Tuesday, December 13, 2022

All Leeds Aren't We?

Last week, as the weather turned decidedly chilly, I once again took it upon myself to venture out for an explore. My chosen destination saw me back in the fair county of Yorkshire, investigating a place that has, over recent years, built a reputation as a 'beer city' and a destination that has something for everyone, no matter what kind of beer connoisseur they may be. If the title of this entry hasn't already given it away, I speak, of course, of the city of Leeds, which has long been on my radar for an expedition. It was finally time to tick it off of my ever growing list.

Leeds is a city and the administrative centre of the City of Leeds district in West Yorkshire. It is built around the River Aire and is in the eastern foothills of the Pennines. It is also the third-largest settlement (by population) in England, after London and Birmingham.

The city was a small manorial borough in the 13th century and a market town in the 16th century. It expanded by becoming a major production centre, including of carbonated water where it was invented in the 1760s, and trading centre (mainly with wool) for the 17th and 18th centuries. It was a major mill town during the Industrial Revolution. It was also known for its flax industry, iron foundries, engineering and printing, as well as shopping, with several surviving Victorian era arcades, such as Kirkgate Market. City status was awarded in 1893, a populous urban centre formed in the following century which absorbed surrounding villages and overtook the nearby York population.

It is located about halfway between London and Edinburgh and has multiple motorway links; the M1, M62 and A1(M). The city's railway station is, alongside Manchester Piccadilly, the busiest of its kind in Northern England. It is the county's largest settlement with a population of 516,298, while the larger City of Leeds district had a population of 812,000 (2021 estimate). The city is part of a built-up area, with 1.7 million it is the fourth-largest built-up area by population the United Kingdom.

The district has multiple parished and unparished areas. The city and towns (including Morley, Pudsey, Horsforth, Rothwell and Farsley) around the city form a cross-district (Calderdale, City of Bradford, City of Wakefield and Kirklees) continuous built-up area that the metropolitan county is based on.

The name derives from the old Brythonic word Ladenses meaning "people of the fast-flowing river", in reference to the River Aire that flows through the city. This name originally referred to the forested area covering most of the Brythonic kingdom of Elmet, which existed during the 5th century into the early 7th century.

Bede states in the fourteenth chapter of his Ecclesiastical History, in a discussion of an altar surviving from a church erected by Edwin of Northumbria, that it is located in ...regione quae vocatur Loidis (Latin, "the region which is called Loidis"). An inhabitant of Leeds is locally known as a Loiner, a word of uncertain origin. The term Leodensian is also used, from the city's Latin name.

The name has also been explained as a derivative of Welsh lloed, meaning simply "a place".

Leeds developed as a market town in the Middle Ages as part of the local agricultural economy.

Before the Industrial Revolution, it became a co-ordination centre for the manufacture of woollen cloth, and white broadcloth was traded at its White Cloth Hall.

Leeds handled one sixth of England's export trade in 1770. Growth, initially in textiles, was accelerated by the creation of the Aire and Calder Navigation in 1699 (with major additional works in the 18th century) and the Leeds and Liverpool Canal in 1816. In the late Georgian era, William Lupton was one of a number of central Leeds landowners, some of whom, like him, were also textile manufacturers. At the time of his death in 1828, Lupton occupied the enclosed fields of the manor of Leeds, his estate including a mill, reservoir, substantial house and outbuildings.

Mechanical engineering, initially to supply tools and machinery for the textile sector, rapidly became a diverse industry.

The railway network constructed around Leeds, starting with the Leeds and Selby Railway in 1834, provided improved communications with national markets and, significantly for its development, an east–west connection with Manchester and the ports of Liverpool and Hull giving improved access to international markets. Alongside technological advances and industrial expansion, Leeds retained an interest in trading in agricultural commodities, with the Corn Exchange opening in 1864.

Marshall's Mill was one of the first of many factories constructed in Leeds from around 1790 when the most significant were woollen finishing and flax mills. Manufacturing diversified by 1914 to printing, engineering, chemicals and clothing manufacture. Decline in manufacturing during the 1930s was temporarily reversed by a switch to producing military uniforms and munitions during the Second World War. However, by the 1970s, the clothing industry was in irreversible decline, facing cheap foreign competition. The contemporary economy has been shaped by Leeds City Council's vision of building a '24-hour European city' and 'capital of the north'. The city has developed from the decay of the post-industrial era to become a telephone banking centre, connected to the electronic infrastructure of the modern global economy. There has been growth in the corporate and legal sectors, and increased local affluence has led to an expanding retail sector, including the luxury goods market.

In 1801, 42% of the population of Leeds lived outside the township, in the wider borough. Cholera outbreaks in 1832 and 1849 caused the authorities to address the problems of drainage, sanitation, and water supply. Water was pumped from the River Wharfe, but by 1860 it was too heavily polluted to be usable. Following the Leeds Waterworks Act of 1867 three reservoirs were built at Lindley Wood, Swinsty, and Fewston in the Washburn Valley north of Leeds.

Residential growth occurred in Holbeck and Hunslet from 1801 to 1851, but, as these townships became industrialised new areas were favoured for middle class housing. Land south of the river was developed primarily for industry and secondarily for back-to-back workers' dwellings. The Leeds Improvement Act 1866 sought to improve the quality of working class housing by restricting the number of homes that could be built in a single terrace.

Holbeck and Leeds formed a continuous built-up area by 1858, with Hunslet nearly meeting them. In the latter half of the nineteenth century, population growth in Hunslet, Armley, and Wortley outstripped that of Leeds. When pollution became a problem, the wealthier residents left the industrial conurbation to live in Headingley, Potternewton and Chapel Allerton which led to a 50% increase in the population of Headingley and Burley from 1851 to 1861. The middle-class flight from the industrial areas led to development beyond the borough at Roundhay and Adel. The introduction of the electric tramway led to intensification of development in Headingley and Potternewton and expansion outside the borough into Roundhay.

Two private gas supply companies were taken over by the corporation in 1870, and the municipal supply provided street lighting and cheaper gas to homes. From the early 1880s, the Yorkshire House-to-House Electricity Company supplied electricity to Leeds until it was purchased by Leeds Corporation and became a municipal supply.

Slum clearance and rebuilding began in Leeds during the interwar period when over 18,000 houses were built by the council on 24 estates in Cross Gates, Middleton, Gipton, Belle Isle and Halton Moor. The slums of Quarry Hill were replaced by the innovative Quarry Hill flats, which were demolished in 1975. Another 36,000 houses were built by private sector builders, creating suburbs in Gledhow, Moortown, Alwoodley, Roundhay, Colton, Whitkirk, Oakwood, Weetwood, and Adel. After 1949 a further 30,000 sub-standard houses were demolished by the council and replaced by 151 medium-rise and high-rise blocks of council flats in estates at Seacroft, Armley Heights, Tinshill, and Brackenwood.

Being so well served by transport links made it relatively simple for me to make my way to Leeds so, after a two hour train journey, I arrived in the city at around 11.15 am on what was a cold, but not altogether unpleasant Thursday, eager to throw myself into the drinking delights of this fine northern city. I had a route planned, I'd done my research and I'd arrived in plenty of time. It was time to get stuck in. Luckily, my first stop was mere yards from the main station entrance. Negotiating roadworks and a taxi rank, I crossed to the opposite side of New Station Street, where the first pub of the day was handily located. My day in Leeds would properly begin at the Good Beer Guide 2022 listed Scarbrough Hotel.

Located in an area that was formerly known as Castle Hill, the pub sits on the site of a medieval manor house which had a deep moat that looped around between the River Aire and nearby Boar Lane. The building was lavishly rebuilt in 1765 by Richard Wilson and then became a hotel owned by Henry Scarbrough (from whom it takes its name, not the seaside town, hence the spelling) in 1823. The present pub is a surviving extension from this structure. The Scarbrough Hotel is operated under the Nicholson's branding and has retained many original features. Inside, the main entrance leads directly to the bar. Seating areas are located at either side, consisting largely of both low and high tables and chairs, all in scrubbed wood. The gents toilets are located to the left of the bar, with the ladies and accessible toilets to the right. The tiled frontage of the exterior is married up with bare wood and brass inside. The bar is long and, amongst its many delights, features 9 handpulls. 8 of these were available for my perusal on the day. The choice was varied: Tetley Bitter doubled up (this is one of the few venues in Leeds that still has this on cask), Timothy Taylor Landlord, Adnams Mosaic, St, Austell Tribute, the house Nicholson's Pale Ale, Titanic Plum Porter and Oakham Citra. There are much worse ways to start the day than with Citra, so my decision was made almost instantly. I took my beer to a high table in a snug-like area to the right hand side of the bar, which was quieter. The early lunchtime rush was starting to kick in as I arrived and, in general, I would find most of the pubs to be busier than expected, given it was Thursday afternoon. My choice of Citra proved to be a good one as it was in excellent condition, reaffirming that the pub's listing in the GBG is more than justified. It wasn't long until it was time to venture on.

Leaving the Scarbrough, I turned left and then left again onto Mill Hill, passed some pubs that weren't yet open but to which I would return later, and emerged on the junction with Boar Lane. On the corner, in a large, and rather imposing, Victorian building is the Griffin.

This surprisingly large, Greene King-operated pub occupies the ground floor of the former Griffin Hotel, which was built in 1872 as a railway hotel for wealthy travellers. The decor is very much reminiscent of a classic London pub and the interior is considerably more expansive than it appears from outside. The entrance leads into the main space which features low, wooden tables in the centre, booths in the windows and pillars throughout that feature drinking shelves. To the rear of this section is another, more open, seating area with banquette seating along the rear wall. A further section beyond this is styled like a London underground station and acts as a large restaurant and function space. The interior is broken up by the aforementioned pillars, which create the illusion of several smaller drinking areas. This pub was busy too and, after negotiating a cluster of people at the bar, I was able to investigate the beer selection. 6 handpulls are on the bar here, and 5 of these were in use, offering a choice from amongst the Greene King stable, The options were Greene King IPA, a house beer called Griffin, Greene King Yardbird, Hardy's & Hanson's Rocking Rudolph and Lilley's Mulled Cider. Avoiding the festive beer, until later on at least, I instead went for Yardbird, which I generally find is one of the better beers that Greene King put out. I retreated to the banquette seating, underneath a large mirror and within view of one of the various TVs distributed throughout the place. The Yardbird was decent enough, delicately hoppy and with a clean finish, so I was pleased with my decision here too. It was ticking on towards midday now, which meant that the vast majority of the other pubs on the day's itinerary would be opening very shortly. My day had started relatively strongly and I was excited to see how the coming hours were going to progress. 

