Transpennine Real/Rail Ale Trail


A train

So, my girlfriend sent a link to my blog out to a host of her friends who she thought might be interested in reading my badly proof-read musings on pubs and beers. It turns out a few of them were quite into it. None more so, though, than a chap called Gareth, organiser in chief of the Bowland Stags, a group of chaps brought together by Gareth’s stag do last year (they toured breweries, it sounds like a hoot) in their quest for quality booze.

“It’s not just a piss up,” says Gareth, “with emphasis on the word ‘just'”.

Their next trip, it turned out, would be starting at Wetherspoons in Leeds station for a very swift pint, before hitting the tracks and calling in at a number of quality pubs in or around stations on the Trans-pennine line (or a trek away, if you call into Slaithwaite – pronouced “slough-it”, unless you’re very posh ).

It sounded to me like a great way to spend a Saturday, and a sure fire way to write off my Sunday. I was right on both counts, and an errors or typos here can be explained away by this strange pain in my head and slightly queasy feeling in my stomach. It just must have been that beef sarnie or pork pie. Right?

So, as I said, we started at Wetherspoons in Leeds. Not really a promising start, I sipped at my pleasant enough – but far too cold – pint of Thwaite’s Liberation, shivering in the cold station, still tasting toothpaste and waiting for my companions. Sure enough, Gareth, Alan and Simon headed to the bar came back with their pints (a pint of Moorhouse for Alan, being a Burnley man, a Leeds Brewery Winterspark for Gareth – which he was impressed with, go Leeds! – and something I forget for Simon) and all agreed that it was served too cold. A bit of whining about Spoons commenced, before we made a dash for our first train of the day – to Dewsbury.

Sure enough, the first train was delayed (quelle surprise), but we refused to let this dampen our spirits. We whipped out our mobiles, found the website for our first proper pub, the West Riding Refreshment Rooms, and digitally slavered over their beer selection.

West Riding Refreshment Rooms

West Riding Refreshment Rooms

When, some 10 minutes late, we got to Dewsbury, we found a real treat instore. The West Riding Refreshment Rooms are, essentially, an old waiting room turned into a pub, and it’s great. Made up of three small rooms, one is taken over by a small bar serving up far more real ale than they should be able to fit, with 8 pumps on a bar than can barely be 6 foot long. The atmosphere is thriving and bubbling, as the pub’s crammed full of Huddersfield Town fans watching Liverpool draw with Man City before heading to the Galpharm to watch Town defeat Hereford (obviously I didn’t predict the results; this is all written with the benefit of hindsight).

We find a quiet (ish) corner and delve into our pints. Simon and I decide it would be rude not to try Anglo-Dutch‘s Kletswater, since it’s brewed in Dewsbury. It turns out to be quite a surprise package, a light, zesty, slightly caramely session beer with starts off exciting, gets quite boring by half way down the glass, but delivers well in the final third. A sneaky blighter indeed. I had intended to try and detail what my companions drank, but for some reason my memory is a little hazy… With such a choice on display though, we commented with surprise that many of the football fans were indulging in pints of Carling. We chose not to challenge anyone on this though.

We finished our pints in Dewsbury ahead of schedule, so the next plan was to hit Huddersfield and visit between one and three pubs. The Huddersfield boozing started at the King’s Head on the station. It’s an odd old pub. Clearly, no-one’s bothered to change the furniture, or indeed, clean it, for a good decade or so. We noted that it’s one of the few places in the world where you can go for a piss and be hit by a stench as you leave the gents, instead of when you enter it.

That aside, the beer selection is, as one would expect from a pub on the Real Ale Trail, splendid. I’m a sucker for anything local, and since they were selling a beer from Bob’s Brewery, the titular Bob having lived next door to me for much of my youth, it seemed only right that I went for a pint of his Healey Ale, a good, refreshing pale ale. Perfect for a long session like today.

Huddersfield Train Station - home of The Head of Steam and King's Head

Huddersfield Train Station - home of The Head of Steam and King's Head

We had to drink most of our pints outside, so as to escape the smell inside, meaning we were soon off to pub number two, The Head of Steam. After settling down with a mint of Empire‘s Moonraker Mild – this pint proved a triumph, and can probably lay claim to being the best of the day – fruity, malty and rich – we were assured we’d have time for a round of beef sarnies and chips and still get our next train. They lied. We finished our sarnies and watched our train speed off. We were stuck in Huddersfield for half an hour, what to do? First, we got another beer in (a great treacly stout, called Treason, from local brewery Summer Wine for me), then we had to make a plan.

