Monday, 18 February 2019

18/02/19 - Discovering more Dublin Pubs

Three years after my last visit, I have about 72 hours in Dublin, with at least 8 of them that can be allocated to pleasure.

Building on my previous crawl, I've used the Internet to find additional recommendations. 

I'm not going to argue with the comprehensive suggestions here - even if I only did a handful.

There's also no point detailing what was purchased.   You can guess and I'm still dreaming of the gentle noise of the tap hiss, the silence of the build and the top up.

Jack Nealons, Capel Street

Jack Nealons
Always loved the way they're named
Still getting my bearings, as I make my way from Parnell Street to the night life.   This is an authentic introduction to the potential of drinking in Dublin.   It's a finely preserved Georgian building and has been a pub since 1905, when they were made with beauty in mind.   The plan was to make an environment nicer than your home to come and drink in. 

Jack Nealons
Low lighting and lots of wood
As well as not having my Dublin directional bearings, I haven't got my atmospheric bearing in tune. Three days after my visit, I still cannot tell if the locals were about to fight the Germans or kiss them.  There was a lot of aggressive high fiving, man hugging followed by a 10 minute demonstration of Dublin shadow boxing to a non plussed Teuton. 

I was on edge.   I left before I inadvertently got involved.

The Long Hall, Georges Street

Here's an absolute must visit of a pub.   Licenced since 1766 and now with its Victorian Splendour, following its recent internal refit in 1881.

When its this good, there's no need for modification.

The Long Hall
Victorian Drinking at its finest
The Long Hall
In, for the Long Hall

If there hadn't have been 22 other recommendations on the guide, I would have spent the rest of the evening perched on my high stool, leaning against the snob bar divide and watching the joy on the other other tourists faces as they entered through the front door.

Alas, there is more work to do.

Cassidy's, West Moreland Street, La Chouffe

Don't try and follow this crawl in order.   I'm only detailing the highlights and new visits on this blog.

I was in high spirits on my 2nd night, having just celebrated the Albion's 94th minute winner in a bar full of Liverpool, Bayern Munich, Lyon and Barcelona fans that all watched goalless drudgery.   In a massive pub with 50+ screens, there was one TV dedicated to the Championship.   Europeans have never seen boinging before.   They looked perplexed.

After such drama, I wanted a proper drinking den, swathed in atmospheric low lighting and selling unusual Belgian beers on draught.

Cassidy's was just this place and apparently famous for Bill Clinton's visit in 1995.   Birmingham has a pub by the canal with a similar claim to fame.

Iggy Pop's Lust for Life came on the jukebox.

It really couldn't have been more perfect.

Cassidys - Handy for the Tram
Here comes Johnny Yen Again....

John Kehoes, South Anne Street

No offence to the other establishments, but I am saving the best to the last in this blog.

What a find John Kehoes is.   Licenced since 1803 and described as a "Country Pub in the Heart of the City".

Better photos than mine can be found on their website.

John Kehoes
Looking Good from the Outside
There's plenty to discover inside.   Take your pick from a partitioned ground floor, where there's plenty of nooks and crannie to hide away in or a beautifully ornate to sit at.  Alterntaively, head upstairs for the neon advertised lounge and roof top smoking terrace.

John Kehoes
Lengthy enough bar to sit out without causing obstruction
John Kehoes
One of the many nooks and crannies to hide away in

This is one of those timeless places - both in terms of its unchanging history and the way that time has no meaning whilst you're sat in there. 

Sunday, 17 February 2019

17/02/19 - Two Good Beer Guide Ticks in Bridgnorth

Good Beer Guide Ticks - #368,369

How to complete an education and entertain a Guide Dog in Training on a Sunday?

Take her pub ticking!

Entertaining a Guide Dog in Bridgnorth
There she is - in her natty blue jacket

And there's not many finer places than Bridgnorth.   Packed with oddities, history and interesting buildings.   A perfect place for the psychogeography that is finding Good Beer Guide listed pubs.  I've been going to the town for 40 years and still finding new places.

You know its a good place when this handsome looking boozer is not one of the 6 listed in the 2019 guide.

