Sunday 5 October 2014

BRAPA - Esk Valley & Whitby

The course of true pub ticking doesn't always run smoothly, and after a faultless adventure in the Dales last weekend, I should maybe have predicted that today (a less complex agenda in comparison) would prove difficult from start to finish.

It all started on a wet Saturday morning, waiting for a slightly delayed train from Middlesbrough which was only a problem in so far as it meant spending 9 minutes longer in this godforsaken town than necessary.

My first destination was Grosmont, which I was familiar with from a 'war weekend' a few years ago, but hadn't really thought about it in pub terms.  My plan was to walk from there 1.5 mile south to Beck Hole where I had a pub to tick off,  This was my first unfortunate moment of the day as the road was flooded.  In true hardcore Bear Grylls BRAPA spirit, I discarded shoes and socks and tried to wade through.  Slippy rocks left me almost falling in, and with a badly damaged toe and leaves stuck to my feet, I gave it up as a bad job.

Impassable, impossible - no chance of Beck Hole today.

At least I could go to pub two, the Crossing Club in Grosmont and regroup.  But sadly not, it was as shut as a very shut thing and only opens before 8pm on special occasions like, presumably, the war weekend which is next week funnily enough.  At least I had phone reception and after 20 mins sheltering from the rain and improvising, I hopped on the next train to Castleton Moor, figuring that this was the one place with two pub ticks.

Steams Trains but no Crossing Club at Grosmont

ESKDALE INN, CASTLETON MOOR - So, at nearly 1pm, soggy and with aching toe, I finally stumbled into my first pub of the day although there was no phone reception so was glad it was next to the station.  I probably wasn't in the best frame of minds, but this pub did little to help.  The barmaid was one of those tanned, over perfumed types, trying to cater for a huge group of young walkers who'd just taken over the pub,  Ever seen the Father Ted episode "Hell" where they get stranded in a caravan with a group led by Graham Norton?  Yes, it was just like this!  Plus my beer, the one interesting guest from Robin Hood's Bay was clarty, hard to drink and I wasn't even convinced it was well kept.

Eskdale Inn : Beware hellish walking groups and clarty ales

DOWNE ARMS - CASTLETON MOOR - After a short but painful walk into the village of Castleton (I got lost twice trying to find the right road), I staggered into this pub - much better, much more my kind of place, nice cosy low lit one roomed thin bar.  I thought the old skool landlady/barmaid was a mute  but she was just trying to eat her lunch whilst serving me a very nice pint of dark Magik, from Celtek brewery in Cornwall.  It travelled a lot better than the one from Robin Hood's Bay! A group of diners were loving th puddings on the menu, not that landlady seemed to share their enthusiasm.  A friendly postman came and and said hi just when I was thinking everyone in Castleton Moor was a bit ignorant.  In this nice atmos, my toe was improving ... well, until Leeds equalised against Sheffield Wednesday anyway.  I put my socks back on, and limped off!

Downe Arms : Enjoyable pub apart from Leeds equaliser and mute barmaid

My plan had been to walk into Danby and tick off the pub there, it was only 1.8 miles (easy for me normally), but with this toe plus a lack of phone reception, I was conscious of getting stranded and paanoid I'd miss one of the few trains, headed back to Castleton Moor station.  I had 30 mins wait so just sat and ate two pasties in the shelter, sadly this half hour was probably my highlight to date!

The original plan had been bus to Whitby from Egton but with everything changed, another fare was required as I hopped aboard the 2:51pm train to Whitby and was immediately gripped by the focused guard.

After a long delay waiting for a steam train at Grosmont, we arrived into Whitby a good 15 mins late, 6 pubs in the guide, I thought my day could really begin now.  I have never really 'done' Whitby before so wandered around some quaint old shops selling tourist tat before crossing the swing bridge and climbing the 199 steps to the Abbey, just because I wanted to test out the old toe!  It was chilly, windswept and very atmospheric up there so I took a few pics, took it all in, came back down the stairs, ready for ale.  Job done!

Whitby Abbey : windswept, but glad I made the effort

BOARD INN, WHITBY - Right at the bottom of the steps, lay this very atmospheric old pub with a slide door and a few separate areas was a bit touristy but a must visit for any errrm visitors!  The beer range was a bit limited but I enjoyed my Caledonian Autumn Red, and a few flies kept buzzing around my rotting corpse, but I found a room to myself.  From that developed a theme, whereby older men kept bringing younger blonde ladies in, hanging around for 2 minutes, and then leaving.  This happened 3 times before a jolly group sat next to me and loved that I was laughing at their anecdotes.  I then heard Hull City had won (first ever time on a BRAPA day?).  My mood was improving all the time!  Alas, it was time to move on.

