Ten real ale pubs across the Pennines, coast to coast
Somewhere in the mists of time, East of the M60 wrote a post entitled ‘Silence, Tea and Sky’, a Trans-Pennine trail of desirable tea shops along railway routes. Today, our return leg from Scarborough has had us searching for something stronger, often served in a much bigger drinking vessel. This time, I refer to the wonderful elixir also known as ‘real ale’, or if you prefer, ‘cask conditioned ales’. For our journey, we shall be having a few scoops in the following places:
- The Black Horse*, Whitby;
- The North Riding and Scholars, Scarborough;
- The Garden Gate*, Hunslet;
- Dirty Dick’s*, Halifax;
- The Old Ship Inn* and The Red Rooster, Brighouse;
- The Baum, Rochdale;
- Ye Olde Man and Scythe, Bolton;
- Baron’s Bar, Scarisbrick Hotel, Southport.
* Included in CAMRA’s National Inventory of Heritage Pubs (www.heritagepubs.org.uk).
Though we are stopping off at eight places, some places may have more than one pub worth visiting. The above pubs have been on the quality of real ales and distinctness of their interiors. Most of the pubs chosen are either a short walk or bus trip from nearby railway stations.
* * *
1. The Black Horse, Whitby:
From the outside, some may think ‘typical Tetley pub’. Au contraire, the small pub seems to have changed little from the Victorian period: exposed wooden floorboards, a bar taking up most of the width and a back room the size of some bathrooms. The Adnams ale I had was well kept, though the only thing which stopped me thinking I was stuck in the 1950s was the dulcet tones of Steve Wright on the pub’s radio. The bench seating in the public bar dates from the turn of the 19th Century.
The bar staff are friendly and the intimate nature makes for a good stop-off point after climbing the 199 steps to and from Whitby Abbey. Though the pub appears to be stuck in the 1950s, a sensitive refurbishment by its then owners Allied Lyons (who owned Tetley at the time), was made in 1986.
2. The North Riding, Scarborough:
On the corner of Queen’s Parade and North Marine Drive is the North Riding, a pub with five real ales including its own. It has two rooms: public bar and lounge, and had on my actual visit a Millstone ale (Brilliant! all the way to Scarborough and a real ale from Mossley!) along with York Brewery’s Guzzler and Timothy Taylor’s Landlord, their regular guests. In terms of interior, pretty much 1930s – 1950s with wooden doors reminiscent of most of Frederic Robinson’s tied estate. That along with the quality of its own offering, The Peasholm Pale Ale impressed me.
And, you could also stay overnight as The North Riding offers bed and breakfast. It has won five Town Pub of the Year Awards from CAMRA in 2006 and in 2008 to 2011.
3. Scholars, Scarborough:
Closer to the railway station and the Brunswick Parade shopping precinct, is Scholars. The pub is lively and caters to a mixed crowd, from students to old drinkers. Lagerboys as well as real ale fanatics are placated with six real ales from Yorkshire breweries. Along with having Copper Dragon’s Golden Pippin and York Brewery’s Guzzler as regulars, there are four guests. Yours truly along with his old man made several visits on a recent trip to Scarborough. It is ideally placed for most hotels and the town centre proper.
On quieter days (which from my observations would be classed as ‘busy’ in Dukinfield or Ashton-under-Lyne), they have a gimmick called ‘Odds and Sods’. The customer would pay for their first round and be given two dice to throw. If they added up to an odd number, the next person in the round gets his or her round free of charge.
4. The Garden Gate, Hunslet, Leeds (www.gardengateleeds.co.uk):
For many a railway enthusiast or rugby league fanatic, the name Hunslet either conjures up images of shunters, Class 323 EMUs or a famed rugby league side. We continue our journey on the Transpennine Express to Leeds and take a bus to Hunslet. The 77 or 86 awaits us.
Most of the old terraced housing in Hunslet have been demolished in favour of 1970s terracing, so you could be forgiven for thinking how incongruous The Garden Gate looks. It is a splendid Victorian pub with a double aspect and tiled frontage. Once you enter, you will be hit by a headrush of green and ivory tiles, terrazzo flooring and proper pub seating.
By July 2010, it was no longer at the mercy of the PubCos when Leeds Brewery took it over. Before then, it had survived demolition and managerial changes. As well as being an outlet for their real ales, its Victorian grandeur has been retained. Miss this place at your peril!
5. Dirty Dick’s, Halifax:
Once more onto the 77 or 86 then through the barriers at Leeds station, we make our way towards a 2-car Sprinter unit with Manchester Victoria on the front, alighting at Halifax. We try our best to sit backwards between Leeds and Bradford Interchange, so as to face forward from the latter station up to Halifax.
Halifax: how I envy the town’s real ale drinkers: Brighouse a few miles away and Sowerby Bridge in another direction. Then there’s the town centre itself: The Three Pigeons, Big Six and our fifth pub, Dirty Dick’s. Hitherto known as The Royal Oak, Dirty Dick’s saw a positive change in fortunes on reopening last June. Locally brewed real ales are well kept and sensibly priced. Owing to its proximity to FC Halifax Town’s ground (and better for the away stand turnstile), they also offer cheap and cheerful food. Nothing pretentious: burgers, chip barms and so forth.