Not in the Guide - Shakespeare Inn
In another town, I'm sure it would make it.  Maybe 2020, Shakespeare Inn
The Old Castle, West Castle Street, Wye Valley Butty Bach

The Old Castle
First Visit of the day and she's behaving
Good beer Guide Badges
Badged Up
This is a C17th building, with a couple of cottages knocked together to make the pub.   The menu details the history - used by Cromwell in the Civil War to store supplies and has a friendly ghost.

Not the friendly Ghost
Not the Ghost
Mrs M is delighted we are here.   Its top of the list on Tripadvisor for Sunday Lunches. 

I'm happy with a perfect example of a Wye Valley Butty Bach.

Guide Joy is happy with a cheese filled bone under the table. 

The good vibes keep on coming when Mrs M announces she needs more practice in pubs without the bone. 

I'll see what I can arrange next week.

Wye Valley Butty Bach
Joyful Sunday
The Black Boy, The Cartway, Three Tuns Best Bitter

We've walked down from High Town to Low town along the theatre steps many times.   On occasion, we have been known to take the cliff railway.   Never have we walked down the Cartway and therefore, never had exposure to this beauty.

The Black Boy
More Historical Drinking

The Black Boy
Read all about it
The pub is as wonderful on the inside.  Wooden floors, central island bar and a lovely little decking terrace, with a porthole overlooking the River Severn.

Plenty of real ale choice and my eyes were drawn to a couple of unusual Three Tuns from Bishops Castle.   I occasionally and happily chance upon Rantipole but I've never seen their Best before.  Neither has the bar man or indeed, the Three Tuns website, where it is unlisted under "Our Beers".

The Black Boy
Declaring it a success
Joy was happy with the fuss she received from the other punters and the barman.

Three ticks remain for us in Bridgnorth.....   In the absence of a Premier Inn or Travelodge, Mrs M has been investigating the Air BnB situation.

And if they allow dogs.

Saturday, 16 February 2019

16/02/19 - Kings Cross to Victoria - Following in the Footsteps of Aleister Crowley

Distance - 5 Miles
Geocaches - 2
Good Beer Guide Ticks - #366 and #377
Walk Inspiration - Time Out London Walks, Book 2, Walk 13

There's a massive commentary to this walk but if you want to know the details, then you'll have to buy the book detailed at the top of the blog.  Basically, it's a walk that looks into the key places in the life of Aleister Crowley, the wickedest man in the world.  The book's instructions run 6 full pages and there's copyright considerations.

The magician is not of major interest to me, I was just looking for a walk that took me to the touristy bits of London.   Its been too long since I had free time in the Capital and I have missed it tremendously.

The next consideration, was how many photos to load up.   Walking in London presents far too many opportunities, with something of visual interest on every street corner.

The answer to that was solved by SanDisk.   My SD Card corrupted when loading it into the PC.   I then put it back into the camera, which re-formatted it rather hastily and without an "are you sure?" prompt. 

So that's easily solved.

Instead, I'll present the highlights and the details of a couple of Good Beer Guide Pubs ticked off.  Photos will be a combination of those lifted from the net and taken on my phone.

The Walk Highlights

  • Kings Cross
  • Mount Pleasant
  • 3 Gentlemen of the Street, one lighter and some drugs
  • Holburn, including a visit of JDW for the facilities without lining Tim's brexit pockets
  • British Museum
  • Soho and a potential farewell to the Norman's Coach and Horses in its current guise (was to be a blog on it's own - those photos lost for ever.   I will be back before Fullers do something dreadful)
  • A Street Protest (Shame on you, animal abusers!  Shame on you, animal murderers!)
  • St James Park
  • Channel 4 HQ
  • The quite backstreets between Westminster and Victoria

Refreshment wise, I had to turn down so many gems.   Princess Louise, Cittie of Yorke, Red Lion, Museum Tavern and the Lamb and Flag all have a special place in my heart.

Instead, it was two new ticks from the 2019 Good Beer Guide, which will both be filed under functional.

The Crown, Brewer Street, Brew York X-Panda

I thought I had completed the Good Beer Guide Pubs of Soho.   I can only assume this a new entry since 2016.  This really is the hobby that keeps on giving.   I will never be finished.

The Crown, Brewer Street
A functional Nicholson's Pub
A more corporate Nicholson's pub you could not hope to find.   This is the sort of place that you know the menu before looking at it.

