If you love a good pint of real ale, you’ve come to the right place here in Lincoln! Our characterful city has brilliant boozers of all shapes and sizes – wooden-beamed old taverns, trendy micropubs, tucked-away drinking holes, you name it. Inside their doors you will find many satisfying ales made here in Lincolnshire, with the county home to several excellent breweries, and all sorts of exotic guest ales from further afield. To help you plan your next beer-drenched escapade, we have put together a selection of our favourite real ale pubs in Lincoln, along with some suggested pub crawl routes.
1. The Strugglers Inn
We begin with one of Lincoln’s much-loved pubs. The Strugglers Inn is very much a ‘proper’ pub as the sign outside suggests, situated uphill on Westgate, right next to the castle walls. You can expect a lively atmosphere, a warm welcome, and one of the city’s best selections of cask ales.
Don’t just take our word for it… The Strugglers has been recognised for its excellence with various awards over the years. It won CAMRA’s Lincoln Pub of the Year in 2022, and in the same year also beat thousands of pubs across the country to scoop a national award for its cask ales.
The pub’s name dates back to its 19th-century origins, when punters would gather at the pub to watch public executions taking place nearby. These days you can enjoy a pint in its historic interior with all the trimmings: classic bar snacks, live music at weekends, or sit outside in the sunshine on the rear terrace in summer.
Step inside the Strugglers and you will find cosy surroundings, with real log fires roaring away in winter, an array of beer mats plastered across the walls, beams and ceilings, and the latest ales scribbled on chalk boards.
Legendary landlady Anna, who recently retired after 50 years in the trade (don’t worry, it’s still in good hands), described the pub’s mission as to create a “non-stop cask ale festival”. True to this mantra, you can enjoy hundreds of different beers served here throughout the year.
2. The Victoria
The Victoria is another gem among uphill Lincoln’s traditional real ale pubs, situated by the castle’s west gate just a stone’s throw away from the Strugglers. A pint in each is a fitting way to experience the city’s real ale scene after a visit to the cathedral and castle!
You can’t miss the pub’s big red sign emblazoned on the whitewashed side of the building as you walk into the Cathedral Quarter along Union Road. It has a snug, homely feel inside, with tiled floors, wooden tables, and mahogany benches lined with burgundy leather.
The spacious beer garden outside is fantastic for a beery summer afternoon, catching sunlight throughout the day. You’ll also see it featured in our rundown of the best beer gardens in Lincoln.
The Victoria is a Bateman’s pub – one of Lincolnshire’s oldest and most popular breweries, run by the same family since the 19th century. You can sip their celebrated ales here with a wholesome pub meal, and as it’s kid-friendly and dog-friendly, feel free to bring the whole family along too.
The prime location means you’ll pay a bit more for a pint here than some of the more obscure drinking spots around Lincoln, but with the convenience and the awesome views outside, we won’t complain about that. This is a great spot to either begin or end your ale-hopping in historic Lincoln.
3. The Cardinal’s Hat
This place is one of our personal favourites, and very often our starting point if we’re having a bit of a night on the town. The Cardinal’s Hat is set in a Grade II listed Tudor building, quite spectacular to behold, especially on a clear sunny day with the cathedral tower peeking over the hill in the background.
The pub’s name derives from Cardinal Wolsey, who was the Bishop of Lincoln in the 16th century. The building itself has roots even older than this. When it was restored in 2015, historians examining its foundations dated it to 1255, and even found Roman walls on the premises.
But as pretty and historic as the building is, it isn’t the main reason we love the Hat. It has a fabulous selection of ales, craft beers, gins and more, served up with an imaginative verve. At the bar you will find drinks menus in the style of a newspaper entitled The Cardinal’s Journal, giving expressive descriptions of each tipple and its flavours.
The Cardinal’s Hat offers both local ales and an assortment of international craft beers that you will struggle to find anywhere else in Lincoln. We always try to get a perch in the tucked-away upstairs room, complete with with comfy armchairs and sofas. Grab one of the sumptuous sharing platters and you’ve got yourself a perfect afternoon session.
4. The Birdcage
The Birdcage Pub & Kitchen is located a little outside the city centre, about ten minutes’ walk to the east. In many ways this place represents the real Lincoln, away from the uphill tourist epicentre. No pretentiousness in sight, just great real ales, lovely home-cooked food at some of the best prices in town, open fires, and a warm, friendly vibe.
Everyone is welcome at The Birdcage, and it has grown into a real community hub. The owners run a highly engaged ‘Birdcage Banter’ group on Facebook, and keep the calendar fresh with creativity throughout the year. There’s always an event on, whether it’s a themed quiz night, open mic or karaoke.
