This week at the Manchester Beer Fest I met the amiable Nick, a pub fanatic from the States via Erlangen.  He’d been to many of Greater Manchester’s famous pub towns, and was later found (obviously) enjoying Stockport.  I recommended Wigan for his next trip, and think he’s just found it great as I did recently.

I love Wigan; you probably could have guessed that. Last Summer I ended my first 25 mile walk there, walking most of the suburbs in a way that you wouldn’t contemplate in the featureless East, and collapsing in the impressive new Premier Inn.

The parks, from Haigh to the Flashes to central Mesnes, are consistently beautiful, and then there’s Worthington reservoir (strictly Standish).  People talk to you, beer costs less than £2.50 a pint and you can get a pie on a barm, as well as good Thai and Italian food.


The town has come a long way in the 20 years since it I first visited Springfield Park, and the town had a somewhat faded allure.  In those days the Beer Guide was full of Burtonwood (Pear Tree), Tetley (Springfield) and probably Greenalls, and very good it was too after a soaking on the terraces.

The last 15 years have seen the modernisation of the football, the pub scene, the Wiend and the shopping centre.  Their Grand Arcade is better than it’s overrated namesake in Cambridge, but they’ve managed to keep their Victorian arcades.  Wigan is a Victorian gem.

After a period when their pub scene seemed to be dominated by vibrant nightlife venues (Berkeley, Boulevard, Tudor House), Wigan has got the micro bug of late, and it does micro-pubs very well.

I missed the highly-rated Tap’n’Barrel on my recent visit, but Doc’s Symposium and Wigan Central were high quality. Prospect to my mind are one of our most underrated breweries, and their seating in Central as characterful as anywhere outside a Sam Smiths pub.

Wigan Central

Elsewhere, I much enjoyed the décor at the Raven and John Bull’s Chophouse, the latter being the best advert for Thwaites I could recommend you.


And no mention yet of the Anvil, one of the UK’s best drinkers pubs.  All Wigan needs now is a bit more variety in the suburbs, and the revitalisation of the Orwell.

I miss the proper boozers of Standishgate – the Royal Oak, Millstone & Bowling Green were minor classics, all now replaced in the Beer Guide by more modern bars and micro-pubs, but Wigan still has a rich and varied central pub stock that would be the envy of most towns

9 thoughts on “THE TRAIN TO WIGAN BEER

  1. Wigan looks a really interesting town to visit, Martin. Rather shamefully I have never been there, despite living in nearby Manchester for four years back in the 1970’s. I don’t think I ever set foot in Altrincham either, despite passing through it dozens of times by train.

    Unfortunately I was unable to attend this year’s Manchester Beer Festival, having run out of annual leave. The festival would have been the ideal opportunity to revisit a few old haunts, and to take in a few new ones as well. Assuming the festival is going ahead next year, then I’ll make sure to keep a few days back, in order to attend.


  2. Sorry to have only seen this now, 3 days late. Just not been keeping up with stuff since leaving on Sunday afternoon.

    I wouldn’t have thought the Central was a micropub. It’s big and has too much going on. A latter-days ale house maybe, with cask and keg(?)? They’re expanding into the next arch over, too.

    There are several things to disqualify Doc’s from Martin of the Butchers Arms’ strict code, but otherwise it’s a very nice micropub.

    Now I can’t remember the Raven, it was my first stop in town. A great town, well worth a return visit someday when I’ve planned a proper long walk.


    1. You’re allowed recovery time Nick.

      I use micro-pub in the loosest sense, a smallish pub probably taking on disused premises, rather than membership of Martin’s strict code. I’ve come across quite a few that follow the template up to a point but serve lager to pay the bills ! Not sure you can keep going just on half a dozen regulars, however much they drink.

      NB I’m off to the Newbury and Basingstoke area on Sunday so will blog on that joy.


      1. As it turns out, we’ve decided (i.e. I’ve agreed to Mrs’ sensible decision) not to pursue the Basingstoke idea further at this time. The job itself would be too risky for us foreigners.


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