Beer wise, I was surprised to see only three real ales on but this was increased to five by the time I left.

The Brew York X-Panda Pale Ale was in worthy enough condition to justify Camra's praise.

Crown, Brewer Street
Pale Ale
No complaints but if it wasn't for the blog, I'd never recall the visit in the future.

The Speaker, Great Peter Street, Timothy Taylor Landlord.

This quiet boozer in the backstreets of Westminster provided both more interest and at £4.90, the cheapest pint of the day.   Change from a fiver!

And it was the Guvnor of all beers at that.

The Speaker, Great Portland Street
TT Landlord and 10p back
There's a wee information board (where the lady is leaning on the photo) and I had a recording of it to tell you the history and association with politics.   Alas, that is lost.  WhatPub tell me it was built in 1729.

The Speaker, Great Peter Street
Formerly, the Elephant and Castle
What was found on a Saturday afternoon... peace and quiet, a couple discussing brexit and toilets up a perilous staircase.

Backup camera to be taken on future walks.

16/02/19 - Clissold Park and Abney Cemetery Geocaching

Distance - 5.5 Miles
Geocaches - 6 found, 2 DNF
Walk Inspiration - City Walks, London, Walk 5
Start - Finsbury Park Tube
Finish - Manor House Tube

A flying visit to the Smoke and how to entertain myself before the pubs open?

I know, a walk and some Geocaching.

Not many trails in the centre of London but there's always a high density of unfound ones, somewhere accessible by tube.    A look at the Geocaching map and Stoke Newington seems a good bet.

I don't want to make the walk completely random, so a look through guide books shows a route that can be adapted.   At least I'll get a feel for the area.

The first set of caches are around the perimeter of Clissold Park - a typical London Green Space full of people completing increasingly bizarre exercise routines.   You'll always get one using a fallen down tree trunk inappropriately or doing that slow motion Tai Chi mime dance.   I think I was only muggled by one tramp on a bench but he looked like he'd been on a week long Spice bender, so I'm sure the integrity of the cache remains.

Clissold Park
They don't just run in London.   They run over mountains of bark chippings
Stoke Newington Church Street provides an urban distraction.   I've walked it before at night on the Capital Ring and its a pleasure to be back in the day.   Refreshment choices more limited to street accessible serving hatches selling artisan bread.   I kind of prefer it when the best Irish Pub this side of Dublin is open.

Stoke Newington Church
The Church in Church Street
auld shillelagh
You must visit the Auld Shillelagh

The next few Geocaches are in Abney Cemetery.   It's quite a unique Ground Zero.   I've never cached amongst the dead before.

And no-one does Death quite like the Victorians.

Abney Cemetery
Agnes is watching
The cemetery is one of London's so called Magnificent 7.  Highgate is probably more well known.  No household names here but it was sobering to walk between so many WWI graves, marked with regimental emblems.

The cemetery is a public park now.  Plenty of dog walking muggles, but they were all on their phone.  Probably receiving orders to pick up £7 loaves of bread on the way home.

The caches are off piste and you see nature reclaiming the grave sites and the tumbledown headstones.

Would make a good night time caching location.  At Halloween.

Abney Cemetery
Victorian Death Opulence.

Abney Cemetery
Meets a Travel Bug Drop off
The map isn't clear but there is no northern exit, so a full loop of is required before tracing my steps on the cemetery's exterior to pick up the new river and West Reservoir at the Castle.

The Castle Water Pumping Station
Victorian Folly Pumping House
The Tube at Manor House will whisk me to the City, where I am sure the pubs will be open.

Monday, 11 February 2019

11/02/19 - Flying Visit to 3 Good Beer Guide pubs in Leeds

Good Beer Guide Ticks - #363-365

In my uncultured youth, I'd have a more random approach to pub visiting.   Just following my nose and stumbling on somewhere suitable.   I spent a lot of time in Leeds and always found it difficult to find traditional pubs - only ever locating All Bar One type winebars.   10 years ago, armed with my first smartphone, I lamented this problem to my wife at home.   She had friends who lived in Leeds and they told me the best pint could be found at the New Penny. 

