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Previous Pint Pleasures - January 24, 2010

guinness eileen

The Castle Hotel, St Peters Square, Ruthin, Denbighshire, Northeast Wales

A few months ago, on our very brief impulsively-taken Welsh holiday, we spent a morning driving across the island of Anglesey and down through Snowdonia. Although we were tempted to go further south toward the Wye Valley we were limited by time, so we turned back north instead. We decided to stop for a pint and a late lunch in the town of Ruthin.

Located in the Vale of Clwyd, Ruthin sits on top of a red sandstone hill with views of the surrounding hills. The original Ruthin Castle was built in the late 13th century by Dafydd, brother of Prince Llywelyn ap Gruffydd. After a fire in 1400 burned the town to the ground, the castle was one of only a few buildings that survived. Withstanding an 11-week siege in the 17th century during the English Civil War, the castle ended up being demolished by Parliament. In the 1800s it was rebuilt as a country house and is now the Castle Hotel. As it was the only place in town that offered both cask ale and late lunch, this is where we stopped.

Situated on Ruthin's main square, the Castle Hotel is very large and features a steakhouse and restaurant, with a bar tucked away in the back that opens onto a beer garden. As we walked into the bar we spotted an old friend on the handpumps: Young's Bitter (3.8% ABV, Young & Co. Brewery, London), so we ordered pints right away before deciding on our sandwiches.

It was a pleasant afternoon and the beer garden beckoned, so we sat outside at a table and sipped our pints. Mmm, biscuits! Now, that was a taste my end-of-sinus-infection and still-slightly-tainted tastebuds could completely cope with and translate. I took another sip, remembering when. I couldn't remember the last time I'd had a pint of Young's Bitter, so I gave up and contemplated other Whens. Along with the nostalgic pint the lovely territorial view capped by the sky's gorgeous grey-scale palette of clouds melted away all sense of stress and hurrying. It was at that moment I decided that instead of rushing back home so that I could fulfil a work-related social obligation, we should keep relaxing and spend another night away. It would be better for my health, easier on driver Andrew's health, and more beneficial in the long run. After all, too much of life today is spent rushing, rushing, rushing, rushing, and one should stop and smell the biscuits.

The food at the Castle Hotel isn't bad, either. We both ordered the £5.00 lunch special. My mozzarella and tomato panini was fairly simple but just right for my currently delicate stomach. And Andrew's prawn sandwich with Marie Rose sauce contained crawfish tails, a real treat. The handmade crisps were a bit anaemic for those who like them crisp, but perhaps that was just a one-off. A big mixed salad and coleslaw turned the £5.00 special into a huge meal, which sadly was way more than either of us could eat. But we'll admit we're food lightweights...