It’s not just orange cheese and Gary Lineker you know! Leicester is a compact cosmopolitan city in the heart of England: a great gay away-day break from your local scene writes OutUK's Adrian Gillan as he lifts the lid on those lush local Leicester lads.

As you leave the main station you barely have to stretch your legs to find Helsinki which is a bar and nightclub that you can find on Rutland Street. They host various dance nights throughout the week including a hard house night and feature regular guest DJ's.

If you just stroll a few meters round the corner you'll find the flamboyant ‘Dolly’ Dover Castle, reputed - by locals at least - to be the oldest gay pub in the kingdom. Revamped more times than any can recall, it was once frequented by gay drama queens Joe Orton & Kenneth Halliwell when Joe lived in Leicester. Rumour has it that Reggie Kray visited the place in the 60s too.
The Dolly Dover Castle
The ‘Dolly’ is a real community hub, serving up good food by day and cabaret and dance by night to a friendly crowd of both sexes and all ages. They have karaoke on a Monday night and DJ's every other night until midnight, 2am Friday and Saturday.

The Rainbow and Dove is a recently refurbished pub on Charles Street that serves food, including Sunday lunches. It's a very Gay-friendly cafe/bar, with a high ceiling and exposed stonework. They host a variety of special events including their Pink Pound Party, regular cocktail nights and vodka promotions.

By now fully steeped in the local gay lore, it’s time to up the style stakes and that means a short ten minute stroll uptown to the main gay epicentre around Belgrave Gate.

Quarter 25 is Leicester's new nightclub combining the city's love of street art and underground music. Situated in the city centre Cultural Quarter, the club has headline house and techno DJs and must-see shows. It's set across two equally sized floors, with state of the art sound and lighting and interior artwork by the world-renowned street artist, Nerone. It's not gay but does offer some good music and dancing.

Built on the site of the house of John Merrick - the famed ‘Elephant Man’ of Victorian times - Streetlife has been attracting its own unique exotic blend of queer life forms ever since. It has a large sprawling bar area where locals normally dance to cheese and a spacious main hall overlooked by another lofty hanging bar. Sadly the venue is temporarily closed - it hasn't been around since the pandemic hit. There's no news yet of when they might get back up and running.

Many who leave alone wend their ways to the neighbouring Abbey Park. You cross a small bridge and drop down onto the towpath by the Grand Union Canal just inside the park.

In the rear car park there's lots of car fun to be had, but you can also go along canal bank and pick up guys. As ever, you need to take care.

The Old Bridge In Abbey Park, Leicester.
Photo: Andy Morton
If it’s wet and muddy, you’ve a choice of some decent saunas, again not that far away. Splash Spa is the largest sauna in Leicester and the East Midlands for gay and bisexual men. It's situated on a discreet, well lit, side-street near Leicester City Centre with just over 6,000 sq ft of facilities over two floors including a sauna and steam room, a 15-man Jacuzzi, showers and a large licensed cafe bar, free play pool table. It's a towels optional kind of place – if you want to be naked then wander around naked; if you want to wear a towel wear a towel! On Tuesdays there are no towels around apart from a flannel to wipe your face! And there's a towels optional NAKED MATES DAY run in association with which is always the last Sunday of the month and there's a large buffet provided.

Club Amigos is an adult social club that welcomes all regardless of gender or sexual orientation. You can meet like minded adults and make new friends in their Café Social area which offers tea, coffee and light snacks. It's close to the hot tub which is kept at the right quality and temperature and you can get hot and wet in the steam room or have a splash around in the showers.

There's also something quite unusual not that far away. Club 29 is predominantly for swingers and mixed couples, but it has a few nights suitable for the boys. Check their event listings carefully to make sure you show up on the right night!

Leicester also boasts a LGBT Centre back by the station, and this café-bar and info centre has been supporting the LGBT communities of Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland for over 40 years. The centre exists to provide a safe social area and support space. They promise to deliver high quality services which are responsive to the needs of the local community and challenge the inequality created by society.

Leicester is little more than an hour away from London St Pancras by East Midlands Railway.


Club Amigos (30 Bedford St South; T: 0116 251 1955; Website)
Club 29 (29 New Bond Street; T: 0116 262 7770; Website)
Dover Castle (34 Dover Street; T: 0116 222 8826; facebook)
LGBT Centre (15 Wellington Street; T: 0116 254 7412; Website)
Helsinki (94 Rutland St; T: 07872 647540; facebook)
Quarter 25 (25 Yeoman St; T: 07379 145730; Website)
Rainbow and Dove (185 Charles St; Website)
Splash Spa Leicester (61 Bedford St South; T: 0116 367 3932; Website)
Streetlife (24 Dryden Street off Lee Circle; T: 0116 251 0785)

Revised December 2021.


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