Cathy’s been to every Red Lion in Britain!

Cathy Price at the Red Lion in St Osyth
Cathy Price at the Red Lion in St Osyth
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After travelling thousands of miles and downing at least 656 drinks, Cathy Price has completed one of the longestest ever pub crawls.

The challenge began four-and-a-half years ago when the personal trainer from Walton-le-Dale sat watching the Grand National at the Red Lion in Hawkshead and on a whim, decided to visit all of its namesakes in Britain.

On Saturday, she made the journey to the Red Lion in Northmoor, Oxford, and completed her mission.

“It’s been exciting, but I’m also a bit gutted, it’s been part of my life for the last four-and-a-half years”, said Cathy, who has posed for a picture in front of each pub.

She added: “When I first began I estimated there were 620 or 630 Red Lions, but there were actually 720-odd at that time.

“Over the years about 80 have closed down, so the final number is 656.

“In the beginning I came across them willy-nilly, then I started checking them out online.

“Then I was given an official licencee list, and all but 10 were on there. The ones that weren’t had been temporarily closed when the list was compiled.

“Everywhere I go people tell me about another one and I’ve had a lot of help through social media.”

Cathy has travelled the length and breadth of the country with family and friends, discovering hidden gems along the way.

She said: “I’ve probably been on the quest every other weekend.

“If it’s a long way away, then I’ll stay over on Friday and Saturday and do 16 Red Lions or so.

“I’ve had to be very, very careful going to places like Devon and Cornwall because I couldn’t afford to miss one and keep going back, with the distances.

“I’ve also had to work around opening hours, especially in Wales where a lot of pubs are in little tiny places and they don’t open all day, maybe only 12pm to 3pm.

Now, after reaching the end of her travels, Cathy is putting the final touches to a book about her experiences.

She said: “With the book it’s really about inspiring people to go and visit places in this country they wouldn’t normally think of. We all know the Lakes is nice, but there’s many little places you’ve never heard of that are fantastic.

“My brother now rings me up, asking where to go that’s nice.”

The 56-year-old said she’s seen “the good, the bad and the ugly”, but has never had a bad experience.

She said: “The Red Lion in Harlow used to be rough, and they’d admit that themselves, but it was very different to what I expected.

“The management got wind of me going and they sent an email asking for some notice of when it would be. I didn’t know why, but it turned out that they’d made me a cake and sorted out a taxi.

“This was a place I’d normally not go on, but it’s opened my eyes to not judging a book by it’s cover.

“It’s also interesting because when you go into a pub in a different town you wouldn’t normally get talking to people, but when I tell the people behind the bar what I’m doing and what number they are, I always strike up a conversation with someone.

“I’ve got to find out a lot of interesting facts and history about the pubs and the surrounding areas, and that’s all going in the book, along with some of the journeys and funny encounters.

“One memory that sticks out is when I travelled to Oxford for the 300th pub. I was due to do a radio interview and meet a journalist, but that day the whole of the country was snowed in.

“But I went anyway and I ended up shovelling snow off the pub car park.”

When she got to pub 500, Cathy began to think about where her journey would end.

“When I got to number 500 I knew I had to decide which pub I’d end with, and I chose the one in Oxford,” she said.

“It was going to close down, but the community took it over and now people from the village run it.

“They have been really supportive of what I’ve been doing and have made me realise that the pub really is at the heart of the community.”

Cathy denied that she would be repeating the quest for all the country’s Black Bulls or White Horses, instead she’s hoping to stick with Red Lions internationally, having already visited 11, in far-flung places such as New York, Dublin, Melborne, Madeira and France.

But if she fancies a drink a little closer to home, she only needs to move a few feet - having established her own Red Lion in her garage at home.

She said: “I started collecting signs that got replaced and plonked them all in my garage at home.

“It seemed like the natural thing to have a bar in the garage called the Red Lion. It went on the LEP website at 2pm and by 5pm I had the police and the council’s licensing people at the front door.

“But of course it’s not a real bar, it’s just a place for fun.”

After a celebration in Oxford at the weekend, the Red Lion in Hawkshead are now planning a party for September 26 to celebrate Cathy’s journey going full circle.

And already, her pioneering mission has inspired others to go on their own travels.

She said: “There’s loads of people I’m going to stay in touch with, including a man in Wales whose doing a mini-tour of Red Lions around Wales, and there’s another woman who wants to visit every Marks and Spencers in the country.”