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BEST OF MCR: Northern Quarter Pub Crawl

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

Written by . Published on February 28th 2015.

BEST OF MCR: Northern Quarter Pub Crawl

This is part of a series of three pub tours taking in 42 pubs around the Northern QuarterCentral 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


The trail has a gallon plus two of pubs, ten, and includes some of the most splendid interiors in Manchester with the Crown and Kettle, The Castle, The Hare and Hounds and The Marble Arch. We've cheekily added in a bar/pub of the newer generation and we'll be doing a Northern Quarter Bar Crawl as a follow-up to this piece.

Eat at The Angel or The Marble Arch, they provide far and away the best food although The Lower Turks Head is decent at lunchtime. 

The crawl begins...

Start at The Port Street Beerhouse (39-41 Port Street, M1 2EQ, 0161 237 9949). This is a modern pub, with mixed age clientele. It points the way to different future for the English public house, one that mixes the best of the latter with the best of the continental bar. There are two floors and a cracking little beer garden. It has up to seven guest ales but also specialises in American and import beers. Traditionalists might not approve but maybe they should try the 'traditional' pub next door, The Crown and Anchor, before they worry. This boozer has an interior - like an eighties nail-bar - that can curdle beer.

Port Street Beer HousePort Street Beerhouse

Turn right out of The Port Street and then right down Hilton Street and left down Newton Street towards Piccadilly. Just before Piccadilly inself there's a filthy but utterly urban alley called Back Piccadilly.

Here'll you find Mother Mac's (33 Back Piccadilly, M1 1HP, 0161 236 1507), the very definition of a 'backstreet boozer'. The name comes from a former landlord, it was originally the Wellington. For the morbid, the history of the pub includes a gruesome and notorious murder from the 1970s. This is a hardcore pub experience with Hydes beer available, plus bar snacks, all in smallish L-shaped room. The toilets are never going to win any prizes. Mother Mac's is so authentic its Dickensian, a vision of a city pub in a working district before gentrification set in. 

Nq12Mother Mac's

Carry on down Back Piccadilly where in the nineteenth century it was said the prostitutes were 'too old, too ugly or too young' to the junction with Tib Street, turn right and cross the car park left to The Unicorn. 

The Unicorn (26 Church Street, M4 1PN, 0161 834 8854) is faded but handsome multi-roomed pub with an interior that dates from the 1920s although the licence has been on this site much longer. The two rooms on the right as you enter from Church Street are particularly good, whilst the magnificent bar is like a ship in full sail, bearing its two or three ales. The atmosphere inside is very local, a favourite of many of the older folk who used to work in the markets that formerly enlivened this area. Manchester Jazz Society meet regularly upstairs. It's a shame that the wooden details and veneers are starting to deteriorate. 


Leave the pub by the Church Street entrance and cross the road. Complicated this but go street ahead up Joiner Street, take miniscule Kelvin Street on the right of Solita Restaurant, to Thomas Street and next to Teacup keep an eye out for 57 Thomas Street (M4 1 NA, 0161 832 0521). This tiny beer bar is from the Marble Arch people, see below, and delivers four cask ales, over sixty bottled beers, platter food and ploughman's lunches. There are board games too but best of all a convivial atmosphere in one of the new generation of pubs cropping up across the country run by locals on a more modest scale than those offered up by the big brewers. Micro-brewery micro-bars.

57 Thomas

57 Thomas Street

Turn left out of the bar and walk to Oldham Street. Turn left up Oldham Street until you reach the eighteenth century/ early nineteenth century gem that is The Castle Hotel (66 Oldham Street, M4 1LE, 0161 237 9485). Behind the crazy skewed Art Nouveau lettering on the façade, you’ll find an elaborate mahogany bar smack bang in front of you. This is the only tied Robinson’s pub in the city centre, often stocking the full range of ales from the Stockport brewery. Immediately behind the bar is the old snug and behind that down a corridor is a beautiful performance room with a glorious timber skylight.

