On Saturday we had to drop our son at Luton Airport for his flight to Krakow.  It’s a bit of a building site, but at least not as manic as Stansted these days. My 90 minute short stay while I helped him check in cost £14, or 7 pints of OBB and 3 bags of crisps.

A bit startled by this, a reviving walk around Bedfordshire’s finest town in light drizzle was needed.

Often here I will report that overlooked towns like Glossop or Halifax are more attractive and interesting than prosperous ones such as Guildford or Horsham, and have better pubs. Luton doesn’t feature on my list of surprising towns though.

Welcome to Luton

It did have a certain appeal when my Dad took me to see Manchester City (minus Colin Bell) play at Kenilworth Road in 1977, but nothing seems to have changed in the years since.

We lived in Hitchin, and Mrs RM worked in Luton for a while, so we’ve given it every chance to reveal hidden treasures over the years.  The Jamaican patties in what was the Arndale Market were always the highlight.

Simon Everitt reported back positively from the Luton front in November here, and I needed to give it another chance.

The Arndale, one of our earliest and worst shopping centres, is now called The Mall.  The civic areas around it don’t look bad though, particularly the Town Hall.  Interestingly, it’s the pubs that add the character, and they all look spick-and-span, mostly through the efforts of Greene King.

Of the central pubs, only the London Hatter, a decent Wetherspoons near the University, actually makes the Beer Guide though.  The two established real ale pubs are both in residential High Town, and they’re the best things about the town.

English Rose, Luton

The English Rose is attractive and traditional, though very quiet on Saturday evening.  On my earlier visit Halifax Town fans had created a boisterous atmosphere.  An ambitious beer range included an excellent Otley dark beer (NBSS 3.5), and some less alluring conversation about Rebecca Adlington’s shoulders, but that’s pubs.

Through the back alleys, the Bricklayers Arms is even longer established, and at least had the custom for the Chelsea match on Sky.  A beer from Bude was OK (NBSS 2.5).

Both these pubs have traditional appeal, and attempt to provide interesting beer, but low cask volumes over a big range of drinks is the challenge.  I’d say a micro-pub would work well in Luton, but wonder where the custom would come from.

So Luton slightly better than expected, helped by some appealing Irish pubs and more traditional Italian restaurants than you’d expect.

37 years on, I cannot write Luton Airport without Oo-Ee-Oo going through my mind.  Is it just me ?


  1. stayed in Luton overnight once to catch an early flight the next day,and not sure its a pub experience in a town Id want to repeat, the London Hatter had only just opened, yet it was already pushing for guide entry when we went and it was clear to see why based on the other pubs we visited in central Luton, didnt venture further out,but its always the example I quote when people moan about Wetherspoons monopolising the market, it was clean,the beer was good,cant remember if we tried the food. But the Brewery Tap, Greene King Pub, just opposite had the worst pint of vinegar beer Id had uptil that point and since and it was several years ago now, whilst the other pub we visited the Bat & Barrel was like the Slaughtered Lamb scene from An American Werewolf, to which we quickly drank our pints, in less than 5mins, and went back to where we should have just stayed all night, which was the London Hatter.

    I always feel its odd in a way because when ever Ive visited Bedfordshire, Ive always found it very difficult to find good real ale and invariably the pubs you encouner, the majority are drinking Carling/Carlsberg lager instead,unsurprisingly given the dirge some of the sell, but normally where ever Ive been in the UK, theres always a gem serving great beer, but Luton certainly hadnt got it


    1. Agree. That Spoons looked a good bet. There’s another one near the leisure complex but more a nightclub type.

      Used to be a couple of ale houses in southern back streets in 90s, but never busy.


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