My third stop of the day was something a little bit different but definitely somewhere I wasn't going to pass up the chance to visit. It also happens to be virtually opposite the Griffin so it made sense for my day to continue there. I crossed over Boar Lane as the clock chimed 12 and arrived at Tapped Leeds.

The sister pub to Tapped at Sheffield station, this is another venue in the impressive portfolio of the Pivovar group and is essentially a more modern variation on a theme. This is both a bar and a microbrewery, with brewing vessels at the back of the room as you enter. The interior is open plan, with a mixture of retro and modern design features. Large windows at the front can be opened out directly onto the street in warmer weather, which also accommodates a small, outdoor drinking space. The bar runs directly down the right hand side of the room and, as well as an impressive keg beer selection, also features 8 cask beers, served through wall-mounted pumps on the back bar. Once I'd taken a moment to marvel at how cool the place is aesthetically, I located the cask beer list. The beers up for selection were J.W. Lees Dark Ale, Titanic Plum Porter, Oakham JHB, Anarchy Blonde Star, Black Iris Endless Summer, Bristol Beer Factory Live Forever, Roosters Variation on a Theme and Anarchy Flat Out IPA. I was immediately drawn to the two offerings from Newcastle's Anarchy but, as time only permitted one, I swung for the Flat Out IPA (4.5%). Taking this to a table opposite the bar, where I could snap some photos of the brewing vessels, I was finally able to fully take the place in. It's no surprise that Tapped is Good Beer Guide 2022. The beer was superb. Flat Out IPA is a hazy session IPA, brewed with Vermont yeast. Notes of orange and lime give way to a hoppy, earthy finish. This is a great beer and a great place to drink it. I particularly enjoyed the pun-tastic food names on the menu. Livin' la Fajita Loca anyone?

The next stop on my list was a must-visit and an absolute, bonafide Leeds institution. Leaving Tapped, I again turned left and continued down Boar Lane for a couple of minutes, until I reached Briggate, one of the central shopping streets in the city centre. A short walk down here led me to a sign on the wall between two shops that pointed me to my next destination. A small alleyway leads into a narrow courtyard, on one side of which is the Good Beer Guide 2022 listed Whitelocks Ale House.

Dating from 1715, Whitelocks occupies land on what was a medieval burgage plot, now known as Turk's Head Yard, which it shares with the pub of the same name. John Betjeman once described this place as the 'beating heart of Leeds', which is entirely justified, especially inside. The interior is largely unchanged from 1895 and is made up of mirrors, polished metal and woodwork, stained glass, iron pillars and faience tiling. Assorted old posters and bric-a-brac are displayed throughout. The raised bar is front and centre and runs virtually the whole length of the room. The pub itself is rather narrow and Grade II* listed, with seating along the wall and a small, restaurant-style space at one end reserved for dining. The outside yard provides additional tables for outside drinking. Testament to the pub's reputation and popularity, when I arrived, a mere 20 minutes after opening, it was quite literally standing room only. Every table was full and there were quite a few people making do with whatever space they'd been able to fashion for themselves at and around the bar. Speaking of the bar, it is taken up by 11 handpulls. 9 of these were available when I arrived and I was eventually able to determine their contents. Five Points Railway Porter and Five Points XPA were both doubled up, with the remaining pumps offering a choice of Thornbridge Astryd, North Open Space, Northern Monk Centennial Star, Kirkstall XXX Mild and Timothy Taylor Landlord. Being in Leeds, I went local and chose the Open Space from North Brewing Co. Open Space (4.6%) is a West Coast pale ale, dry hopped with Simcoe and Chinook. This provides it with aromas of grapefruit, lemon and floral bouquets and pine flavours, leading to a spiky finish. I managed to find a spot to lean and imbibe. This place is fantastic and I am very glad that I was able to visit. The reputation and regard in which this place is held is thoroughly deserved. 

As difficult as it was to leave Whitelocks, there was much exploring to be done. Returning to Briggate, I crossed it and made my way down Kirkgate. After a couple of minutes of walking, I took a left onto Harper Street, where my next location sits on the right. Next up: the Crowd of Favours.

Taking up most of the street, this many-windowed pub is operated by Camerons as part of their agreement with Leeds Brewery, whose beers feature heavily here and throughout the city. Inside, the lighting is subtle and the decor is extensively woody, with heavy use of reclaimed furniture. The central bar is surrounded by uneven floorboards and there are murals and prints across the walls. To the right of the bar is an area of traditional wooden seating. A snug area is located to the left, featuring comfy furniture whilst a downstairs level contains a function area with sofas and fairy lights, whilst also providing toilet access. I entered the Crowd of Favours and was immediately greeted by a very friendly cocker spaniel, who it turns out is the pub dog (always a winner!). Making my way to the bar, I was pleased to see 8 handpulls, half of which were given over to Leeds Brewery beers, with the others supplying guests. The Leeds offerings were Pale, Midnight Bell, Best and Christmas Porter, whilst the remaining hand pumps featured Mobberley Bunji, Camerons Strongarm and two ciders from Lilley's, specifically Apple & Blackcurrant and Rhubarb. I was certainly feeling in a festive mood so it seemed logical to give the Leeds Christmas Porter (4.2%) a try. This is an easy-drinking porter, with subtle hints of plums and spices. It's tasty enough but I did expect a bit more festive punch. I chose the right hand seating area to enjoy the beer, during which time the dog, whose name I learned was Ruby, came over for more of a fuss. A Christmas beer in a nice warm pub with a lovely dog? What's not to love!

I would retrace my steps a little now. Heading out of the Crowd of Favours, I turned left and headed back down Harper Street to the junction with Kirkgate, where I had already spotted the next destination whilst on my way to the previous pub. Situated on the corner, is the Good Beer Guide 2022 listed Duck & Drake.

This two-roomed Victorian corner pub has retained many of its original features, including some of the floorboards, which are still going strong after two hundred years of trade. The front room features a small stage, where live music is held most nights of the week, whilst the back room includes a mural of various rock and blues musicians, and is decorated with music memorabilia. The decor in general, is minimal with bare wood and scrubbed wood furniture. The central bar serves both rooms and sits in between the two. There is also a well-kept beer garden to the rear. The original features even extend to the gents toilets, which features traditional porcelain units. The aforementioned bar includes a whopping 15 handpulls, with beers handily listed on a board behind the bar. One of these had just run out on my visit but this still gave me a choice of beer from amongst the following 14 options: Timothy Taylor Landlord, Theakston's Old Peculier, Bridgehouse Blonde, Daleside Bitter, Roosters Yankee, Taylor's Golden Best, Yorkshire Heart Ghost Porter, Roosters YPA, Bridgehouse Cherry Choc, Bridgehouse Mary Jane, Stancill Barnsley Bitter, Saltaire South Island Pale, Wychwood Hobgoblin IPA and Ossett All Cask, No Brakes. Despite being understandably overwhelmed, I eventually managed to settle on a choice, in the shape of Ossett's All Cask, No Brakes (5.5%), and made my way to a small table adjacent to the bar, where I could bathe in both the traditional feel of the pub and the soundtrack of classic rock that accompanies it. All Cask, No Brakes isn't a beer that I was initially familiar with but I'm glad I took the leap of faith. Billed as an Antipodean Pale Ale, this is a cask version of a keg lager that was originally brewed by Green Duck brewery. Pilsner and Vienna malts combine with Motueka hops and lime zest to give lime, lemon and floral aromas. It's a cracking beer, and goes down surprisingly quickly given the ABV. Whilst making my obligatory notes, I was noticed by two older gents nearby who happened to be fellow CAMRA members and took the time to say hello, ask where I was visiting from and what I did with the notes I took. They also pointed me in the direction of the Kirkstall Brewery tap if I had the time to visit whilst I was in town. I didn't have the time on this occasion but I suspect there will be a return visit to these parts in the future. In all the years writing this blog, I think I've only had that kind of interaction a handful of times and it often catches me off guard, but it was nice to have a little bit of a chat about a shared interest. 

The Duck & Drake had, thus far, been one of the standout locations and it pained me to have to leave. Needs must, however. Heading back out onto Kirkgate, I again turned left and continued onwards. A bit further down the road, in the shadow of Leeds Minster, is the next place I would turn my attention to: the Lamb & Flag.

This Grade II listed pub was originally known as the Thirteen Bells in the nineteenth century, its name derived after the bells of the nearby Leeds Minster (then known as Leeds Parish Church). After a long period of closure, it was tastefully restored by Leeds Brewery and the name was changed to its current moniker. The pub is laid out over two floors, with exposed brickwork, timber and large windows and an upstairs balcony with seating, overlooking a covered courtyard which is heated in winter. The main bar is on the ground floor, immediately opposite the entrance and there is a second bar upstairs, which is often used for functions. The pub was busy when I entered, both with drinkers and with large Christmas bookings. It was easy enough to get served though and I was soon faced with 8 hand pumps. Again the choice here included several Leeds Brewery beers, namely Christmas Porter, Pale, Midnight Bell, Best and Yorkshire Gold but Camerons Road Crew, Northern Monk Eternal and Thornbridge Galaxia were also available. I decided to go down the dark beer route again and went for the delicious Midnight Bell (4.8%). This is a premium dark mild with a full bodied and complex character from Willamette hops. Whilst mild is by no means my favourite style of beer, when they're as good as this, I'm happy to be converted. I found myself standing again here, a little way from the bar, with a drinking shelf as support. This proved to be an optimum spot to watch plates of amazing looking and fantastic smelling food being ferried to hungry diners. 

After a brief food break myself, it was on to the next one. Taking an immediate right out of the Lamb & Flag, I walked parallel with the Minster churchyard for a few feet before turning left again. Directly in front of me, on the other side of the Minster itself is the Palace.