I fired up Google Maps on my new gadget and was delighted to find out it was just around the corner.   It ticked all the right boxes - a traditional looking, busy boozer.   I found the disco lights rather disconcerting but waded in, ordered my pint and was offered a seat next to a gentleman sat at the bar.   From this vantage point, we could both see the other men having a dance in a style that could be described as "close".   Think Tango, crossed with Grind.

The same SmartPhone revealed I'd been directed to the oldest Gay bar in Leeds.   We don't have those in Worcestershire.   What a hoot!  Mrs M's friend in Leeds still laugh about it today.

These days, I complete my research before setting off.   A first visit to the City for a while left me with 90 minutes to tick off some Good Beer Guide recommended boozers near the Station.

The Scarborough Hotel, Bishopgate Street, Black Sheep

The Bible introduces this tiled gem of a place as "conveniently close to Leeds Station".   That will do for me.

Scarborough Arms, Leeds
More Beautifully Tiled Gems
And you don't need me to tell you the history of the place when it has its own Blue Plaque.

Scarborough Arms, Leeds
History Today
Inside, it's had a typically Nicholson feel, not helped by the transient nature of the guests - all waiting for trains.   It was large, airy, had four real ales on and the Black Sheep hit the mark after a day's work.

Scarborough Arms, Leeds
Black Sheep in Nicholson's Clothing
The Head of Steam, 13 Mill Hill, Timothy Taylor Boltmaker

Just around the corner and occupying the same building as the Scarborough hotel, this is less ornate on the exterior but far nicer on the inside.

Head of Steam, Leeds
Nearly the Shortest Pub Crawl Ever
It's a proper beer lovers wonderland inside.   As well as half a dozen handpulls, there's a large collection of Belgian and American bottles.   The Belgian is of considerable interest.   A 10% quadrupel trappe would have made the 4 hour journey back to Kidderminster flash by. 

By the way, Where is HS2?

An enthusiastic barman panicked me into an instant purchase, so I stuck with the familiar.   A perfect TT Bolt Maker enjoyed to some top indie tunes that made be think long and hard about whether to re-locate Whitelocks.

Even with a modern Smart Phone, this is not as easy as you would think.

Whitelocks, Turks Head Yard, Timothy Taylor Landlord.   And a Pie.

So even if you know where it is and have been before, you still need to approach from the correct angle of Briggate to find the entrance.

Never has a pub been so keen to hide away from the outside world.

Whitelocks, Leeds
If you are close to a Virgin Money Shop - you are nearly there
Whitelocks, Leeds
Turks Head Yard is so narrow, you cannot do the splendour justice

Inside its unchanged since 1895 and 4pm on a Monday afternoon, its possible to get a seat, even if its in the dining area.    That said, it's a long way home - so I decided to eat there.   The steak and ale pie was a unique experience.   I am unsure if a thick suet crust welded on top of a pie dish is the way that Yorkshire folk like it, but getting in with a knife and fork is certainly a challenge.

A wonderful pub, where only a couple of clandestine photos were able to be taken for sharing with you.  I was mainly trying to get at the magma below the crust.

I'm not going to lie.   15 minutes to get back to platform 11a with that and 3 pints inside me was a challenge.

Whitelocks, Leeds
The tiled window to the right is where they keep the pies.

10/02/19 - Heart of England Way - Stage 23 - Out of Bidford-on-Avon

Distance - 6 Miles
Pub - Cottage of Content, Barton
Geocaches - 7
Previous Stages - Stage 1Stage 2Stage 3Stage 4Stage 5Stage 6Stage 7Stage 8Stage 9Stage 10Stage 11Stage 12Stage 13Stage 14Stage 15Stage 16Stage 17Stage 18Stage 19Stage 20Stage 21, Stage 22

The Heart of England Way takes in the Shakespearean villages/hamlets of Marlcliffe, Bickmarsh and Barton and encounters a new type of terrain.   For the first time, we have river walking.

Over the Bridge - narrow enough that pedestrians can use traffic lights to request access to cross and along the river bank to Marlcliffe.

Bidford On Avon Bridge
Bidford C15th Bridge.  Yes, Charles I did demolish it in the Civil War
Snowdrops are out in Marlcliffe, the first indication of Winter's end and the houses may have been around in Shakespeare's time but some alterations have been made.

