Leigh Savage would be a great name for a pirate! Or, maybe, a porn star (sorry Leigh!), but it is most certainly also an excellent name for a tour guide! Mention his name while booking and you'll get a discount, mention mine while booking and you will only get a puzzled look. The tour started where all great food tours start: at a large, 19th century industrial engine house. No visit along the docks of Rotherhithe and Wapping, I'm told, would be complete without taking in the Thames Tunnel. The world's first tunnel built successfully under a navigable channel connecting these two beautiful boroughs despite the Thames' best efforts.
A quick jaunt up the street and you come upon the The Mayflower Pub, the oldest pub on the mighty River Thames. It was from here that the first pilgrims to colonize the Americas left England bound for the new world. Just think about that. Now think about bangers and mash and blood pudding all sat on a bed of fresh vegetables and chased down with a bitter, yet smooth pale ale. Aside from the really good pub food, a cheerful decor, ample historical significance and ambience the pub also boasts a huge patio that hangs out over the ancient river. If you peek between the slats you'll see the water lapping the shore and the sound and the sun and tranquility of the space makes this pub a must-see!
After we have descended the Thames Tunnel and examined the impressive, old-fashioned engineering we come up on the other side; Wapping. All along the way our cheerful, knowledgeable guide whips out his folder of history and photos and we take delight in standing on the sidewalk and learning about our surroundings. A tour like this gives you nothing, but time to smell the flowers! The Prospect of Whitby Pub also stakes a claim to the oldest pub on the Thames, but upon reading the fine print is relegated to being on the site of the oldest pub, advantage Mayflower. The Whitby wrestles away the title of my early favourite after a delicious plate of fish and chips is laid in front of me with a nice light lager to compliment it. It was so nice that I went back and got another glass halfway through my meal! The Prospect of Whitby is a place where they used to hang folk. They don't shy away from that fact either as a noose still swings in the wind at the edge of the balcony. Hanging Judge Jeffries was said to have executed some 700 men during his duties under the reign of King James II on this very spot.
Joseph Turner was an eccentric man. A lover of women and secretive to the point of almost losing his own identity. Around the docklands of Wapping he was known as "Puggy" Booth. Puggy due to his slight stature and Booth adopting the name of one of his mistresses to further obfuscate his activities. When he inherited a pair of cottages in Wapping he converted one into Turner's Old Star and the pub still stands today after several renovations. Paul and Bernice Drew now run the freehouse and make their famous steak pies themselves from scratch! These are worth a trip all on their own, but the pub also has sports playing on every screen as well as billiards and darts. You could spend some time there!
Captain William Kidd was a notorious pirate. There is some debate whether he came about the monicker justly, but he was executed nearby for piracy. A converted warehouse with plenty of space and extraordinary views of the Thames. An alcove table with 180 degree views of the river and a spacious patio are just a few of the highlights. Oh ya, they also have beer, a lot of it! I would definitely recommend it for a calm night out or the starting point of a rager!
Four hours is a long time to spend with strangers, but with the masterful guidance of Mr. Savage we bonded and by the time we came up the Dickens Pub it was almost too early to say goodbye. Luckily, we were greeted with a giant cheese and fruit platter and some ciders, a truly European dessert! Excited chatter turned into a constant murmur and laughter rose up as the room started to fill around us. Leigh gracefully took his leave and we were left to socialize and eat and drink until our heart's content. I can't remember another tour where the group was left together at the end and the fun just simply continued! I would highly recommend it and don't forget to tell them who sent you!