Formerly the Palace Hotel, at which time it was a Melbourne Brewery house, the building dates from 1741. Now operated by Oak Tree, a branch of Mitchells and Butlers, this is another pub which is deceptively large inside. A long, central bar links two drinking areas at either end of the building with traditional scrubbed wood furnishings and booth seating throughout. There are a number of TVs throughout that show sport and there is also a heated courtyard area decorated with fairy lights. 11 handpulls occupy the bar here, although just 4 were in use when I arrived. A neighbouring bank of 5 had pump clips on and attached tags saying 'Coming Soon', clearly suggesting the available beer range increases at weekends, which is always good. The 4 that were on offer at the time were Leeds Pale, Tetley Cask Bitter, Big Smoke Solaris and Wychwood Hobgoblin. I was surprised to see Surrey-based Big Smoke being represented so far north so it made sense to go for the Solaris (3.8%). This is an easy-drinking session pale with flavours of citrus, a light malt sweetness and a balanced, bitter grapefruit finish. It definitely wasn't a beer I expected to find and it turned out to be very enjoyable. The Palace was busy and bustling with locals when I was in and was very welcoming. It was certainly something of a wild card when I was selecting pubs for the trip and it's always a pleasant surprise when selections like that end up paying off. One local who may or may not have been in attendance is Michael Hill, a local actor, singer, poet and entertainer who died in the pub in 1948 and whose shade has allegedly been seen lurking around the place from time to time, by both customers and staff. It's certainly somewhere that is quite easy to want to come back to.

More retracing of the route would be required now. Leaving the Palace, I made my way back along Kirkgate and Briggate, eventually emerging back on New Station Street, not far from where my day had begun. I was nowhere near ready to head home yet though. Instead, to The Brewery Tap.

This is a moderately sized pub on the main approach to the train station. Set over two levels, the ground floor has a light and airy main bar area with lots of comfortable seating. Upstairs is a function room with an additional bar and a small roof terrace with additional seating. The large windows downstairs look out over the street and the overall decoration is bright and colourful with lots of murals, posters and quirky design evident. The bar is well stocked too, with 8 handpulls. This is another Camerons operated venue and Leeds Brewery beers again feature prominently, alongside various guests. On the day of my visit, the available Leeds beers were Christmas Porter, Pale, Yorkshire Gold and Best, alongside Rudgate Chocolate Stout, Fell Brewery Azacca, Camerons Road Crew and Rudgate Ruby Mild. Fell Brewery was a new name to me so I instantly decided to investigate further with their Azacca (4%). This turned out to be a delicious, single-hopped session pale ale with big hop notes and tropical flavours. Fell Brewery are, perhaps not surprisingly, based in Cumbria, specifically at Grange-over-Sands. Based on this, I'll be seeking their beers out more in future!

Another redirect now. Turning left out of the Brewery Tap, I made my way back up New Station Street and rejoined Boar Lane. On the adjacent corner to the Griffin from earlier, is The Bankers Cat.

Located in a building that was formerly a bank, The Bankers Cat is operated by Thornbridge Brewery which, given my experiences with their pubs in the past, is always a good sign. It's even more promising when the pub is Good Beer Guide listed, as this one is (as of 2022). The front door leads directly to a central, horseshoe-shaped bar which has seating on all sides, including booths with mirrors to the left. A stained glass window dominates part of the right hand wall and there are quirky cat portraits throughout. Additional seating can be found downstairs in the old bank vault, which still has the original vault door in situ. Large chandeliers provide lighting in the main bar. For all intents and purposes, the pub reminds me of a smaller version of The Market Cat, it's York sister pub, even down to the layout and the decor. I already knew I was going to be in for a treat in terms of beer choice. Of the 8 handpulls, 7 were in use with the majority given over to beers from Thornbridge's extensive catalogue. Thornbridge Roisin, Brother Rabbit, Astryd and Jaipur were joined on the bar by Titanic Plum Porter, Saltaire DDH Citra and Black Iris Bajan Breakfast. There was no way on Earth that I wasn't going to have a Thornbridge beer in a Thornbridge pub and Roisin was a beer that I'd never encountered so the stars aligned and I dived in. Roisin (4%) is an Irish red ale. That means it's malty but with an almost caramel-like sweetness. It's a definite yes from me!

The Bankers Cat sits on the corner of Boar Lane and Mill Hill and so is very conveniently located for my next stop, which happened to be on Mill Hill itself. Having walked past it earlier in the day, I was now able to enter Head of Steam.

Confusingly, Leeds has three Head of Steam venues, of which two are in the city centre, with the third a bit further out in Headingley. The Mill Hill venue is the oldest of the trio, the closest to the train station and the only one to currently feature in the Good Beer Guide (2022). Opening in 2014, before which it was known as Spencer's, the pub occupies a three storey stone and brick building with a curved frontage. Inside, the island bar is octagonal and sits central to the downstairs room, underneath a chandelier made from empty beer bottles. Although the layout is basically one room, it does have different areas, including a few tables close to the bar, an alcove which is often used for live music, a rear raised area and an upstairs balcony area. The pub has a strong emphasis on cask and Belgian beers, which is evidenced by the 9 handpulls that take up some of the bar space. On the day that I popped in, one of these was occupied by Lilley's Pineapple cider with the rest give over to various beers, respectively Timothy Taylor Landlord, Camerons Strongarm, Northern Monk Little Faith, Camerons Road Crew, Brew York X-Panda, Fell Tinderbox, Northern Monk Festive Star and Ilkley Laka. It definitely felt like a good time for another festive beer so I settled for Northern Monk's Festive Star (5.2%) and retired to a table by the window to enjoy it. And enjoy it I did! Festive Star is a vanilla, cinnamon and chocolate porter with sweetness in the flavour, a gentle spice in the aroma and a nice, warming kick in the mouthfeel. It's like being smacked in the face by Christmas but with less blood and flying Monopoly boards.

Drinking a Northern Monk beer set me up nicely for the next stop of my Leeds beer tour. Leaving Head of Steam and turning right, I headed under the nearby railway bridge and crossed over the River Aire, until I got to Water Lane, where I turned right. Following this road took me into the Holbeck area of the city, an area which was once for its mills. Turning onto Marshall Street, I followed this to an area known as Marshalls Mill where the Northern Monk Refectory looms over the river. 

The Refectory occupies a building that was once a flax mill. The Northern Monk brewery is located on the ground floor with the Refectory itself on the floor above. The decor is best described as 'modern industrial' with exposed brickwork and metal pipes, as well as modern art adorning the walls. Outside of the building, to the front, there are benches for seating and a cycle rack. Seating in the Refectory is largely high tables and chairs but there is an area of sofas and lower seating on one side. The bar occupies the corner of the room with an extensive beer list on a blackboard above. There is a significant amount of keg beer here, across 15 lines and a wide variety of styles and there are also two handpulls dispensing cask, usually a mixture of Northern Monk and guests. As tempted as I was by the sheer array of keg beers, I'd promised myself that I would stick to cask on this particular trip and so had a decision to make between BBNo. 11 Citra and Northern Monk/Independent North/Jack King The Ceremony. The description of the latter instantly hooked me. The Ceremony is billed as a spiced Cascadian dark ale which, quite frankly, sounded both baffling and intriguing. I had to give it a go. The beer is part of Northern Monk's Patrons Project range and was brewed to celebrate the release of The Ceremony, a new film by local filmmaker Jack King. The flavour profile has combined Middle Eastern and winter ale flavours for something very different. It's 5.4% and uses a black IPA base combined with cinnamon, nutmeg, green cardamom and black pepper, and hopped with Centennial, Simcoe, Mosaic and Sabro. It's equal parts spicy, sweet, coconutty and peppery. My brain struggled to define it but I do know that I enjoyed it!

I found myself pleasingly ahead of time which meant I could afford myself a more leisurely stroll to the final two pubs, the first of which I'd already been past on my way to Northern Monk. Making my way back to Water Lane and turning left, I headed to the final Leeds Brewery/Camerons pub of the day, in the shape of the Midnight Bell.

Located in the heart of a regenerated urban area, the Midnight Bell is a brick-built pub that caters to local office workers, as well as those visiting or popping in for a drink or some food. Inside, the pub is cosy with dimmed lighting, comfy seating and fairy lights as well as exposed beams and brickwork. To the rear is an outside courtyard which, in warmer weather, is served via a hatch from the bar. The bar itself occupies a corner and faces into a large, central room where the majority of the seating is situated. And on this bar, there are 7 handpulls. Once again, most of these carry Leeds beers, on this occasion Midnight Bell, Best, Pale and Christmas Porter were present but there were also guest beers in the form of Ilkley Blonde, Camerons Lifeboat and Roosters Buckeye. The Lifeboat immediately called to me and so I took the plunge and was rewarded with a very nice pale ale, packed full of delicate floral aromas and hop notes. The beer is part of a range that the Hartlepool-based brewery have brewed to raise money for the local RNLI with 5p from every pint going to the charity, so not only is it delicious but it's for an excellent cause!

I had one final pub to visit before I made my way home and it just so happened to be very very close to the train station. In fact, it's actually underneath it! Retracing my steps back over the river and towards the station, I made my way to Granary Wharf and a road called Dark Neville Street where my final stop is located. Last but certainly not least, the Good Beer Guide 2022 listed The Hop.

Situated beneath the arches of platform 17 of Leeds Station, The Hop is operated by Ossett Brewery. The central bar is surrounded by comfortable seating with bare brick walls decorated with murals and pictures of rock bands. Another seating area above is reached by staircases at either end of the room, and hosts regular live music. Due to the pub's location, the beer cellar is actually at ground level and can be seen through windows in the drinking area. The ambience is very much neon signs and dim lighting, which creates a comfortable feeling and completely detracts from the trains that run overhead. The long bar, which is behind the entrance, boasts 10 handpulls, 8 of which were in use during my short stop there. The beers are primarily from Ossett with White Rat, Silver King, Yorkshire Blonde, Voodoo, Excelsius and Butterley all being present on the day, alongside Wilde Child Rik van Nutter, Fireside Cellar Hero and Pulp Rhubarb & Strawberry Cider. It was another Ossett beer for me this time. I decided on Silver King (4.3%) as the beer that would round off my day out. For those not in the know, Silver King is an American pale ale with Cascade hops for a crisp, refreshing and dry beer with citrus aromas and a balanced bitterness. It was over far too quickly. All that was left was for me to leave The Hop and walk up a nearby ramp that eventually took me to platform 17, from where my train back to Nottingham would soon depart.

It had been a very good day. I'd managed to complete my route without any need to rush or miss pubs out. The results speak for themselves. Leeds thoroughly deserves acclaim for it's excellent beer scene. Each pub I visited was different but each made me welcome and made me feel positive that, in an era of such uncertainty and economic upheaval, it's not all doom and gloom. Some pubs will fight on and, given how busy each and every one was, come out of this in a good position, possibly even stronger. There were, of course, standouts amongst the crowd. Whitelocks Ale House and the Duck & Drake have both earned a place in my heart but every pub on this list deserves a visit. If you're ever thought about visiting Leeds, I suggest you follow through with it. You won't be disappointed and, regardless of your beery predilections, you will definitely find something you enjoy. I'm glad I braved the cold to pay this fine city a visit. I left knowing that it's somewhere I'll come back to. There's so many pubs I didn't have time for, which is incentive enough to plan my return. My list of planned excursions continues to grow. And, to that end, time, money and rail strikes notwithstanding, I hope to squeeze another trip in before the end of the year, although it's very unlikely that that entry will be published before the arrival of jolly old Saint Nick. With that in mind, all that remains this time is for me to sign off, wishing you a Merry Christmas and an excellent festive period. 

