There used to be a number of places you could rely on being Beer Guide entry free; Letchworth, Port Talbot, Coatbridge. Then along came Wetherspoons and ruined it for everyone.

Shrewsbury and West Shropshire CAMRA doesn’t have a large allocation in the Guide anyway, and the largely rural area up to Whitchurch remains resolutely un-touristy. But the lack of a GBG entry in Ellesmere until now still has the power to surprise.

Ellesmere gets plenty of visitors, either starting canal boat holidays or visiting the Mere.

Careful photo selection might convince you this is an underrated gem. There are modest hills from the main square down to the canal and the Mere, and plenty of the black and white buildings that tourists love.

And the Mere itself is a delight to explore, with gardens, boats and the sound of the UK’s worst karaoke version of “I just called to say I loved you” drifting over the water .

Pub tourists, if such a thing exists, will be impressed by some proper windows and some classic nostalgia.


I like basic places, but Ellesmere will come as a shock if you’ve just been in Shrewsbury, or Oswestry.  The main square is a vast car park, surrounded by large pubs seemingly unchanged in 30 years. It looks, appropriately, like one of Norfolk’s very ordinary small Broads towns.

It’s too small for a Brunning & Price or Spoons, but the half-dozen remaining pubs are surprisingly un-foody, the Red Lion apart. Traditional beer ranges too – lovers of Thwaites ,Tetley, Marstons, Doom Bar and Bombardier should head there now.

The White Hart is the new entry, and rightly so, even if the interior is nothing like the glorious frontage below would suggest. The WhatPub  description makes it clear what local CAMRA think ;

“Ellesmere undoubtedly needs a real ale outlet to provide a variation from the national Pubco’s dominance of the town’s pubs”

White Hart, Ellesmere

The White Hart has Salopian, Purple Moose and Rowton (Mild, NBSS 3) at bargain prices in a quiet pub clearly used as a local by all ages.


It was encouraging to find a town with so many wet-led pubs, even if they could do with a touch of paint.  In years to come there might even be a Boring Brown Bitter tourist trail .

24 thoughts on “ELLESMERE RETURNS

  1. Ellesmere is rather nicer than you suggest, especially the bits around the church and the canal basin. The White Hart, according to the GBG, bizarrely opens at 3pm in the week when traditionally pubs would be closing for the afternoon break.

    The Swan is scarily grotty-looking, though.


    1. There’s attractive parts I photographed, but if you landed in the main square I think you’d be shocked at signs of decay. The car park does it no favours.

      3pm is odd, but 3/4pm openings not unknown in drinkers pubs. Sign of the times.


  2. Enjoyed my first visit to Ellesmere earlier in the year. The walking was outstanding. Saw a sign for the White Swan on the canal and went to investigate, only to find out that it didn’t open till 3pm – even on the May Day bank holiday I found myself there. Bizarre.


  3. I assume you didn’t risk the Swan? I make it a rule never to go into a pub displaying a St Georges flag, particularly when the last main event ( referendum, football tournament ) finished several weeks ago.
    Old Greenalls signs are surprisingly numerous in Cheshire/Shropshire, but there’s a fine line between warm nostalgia and neglect.


  4. It has been a couple of years since we visited Ellesmere and you’re right it is a ‘funny old place’! We’ve never magaged to get into the White Hart, usually because it has been closed on the lunchtimes we’ve been past it – now I know why!

    Aside from the Red Lion, in the past we’ve managed to get decent food from the Black Lion, but apart from those two it is a bit of a desert for eating. I, too, have never been in The Swan. The Market Hotel was a reasonable place, but the Ellesmere Hotel was a strange establishment. I was never quite sure it knew what it was – pub, hotel, sports bar, youth club?

    For the canal visitor it is well worth a stop, though, for a town that time forgot (almost!). Next time we’re passing by, we’ll definitely stop for a couple of pints…maybe more!


  5. Interesting Ronald Pattinson article today. He mentions electric dispense and Tetley’s usage and removal of them. I am curious if these would be the same electric dispense you saw in Bewdley? I would assume so. I pointed your Bewdley story out to him. RP makes the statement that it did affect the taste of Tetley beer. Consequently they removed them.


    1. I assume electric dispense is the same method Dave. Never had Tetleys on electric but it was certainly a different beer to Banks. Yorkshireman like what they know and know what they like (Mr Coldwell will no doubt correct me !)


  6. I quite often find that these main squares resembling car parks are the traditional market place used for their intended purpose a couple of days a week. It seems many town councils don’t know what to do with them the rest of the time, so seeing as the non market days are clearly those with the most visitors, use them as additional car parking. Ramsbottom, Louth and Wainfleet are examples of this sort of position.

    What is the occasion to have generated the red and blue bunting which appears to be hanging from the pub?

    Am I the only person to have got the wrong town from the title and immediately thought of the comedy programme in which Ricky Thomlinson was a football manager?


    1. I assume the bunting celebrates England’s Euros glory Tom (we beat the semi finalists if you recall). Several of the streets had been renamed after our heroes; Kane, Hart and Chester.

      Excellent detail on market squares. Ellesmere isn’t surrounded by buildings of the ilk of Wainfleet though.


      1. The comedy was indeed Mike Bassett. There was also a film in which he was manager of England.

        I had no idea that we had beaten the semi-finalists in the European Championships. I didn’t really pay very much attention.

        Thanks to the Mudge for the insight on the car park square. Further research suggests that there is actually a market stall with a cheesemongers selling Cheshire cheese. I suppose, blue apart, there isn’t a well known local cheese in those parts. I bet there’s something obscure though.


      2. I did state ‘blue apart’. However further research reveals Shropshire blue is originally from Inverness although there is a relatively recently formed Shropshire Cheese company making it in the county it was named after. I don’t think there is a true local cheese in Shropshire. unless there is something obscure that doesn’t escape.


      3. Don’t worry about it. I like being questioned as it leads to me checking my facts and normally learning something in the process.


      4. I’m much like you are with beer. If it tastes nice I eat it, pasteurised or not. There are some rather nice unpasteurised young goat cheeses kicking about.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. It isn’t really like a traditional market place at Ellesmere, it’s more as if a quarter of the town centre has been removed and replaced with a car park, including the street frontages opposite the Swan.


  8. I visited Ellesmere earlier this year and also feel foul of the White Hart’s 3pm opening hours much to my dismay!

    I did however manage to visit the Swan and quite liked it as a gruff no nonsense boozer; the external appearance was admittedly offputting but inside it was ok with a motley band of regulars watching the racing. Tetley’s Cask Bitter was the main real ale offering, a decent pint but hardly earth shattering.

    I actually preferred the Swan to the other Ellesmere pub I visited that day, Thwaites’ Red Lion by St Mary’s Church which just felt a bit too food-oriented by way of a first impression.


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