Despite the challenges that continue to face the hospitality industry as a whole, the festive season has been a busy and merry period for pubs in one Buckinghamshire town.

It hasn’t been the easiest year for pubs in Marlow, with the ongoing cost-of-living crisis and tax increases making running a local an increasingly pricey endeavour.

If there’s one time of year that’s reliably good for business, though, it has to be Christmas, with celebratory family meals stretching right through December and more than a few weary shoppers stopping by the pubs along their local High Street to find repose from the last-minute crowds.

It may be the evergreen popularity of Marlow High Street or the loyalty of pubgoers to their locals but when we spoke to a few of the businesses around the town, they painted an overwhelmingly positive picture of this year’s festive season.

The Marlow Donkey, a Greene King pub on Station Road, that underwent an extensive six-figure makeover in the autumn, was posed for a “very positive” first Christmas in its new form, according to staff member Andy Phillips, who attributed the pub’s popularity to its versatile event offerings which include live music, quiz nights and coffee mornings.

He said: “It’s difficult to compare it to last year because we’re definitely busier thanks to the refurbishment. Business is also good because we’re one of the less expensive pubs in Marlow. We’ve had lots of interest and by mid-December, we only had a few Christmas bookings left.”

The Prince of Wales on Mill Road had a similar tale to tell, with newly appointed manager Nicole Dickinson attributing the sustained success of the business to its adaptation during the lockdown period.

“We’ve continued to go from strength to strength. During COVID, we launched our Italian menu and delivered pizzas all around Marlow, which we’ve kept on doing after everything opened up again.

“I can say that it has been a very busy first few months for me and we have lots of entertainment and live music in the pipeline as well as quite a few Christmas parties!”

Tom Kerridge’s pubs in the town, The Hand and Flowers and The Coach on West Street and the Butchers Tap and Grill on Spittal Street, are also “looking strong” this year, with the celebrity chef sharing that he is now anticipating “a promising 2024”.

Kerridge said room bookings at The Hand and Flowers were up on previous years and the UK’s only twice Michelin-starred pub was “super busy” thanks in part to a range of gastronomic packages.

He said The Coach was also going “from strength to strength” and had recently upped its opening hours to a six-day week, open every day except Tuesdays, marking a “really positive” growth which The Butchers Tap and Grill looks poised to replicate. 

Which is your favourite pub in Marlow for Christmas dinner?