Saturday, November 5, 2022

A York to Remember

Around 3 weeks ago, and not long after this year's beer festival escapades, Amy and I returned to a place that we first visited together last year and immediately fell in love with. Not only were we entranced and fully absorbed into the history and the atmosphere, but we were compelled to return 12 months later to once again throw ourselves into the surroundings, culture and, not to mention, the plethora of fantastic drinking establishments. I speak, of course, of the fine city of York, a city that may well have become our favourite place to visit in all of the UK. Last year, we stayed for 2 nights, over a weekend in the lead up to Amy's birthday. This year, we did things slightly differently. The visit was still in aid of Amy's birthday celebrations, but we would be staying for 3 nights at the start of the week. This was done primarily to ensure that we would be able to do everything that we had planned and with reduced crowd levels. What followed would be a wonderful 3 days of exploring, new experiences, old favourites and new memories, both in, and out, of a significant number of pubs.

We arrived in York just after 12.30 in the afternoon on a not unpleasant Monday, having this time opted to drive the less than 2-hour journey from Nottingham. Last year's experience, faffing around with trains had put us off the idea of rail travel, which was just as well as a rail strike had been scheduled for the day of our arrival. Having checked into our B&B, which just so happened to be the same one we stayed in last year, we wasted no time in heading out into the city proper. We had a little bit of shopping that we wanted to do first thing and, over the course of our stay, had a few things booked, with pub visits worked into the itinerary where possible. Our first stop though was the famous Shambles, where we were intent of stopping by the legendary York Ghost Merchants to pick up some ornamental handmade spooks for home. A wait of just over an hour ensued but, finally, we had procured our miniature wraiths. It seemed high time for a pint. Luckily, we were within spitting distance of one of our favourite pubs and so it seemed logical to break our fast at a place we thoroughly enjoyed last time. Our first beer of many over the coming days, was to be had at the Golden Fleece.

The Golden Fleece dates back to at least the 16th century and is mentioned in the York City Archives as far back as 1503. A former landlord was John Peckett, who was also Lord Mayor of York around 1702. John's wife Alice, known as Lady Peckett, lends her name to a yard at the rear of the building as well as one of the upstairs rooms at the pub. The present inn was rebuilt in the 19th century and was designated a Grade II listed building in 1983. Despite having a very narrow entrance, the building is surprisingly deep, and slopes downwards towards the rear. There are two main rooms on the ground floor. The smaller, to the front, has a small bar as well as tables and chairs for drinking and dining. A narrow corridor connects this to the main bar area at the rear which features a bigger, curved bar and further drinking and dining space, with a small snug and access to a rear beer garden. The toilets are situated along this corridor, as is the internal staircase that leads to the upstairs accommodation, which comprises 4 en-suite rooms. The interior is decorated with various bric-a-brac and old photos, as well as news articles about the allegedly very haunted nature of the pub (more on which shortly). It's a little bit disorientating wandering around the pub as the structure leans at various angles throughout, allegedly the result of being built without foundations. Despite it only being a year since we'd last visited, Amy & I were intrigued to see what, if anything had changed at the Golden Fleece. We immediately took in the pub's commitment to atmosphere and seasonal decor. With Halloween not long away at the time of our visit, the pub had thrown itself fully into spooky season with all the expected trimmings included. We also noticed that the pub's famous skull, a replica of the skull of a woman executed for witchcraft with which we had an odd experience on our last visit, is no longer on display. It was stolen a few weeks after our stay and was eventually returned but is now kept out of sight. From a beer point of view, things had improved too. This is a Stonegate property so had previously had a rather mediocre beer choice. It seems that more scope has been given in terms of options now though as there were a couple of guest beers on that I hadn't expected to see. Both of the 2 bars here have 5 handpulls with beers doubled up across both areas. On the day of our first visit, our choices were Theakston Old Peculier, Bridgehouse Tequila Blonde, Acorn Phantasm, Sharp's Doom Bar and Timothy Taylor Landlord. As intriguing as it sounded, the thought of a tequila ale, even at a low ABV, was slightly off-putting so I instead went for the Phantasm from Barnsley-based Acorn brewery. Amy decided on a pint of Beavertown Neck Oil and we managed to find a table between the bar and the door to the beer garden. It felt great to be back in York and it was also lovely to be back in the Golden Fleece. It helped that the beer was delicious. Phantasm (4.5%) is a very pale yellow ale, hopped with New Zealand varieties to provide citrusy, pine-like aromas and a fruity finish. It felt very apt drinking it in what is claimed to be York's most haunted pub. I'm not sure what it is that draws us to this place so much. Maybe it's the weird atmosphere, or the history and appearance of the pub or maybe, just maybe it's the myriad tales of what goes bump in the night and, somewhat alarmingly, in the daylight too. The pub's haunted reputation certainly precedes it, enhanced by the stories: a Canadian airman, who fell to his death from one of the upstairs windows and continues to be seen in the room from which he met his demise and occasionally in the street outside; the young boy, trampled by a horse in the pub's days as a coaching inn, whose shade has been seen in both bars and is felt by customers as the sensation of having their pockets picked; the highwayman, nicknamed 'One Eyed Jack' seen throughout the pub; the movement of the bed and the sound of children crying in the Minster Suite; strange lights and the sensation of someone unseen sitting on the bed in the Shambles bedroom, along with the movement of objects; dark figures and ghostly laughter in St. Catherine's Room; the apparition of the aforementioned Lady Peckett seen in her eponymous room as well as on the stairs and in the Meadery function room; the spectre of a woman seen running through the wall screaming in the downstairs function room as if being chased, and the phantom of a dog, which may or may not be linked to canine remains found buried under the floorboards during renovation work. Whether you believe the stories or not, the Golden Fleece is certainly an atmospheric place to pop into for a pint. 

Leaving the Golden Fleece behind for now, we retraced our steps and headed back towards York's imposing Minster, in the direction of Stonegate. We had already made plans for our evening meal but were not quite hungry enough yet so, whilst we built up an appetite, we decided to venture into another place we had visited before. Tucked down an alley just of Stonegate is Ye Olde Starre Inne.

Advertised by an impressive gallows sign that spans the width of Stonegate, Ye Olde Starre is one of York's oldest and most historic pubs. The main block of the pub is timber framed and was built in the mid-16th century with a left wing added in about 1600. The building's position is slightly unusual, as it takes up space at the back of an old coaching yard, behind the buildings of Stonegate itself. The pub was known as Ye Starre from at least 1644, which makes it the pub in York with the earliest verifiable date for its license. Local lore suggests that the pub was used as a makeshift hospital for wounded soldiers following the Battle of Marston Moor. The pub was sold in 1662 and later inherited by Edward Thompson in 1683. In 1733, the landlord was Thomas Bulman, who is credited with the hanging of the sign that spans Stonegate and has advertised the pub ever since. The pub was extended in the early 18th century and, in the 1840s, a new building was built in the coaching yard and the pub is now approached through a passageway underneath this part of the building. Stables previously stood behind the pub. The late 19th century saw the pub extended again at which time it was known as 'Boddy's Inn'. Various features still survive from the pub's varied history, including an early 18th century staircase, some panelling from the 17th century and an assortment of glass, benches and panelling from the 19th century refit. The former bar screen, made of stained glass, dates from around 1890. The pub was Grade I listed in 1954. Inside, the pub is surprisingly large. A large main bar sits towards the rear, with the interior split into 3 separate rooms and there are also 3 outdoor beer terraces. Furniture is in the form of scrubbed wooden tables and chairs arranged around the room. There are alcove-like snug areas throughout. TVs are mounted on the wall in the area closest to the bar. When we last visited Ye Olde Starre, it was a Saturday afternoon and the pub was packed, meaning we had no choice but to stand at the bar. On this occasion, it being a Monday, the pub is quiet and there is plenty of seating available. This being a Greene King pub, their products are front and centre but, again, there seems to be some much welcome flexibility in the procurement of guest beers. 8 handpulls are located on the bar, 7 of which were in use on this occasion. Available on the day were Black Sheep Best Bitter, Timothy Taylor Landlord, Greene King Abbot Ale, Theakston Old Peculier, Ainsty Ales Flummoxed Farmer and Greene King IPA, with Weston's Old Rosie cider also available. I was not going to pass up the opportunity to enjoy a guest beer in a Greene King pub, so plumped for the Flummoxed Farmer. We retreated to a snug-like space just around the corner from the bar, enjoying the contrast between this visit and our last. I had a vague memory of trying beer from Ainsty Ales last time we were here and this time it proved to be a good choice. Flummoxed Farmer (4%) is a blonde ale, brewed with American hops. There are subtle fruit aromas, and the finish is lightly hoppy and dry. All-in-all, it's a very good session beer! I'd forgotten how nice Ye Olde Starre was inside, and it was great to visit on a quieter day so that we could fully appreciate the history that seemed to seep from the walls. Unsurprisingly for a pub of this age, there is a darker side. During its use as a rudimentary field hospital, a portion of the cellar was set aside for surgeons, who faced the grim task of removing bullets or, in some cases whole limbs, with nothing approaching modern medical expertise. Surgery would have left patients in excruciating pain and these screams of pain are said to still be heard echoing from the cellar. There are other, more gentle spectres here too. An elderly lady has been seen walking up the stairs. Strangely, she seems to only be seen by children. Two phantom black cats are also in residence. When they appear, they are apparently so lifelike that more than one customer has reached out to give them the obligatory fuss only to find their hand touching nothing but air. Then there is the phenomenon in the main bar, described only as 'the thing'. Whatever it is, it is only noticed and seen by dogs, who have been known to react in a hostile manner, growling, barking and snarling, at some unseen, but clearly threatening presence. Sat in the snug, looking at the towers of York Minster out of the window, it's hard to imagine that this place potentially houses something sinister. But, in the quiet of night, who knows?

We'd worked up enough of a hunger by this point to make our way to our chosen destination for food. This would be at a place that was only a few yards from Ye Olde Starre and was another location that had stood out for us on our last visit. We were very excited to return to the Punch Bowl.