Nq3The Castle

There's a cute little smoking area in the backyard too. Food is basic but to use that most over-used word in the pub food lexicon - wholeseome. The pub drags in a mixed clientele of trendy young and old but suffers from turning up the music volume too high in the evenings - if you can't comfortably chat in a pub then it ain't a proper pub. Still if the run down nature of the previous two pubs lowered the moosd this will give you a lift. Like Port Street Beerhouse it points to a strong future for the well-run city pub.


Turn right up Oldham Road and over Great Ancoats Street to The Crown and Kettle (2 Oldham Road, M4 5FE, 0161 236 2923).

En route you pass The City with its panel of The Glorious Revolution of 1688 with William III being welcomed by Britannia - there's a vicar with upraised arms celebrating the triumph of this Protestant pub. However for most of its history the pub has been Irish Catholic, Confidential is surprised the panel still survives.

Back to The Crown and Kettle which has one of the most astonishing pub interiors around dating from an undetermined time in the 1840s or 50s. Huge Gothic timber pendants hang down from a ceiling alive with crazy quatrefoil (fourleaf) tracery. The pub was closed for 15 years after an arson attack prior to re-opening in October 2005. The interior shows the distressed but cleaned ceiling in the lounge and how it originally might have looked when painted in the vault. Shame that all the rooms have TVs but at least there's four or five cracking ales. There's a good story about three entrances. In 1950 when a drunken journalist from the Daily Express next door tried to get in the landlord threw him out, he tried in the next entrance and then the next with the same result. At the third he asked the Landlord, “Do you own all the pubs round here?”

Leave the pub, locate Swan Street, at the western end of the junction here and follow it to The Smithfield Hotel (37 Swan Street, M4 5JZ, 0161 839 4424). This has a bewildering number of beer festivals, pool and doubles as a B&B if you’re feeling exhausted. It's been ripped out and refurbished on many occasions but outside you can still tell it's 200 years old. 

Turn left on leaving the pub and walk to the traffic lights and then turn right up Rochdale Road.

Mosaic detailMosaic detailOn the left at the junction with Gould Street, you’ll find The Marble Arch (73 Rochdale Road M4 4HY, 0161 832 5914).This is a beauty built in 1888 for McKennas Harpurhey Brewery but became known as The Marble, because of its exuberant design. It's now home-base for the wonderful Marble Beers. The original interior details of tile and mosaic are spectacular, note the red roses for Lancashire and the tiled frieze of drinks on offer including 'gin' and 'whisky'.

Some the beers produced by the Marble include Marble Bitter, Manchester Bitter, Ginger Marble, Lagonda IPA plus seasonals. The beers are all vegan and all organic. The food is very good and there's decent a jukebox in this fabulous boozer - as well as a beer garden.

Nq1The Marble

Now backtrack down Rochdale Road a little way until you see The Angel (6 Angel Street, M4 4BR, 0161 833 4786) on your right. This has been progressively renovated over recent years and is now one of Manchester's best pubs. There's food, live music, real fires and although the ghost has been exorcised, it's a very spirited pub and a real Confidential favourite. The pub is on three levels, restaurants above the bar area, and has been a boozer for a couple of hundred years. Like all good pubs it attracts a mixed age clientele.

Nq5The Angel

Return to Rochdale Road and turn right. After the lights the street becomes Shude Hill and just before the tram lines you’ll see on the left hand side another atmospheric pub, the late 1700s Hare and Hounds (46 Shudehill, M4 4AA, 0161 832 4737). Outside the pub has a handsome yet slightly austere green tiled façade whilst inside it splits into four if you include the function room upstairs. There’s a lounge, a basic but comfy vault with TV and darts, and a long lobby doubling as the live entertainment space – if there's no older Mancunians on the karaoke it's only a matter of time before the singing begins. Good period detail survives in the tile, wood-panelling and etched glass. Food is simple, snacks, sandwiches, homemade pickled eggs and the like. Beers include Holt’s bitter. 

