Time to add some new pubs to Towpath Treks Canal Pub Guide. You would think that going to a pub, taking a photo of it and having a pint would be top of my list of things to do but it seems to have taken years to get some new pubs on the guide. Too much time spent in other pubs probably. Anyway if we were going to do it we may as well head off to the wrong side of the border and look at the pubs on the Yorkshire side of the Leeds & Liverpool canal.
The plan was to drive up to the Anchor Inn, Salterforth (not sure if this is in Yorkshire but its close), the Cross Keys at East Marton, the Anchor Inn at Gargrave, the Bay Horse at Snaygill, the Copper Dragon Brewery, and then to Skipton and the Royal Shepherd and Narrow Boat.
After a look round the Astrid Kirchherr exhibition at the Victoria Museum and Gallery in Liverpool we headed off up the motorways, following the canal to Salterforth. After some minor disagreements with the SatNav we arrived. Kate the towpathtreks.co.uk official (and still undefeated) beer and pub reviewer was on board and it was time to get to work.
The Anchor Inn was the only pub on the days list that I have been in before. It is most famous for its cellar of stalactites and stalagmites. Maybe we were a bit early, it was only just gone 12noon, but the pub was anything but busy. The pub has some black and white photos of the canal on the walls. We had planned to ask to have a look in the cellar but this being the first pub and therefore the first pint, we were feeling a bit shy so after our drinks we crept out and back to the car.
The plan was to eat in the next pub which was luckily only a 10 minute drive away. The Cross Keys is near enough to the Double Arch Bridge to count as a canal pub in my book and besides it gets good reviews and we were hungry. I think we timed our arrival just right. Not long after we had sat down the place was full. This was our first pub selling Copper Dragon, the Skipton brew.
There was an impressive menu, Kate had a psychic knack for picking the items off the chalk board that were sold out but eventually she went for the Keys Burger and we could all move on with our lives. The burgers when they arrived were excellent and more than either of us could finish. This pub is one of the best for food on the canal. It is well worth the short walk up a busy road from bridge #161, but you may end up waddling back full of food. And so waddle on we did.
There isnt much to say about the Anchor Inn at Gargrave. Its a Brewers Fayre pub with a Premier Inn on the side. If you want a cheap hotel room in Gargrave this could be the place for you. If you are looking for a pub with interesting beer or character then this is probably not the pub to head for.
On the way to the next pub I stopped at Higherland lock to see how the water level was. The levels are down a foot or so but not as bad as they have been.
From Gargrave we drove to the Bay Horse in Lower Snaygill. This is a chain pub but nicer than the Brewers Fayre. Its the sort of pub that you would go to for a meal rather than a drink. Kate had a Timothy Taylor while I had yet another J20. A purple one this time. We read the Towpath Talk and sat back while through the window the hire boats headed back to Skipton.
Before we headed into Skipton we stopped off at the Copper Dragon Brewery, a building as far removed from the Cains brewery in Liverpool as is possible. Unfortunately the shop was shut and the bistro just too strange for me to drink in. I dont know why anyone would go to a side door of a shed on an industrial estate for a meal.
In Skipton we walked up the Springs Branch, beneath the castle walls. The Kennet is moored in Skipton at the moment. Run by the Leeds & Liverpool it is a floating promotion for the canal and a reminder of what a real boat looks like. It started to rain so we headed to the penultimate pub.
The Royal Shepherd is a traditional pub. I guess that is short hand for saying it hasn't been done up for 20 years. Like all pubs it does food and the chips looked good but you can imagine a microwave and a sandwich toaster out the back. Worn seats and dodgy carpet is not retro chic. Still the pub was full of drinkers so they must be doing something right. The beer was good, I managed a pint of Copper Dragon Scotts 1816 which was nice, Kate had the Best Bitter.
With time ticking on we wondered about missing out the last pub but to have done that we would have missed out on the best pub of the day.
The Narrow Boat is just round the corner from the Royal Shepherd but is a million miles away in terms of style and décor. Its a spacious clean pub with roses and castles decoration alongside beer advertising on the wall. The range of beers is something like The Fly in the Loaf or Ship and Mitre in Liverpool, and for those who dont know, thats very good. If I was trying to create a pub that was aimed directly at me, this would be it. Its just a shame it was over 100 mile round trip for a pint. As it was the last pub before driving home I was back on the coke while Kate had a Midnight Bell, from the Leeds brewers. Looking through the drinks menu I noticed an alcohol free beer, perfect for the driver. Sadly it smelt so bad I couldnt finish it. With no booze in the bottle it wasnt worth holding my nose and pouring it down my neck. Still, not the pubs fault.
We finished our drinks and went for chips by the canal. It rained all the way back to Liverpool.