Confusingly, there are two pubs in York with this name. This particular one stands on Stonegate and operates as a Nicholson's venue. Dating from the 17th century, the Punch Bowl has been rebuilt on more than one occasion having been the victim of two separate fires. The name is an historical reference to the political Whig party, for whom punch was the preferred tipple. Any pub showing a punch bowl sign was declaring their allegiance to this specific brand of politics. Inside, the pub has three distinct areas. To the front is a small drinking and dining section, with a larger section to the rear. Another, restaurant style space is to one side. All three areas are linked by a central corridor and served by a single bar. Decor is brass furnishings with a combination of scrubbed wood and banquette seating. This is yet another pub that was heaving on our last visit. Last time, we were lucky enough to get the last table. This time, there was no such issue and we made our way into the rear section, next to a large fireplace, sadly no longer in use. The primary reason we were here was the food, specifically the excellent homemade pies. Amy had selected this place for her birthday meal as we both very much enjoyed it last time. The pies, by no word of a lie, are the size of your face, very filling and delicious. But what of the beer choice? 4 hand pumps sit on the bar. At the time of our arrival, 3 of these were occupied, proferring a choice between Black Sheep Best Bitter, the house Nicholson's Pale Ale and Adnams Ghost Ship. We both decided to go for the Adnams this time and promptly ordered our pies. The pies were just as good as we'd remembered, and we were very glad that we'd come back to have them again. They also made up for the quality of the beer. The Ghost Ship wasn't terrible by any means but it was just OK. I've certainly had better Ghost Ship elsewhere and the beer selection wasn't a patch on when we last came and Abbeydale Moonshine had been on the bar. Still, things don't always pan out how we hope. The food, at least was top notch, and this is still a cosy and relaxing place to while away some time, as long as you don't come on a Saturday. Once again though, this pub comes with a hidden side. At least 3 ghosts are reported to roam within these walls. Isabella, a barmaid from the 17th century when the pub was allegedly a brothel, can still be seen and heard screaming and running down the stairs, replaying her attempted escape from the spurned patron who beat her to death. A former landlord, who perished in a fire has been seen walking the route of the old cellar steps to the location where her met his end. The Grey Lady completes the spooky trio. She is believed to have taken her own life after her lover was unfaithful. She is now said to roam the pub, on the lookout for unfaithful men to have her revenge. 

You may have noticed that our first three pubs were revisits of venues that we'd been to in the past. However, it was now time for something new and something completely different. For the majority of our remaining time in York, barring a couple of exceptions, we would be ticking off new places, some well-known, others less so and some more historic than others. Our first new venue of this trip was a place of pilgrimage for the beer lover and somewhere that we'd heard excellent things about. Our ultimate plan for the evening was a ghost walk that we had booked for later on but, in the meantime, we had plenty of scope to explore a few drinking establishments. We now made our way to Lendal and the fantastic House of the Trembling Madness.

The biggest of two venues of the same name in York, House of the Trembling Madness Lendal occupies a building that was formerly a saddlery and harness maker. The restoration of the building into its current guise was a joint winner of the York Restoration Design awards in 2018. Make no mistake, this is a beer lover's paradise, spread across multiple floors. The basement boasts a craft beer shop, similar to its sister site on Stonegate. The ground floor bar features 11 keg lines and 3 craft lines, seating in an adjacent raised area. The first floor has an additional bar with another 11 keg lines, a large spirits range and a full food menu. The toilets and kitchen are on the second floor, with a function room on the third floor. It's frankly bonkers, not just in the beer selection but also the decor, which features recreations and copies of classic surrealist artworks as well as other quirky asides. I was a little bit overwhelmed by the beer selection. There was a lot of it. At the ground floor bar, there were the following keg beers: Turning Point x Emperor Pulpatine, Burning Sky Blanche, Azvex Consolation Prize Fighter, Overtone Four Candles, Binding Schofferhofer, Verdant People, Money, Space, Time, Ayinger Fest Marzen, Polly's A Cosy Decomposer, Vault City Lychee & Ginger, Overtone Strat in Silence and Overtone Everything Changing. That was alongside 3 cask ale lines which offered Brass Castle Bad Kitty, Track Sonoma and the knowingly titled Have You Got Cask or Is It All Craft? from Deya. I eventually managed to clear my head enough to order the Deya, Amy ordered a Vault City and we made our way to the first floor where we managed to find a table. We were sat conveniently close to the first-floor bar which enabled me to see what the second lot of keg lines had to offer. The upstairs lines had the following: Saint Mars of the Desert Crumbling Splendour, Deya Dust My Broom, Hogan's French Revelation, Verdant x Baron x Rivington 3 Way Handshake, Ayinger Lager Hell, Deya Steady Rolling Man, Azvex Cookie Cutter Approach, Verdant Little Mountains We Move, Huyghe Delerium Tremens, Vault City Strawberry Woo Woo and Northern Monk Smug, The Reincarnation. Like I said, A LOT of choice. I have to say, this place is awesome. The beer choice is phenomenal, the decor is great and the food that we saw being taken out looked sensational. Did I feel silly for having picked a cask beer in the face of so much craft? No, not at all. The cask beer is brilliantly kept. This place is in the Good Beer Guide 2022 for a reason. Have You Got Cask? (5%), is a pale ale hopped with Strata and UK Chinook, giving floral, orange and pine with a clean, dry, long bitter finish. It's very very good! I cannot recommend this place highly enough. Amy and I were familiar with the smaller sister venue (henceforth known as the Shop of Dreams) from our last visit so were expecting good things. It did not disappoint. Another thing that stood out was the decor. As I mentioned, reproductions of surrealist and satirical art adorn the walls. We were sat underneath a reconstruction of the 'Hell' panel from Hieronymous Bosch's 'Garden of Earthly Delights' and opposite a copy of Quentin Matsys' 'The Ugly Duchess'. The quirkiness even extends to the toilets. Did I ever think I'd go for a pee in the same room as a statue of the Virgin Mary and a framed photo of the naked lower half of a woman? No. No I did not. 

With still more time to kill before the ghost walk, and keen to stay in the area where we needed to be, our next stop was considerably more down to earth. Leaving House of the Trembling Madness and turning left, we crossed the Ouse over Lendal Bridge, continued on and then turned left onto Skeldergate. A short walk further on, nestled amongst much newer building, and not far from the river edge, is the Cock & Bottle.

This is a moderately sized, single-roomed pub with a traditional stone floor and wooden beams. The bar is central with seating spread around the room, and a small, raised area in one corner. TVs are mounted on multiple walls and there is a large, stove fireplace. The cosy ambience is enhanced by subdued lighting. 3 handpulls sit centrally on the bar with 2 of these being available at the time we wandered in. Faced with a choice between Rudgate Jorvik Blonde and Wadworth Horizon, I went for the Wadworth. Amy fancied a soft drink by this stage and went for a Diet Coke and then we took a table at the far side of the room, not far from the raised area. There were a small number of locals in but we felt perfectly welcome. I appreciate that, after the previous few pubs, that this seems like an odd choice of locale but, dear reader, there is method in the madness. The Cock & Bottle is renowned for being one of the most haunted pubs in York. Whilst tales of strange activity had long been linked to the pub, proper reports began circulating in the 1970s when the Stanleys took over the pub. Prior to this, there had been sporadic reports of sightings of a ghostly man in old-fashioned clothing, spectral footsteps and noises reminiscent of a wooden door being broken down. The Stanleys, having been made aware of the alleged activity, decided to document their experiences. To begin with they experienced things that tallied with prior reports. The sound of a door being smashed occurred several times, at a louder volume. The phantom footsteps manifested on both floors of the building. A considerably more sinister phenomenon is a sudden sense of impending evil and dread which has been known to overtake people all of a sudden, leading to them being rooted to the spot with fear. Luckily, the sensation is said to pass after a few seconds. Mrs. Stanley herself had a face-to-face encounter with the ghostly man, who is described as being of average height with dark, wavy, shoulder-length hair and with a big nose. He is said to wear a heavily embroidered jacket with lots of buttons. Research by local press has suggested that the ghost is that of George Villiers, 2nd Duke of Buckingham, who once owned and operated a workshop on the place where the pub now stands. Random additional fact: his father, the 1st Duke of Buckingham was assassinated in Portsmouth by a religious fanatic. A pub opposite the site of the murder is named after him. Villiers the 2nd was a favourite of Charles II and spent much time in London and York before he died at Kirkby Moorside. Perhaps he has returned to his old workshop? The activity continues to this day and the pub is alleged to be one of the most paranormally active in the area. During our stay though, the scariest thing we witnessed was a customer offer to fight the barman. Did I mention this was at 7pm on a Monday night? I can at least confirm that the Horizon was in good condition. Plus we made friends with a dog. 

We left the Cock & Bottle and began to make our way back towards the ghost walk pickup point. We still had a little bit time of go, decided to find one more pub for the evening. Back on the other side of the river and only a short walk from Lendal Bridge is the Blue Boar.

Located in Castlegate, the Blue Boar replaced a previous pub of the same name that was demolished in 1730. The former, Medieval, inn hosted many guests, including Roger Cottam, envoy to Henry VII as well as Royalist soldiers preparing for the Siege of York. Local tradition states that the body of infamous highwayman Dick Turpin was taken here after his execution and displayed in the cellar, having been rather unceremoniously nailed to a board, with the landlord charging money to see it. Given the rather grievous desecration, it's perhaps no surprise that Turpin himself reputedly haunts the pub and makes himself known by moving objects and stamping around. In 1770, the Robin Hood pub opened on the same street, although there is a suggest that it may have occupied the same building, where it operated as a coaching inn. The Seven Stars pub from Walter Scott's novel Heart of Midlothian is thought to be based on the Blue Boar. The front of the pub was rebuilt in 1851 and, in 1894, it was renamed as the Little John. It has since been internally rebuilt and extended and was Grade II listed in 1971. Now owned by Enterprise Inns, the pub closed temporarily in 2011 but reopened the following year when it reverted to its current name. It being a Monday night, it was perhaps not surprising that the pub was empty when Amy and I arrived. The interior of the pub is modern, with soft furnishings, bright colours and a central bar along the far wall, upon which are 2 handpumps. The options here were Wychwood Hobgoblin Gold and Timothy Taylor Boltmaker. We both decided on the Hobgoblin and took a seat on a small table near the door. Shortly, a few more people entered so we were at least not the only customers. The overall feel of the Blue Boar is that of a student hub. Many of the posters and deals we saw advertised certainly seemed skewed towards that demographic. It's easy to imagine how busy the pub gets in the daytime and at weekends. The layout is effectively one long room, with a kitchen at the far end and, off to one side, a staircase that leads to the toilets and the downstairs function in which, at least according to our ghost walk host, a replica coffin has replaced. If the pub wasn't already haunted, that would certainly do it. In terms of the beer, the Hobgoblin Gold was passable enough. I hadn't expected a prime beer selection but visiting the pub for the Turpin links was fun. We finished our pints and headed back to the river where our ghost walk would begin. 90 minutes later, it finished in the shadow of York's hulking Gothic Minster. We turned and returned to the B&B, our heads full of stories and our hearts full of joy at being back in a city we love.

