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James Leavey's Corner
More British Cigar Heavens

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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
THE RED LION
24 High Street, Kegworth, Derbyshire DE74 2DA (01509 672466)
HOST:Geoff Donaghue

Part of the original 400 years old building is still intact although most of it has been rebuilt and turned into a popular traditional pub, all of which is cigar friendly except for a small 'no smoking' room. Quite a few of the regulars have allegedly experienced if not seen the resident 'Grey Lady' ghost who playfully switches off the beers and turns the barrels around. It hasn't stopped cartoonist Bill Tidy regularly supping here as do several well-known rugby and cricket players. Then there's the local farmer, Eric the Phantom, a popular Blaster Bates-type raconteur who turns up on his tractor and trailer and regales the customers with tales of his hens and bygone years of farming.The pub is also the headquarters of the local homing pigeon club which meets here once a week - and explains why pigeon is not on the otherwise excellent menu which ranges from bar snacks to full meals, all of them home cooked.Themed food nights (Mexican, Thai, Italian, Curry) are a regular event once a month, usually on Wednesdays.Real ales on offer include Marstons Pedigree, Castle Rock Hemlock, Wards Best Bitter, Vaux Mild and a range of guest beers, which can be supped while you try your hand at darts, dominoes or Petanque - the latter in the pleasant outside garden.

LOCAL SIGHTS: Calke Abbey, Loughborough Steam Railway, Kegworth village museum
>>> DIRECTIONS: Take junction 24 off M1 into Kegworth.

THE MALT CROSS MUSIC HALL
16 St James's Street, Nottingham NG1 6FG (01159 411048)
HOST:Rolf Updale

During the day it's a bar/café but Wednesday to Saturday evenings it transforms into a Victorian music hall where 20th century punters enjoy live jazz, contemporary music, stand-up comedy, drama and the occasional magic show.It reopened in January 1988, restored with National Lottery funding to its former glory of cast iron pillars, balcony, raised stage seating and original arched glazed roof. Originally built in 1877, the famous vaudeville comedy act, Fred Karno's Army (which at one time included Charlie Chaplin and Sandy Powell - "We are Fred Karno's Army, The ragtime infantry.We cannot shoot, we cannot fight - What bleedin' use are we"") started here.Other performers who regularly appeared here include the great, mentally unbalanced comedian, Dan Leno, who when admitted to an asylum, pointed to a clock and said to the nurse, 'Is that clock right"''Yes,' said the nurse.'Then what's it doing here"' replied the comic genius who is now the Malt Cross's official mascot and appears on the t-shirts and bags on sale in the Emporium, which also sells Victorian knick-knacks. One of the few British theatres in whose auditoriums smokers can light up anywhere while watching a live show, some of them propping up the bar at the back of the room (no doubt enjoying the London Pride, Martons Pedigree and locally brewed Castle Rock beer), the occasional target of smoking jokes during the Saturday night comedy club.

LOCAL SIGHTS: Tales of Robin Hood is just round the corner. Or you can seek the famous archer in Sherwood Forest.
>>> DIRECTIONS: From Market Square look for Lloyds Bank and The Bell Inn; St James's Street is between the two and The Malt Cross is 50 yards up on the right.

THE GRENADIER
18 Wilton Row, off Belgrave Square, London SW1X 7NR (0171 235 3074)
HOST: Patricia Smerdon

A crucifix in the cellar marks the spot where one of the Duke of Wellington's officers (who used it as their mess) was flogged to death for card-sharping.He now haunts the dark, snug and piped-music-free bar, as does Chris Evans and Sigourney Weaver, no doubt lured by this oasis of calm for smokers in a peaceful cobbled-mews a few minutes from the hurly-burly of Hyde Park Corner. Robert Mitchum once leaned on the 200-year-old pewter-fronted bar where the friendly, unsnooty staff dispense a selection of ales, including Marston's Pedigree, Courage Directors, Courage Best and Theakstone's Best and the house speciality - a magnificently lethal Bloody Mary - "We sold 120 yesterday lunchtime and the secret extra ingredient is not just another shot of vodka", assured Ms Smerdon. The back-room restaurant specialises in traditional British food, including Beef Wellington, venison and boar, and there are even vegetarian dishes for those who want them. Unpretentious rib-sticking bar fare includes Grenadier burgers, fish and chips and the Bar Officers Club Sandwich (double-decker turkey, bacon, lettuce and tomato). If it's too crowded on a fine day, you can sit outside on the pavement benches. Children are admitted in the restaurant only.

