Exclusive: Inside Princess Kate’s Favorite Local Pub (Photos)
Philip Boucher; Inset: Rex/USA
Yet few people will be watching as closely as John Haley, the landlord of Kate’s local pub The Old Boot Inn.
A 20-year resident of the village where the royal grew up, Haley, 59, has seen Kate effortlessly evolve from a fun-loving country girl into a royal princess and, most recently, loving mother. So he is uniquely placed to feel both part of the special moment — and have the means to raise a toast to the royal baby as soon as it arrives. “Everyone around here is very excited for Kate and we all just hope it’ll be a happy and healthy baby,” Haley tells PEOPLE. “I’m sure a few glasses will be raised in the village when it arrives. That’s pretty much guaranteed!”
Haley has been serving Kate and the Middletons since he swapped the grit of South London for the rural beauty of Bucklebury to raise his own family. When the Middleton children were younger, the whole family would regularly drop into The Old Boot for a pub lunch, with Kate, Pippa and James all making full use of its 200ft rear garden while mum and dad enjoyed a well-earned rest.
“Kate was just a young teenager at first,” reveals Haley. “She has always been a lovely girl. But they all are — they are very close and just really nice people to be around.”
This familiarity has continued since the Middletons became fully-fledged members of the British royal family. Just last week Kate’s dad, Michael Middleton, enjoyed a pint of his favorite Good Old Boy ale at the bar. “They will just walk in and take a seat,” says Haley. “There’s no announcement or anything like that unless they want to book a table for the family. There’s no big deal about it. There’s no entourage at all.”
To date this hasn’t included a first visit from Prince George. Like all young families, William and Kate are far more concerned with grabbing some sleep than enjoying a carefree afternoon in the local pub.
Yet this hasn’t always been the case. During their long courtship Kate and William would regularly walk through the fields to Haley’s pub for a quiet drink away from prying eyes.
“When they were on their own William and Kate often used to drop in,” says Haley. “They would just walk in and order a glass of wine each and whatever they fancied from the menu really. Kate would have one glass of wine or maybe a soft drink. William was always more of a wine drinker too, although he had a beer from time-to-time.”
Haley adds: “They’d just come in, sit down and have a chat. I think they like it here because it’s just somewhere they can go and relax and get away from it all.”
When you visit The Old Boot you can see why, too. Set in a small valley a couple of miles from the main center of Bucklebury, it is surrounded by farmland, woods and the pretty hamlet of Stanford Dingley. It’s a pub that you really have to seek out to discover.
Yet despite being far off the beaten track, the pub has become something of a royal hotspot, with visitors from all over the world beating a path to The Old Boot’s front door to enjoy a taste of Kate’s country life. “We are in a very remote area. There’s no main roads running nearby, there’s no public transport and no shops. There’s just two pubs and a church,” says Haley. “But every week we get people who come here for the royal connection. In the summer it is particularly busy. People always ask what table William and Kate sat at and will go to the same table and have a quiet drink.”
And which one might that be?
“A table for two near the fire,” says Haley. “The table opposite is where the family sit if there’s 4, 5 or 6 of them. That’s the family table.”
So if you’re ever in Bucklebury, you now know where to rest your bones the royal way.
As for how to order like Will and Kate? Haley gives PEOPLE his guide to the perfect English pint:
“English beer is best served room temperature. It doesn’t go through coolers or anything like because it ruins the flavor of the ale – or bitter as we call it,” says Haley. “The best way to order an English ale at the bar is to ask for ‘a pint of bitter’.
“To pour a pint you hold the glass at an angle, pull the beer straight down but gently into the glass. You then pull the pump back and, as you’re pulling the second half, straighten the glass and make a nice head of about half an inch.
“The most popular beer in the pub is the Good Old Boy from the West Berkshire Brewery (www.wbbrew.com). It is Kate’s local brewers. They made a special beer for the wedding and it sold like hotcakes. They only made 8-10 cases at a time and once they had them on show the tourists took them away in droves!”
—Philip Boucher, @philipboucher