(As an aside, it was while we were in the Head of Steam that we wondered why more stations don’t have platform-side pubs. I’d use the train much more if every journey could coincide with a good pint, and it makes waiting for trains a thousand times better).

The answer was easy. Dewsbury’s pub had recommended making a call to The Sportsman, just a few minutes from the station. So, with half an hour to kill, we made our way. I picked up a half of Newky Black from great Wakey brewery, Fernandes, and enjoyed a 6% killer of a rich stout. We then rushed (literally in Gareth’s case, who earned 7p by winning a bet that he could be first to the station) back to the platform and jumped on a train to Slaithwaite.

The Swan

The Swan

Now, here’s where the claims of the Real Ale Trail get a bit murky. They reckon The Swan in Slaithwaite is 2 minutes walk from the station. They don’t mention that it’s actually over 5 minutes walk, or that it involves several big hills. We were lucky to bump into a bloke carrying several bottles of Brewdog beers (a sign of someone who knows their booze) who assured us we were on the right track, and sure enough, there it was, just over the next hill.

The Swan was a proper locals pub. Loads of good beer, sport on a big telly, and a crowd that was mure than just real ale enthusiasts but folks from Slaithwaite enjoying a decent tipple.  My drink of choice here was the ever reliable Saltaire‘s Copper Ale. It’s malty, slightly spicy and a little fruity. Splendid.

Two pints of Beyond the Pale and three pork pies in The Railway

Two pints of Beyond the Pale and three pork pies in The Railway

Soon enough, it was time to head on to what would be my last spot (my Lancastrian companions would all make two more stops on their way home; I felt I was drunk enough to not go too much further).  So, we hit Greenfield and The Railway Inn. This pub was, as the name suggests, built to house weary travellers straight off the train, and we were ready for some refreshment. As well as selling loads of beer, they also do splendid pork pies, with a range of mustards (although Simon wasn’t particularly impressed with any of the mustards, claiming they needed more spice. As a non-mustard eater I couldn’t contribute to this conversation). We all got a pint of Elland Brewery‘s Beyond The Pale – a floral, multi-award winning pale, why it wins awards is clear – while seated inconviently right infront of the big screen, blocking the view of the regulars who were there for Manchester United v Everton. We followed that with a very swift half of Millstone‘s Tiger Rut, another classy pale ale with strong citrus notes, and then it was time to seperate.

With a slightly spinning head, I got my train to Huddersfield, nodding off and awaking just in time to leave the train, before making my way back to Leeds. I did try to read some of Pete Brown’s Three Sheets To The Wind on the journey, but my concentration couldn’t quite keep up with it.

It’s worth noting here, that aside from a £4.80 ticket from Greenfield to Slaithwaite, I did this whole journey (including a bus at the start and end to Meanwood and back) for a mere £6.20 with a Metro Day Rover Bus & Train. I’d recommend it.

It’s also worth putting in that I’m currently feeling the effects of the drinking documented just above, so I apologise for any errors that may appear. And for the increasingly scant details as the day went on. It was a long one, but a good one, and I’d like to thank the Bowland Stags for inviting me along.

More on the Real Ale Trail here. All photos (except the fuzzy one of beer and pork pies, which is mine) are nicked from their website too.

13 Responses

  1. I read about someone else who had done this the other week ( I think I will have to do this journey for myself sometime soon as it sounds like great fun!

  2. NB: I was treated to some very dubious dance moves following Tom’s arrival home from this trail.

  3. Great piece Tom – what’s most impressive is that you remembered/noted so much detail even as the day wore on.

    I’m not sure what memory will linger the longer for me – the citrus zest hoppy aftertaste of the Beyond the Pale in the Railway Inn at Greenfield, or the sour notes of stale sweat and B.O. in the King’s Head on Huddersfield station.

    Just so you know we enjoyed (despite the plastic glass) a pint of Purity UBU at the ancient Old Wellington Inn once we got to Manchester Victoria and Simon ended the evening with a Blond Witch in the Bridgewater in Darwen (I will let you add your own punchline)

    Thanks again for coming and we’re already planning the next trip


  4. Great account Tom. I’m sure it’s accurate – things started to get a little hazy for me between Dewsbury and Huddersfield; I can’t remember how many pints I had or what they all were – but they were good! I have to say that even though I staggered home and collapsed on the sofa without a passing thought for Match of the Day, I had not the slightest trace of headache or hangover on Sunday!

