Thursday, 22 December 2011

Great Corby to Carlisle: 20th December 2011

I'd spent the previous evening at the Opening Day launch of a great new 'Craft Beer Bar' in Glasgow, Bruadar (see here and here for reviews), and must admit to being slightly the worse for wear the morning after. However it was either stay in bed and feel sorry for myself or make use of the day's holiday, get out into the fresh air and try a couple of beers later in the day. Actually it had turned out to be a really decent winter's day and so I decided that I could probably manage a longer trip out from Glasgow than normal and visit Carlisle and a couple of surrounding villages in the north of England.

View Carlisle in a larger map

Outward transport was as follows:-
  Train : Glasgow Central to Carlisle
             Carlisle to Wetheral (Newcastle train)

The train station at Wetheral is immediately before the viaduct over the River Eden to Great Corby. The footbridge was closed for a time last year but has now re-opened and is totally safe (although there's definitely a bit of vertigo involved in crossing it!).

I was hoping to try some beer from a fairly new microbrewery in Great Corby, Cumberland Breweries, and I'd e-mailed them to ask where their beer was likely to be found. They'd given me a couple of possibilities which was great of them and (by luck) I'd already tried their Corby Blonde (really nice with some citrusy bitterness) at a JD Wetherspoon's in Carlisle whilst waiting for the train to Wetheral. Unfortunately there was building work going on in the brewery itself so I couldn't have a closer look around, but I still managed to get a couple of decent shots of the outside. They work out of an old blacksmiths with the arch supposedly dating back to 1833.

The Queen Inn just across the green from the brewery has been closed for over 6 months, due to a combination of loss of trade when the footbridge was closed and poor health of the previous owners - a real shame. The only other pub in the village is the Corby Bridge Inn which unfortunately didn't seem to be open until 4pm.

Walking back across the viaduct to Wetheral I wanted to try a couple of the local pubs. The first, just down from the station, was the Crown Hotel with its associated Walton's Bar (ground floor, left hand side).

The bar's quite nice with lots of seating areas, wooden beams and is (obviously) dog friendly. On hand-pull were Hobgoblin, Geltsdale Golden Ale and Cumberland Breweries Corby Ale - hooray! Having said that the Corby Ale wan't that great - it was an OKish session bitter but perhaps the condition of it was slightly out.

Walking past the village green I next came to the Wheatsheaf Inn. There were 3 ales on hand-pull here as well, Thwaites Wainwright, Corby Ale and their own Wheatsheaf House Ale from Geltsdale - slighter better than the Corby Ale IMHO. The House Ale was on at only £2.50 a pint and they were also doing a beer 'platter' of 1/3 pint of all 3 beers for £2.50 - pretty good value! I really quite liked the place - real fire burning, lots of pump-clips above the bar, decent food selection and would have stayed longer it I didn't have to go for the bus (only 1 an hour back into Carlisle).

The bus back to Carlisle was delayed (by horses on the road - different) but eventually dropped me off on the main A69 road into Carlisle from the east, past a huge industrial estate and an out-of-town Tesco's. From there it was a bit of a walk into the Bocherby area of Carlisle and the Magpie Inn.
* There's definitely a trend for whitewashed buildings around Carlisle way!

It's recently had a fair amount of money spent on it by its owners Oakwell Brewery so whilst now looking quite refurbished and complete, still has the original fireplaces, beams and brickwork. What I hadn't realised was that there was a full-scale bowling green at the back of the building - unusual to say the least.

At this time of the day the large main lounge was closed and only the smaller snug was open, so I found a table and started talking to the locals who were interested in how I'd found the place and where I'd been (obviously one guy found my conversation less than scintillating, but I blame the fact that he was the closest to the fire!).

There were 3 hand-pulls at the bar, but only one pump-clip, and when I inquired about the beer choice the barmaid said 'There's only the 1 beer from all the taps at the moment', so Oakwell Barnsley Bitter it was. This was all of £1.80 (extraordinary value), and was just as a Yorksire Bitter should be - a dry maltiness, but then a definite bitter after-taste, all really well balanced - easily the beer of the day and superb. Interestingly enough I was given a choice of glass - straight or tankard, so initially went with the straight glass since I don't like the 'olde-fashioned' dimpled mug (which is what I assumed the alternative was), but instead I noted that it really was a 'straight' tankard, so went with that for my next pint. It's not likely to have enhanced the taste of the Barnsley Bitter, but it certainly looked the part.

At times (especially during some of the weather in 2011) I have wondered if I should just sit in a couple of the pubs in Glasgow and drink the great choice of real ale (and/or craft beer) that's available nowadays, but when you find a pub like the Magpie Inn and a beer like Barnsley Bitter then it really does make all the effort worthwhile.

Return transport:-
  Bus : Wetheral Green to Carlisle A69 Junction (75 Reays Buses)
  Train : Carlisle to Glasgow Central

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