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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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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.

Pub Walks: Leeds-Liverpool Canal, Shipley to Skipton

March 6, 2011 1 comment

After doing the Leeds-Saltaire section of the Leeds-Liverpool canal last week, I decided to complete the journey to Skipton this weekend.  I got off the train at Shipley and walked through Saltaire again through a very pleasant section of canal to Bingley where, despite my lack of real interest in canal architecture, the 237 year old Five Rise Locks are still impressive.

I kept going on to Riddlesden, near Keighley where I made my first pit-stop at The Marquis Of Granby on the canalside, about six miles into the walk.  This clean, traditional-looking pub has exposed beams from which jugs and china plates hang, telly showing the sports and an unusual amount of England flags hung above the bar.  The St George’s cross theme extended to the pump clips, where Wells Bombardier draped itself in the flag alongside the more reserved John Smiths Cask and Theakstons Mild.  I enjoyed  a half of the Theakstons – a slightly sweet mellow dark mild – whilst some decent music (New Order, Led Zep) played in the background.

The walk gets a little more annoying after this stage, where large stretches of the towpath are merely mud and grass that show a lot of use by cyclists.  I stopped at around the 9.5 mile point at Silsden, at The Bridge Inn.  Up some steps by the canal, this slightly tired pub unfortunately only had one ale on its five pumps when I went in, although to be fair it was earlyish on a Saturday and presumably the others went off the previous evening.  The one ale on was Abbot Ale, which was sweet, bready and slightly sulphurous, with a slightly bitter to sour aftertaste.  Not unpleasant, but not in any way interesting.

I pressed on in earnest through some nice countryside and past some pleasant villages along the towpath, which remained slightly muddy and unfortunately for a large section runs alongside a main road.  Near Bradley I passed a grand and unusually well-tended memorial to seven Polish airmen who died in a Wellington bomber crash in 1943. 

At around the 15 mile mark and a mile outside the centre of Skipton I came off the towpath and walked onto an industrial estate to the Copper Dragon Brewery.  The brewery has a good, pleasant and modern-looking bar/bistro in the centre of the building which has an emphasis on really nice food.  They were gearing up for a busy evening with a lot of reservations, but were happy for me to sit at the bar. 

Almost everyone’s favourite Copper Dragon beer is Golden Pippin, a nice, pale, hoppy, low ABV session ale in the same category as Ilkley Brewery’s Mary Jane.  However I tried Challenger IPA, which had a bready, slightly citrussy alcoholic smell. It had a traditional taste with less bitterness than you might expect.  I wasn’t entirely convinced it was what I wanted from an IPA.

Scotts 1816 had similar aroma with perhaps more orange peel. There was a dried apricot sweetness in the taste.  Owzat once again had a similarly subtle aroma, with the same creamy mouthfeel but more lemon in the taste.  It was my favourite of the three.  The lady who served me told me that it was the same beer as their Freddie Trueman ale (see photo below) but they changed the name as it wasn’t selling in Lancashire.  I said that was remarkable, and she said it was either that, or a good story.

It was a bit early for me to eat so I went back to the towpath and walked into town in the fading light.  The Narrow Boat, down a back street near the canal, is a professionally-run bar with helpful staff, a good selection of mostly local cask beers and a good fridge selection alongside an appealling menu.  You’d expect as much from the first of the Market Town Taverns, which has now been open for 12 years.

After not really being too excited by a taster of Thwaites Hit The North, I opted for a pint of Ilkley Mary Jane.  It’s a really nice beer, with a light lemon/lime aroma carrying through to a refreshing, light, slightly sharp lime taste with satisfyingly bitter aftertaste.  Also, I know this is a beer blog and not a potato-based snack blog, but ham and mustard Real Crisps are bloody brilliant.

I decided to have a final half before creakily walking to the train, and went for Naylor’s Magnum PA.  Initially put off by the label, which appears to flirt with intellectual property issues, I was quite impressed by the light, subtle, citrus aroma, similarly delicate, fruity lychee taste and bitterness.  It was probably a little too sweet to enjoy a large volume of it, but it’s a nice beer.

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