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Archive for May, 2011

Dales Way Pubs: Bar T’at, Ilkley, West Yorkshire

Our last day on The Dales Way was from Burnsall to Ilkley, which took us beyond the Yorkshire Dales National Park and also from North into West Yorkshire, having started in Cumbria five days before.  We were fortunate to have another sunny day to wander the last 12 or 13 miles down the Wharfe past caravans at Appletreewick, the Yorkshire Dales ice cream van at Barden Bridge, sunbathers at Bolton Abbey and a family of ducklings on the pavement in Addingham.

Ilkey was the end of the Dales Way for us, although it’s the start for most, and many people stay there for the night before they set out on the walk.  After reaching the official end/start of the walk at the Old Bridge, we walked into town for a beer.  There’s actually a pub just by the end of the walk: Ilkley Moor Vaults.  I’ve visited once, after being caught in the sleet, and found both decent beers and an open fire.  However it was a warm day and I intended to court Mary Jane: there’s no better way to do so than Bar T’at

Bar T’at is a Market Town Tavern pub, along with Arcadia, East of Arcadia and Veritas in Leeds, Cooper’s in Guiseley, The Narrow Boat in Skipton and nine others.  The churlish might accuse them of being overly similar; one could more accurately say that they’re consistently very good, with nice food, helpful staff and a wide selection of ales, from Yorkshire micros and regionals in particular.

Bar T’at didn’t disappoint on this Thursday afternoon and at the end of our walk we quickly sank a couple of glasses of  the lovely, pale, hoppy Ilkley Mary Jane before I also decided to try Goose Eye Chinook, another local pale beer (from Skipton) with a satisfyingly crisp, bitter aftertaste.  I began to notice that one can’t walk through the Dales for five days without picking up at least a hint of a country aroma (i.e. sheep shit with a hint of wild garlic) so it was time to catch the train back to Leeds for a bath.

I hope that this short series of posts is useful for those planning the walk (although make sure you take the Cicerone guide and all the OS Explorer maps). If you are, good luck and I hope you’re as fortunate with the weather as we were.  I really enjoyed our five days on the Dales Way, although the aches compounded throughout the week and by the last afternoon every stile earned a swear word.  Good beer and food in friendly pubs along the way helped a lot, as did the roaring fire at The White Lion at Cray and the warm bath at The Red Lion, Burnsall.

The selection of beer in most places might be more limited to two or three pumps, but you shouldn’t find it difficult to find a Yorkshire bitter such as Timothy Taylor’s Landlord or Black Sheep, or a pale hoppy session beer like Mary Jane or Copper Dragon Golden Pippin to slake your thirst, if you’re very lucky something from Hawkshead Brewery like the wonderful Windermere Pale.  Trust me, no drink in the world could be better in the circumstances.

Read all the other posts in this series about The Dales Way here.  If you’ve enjoyed these posts, why not read Andy Mogg of Beer Reviews’ post about beer and pubs on the Coast To Coast walk (and his walking blog linked to in that post) and Mark Fletcher’s posts about The Pennine Way on Real Ale Reviews.

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Sorted For Ales & Pies: The Hop, Sheffield

I was interested to read in The Pubbing Advertlican that Osset Brewery are to open a Hop in Sheffield, after the first two music-meets-real-ale bars in Wakefield and Leeds. I think the Hop on Granary Wharf in Leeds is a good bar, with a selection of Ossett beers on cask as well as a number of pretty good guest ales. As can be seen from the purloined images in this post, the railway arches in which it is based are decorated with a selection of exposed brickwork and images of the great and good of Yorkshire indie (one of whom, the drummer from Embrace, is a part-owner).

 

 

Importantly for me, The Hop is a cask ale pub that looks a bit modern and trendy, so I can drag my work colleagues to it without most of them pissing and moaning about it being an “old man pub”, as if I think cask ale is best enjoyed in the presence of a farting, half-dead pub dog and a deeply worn, formerly-red patterned carpet covered in discarded betting slips.

 

 

When I was at Sheffield University I lived very near where the new Hop is opening on Devonshire Green. In fact I did most of my (hardly nutritionally balanced) grocery shopping in the Budgens that formerly used to be on the site, although I confess to having resorted to the excellent noodle bar next door on a more-than-weekly basis.

 

 

Sheffield is a fantastic place to go out for a drink, especially nowadays, but as I recall, the only really decent pub in that part of town at the time was The Devonshire Cat, which was very good but surrounded for about half a mile in each direction by the likes of Vodka Revolution, Varsity, Yates’ Wine Lodge, Flares, Walkabout, Wetherspoons and All Bar One, as well as a few definite “old man pubs”. Certainly when I was there, a pub like The Hop would have been a very welcome addition.

Groovy 360 degree photos of The Hop Leeds liberally nicked from their website. For more on The Hop, see this post by Ghost Drinker.

