Taking on the Transpennine Real Ale Trail

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.

Mike & Julie at pub number 3 in Marsden

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.

Meat Wagon at the Rye

Having missed out on the legendary Meat Wagon when it was at its original home in New Cross I decided I must sample it when I discovered they had set up a kitchen down the road at one of my locals, The Rye on Peckham Rye Common, and find out whether the rumours were true and whether it is the best and meatiest burger around.

The Rye itself had a very relaxed atmosphere and on entering we were greeted by friendly staff at the small bar. The décor was certainly going for the ‘shabby chic’ look with purposeful distressed wallpaper on the walls and rubbed down paint surfaces on the bar and floor. There was a mixture of styles with the table and chairs, which were quite crammed together but this gave it an intimate feel. There is a massive beer garden at the back, had it not been a cold day we would have been out there but the roaring fire inside was more appealing.

I thought I should try a local ale and was instantly attracted to one called the Beaver. The bartender was kind enough to let me sample some and I was sold on it straight away. It definitely had a fruity flavour to it, which is probably why I was a fan. I should probably comment here that I am not an experienced ale drinker just like the occasional dabble. I discovered that this beer was brewed locally in one of their sister pubs The Florence, in Herne Hill. It was described on the pump as ‘fresh, floral, slightly spicy and a little satsumery,’ it was certainly refreshing and was a good accompaniment to wash down the burger.

I was not very adventurous in my choice of burger. I went for the bacon cheeseburger and my boyfriend went for the ‘Dead Hippie,’ which is apparently their take on the ‘Big Mac.’ I have to admit I was a bit feeble in that I ate it with a knife and fork but I wanted to sample every layer together. The meat was thick and tender and cooked perfectly for me being red in the middle. It crumbled and melted in the mouth. The cheese was properly melted to the burger. I did struggle though to taste the bacon. My boyfriend seemed to enjoy his ‘Dead Hippie,’ as it was quickly demolished, although apparently it was not as good as the original ‘Big Mac’ (I hope he was joking).

We ordered chips and coleslaw on the side. The chips were just the way I like them, thin and crispy and were a generous portion, unlike in other Burger joints. The coleslaw was delicious and was crunchy and mustardy.

Overall was definitely one of the best burgers I have had and lived up to the hype. It was all served in a white metal plates with blue rim, which made the experience more primal as burger eating should be, rather than delivered as a gourmet dish. The Rye’s vibe seems to be the perfect location for this food ethic to be housed.

By @immyshephard



Top five cosy pubs

For me, today was officially the end of the summer. Although we are expecting an ‘Indian summer’ to kick-in at at any moment- it was cold, it was dark and as I am writing this it is pouring.

With the cool Autumn days creeping up on us there is no better place to hide from the weather than a cosy pub. Either with a good book or a bunch of friends, a warm and intimate pub, with log fire crackling in the background, is the perfect escape from the gloomy weather.

Here is our selection of the best cosy pubs.

The Bridge Inn, Devon:

This traditional ale house is tucked away in Topsham, Essex. An absolute must for ale connoisseurs, you can enjoy the ten real ales in the next to a roaring fire. With locally produced food served daily it is the perfect spot to while away a dull day.





Fox and Hounds, Oxfordshire:

This converted rural ale house is full of charm with cosy corners to enjoy a game of cards whilst sipping Brakspear tapped straight from the cask. The quirky and rustic restaurant serves farm-reared meat and local fruit and veg., with views out onto the garden. An idyllic spot to relax and unwind.





The Durham Ox, York:

Standing proud at the top of the Grand Old Duke of York’s hill, this old pub features thick flagstone walls, worn leather armchairs and big log fires. With three bars and as many menus this is the perfect pub to have a long and leisurely lunch on the most miserable of days.





George and Dragon, Kent:

This pub promotes the use of locally sourced produce including a range of beers from local micro breweries. Filled with character, it has all the traditional features; with low beams, huge fireplaces and thick flagstone walls. A lovely setting to enjoy a pint and a good book.





The Black Horse, Somerset:

This ex village lock-up is a throw back to past times with a dark, moody interior, scuffs from centuries of drinking  and antique remnants decorating the thick stone walls. The ales take pride of place with six jacketed casks on display. Why not find a comfy spot and try them all?

The Guardian: Cheers! It’s a real ale renaissance

Despite pub closures and a dwindling lager market, record number of microbreweries are opening.

With the eager step of a man who’s just turned 40 and found his purpose in life, Paul Walker strides in his wellies across the flagstones of the 14th-century Union Inn in Denbury, south Devon, and orders two pints of Denbury Dreamer.

We sip carefully, appreciatively. It’s a fine beer: smooth malt flavours, a lovely light floral hop finish, not a hint of bitterness. A treat. Paul closes his eyes, nods, allows himself a brief smile of intense satisfaction. “I made that,” he says.

He probably deserves his moment of contentment. He’s been up since before six, won’t finish till seven, and will almost certainly have to nip back at least once during the evening. It’s hard work, being a microbrewer, and there was a time two summers ago, a few months after he’d started, when he really thought the whole thing was about to go under.

But this summer Hunter’s Brewery, just up the road from Denbury in Ipplepen, is selling between 60 and 100 nine-gallon barrels of real ale every week to 200-plus pubs across the south-west. Capacity is set to increase sixfold within months. Paul and his wife Eline haven’t yet drawn a salary from it. But the day’s not far off.

To read more click here.

Top gastropubs with Michelin stars

Ten gastropubs in Britain hold the honour of having been awarded with Michelin stars. Why not treat yourself this weekend by visiting one of our top five.

Masons Arms, Knowstone, Devon

Gaining a Michelin star in 2006, head chef Mark Dodson has created his own take on classic French and British dishes. The menu includes gaspachio with basil sorbet, roulade of Pork Belly with braised red cabbage & apple compote and aniseed parfait. You can enjoy the varied and adventurous food with one of their many international wines either in the restaurant or on the terrace.








Stagg Inn, Titley, Herefordshire

This was the first gastropub to win a Michelin star in 2001. Enjoy hearty and honest dining in the bar or restaurant whilst admiring the views of the Herefordshire countryside. The current menu includes seared scallops on cauliflower puree with cumin, cod fillet with samphire and a delicious-sounding vanilla cheesecake with baked peaches and amaretto ice cream.








Nut Tree Inn, Murcott, Oxfordshire

Bought in 2006 by Mike North, by 2009 the Nut Tree Inn was awarded a Michelin star. Set in a 15th century thatched building the menu is made up of exceptional modern British cuisine including pave of smoked Orkney salmon, Oxfordshire beef and Scottish halibut. Wash down your meal with one of their selection of real ales or fine wines.






Hand and Flowers, Marlow, Buckinghamshire

With a warm and welcoming atmosphere it is not surprising that the Hand and Flowers won it’s first Michelin star within a year of opening. The menu is a combination of British flavours and rustic French dishes including parsley soup with smoked eel, breast of poached chicken with pistachio crumble and english blueberry souffle.









Harwood Arms, Fulham, London

This is the only pub in London to receive a Michelin star, which was awarded in 2010. The Harwood Arms brings a rural charm to the centre of London with a menu comprised of British produce including Berkshire wood pigeon, braised english Longhorn veal and roast Aylesbury duck. It also boasts an extensive wine list and the finest British Ales and Bitters at the bar.