunchtime food available, a bizarre outdoor smoking ‘well’, a bizarre selection of books, darts, and some period details, especially in the glass. 

The Vine retains it's beautiful Georgian door and it's weaver's windows - see the Grey Horse above. The interior was altered in the seventies and still retains a whiff of that era, especially the basement. Having said that the landlady and helpmates are a smiling and happy bunch that make you feel very welcome. 

If you do all these pubs on one crawl and can prove it, get in touch and we might give you a Manchester Confidential Heroes' card - we'll also ring a hospital for you. 

You can follow Jonathan Schofield on Twitter here @JonathSchofield

Jonathan Schofield regularly leads pub tours around the city - Book here.

The view from The WharfThe view from The Wharf

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48 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

FurFoxAcheFebruary 4th 2013.

What a great pub crawl. It takes in all of my personal favourites in the city. Definitely one to try out.

AnonymousFebruary 4th 2013.

When I worked in town, every Friday lunch was spent in The Vines with a few pints and a chip sandwich... Great pub, always sat on the top level by the darts board

AnonymousFebruary 4th 2013.

When I worked in town, every Friday lunch was spent in The Vines with a few pints and a chip sandwich... Great pub, always sat on the top level by the darts board

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousFebruary 4th 2013.

I think I've spent so long in the vines that I'm seeing double

paulsouthernFebruary 4th 2013.

Now why didn't you call in The Temple when you passed on Great Bridgewater Street, or is that classed as a bar? An acquired taste but great place.

Richard HJFebruary 4th 2013.

What happened to that place opposite Dukes that the Hucknall had a stake in? Didn't it re-open recently? I guess I could go and have a look but it's usually rubbish.

3 Responses: Reply To This...
IanFebruary 4th 2013.

Buddha Lounge now isn't it.

James KayFebruary 4th 2013.

It's now called Sugar Buddha but is usually shut. Since Barca, it's been open under various guises but never really took off.

AnonymousFebruary 6th 2013.

Barca was THE place to go when it first opened but a moody crowd moved in and now it doesn't register on most people's radars.

AnonymousFebruary 4th 2013.

Rain Bar? It's just a Printworks crowd pub with a nice outside bit.

ChorltongalFebruary 4th 2013.

Ouch. I had my 30th on the 1st floor of Rain Bar in December and had a lovely time. I think its a brilliant place to go in Summer with the terrace and have never seen any trouble... and I certainly don't consider myself to be part of the Printworks Crowd. Admittedly I may have frequented it 10-12 years ago but that was when the Northern Quarter didn't exist and there was only a couple of Bars on Deansgate. I am too fearful for my life to venture there now so certainly don't consider the Rain Bar to be of the same ilk anon.

6 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousFebruary 6th 2013.

Yes Chorltongal, I think we are all aware by now that you are far too cool for the Printworks and such like, no need to keep re-affirming it.

AnonymousFebruary 6th 2013.

South Central. LOL. Yeah, it's just like LA.

AnonymousFebruary 9th 2013.

I totally agree, Chorltangal. I think some Anons are a bit snobby.

Jenny CollinsJanuary 20th 2014.

Printworks opened at the end of 2000, the Northern Quarter has been around since, um, oh read this one... www.manchesterconfidential.co.uk/…/The-Northern-Quarter-Pub-Crawl…

rinkydinkJanuary 20th 2014.

Er, the Northern Quarter did exist 10-12 years ago

AcsJanuary 23rd 2014.

The Market restaurant has been open in the Northern Quarter for 25 years..course it existed 12 years ago

Prince_HarmingFebruary 4th 2013.

Although I adore the Briton's Protection and the whole pub crawl is a good one, don't go trying to sneak The Rain Bar in as a pub! You even removed the word Bar from the name of the place, you cheats!

Although I love the Rain Bar's outside area in the summer, it's an uninspiring place the rest of the time. And definitely not a pub.

Robert JonesFebruary 4th 2013.

What about The Old Nag straight out into the Rising Sun both good beers, fav City Arms

AnonymousFebruary 4th 2013.

The wharf is always my favourite place for a drink, a great range of great drinks, served by great staff that know my name which is rare in a city pub... Perhaps I spend to much time there but I urge you to try it

Louise AgapinopoulouFebruary 4th 2013.

