Filming in Swindon for a recent episode of Location Location Location, presenter Kirstie Allsopp waxed lyrical about what she described as a “vibrant town”, noting that she was particularly impressed by “trendy Old Town”.
So where are the hot spots that make for a great night on the town?
An ideal night out in Old Town would start at Baila Bar on Victoria Road, a diminutive venue which punches above its weight with its bespoke cocktails and roster of guest DJs playing retro funk and hip hop. Next door to Baila is the plush Longs Bar, a perennial starting point for clubbers on a night out, and the place to be on Thursday nights with its popular Gin & Rum Club.
On the next corner up from Longs is The Victoria, a pub which is dedicated to live music, offering an eclectic mix encompassing heavy metal, gothic rock, ska and Motown, Abba tribute bands and classic acts like Wilko Johnson or the Blockheads.
In the same block as The Victoria are two more cocktail bars, Yard 93 and 1101 Cocktails. Yard 93 is renowned for its LGBT events while 1101 offers an intimate setting, with classic martinis and sultry jazz. Directly across the road is Jack’s Bar and Grill, which doubles up as a steak house, and yes, more cocktails!
Coming to the end of Victoria Road, a sharp left down Albert Street will take you to The Roaring Donkey (us neither), a great spit and sawdust pub with real ales and a cracking jukebox that hosts poker nights on Thursdays and late opening on Fridays and Saturdays.
Heading back up Albert Street, turn into Wood Street, the real hub of Old Town’s nightlife. The Kings doubles up as a hotel and a restaurant but is a sophisticated and stylish venue for a night out. Next door is The Bank, another popular spot spread over two floors with the upstairs dancefloor and adjoining terrace a big favourite at the weekends.
Further along on the same side of Wood Street is Mackenzies, a hugely popular bar for nearly 30 years that boasts a funky long bar and a large outside terrace. At the junction of Wood Street and High Street is The Goddard Arms, a traditional pub in an old converted coaching inn, with some great period features, history and character.
Back onto the other side of Wood Street is The Brass Monkey, a fashionable destination over two floors, offering live music on Thursdays and modern grooves from the best DJs at the weekend.
Turning left into Devizes Road, the recently opened The Tuppenny pub offers a great range of keg and cask beers and a motto for the ages – ‘Education is important, but beer is importanter’!
On the opposite side of the road is Swindon Arts Centre, a 212-seat entertainment venue with a diverse schedule of live music, comedy nights, theatre and foreign language cinema. On the same side of the road, The Hop free house is a family-run pub that has earned its reputation as Old Town’s prime venue for real ales. Facing Devizes Road at the far end of the road, are three more great pubs – the beautifully renovated The Plough, old favourite The Wheatsheaf and the speakeasy-inspired The Eternal Optimist.
Last but not least, a shout out to Tree in Hooper Place behind Wood Street, Wiltshire’s only superclub. It’s a luxury multi-space environment across three floors fronted by renowned resident DJ Ace of Clubz, with regular guest spots by the UK’s top spinners and sounds ranging from urban, house and club classics.
So, there you have it. All within a five-minute radius, a diverse night out in Old Town that’s fit for a Baron’s daughter (The Honourable Ms Allsopp) but wonderfully inclusive for the rest of us.