The atmosphere is lively and the pub’s interior, Tudor inspired, dates from 1931. It was originally the brewery tap for Ramsden’s Brewery.
6. The Red Rooster, Brighouse:
Reluctantly, I had to leave the centre of Halifax on my last visit, not least for the joys of The Mighty Stalybridge Celtic in the comfort of a stand formerly owned by Manchester City (pre-Maine Road era). With hindsight, I should have visited The Three Pigeons, where two pints would have been better than the mild injustice for a 93rd minute penalty which cost Jim Harvey’s men three points. Two pints or two points dropped? I don’t know which is worse.
Perhaps the joys of First Halifax’s buses to Brighouse would have been better, not least the joys of The Red Rooster. At the corner of a tight bend by a stream, it is an attractive stone building with two entrances. On entry, the pub appears to have changed little since the 1960s. If you thought five real ales were bad enough, prepare for sensory overload – something in the region of eight to ten at any one time. I only had one prior to getting the bus back to Brighouse and it was well kept too.
7. The Old Ship Inn, Brighouse:
The second Brighouse pub is one I am most familiar with, thanks to the town’s annual Hymn and March Brass Band Contest. I remember it in 2001 as the Prince of Wales, and it was the sort of place which Bob Williamson would have called ‘a submarine pub’. Fast forward eight years… an incredible change – a cleaner pub with real ales (yes, the plural form), of a Yorkshire variety at that.
Its mock Tudor frontage and interior was made using the timbers of HMS Donegal (hence The Old Ship Inn). Apart from a rear dining room, the pub is more or less open plan with comfortable seating leaning onto the walls and a stone floor. There are eight real ales including six guests (with Copper Dragon’s Golden Pippin and Black Sheep Ale its permanent two), a varied selection of foreign bottled beers and there’s even something for the lagerboys. Since 2009, it has been popular with locals and real ale fans from a much wider area (me included, who has sampled numerous well kept ales in this fine establishment), and been in the CAMRA Good Beer Guide ever since. Food is also available with special offers on Brighouse’s market days.
8. The Baum, Rochdale (www.thebaum.co.uk):
We return to Halifax before getting the train to Rochdale. From there we change over to the 471 bus into the town centre, or take a leisurely walk downhill to our eighth pub. After dodging the slalom of cones thank to the Metrolink construction work, we cut through The Wheatsheaf Shopping Centre before reaching Toad Lane.
Next to the Rochdale Pioneers’ Museum is The Baum. It is a delightful small pub with exposed wooden floors and a conservatory at the rear. There is an ever-changing selection of locally brewed cask ales and an excellent choice of foreign bottled beers. Wine lovers are well catered too and food is well priced. If you’re also visiting the Rochdale Pioneers’ Museum, why not pop in for a pint next door?
9. Ye Olde Man and Scythe, Bolton (www.bolton.org.uk/manscyth.html):
From Rochdale, there are two ways of continuing our Trans-Pennine cruise: we can get back on the 471 for our train to Manchester Victoria then Bolton, or we can stay on the same bus up to its terminus which happens to be our next town, Bolton.
Ye Olde Man and Scythe is not only Bolton’s oldest pub, it is also one of the oldest pubs in the United Kingdom with a licence dating from 1251. It is a multi-roomed establishment with at least three real ales, but its main raison d’etre in real cider. Its regular Old Rosie would sometimes be replaced by a more esoteric tipple which – as real ciders go – is sensibly priced. The pub is in the town centre proper and on Churchgate, also close to numerous other pubs and bars on Deansgate opposite.
10. Baron’s Bar, Scarisbrick Hotel, Southport
For the final pub, we board our train from Bolton into Southport, via Westhoughton and Wigan Wallgate. One of Northern England’s finest shopping streets [Lord Street] awaits us, and it is there where we find the Scarisbrick Hotel, popular among holidaymakers and – if you call in Baron’s Bar – real ale lovers.
Baron’s Bar is accessed from the left hand side of the Scarisbrick Hotel and is decked out in the Baronial style of interior design. On entry, the first thing you would see is an abundance of wooden panelling and Queen Anne style armchairs. As well as offering a variety of cask conditioned ales, including a house beer, it offers a selection of cheap and cheerful barmcakes. These are just as good as the ales, with on my visit the ham one being their best. If you wish to have a sit down from a heavy day’s shopping, this is one place worth seeking out.
- 93/X93 bus: (Middlesbrough) – Whitby – Robin Hood’s Bay – Scarborough;
- Train or 843 Yorkshire Coastliner bus: Scarborough – York – Leeds;
- 77 or 86 bus: Leeds – Hunslet;
- Train: Leeds – Halifax;
- Train or 547/548/549/571 bus: Halifax – Brighouse;
- Train or 590 bus: Halifax – Todmorden – Rochdale;
- Train or 471 bus: Rochdale – Bolton (train may require change at Manchester Victoria station);
- Train: Bolton – Southport.
Feel free to add to our ten Trans-Pennine Real Ale pubs, or muse over the ten I have suggested. Are there any other fine real ale pubs in the suggested towns? Give us a shout.
S.V., 03 August 2012.