The combination of a bank holiday plus nice weather, is the perfect opportunity to explore new places and try something a little different. Over the Easter break, I took on this trail between Manchester and Leeds with some real ale fans in the shape of my partner’s family, to see what all the fuss was about. For the full list of pubs featured, we have a dedicated publist on our main site here, www.useyourlocal.com/publist/transpennine-real-ale-trail-1787.
Now, there seems to be quite a discussion out there as to which end you should start and finish at, but I guess it depends where you want to be at the end of it. As we were all staying in Leeds, we decided to start furthest west and make our way steadily back. Starting at:
- Stalybridge Buffet Bar – Found on platform 4 of Stalybridge train station, this is one of the very few remaining Victorian station buffet bars and dates back to 1885. Bigger than you think and packed out with station photographs and memorabilia, they had a large list of cask and craft ales to try. A stout, a bitter, a ruby, an IPA and a hand pulled local cider all made their way into our small group of 6. Mike later said this was the best pulled pint of the trail, whether it was because it was the first or because the rest blur into one, is still to be decided.
- The Railway Inn – a hop, skip and a jump onto the next passing train, we made our way to the next stop. The Railway Inn is just opposite Greenfield train station, on the other side of the road, and a pub where you can really appreciate the beautiful views overlooking Greenfield Valley. Renowned for its live bands and jam sessions, this is where we realised from the “What’s on” board that the Ale Trail tends to be on a Saturday, but nonetheless, we enjoyed our round and made our way to catch the next train.
- Riverhead Brewery Tap – a short 5 minute walk downhill from the station, this tap house is ideally placed in the picturesque village of Marsden. Glorious sunshine made us pick a table outside overlooking the river and by this point we were getting a bit peckish. Boasting of a pub, brewery and a restaurant all onsite, we enjoyed delicious dishes from BaoBros23, as well as taking advantage of the bar nibbles, pork pies and scotch eggs.
- The Commercial, Slaithwaite – now this is where we started to deviate from the trail. We never actually made it to The Commercial, choosing to skip this stop as we realised we were never going to make all 8 before the trains stopped. It’s a shame as it looks like they have a great selection of local beers as well as from micro breweries across the country.
- The Kings Head, Huddersfield – we also missed, but only because we wrongly thought it was the Head of Steam found on the same platform! You need to try the other end to find The Kings Head, a restored Victorian waiting room serving 10 real ales, 5 craft kegs, real cider, as well as the usual draught selection, bottles and cans.
- Navigation Tavern – Back on track, we made it to Mirfield. A little more modern than the other pubs after their huge refurb, The Navi sits along the canal side just round the corner from the station, with a large outside veranda and decking area, perfect for watching the sun set. Owned by the same family for over 20 years, they have a reputation for serving the best beers, ciders and guest ales in the area and have been an Ambassador of Theakston’s real ales for over 15 years. Famous for its regular beer festivals and Navifest music festival, The Navigation Tavern is one to visit ale trail or not.
- West Riding Licensed Refreshment Rooms – located on Platform 2 within Dewsbury station, we found a quiet little corner by the fire to enjoy. While eyeing up the large container of pork crackling on the bar, we only had time for a quick one here before running off to catch the last train to Leeds. Even from our brief visit you could tell this was a pub full of character, they have regular live bands playing, weekly meat raffles and even “I missed the train at Dewsbury” merch, which we almost did!
- Cellar Bar, Bately – reliant on the trains meant we also missed the last pub on the trail. With a great selection of rotating guest beers, TV’s showing all the sports and what looks like a sun-trap of an outside area, you can see why some choose to use this as their starting point.
I have to say, the staff were of course great in all venues we visited, very friendly and welcoming, but we didn’t expect anything less! It was a great day, enjoyed by all, and hats off to those that do manage to keep to the train schedule and complete the trail in one.
With a variety of Ale Trails up and down the country, this is definitely one to add to your list, the beautiful scenery an added bonus. In the meantime, you can find a pub near you that serves real ale here: www.useyourlocal.com/real-ale-pubs; or use our search filters for Cask Marque accredited pubs and CAMRA members.