London Walking Tours    with Joanna Moncrieff

Top 5 London Pubs with Vertiginous Stairs

Back in October 2011 when I wrote about a lunchtime wander around Chancery Lane I remarked on the steepness of the stairs to the toilets in the Seven Stars, Carey Street. Since that time I have been slowly accumulating a list of pubs with similar lethal routes to the loos so thought I would share my list so far.

A walking tour around some of these pubs could maybe be arranged; I would have to add another sentence to my health and safety warning though! On my Little Venice walk I already tell people to beware of the canal and bicycles the latter being a reason that you may very well end up in the former.

Seven Stars, Carey Street, WC2

Mentioned above but I need to mention it again as it is an amazing pub. According to my CAMRA book about London’s heritage pubs the date on the front of the pub says 1602 but the building probably dates to the 1680s – still very old.  It is tiny but was originally even smaller. The best time to visit this pub is either before the lunchtime rush – it is across the road from the back of the Royal Courts of Justice – or at the weekend which is when I intend to visit it next.

Red Lion, Duke of York Street, St James’s SW1

This pub has an amazing interior – dazzling etched mirrors and definitely has the wow factor when I take people there for the first time. This pub dates from 1821 although there was probably a pub on the same site before then.  It’s hard to imagine how this pub (as it is pretty small now) was originally divided into 3 separate bars; this is evidenced by the separate doors leading onto the street. The beer is good – Fullers – but the stairs to the loos are definitely not for the faint hearted.

Red Lion, Crown Passage, St James’s SW1

Just around the corner from the Red Lion above this pub together with the Seven Stars feature in My Top Ten of favourite pubs in London. I haven’t actually ventured down the vertiginous stairs in this pub but have been reliably informed that the trip to the gents down in the cellar is a bit of a shock to some. The trip to the ladies’ loos is in comparison quite pleasant, up a normal staircase, past the 1st floor dining room that no-one seems to know is there and the ladies’ loo can be found on the 2nd floor. Maybe if I went there one time the pub was empty I could go and have a look down the stairs to the gents … or maybe it might be better to ask a friend to take a photo!

This Red Lion has an amazing selection of whiskies and coming up on the 30th January is a Burns Night(ish) tasting with the Whisky Lounge which will be held at the pub (in the aforementioned upstairs dining room). I think the price of £25 is very reasonable.

The Swan and Edgar, 43 Linhope Street, NW1 (just north of Marylebone Station and Dorset Square)

I finally visited this place last summer (on Open Garden Squares Weekend to be precise); it has been on my “to visit” list for a number of years as it has a bar made out of paperback books no less. It is however not a pub at all but (as increasingly seems to be the case) a bar serving food and wine; I’m not sure in fact if they sell bitter. However it is a great place slightly off the beaten track and with an extremely steep set of stairs up to the first floor. It’s worth going upstairs to take a look though as the entire first floor room is lined with books and from memory the floors in the loos are made out of scrabble tiles!

The Nell Gwynne Tavern, Bull Inn Court WC2 (off the Strand)

The final pub on this list (at the moment – this is an ongoing project) is a pub that is still on my “to visit” list – a blog post of which I am separately compiling but where I have again been reliably informed the stairs fit into the category which is the theme of this post.  Looking on the Beer in the Evening link here the most recent review mentions the “almost vertical” stairs. I walk past this pub on my Stars of Stage and Screen walk but have never ventured in. Next time I’m doing a recce for that walk I must take a friend along and remedy this. Strange as it may sound for someone who leads lots of pub themed walks unless I have been in a pub before and feel comfortable there I wouldn’t go in a pub for a first visit by myself.

I know this is a bizarre list to create but I’m sure there are many more pubs in London with similar vertiginous stairs. Do you know of any? Let me know in the comments below.

The author of this blog (Joanna Moncrieff) is a qualified City of Westminster Tour Guide who specialises in food and drink themed walks in the West End. 
Details of all her walks are listed here.
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