We were thinking of somewhere to have lunch and was in the area of the Upper Eden Valley. I wanted somewhere different so immediately thought let’s take a drive up onto the tops, to Tan Hill Inn, the highest pub in Britain. Isolated and at 1,732 feet (528 m) above sea level, it is definitely different and unique. Time for a lovely drive up and over.
Never mind what altitude Tan Hill Inn is, the isolation is another thing. The nearest town really being Kirkby Stephen which is 11 miles away down in the valley on the Cumbria side of the hills. As you head out of Kirkby Stephen heading East, towards Brough, on the A685, look for a right turning after 2 or 3 miles. There is a brown sign saying Tan Hill Inn too. Then follow the country road round and round and upward. As you get onto the tops the views get more and more immense with the Eden Valley behind and the Yorkshire Dales ahead.
If heading there from the Dales side then get to Keld in Swaledale and head over the very windy road or from more East then take the long road from Reeth via Langthwaite. Any way you go you will be presented with stunning vistas as you wind around the miles. On a clearer day that is. And today we were lucky on our journey. The sun was shining around the high clouds.
Why is there a pub here and so isolated and high up here in the first place? Well let me first give some info….
I have already stated it is unique in being the highest Inn in the UK, but that does not sell a pub and the longevity alone. It needs some original trade and a bit of luck in timing. What we have to do is go back to the 17th Century which is when the building dates to. Imagine, the area is full of coal pits and workers. This building would not have been alone in the 18th Century at all, it would have been surrounded by cottages in use by the coal workers. The original name for the pub was King’s Pit.
When the coal mines of Tan Hill closed in 1929, naturally all the workers left too and the cottages were demolished in the 1930s. But timing was great for the pub itself. The era of the motor car had just arrived, plus, who was going to quench the thirst of all the farmers on the tops here? 🙂
Visitors came to see this landmark pub as well as the surrounding area. Even today as I drove, the roads were so quiet for miles and miles, yet when we got to the pub it was bustling with people. The car park was full and people sat out front in the sunshine with a pint.
It is also directly on the Pennine Way. So you can imagine that visitors include walkers, drivers, cyclists and sightseers of a rich variety. The pub is also famous for what happened on New Years Eve 2009. Revellers in the pub got snowed in and could not get out for 3 days! You may recall this story being used in a Waitrose advert a few Christmases ago.
But if you are old enough you may remember the famous Everest double glazing advert starring Ted Moult. Heading into the pub from off the hills to show how the windows passed the feather test.
Stepping inside is a remarkable feeling. It is old worldly, wooden beams, with lovely coal fire roaring away welcoming all.
We were here for lunch so even though I was salivating for the mains on the menu we stayed strong and took a light bite. The ham and cheese sandwiches were packed with real fresh meat and rich creamy cheese. With sides of taco crisps and salad the light bite was a great lunch feast that is for sure.
Tan Hill is more than a lunch venue. It has a reputation for being really busy at dinner time and as an occasion venue. When, in 1995, the law was changed to allow weddings outside churches and registry offices, this pub became the first pub the get the licence.
We came here on a whim and learnt a lot, as well as enjoying a lovely lunchtime experience. I, of course, also love being up in the hills and away from it all. Was a wonderfully unique way to do all. If you are ever in the area, take a trip up to Tan Hill Inn.