Herefordshire CAMRA


An old favourite and a debutante make up the two pubs that have been recognised as Herefordshireís top pubs

Alma, Linton

Named Herefordshire Pub of the Year for 2023, the Alma Inn at Linton has probably won this accolade more times than any other pub in the county - in fact, itís won it five times (and has been named runner-up a further six times) since Herefordshire CAMRA first started dishing out gongs back in 1992. Those of you who might be susceptible to low-level conspiracy theories, may wonder there is something fishy about this, but there isnít. It has been recognised multiple times despite being under different owners; clearly this pub has that Ďsomething specialí about it that can be difficult to put into words. But letís give it a try.

At first glance the Alma Inn (pictured on the front cover) is an unlikely winner: itís tucked away down a country lane; its outward appearance lies in the realm of the unremarkable, and it doesnít sell a dozen or so ales from the coolest of cool breweries. But what it does do, it does very well indeed. So well, in fact, that itís been picking up these awards going right back to 2001.

Behind the plain white faÁade of this Victorian village pub are three bar rooms, all with their own distinct appeal and charm. The main bar has a wood-burner, alcove window seating and some nice reclaimed furniture. Another wood-panelled room is mainly for eating and meetings, and to the rear is a pool room. It offers excellent and imaginative well-priced meals including smaller portions for small appetites and sells typically four cask ales ? always served in tip-top condition. Moreover, it isnít just pub-owners Dan and Gemma Evans who are welcoming, so are its loyal band of locals - some of whom come miles to enjoy the friendly atmosphere. Itís a challenge to go in the Alma Inn and not get engaged in genuine conversation. You could never accuse the Alma Inn of being cliquey.

The Alma canít boast a 16th Century inglenook fireplace, nor is there a resident ghost of a cavalier to be seen, but this excellent village inn is a living exemplar of what an archetypal English pub should be like in the eyes of an American tourist. The pleasures of the Alma are, without doubt, restrained and measured, except each summer when the expansive grounds to the rear of the pub become the home of the Linton Festival. A celebration of live music, people come from afar to not only soak up the sounds, but to try the many beers to be savoured at the festival bar (itís a beer festival in its own right). Like everything else at the Alma, itís done 100% properly with the name Linton now firmly established on the national music festival map. If you want to go to enjoy the bands, beer and ciders then the advice is to not leave it too late to get tickets.

Alma Inn, Linton, HR9 7RY (01989) 720355 Website: Opening Times: 6-11 Mon-Tue; 12-2.30, 6-11 Wed-Sat; 12-3 Sun. Meal Times: 12-2, 6-9 Wed-Sat.

Orange Tree, Hereford

Voted Runner-up and Town Pub of the Year for 2023 is Herefordís Orange Tree. This award draws a line under its total transformation from a failed pub to a star performer, and ably illustrates what can be achieved when time, effort and imagination are invested into re-inventing a pub. Not only had the King Street venue been struggling on and off for years, but it had several changes of ownership and before that it was run for a while as an extended period a restaurant. Many people had given up on ever seeing it back as a popular city venue.

However, since pub operators Black Country Ales re-opened the place in September 2022 things have only gone from strength to strength under the careful tutelage of landlord Nick Kingmagee and his enthusiastic team. In has come a range of up to ten cask beers and two real ciders sourced from a diverse range of breweries - a range that is otherwise unrivalled in the city. Further, a quality sympathetic refurbishment means this charming old pub is now firmly back on the map. Itís not very often youíll go in and find the place quiet - thus confirming CAMRA are not alone in recognising its merits. The Orange Tree is living proof that if you give people what they want then they will come.