Day 2 in York was an unseasonably warm and sunny Tuesday. Following a full English, we were up and out and back to the Shambles in no time, now with a different target in mind. Having hit the local Harry Potter themed shop for some Hufflepuff merchandise, we once again decided to queue for the ghost shop in the hopes of adding to our collection. The queue was already into the 2 hour mark when we joined. Following a trip back to the B&B to drop of my Harry Potter purchases, I returned to find Amy only a few yards further forward than where I'd left her. After a few more minutes of not really getting anywhere, and safe in the knowledge that we'd been able to get in the day before, we, quite literally, gave up the ghost and decided to press on with our day. Our plan for our second day was simple. With only one activity booked, and no set time to attend it, the majority of the rest of the day would be pub related. And, with almost two hours of standing in line behind us, we were much in need of a sit down and a beer. Luckily, the Shambles itself provided both in no time at all, in the shape of the Old Shambles Tavern.

Simultaneously a cafe, bar, bottle shop and gift shop that opens at 9am (!), this is a deceptively large space located on the Shambles. The front entrance leads through to an L-shaped bar with cans and bottles on shelves behind, keg taps and 6 handpulls, arranged in 2 groups of 3. A small corridor leads through into a rear section with seating and a rear entrance onto the famous Shambles market. There is also further seating, both outside to the rear and on the first floor. We were very pleased to see all 6 pumps in use. 3 of these were given over to their own Shambles brewery, showcasing their Stumbler, Dark and Bitter, with the remaining 3 occupied by guest beers, specifically Brew York Tonkoko, Turning Point Wavelength and Bad Seed Burn Rate. I was automatically drawn to the guest beers and the Burn Rate from Bad Seed, just down the road in Malton. Amy went for the Tonkoko and we retreated to the back room for a sit down and a refresh. I was already immediately impressed with this place. From the front it just looks like a micropub but there's significantly more space than it would appear at first glance. The beer was cracking too! Burn Rate (4.2%) is a pale ale brewed with El Dorado hops. This gives it a firm bitterness and bright tropical fruit flavours with notes of pineapple and mango. As a way to start the day, this place had been the perfect respite from the hustle and bustle. There's something magical about having a delicious beer, mere feet from one of the UK's most iconic and historic shopping streets. Ten points to Hufflepuff!

Beer finished and feeling rejuvenated, we headed off for our booked activity, namely visiting Clifford's Tower. Essentially, this is the last remaining structure from York's original castle, perched on an earthen mound a little down the road. It's a very interesting historical site and it's impressive to walk around the very top of the ramparts with views over the city. It's also a bit disconcerting when in the areas where notable subsidence has occurred. You'd be forgiven for thinking you'd had more to drink than you actually had. Having spent a bit of time exploring the tower, we made our way back down and out into the definitely-not-autumnal feeling weather. Indeed, we were both rather warm as we made our way to our next location. I had a little side quest I wanted us to complete before the second pub of the day and, after passing a Wetherspoons (boo!) and with not much effort, we found what we were searching for: the grave of Dick Turpin himself, rather anticlimactically located in the grounds of an old church, in a small patch of grass on the edge of a housing estate, a rather ignominious end for an historical figure whose reputation is rather more than the sum of its parts. It was back to pubs now and our next stop was a location that we'd had to leave off of our itinerary last year due to time. Following the back streets into an area of lots of student accommodation, we emerged at Peasholme Green and the Black Swan.

Believed to have been built around 1417 for William Bowes and Sheriff of York, the Black Swan stand on Peasholme Green, so called as it used to be a water meadow that was used for growing peas. Originally a private house, the building has been much altered and an inn is known to have stood on the site in Medieval times. It was long believed that a passageway under the road linked the pub cellar to St. Cuthbert's Church. Former staff had heard about the passage but had no proof of its existence, except for a cupboard which contained several steps leading downwards into a blank wall. In 2003, electricians carrying out renovation work, shone a light down under the floor, where they could a red brick floor which ran off into the distance, in the direction of the church. Early photos of the pub show two front doors, suggesting it may once have been two separate buildings. One of these doors is now covered up and is in what is currently the laundry room. Former landlords include William Briggs and Fred Wright, and the building was use as a horse refuge during World War II when there were sizeable stables at the back. Inevitably, with such an unusual and chequered history, there is talk of ghosts. A workman in a bowler hat, who it is said closely resembles Charlie Chaplin, has been known to fidget and tut giving the impression that he is waiting for somebody. He occasionally fades away whilst being watched or walks from room to room, apparently looking for someone. A young woman in a long white dress is frequently seen in the bar in the back room staring into the fireplace. There are discrepancies in descriptions of her appearance however as her hair has been said to be both long, flaxen and slightly glowing and long, black and hiding her face. Another apparition is one of the most bizarre to be found here or anywhere. A pair of man's legs, without a torso have been seen in the staff quarters and descending a staircase. The legs are dressed in trousers and boots but nothing else by way of distinguishing features. There is also a ghostly black cat which, when it appears, looks so real that the staff often confuse it for Salem, the resident pub cat. Amy and I had wanted to come here for a while, for the history alone and now seemed as good a time as any. We entered through the main door and made our way to the bar in the back room. The overall layout consists of three separate rooms: a lounge, a front bar area and a restaurant space, with an outside decked drinking area. The bar looks into the larger of the rooms and faces the fireplace where we found a black cat, presumably Salem and not his ghostly counterpart, curled up on a stool. The decor is primarily scrubbed wooden tables and chairs with some banquette seating and with old photos of the local area displayed throughout. 4 handpulls greeted us on the bar, providing a choice between Wychwood Hobgoblin Gold, Timothy Taylor Landlord, Rudgate Jorvik Blonde and Theakston Old Peculier. Jorvik Blonde was the choice for me here and Amy went the Hobgoblin before we made our way into the side 'restaurant' room to absorb the atmosphere of this place and take it all in. This is definitely one of the most atmospheric pubs we've visited in York and we were very glad that we took the time to find it. The beer wasn't half bad either, being pale, fruity and nicely bitter at just 3.8%. It was sorely tempting to stay here for another but there was a lot of exploring still to be done, so we returned our empty glasses to the bar and got on our merry way. 

Turning left out of the Black Swan, we followed the main road around to where it becomes the Stonebow. Following this on brought us back out onto Pavement at the bottom of the Shambles, more or less where we'd started out. We then took a left onto Fossgate, where our next two stops sit side by side. First up, the Blue Bell.

This Good Beer Guide 2022 listed pub was originally built in the late 17th century as a timber-framed house which was then refronted in the 18th century. The building became a pub in 1798 when it was given the name it now holds. It was purchased and refurbished in 1903 by a local pub chain and several of these fittings have been retained, including doors, windows, glaze screens with service hatches and varnished matchboarding. The pub survived largely intact after a fire in 1974. Plans to expand the premises were put forward in the 1980s but abandoned. The Blue Bell remains the smallest pub in York with an official capacity of 65. Now Grade II* listed, the pub was listed as Asset of Community Value in 2017. Given the size of the pub, the current landlord and landlady have implemented strict rules to preserve. This includes the banning of groups, particularly stag and hen groups, a ban on swearing and a request that phones are kept on silent and phone calls taken outside. A previous landlord tried to discourage groups by putting up signs reading 'private party' that regulars knew could be ignored. This led to CAMRA removing the pub from the Good Beer Guide. A new landlord took over in 2018 and abandoned the practice, leading to not only the pub being reinstated but it also winning local branch Pub of the Year for 2022. Internally, the front door opens into an entrance corridor, which leads to both of the pub's small rooms. The first room is a traditional lounge bar with a small number of tables. Behind this, the corridor slightly widens into more of a drinking lobby which includes a single tip-up seat at the bar. This style of drinking lobby is a forerunner of drinking lobbies that became popular in the north of England in the inter-war period. 7 handpulls occupy the modest bar space and feature an interesting selection. Our choices on the day included Wold Top Bitter, Brass Castle Blue Bell IPA (brewed specially for the pub), Bradfield Farmers Blonde, Rudgate Ruby Mild and Timothy Taylor Landlord. Both the Wold Top and Brass Castle offerings were doubled up. It would have been a considerable slight on my part had I not at least tried the house beer, so I selected the Brass Castle. Amy went for a soft drink this time and we managed to find a pew a shelf in the entrance corner, under what would once have been the old service hatch. I expected the Blue Bell to be good. A close friend of mine had recommended it previously and he was spot on. It's what traditional, ale pubs would have been like back in the day and which there are all too few of still remaining. The house beer was an excellent IPA from a very good brewery. It's a sessionable 4.5% and is only to be found at this pub. It's absolutely worth getting down there for!

Just next door is something altogether different. Following our departure from the Blue Bell, it was time to investigate the Fossgate Tap.

Dating back to 1796 and Grade II listed, the building now occupied by the Fossgate Tap was previously home to Sutlers, an Army & Navy surplus store which was named after an American term for a civilian merchant that sold provisions to the army. The modern business spans three floors and has retained some of the original features in the internal structure. Though there are doors at either end of the building, a one-way system remains in place in order to better control customer flow. We entered through the entrance further down Fossgate, which leads into a ground floor seating. To the right, a short set of steps leads up to a long, narrow section which features a long bar that faces windows overlooking Fossgate. As well as a selection of keg beers, the bar also includes 6 hand pumps, 3 of which were in use on the day. Once again, local beers were the order of the day. We had a choice between Brew York Calmer Chameleon, Turning Point Chaos Theory and Brass Castle Bad Kitty. After some brief deliberation, I decided to give the Turning Point ago. Not only was I drawn to the name, but the description sounded irresistible. Chaos Theory (5%) is a honey and marigold oatmeal pale. It's sweet but also manages to be very well balanced. Organised chaos might be a better moniker! We took our drinks to a long, high table in the window that overlooked the street, ostensibly for people watching. We were starting to get peckish now too, but fortifying portions of nachos and topped fries soon put paid to that. Fed and watered, we were on the move again.

