Some folk run marathons for fun. It’s much more enjoyable (and better for pubs) to walk the 26 and a bit miles, stopping at Beer Guide pubs on the way.
My first walked marathon in 2014 took in Wigan and Cumbria, and included a little stretch from Oxenholme, “Gateway to the Lakes” into Kendal. Some of our family were weaker, and took the connecting train.
The other week I did a rather easier 11 mile stretch from Kendal station out west to Brigsteer and Underbarrow, two more places I’d never heard of before. My GBG progress in Cumbria is patchy, to say the least. The hills get in the way.
I guess few of those folk headed for the honeypots of Barrow and Millom will veer off the A590 to explore little Brigsteer, a gorgeous village on three levels with views to the Lyth Valley, albeit framed by grey.
I didn’t quite make the promised 10am opening at the Wheatsheaf, to test whether that included beer, or just coffees for gentlefolk. It’s a pub that can be summed up in one photo;
That probably tells you all you need to know, but there was also an orchestral version of “Design for Life” and those handled jam jars you’ll remember from Morecambe.
The Hawkshead was as warm as the welcome (NBSS2), which may (or may not) become relevant come 14 September.
The welcome was even warmer in the Punchbowl, but luckily the beer was cooler. Asking about a sandwich saw me escorted through the bar to an impressive new conservatory filled with OAPs, doggies, and chintz.
Decent rarebit, tasty Dog’th Vader (NBSS 3), naff Fleet Floxes in the background, friendly folk. The other customers looked like Victoria Wood, and one of them carried their doggy out in a front pouch like you would a baby.
Of course, it isn’t actually called the Punchbowl anymore, as the new owners prefer Black Labradors, and there were too many pubs nearby called the Punchbowl. Form your own conclusion about changing pub names. I’d only spent 40 minutes traipsing round the straggly village looking for a second pub that didn’t exist.
The walk back to Kendal through Cunswick Scar is a highlight, though you have to overtake hordes of dramatically over-prepared schoolchildren and pensioners, who imagine they’re climbing Scafell the hard way, rather than taking a pleasant stroll in the foothills.
Kendal is a typical Cumbrian town, as opposed to Lakeland village. Even the cats here are hard, attempting to break into the Dog Kennel.
It always feels very grey, but at least is pedestrianised and has the steep joy of a road that is Beast Banks. And sourdough bread.
It lacks a central GBG pub, but the Castle Inn is just over the River Kent, and is as Tetley a pub as you could wish for, a little bit of Malton in the Lakes.
You may start to think my dream pub is an unmodernised place with old blokes discussing Countdown, “the best quid” and funeral prices over pints of beers you’ve heard of.
And you’d probably be right.