Monday, January 05, 2009

The Ale Trail - Pub Reviews

The Ale Trail - Pub Reviews, as featured in the Yorkshire Post

By Mark Reid, author of ‘The Inn Way’ guidebooks

On the trail of Yorkshire’s great country pubs, where walkers are welcome,
beer is in tip top condition and the food is hearty and wholesome.

Bridge Inn, Grinton, Swaledale

I was coming to the end of a four hour walk across Grinton Moor, where the decaying remains of a once-flourishing lead mining industry lie abandoned across the rolling moorland with old workings and spoil heaps all around that tell of a time of great industrial activity, now forlorn and silent. Suitably tired and with fading light, I reached the village of Grinton beside the River Swale, where little windows of yellow light shone out from cold grey-stone cottages. What we needed now was rest and sustenance. I say we, as I was accompanied by Elvis, my German Shorthaired Pointer; hill-walker extraordinaire and pub fire aficionado. Do they, don’t they? The question went through my mind as I approached the door of the Bridge Inn. “We’re in luck, Elvis – muddy boots and dogs welcome.” After four hours traipsing through knee-high heather, the last thing I wanted to do was take off my walking boots and leave Elvis outside guarding them.

As I walked into the bar I was struck by how busy it was, for 6:30pm on a Monday evening. Several people were stood at the bar chatting away; a gamekeeper with his Labrador, a farmer and a couple of locals. I glanced round the bar. There were three or four tables of people waiting for food, a log fire glowed in the grate and there were a couple of other dogs masquerading as rugs lying flat out asleep on the carpet. I felt at home. Standing at right-angles to the bar I could not see the pump clips, so asked what beers they had. A local quickly interjected, “The Cereal Killer’s pretty good. It’s an organic wheat beer, brewed in North Yorkshire.” Well, how could I resist? But at 4.5% ABV I settled on half a pint (£1:40). The beer was well-kept and crystal clear with a sharp hop nose, but a little too bittersweet for my liking.

Now, I am of the firm opinion that you can judge the quality of food at a pub by its soup. Every pub sells soup, but not every pub serves really great soup. It’s a walker’s staple. Quick, warming, filling and reasonably priced – ideal food for the hills. Order placed, I found a quiet table near the fire for Elvis to warm himself and sat down, fascinated by the old photos on the walls. I was soon tucking into a bowl of homemade leek and celeriac soup (£3:50) and warm mini-baguette. The soup was piping hot and delicious, although the bowl could have been slightly bigger as I was left wanting more.

I had a wander around before I left. A door led through to a large dining room, with comfy leather sofas set around a coal fire, perfect for aperitifs, whilst on the other side of the bar steps led down to a traditional games room. This pub is geared up for walkers and wholeheartedly welcomes them. And there are a lot of them about, for Swaledale is a walkers’ paradise.

Bridge Inn, Grinton, Richmond, North Yorkshire. Tel: 01748 884224

Opening Hours:
Open all day for food and drink.

An extensive menu, all homemade using locally sourced produce, including Rack of Swaledale Lamb (£15:95), Belly Pork served on a stew of Lentils (£8:95), Steak and Ale Pie (£7:95) and Grinton Moor Grouse (£16:95), as well as homemade desserts (£4:50) including Liz’s Ginger Pudding and Rosé Wine Jelly.

Real Ales
Choice of four hand-pulled ales, including Jenning’s Cumberland Ale (ABV 4%) and Dark Mild (ABV 3.1%) plus two guest beers which, at the time of my visit, were Duchy Organic Ale (ABV 4.4%) and North Yorkshire Brewery’s Cereal Killer Organic wheat bitter (ABV 4.5%).

5 rooms, £72 mid-week and £76 weekends per room per night.

Walkers Welcome?
Muddy boots and dogs most welcome. Classic routes radiate in all directions, including Fremington Edge, Arkengarthdale, Marrick Abbey and Harkerside Moor. A number of long-distance routes pass this way including the Coast to Coast, Herriot Way and The Inn Way... to the Yorkshire Dales.

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