Nq11Hare & Hounds

A little further down Shude Hill is The Lower Turks Head (36 Shudehill, M4 1EZ. 07814 184384). Since you have to cover your ears in certain areas of British cities to drown out the noise of pubs being demolished, it's good to have one re-open. This place claims to date from 1745 which maybe the case, but it definitely features another marvellous 1920s' tiled facade. Inside if you dream of trad boozers as room after room of intimate spaces, preferably low-lit to encourage wit, flirtatiousness, rhetoric, ease of mind, then this is the place for you. The next door shop has been occupied as well to create a Scuttlers bar (picture top of the page) named after the notorious nineteenth century Manchester youth gangs. There's a food room on the first floor and seven bedrooms above. It's good to have The Lower Turks Head back.

Lower Turk's Head


Lower Turk's Head

And that's it.

If you managed all ten boozers in one go you're not only very drunk but you've also sampled the past, present and future of the city centre pub. We like to think of our crawls as both educational and rewarding. 

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

HUMOURIST Hilaire Belloc decreed in the early 20th century that ‘once you have lost your pubs, you will have lost the last of England’. 

There’s perhaps some truth in this. If a country is defined by qualities which are uniquely their own then pubs are an item that reaches to the core of Britishness. 

Indeed if a visitor wants to leave behind the tourist sites and hotels for a while and reach under the skin of the nation then a visit to the pub and a chat with the locals is the most accessible and quickest route. 

But pubs are in crisis, squeezed by tiny profit margins and changes in society and particularly its male drinking habits. Only in city centres does there seem a future for the urban pub - that's why the Northern Quarter crawl works so well.

What makes a good pub? Is it that atmosphere of age, the frisson of time passing? Is it beautiful fittings and fixtures? Is it talkative locals and a friendly landlord or landlady? Is it finely kept real ales? 

It’s actually all of these. The really good pub should tempt you in for a quick half and make you feel so comfortable you stay all night. 

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

mike_aApril 25th 2012.

I'm loving this; includes some pubs I wouldn't think of going to, definitely a plan to do one Saturday afternoon. Any chance similar crawls for other areas around Manchester?

Poster BoyApril 25th 2012.

A nice lickle pocket guide would be good. Bit of history of each pub, current owners etc
Crawl #1 NQ4, Crawl #2 Salford, #3 City Centre, with a few of the leafy suburbs for an away day

Kevin PeelApril 26th 2012.

This includes all my favourite local pubs but also some I haven't been to... yet. I may have to try out this pub crawl soon!

RevaulxApril 26th 2012.

Jonathan - it's time you led a tour round all these places.

AnonymousApril 26th 2012.

Great crawl. I can only assumed you added up the number of pubs after you'd completed it?

1 Response: Reply To This...
Jonathan SchofieldApril 26th 2012.

That's what we did. It was more like an extra one for free...

Claire ScottApril 27th 2012.

The Hare and Hounds is the best pub in Manchester, you could write a book based on the characters in there on a Saturday afternoon!

Poster BoyApril 27th 2012.

If you want to write a book based on the characters in a pub, get down to The Millstone on a Friday afternoon at around 4pm. One of Manchester's best kept secrets...

4 Responses: Reply To This...
Claire ScottMay 1st 2012.

I'll give it a go. Cheers!

IanFebruary 21st 2013.

Friday's Bar (maybe it's called Sacha's now) has some REAL characters.

JonathanJune 4th 2014.

I can 100% agree with poster boy there- had a mad night in there circa 2008 when I was taken under the wing of some of the locals!

rinkydinkDecember 11th 2014.

The Millstone really is something else. Feom another planet! Friday's is frightening

Bob the BritApril 30th 2012.

I've 'lived' in teh Northern Quarter for about a month now, at least weekdays, and have determined that there are two main types of pubs/bars. The old-fashioned, traditional boozer that sells traditional ales at traditional prices; and the chic, trendy places that charge exotic prices for exotic brews.
Both types are equally relevant, and enjoyable in their own ways.
I've already tried most of the boozers on this list, and will address the remainder with all haste.
Thanks for the steer!

RevaulxFebruary 21st 2013.

Fantastic article as per usual Jonathan. May I put in a plea for Bar Fringe, which is as much of a pub as the Port Street?

The loss of the Pot of Beer/Harp & Shamrock is much to be lamented, particularly as it's now in the middle of a densely populated area.

AnonymousFebruary 21st 2013.