    A great day – can’t wait to do it again!

  5. I’ve done the Real Ale trail twice before and had a great time. The first time was very much responsible for igniting my interest in real ale.

    The West Riding is great, my wife works in Dewsbury and this is her usual stop on the way home on a Friday. Great pub, splendid selection and very friendly. I hear the food is top notch too.

    Never bothered with Slaitwaite, sounds like a well-hidden gem. And its not often you bump into someone carrying bottles of Brewdog? Saltaire is my local brewery (15 min walk down the canal). I’ll be there this Friday for their Open Evening (Last Friday of every month) and hopefully try some of their seasonal offerings. Love their beers; I’ve never had a bad one.

    Riverhead Brewery Tap in Marsden owned by Ossett Brewery so you are guaranteed a few good brews from them and always have on tap at least 4 beers brewed on site.

    The Buffet Bar at Stalybridge is great. A tiny little place with a great selection at least six on draft and an impressive selection of imported beers in the fridge. On a nice day you can sit out on the platform, which is handy, as I’ve never managed to get a seat inside.

    The Kings head is an absolute hole! I’ve managed a few Marble beers in there and some lesser know local micros. But that place is awful. I’ve never managed to make it into the Head of Steam, I’d heard less than inspiring thing about it.

    The jewel in the crown of Huddersfield’s Real Ale circuit is no doubt The Grove Inn. A permanent Brewdog pump, Durham Pump, Jaipur on 24/7 and many, many more! A humongous selection of bottles in the listed binders.
    Look at this page to see what’s on now and coming soon!

    Thornbridge Raven! Thornbridge St Petersburg on draft! Simply amazing.

    I’m always looking for an excuse to go over there so if any fellow bloggers fancy a trip count me in!

  6. Alan – you’re clearly made of sterner stuff than me. I am a bit of a lightweight though. It’s normally about moderation for me. A few high quality beers rather than lots of decent ones.
    Rob – I’d love to do the whole trail sometime, and definitely make a trip to The Grove in Huddersfield. All in good time.

  7. We’ll certainly be up for an ale trail Rob!

    Sounds like a reet good day out Tom (sorry!), favourite pint over the day?

    Pretty sure there’s a little bar in Batley you can do before Dewsbury, right near the station and real ale, pool table, blazing fire, wooden chairs, it’s a gem. Tucked away and dead quiet when we went on a Saturday afternoon.

    I’m 100% there’s no pubs near Morley station…although the Real Ale Reviews beer cupboard is only a 5 minute walk from there!

  8. There is indeed a Batley pub, we didn’t have time to do all the pubs on the trail (my companions from over the penines had a lift to catch), so I have a to do list next time I head out.

    You’re right about there not being a Morley one. At least, the Real Ale Trail folks don’t list one.

    Favourite pint of the day? Empire’s Moonraker Mild, I reckon.

  9. sounds like a quality idea…i might steal it and suggest it to my mates!

  10. Realy usefull information…..I think! Us 4 Southerners are coming up for a weekend at the end of May and basing ourselves in a B & B in Huddersfield. My colleague is a health inspector so he can check the drains in the Kings Head. Time to go in both directions over two days so info on the bars and ales realy good to set up a cunning plan! If any readers pop down to London visit the Bree Louise next to Euston Station. 15 real ales on and CAMRA pub of the year. That’s my ale trail!



    • Hi Bill, I hope it proves useful. I missed a few pubs off, so I’d recommend using the Real Ale Trail website to find a couple more too.
      The drains at the Kings Head are fine. I think it might have been a couple of the clientele who were stinking the place up. It just needs a bit of clean!
      I’ll have to check the Bree Louise out, sounds good!

  11. […] weekend. I’m doing the Transpennine Real Ale Trail. Which I’ve written about before here. I did a small test run with my dad last weekend and he drank me under the table. Which is […]

  12. […] good fun, me and some chums doing the Transpennine Real Ale Trail (I’ve mentioned this before here & here). One of the highlights though has to be arriving at the Navigation Tavern in Mirfield, […]

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