When you’re visiting Beer Guide pubs, what you really look for is a town with at least four new “ticks”, a bit of non-pubby interest, and a dirt cheap B&B.
This year towns like that are few and far between; so come in Plymouth and Carlisle. Cumbria’s jewel made a perfect stop on the way to Rutherglen, particularly with the added bonus of being able to use up a Spoons voucher.
And the Corner House, a few yards south of the Botchergate fun pub mile, was only £20.70 for the night. Clean, en-suite, cheery and with working WiFi too. I can live with the artificial purple foliage for a £21 room. No breakfast drama either (no breakfast).
A lot of towns have seemed pretty dead on a Sunday; folk from Newbury to Preston tucked up with their cocoa and Midsomer Murders. Albeit on a Bank Holiday weekend, Carlisle was buzzing, though to be fair I had Britain’s First Post Box all to myself. If I’d had a postcard of Maidenhead to hand I’d have posted it here.
This was my first trip here since seeing Cambridge nick a 1-0 win at lovely, decrepit old Brunton Park back in 2003, notable only for my telling-off by an old bloke for singing “Hey Marvin, Moose Moose” to the tune of DH Otzi’s “Hey Baby”. A session on the Theakston in the Howard Arms may have been involved, though it’s the Barnsley Bitter in an Oakwell (RIP) pub that sticks in the mind.
I’m delighted to say nothing much has changed in the last 14 years, the back to backs, cobbled streets and boarded up buildings are surely a World Heritage Site in waiting.
This is a fun city, perhaps more fun than Newcastle now the Bigg Market crowd have moved on to craft. Pleasingly, Australian bars seem to have arrived in town near the Bingo hall.
Walking up Botchergate towards the Woodrow Wilson I heard more singing than incomprehensible gabble at 8 o’clock, particularly approaching the House of Vodka.
The Woodrow is a “well worn” Spoons in the shop conversion style familiar to residents of Brent and Harrow.
A full range of society present and correct, if worse for wear, enjoying that winning combination of sticky tables, cheap lager and high tables.
I stuck out like a sore thumb ordering the Hawkshead from a terrifyingly large range (ten, I think). There was even a separate table with another dozen handpumps (bottom pic), apparently to educate Cumbrians on where real ale comes from.
Once again, more handpumps than I’d have thought viable, with cask looking like a design feature rather than a core part of the business, but what do I know ?
(NB When I popped back at 9am the next morning for my bagel and filter, there was more Magners being sold than cask is at 9pm in some Spoons).
I didn’t see another pint of real ale sold, and was a bit surprised the Hawkshead was so cool and well conditioned (NBSS 3.5). Clearly Solway CAMRA know what they’re doing.
I pressed on past the swathes of exposed flesh (no photos, I have a young readership) towards the stately stonework of the centre, much of which contains pubs or pews.
Next stop was the King’s Head, a more traditional town pub in the John Barras style, packed with young lads drinking lager at posing tables to the sound of “Rock’n’Roll Star“. I couldn’t make out a word. Sorry, Si.
Your call as to whether a ’94 soundtrack is better than the ’83 one you get in Worthing.
Plenty of cask left in the centre, and decent Yates here (NBSS 3), just a lack of cask drinkers.
Two more GBG ticks, one a riot, in Part 2, by which time I feel a bit like this;