Cathy Price, from Preston, Lancashire, has paid a visit to 500 different pubs named ‘Red Lion’ in Britain. In fact, she’s made it her life’s mission to visit every single Red Lion in the UK, which just happens to be the most common pub name in the country. She celebrated her 500th visit last weekend in Bedfordshire, where she visited a Red Lion at Dagnall.
55-year-old Cathy has been touring the nation since 2011 said that she got the idea for the project on a whim: “I was away in the Lake District for the weekend a few years ago and I was watching the Grand National at a pub and I read a sign which said the Red Lion was the most common pub name in the country.”
“I thought they must be absolutely everywhere and that was when I decided I had to see them all,” she explained. “I began on Grand National day, April 9, 2011, and aim to complete the quest as near to Grand National day as I can next year, which will have taken four years.”
According to the British Beer and Pub Association, the eight most popular pub names in the UK are:
- Red Lion
- Royal Oak
- White Hart
- Rose and Crown
- Kings Head
- Kings Arms
- Queens Head
- The Crown
In Ireland a fellow named Pete McCarthey embarked on a similar mission several years ago. McCarthey however came to the idea when he realised that there are many pubs named McCarthey in the Ireland of his ancestorys. And so he made it his mission to visit every Irish pub sharing his ‘McCarthey’ name. He even wrote a hilarious book – named ‘McCarthey’s Bar’ – about it!
Back to Cathy’s Price mission: How did she manage to track down all the Red Lion pubs in the UK?
“As more people knew about what I was doing I was given a list, correct as of 2010, of all the places where there was a Red Lion pub but unfortunately an awful lot of them have closed down since then.
I think there are about 620 but that’s not an exact figure as even a few weeks ago one closed down and others are reopening.”
The Red Lion: What’s in a name?!
The lion is very common in coats of arms, second only to the cross.
The red lion was a personal badge of John of Gaunt, founder of the House of Lancaster whose lands encompassed Cathy’s home town of Preston.
The most common origin is probably from the Royal Arms of Scotland. When the crowns of England and Scotland were united with the accession of James I and VI in 1603, all public buildings were ordered to display the red lion as a badge of loyalty to the house of Stuart.
On her visit to the county Lancashire, Cathy, who works as a personal trainer, visited six pubs in one day but that’s by no means her record, on a previous trip to Oxfordshire she once stopped in on 11 in one day and over the last August bank holiday went to 16 in four days.
She added: “I’ve been quite flexible about it, sometimes I go somewhere on a Saturday, maybe somewhere about an hour or so away from where I live, or other times I go away for the weekend and go to several in a day.
“I’ve found that there are quite a large number of them around Beds and Herts so I’ve been picking them off on my way down to places like Kent.
“It has been a really mixed experience, some have been a bit dodgy and others have been absolutely fantastic. Some have had thatched roofs while some are in the middle of town centres, proper drinkers’ pubs.
“I normally buy a drink first and then tell them what I’m doing and what number they are, which always strikes up a conversation.
“So many of the pubs I’ve been to have given me such a warm welcome.”
Perhaps the most surprising thing of all is that Cathy doesn’t have a favourite tipple which she goes for at every pub. In fact, sometimes she doesn’t have an alcoholic drink at all and opts for a coffee or a coke instead.
She added: “Unfortunately more often than not I am driving so I might have a small glass of sparkling wine or sometimes just half an ale!”
You can follow Cathy’s Crazy Red Lion Pub Crawl on twitter via @RedLion_Quest
and on Facebook via facebook.com/pages/Cathys-Crazy-Red-Lion-Pub-Crawl