Good crawl, not sure about Hare & Hounds though for the finish, went in one Sat afternoon and walked straight out. Most of the above have a decent age mix, but H&H is for strictly 50+, whether you're homeless or not seemed to be optional.

Kevin PeelFebruary 21st 2013.

Some good choices. Just ask people to keep the noise down when they're passing residential properties. We all love living in the city centre but that doesn't mean we should be woken at 3.30am by a screaming match!

4 Responses: Reply To This...
JamesFebruary 21st 2013.

A quiet city. What a depressing thought.

JayFebruary 21st 2013.

Lamarrs by any chance.

kippaxkidMarch 4th 2014.

there's always one.... How many of these pubs are still going to be serving at 3-30?

AnonymousMarch 26th 2014.

If peace and quiet is what you're after, then the suburbs of Stockport offer this. The heart of the UK's second city is maybe a bad place to live if noise is an issue.

AnonymousFebruary 21st 2013.

Great little article - nice to see focus being given to quality boozers rather than over priced fashion bars! Viva La Old Man Boozer!

AnonymousFebruary 21st 2013.

The Burton arms,wheatsheaf and millstone as mentioned are some other watering holes that maybe should of made the list. Good read though,keep up the good work.

Maria FormosaFebruary 21st 2013.

Friend over from Oz and wants to go site seeing, any recommendations?

JimFebruary 21st 2013.

If you're going from the castle to the kettle you should really stop in "Bar Fringe" in between. Great place with very good cider

1 Response: Reply To This...
Steve5839February 21st 2013.

I organised a similar crawl without the very helpful MC help last year and it was very similar, but we also addedd the Angel and the Fringe bar.

RevaulxFebruary 21st 2013.

Jonathan: do you want a local expert to assist with your research for the Saddleworth report?

1 Response: Reply To This...
slouchFebruary 25th 2013.

I'll throw my hat in for that as well!

Ron TowerFebruary 21st 2013.

How did the Port St Beer House also end up in Holly's 'best bars' guide? Will it also appear in the best pub guide? Or is this place just both a pub and bar? Not that it matters, really.

1 Response: Reply To This...
MaggieMarch 2nd 2014.

Nice beer, shame about the staff!

GabrielleFebruary 21st 2013.

What about the Millstone? Some right characters in there. The bouncers call it Fraggle Rock.

DrewFebruary 21st 2013.

The Shamrock tucked away in Ancoats on Bengal St is a great local and honest boozer too. Its been refurbished recently as well so you no longer stick to the carpet!

AnonymousFebruary 21st 2013.

stretching the boundarys of the imaginary northern quarter somewhat

2 Responses: Reply To This...
Chase MancFebruary 21st 2013.

Ah yes, Anon, there you are the classic Manchester Confidential pedantic whinging ranter. I think the tour is all in the Northern Quarter.

J. RizzaDecember 12th 2014.

Yeah ya shit

AnonymousFebruary 21st 2013.

And if you're gonna be a pedant, spell boundaries correctly.

Jane DowlerFebruary 22nd 2013.

Great idea, The Evuna team need to familiarise ourselves with the area since we'll be working there soon :-)

3 Responses: Reply To This...
AnonymousDecember 12th 2014.

I would walk right past a place calling itself Evuna. Maybe if it was in Ibiza though. Not Manchester.

AnonymousDecember 12th 2014.

It's a Spanish tapas restaurant you idiot, what would you propose they call it?

HbiffDecember 12th 2014.

Let them walk past. It's probably in everyone's best interests.

Jonathan Schofield - editorFebruary 22nd 2013.

Jane, when are we talking?

johnFebruary 22nd 2013.

Burton arms is definately worth a trip now. It's recently refurblished and is a really handsome pub. I paid £2.40 for a pint of thwaites when I went.

AnonymousFebruary 25th 2013.

The last time I walked past the Unicorn there was a sign in the window saying 'Regulars only' - off putting to say the least! Anyone been to the Wheatsheaf? Gosh that's a scary place! All good fun though. We wouldn't want everywhere to be the same would we.

David JenningsMarch 19th 2013.

