Tan Hill Inn: How snowed-in pub caught world’s attention


A Friday night out at Britain’s highest pub turned into a weekend-long lock-in when snow carpeted the Yorkshire Dales in late November. And, over the course of three very strange days, stranded guests at the Tan Hill Inn found themselves at the centre of the world media’s lens.

“Sixty-one turned up and 61 stayed,” is how the manager of Britain’s highest pub remembers one Friday night in November.

Storm Arwen was bringing high winds and snow to the UK, but at the Tan Hill Inn, high in the Yorkshire Dales, people were preparing to enjoy music from an Oasis tribute band.

Manager Nicola Townsend says she stuck her head out of the door at about 21:00 GMT.

Upon seeing the weather conditions, she realised “nobody was going anywhere” and advised partygoers that it was safer to stay at the pub.

“I said ‘seriously you shouldn’t risk it. Don’t worry – everyone will have somewhere to sleep’.”

Band member Paul Read said it was only on Saturday morning they realised they were stuck when they woke up to about 3ft (0.9m) of snow.

“It was a very difficult conversation because the promoter found the reasons difficult to comprehend – it was a lovely day in Essex and the sun was shining.”

The Inn, which is 1,732ft (528m) above sea level, has been cut off in bad weather before, but on this occasion fallen power cables meant the snow ploughs could not get through to clear the road.

The 61 guests and seven staff found themselves trapped for the whole weekend and Nicola Townsend began fielding calls from media organisations across the world.

“I think I started phone calls at 5:30 in the morning one day. That was America I think. It just went through the day and night and I was doing another call at two in the morning.

“It was quite exciting, I felt pretty relaxed about it and I think that was mainly because the initial phone calls were radio stations, so it wasn’t face-on, and that kind of warmed me up a bit.”

Paul Read said the publicity for both the pub and band had been great.

“We’ve become a household name and that’s fantastic.

“Emails and messages were coming in from New York to Sydney and everywhere in between so it was a buzz for us.”

There was also a tweet from Oasis frontman Liam Gallagher, who said he was jealous as he was “always trying to get a lock in”.

Paul Read said it was great to see the tweet: “It was really funny and a great retort from him.

“We welcome any comments from the brothers and it’s always nice to get a mention from them.”

Nicola Townsend believes the fact everyone got on and made the best of things is what captured the world’s attention.

“It was just like a party amongst family and friends,” she said.

Guests slept on the floor, shared rooms and to keep themselves occupied would play board games and take part in quizzes.

Nicola’s only rule was the bar remained shut until 15:00 each day, just in case the ploughs got through and people could leave.

When people were finally able to leave on Monday 29 November, telephone numbers and emails were shared and there is talk of them all returning to the Tan Hill for a reunion in 2022.

The publicity has attracted interest from film-makers and discussions are taking place with the pub’s owners.

Paul Read said it would be the “icing on the cake” and Nicola believes it would be brilliant to see.

“I do hope they play it out as a nice heart-warming story, because I think that’s what caught people,” she said.

“I think it was happy story and that was why it snowballed as it did.”

About the author

Olivia Wilson
By Olivia Wilson


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