The Birdcage has been given a thorough makeover recently. The owners used the pandemic lockdowns productively to refurbish the premises. Everything has been brought up to date, from new heaters and covers outside to swanky toilets inside.
This is the kind of pub where one drink of an evening leads to three which leads to seven, and before you know it you’re dancing away at the sound of the last orders bell, when all you’d intended was a quick pint. When you go back the next time, you’ll be part of the family.
Check out our interview with Rachael Brooke, manager at The Birdcage, for a look behind the scenes at how this excellent local pub has been adapting to difficult times.
5. The Treaty of Commerce
Another of Bateman’s Lincoln pubs, The Treaty of Commerce occupies one of the most recognisable buildings to the south of the city centre on the High Street. Just around the corner from the train station, it’s perfect for a cheeky pint after arriving in town, or before leaving. And you may find you want to stay a little longer!
From the outside you’d be forgiven for assuming this to be a cosy little tavern, but don’t be fooled by its slender facade. There is plenty of room inside, and an ample beer garden to the rear with spaced-out seating. We were amazed at the size of the garden when we first found it!
The Treaty always has three Bateman’s ales on draught along with a couple of guest ales. Food is served all week round, and children and dogs are welcome too.
6. The Witch & Wardrobe
The Witch & Wardrobe is a classic local pub at the very heart of Lincoln city centre. It has a pretty waterside location just off the High Street. Like several of the pubs we highlight here, it is set in a historic building with that black-and-white-beamed exterior that characterises so much of the city’s medieval architecture.
The building dates back to the 13th century, and inside you can read about its ghost stories. Legend has it that a woman fell down the spiral staircase above the bar and broke her neck, and now haunts the premises, wreaking havoc and causing mischief.
We are yet to find any ghosts on site, just a small and homely barroom with a friendly atmosphere. It’s a popular pub among locals, and active among the community too, with regular events raising funds for charity.
The Witch & Wardrobe is one of the few boozers in town that still has a pool table, and during normal times it hosts tournaments. With regularly changing cask ales, good pub food and sport matches screened on the telly, this is a great Saturday afternoon pub.
7. The Morning Star
The Morning Star is one of Lincoln’s lesser-known real ale pubs. Despite being close to historic Bailgate and many of the uphill city attractions, it’s a little off the beaten tourist path and somewhat of an undiscovered gem. We highly recommend dropping in for lunch and a pint!
This is very much a traditional real ale pub, serving four regular house ales and two changing guest ales. Inside the snug main bar you will find an open fire and walls adorned with historic pictures of Lincoln.
The pub has played its own special part in Lincoln’s story over the years. Its origins hail back to the 18th century, when it was dubbed the Fighting Cocks public house, until it took on its current name in 1841. Its doors have stayed open through good times and bad, downturns and upturns, and the coming and going of many different landlords.
One thing that hasn’t changed is its friendly, down-to-earth approach to hospitality and serving a good beer. The Morning Star has been featured in the Good Beer Guide for many years, and we’re sure it will be for many more to come.
8. The Adam & Eve Tavern
There is some dispute over which pub can lay claim to be the oldest in Lincoln. The Adam & Eve Tavern perhaps has the strongest case, as featured in our guide to things to do in Lincoln.
Believed to have been opened in 1701, the pub stands opposite the ruins of Pottergate Arch on the east of the city centre, and has welcomed customers for over three centuries. You can’t miss the striking white building when coming up Lindum Hill. As with many buildings of the era, stories of hauntings have abounded over the years.
Stepping inside, the pub has a spacious interior that has helped it to adapt and allow for social distancing during the pandemic. Indeed, it’s one of the few pubs in town that continued to run its popular quiz night through 2020. There’s a pleasant beer garden out the back, which is nicely sheltered while still offering a view of the cathedral.
The Adam & Eve Tavern serves cask ales and tasty straight-up pub grub. You’ll do well to find better prices anywhere else so close to the city centre. Dogs are welcome, and our boy Regan certainly has a soft spot for the place – he got a very friendly welcome from the staff.
9. The Lion and Snake
Slap-bang on the middle of Bailgate and under the shadow of the mighty Lincoln Cathedral, few pubs enjoy a better location than The Lion and Snake. It is a large pub with an airy, modern interior and a spacious beer garden. The central setting brings in a lot of customers, with the garden typically packed out on summery days.
This is another pub with a long and colourful history. Despite the modern decor, the timber-framed Grade II listed building is centuries old and has operated under many different names over the years. It has been trading as The Lion and Snake since 1834.
These days The Lion and Snake has a modern pub vibe, serving food with regular discount deals on burgers, curries and the like. Once you’ve had your fill of Marston’s real ales from the bar, you can finish off with a house cocktail, or wander out into the Cathedral Quarter to find another watering hole.