After another brief sojourn to the Golden Fleece, we made our way further along Pavement to the junction with Piccadilly, where our next location sits perched on the corner. Next up: the Pavement Vaults.

Opening in 2015, on the site of the old White Swan hotel, the Pavement Vaults is part of the Pivovar group. The site was originally occupied by a coaching inn, with the 'vaults' themselves being part of a Medieval street dating back to 1378, before being bisected when the road now known as Piccadilly was constructed. The consensus here is very much on good food and good beer. Inside, the bar is directly opposite the door. High tables and chairs provide the furniture throughout. To the rear is a slightly raised area from which the kitchen, located behind a glass partition, can be seen. A staircase leads down to the toilets and the vaults, which have been carved out of the underlying rock and now include comfortable furniture for a very atmospheric drinking experience. 6 handpulls are on the bar here and they also champion an interesting mix of beers. Our options for the day were Wilde Child Nebulous Interface, Kirkstall Three Swords, Moor Stout, Timothy Taylor Landlord, Rooster's Roots, Rock, Reggae and Lilley's Cherries & Berries cider. Amy and I were both attracted by the Rooster's beer and soon we were sat at the back of the room, enjoying our drinks and trying not to make eye contact with the gigantic wild boar's head that appeared to be guarding the toilet staircase. We were thoroughly enjoying our day. And, truth be told, we just getting started. We were both glad we'd chosen the Rooster's beer. It's not something you find much in our part of the world so it made a nice change. Roots, Rock, Reggae is a big hitting pineapple and grapefruit IPA hopped with Admiral, Cascade, Summit, Nelson Sauvin and Centennial. Expect big fruit flavours! It's also 6.4% but you really wouldn't know it.

Our next destination took us back through the Shambles but this time we turned left onto the Market Place where, overlooking the famous market, is the resplendent glass edifice of the Market Cat.

The Good Beer Guide 2022 listed Market Cat operates as a joint venture between Pivovar and Thornbridge brewery. Glass fronted, it occupies three floors of a former pawnbrokers, all done out to a very high standard. The pub was quite busy when we arrived and we ended up standing at the bar for a bit which was just as well given the extensive beer choice. There was a significant amount of keg beer available and, impressively, 8 cask ale lines, all occupied. Unsurprisingly, Thornbridge beers have a significant presence, and the lines are divided evenly between their own beers and a number of guests. Available on the day were Thornbridge Jaipur, Thornbridge Lord Marples, Thornbridge Brock, Thornbridge Crackendale, Windswept APA, Rooster's Roots, Rock, Reggae, RedWillow Session Porter and Two by Two Strata, Sabro, Amarillo. I'm a massive fan of Thornbridge beers so there was no way I wasn't going to have one of their beers. In the end, Crackendale sealed the deal. Amy opted for a keg sour and we then managed to get a table in the window where we could fully appreciate the amazing decor. As I mentioned, this place covers three floors. The ground floor resembles a traditional boozer, with chandeliers, leather sofas, a cosy snug and mahogany panels. The first floor holds a kitchen diner with floor to ceiling windows overlooking the market, whilst the second floor has booths that line the windows and also allow for a view into the cellar. It's yet another very well executed modern upgrade of a much older building. You don't need me to tell you that the beer was great. I'm going to anyway. That's why I'm here after all. Crackendale is a pale ale, single hopped with Citra, meaning an amazing tropical fruit aroma that gives way to guava and citrus on the palate before a bittersweet finish. It's ace. And surprisingly quaffable at 5.4%.

We were approaching the business end of the day by this stage but there was still a fair bit to do. Leaving the Market Cat, we made our way to the nearby street of Patrick Pool where our next duo of destinations sit resolutely opposite each other. The first of these was Pivni. 

Housed in a three-storey, timber-framed building that dates to 1190, the Good Beer Guide 2022 listed Pivni is the founding bar of the Pivovar group. Both child and dog friendly, it's a veritable beer haven, stocking a frankly astonishing amount of Belgian and European beers. The ground floor is fairly narrow with the bar taking up most of one side and full-length windows opposite, allowing for a view of the street. Seating is arranged by the windows, consisting of low tables, cosy sofas and chairs. The first and second floors feature bigger spaces but the decor and character remains the same throughout. As well as the cracking bottled beer selection, there is a good choice of keg beer as well as 5 handpulls, with 2 of these normally given over to ciders. Beer-wise, on our visit, the choices were Bristol Beer Factory Milk Stout, Marble Bitter and Marble Pint, with Lilley's Bee Sting and Lilley's Rhubarb covering the cider end of the spectrum. I decided it was about time that I went for something dark so immediately dived into the Milk Stout (4.6%). This was an excellent decision as it turns out. No prizes for guessing what style of beer it is but it's delicious. Smooth, chocolatey and sweet with just a touch of coffee bitterness and a subtle hint of dark fruit. I really enjoyed Pivni. It markets itself as a World Beer Freehouse and I'm not about to argue with that.

I was very very excited about our next destination ever since I found out it existed. So, the question is, what do you get if you cross vikings, beer and metal? The answer: Valhalla.


Opening in September 2017, Valhalla sits directly opposite Pivni and is a Viking-inspired refurbishment of a former hairdressers. Like Pivni, it too occupies three floors and is full to the horns with Viking theming. From viking horns, to things that honour the old Norse gods, this place is actually amazing. The whole experience is like being in a Viking hall. There are two bars in the building, on the first and second floors, with carved wooden seating made from reclaimed materials throughout. Upstairs is the All Father Hall, a function themed after Odin, king of the gods in Norse mythology. The soundtrack is also incredible. Nothing but heavy metal and classic rock. All day, every day. It felt like being on tour with Amon Amarth. And there's good beer! The first floor bar has 4 handpulls and 3 of these happened to be in use, providing a choice between Brew York Haze of Thunder and the two house beers, Pale and Odin's Judgement, brewed by Half Mook Brewery but suitably rebadged for the pub. This, without a doubt, was the pub I'd been looking forward to the most all day. It was totally worth the wait. For my beer, I selected Odin's Judgement (obviously), a strong dark ale with big malt flavours that punched in the region of 6%. We'd also decided to get some food here too. The food offerings are tapas style small plates and the halloumi fries are the best that I've ever had. Ever. They were the best thing we'd had to eat at this point, and it would have gone some to find something to beat them. Watch this space! Valhalla had been the highlight of the day so far. The beer was wonderful, the pub was wonderful and the music was incredible. Raise your horns! Skol!  

We'd started to flag a little by now but still wanted to tick a couple of pubs off of the list. We made our way back in the general direction of the B&B, via Stonegate (and the Shop of Dreams) and then turned left onto High Petergate. We decided to pay a visit to another favourite from the previous trip and went back to the Guy Fawkes Inn.

Named for York's infamous Gunpowder plotter, and history's favourite terrorist, this pub stands on the site of the cottage in which Guy Fawkes was born. The original cottage has been incorporated into the accommodation at the rear of the building, separated from the pub by an internal courtyard. Inside, the pub is made up of several small rooms, with timber floors and oak furniture, lit by candles and gas lamps to create a hugely atmospheric experience. The bar is small and just inside the entrance where there is a tiny lounge space directly in front. A larger, more spacious restaurant area is to one side and, to the rear, there is an enclosed garden courtyard, lit by fairy lights and heated by gas burners. The accommodation is above and behind the pub, accessible up a flight of stairs. This is a very cosy, comfortable and intimate setting but is also certainly not short of history and atmosphere. Despite being small, the bar holds 6 handpulls. There's a decent choice of local beers available and our options were York Guzzler, Copper Dragon Golden Pippin, Timothy Taylor Landlord, Black Sheep Best Bitter, the house beer Guy Fawkes ale and Ossett Yorkshire Blonde. On our first visit here last year, we both went for the York Guzzler and it was more of the same this time. It's a very good, sessionable pale ale with dominant hop flavours and pale malt character. It might only be 3.6% but it's a good beer all the same, easy drinking, crisp and refreshing. Night had settled in by the time we found a table in the garden, which takes on a character all of its own when the sun goes down. In the shadow of the imposing Minster, warmed by the heat from the gas burner and full of the joys of an excellent day, I couldn't help but remember the stories told about the pub in recent years. If the tales are true, Guy Fawkes may have returned home. A shadowy figure has been sighted in the area where his former cottage is located. On one occasion a member of staff followed another (the same?) shadowy figure around the pub thinking it was an intruder. The figure eventually disappeared into an empty wardrobe in an upstairs room. Later that same night, a fire broke out in the building next door, now a solicitor's office, which had been locked up for hours. The source of the fire was traced to a wall between the two buildings, next to where the wardrobe stood. Make of that what you will. Add to that the apparitions of two children who are believed to have passed away during a cholera epidemic and this can be seen to be a sinister and melancholy place indeed.

We would be wandering home to bed but wanted to try one more pub first. Luckily, not only was it not far away, it was also on our way back to the B&B, located as it is, right beneath the city walls. Last stop of the night would be the Fat Badger.

Formerly the Lamb & Lion, the building now occupied by the Fat Badger sits directly beneath Bootham Bar, one of the ancient stone gateways that granted entry to the walled city of York. Whilst appearing small from the outside, the inside is a warren of small rooms, all well-furnished and comfortable. To the rear is an impressive and well-appointed rooftop garden that is directly overlooked by the city walls. The main bar is small and occupies at the far end of the first room. 5 handpulls sit pride of place, with a beer selection virtually identical to that at the Guy Fawkes. In this case, the options were Black Sheep Best Bitter, Copper Dragon Golden Pippin, York Guzzler, Timothy Taylor Landlord and Ossett Yorkshire Blonde. Golden Pippin took my fancy this time and we made our way out to the beer garden which, whilst impressive and cosy at night with fairy lights and a few to the Minster, can only be more so in the daytime. The Golden Pippin was in good condition. It's not a beer I see a lot and so I've not had it for a while. It was a pleasant experience refreshing my memory of it. For those that don't know, Golden Pippin is a 4.2% golden ale with a citrus fruity aroma and flavour. Very nice it was too! The Fat Badger is a place that paid no mind to last time we were here, but it turns out there's a lot to it than meets the eye. A couple of years ago, CCTV was made public showing what appeared to be the apparition of a young girl sweeping the floor in the front bar area. The pub was closed at the time, but staff were in the area, none of whom noticed anything untoward until checking the cameras. Whether this phantom girl has any connection to the sounds of crying children heard in the guest accommodation remains to be seen. We left the Fat Badger tired but in good spirits, ready to see what the next day would bring.

