CoffeeBeer >> Pint Pleasures >> Previous Beer Columns >> Three Peak District Pubs

Previous Pint Pleasures - June 18, 2002

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Kings Head, Market Place, Buxton, Derbyshire

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Green Dragon Inn, Church Street, Dronfield, Derbyshire

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Diggle Hotel, Station Houses, Diggle, Greater Manchester

Since I keep writing about Sheffield pubs I feel like I should take a break and talk about some pubs outside of Sheffield. Within a half hour drive to the south and west of Sheffield lies some of the most beautiful countryside I've ever seen. And this comes from a native Californian who's lived in the Pacific Northwest. But I have to say that driving southwest out of Sheffield, through the Peak District in Derbyshire, is one of the most gorgeously breathtaking drives I've ever experienced -- especially as we passed through the unique village of Stoney Middleton in the Middleton Dale. With a population of 600, this unique village, nestled in limestone cliffs and rocks, started life as an old Roman settlement with baths. The area, for quite obvious reasons, is very popular with rock climbers and hikers. And then we drove on through a light fog blanketing beautiful Irish-green hills and dales, sheep and lambs and cows and horses and lovely stone buildings: it was absolutely magical. Where was the pot of gold? Where was the rainbow?

We were on our way to Buxton, an old market spa town which, at 1000 feet, is the highest town in England. Sadly by the time we arrived in Buxton the only pub still open and serving lunch was the Kings Head. Situated in the town's market area this pub has a very pretty facade. As we entered it was rather cavernous and quite empty, with just a few locals playing pool and bad country music emanating lightly from the jukebox. Even with "The Battle of New Orleans" as soundtrack the atmosphere seemed deathly quiet.

Our food, unfortunately, was nothing to write home about. Of our two pints of Marston's Bitter (4.0% ABV, Marston, Thompson & Evershed, Burton-upon-Trent, Staffordshire), my partner's was smooth and pleasant, but mine was pipey -- the first pipey pint I've had in the North. Pipey pints are so common in the South...

Just south of Sheffield in Derbyshire -- close to Holmesfield, a tiny village boasting seven pubs -- is the village of Dronfield, apparently named after drone bees. Right in the centre is the Green Dragon Inn, a large pub which features food. On the winter afternoon we stopped in it was populated by a somewhat wealthy-appearing clientele discussing Jesus and bridegrooms named Mark. In the corner is one of those stupid pay phones that eat 20p pieces by the second, hanging up just when you're trying to negotiate a house rental. (In retrospect I can attest that the mobile phone has been a great invention!) Our pints of Tetley's (3.7% ABV, Carlsberg-Tetley Brewing Co, Leeds, West Yorkshire) were nice but very cold. Was it the ambient temperature? After all, it was below zero outside, and who knows how cold the cellar is kept.

On a separate trip to Oldham, east of Manchester and just across the Pennine Way from Sheffield, we stayed at a B&B in the Saddleworth Moor, famous for the Saddleworth Moor Murders of the mid 1960s, when Ian Brady and Myra Hindley brutally murdered five teenagers. Within walking distance of our guest house we were fortunate to find the friendly and nonthreatening Diggle Hotel. Here we had pints of Landlord (4.3% ABV, Timothy Taylor & Co Ltd, Keighley, West Yorkshire) served the Northern way, i.e. with a head. Yum! It was a very nice pint, especially after sloshing through the pouring rain in the dark on the Moor and especially after driving six hours up the extremely boring M6 to Manchester. And the food: my friend said it's the best steak and kidney pie he'd ever had, and my veggie kiev was the best I'd ever had.

As we learned as we sat sipping our pints and browsing the bookshelf, the Diggle Hotel just happens to be in CAMRA's Good Beer Guide. What more does a village need? According to the December 2001 edition of What's Brewing, 53% of rural villages in England and Wales no longer have a pub. So what are the chances of coming across a place like the Diggle Hotel? For residents of Saddleworth Moor I'd say this is a real find -- and much more satisfying and pleasant than another shallow grave.

It's back to reviewing more Sheffield pubs next time, because Real Ale Loving Man and Woman cannot live on breathtaking scenery alone...