Built for a long-vanished coal mining community, this lofty 17th-century hostelry survives by serving brews and food to passing campers, cyclists, and hill hikers drawn by the dramatic scenery of the Yorkshire Dales.
This surprising village pub without a village looks somewhat forlorn in the midst of a seemingly endless expanse of heather moorland. Mining activity on the windswept hill lasted from the 12th century until the 1930s, and there is evidence that suggests the former community of coal miners supported a pub in the area as long ago as 1586.
Rather than going the way of the industrial settlement it once served, the current 400-year-old inn on the summit of Tan Hill kept pouring pints throughout the 20th century for passing motorists and local hill farmers. Although local communities continue to support this somewhat distant pub, cyclists and campers constitute a large proportion of its customers, enjoying freshly cooked meals and facilities.
The lonely locale’s diverse patrons are complemented by a multitude of often-bedraggled and weary walkers negotiating the grueling 268-mile-long Pennine Way footpath, which runs past its welcoming door. For this reason, despite its remoteness, the pub is often busy with customers desperate to bag a spot by one of the isolated inn’s roaring log fires to warm up and dry off their damp boots and clothing.
This exposed, wild, and windy hilltop is prone to rapidly deteriorating weather conditions. At the beginning of 2010, the inn gained notoriety when a snowstorm trapped a cohort of New Years Eve revelers inside the cozy venue for three whole days. Although food and drink supplies for the unexpectedly protracted party were sufficient, the inn now boasts its own specialty snow vehicle to avoid a repeat of the infamous incident.
Know Before You Go
The best way to arrive at the Tan Hill Inn is, of course, by foot on a rainy day, to fully appreciate the crackling log fires. The inn offers accommodation as well as basic camping facilities and space for campervans and motorhomes.
The roads leading to the inn are narrow, remote, and treacherous in poor weather. If driving from Keld, shortly after the turn-off on the B6270, there is a tricky uphill hairpin bend.
For curious fans of geographically extreme watering holes, Admiral Wells, 191 miles away in Holme Fen, Cambridgeshire, claims to be the country's lowest, at 13 feet below sea level.