The Secret Pubs of Cambridge: The Castle Inn

Image credit: Jim Lindwood

Perhaps not such a “secret” pub as a rarely frequented one, the ‘Castle Inn’ perches atop the hill braved only by Girtonians, Fitzwilliam students, and the downright foolish. Unlike the previously reviewed ‘Architect’, which sits opposite, we could understand why.

Walking into the ‘Castle Inn’, it doesn’t initially dawn on you as lacking something; only after sitting down for a few minutes does it gradually become evident there is a decided lack of atmosphere.  With its geometric plastered walls, the pub rather feels as though it aspires to be the cosy wooden country pub that its older building might suggest. The synthesis of old and new might have been a recipe for success; however, rather than adopting the best aspects of each, it instead felt more like the worst of both worlds. The layout and space holds a lot of potential, with roomy tables and a small fireplace, but the interior neither opts for the sleek, modern look of the ‘Architect’, nor fully embraces the roughness of a country pub. The end result simply lacks personality.

No personality whatsoever   Image Credit: Julia Stanyard and Sian Avery 

That said, it is perfectly possible to have an enjoyable evening in the Castle Inn. Although our description of the ambiance sounds negative, it was in no way oppressive, rather, it is simply lacklustre. Unable to quite put our fingers on the cause of this, we settled down to our pints.

It has to be said of the ‘Castle Inn’ that they have a wider beer selection than many of the smaller pubs we have been to this term; although, as an Adnams establishment, most of these were of a kind. Julia’s Wild Hop Amber Beer failed to excite with its surprisingly mild, hop-less flavour. Then again, perhaps “failed to excite” is not quite the right term, as it was remarkable in that this could probably be crowned “the blandest pint in Cambridge” which is, in one sense, quite an achievement.

Julia’s evening did not improve much from here on in. Opting next for Pure Gold, she missed out on the singular crowning glory of the evening: that is, the Adnams Smoked Ruby Ale. A little bit confusing as to whether you were ingesting beer or a smoked cheese, the ale was nonetheless very enjoyable simply in its being a very unusual and distinctive flavour.

Ultimately, the ‘Castle Inn’ felt just like what it was: part of the much larger Adnams company. Without any distinctive character, no amount of red lighting (which indeed it had) could convince Sian it was any more exciting than Julia’s first bland pint. 

No amount of red lighting could make things better for Sian. Image Credit: Julia Stanyard and Sian Avery 

Apart, perhaps, from the Wild Hop, there is nothing which is even particularly negative about the place, but with such a vibrant pub scene as Cambridge has to offer, it is hard to describe the ‘Castle Inn’ as worthwhile. So, leaving as the ‘Castle Inn’ closed, Julia took her greatest pleasure of the night in having already scaled the only hill on her way home.

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