Dales Way Pubs: The Red Lion, Burnsall, North Yorkshire

The penultimate day of our Dales Way (in reverse) walk was pleasant and sunny but seemed unusually long as we were really starting to feel the distance covered.  We walked from Cray to Bucken down a rocky path (and past the sadly closed-down Buck Inn), then along the river from Buckden to Kettlewell, before climbing onto the moor for a long section to Grassington.  We stopped in Grassington for a soft drink and a Yorkshire Dales ice cream before heading along a gentle and pretty final section along the river to Burnsall.

For our final night The Red Lion was a touch of luxury.  We’d booked a bigger room on a mid-week deal and got a lovely one with a very large bed and a really posh bathroom.  Although it was a Wednesday the restaurant was fully booked by the time we checked in around 5.30pm, but we got a seat in the bar where the same menu was available.  I had fish and chips done well whilst Kate had cod with peas, broad beans and salsa verde (she’s posher than me).

For dessert, Kate had a chocolate, pear and frangipan tart and I had a selection of Yorkshire cheeses.  I appreciated the way the cheeses came not only with some nice chutney and crackers, but also some fruitcake.  I’d not come across the cheese and fruitcake combination before I came to live in Yorkshire, but it’s brilliant.

The beer was also good.  Again the selection was more limited than what you would find in Leeds, but I was very happy with an Ilkley Mary Jane, which I’d been looking forward to having as we got nearer to Ilkley.  It’s a really good light, hoppy, pale session beer and perfect with fish and chips after a very long walk on a hot spring day.

The breakfast was nice as well, offering a good selection including smoked haddock and poached eggs.  I opted for a full English with poached eggs, which is presumably twice as healthy as having the same breakfast with fried eggs.

This section of the walk offers a number of options for accomodation in Kettlewell, Grassington and Appletreewick as well as Burnsall, but The Red Lion was just what we needed on our final night.

Guinness Gives You Wood

I tend to get a reasonable amount of site traffic every time I mention Guinness, but I was surprised to see that someone found my blog the other day with the search terms, “Does the beer Guinness give you a hard erection?

 The simple answer to the question is of course, “Woah there, settle down fella!  We all like our beer but that’s taking it a bit too far.”

It’s a fairly interesting point though, as myths about the miraculous qualities of Guinness persist despite all evidence to the contrary.  It seems that some pregnant women still take to drinking Guinness (and some mid-wives even continue to recommend it) as it’s supposedly high in iron.  In fact it only contains 1.1mg of iron per pint, so even a non-pregnant woman would need to drink 14 pints to get her RDA of iron, which would also give her 2,786 calories.  No need to eat at all, eh?

Guinness is a pretty filling beer but not unusually high in calories… for beer.  In fact if you go to the Guinness website you can find the table below, which in an attempt to refute this perception puts it at 199 calories a pint, which is at least considerably less than Stella at 245 calories a pint.  But then Stella has a higher ABV and if you’re counting calories when you drink beer, you may as well give up and go on to the gin and slimline tonics, because you’ll be depressed anyway.

Apparently Guinness is regarded as an aphrodisiac in some parts of Africa, the Far East and the Carribean, sometimes with a raw egg in it.  However one site that suggests stout with raw eggs as a way that a “50 year old man can make love like a 20 year old” also suggests that the unfortunate gentleman tape a magnet to his “sacred chakra”.  It goes on:

“If you place the magnet overnight, you may get a morning erection the following day. This shows that blood circulation has indeed occurred in your body.”
 
The fact that you wake up the next day at all shows that “blood circulation has indeed occurred”.  If you have no circulation, a lacklustre morning glory is probably the least of your worries.  On the bright side, there’s always rigor mortis to look forward to.
 
 
Beer with a raw egg in it is a traditional hangover cure or setup for a hard day, as viewers of season 2 of The Wire will be aware.  Eggs, like oysters, are high in zinc which helps produce testosterone, so it’s not a bad call.  Perhaps the deflated search engine user might want to try Guinness and oysters to help him keep up appearances.
 
Alternatively, he could always try the BrewDog beer brewed with “herbal viagra”, whatever that is.  However I reckon he’d be better off getting out the fridge magnets and the masking tape.
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Dales Way Pubs: The White Lion at Cray, North Yorkshire

For our third day on The Dales Way (in reverse) we set off from Gearstones, around a mile north of the Ribblehead viaduct.  We walked steeply uphill against a driving wind to the top of the moor, before descending through trees and through remote farmland eventually accompanying Oughtershaw Beck, which joined the source of the Wharfe when it met Green Field Beck at Beckermonds.

We would essentially follow the Wharfe from this point all the way to Ilkley, and the section from Beckermonds to Hubberholme was very pleasant, with a lot of green pasture, sheep and birdlife along what remained a quiet, relatively calm and low section of river.  After reading some negative reviews, we had decided not to risk staying in the historic George Inn in Hubberholme, which was in any case closed at the time we reached it.

Instead we were staying in The White Lion at Cray, about a mile uphill and off the Dales Way.  However the steep uphill walk was alongside a very pretty waterfall and when we got there the pub was great.  The room (a superior) was simple but exactly what we needed, with a big bed and a clean bathroom.  The bar downstairs had a warm log fire and the family who ran it were extremely friendly and helpful.

