Pint Pleasures: "Six Pubs in North and East Yorkshire / Lost on the North Yorkshire Moors

CoffeeBeer >> Pint Pleasures >> Previous Beer Columns >> Six North and East Yorkshire Pubs


Previous Pint Pleasures - August 12, 2006

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The Bell Hotel, Market Place, Driffield, East Yorkshire

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Indigo Alley, 4 North Marine Parade, Scarborough, North Yorkshire

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The Angel Inn, 46 North Street, Scarborough, North Yorkshire

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The Royal Oak, Market Square, Helmsley, North Yorkshire

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The Hilderthorpe, 1 Hilderthorpe Road, Bridlington, East Yorkshire

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The Tavern Bar, South Marine Drive, Bridlington, East Yorkshire

A few months ago we were hankering for some good fish and chips. Since it was a Friday and we were both off work for the weekend, we decided to follow our craving to the letter by jumping in the car and heading for the Yorkshire coast.

On the way we stopped for lunch in Driffield, a market town known as the Capital of the Yorkshire Wolds. At the Bell Hotel, established in 1742 and now a Best Western hotel, we parked in what was once the Stables. Inside we found a long bar on one side with a lunch buffet at the far end. The rather odd woman behind the bar told us the Falling Stones (4.3% ABV, Wold Top Brewery, Wold Newton, Driffield, E Yorkshire) was "very popular, nice and light", so Andrew ordered a pint. It turned out to be black as porter, but mmmm, what a surprising taste: sparky with a lingering band of bitterness. I had a pint of Stallion (4.2% ABV, Nick Stafford's Hambleton Ales, Thirsk, North Yorkshire), which was a bit thick for my taste.

We sat at an old sewing machine table in what was the original open courtyard for horse-drawn coaches. We had a very good lunch: fresh salmon sandwiches on homemade bread with some truly great salads. In fact, this lunch restored Andrew's faith in salads so much that he thought that perhaps our fish and chips weekend might turn out to be a couple of salad days instead. As we dined we examined our placemats which featured an old engraving of the hotel from "Driffield Incidents 117 Years Ago", a book published in 1908. So what were these incidents that occurred in 1791? Displayed on the walls around us were many old photos of crowds gathered in front of the hotel. Why were they gathered? Was somebody making a speech, or were these the "incidents"? Perhaps the incidents were forerunners of flashmobs. As we contemplated this enigma Andrew worked away at the sewing machine treadles under our table, saying he was determined to get a shirt finished before we left.

We drove on to the coastal town of Scarborough. Although most Americans will have a romantic notion of Scarborough as a Renaissance festival town smelling of fresh herbs (thanks to the song popularised by Simon and Garfunkel), Scarborough was originally established in the 10th century by two Icelandic Viking brothers who named it "Skarthaborg", which translates roughly as "hare-lip's town". Today Scarborough is a pretty town featuring majestic rocks over the sea and intriguing little lanes, very tempting to an avid walker like myself. There is also the Spa Cliff Lift, the first funicular railway in Great Britain, and lots of things to see and do along the waterfront. As this was the pre-Easter weekend it was a bit of a challenge finding a hotel with our prerequisites (walking distance from a pub, cards accepted, and vacancies, obviously), but we finally located one around the corner from the North Cliff.

After we checked in we headed out to find Indigo Alley, a pub listed in the hotel's information guide. It was a bit difficult to find because the dark indigo blue front doesn't immediately suggest PUB. Much more helpful was the sign over the door which read "live beer real music". The interior is very plain with dark, warm wood floors and furniture, and there is some nice art on the walls in the side room. The front room was full of cask ale drinkers stopping in after work, most of them dressed in black, and there were 5 cask ales to choose from. We ordered pints of Rooster's YPA (4.3% ABV, Rooster's Brewery, Harrogate, North Yorkshire) from the friendly magenta-haired barmaid, sat on stools by the window ledge, and watched the Chinese restaurant coming alive across the street, the traffic circling around, and cars parking, all seemingly directed by an officious looking seagull. With this view as inspiration we contemplated what YPA could be short for. Yippie-eye-pee-aye? Yee-haw! This is a gold coloured beer, hoppy but not very bitter, very light and easy to drink. It's a friendly beer that grows on you, an epicene beer that is not the least bit aggressive but always looks attractive. It's a sweet disposition of a beer, always enjoyable company, but it would be nervous if it found itself in a shady dive standing next to darker, heartier beers. It would feel comfortable having a conversation with a pint of Bass Ale, but it would be intimidated if approached by a pint of Worky Ticket.

