Tan Hill Tales – The Story of the Highest Pub in Great Britain

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Chronicling the History, exploring the Mythology & Delving into the Legend of the World Famous Inn. by Hamish bell Prologue – The Dawn of Time The Tan Hill Inn is undoubtedly and incontestably the highest pub in Great Britain. At 1732ft above sea level it gazes down upon all pretenders to the title, content in the knowledge that there would need to be some extreme shifting of the earth and some pretty spectacular seismic activity for any hypsometric wannabe to elevate themselves up into a position that surpasses our coveted altitude. But of course that is not going to happen, our entry in the Guinness book of records, we believe is pretty secure! But could there be another record that this famous North Yorkshire pub is eligible for? It has certainly been here for a long time. But it couldn’t possibly claim to have a place amongst the oldest public houses in the land. Or could it? No one is really sure for how many hundreds of years, an inn has stood here in at this lonely site. However, a hostelry of some sort has occupied this lofty position for so long, that an exact date of when the first pub came to be built and when the very first pint was pulled or poured, has long since been forgotten, it’s origins alas, have been lost in the mists of time. If we knew for sure, then, perhaps the Tan Hill Inn could indeed challenge whatever pub holds the record of being the oldest drinking establishment in Great Britain! Unfortunately, there is no documentation, no deeds, or any delicate papyrus scrolls or chiselled stone tablets waiting to be deciphered, (none that we are aware of anyway!) that could impart that information. So how the first inn came about and who had the foresight to build it, and why, remain unknown! It is almost as if it has always been here, high above the clouds, hidden behind a veil of mist, nestling in the heather just waiting to be discovered by those lucky enough to stumble across it! Almost like some fabled utopian Shangri-La lost valley, but one that imparts great Beer, rather than ancient wisdom! But of course that is a ridiculous notion and is but the stuff of fairytales! We can though, make intelligent guesses to the circumstances that led to its origins, based on what we know now and speculate on what we don’t. But for us to do so we must travel far back through the pages of history to an age before. Right back, almost to the very dawn of time itself! Like most of northern Britain, for many centuries, the area that became North Yorkshire, where Tan Hill now stands was once frozen under great groaning and creaking sheets of ice. Then about 11,500 years ago the great glacier’s that carved, ground and shaped the landscape we recognise today retreated. The last ice age ended. Vegetation rapidly reclaimed the land, herd animals returned, creating well trodden familiar routes whilst migrating from one feeding ground to another, and soon after men followed! It is worth noting that the roads across the moor that lead to where the pub now stands, follow lines of ancient track that are believed to date back over 5000 years ago to Neolithic-times. Are the roads across the moors today based upon these migratory routes of old? We cannot know for sure as there are other factors (we will look into later) that may have influenced the orientation of from where and to, these unsheltered lanes of old traversed! Tan Hills location may well have been known to early Stone Age hunter gatherers who would have passed this way. Though it is highly unlikely that these nomadic tribes erected any form of permanent structure to shelter under, prepare food or let alone serve pints! Perhaps they briefly stopped here from time to time, as they stalked their prey. Back then most of the country was covered in dense woodland, that stretched almost from coast to coast, and it was only the very high tops of fells and exposed rocky outcrop’s that were treeless. The early Britons that cut simple paths through the scrubby thickets of birch, juniper, heather and other upland plants would have found these treeless glades useful. Coming across a break in the canopy whilst trailing herds of reindeer, or tracking bear or other large predators to their lairs, could have proven advantageous! Or they may have just enjoyed the feeling of the Sun upon their faces as they cautiously left the cover of the trees! Tan Hills exposed position could have provided such a clearing amongst the endless woodland. Standing upon the gritstone crag behind the pub does indeed provide onlookers with a powerful 360° vista of all the world around. The wandering hunters would have been able to establish their location there, and perhaps flush smaller quarry into the open, whilst keeping a wary lookout for encroaching danger such as the wolf packs that quietly followed in the reindeers wake! Tan Hill’s prominence and rocky vantage point, aloft the long since disappeared ancient upland scrub forest, may well have unwittingly decided the site for the future pub that stands here now!

