An Interview With Karl Gibson, Nottingham’s Tourism Superstar
With subterranean caves, a cellar full of local ales, mysterious cursed objects, and a few ghosts thrown in for good measure, there’s certainly a lot to look after at Nottingham’s oldest inn. Karl Gibson has been the landlord of Ye Olde Trip To Jerusalem for the past four years, attentively keeping things rolling as the 30th successive known landlord in a whopping 800 year history.
Through sharing the pub’s fascinating history on tours of the building and caves, Karl has become known for his knowledge of local history and his passion for the business shines through. This year he is a finalist in the Visit England Tourism Superstar Award in collaboration with Mirror Travel. We caught up with him to hear first hand from Karl and his most intriguing of inns.
So, you’re not originally a Nottingham lad, but what is your favourite thing about Nottingham?
Nottingham as a city is very underrated. There’s an unbelievable amount of history, but it’s not that obvious. If you’re doing a tour or just having a walk around, you’ll find more than you bargained for. The size of the city is brilliant because you can walk around comfortably and discover the fantastic lace buildings, then go straight over to the castle quarter – it all blends in quite well really.
The Trip is obviously a Nottingham landmark, what makes it different to other attractions?
Because it’s very slightly outside of the city centre you can really switch off. There’s the shopping centre and a college just over there, but you can just sit here in the garden and relax.
Then considering the relationship between the castle above us… even if the castle is closed you can still come into The Trip for a pint and get a good sense of the history. Being in a pub it’s a bit more relaxed, you get people who’ve just come in for a drink and taken the tour get a new perspective on the pub and Nottingham as a whole.
When did you start doing the cave tours?
The pub has always done tours, but it’s something I take pride in myself – I see it more as a stewardship rather than a job and do them as often as I can. But it’s not just the pubs history, it’s what we offer as a city as well. Now that the Malt Cross have managed to open up their caves, slowly the city is coming together to show them off. When you tell people about it, they say ‘Huh, what do you mean most of the city is underground?!’ And you’re like, ‘Well yeah, really! People used to actually live underground here!’
The caves are packed with barrels of ale, you seem to know a lot about the process…
I’m passionate about real ale, especially local ale, so we try to champion as many local breweries as we can. In Nottingham they take care of the ale differently – it’s an expectation because of the history here and an experience that people come here for. There are now 42 micro breweries within the county, which is quite a phenomenal number. They all vary in size, from actual breweries to guys in their sheds, so they’re all different, and we like to try them all to support the local business.
The pub is well known to be haunted, have you had any ghostly goings on yourself?
Not personally, but I think with any old building there is history, and it could be coincidence, but some things you can’t explain. The amount of previous and current staff who have felt something these can’t be by chance. One instance which staff have always noticed is on the staircase – there’s said to be a little girl that plays there bouncing a ball. We’ve had different psychics who pick up on it too and it’s always a little person on the stairs. Sometimes when you’re going down the steps you feel a barrier and feel the need to step round.
Aside from being 800 years old, quite probably haunted, and built into a cliff with a castle on top, what do you think makes The Trip special?
What I try to get across the that The Trip really isn’t a tourist trap. You get such a cross section of people coming through the door. We get families, touring musicians, and the regulars really take pride in the pub. We’ve got people who’ve drank here for the last 50 years who tell stories – they’ll show off the ringing the bull game, or they’ll say go upstairs and see the cursed Galleon. It’s quite rare. It’s just a friendly, welcoming place and I think that’s why the pub does so well.
The closing date for voting for Tourism Superstar 2017 is March 20th and the winner will be announced during English Tourism Week 25th – 2nd April. To show your support for Karl you can vote on the Mirror Travel website and share the link below with friends and family!
To discover more about the history of Ye Olde Trip To Jerusalem, visit part one of this blog.