We left the Indigo and walked around in search of another pint, but after awhile we sensed we had entered a desert devoid of cask ale pubs. Suddenly I spotted the Angel straight ahead. Was this an angel of mercy? Ah, yes, indeed, with two handpumps as wings. We hurried inside and had two good, solid pints of Bombardier (4.3% ABV, Charles Wells Brewery, Bedford, Bedfordshire), served in Bombardier glasses. The pub, which was crowded with Friday regulars, consists of drinking areas around a central bar -- not exactly circular or square, but more of an octagonal shape. For entertainment there is a dartboard and 3 televisions, all which were turned on with the sound muted. Our multiplex-for-the-deaf program this evening featured pre-Grand National horserace teletext, the Masters Golf Tournament, and "Emmerdale" with subtitles. Nobody seemed to be watching any of them except for the 2 elderly ladies next to us who were glued to the racing statistics. On the wall by the main door I noticed something destined to become a relic from the past, like the typewriter and the keypunch machine: a time clock with a rack of time cards. But I never saw anybody punch in or out as they entered or exited.

The next day we decided to drive inland. After taking a wrong turn west of Pickering we found ourselves out on the North Yorkshire moors, fording rivers and dodging potholes on a long, lonely road for well over an hour, seemingly the only two people left on the planet. All the while Andrew kept assuring me, not with words but with amused looks cast my way, that we had plenty of petrol even though the gauge suggested otherwise. At the point where it really didn't matter anymore, as we realised the universe above us was massive and we were as insignificant as grains of sand, we bumped into Civilisation and, as you would expect, suddenly realised how thirsty we were. So we drove for another little while, not certain just where we were going or where we wanted to go, until we found ourselves behind a gorgeous Opel Rekord which was part of a classic car parade making a beeline toward the town of Helmsley; and like rats following the Pied Piper we followed suit until we were parking in the market square of Helmsley.

This Rydale town is noted for its 12th century castle overlooked by the stately home of Duncombe Park. In the centre of the market square is a statue of the second Lord Feversham, and nearby is the Royal Oak. The pub was quite crowded and very busy with lunches. Andrew had a pint of Bank's Bitter (3.8% ABV, Wolverhampton & Dudley Breweries PLC, Wolverhampton, W Midlands), which was pleasant and ordinary. I tried a pint of Strongarm (4% ABV, Camerons Brewery Ltd, Hartlepool, Durham). As it turns out I got the last pint in the barrel, so it was quite slippery and ordinary as well. I suspect that, as this was the day of the Grand National and "Strongarm" sounds like a racehorse, the beer may have gone very quickly.

After our breather we decided to head back to the coast to Bridlington. On the way, as the Grand National was due to run in less than an hour, we placed a couple of tiny bets on our choices of horses. Just in the nick of time we reached Bridlington and frantically searched for a pub with both cask ale and TV. Down near the harbour the Hilderthorpe looked like it would fit the bill. Since the only cask ale they had was Tetley's Mild we settled for a quick half of Tetley smooth flow and joined the regulars around the TV as the race began. I was so glad we had managed to see the race because the horse I chose, Number Six Valverde, won! Not bad for a nongambler like myself...

Coincidentally I found the following comment in reference to the Hilderthorpe on an online forum: "I posted a comment about visiting this place in the early 80's to find a horse standing in the bar...I kid you not, it belonged to some 'Travellers' evidently..."

After checking into a hotel we wandered down the road to the redundantly named Tavern Bar situated underneath a seafood restaurant called the Quayside. We ordered pints of John Smith Cask (3.8% ABV, John Smith Brewery, Tadcaster, North Yorkshire) and amused ourselves by reading the vast array of advertisements and posters on the walls advertising clubs, quiz nights, members' drawings, cappuccinos for sale, a performance by Elvis impersonator Jim Santana, and "kareoke" nights, while Abba blasted away on the stereo. A big sign announced the warning NO BAD LANGUAGE, but apparently misspellings are allowed; nevertheless we decided it was best to watch our diction. Another sign said "Children Only Permitted 12:00-7:30". Does that mean adults aren't allowed in the bar until after 7:30?

After a delicious and ridiculously ample fish and chips dinner upstairs, we returned to the Tavern Bar for the "kareoke" night. It was everything we hoped it would be, eg. the epitome of classic British seaside holiday camp fun. I mean, what else could you possibly want?