50 Facts about Tan Hill Inn

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Our customers are always curious to learn more about the Tan Hill Inn, so to possess a rudimentary knowledge about this old pub and the surrounding area as-well is useful! This crib sheet combining-interesting facts, essential information and other quirky Tan Hill trivia, may be helpful to you in answering our customers most frequently asked questions . You never know it might inspire you to delve further into the history and folklore of this old pub, and before you know it, you will be able to engage anyone who wants to listen, in lively conversation about all things Tan Hill, as if you had been here for years! Basic information 1. At 1732 feet or 528 metres above sea level we are the highest pub in the British Isles. 2. We are proudly situated in the county of North Yorkshire and on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park close to the borders of both Co Durham and Cumbria 3. Tan Hill is roughly the halfway point of the Pennine way, (Britain’s longest non coastal path which runs for 268 miles) 4. Our closest neighbours are over 4 miles away and the closest town is over 10. 5. We generate our own electricity, being totally off grid. 6. The pub sits above a natural supply of water, a spring once discovered by a water diviner using Hazel twig divining rods Every day information 7. We have an online presence on Facebook and Instagram, as well as our own website www.tanhillinn.com and our Wi-Fi is free for all to use! 8. Food is served every day. However, there can be seasonal variations to our serving times, so do please ask! Being the busy place that we are, booking a table is always advisable, particularly if you are a large group. 9. Our chef’s prepare meals from fresh ingredients obtained locally (wherever possible) and all are made on the premises in a fully equipped, modern kitchen 10. Recently renovated, we offer classically decorated comfortable bedrooms(twin, double &family rooms) all with modern en-suite facilities. 11. Camping 12. Dogs are welcome. We are a canine friendly pub, but we do ask that they are kept on a lead. This is very important, particularly outside in consideration to the sheep and their lambs that roam freely nearby and ground nesting birds (See point 22) 13. Live music plays here regularly from Thursday through to Saturday General Information 14. You can get married here (and we were the first pub in the country to do so) 15. We have a large barn with its own bar that caters for many different types of functions! 16. We sell a wide selection of merchandise from mugs, and glasses to, T-shirts and hoodies, biscuits ,chocolate and much more, all of which make great souvenirs to remind guests of their visit here, or fantastic gifts, for friends, family, and even pets! 17. We also have our own ale, lager, stout, gin, rum and more, all available at the bar to enjoy here, or again taken home as souvenirs or gifts! 18. We serve eight hand pulled real ales, the very best of local breweries alongside some interesting guest ales all of which are nurtured from delivery to pint. We were so very proud that our efforts were recognised by CAMRA(campaign for real ale), and Tan Hill is now included in the prestigious 50th edition of the Good Beer guide! 19. On the last Thursday in May, for over 70 years, the Tan Hill Swaledale Sheep Show has been held here, exhibiting the very best of the local hardy breed. 20. Santa Claus and his reindeer visit Tan Hill regularly every year throughout December until Christmas Eve 21. The area of moorland around Tan Hill is an important breeding site for ground nesting birds such as Curlew, Lapwing, golden plover and other more endangered species and rare visitors, that you may be lucky enough to see! 22. Did we mention ghosts? There are some reputedly, including ex landlady Susan Peacock who has made her presence known, only appearing when she disapproves of any changes afoot in the pub!! Glasses have been thrown off the bar shelves, but whether it’s Mrs Peacock, or something else, we cannot be sure! There are other ghosts here, dare you ask about them? Historical information There were once many inns like Tan Hill, serving the needs of those that travelled the lonely roads that crossed the high uplands of the country. All have long since disappeared , unable to adapt to ever changing times. So for our pub to have survived into the 21st-Century, weathering not only the elements, but a turbulent and colourful history is quite the remarkable feat! 23. The name Tan Hill derives from the Celtic words ’Tan Heol ’which roughly translates as ‘The hill of Fire ‘due to the beacon pyres once lit to mark both midsummer and midwinter solstices and celebrate the passing of the seasons 24. Remains of older structures have been unearthed here supporting the belief this site has been a place of gathering for a very long time, perhaps as far back as 600 BC 25. In 984 A.D. the Vikings were defeated in the battle of Stainmore and their fearsome King, Eric Bloodaxe was slain, a mere stone-throw away, well within sight of the pub! 26. In 1085 an entry in the Doomsday book dismisses the area the pub resides in as a “ wasteland! “ Which probably justified the decision of the compilers of this important manuscript not to travel into what would have been a dangerous and lawless land! 27. Tan Hill was once known as the Kings Pit Inn, named after one of the local collieries, it served the needs of miners as far back as the 12th century when coal was first dug here. Though, as to which King it is that the pit is attributed to, we can find no record! 28. The pub is first mentioned in print in

Tan Hill Inn plus Tripadvisor official logo 2023

Established 1840.

The World Famous Tan Hill Inn is Britain’s highest public house at 1,732 feet (528m) above sea level.

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