After you left The Grey Horse and headed to the City Arms, you seem to have walked straight passed The fab little Seven Oaks...was this because you were blind drunk by this point or do you have a clever excuse for not including it?

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousJune 14th 2013.

Probably because it's dreadful now. A few years ago it may have warranted the description 'fab'

BLR_3February 5th 2013.

Knott bar and city arms, they'll do for me!

Joana shared this on Facebook on February 5th 2013.
DynamoKevFebruary 5th 2013.

What about the Town Hall Tavern, the Chop houses? Good shout re the Rising Sun and Nags head, Rain bar should be removed from the list...

Steve5839February 5th 2013.

Some good, some not so good, its always the same for a bar / pub crawl. But all in all a good shout.

MahindaFebruary 5th 2013.

Pah. Ra!n Bar may proclaim itself a bar, but it feels as much of a pub as your average 'Spoons, if not more so. Don't know if it's still the case, but it used to have a proper pub quiz on Tuesday nights. Not a bar quiz. A pub quiz.

James KayFebruary 5th 2013.

Great article, a worthy route, some photos worthy of a smile, some pleasant comments and then the, "That's not a pub, it's a bar! Why have you missed this? I would have gone there!" Zzzz tiresome. Just smile and try and enjoy things for what they are; life's a lot more pleasant that way.

Excellent stuff ManCon, I'm looking forward to the next one.

Poster BoyFebruary 5th 2013.

This series is an app waiting to happen -with added historical context for each hostelry...

AnonymousFebruary 5th 2013.

Thirsty Scholar should be there unless it goes into a different location. I don't think there's a pub in Manchester with a better range of drinks on tap. A couple of ciders, three ales and at least 6 largers with 5 of them being premium ones. Good bottle selection as well, although they only do a veggie menu so that's s 0/10 for food!

Poster BoyFebruary 8th 2013.

You should also include an Altrincham crawl on your 'To Do' list.

Ryan O'hanlonFebruary 12th 2013.

'South Central', 'Half Square Mile', 'West Central'!!! Dear me. It's a real skill to make yourself sound like a tw@t when talking about pubs in town. Well done.

3 Responses: Reply To This...
HuamFebruary 12th 2013.

I think your ill Ryan. Or a fool

Ryan O'hanlonFebruary 25th 2013.

Huam... "you're" probably right

AnonymousDecember 15th 2014.

See Huan, Ryans showing you a perfect example of the skills needed to be a tw@t right there.

PatrickFebruary 12th 2013.

I also agree that Temple Bar should have gone in (or Toilet Bar as I always call it). Definitely feels like a pub, despite the name. All in all though an excellent crawl.

However, this guy needs to sort his grammar out. What is the world coming to when a "writer" can't get the basics right?

Karen HollandFebruary 13th 2013.

Can't wait to get started!

Sam MortimerMarch 29th 2013.

About to go give this a go in 1. We'll see what happens

Don AllwrightJune 14th 2013.

Poster Boy, you intrigue me, an 'Altrincham' crawl could be the shortest crawl in history.

NorthernGeezerJanuary 20th 2014.

Best pub crawl in the city in the 70s bar non was starting in Didsbury, up Wilmslow Rd all the way to Rusholme, finishing in the curry mile for 'tea' before going clubbing in town at The Ritz.........................memories ;-)

AnonymousDecember 15th 2014.

This is nearly two years old , come on make an effort.

3 Responses: Reply To This...
EditorialDecember 15th 2014.

We're soon publishing a new pub crawl, so are airing out the older tours to whet appetites. Thanks.

Barry MaginnDecember 16th 2014.

I found this to be a really useful and interesting piece and am glad it was revived.

Barry MaginnDecember 16th 2014.

Although I wish the site was responsive so it would be easier to read these articles on mobile after a couple of pints!

AnonymousDecember 16th 2014.

Where is Monton

AnonymousDecember 17th 2014.

I went to Nowhere in the 90s. It was a good bar.

NOT SUCH AN INNOCENTDecember 23rd 2014.

Hope when you do the new one you include Atlas in the Castlefield one.. I live around there and flit between The Wharf and Atlas.. two best places in the area!

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