The mining towns of east Derbyshire have had a hard time, but the reclaimed countryside makes great walking, and a relatively high demand for real ale helps maintain some excellent pubs.

Ilkeston, despite it’s proximity to the M1, has always felt particularly cut-off from the world, and being the largest town in Britain without a railway station isn’t a claim it wanted to take off Mansfield (there’s bound to be a railway anorak who’s going to correct that).

The closure of American Adventure, the Camelot of the Midlands, didn’t help.  Even their football team was wound up the same year that neighbouring Alfreton started their Histonesque rise up the Pyramid.

To get the ugly stuff out of the way first, the sight below greets you as you walk in from lovely Straws Bridge lake.  Bowling halls are often grotty, as anyone who’s been to Wokingham Superbowl will know.

MFA – Midlands Future Art ?

Plenty of closed pubs in the centre, including this classic;

Captain Gregory’s Vaults

As I stood admiring Captain Gregory‘s past glories, a chap told me he’d been trying to take it over for commercial use for some time without success.  Empty boarded-up buildings do no-one any favours.

However, walking in from the west, the town looks spick and span, and there’s some attractive new civic buildings, particular a new college near the Market Place.

The Market itself is as far from, say,  Cambridge’s temple of organic nonsense as it’s possible to get, full of knickers, spanners, and a giant box of Haribo that will bribe my youngest son to turn down his amp for weeks to come.

I like pedestrianised shopping streets, and Ilkeston has a steep one with some great views towards Sherwood. Bath Street isn’t a great high street, but I still managed to get my mobile phone fixed and pick up some bargain CDs.


The new Beer Guide entry is a Wetherspoons, rather than a micropub (that will probably come in GBG17).  It’s shiny and newish, and already packed with lunching OAPs and toddlers, leaving a string of fun pubs looking rather forlorn.

And it has Draught Bass on, for an astonishing £1.65 with CAMRA vouchers (which never run out). Here’s the proof.

QUIZ TIME – Name the beer to the left

Yes, it was marvellous

Cool and tasty, this was a Bass to convince the doubters (NBSS 3.5), if not quite on a par with the stuff from the jug a few miles west (Holbrook, Duffield etc).

Worth a trip just for that, but also for the Erewash Valley museum, with it’s rich collection of social history a match for the lovely one at Desborough. You can’t beat a recreated village shop.

Erewash Museum

Plenty of other good pubs in town, including the Dewdrop (though no Bass) and Spanish Bar, though the Ilkeston Tap sadly is no more.

Always worth a trip for the friendly people too.  A elderly gent at the lakes shouted “need a hand, my duck“.  I was just about to tell him it was a swan when I realised he was offering me help with my bootlaces (I inherit that problem from my teenage son).


30 thoughts on “ON ILKESTON’S MORES, M’DUCK

  1. I knew it was Oakham something. I’ve been downing Green Devil and have one of their “three eyed smily thing” bottle told next to me which has the same pattern.


  2. Really needs to be defined as “without a railway, metro or light rail station”. Bury, Lancs, has no railway station, but it is served by the Metrolink.


      1. Oldham, Sale, North and South Shields for starters. Is there much heavy rail coverage in Kensington & Chelsea?

        On a slightly different note, if you could work out some kind of combined score for size of town and distance from a mainline station, I reckon Leek would probably come out tops.


  3. Ilkeston is where i started my pub crawling,me and my mate did every pub in the town then went on to do loads of other pubs.
    If the station ever opens it is not that handy for the town centre being a very long walk from it.
    While in the town you should have done the Burnt Pig a minutes walk from the Spanish Bar and the Poacher across the road is also a decent pub,but i prefered it when it was a Shippos house.
    The Captains Gregorys Vaults was a later name for the pub it was called the Wine Vaults for years and was a crap Ansells tied house,one of a few as Ilkeston was dominated by the Nottingham brewers of Shipstone,Home Ales and Kimberly.
    You are very close to my home town Martin as Ilkeston is only a 15 minute bus ride away,is the Horse and Jockey in Stapleford on your list to do as this pub is in my own town/


    1. I thought you lived near Stapleford Alan – yes, been to and loved th Horse & Jockey.

      Thanks for the background to the Wine Vaults (can still see that name on it).

      I’ll do the Burnt Pig when I revisit next year !


  4. As requested, I will state that Ilkeston is in the process of losing its status of not having a railway station. I understand the construction has faced delays due to the presence of great crested newts, which whilst not being that rare in England, are on the EU list of endangered species.

