Saturday, June 26, 2010

6 Pubs One Canal One Day

Today along with www.towpathtreks.co.uk's official (and unpaid) beer reviewer, Kate, I visited 6 pubs on the western end of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal. 

The first stop was the New Running Horses in Lydiate. The Running Horses had been a bit run down in recent years but not any more. The pub has had a major refurbishment inside and out. It has even changed colour, no longer white it is now what my Humbrol paints might have called Light Buff. Inside was very nice but as we turned up on a Friday lunchtime minutes after opening it was empty.  The choice of beer wasnt too good, but the Bombardier was good and the prices were average. Rather than sit in an empty (but nicely decorated) pub we sat outside. There is plenty of outdoor seating and this pub should be a popular spot this summer. The menu had the usual pub food on it and was reasonably priced. There is a noticeable absence  of any horses running or stationary. 



Next pub was the Scarisbrick Arms, also recently refurbished. The Scarisbrick Arms is a big building with high ceilings. This may explain the very tall menus. The pub feels more like a restaurant but a restaurant in a big late Victorian house. There was something odd, maybe it was the so very tall menus...
The food looked good though and we were mesmerized by the slowly rotating strawberries in the display cabinet. The beer selection was good, the White Witch went down well. We went outside with our drinks and wandered round to the back of the pub and the lawn by the canal. They haven't yet made the most of this side of the pub. But there were some swings which Kate tried and there was a trampoline which I did not try. 
There are a few boats moored there these days. One in particular caught me eye, not sure about the covers but it had a 50's or 60's style about it. We finished our pints and left the hideous French Chef statue with the empties. 

A boat at the back of the Scarisbrick Arms

Just a short drive down the road and we were at the Ship Inn, Haskayne. I have been to the Ship quite a few times before so I pretty much knew what to expect. I had a pint of '1966', explaining to Kate why we English remember that year so fondly and persistently. The Ship has a fair selection of real ale that changes frequently. We did eat there, 2 meals for £12. I thought the fish and chips was okay, I have had better to be honest and for less. There were lots of ducks on the lawns by the picnic tables where we ate. Inside there were no ducks but some canal themed art on the walls and it was the first pub that felt like a pub. 

We walked under the bridge, down the towpath, through Halsall Cutting to reach the Saracens Head our next pub. The Saracens Head is another pub that is more of a restaurant these days. Its a very smart one too and the last time I ate there it was very nice. Today was too warm to be inside though so we took the Spitfire outside to sit next to the canal. This pub has the best canal side seating, even the gents toilet has a canal view. The beer wasn't so great but they do work hard on the quality of service. 

We walked back to the Ship Inn pausing to photograph two local gentlemen by the bridge. Seldom have I seen two happier men on the towpath. 

locals at Haskayne enjoying Lancashire's version of continental style outdoor drinking

Under the bridge and through the little gate, we went back to the car. We drove the 15 minutes or so up to the Ship or Blood Tub at Lathom. The Blood Tub has had a turbulent time in recent years. It was part of the Cains company's disastrous expansion of its pub ownership. But the pub itself hasn't changed much over the years, it has survived. There is a good choice of beers at the bar and if we are being charitable we were given plenty of time to choose what we wanted. The prices were good when we were served. 
Again it was too nice to sit inside so we went out and walked up to the second lock on the Rufford Branch with our drinks. There was a boat going down the locks on their way to the boatyard at the river lock. They had been to Chester,Manchester and up the Ship Canal. There was another boat going up the locks. Hating to sit idly by I gave a hand with the gates, eyeing enviously the windlasses and gate paddles when operated by the boat crews. We finished our drinks and wandered up to the bridge and graving dock by the boatmens cottages. Time for heading back home. 

On the way back to Liverpool we stopped off at the Heatons Bridge Inn for one last drink. This is a pub from my childhood. Though obviously back then, in those rose tinted halcyon days children weren't allowed in pubs and had to sit outside with their mothers and some KP nuts and a lemonade.  The pub makes the most of its front with its hanging baskets but cant avoid the busy road. It also manages to hide the canal from its picnic benches with trees and fences. the pub is cheap and cheerful but the Tetleys wont be fondly remembered.  

We walked down to the canal and along the row of moored boats where I once played. I have seen kingfishers here before but not today. The kingfisher is associated with the mythical Greek Alcyone. And so another halcyon day came to a close. 


Give your opinion of the pubs on the Leeds Liverpool Canal at www.towpathtreks.co.uk  

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