Orange Tree, 16 King Street, Hereford, HR4 9BX Telephone(01432) 800933 Website: Opening Times: Mon-Thu noon-11pm; Fri-Sat Noon-Midnight; Sun noon-11pm


Herefordshire Trail Gem Recognised

The Castle Inn, Richards Castle named Winter Pub of the Season

Castle, Richards Castle

Richards Castle is a strange place, half in Shropshire and half in Herefordshire. It has two churches, the older one being well worth a visit just to see the massive oak corkscrew holding up one wall. This older church is, I believe, just in Herefordshire, as is the only pub, The Castle. I live the other side of the hill, near Wigmore. Whenever I venture over the Goggin to the Castle, I always receive a friendly welcome from the owners and locals, a good pint of locally-brewed beer, and especially enjoy the warm and well-lit traditional bar, which always has a fire going. It is a localsí pub, and a meeting place. That my visits are not more frequent has nothing to do with the welcome or the beer, but it-s my fear of driving over the Goggin - not helped by me hitting a bus there many years ago. Unfortunately, avoiding the Goggin turns a five-mile trip into at least ten miles, via Ludford or Orleton, so I donít ?call by- as frequently as I would wish, though my relief at making the trip unscathed helps my enjoyment when I do come in!

Richardís Castle is strategically positioned on the Hereford Trail, the 150-mile walking route that loops around Hereford. It marks the junction of section 11 from Leintwardine with section 12 to Leominster.

I understand the Castle Inn has been in the same ownership since December 1981 - coming up to 42-year anniversary on December 2nd, I believe. That in itself is very unusual nowadays, with pubs changing hands relatively frequently and many across the country shutting for good. We have two locally in North Herefordshire that have been worryingly closed for some while now. I also heard that Kathy, the Castleís Landlady, has actually been serving in the pub for nearly ten years more, since the early 1970s, in fact. And so, in recognition of the continuing bright warm winter welcome and good beer offered for over 40 years, I was delighted to present Kathy and Richard at the Castle Inn, Richardís Castle, with Herefordshire CAMRAís Pub of the Season award, Winter 2023-4. Malcolm Rochefort

The Castle Inn, Castle Road, Richardís Castle, SY8 4EW. Tel: (01584) 831678; Opening times: 6-9 Mon-Sat, 7-9 Sun.

Recent Pubs of the Season

 Chequers, Leominster
Autumn2023: Chequers, Leominster
Summer2023: Boot, Orleton
Spring2023: New Strand, Eardisley
Winter2022: Oak, Staplow
Autumn2022: Vaga Tavern, Hereford
Spring2022: Tap House, Ross-on-Wye
Autumn2020: Nagís Head, Peterchurch
Spring2020: Bells, Almeley
Winter2019: Monkland Arms, Monkland
Autumn2019: Majorís Arms, Halmonds Frome
Summer2019: Englandís Gate, Bodenham
Spring2019: Lichfield Vaults, Hereford
Winter2018: Crown, Dilwyn
Autumn2018: Red Lion, Stiffords Bridge
Summer2018: Oak Inn, Staplow
Spring2018: Olde Tavern, Kington
Winter2017: Red Lion, Pembridge
Autumn2017: Moon Inn, Mordiford
Summer2017: Hostelrie, Goodrich
Spring2017: Balance, Luston
Winter2016: Black Swan, Much Dewchurch
Autumn2016: Talbot Hotel, Ledbury
Summer2016: Alma Inn, Linton
Spring2016: Oak Wigmore
Winter2015: Queenís Arms, Bromyard
Autumn2015: Red Lion, Stiffords Bridge
Summer2015: Carpenters Arms, Walterstone
Spring2015: New Inn, Fownhope
Winter2014: Chase Inn, Upper Colwall
Autumn2014: Red Lion, Peterstow
Summer2014: Baronís Cross, Leominster
Spring2014: Green Dragon, Bishops Frome
Autumn2013: Bridge Inn, Kentchurch
Summer2013: Royal George, Lingen
Spring2013: Wheelwrights, Pencombe
Winter2012: Crown, Woolhope
Autumn2012: Slip Tavern, Much Marcle
Summer2012: Wheatsheaf, Whitbourne