LOCAL SIGHTS:Buy your favourite smoke from Harrods' excellent cigar department in Knightsbridge and enjoy it in Hyde Park, or just outside the gates of Buckingham Palace.
>>> DIRECTIONS:Two minutes' from the nearest tube, Hyde Park Corner.Half the fun is trying to find the place!

DEACON BRODIES
435 Lawnmarket, on the Royal Mile, Edinburgh (0131 225 6531)
HOST: Alice Douglas

This large, well-known pub commemorates the notorious William Brodie, who by day was a pious, wealthy and much respected Edinburgh citizen.He was elected the city's Deacon of Wrights and Masons in 1781.By night the pillar of society was a ruthless thief, gambler and philanderer who became the model of Robert Louis Stevenson's Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde after ending his days dancing on the end of the Edinburgh hangman's noose, suspended from an 'improved' gallows which he himself had designed and built.Rather like Dr Guillotine who was also executed by his own brainchild. Stevenson's famous story includes no mention of tobacco and some of us wonder which of the dual personalities would have smoked the Classic cigar, Jekyll or Hyde"Built in 1726, the original three separate properties were acquired by Donald Stewart, a local wine merchant, in 1894.He decided to join them together into one public house with the help of Peter Lyle Barclay Henderson, known throughout Scotland as the brewer's architect.Reopened at the turn of the century, this A1 listed building remains largely unchanged.The only entertainment is the friendly smoker-friendly conversation in the downstairs bar.Or you can savour the Scottish fare (haggis, beefsteak pie etc) in the upstairs restaurant which serves meals up to midnight during the summer.No real ales, only keg beers, but there is a large selection of malt whiskies for serious drinkers.

LOCAL SIGHTS: The Writers' Museum in Lady Stair's Close is devoted to Scotland's most famous writers, including Sir Walter Scott, Robert Burns and Robert Louis Stevenson - all three of them smokers.Edinburgh Castle, Princes Street.
>>> DIRECTIONS:Walk up the Mound from Princes Street and the huge, usually crowded pub is on the right hand corner at the very top.

THE PLUME OF FEATHERS
Upper Green Road, Tewin, Hertfordshire (01438 717265)
HOST: Mark Thomas

This trendy hostelry "for grownups only" was originally built in 1596 as the former hunting lodge of Elizabeth I.Later, it became the haunt of highwaymen and several ghosts including yet another 'lady in grey' - she gets around doesn't she! It reopened in September 1998 after a major £500,00 plus refit, which has sympathetically retained all the original features - oak beams, bare brick walls, stone-flagging and wooden floors and open fireplaces.Affable punters spill out into the enormous meadow/garden or the patio, on fine evenings. In the old days it was patronised by the great and the good, including Steven Spielberg and many famous MPs who travelled from the City for relaxed imbibing in fine surroundings and the new management is working towards the return of its former glory.The elegant smoker-friendly restaurant features "contemporary English food that is 100 % fresh" and an a la carte three course meal will set you back £15-20 per head, excluding drinks and service. Good bar grub is also on offer, as are several real ales, including Marstons Pedigree. The only entertainment planned is 'spot the famous American film director.'

LOCAL SIGHTS: Knebworth House, Hatfield House and that fine old market town, Hertford.
>>> DIRECTIONS: East from A1 J6 towards Welwyn Garden City, then follow B1000 towards Hertford.Look for the sign on the left.

PORT WILLIAM INN
Trebarwith Strand, near Tintagel, North Cornwall (01840 770230)
HOSTS: Peter Hale and Carol Read

This 350-year-old inn enjoys one of the best locations in Cornwall, and overlooks the sea, beach and cliffs at Trebarwith Strand.There's a quaint old smuggler's tunnel at the back of the building but you don't have to use it to sneak out for a smoke because they welcome cigar lovers (except in the conservatory, or guest rooms upstairs), and non-smoking children anddogs.An additional attraction is the daily home-cooked food, fresh fish, vegetarian specialities and three fine ales (St Austell, Flowers, Boddingtons) to wash it down. Then there's the very occasional folk singing, Friday evenings.

LOCAL SIGHTS: The ruined castle on the rocky promontory of Tintagel, three miles away, is reputed to be the birthplace of King Arthur, a legend first written down by Geoffrey of Monmouth in the 11th century.Most of the castle dates from the 13th century.
>>> DIRECTIONS: Off B3263 between Camelford and Tintagel.

Copyright James Leavey, 1999.All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission from the Author.

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