Our final day in York dawned colder and windier than those that went before it. We had a couple of things planned for the morning, but the afternoon was largely ours to do whatever with so that meant, you guessed it, more pubs. Following a session of wizard themed indoor mini golf (overpriced but well themed) we arrived at York Minster to visit it properly, fortifying ourselves with a chorizo sausage roll each along way. Tuning out the accompanying busker who, for some reason thought that 'Hey There, Delilah' needed to be performed twice within three songs, we made our way inside this majestic Gothic masterpiece, which contains the remains of a saint and a former Prime Minister, as well as memorial to a son of Edward II and some highly impressive architecture. People might think it's strange to visit religious building when we're not religious but there's nothing wrong with appreciating history and architectural might. After a good hour or so exploring as much of the Minster as we could, we quickly returned to the B&B to drop off some purchases from earlier before we headed back out, in much need of a pint. We would be close to the Minster again for the first pub of the day as we took a step inside the Three Legged Mare.

Formerly owned by York Brewery but, since December 2018, now owned by Black Sheep, who also brew the York Brewery beers, the Good Beer Guide listed Three Legged Mare takes its name from a colloquial term for a gallows, 4 of which used to exist in York, including one at the infamous Tyburn. Despite the modest frontage, this is a roomy pub with lots of seating. The bar runs along one side of the room with seating a mix of high and low tables. There is a small outside area to the rear. Of the 10 available handpulls, 5 of them were in use, prioritising Black Sheep products but with some guests available too. Options were Black Sheep Best Bitter which was doubled up, Black Sheep Respire, Nightjar Kokopelli and Meanwood Abnoba. The very friendly landlord was an absolute delight and even apologised for not having more beer on! He needn't have. His selection was great and so was he. It's always nice when you're made to feel extra welcome in a place you've never been and he should be commended for it. For my first beer of the day, I went for Respire (4%), a juicy and citrusy session IPA, straw in colour and with a good balance of bitterness and sweetness. As an opening beer of the day, it was a good one. Amy had gone for a keg sour which didn't taste all that sour and was actually very nice. The day had gotten off to a great start!

Our next move saw us passing the Minster again, back in the direction of the Shambles, this accompanied by a lad doing a roaring rendition of Rule Britannia outside the cathedral, acapella I might add! Reaching King's Square, our next destination lay just ahead of us, a literal stone's throw from the top of the Shambles. Next stop: the Duke of York.

Yet another example of twin naming of pubs in York, this is not the same Duke of York as the one adjacent to the railway station. This pub is a conversion of a former estate agents, that was opened in October 2013 by Leeds Brewery but is now owned by Camerons. Split over two floors, the interior is smart and modern with bare wood floors, and windows overlooking King's Square. Photos of former Dukes of York decorate the walls. Prince Andrew is notably absent. The bar sits at an angle from the main entrance and runs along one wall. 12 hand pumps occupy the bar, with most these given over to Leeds Brewery beers, which are doubled up. 9 of these pumps were available during our visit, offering Leeds Pale, Leeds Best and Leeds Midnight Bell, alongside Camerons Thirst Blood, Northern Monk Eternal and Mobberley Brewhouse Bunji. It had been some time since I'd been anywhere near Leeds Brewery beer and it was certainly time to rectify that. The Leeds Best was my choice here whilst Amy went for a craft beer. We took our drinks into a smaller room opposite the bar and sat in the window to watch the world go by. The Leeds Best (4.3%) was in great condition. A classic bitter, full flavoured and well balanced, with First Gold and Goldings hops. Both of our first two pubs had been quiet but it was still midweek so this wasn't too much of a surprise. Confusingly, the Duke of York had food menus out despite a sign on the bar that said the kitchen was closed. It was probably for the best as, as nice as the food sounded, it did seem a bit on the pricey side. 

Pub number 3 was calling, and it wasn't far away. Leaving the Duke of York, we turned right, and our next stop was staring us in the face. The second Black Sheep pub of the day was The Last Drop Inn.

Situated on Colliergate, the Last Drop resembles some of the much older pubs in the city in terms of its outward appearance and interior consisting mostly of brick and wood. The sister pub to the Three Legged Mare (hence the name), it benefits from large windows that look across the square. Following the first lockdown in 2020, it reopened as a bottle shop but then reverted to a pub in October of 2021. Inside, is a split-level single room with the bar, small beer garden and raised seating area to the rear. To the front is a larger seating area with a corner staircase that leads to the toilets. The bar here is equally well stocked albeit with similar products. 10 hand pumps offered us a choice of Halletts Cider, Black Sheep Astronomer, Black Sheep Best Bitter (doubled up), Black Sheep Respire, Black Sheep Riggwelter, Turning Point Pink Matter Custard, Meanwood Abnoba, Castle Rock Harvest Pale and Left Handed Giant Dark Mild. After a moment of perusal, one of the bar staff steered us in the direction of Pink Matter Custard (6%), literally a raspberry and custard pale ale, and we fell for it hook, line and sinker. I won't lie, I really enjoyed it. It's very sweet and very chewy and it's also pink. I thought it was brilliant, but I doubt I could manage more than one. Amy couldn't finish hers but we both gave it a go. 

The next scheduled pub on the list didn't open until 4pm so we made one last visit to the Golden Fleece to kill some time. After that, we headed straight down Fossgate, which then becomes Walmgate. Reaching Walmgate Bar, another of the old gateways, we could see our next destination just beyond it. Our attention now turned to the Rook & Gaskill.

I had a slight personal interest in visiting the Rook & Gaskill as it's owned by Castle Rock. However, it's rented out as a tenanted property so pretty much has free rein on what to do with its beers and pretty much everything else. They must be doing something right as the pub is in the Good Beer Guide. The pub is in an area of high student traffic and benefits from a lot of local trade too. Internally, the entrance leads through to a split-level interior of scrubbed wood floors, low tables and booths. The kitchen can be viewed through a partition window, there is outside space to the rear and a corridor from the bar area leads to the toilets. The Rook & Gaskill has a good mix of both keg and cask beers with a substantial keg wall and 6 cask lines. Cask is the reason I'm here on this occasion. All 6 pumps were in use, with one of them holding Moonshine Cider. The remaining 5 provided a choice between Turning Point Yellow Matter Custard, Totally Brewed Papa Jangles, Brass Castle Session Mini-IPA, Little Critters Shire Horse and 4T's Mango Fever. I was in the mood for something fruity again so moved for the Mango Fever (4.6%), a mango infused IPA. I'm fairly sure I've had it before somewhere, but it was definitely better this time, both full of mango without being too mango-y. We were the first customers to arrive on the day but it didn't take long for other to join us, most of him were clearly students, although one of them clearly thought he was Gary Oldman in Dracula. 

Our glasses were empty so it was time to move on. We now made our way back up Walmgate to a place that I'd added to the list last minute. This would turn out to be a mistake as we now investigated the Watergate Inn. 

Formerly known as the Five Lions, what is now the Watergate Inn, reopened in May 2019 following a refurbishment and with a change of ownership. In earlier days, it was a venue for cockfighting but now the interior is pleasant enough with nautical theming and bright carpets. Effectively one long room, the larger area to the front has tables and chairs with board games provided on each. A fireplace is to one side, complete with some very creepy wooden busts of children's heads. The bar is in the top corner of the room, which is entered through a doorway underneath the overhanging building. Just the one hand pump is present and, when we walked it was advertising Landlord. However, it turned out that the beer wasn't ready so couldn't be served. As we'd already started to order, and I needed the toilet, I had to content myself with a Guinness. I was a bit disappointed. The pub looked nice enough, but we were the only ones in there. Business clearly didn't improve later in the evening. When we walked back past later, it was closed. So why did I add this pub to the list? It allegedly has a ghost. Nicknamed 'Green Jenny' due to her attire, she is most often seen at the back of building. Who she is or why she's there, nobody seems to know.

We had one last stop to make. The anticipation had been building all day I was hoping we wouldn't be disappointed. Just a short walk from the Watergate Inn was a place that I'd heard nothing but good things about, whose name is synonymous with fantastic beer. It was time for the Brew York Beer Hall & Tap Room.

Effectively two separate venues, Brew York's Beer Hall occupies the site of the former maltings for the adjacent brewery inside which the Tap Room is located. Entering through a shop (a dangerous game to play), leads to a staircase which takes you up to heaven, by which I mean the Beer Hall. A massive open space is filled with high tables and benches with a bar at one end swarming with craft taps and one hand pump. Next to this is a kitchen that provides Asian style street food. The Tap Room is accessed through a set of doors and another staircase which leads down to the brewery itself and another bank of 6 handpulls. The sheer scale of this place is phenomenal. As well as a myriad of beers from the Brew York stable, in every style you could imagine, there are also a few guest beers and collabs. There's cider, there's lager, there's sours, there's everything in between. Time and space do not permit me to list every single beer on offer. There are more than 40 so we'd be here forever. I can tell you that I selected Pining for the Fjords, a 4.5% pale ale hopped with Simcoe and Idaho 7. It's intensely fruity and citrusy but tastes phenomenal. Amy hit a bit of bad luck with her choices as consecutive sours ran out as she went to order them, but she managed to find one and that was awesome too. Speaking of awesome, we haven't even gotten to the food yet. Oh. My. God. We ordered a bao bun each (with beef and pork respectively) and a portion of duck topped fries to share. It was the best thing we'd eaten. Possibly ever. We thought that the halloumi fries at Valhalla were good, but this food was something else. Whatever you're doing right now, stop, go to Brew York and eat their food. Tell them I sent you. What do you mean they've never heard of me?

We could've stayed all night. We had another beer, this time from the Tap Room, where the Haze of Thunder tasted sensational. I was torn between staying forever and being sensible and, in the end, the realisation that I had drive the following day won out. So, off we went, into the North Yorkshire darkness, to head back to the B&B, via the Shambles for some suitably atmospheric night photos. All that was left to do was get a good night's sleep and prepare for the drive back, which just so happened to take place during the most apocalyptic rain I've ever seen. Noah would have struggled. York had been fantastic. Somehow it was even better this time. Leaving York to come back to Nottingham made us both genuinely sad. Something about that place just won't let go. It's not even just the pubs. Don't get me wrong, the pubs are great, and the beer is great and the people are wonderful. There's something about it you just can't grasp. Something ethereal and incorporeal. Something that won't stop us going back again and again. I hope this extensive entry has made it clear why. Thanks for sticking with it if you've made it this far. Until next time.