On the bar there was a small but good selection including Copper Dragon Golden Pippin and Timothy Taylor Golden Best, and the Golden Pippin was the type of pale session ale I had begun to really appreciate after walking for 12-16 miles a day.  The food was both hearty and extremely tasty.  I went for a haggis, black pudding and peppercorn sauce starter and Kate had smoked local trout pate.  Neither of us could resist the pork belly stuffed with black pudding on buttery mash, which was even better than it sounds.  Too tired and full to stay up and enjoy the fire, we had an early night.

The next morning we had a very nice full English breakfast (with more lovely black pudding – my third dose in two meals) and picked up the foil-wrapped sandwiches we had asked them to make for us the night before for our lunch.  We headed out from the pub feeling happy, well fed and relaxed to a beautiful sunny Dales morning and a pleasant walk downhill to Buckden.

Dales Way Pubs: The Sportsman’s Inn, Cowgill, Cumbria

Before embarking on The Dales Way (foreshortened and in reverse) I had done a fair amount of research into the pubs along the route. I was quite disappointed to read some mixed to negative reviews of two pubs, either directly on or close to the walk, that I had considered either visiting or staying at: The Station Inn at Ribblehead and The George Inn at Hubberholme.

I tend to take negative online reviews with a pinch of salt (there is an art to reading and interpreting Trip Advisor comments), but what was most worrying was that many of the comments regarding The George Inn in particular were about incidents of poor customer service. Because pubs or inns on a walk like this should be a welcoming place to relax and recuperate after a hard day walking, we avoided both rather than taking the risk. Which brings us on to The Sportsman’s Inn.

Our second day was one of the longest and most arduous of the five days walking, starting at Millthrop and heading up and over the hill before walking along the Dee for the length of Dentdale, climbing steeply on the road to Dent Head then across moorland to Gearstones, crossing from Cumbria into North Yorkshire on the way. Dentdale was a lovely place to walk but unfortunately we didn’t have time to dally in Dent or enjoy beers from the local brewery.

Instead we walked on to Cowgill and had planned to stop off at The Sportsman’s, both for a soft drink to boost our energy levels and to call Kate’s father to tell him when we expected to have finished the walk for him to pick us up, before we tackled the steep walk up the road out of the valley.

We were pleased to find the Sportsman’s open and that it seemed to be a nice pub, with a couple of Dent beers on and a Spring 2009 CAMRA Westmorland Pub Of The Season certificate on show. I did think there might have been little tension in the air in the quiet pub when we walked in, but decided to ignore it.

After we had already bought three drinks, two packets of crisps and a packet of nuts, Kate went to call her father on the pub payphone, there being no mobile reception in the valley. After she had finished the call, she was told off by an indignant member of staff for using the payphone, which was apparently “for residents only”. Kate said she hadn’t seen anything to indicate that and was directed to a sign behind a door.

So a remote pub in a valley with no mobile reception refuses to allow paying customers to pay to use a payphone unless they’ve booked a room for the night. I might well be judging too quickly, but if this incident is in any way representative, that begrudging attitude to new customers has no place in a public house with a CAMRA gong (and, I now note, a gushing review in the current Good Beer Guide about it welcoming “both locals and visitors who are often enjoying the great surrounding walking country”). Whatever the case, I won’t be putting them to the inconvenience of taking my money again.

Dales Way Pubs: The Red Lion, Sedbergh, Cumbria

Our first day on The Dales Way (foreshortened and in reverse) was from Kendal to Millthorp on Easter Sunday.  This was a really beautiful walk on a sunny day, passing over some lovely pasture before crossing over the West Coast Mainline and the M6 to join the Lune river at Crook of Lune bridge and following it south to join the Rawthay river.

The end of our walk that day was Millthorp Bridge, but 1km up the road from the finish point is Sedbergh, the place where Kate and I are getting married in October (*knock wood*).  Opposite the church in the centre of the village is The Red Lion pub, the first of three “lions” on our journey.

Much as we’d accidentally stumbled upon a beer festival in Kendal before starting the walk, we were lucky enough to find a beer festival going on in the pub, or rather in a satisfyingly cool stone shed out the back.  A very helpful barman who was there specially for the beer festival took us out to the back and told us about the selection.

As usual, I had been daydreaming for the last few hours about the beer I would have at the end of the stage.  My thoughts were in the region of pale, hoppy, thirst-quenching beers, such as Hawkshead Windermere Pale or Ilkley Mary Jane.  Although they didn’t have either of those, they did have BrewDog Trashy Blonde.

It might have been the sunburn, the thirst or the tiredness and reflief at the end of the first day, but that Trashy Blonde was one of the most enjoyable pints I’ve ever had.  Just cool enough, bitter and fruity and seemingly a real improvement on the bottle of the same beer I’d had in Leeds previously.  I obviously inhaled the first pint before having a second.

We also tried a couple of the the other beers.  Marston’s Royal Wedding beer Perfect Union was a nice light hoppy beer and Rooster’s Leghorn was also fine, but on this occassion, both gentleman and lady preferred the Blonde.  This was a very promising end to the first day, and seemed to bode well for the rest of the walk.  However the next day we would be less fortunate.

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