    Bury and Oldham are both valid, assuming Mills Hill railway station doesn’t fall into the boundaries of the latter. It is notable that most candidates are there due to the existing line having been converted into a tram or light rail system. Examples that have nothing that spring to mind are Ripon and Newport IOW. Padstein also.

    Mudge, Kensington and Chelsea are served by BR at Kensington Olympia and the new shack at Imperial Wharf.


    1. Mills Hill isn’t actually within the Oldham MBC boundary, and neither is Moston. In fact the only National Rail station that is is Greenfield, and that certainly isn’t in the actual town of Oldham.

      The prize for the combination of size and remoteness from the rail network must surely go to Peterhead in Aberdeenshire (pop 18,500), which is 32 miles from Aberdeen.

      Another biggie in England is Cirencester, although that isn’t too far from Kemble station. Also Leigh in Lancashire, although it is getting a “quality bus corridor”, whatever that is.


      1. Thanks for the gen on the positions of these Lancastrian stations in regards their local boroughs. I once walked from Mills Hill to Boundary Park and back, hence why I considered it, but Greenfield is so remote from Oldham I would never have thought it. Presumably the whole of Saddleworth Moor comes under Oldham these day then, does it? It’s Yorkshire land anyway.

        Peterhead did have a branch at one point, it was closed by Beeching and Marples in the 60s. I believe there are reopening proposals, as it is in Scotland I consider it plausible although the upcoming collapse of the north sea oil industry could scupper it.

        Cirencester does has a vague reopening plan. Given that building work in the town centre will mean the line will still terminate some way out, I struggle to see the case and can’t really see it happening. There are many more worthwhile projects that won’t happen.

        The guided bus way is basically a diesel electric hybrid bus that runs along a narrow concrete road with guide wheels that run in a groove in the curb. Said busway runs on the formation of the former railway line. Si and I had one Atherton to Tyldesley on conventional roads, they’re wierd things.


  5. Changing the subject, the 1980s guide to “Derbyshire Ale” (a great book btw) rather sniffily says of Ilkeston:

    “With few exceptions, most of the pubs in Ilkeston are basic boozers and most of the beer is served by electric pump. Only a handful of pubs sell beer from Burton and only one of them sells real, the great majority selling Nottingham beers, most of which is Shippos and all of which is real.”

    I wonder if Alan Winfield ever did a pub crawl.

    The once-legendary Durham Ox (Wards in those days) is still with us, but opening very limited hours.


    1. Ilkeston is where i started my pub crawling career,though being local we call it Ilson,ive done every pubs in the town more that once and most loads of times.
      When me and the wife went up to Ilson before having any kids,we would get off the bus at the bottom of bath street and go to the Durham Ox for the rare Wards bitter in our area,you had to walk past the slaughter house which had houses either side of it and this was in the mid eighties.
      I could still name every pub in Ilson and which brewer ran them.
      They were good times,we always ended back in Stapleford which all locals call Stabbo for a last drink of Shippos in the Cross which was a very short stagger to our home then.


  6. Re Pub Curmudgeon,
    “With few exceptions, most of the pubs in Ilkeston are basic boozers and most of the beer is served by electric pump. Only a handful of pubs sell beer from Burton and only one of them sells real, the great majority selling Nottingham beers, most of which is Shippos and all of which is real.”

    That quote from the guide which i have is correct but as you say they are not that impressed with it,well they should have been as all Shipstones Home Ales and Kimberly tied houses in the town served real ale from the said electric pumps.
    For some reason the Erewash Valley which includes towns in both Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire as always been looked down on from the Derby side of the border, probably because it is close to Nottingham and towns like Long Eaton and Sandiacre have Nottingham post codes.
    If you read the guide see what it says for Sandiace which is where i lived with me mam and dad,they really dont want it to be in Derbyshire at all and to be honest the first time i ever went to Derby was when i first started drinking and wanted to do pubs there.
    There is still a lot of animosity in the area mainly between the football teams we are Nottingham Forest fans and we call the other team Scum i bet you can guess which team that is.


      1. That is just a shortened name for Stapleford,though it did gain probably worst reputation of any town in the area in the late 80s through to the late 90s with loads of trouble in the pubs and the gangs from Nottingham got word of it and came down looking for trouble in the town,it has quietened down of late but the bad reputation still sticks like mud.
        I have been in the Plough at Bruntingthorpe,i did the pub on 9th December 2011 and quite liked it,the other pub in the town the Joiners was far too posh for our liking.
        I often do pub crawls well away from home wearing a Forest Sports shirt with the old Nottingham Forest emblem on it,not had any bother up to now but i have had funny looks when walking round Derby with the wife.


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