Friday, January 23, 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’ guidebooksOn 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.

Crown Hotel, Middlesmoor

January is a time to reflect upon the year that has passed and look forward to the year ahead. But so often we are surrounded by the noise and distraction of everyday life that there is scarce opportunity to stop, think and reflect. What we need is inspiration, and it has to be on a big scale, preferably the top of a hill or mountain. It is the combination of fresh air, far-reaching views and open hills that offer a sense of space and freedom that works in mysterious ways to soothe, inspire and refresh. A walk across the Yorkshire moors helps clear your mind and allows escapism from everyday life. But most of all, it provokes thought, reflection and contemplation.

The upper reaches of Nidderdale offer dramatic scenery as impressive as Wharfedale or Swaledale but with the added attraction of two reservoirs. Cradled by high fells, the man-made reservoirs of Angram and Scar House stand out starkly against the wild and untamed landscape. You can only stand in wonder at the skill and effort it took to build the massive dam walls, with the scant remains of the workers’ village testament to their toil. From the dam, I followed an old track steeply up above Woodale Scar onto the open moorland of Scar House Pasture, the deep snow underfoot frozen and crisp lying sheltered by the north-facing crags. As I reached the moorland crest, a wonderful view unfolded along the length of Nidderdale with the waters of Gouthwaite Reservoir sparkling in the distance. Nature was starting to work its magic when I realised that it was almost three o’clock – on a Sunday as well – and there was over a mile to go to the Crown Hotel at Middlesmoor. Surely I had missed last orders. Perhaps the licensee would take pity on me. I decided to run. There is not much passing trade in Middlesmoor for this is one of the most remote villages in the Yorkshire Dales some 1,000-ft above sea level where the road ends, or starts. Windswept is a word that springs to mind.

I reached the front door of the pub at ten past three and was surprised to find it open, but not just that, it was full. Sometimes things come together at the right time to create a memorable moment, and this was one of them. Outside the snow was beginning to freeze as the afternoon sky turned a pale orange, whilst inside a mix of farmers, gamekeepers and locals sat around the bar, their contented chatter and laughter filling the room. I perched my rucksack on the spare table beside the fireplace with its cast-iron stove radiating heat. Elvis, my German shorthaired pointer, was also in luck as one of the gamekeeper’s Springer spaniels took a shine to him, although, for once, the warm fireside took preference. I sat down with my pint of Black Sheep Best Bitter (ABV 3.8%, £2.50 a pint) and soaked up the atmosphere. For me, an unpretentious village pub like this is as much a part of the Yorkshire Dales experience as the hills and valleys I had just walked across.

Crown Hotel, Middlesmoor, Pateley Bridge, North Yorkshire: 01423 755204

Opening Hours:
Winter - Sat & Sun all day, Tues & Fri 12 – 3pm, 7 – 11pm. Food available lunchtime and evening during opening hours. Open every day from Easter to October.

Popular menu choices include Steak & Ale Pie £6:50, Nidderdale Lamb Chops £8:50 or Black Pudding, Bacon & Mash £6:50.

Real Ales
Choice of four hand-pulled local ales, including Black Sheep Best Bitter and Special, Wensleydale Brewery’s Semer Water and Well’s Bombardier.

Seven bedrooms, from £27:50 per person.

Walkers Welcome?
Flagstone bar where dogs and boots are welcome.

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