James Leavey's Corner
Cigar Havens

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by James Leavey, editor, The FOREST Guide to Smoking in London
and The FOREST Guide to Smoking in Scotland

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James Leavey
James Leaveyrecommends some of the best pubs and restaurants around Britain where cigar smokers are made welcome.

62 King Street, Whalley, Lancashire, BB7 9SN
Tel: 01254 822195
Host:Harry Barlow

If you are a keen racegoer and fancy a flutter talk to Harry Barlow, the landlord of this family-run former 17th century coaching inn at the heart of the Ribble Valley.Harry has five horses in training which he says are all in very good form and he will be delighted to direct you to the nearest bookie.

There are also three golf courses and three rivers for anglers within two miles of the hotel, while football fans can cheer on Burnley Rovers.The house ale from Commercial Brewery is excellent, as is the food and hospitality.The four doubles and one family room are all smoker-friendly, and pets can be catered for.

LOCAL SIGHTS: Whalley, Clitheroe (home of the late, diminutive comedien, Jimmy Clitheroe), Burnley, Preston, Trough of Bowland (where HM The Queen once said she would like to retire to)

DIRECTIONS: Off A59, three miles from Clitheroe.

19 Upper Mall, Hammersmith, London W6 9TA
Tel: 0181 748 5405
Host: Brian Lovery

It's well worth nipping down the side alley and squeezing into this lively pub, which has one of the smallest bars (it holds 12 Classic Cigar smokers, who can buy their favourite smoke here) in Britain. There's also a patio which holds 150, overlooking the River Thames.

The oak ceiling and black wood panelling in the large main bar hasn't changed in three centuries; certainly not since Ernest Hemingway and Graham Greene popped in for a pint.

If you find yourself humming Rule Britannia it's probably because it was composed here by Thomas Arne in about 1740. ESB and London Pride are on tap to wash down the fine food, which includes cooked to order Thai cuisine seven nights a week (6pm-9.45pm, average £5.95) and traditional home-prepared English lunches (average £4.95)

LOCAL SIGHTS: Walk along the Thames to Chiswick or Kew, waving a Union Jack and singing the National Anthem.

DIRECTIONS:Short walk from Hammersmith tube

Annan Road, Gretna, Scotland, DG16 5DN
Tel: 01461 338266
Host: John Welsh

Gretna Green benefited greatly from the Marriage Act of 1753 which prohibited clandestine marriages in England, ie those solemnised outside authorised Christian places of marriage, and from 1856 a new law required at least one of the pair of lovebirds to live in Scotland for three weeks. In 1940 these 'fleet' marriages were declared illegal but last year the two anvils in the famous Blacksmith's Shop broke the 4,000 (newlyweds who got hitched there) record for the first time.

If you fancy a second honeymoon this friendly hotel has a room with a four-poster bed and whirlpool bath and it and the other nine doubles (seven in the adjacent motel) are all equipped with a hairdryer, colour tv, radio, hospitality tray and ashtray.

The bad news is that the fine restaurant (a la carte British food, average £13 per head) is non-smoking but the good news is you can light up everywhere else, and they sell Classic Cigars at the bar (from which you can also buy a tasty lunch).Pets are welcome, whether they smoke, or not.

LOCAL SIGHTS: 500 yards walk to the Blacksmith's Shop and Museum (but are you strong enough to carry her back and over the threshold!). The Roberts Burns Centre in Dumfries is about 25 miles away.

DIRECTIONS: On B721, off A75

Llanelian-yn-Rhos, Colwyn Bay, North Wales,LL29 8YA
01492 515807
Hosts: Jack and Ruth Cole

They say ale has been served on the site of this picturesque inn for at least a millenium although parts of the present building only date back to the late 16th century.The Cole's have spent a lot of time and money lovingly maintaining the main bar's exposed slate floor and beamed and rafted ceiling.

Classic Cigar lovers are welcome and can usually be found on one of the very old settles or comfy easy chairs near the enormous Inglenook log fire, or in the cosy snug bar.There's an impromptu folk evening most Wednesday evenings. Food ranges from bar snacks to steaks, chicken and fish and should be washed down with a pint of Four Thumbs from the Denby brewery.

The three double guest rooms cost £20 per person per night, including breakfast, and are all smoker-friendly.

LOCAL SIGHTS: The popular coastal resort of Llandudno is just five miles away, otherwise you can hang loose in this sleepy Welsh village.

DIRECTIONS: Off B5383 (a.k.a. Colwyn Bay expressway), signposted from A55

Grange-over-Sands, Cumbria, LA11 6ET
Tel: 015395 32552
Hosts: Derek and Mike Fallowfield

Originally built as a private home for the Deakin family in 1893 and converted to a family-run hotel just before WW2, this oasis of calm stands in 14 acres, overlooking the Morecambe Bay Estuary.

The original oak panelling and real log fires reflect the hotel's reputation for warm, traditional British hospitality.All 29 guestrooms are en-suite (£43-£60 per person, per night, bed & breakfast) and mostly smoker-friendly and there's a wide selection of cigars (including Classic, and Havanas) on sale in the smoker-friendly bar and the non-smoking (alas) elevated restaurant - whose impressive menu of quality cuisine (evening dinner, about £22.50 per person) offers fresh local produce, grouse and salmon.

An enormous selection of bar meals is also available (average £5.50 per dish) and there's beer and fine wine to suit most palates. You can also relax in the heated indoor pool , spa bath, steam room and exercise area while the kids are in the playpen, supervised toddlers pool or outdoor play area and there's a bedroom (and lift) for the disabled.

LOCAL SIGHTS: On the fringe of Lake District, about 20-30 minutes drive from Barrow-in-Furness

DIRECTIONS: Take exit 36 from the M6 and follow the A590 signed Barrow-in-Furness.Follow the signs for Holker Hall on the B5277 and Netherwood is on the right just before the station

Great North Road, Stilton, Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, PE7 3RA
Tel: 01733 241066
Host: Liam McGivern

Tradition has it that Stilton was first made by Mrs Paulet, a housekeeper at Quenby Hall in Leicestershire just south of Melton Mowbray.She supplied the cheese for her brother-in-law, Cooper Thornhill at the Bell, where he served it and named it after the village.

It was first officially tasted in 1725 by Lord Harley at this former 16th century coaching house.Despite the fact that Harley disliked it, Stilton was sold to travellers on the Great North Road from 1730 onwards. You can still enjoy a nibble of Britain's most distinguished cheese inyour Ploughman's Lunch (£5.50) even if it was never made in Stilton or its vicinity.

The notorious highwayman, Dick Turpin, is said to have hidden here for nine weeks and the inn was recently restored to feature its bare stone walls and open beams.Turpin would feel at home in the de luxe rooms' four-poster beds, but I wonder what he would have thought of the whirlpool baths!

Bar snacks and proper meals (in the Egon Ronay recommended restaurant, which has a smokers' section) are available daily, lunchtime and evening, and a small selection of real ales and guest beers to wash them down.Classic Cigars smokers are welcome.

LOCAL SIGHTS: Peterborough and Huntingdon

DIRECTIONS: On the old North Road, now bypassed, about six miles south of Peterborough

Copyright James Leavey, 1997.All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission from the Author.


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