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The Bulls Head, Tintwistle

Dave Bishop visits a pub that kicked out the bad boys and welcomed back the locals

Published on July 15th 2009.

The Bulls Head, Tintwistle

There must have been a time when Vivienne Westwood’s mind wasn’t full of ideas about bondage trousers, dressing the pioneers of the punk movement, forming an international haute couture empire, or morphing into a lookalike of the Queen with tangerine hair.

Such as when, as a fledgling fashion designer with little more than an HB pencil and a sketchbook in her armoury, she’d sit in her local pub enjoying a pint or two.

I’d like to think that the nascent High Priestess of punk fashion did indeed go supping in Tintwistle, just outside Glossop, where she grew up, and that the pub she chose to go in was the Bulls Head.

Because while it may have nothing do with fashion or anything remotely a la mode, it’s got an enduring style and class that transcends mere ephemeral trends. In other words, it’s pretty much as you’d have found it 50 or 60 years ago – a proper, good old-fashioned pub with nowt taken out.

We were inspired to return to the Bulls Head, where we’d spend a great family afternoon four years ago, after watching Vivienne – who although completely hatstand is Tintwistle’s only ever famous daughter or son, as far as I’m aware – on the Jonathan Ross Show.

So off we went and discovered a pub that in those four years seemed not to have altered one iota, but on talking to landlord Mick Reigate we were treated to a torrid, cautionary tale of our times about how pubs can almost go out of business in the blink of an eye.

He explained how the last, successful and popular owners but one had sold the pub to a woman who had put in a pool table, Sky TV, fruit machines and the kind of lager that attracts ne’er do wells and the wearers of sports gear.

Bad went to worse, he added, and eventually there was a stabbing and the place was closed. Virtually overnight what had been a local institution became a madhouse with a reputation for danger.

So when Mick took over, all that nonsense went out of the window. No telly, no machines, no pool table, no yobbery (as an ex-bouncer Mick didn’t need to tell anyone twice that they were barred). Instead back came the authentic décor, the quiz night, real ale and real music, and the returning locals were so chuffed they donated lots of free, old-style furniture, fixtures and fittings to help Mick get going.

Now, a year later, it’s back to being the good old Bulls Head, frequented by walkers, cyclists and families, and the anniversary of the restoration will be celebrated on 31 August with a beer festival in the back room along with live music in a marquee.

Before then an Italian opera night is planned, with pasta served up alongside the arias, all washed down with Italian wine. It’s beer, though, on which the Bulls Head is staking its reputation, and Mick has gone local by making Wren’s Nest bitter, from the nearby Howard Town microbrewery, the house ale. And during the beer festival the whole range of the brewery’s beers will be available.

The Bulls Head also serves Timothy Taylor’s Landlord, Bombardier and Jenning’s Cock-a-Hoop on draft (all £2.70 a pint), along with bottles, lager and stout. We stuck, however, with the ever-magnificent and hoppy Wren’s Nest, which seemed to perfectly complement my main of Gordon’s classic salmon and cod fishcakes, seasoned with tarragon, coriander and lemon, and served with salad and tartar sauce (£7.50).

The dish, apparently, is inspired by a Gordon Ramsay concoction, hence the name, but Mick told us that the chef who actually made it was an Austrian called Tomas who had arrived in Tintwistle via London.

Visions of a hot-panted Brüno sprung to mind, especially with my giggling daughters, but apparently Tomas has got a very nice Czech girlfriend and doesn’t wear hot-pants or even lederhosen for that matter.

My wife had spicy pork and chorizo hotpot with rice for the same price, while the kids had pasta and the onion soup of the day, from a menu that changes daily and uses only locally-sourced produce. None of it could be faulted.

The authentic ambience of the Bulls Head is helped by the fact that Mick now has a sheepdog collie called Stanley to stroke, and that people are allowed to bring in their dogs. Indeed a sign on the door says that all dogs and ‘most’ owners are welcome. We liked that.

The old mounted head of a bull still takes pride of place on one wall, while the bric-a-brac on a shelf over the bar has been augmented by some guitars from Mick’s vast collection.

He still plays in a blues band, so one thing you’re guaranteed not to hear at the Bulls Head is bangin’ house or gangsta rap. On our visit the music was mostly The Specials (the Sunday Times free copy, I think), including the track 'Monkey Man', dedicated to bouncers everywhere. How appropriate, we thought, in a pub which has been bounced back to life by an ex-doorman.

Open: Mon 7pm-12, Tues-Wed 5pm-12, Thurs-Sun noon-12. Food served Thurs-Sat noon-3pm and 5-9pm. Sun noon-7pm.

Venues are rated against the best examples of their kind: fine dining against the best fine dining, cafes against the best cafes. Following on from this the scores represent: 1-5 saw your leg off and eat it, 6-9 get a DVD, 10-11 if you must, 12-13 if you’re passing,14-15 worth a trip,16-17 very good, 17-18 exceptional, 19 pure quality, 20 perfect. More than 20: Gordo gets carried away

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

cleoJuly 15th 2009.

larger? do you mean lager?!

tomegranateJuly 15th 2009.

Did put this in yesterday's 250 but towards the end of the day so I perhaps it got missed...Yo Editors, just got your email about the Sky Ride - just curious if you know about the Critical Mass, which is the EXACT same thing which happens spontaneously every month in Manchester, without the assistance of any corporate sponsors seeking green points? And if you do know about it, whether you've ever given it any coverage? Can't find anything using the search. Cheers

SueJuly 15th 2009.

Came to UK for holiday from Australia and re-visited the pub once more. I love that pub and would love for my daughter to see what a real good old fashioned English pub is. There is nothing like it over here.

ancoats girlJuly 15th 2009.

Now then - I'd rather come here than the Bear's Paw pub mentioned in the round up!

ConnnieJuly 15th 2009.

Grief - that's me in the picture. I'll kill my dad. Also, though he could have been even more generous to the Bulls Head which me and my sister thought was brilliant.

EditorialJuly 15th 2009.

Thanks Cleo, that's exactly what we meant.

ConnnieJuly 15th 2009.

Grief - that's me in the picture. I'll kill my dad. Also, though he could have been even more generous to the Bulls Head which me and my sister thought was brilliant.

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