Welcome to a history of the Tan Hill Inn

The Tan Hill Inn is the highest inn in the British Isles at 1,732 feet (528 m) above sea level. The building dates to the 17th century and during the 18th century was used as a hostelry by workers digging coal pits. The last mine on Tan Hill closed in 1929, although the pub was able to remain due to the custom of local farmers and the development of the motor car. The building is unusual for its isolation, but it used to be surrounded by miners’ cottages, until these were demolished after the closure of the mines in the 1920s.


12th to 20th Centuries

Mining for coal on Tan Hill dates from at least the 12th Century A.D. and possibly earlier. The coal was a poor quality crow coal which gave off a lot of soot when burnt. It was not suitable for the steam engines that were to arrive in the Industrial Revolution – the superior coal from the County Durham pits was used instead to fuel the trains on the Stockton and Darlington Railway. The crow coal was used to fuel the lime kilns of Arkengarthdale – an environmental disaster, not just because of the pollution but also due to the kilns using wood, stripping Swaledale of the trees that grew in the more sheltered areas. Mixed with peat, this crow coal can be banked up over night and after a bit of poking in the morning can be rekindled. The seams were only four feet (120cm) thick but the mines under Tan Hill were extensive, justifying the need for a pub there. Horses would line up with their carts waiting to be loaded with coal for Reeth and Swaledale while the miners would sing and get drunk in the pub The inn was not on it’s own all the time. Miners’ cottages stood near the inn until they were demolished with the closure of the mines in the early 20th Century.


William Camden in his guide book, ‘Britannia’ notes a solitary inn. The current inn dates from the 17th Century.


In 1085, when William the Conqueror’s surveyors where compiling the Doomsday Book, they wrote the area above Reeth off as “wasteland”. Records of Tan Hill’s early days are sketchy at best although mining for coal had started by the 12th Century. It is possible that the Romans mined coal during their occupation of England and Wales in the first four centuries A.D.

Tan Hill Inn History

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Tan Hill Inn 2000 onwards

Recent history for the Tan Hill Inn.

View the Tan Hill Inn’s history 2000 onwards

Tan Hill Inn 1900 - 1999

The Tan Hill Inn is steeped in history.

View the Tan Hill Inn’s history 1900 – 1999