Marlcliffe Extension
Unsure as to whether planning permission has always been a thing
From here it's to Bickmarsh - where the only thing present is a huge pig farm - and a circle of the new forest plantations.   Occasional views, new Heart of England Way signage and a number of new caches to keep the interest levels high.

Heart of England Way Vista
Heart of England Way - New Signs
The aim is to arrive at Barton's pub at opening time.   The Cottage of Content has visited relatively recently and I'm delighted to report that its still as lovely as ever.   Only change for this years visit was to swap the Old Hooky for a Timothy Taylor Landlord.

Cottage of Content, Barton
Guest Ales and a chance to be content in a cottage
A short walk across Bidford's Hams back along the river and this month's outing on the Heart of England Way is over. 

Not a bad way to spend a Sunday.

Avon Hams
Bidford Hams
Overlooking the River
The View from the Bridge

Saturday, 9 February 2019

09/02/19 - Chipping Campden to Broadway

Distance - 9.5 Miles
Geocaches - 9
Good Beer Guide Pub Tick #362 - The Eight Bells, Chipping Campden, Old Hooky
Walk Inspiration - Cicerone Walking in the Costwolds, Walk 1

Here's an absolute belter of a ramble and a great introduction into walking in the Cotswolds.

That said, I never really got on with Chipping Campden, where we start activities.   It's got a lot to offer walkers - free parking along the high street, the start of the Cotswold Way and the classic honey coloured stone buildings wearing their history beautifully.   My problem has always been the quality of the pubs.   For me, they've never quite matched the grandeur of the surrounding.  I needed to look slightly harder than the three along the high street and the Good Beer Guide is pointing me to the town's only recommendation - slightly off piste, along Church Street.

We'll come back to the Eight Bells after the walk.

The Cotswold Way starts at the C17th Market Hall and look closely and you can find a little plague marking the start / end.

Cotswold Way Start/End
Cotswold Way Beginnings and Endings
Chipping Campden Market
The Market Hall

I'd recommend that the walk is completed in a clockwise direction - tackling Mile Drive to Broadway first.   This minimises the impact of the two hills that need to be tackled.... Fish Hill to Broadway Tower is definitely steeper than Dover's Hill.

Mile Drive is always a joy to walk - a one mile broad avenue of easy walking.   A new multi cache has been placed since my last visit, so this kept me further entertained.

Mile Drive
Mile Drive
Mile drive leads to the picnic area at the top of Fish Hill.   Broadway tower is next up and it doesn't matter how many times I've seen it, it still takes the breath away.  Not just the monument, but the views over 16 counties and 60 odd miles.

First Glipmse of the Tower
The best approach to Broadway Tower is from Fish Hill Picnic Area
Looking down over Broadway
The endless views

All downhill into Broadway.  If you're feeling like mid walk refreshment, then the Good Beer Guide recommends the Crown and Trumpet.   Its only been six months since my last visit, so I decided to keep on marching.

It must have been the views.

More Views
Views from the Valley Floor

More new Geocaches to find on the exit from Broadway, taking great paths through Foxhill Manor to the isolated but utterly delightful Saintbury Church.

Saintbury Church
Saintbury Church 
The big climb of the day is back to the top of Dover's Hill, stopping for endless photos when a breather is required.

Views from Dover Hill
Plenty more of this kind of thing on my memory stick
Dover Hill
The top of Dover's Hill - nearly time for the pub.

The Cotswold Way will return you to Chipping Campden and I can tell you all about the Eight Bells.

Eight Bells
The 8 Bells
Originally, it was built in the C14th for the stone masons working on the town's church.  It was then used to store the Church's bells.

The current building was developed using the original material in the C17th.

Eight Bells
A Classic Example of a Cotswold Pub
Inside, it's all low ceilings (a rather nice warning sign on the front door) and just what's needed after a lengthy walk - good beer, extensive sandwich menu and a roaring fire.   A choice of four ales on, with the Old Hooky being in exceptional condition.

With a Chicken Ciabatta on the way and getting the last table, handily positioned in front of the coal fire, I may well have been the happiest man on the planet at the time of this photo.

Chipping Campden is saved.

Old Hooky at the Eight Bells
Fitting End to a Great Walk