I thought I’d finish the year off with an epic post which I was actually meant to publish months ago – July in fact. We took a trip to the Dales in June, and visited plenty of pubs during our stay, which happened to coincide with the run-up to the Tour de France. It would’ve been a shame not to publish the post, even though our visit took place 6 months ago, and being the last day of the year, I thought if I don’t publish it now, I never will. So, here is it.
In June we headed up to the Yorkshire Dales, a lovely part of the world, and during our trip we visited some great pubs. Upon arrival we found out that the village where we were staying (Aysgarth, in lovely Wensleydale) was on Stage 1 of the Tour de France route, which was passing through two weeks later; there was lots of bunting, yellow bikes, and tiny knitted jerseys dotted around the streets and draped around trees, and over houses and pubs pretty much everywhere we went. Here are some of the pubs when we were there.
George and Dragon: This pub in the village where we are staying is on the main A road, although it doesn’t feel like a main road. It has a small outdoor terrace, and inside it is decorated in an olde-worlde style, with dark wood, brasses, lamps, and cosy snugs. On the bar was a house beer, George and Dragon, brewed by Yorkshire Dales brewery down the road in Askrigg, as well as Black Sheep, which was available in almost every pub we visited. The G&D was smooth and malty and easy to drink; it went well with the fantastic food on offer.
Aysgarth Falls Hotel: This ivy-covered hotel, close to the famous Aysgarth Falls, has several drinking areas – a modern bar area, a courtyard terrace, benches out the front facing the road and fields, and a pretty outdoor back patio in front of the conservatory dining area. There were several ales on draft, including Wensleydale’s Semerwater, a blonde, refreshing ale, and the delicious Salamander MudPuppy, a chestnut ale with rich malty flavours. Black Sheep’s Vélo was also on, a Tour de France-themed light golden beer brewed with Cascade, coriander and orange.
The Wheatsheaf: This pub/hotel in the little village close to Aysgarth is famous for being the honeymoon destination for James Herriot and his wife – this is displayed on the front of the hotel and elsewhere so you can’t fail to notice this. It’s a pleasant place and was popular with diners when we visited – we ordered some tasty Black Sheep Velo and munched on some chips while sitting on the benches outside and watched the world go by.
Green Dragon: This old, dark, traditional pub full of stuffed animals – reminiscent of the Queens Head in Newton, Cambridgeshire – is the gateway to Hardraw Force waterfall. Visitors pay £2.50 at the bar for tickets to see the waterfall, and it can only be accessed through the pub (it’s worth seeing). The front of the pub was covered in bunting, and the outdoor benches are a great spot to sink a pint in the sun. There’s plenty of seating inside, and a roaring fire (even in June). The evening we were there two musicians with guitars and mouth organs set up on the table next to us and played some Dylan songs which we all sang along to. There were four beers on draft, including two from the Yorkshire Dales brewery. The YD Nappa Scar would have been a really nice bitter, with tasty caramel flavours coming through, but it didn’t have much condition and was probably at its end. I then went for a Theakstons Best, which everyone seemed to be drinking and was fine. Overall the Green Dragon was a nice pub, and the larger than life landlord was a friendly and helpful chap.
One of the locals recommended the Kirkby Lonsdale Tiffin Gold, saying that everyone there was drinking it which had to be a good sign. It was beautiful and full of flavour at 3.6% – mellow hops, great condition, wonderful aroma. Kirkby Lonsdale Monumental was also on.
George and Dragon: Just across the street from the Sun is the George and Dragon, the Dent Brewery Tap. This pub has loads of Dent beers on tap – Porter, Aviator, Golden Fleece – but we could only stay for one unfortunately. I chose the Aviator which was tasty; we sat in the bar and watched some World Cup as we drank. There’s also a large dining room out the back, decorated in light wood. These two village pubs deserve more time spent in them; next time we’ll make sure we stay overnight in this village!
Fox and Hounds: This village close to Aysgarth is lucky to have this lovely proper little pub in the middle of its high street. As we wound our way through the corridors to get to the bar we saw the landlord pouring and testing beer, holding it up, deciding it wasn’t quite ready, and making sure the clip was turned around. It was good to visibly see someone taking so much care over the beer. I ordered a Yorkshire Dales Brewery Tour de Yorkshire Dales beer, and the citra hops hit me even before my first sip. Very lemony and grapefruity, on a nice delicate body of malt so it wasn’t completely hop heavy – delicious. Black Sheep Velo was on, as well as Black Sheep Bitter.
Tan Hill Inn: This pub, the highest in the country, took a bit of getting to. When we were in Hardraw, we thought ‘Oh, it’s only just up the road!” That road happened to be the Buttertubs Pass, a very long, steep, winding road with crazy hairpin bends that goes up to wild Swaledale from cute Wensleydale, and where one of the Tour de France’s ‘King of the Mountains’ races took place. Luckily the weather was great; I wouldn’t fancy the journey in a rainstorm. Qhen we got to the top, and reached the village of Keld, we realised it was even further up – 4 more miles up these desolate roads with no houses, cars, pretty countryside in sight, just moorland. And these are Yorkshire miles – they last longer than normal ones.
