CoffeeBeer >> Pint Pleasures >> Previous Beer Columns >> 4 Doncaster Pubs

Previous Pint Pleasures - November 3, 2002

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Royal Oak, Northgate, Tickhill, South Yorkshire

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Eagle and Child, 24 Main Street, Aukley, South Yorkshire

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Station Hotel, Station Road, Blaxton, South Yorkshire

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Owston Park, Doncaster Road, Owston, South Yorkshire

On my first few trips to South Yorkshire my impression was of a very flat place. This is because I was yet to discover the seven hills of Sheffield and the elevations of the Peak District to the west. The area around Doncaster, in stark contrast, is indeed quite flat, even though some of the country roads challenge that impression because of the frequent dips and rises. Like Romney Marsh, this part of South Yorkshire feels as though it's sinking, and the pubs possess the same sort of timeless tranquillity of a drooping landscape.

The village of Tickhill, to the south of Doncaster, dates from 1066, although artifacts dating back to cave dwellers have been found in the area. Located near Old Cotes, which sounds potentially smelly in the rainy season, and the equally aromatic-sounding Maltby, Tickhill features a ruin of a castle, a duck pond, a 15th century Gothic church, 13th century Friary ruins, and a relatively large number of pubs including the Royal Oak. It was 4:00 on a Saturday afternoon when we visited the Royal Oak, which was the only pub we found still open. A large pub, it features a massive garden and playfield stretching back to a park. We worked our way through the crowd of rugby fans to the bar and ordered pints of John Smith Bitter (3.8% ABV, John Smith Brewery, Tadcaster, North Yorkshire). Our pints were a bit too cold but pleasantly refreshing after a long day spent in front of the computer. At the table next to us a man was making a phone call from the tiniest mobile phone I've ever seen; if anybody sneezed he was bound to lose it.

The Royal Oak has 5 handpumps featuring 4 regular selections and a guest beer. There is also a bottle of Stella enclosed safely in a block of glass (and not in my head, where Stella often seems to remain for hours if I drink more than one pint at a time). As we slowly sipped our pints we noticed the clock never changed from 4:00. Is this yet another Yorkshire clock frozen in time, like the glass-preserved bottle of Stella? As we left the pub and drove off we wondered not only about the time but why the village is called Tickhill. There were no obvious ticks anywhere, although we hadn't yet checked our jeans and socks. And there were definitely no hills. I suppose we could "tick" this one off our list, then...

Out in Aukley is a pub called the Eagle and Child. This pub is comfortable and features lots of alcoves. I didn't see any eagle nests or aeries but, as I said, this is the flat part of South Yorkshire. Although the present building dates back to 1820, an inn has existed on the site since 1492. The locals still call the pub by its original name, the Bird and Bastard. This was after a story by Sir Thomas Latham, one of the Earls of Derby, who in the 14th century placed his illegitimate son under a tree in which an eagle nested. Later, as he was out walking with his wife, he stumbled upon this "abandoned" child and convinced his wife they should adopt him. I guess folks were quite gullible back in those days...

Our family party of 4 had come to Aukley for lunch, and I can't vouch for the others but my smoked salmon and cream cheese sandwich was just what I wanted it to be. Our pints of St George's Ale (4.1% ABV, Daleside Brewery Ltd., Harrogate, North Yorkshire) were very nice as well. This is a goldish ale with an unusual, slightly fruit-and-nut character: a trail mix of a beer.

Six miles ESE of Doncaster, just north of Finningley, is the village of Blaxton, home of the Station Hotel. On the quiet Wednesday afternoon of our visit we had stopped in to kill a couple of hours, and we spent it watching the bar staff and their friends do a crossword while music videos blasted from the other room. Happily we found a much more satisfying pint of John Smith Bitter (3.8% ABV, John Smith Brewery, Tadcaster, North Yorkshire). It was dark brown, almost the colour of Barnsley Bitter, and dark and coffeelike as well. It's very enjoyable! So why does anybody in their right mind order John Smith Smooth?

Closer to the center of Doncaster is Owston, famous for the Owston Park Golf Course. There is also a large chain pub called Owston Park which is more of a family restaurant -- but since we were passing by and quite ravenous we decided to give it a chance. A bit like a Harvester, this pub's theme seems to be "Mighty Nice": there's a "Mighty Nice TV" on the wall and a "Mighty Nice Menu" which features "Mighty Meals". I had a Mighty Mediocre pint of Theakston XB (4.8% ABV, T.R. Theakston Ltd., Ripon, North Yorkshire) to accompany my Mighty Tolerable plate of scampi and chips, while a Mighty Teenage birthday party was in progress at the table next to us. Although the food was a Mighty Relief, being much better than Harvester, the experience was Mighty Boring...

(And I had a Mighty Severe case of gastroenteritis the next day, although that could have been caused by any mighty thing...)

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(Last updated 8 February 2014)