If you like a good pub quiz, there are two a week at the Lion and Snake, on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Find more around the city in our guide to every pub quiz in Lincoln.
10. The Tiny Tavern
One of Lincoln’s newest pubs, The Tiny Tavern, first opened its doors with terribly unfortunate timing in March 2020, less than a week before we went into a national lockdown. But the team behind it didn’t give up, and made use of its rear beer garden to get business moving again in the summer. Read our story to find out more about how this micropub survived the pandemic.
True to its name, this micropub set in a 17th-century cottage is nice and cosy, with space for only 40 people even during normal times. But anybody worried about distancing can sup beers in comfort and confidence in the beer garden. We gave this a whirl in summer, and the lovely bar staff brought the varied ale menu out to us on a board, so we didn’t need to order at the bar.
The beer menu is kept fresh with a revolving selection of four ales sourced from microbreweries near and far. As we live on this side of town, we can see definitely this becoming our local once we can get out and about again! It has a real community vibe and a welcoming atmosphere.
The Tiny Tavern is featured in our guide to hidden gems in Lincoln, which you can get for free when you sign up to our mailing list.
11. The Imp & Angel
A little further down the High Street, The Imp & Angel is another quirky micropub that has not been around very long. It opened in summer 2019 at the end of the road where we were living at the time, which was great news for us! It took the place of another micropub, The Hop and Barley, which previously operated on the same site.
Inside, The Imp & Angel has a single square room with high tables and stools, and minimalist-style decor. For such a small place it has an impressive range of real ales and craft beers, refreshed regularly. The couple who own it are clearly very passionate about good beer! They are always happy to talk beer or anything else while you’re in for a drink or three.
This little pub gets rammed when Lincoln City FC are playing at home, unsurprisingly given its close proximity to Sincil Bank. It’s also busy when big football matches are shown on screen inside. On days like these there’s a fun and exuberant atmosphere, but if you prefer a more chilled-out vibe then check the sporting calendar before you come on down. We love a cheeky real ale in here on a quiet afternoon.
12. The Golden Eagle
We round off our list with a real corker. Looks are rarely what they seem when it comes to pubs. At first glance from outside, The Golden Eagle could be any old pub along Lincoln High Street. But this place is a little bit special.
Another beauty among Lincoln’s historic pubs, The Golden Eagle has been trading since the early 18th century. You get a real sense of the building’s history when you step inside, with its timber beams and intimate cubbyholes. Outside there is a simply amazing landscaped beer garden, with tons of space on a raised patio and heated wooden booths with under-cover seating.
There aren’t too many pubs like this that still exist. It stays true to its roots rather than moving with the trends. There’s a wonderful, homely atmosphere, and a friendly house dog called Harvey (you can bring your own dog too!).
And of course, the beers are great. There is an extensive range of hand-pulled real ales to choose from, as well as various bottled international craft beer. For something a little stronger there are guest whiskies and specialist fruit wines too. We love having a place like this so close to home!
The Golden Eagle is also just a five-minute walk from LNER Stadium, so it’s idea for grabbing a pre-match pint if you’re going to see Lincoln City FC play.
Lincoln real ale pub crawl ideas
Now you’re in the mood for some real ale, why not combine some of these recommendations into a pub crawl? Here are three suggestions:
Pub crawl 1: climbing the hill
- Begin at the top end of the High Street at The Cardinal’s Hat. Take it easy for the uphill schlep to come!
- Tackle the ascent of Steep Hill and head straight onto Bailgate for a drink at The Lion and Snake.
- Wander along the castle walls until you reach The Victoria for your next pint.
- Finally, pop around the corner to finish the day off at The Strugglers.
Pub crawl 2: beasts on the east
- Get started in the heart of the city centre at The Witch & Wardrobe.
- Stroll east along the riverside and head up to The Birdcage.
- Start heading up Lindum Hill, breaking up the climb with an ale at The Adam & Eve Tavern.
- Finally, head through the old city gates and finish up at The Morning Star.
Pub crawl 3: south side of the tracks
- After arriving at Lincoln train station, pop across the tracks to The Treaty of Commerce.
- Carry on down the High Street and stop off for a friendly drink at The Tiny Tavern.
- Continue downstream, popping into The Imp & Angel for a cosy craft beer.
- Finish up at The Golden Eagle – a great place to settle in for the evening.
Real ale pubs in Lincoln: map
You can see all of the real ale pubs in Lincoln highlighted in this article on the map below. We’ve also added in our suggested pub crawl routes, or you can plot your own:
Do you have any other favourite drinking spots in Lincoln? Let us know in the comments below.