When we finally saw a remote building on top of a hill, we nearly jumped for joy. The pub is 1732 feet above sea level, and really is miles from anywhere. When we entered the pub we saw that the open fire was blazing – it’s lit all year round for weary travellers. The main bar feels ancient and is furnished with dark wood; there is a more modern (but still old fashioned) lounge bar next door, complete with piano. By the bar is a sheet of A4 listing all the highest pubs in the country, as well as the lowest. The barman was chatty and friendly, and recommended the Black Sheep Velo. I ended up choosing the Bitter and and we sat outside with the chickens squawking around us as we gazed out over the bleak moorland. We bought some bottles of Tan Hill Inn beer by Dent Brewery, and left to continue our journey around Swaledale.
Farmer’s Arms: This pretty Swaledale stone village – the prettiest in the dale, some say – is home to the lovely Farmer’s Arms pub, set amongst a cluster of houses, shops and a church. We sat on the picnic benches out the front and gazed up at the hills whilst drinking a Buttertubs by Yorkshire Dales, a blonde and relatively dry ale.
The Rose and Crown: This pub is located in a great setting, close to Hawes and overlooking a lovely village green and the remains of a Roman hill fort. The sparse bar was showing the World Cup when we visited; next door to this there are some olde worlde rooms serving dinner. We sat out the front to take in the views whilst sipping on some refreshing Golden Sheep. Theakstons Lightfoot was also on draft.
The George: This a lovely ancient and small stone pub is tucked away in this quiet little village near Aysgarth. It was immaculate, and even though it was so small that the loos were located outside, they were immaculate too – nothing was out of place. The food was great, and the two beers we tried – Northallerton Gun Dog and Yorkshire Dales Howgate – were on good form. The Gun Dog was a red-style ale, with lots of sherbet flavours – gorgeous; reminiscent of a Buntingford beer. The Howgate was nice and light, but one woman kept saying how sharp she thought it was. I liked it. Great pub, great service, and really good beer.
Cover Bridge Inn: Situated south of Leyburn, this pub on a sharp corner is located next to the River Cover, and the pub garden is large, pretty and well-manicured, and leads down to the river where there is a lovely stone bridge. The pub serves several well-kept ales including Theakstons Best, Old Peculiar, and the gorgeous Thornbridge Jaipur amongst others.
The King’s Head: This pub in this grey stone village between Hawes and Leyburn is famous for being the pub in All Creatures Great and Small, the Drovers Arms, but although it’s quite pretty on the outside (and was covered in Tour de France bunting) it’s not as atmospheric as I previously imagined on the inside. Sure, the big fireplace in the old bar is attractive, although there are candles burning inside rather than logs, and when you look at the All Creatures pics on the walls you can imagine what it would have been like once upon a time, but a lot of the soul of what once made it a traditional Yorkshire pub has gone – and the droning music playing on the stereo didn’t help re-create the atmosphere I was looking for. Having said that, it is quite a nice place, and the food served in the modern dining area at the front is said to be really good. Two Yorkshire Dales beers were on, one a house brew. I would go back; I just wish it still looked and felt like a traditional old pub.
The White Rose: In the middle of the High Street, this pub/hotel has quite a large bar area and a conservatory dining room. Beers on the bar included a couple from Yorkshire Dales Brewery: Askrigg Bitter and Askrigg Ales. We had the Bitter, which was very nice; we’d had it in a bottle before and it’s a lovely, hoppy, refreshing beer. The barman said the Ale is less ‘in your face’ than the bitter – less hoppy and more traditional.
We popped down the road, went up a lane, and came across the Yorkshire Dales Brewery, with beer brewing in a little shed. We told the brewer how much we were enjoying his beers, and suggested he sends some down to Cambridge!
Victoria Inn: This tiny village on the main A road between Aysgarth and Hawes is home to one pub, the most eccentric, interesting, unusual pub we visited on the trip. A springer spaniel called Hendrix greeted us at the door at around 2pm when we visited, the landlord put the lights on when we entered, his elderly mum came into the room thinking it was her friend coming to pick her up – it felt a bit like we were interrupting their family life. The pub really stood out for us – it was like stepping back in time. The fireplace is decorated in red tiles – the previous landlord (this landlord’s dad) used to dry sheep by the fire, and a picture on the wall shows this. Stags heads decorate the walls, and there is plenty of dark wood and a beamed ceiling. The side room is home to a pool table, and felt like somebody’s living room.
The landlord didn’t talk much, but he was pleasant enough, and whistled a lot when on the phone to his supplier. I asked him what he recommended, and he said ‘The Theakston’s OK’. So I had that. We settled down on the old chair by the fireplace, and soaked in the unique atmosphere. There aren’t many places like this left anymore.
So that was our trip. I love the Dales, and will be back to explore the beautiful National Park even further and visit even more pubs that we passed by and didn’t get a chance to have a drink in. Cheers!