My view of the board in from about 70 steps up to the Abbey

Just when I thought my earlier bad luck was now well and truly in the past, my GBG App tried to install a new version, got stuck, wouldn't let me into either version, so I now had no idea where Whitby's remaining 4 pubs were in relation to the town - modern technology eh, who needs it?

BLACK HORSE, WHITBY -   I wasn't expecting what came next.   This pub was full of drunken Middlesbrough men pretending to be Irish/Scottish, but just generally being nobs.  Also, I didn't realise there was a back bar with several interesting guest ales on, so ordered the only one I could see in the front, a nice but oft supped Adnams Broadside.  Despite the current atmosphere, you could tell what a stunning old pubs this was, multi-roomed, characterful, full of snugs and beams and other nice old pub things!  A local couple tried to impress on me how I'd just caught the pub at the wrong time, a young couple from Northampton were in the same boat, as we all took refuge in the back room and the local woman directed me back across the swing bridge to my next pub.

Black Horse : looks unassuming, but beware Boro men!

GOLDEN LION, WHITBY - Easy to find thankfully and impressive looking from the outside, this pub was reminiscent of the Blue Bell in York at first glance with a narrow passage leading to either a front or back room, it was obviously a beautiful old building.  Once again, it was packed full of drunken stags and cackling hens from various parts of West Yorkshire and the few sane people (like me) once again had to seek refuge in the corner.  I perched next to a couple from near Hull, he turned out to be a Hull City fan undecided about the 'name change' so I silenced him with a good pro "City Til We Die" rant which his wife agreed with, he seemed to think CTWD were all teenage trouble causers!  The only beers on were Black Sheep or Doom Bar (I went for the former), couldn't have been a much worse selection.  All things considered, it is great testament to what a great building this is that my experience here wasn't a total write off!

Golden Lion : looks amazing, failed to deliver,

STATION INN, WHITBY - Right by the train station (obviously, you might say), I wasn't expecting much knowing how the rest of the day had gone, but I was pleasantly surprised to find probably my pub of the day here.  I had a Summer Lightning but in true Whitby tradition, the more interesting unknown guest ales were hidden away (or I'm just unobservant) but it was a theme of the day.  A reassuringly calm ambiance, good comfort and warmth, and a deep chat with a Scottish woman about death and family (don't ask) made for a pretty convivial experience, especially after the last two pub experiences.

Station Inn : pub of the day, on a very trying BRAPA day trip

In the end, I felt I'd salvaged a pretty good day in trying circumstances and proved I can adapt my plans when needed!  I slept most of the journey back, no need for a York Tap pint, back in time for MOTD, the Football League show washed down with a KFC, then bed.


So, the 2015 GBG pub ticking goes on, am up to Yorkshire now so may need a new highlighter pen soon.  Too much on this week to do a midweek BRAPA and Saturday is likely to be a write off or a limited pub ticking experience due to Ben's housewarming.  I have a cunning plan to return to Grosmont on Sunday for the war weekend, let's face it, when else would I get that tick?  But if so, will I have the energy and can I combine it with Egton and/or a couple of other ticks?  There's a new pub in Boro' btw that requires attention.  And can I afford all this travel?   Well, stay tuned to find out.



  1. Just for future in case you do something similar again, when doubling back, like you did between Grosmont and Castleton Moor, I would buy a (cheap) day return from Grosmonst to Castleton Moor when you first double back, ie when leaving Grosmont. This will mean you can still use your original York-Whitby ticket from Grosmont to Whitby later on.

    I presume the guard leaving Castleton Moor sold you a day return from Castleton Moor to Whitby.

    I'd ring the Crossing Club on a weekday evening in the week leading up to your next attempt.

    As much of an advocate of train travel as I am, for Grosmont / Whitby area, I would be tempted to investigate how much quicker the Coastliner bus is.


  2. Thanks Tom, good advice re ringing Crossing Club. My travel plan originally included bus from egton to Whitby but my plans went out of the window early on.

  3. Seeing as I had a good laugh at your misfortune with this one, I thought I'd return the favour and tell you that the station approach road at Gargrave was flooded on Saturday. It was the only way to get from the westbound to eastbound platform. My shoes are still wet inside. Happily the 5 minute connection (3 in reality as the eastbound was a little late) by seconds so I didn't have a huge fester there.