Not really a pub - but as there are two bars, both with proper 'real ale' on hand pumps, surely Band on the Wall/The Picturehouse should be on the list.
One of Manchesters legendary venues, and good beer.

David JenningsMarch 19th 2013.

ps - I worked there briefly, so perhaps I am biased.

ChristinepawsonMarch 2nd 2014.

Burton Arms ,Swan Street This authentic pub is a beehive of activity reflecting the interests of the local community and The City as a whole. The local "Mancs"love it.The Northern Quater has a unique vibe and personality of its own and this pub truely reflects its warmth

AnonymousMarch 4th 2014.

Anyone remember The King? Now that was a pub.

John WalshMarch 5th 2014.

These pubs in 'the Northern Quarter' and Shudehill remind me of the 'Good Old Days'. I and my colleagues used to frequent them all - in turn - and others now closed on our breaks when we worked at the Daily Express and Thomson House. The Cheshire Cheese, St Vincent, Land O' Cakes, Edinburgh Castle, The 'Dan' O'Connell, Smith's Arms (Hammer), Cross Keys, The Nelson are some I recall - great times - and pubs!

AnonymousMay 29th 2014.

Lovin the Crown & Kettle - true Ancoats gem.......great Osset Brewery ales inside...........

AnonymousMay 29th 2014.

This looks like Manchester's roughest pub crawl.

AnonymousJune 7th 2014.

Gordo can you do two new pub crawls: * Chapel Street * Monton and Worsley. This is a great pub crawl with four bars in Monton + numerous pubs and a nice green walk to Worsley working off the beer before sinking a few more.

1 Response: Reply To This...
Mark GarnerJune 8th 2014.

One for Jonno this anon....

Phil CarneySeptember 13th 2014.

Also, there are surprisingly high number of haunted pubs in Stockport: www.ghostpubs.com/…/detail.html…

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousMarch 2nd 2015.

Particularly Canal street, I believe that someone saw a gay man and a lesbian down there last week. It is some years since those rare beasts were seen in the Gay village. Must have been a night when the hideous hen nights from Barnsley had had a night off.Agadoo anyone?

Phil CarneySeptember 27th 2014.

There are plenty of haunted pubs in Manchester: www.ghostpubs.com/…/detail.html…

AnonymousDecember 12th 2014.

I see the Castle Hotel bar staff ate still as ignorant as ever!

Fitz LinsonDecember 19th 2014.

Could someone - ie Jonathan - plot these onto a google map?

1 Response: Reply To This...
Jonathan Schofield - editorDecember 22nd 2014.

Jeez, haven't I done enough work already....

AnonymousDecember 31st 2014.

For me The Marble is the One if only for the fact the floor is on a slight slope going towards the bar, so even when the fine ales take over the brain & feet I always end up where I need to be when my glass is empty.... At the bar! Plus, & this is going back years, they did great lock-ins!

Andrew FosterJanuary 27th 2015.

Heading to the northern quarter in feb for a small crawl have been to the castle hotel before and loved it can you recommend a few more similar bars cheers.

2 Responses: Reply To This...
Paul SoanesFebruary 6th 2015.

Andrew how about the City Arms on Kennedy street and the Vine next door. They are not in the NQ but, they are similar kind of pubs. The Waterhouse is also next door for a cheaper pint even though its a Wetherspoons and then why not head over to the Font bar on New Wakefield st at the side of Oxford Rd station, 25% discount on all real ales and real ciders if you have a CAMRA card.

AnonymousMarch 2nd 2015.

If you are including The Beerhouse,why not Kosmonauts,this is a great bar. I know that this article is an emphasis on traditional boozers,but I wouldn't call the Beerhouse that.

AnonymousMarch 13th 2015.

Who remembers The King? Now that was a pub, before the NQ was the NQ. No hipsters in there.

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousMarch 13th 2015.

Agreed, a right dump

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Agreed, a right dump

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Who remembers The King? Now that was a pub, before the NQ was the NQ. No hipsters in there.

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Yet people pay 20 pounds plus for terrible American burgers at other places in the northern quarter…

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Particularly Canal street, I believe that someone saw a gay man and a lesbian down there last week.…

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