Northern boozers: not grim

If you find it grim up north this Christmas and New Year it's probably because you're stuck with the in-laws for another round of pass the Quality Street to the tune of granny's passing wind overture. Time to exit, stage left and pop down to the local homeless shelter to help the needy - thirsty work that....

It's days like these that you'll find all the needy company you need lined up at the likes of The Lion Inn, North Yorkshire. Chunky slabs of game or steak and ale come with a heap of russety chips, a few token peas and, of course, a slick of thick, Marmite-coloured gravy. Order, find a spot by the fire and settle down with a fortifying pint of local bitter: Black Sheep, perhaps, or a Copper Dragon from the Dales, www.lionblakey.co.uk

Further toward civilisation, although that is arguable, is Sinclair's Oyster Bar, Manchester. This 17th-century, mock-Tudor monument to boozing is all that a pub should be. Ancient, cosy, labyrinthine – and, above all, cheap, it offers a range of Sam Smith ales that delight both the palate and the wallet.

Pork scratching anyone?

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