I was shocked to read about the serious financial problems at Doncaster & Bassetlaw Hospitals last week. The town has had its share of governance scandals over recent years, but not long back NHS financial concerns were largely confined to the south. Clearly the changes to deprivation weighting in funding formulas are starting to bite.

Doncaster was a major beneficiary of the millennial excesses, but as southerners we were happy to take advantage of the free attractions in the area, including the excellent but short-lived Earth Centre and what remains a great town museum.

This was a regular stopover for us on our weekends in the north, and an exciting place it was too. The motel behind the graveyard below holds treasured memories.

Wikipedia describes this as a prosperous area. There are certainly some major stately homes around here, and Hooton Pagnell is a picture postcard village. But apart from a decent stretch of Georgian houses along South Parade and some gorgeous tiled pubs, the town was always a bit shabby.

No longer. The transformation of the civic area, with its new theatre (CAST) took me by surprise. For ten minutes, I couldn’t get my bearings (being a man I navigate by pubs rather than with maps).   I certainly didn’t remember the magnificent High Street buildings below, which do attest to the historic wealth of the town.


It took me a while to find the Doncaster Brewery Tap, tucked away behind CAST.

Large micro style, this is the local pub of the year, and deservedly for beer quality (a dark mild NBSS 4) and the friendliest of welcomes. Worth a visit just for the toilet tiling.

Across the car park is another new gem. The Notorious Aardvark is a quirky record store and live music venue with the year’s best retro furniture.

There were far more independent enterprises like these than I remember, and my next new Guide tick was another.


The Market Place Alehouse & Deli is part-micro, part craft, part tapas, and I thought it worked well.  If the beer (Vocation Chop & Change – NBSS 3.5) had been less good, or I’d had to stand, I might have come away with a less positive view. Very good value pub tapas too, a burger with new potatoes and a half for £6.

Most of the custom came from Doncaster’s ladies-who-lunch, and there aren’t a lot of places for them (yet). Lots of good banter about errant men. I await Simon Everitt’s review with bated breath.

Next door in the attractive market place is the Masons Arms, a pub famed 20 years ago for the quality of its Landlord, the one beer sold.  Encouraged to expand the cask range, standards slipped and it’s lost its Beer Guide place to a Deli.  Strange world.


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