There are three pubs in Nottingham which claim to be the oldest not just in the city but in England and depending on which bit of ancient documentation or local hearsay you believe they all make a decent case. Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem is the one I personally want to win this never to be settled dispute for no other reason than the fact that if you ignore the scraps of modernity around the place it’s not hard to imagine a frightened young squire, hunched in a corner, enjoying his last real taste of hearth and home before heading to the holy land to seek his glory. It paints a romantic image and if you go in for such stuff it’s entirely enchanting.
Unfortunately there are a number of chinks in the armour of the pub at the moment some of which are on the cusp of becoming difficult to overlook. The major irritation has got to be the glacial speed of service at the bar which never seems to improve. Admittedly there is a cramped service area and often a bunch of baffled tourists not sure which pint of tepid brown liquid they ought to choose but those facts are true of many a joint in London and overcome with a bit of savvy or a few extra bodies.
Those tourists are also catered for with a line of souvenir t-shirts & pin badges which are sadly a step towards the naff. Things like this are the first point in a journey which has a final destination of children’s colouring in place mats, sauce bottles on tables and laminated menus resplendent with food pictures. At a push flog branded tankards and bottles of Ye Olde Trip Ale (tasty) but the second you even consider slapping your logo on a novelty pencil sharpener you’re lost.
The other not entirely pleasant oddity of Ye Olde Trip is the impressive feat of having a different smell in each room. Treat your nose to fish, urine, damp and curry in a few short steps as you take in the sensory experience of a lifetime. Some of these whiffs were present in the absence of the food which would produce them and unless they’re being emitted by a wisely discontinued line of Glade Plug ins picked up from one of the city’s many pound stores I assumed these are permanent fixtures. Not a great sell point but then admittedly it’s probably pretty tough to air out a cave.
Moving swiftly back to the reasons you ought to love this pub the caves are worth a mention. The most recent building is propped against the sandstone rock the castle above stands upon but the rooms further back in the pub nudge into the caves themselves. Cramped, dark and full of antiques of questionable authenticity these are fantastically atmospheric places to enjoy a beer even if you do occasionally get the odd bit of ceiling fall into your glass.
Whilst I’d fully encourage you to sit inside regardless of the weather, if you don’t fancy a cave there’s always the haunted snug, there’s a decent amount of outside seating. Opt for either a bench outside so you can look back up at the not unimpressive castle or at the architectural abomination of the adult education college otherwise perch in the pubs inner courtyard. The latter of these two options is sadly adjacent to the gents which are in an outhouse (making the aforementioned urine smell in the main building more mysterious still) but is still wonderful in its own way.
Of the three contenders for the oldest pub crown this remains the one which just about feels authentic; feels like a pub should and seduces your imagination to envisage its patrons through a millennia of history. Whilst it would certainly benefit from a bit of a scrub and some tender restoration it’s tough not to have affection or even an admiration for Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem and if you’re only ever to have one pint in Nottingham it really ought to be here