Sunday 21 December 2014

BRAPA Christmas Special - Ripon & Boroughbridge

Ho Ho Ho!  'Tis the season to be jolly and all that bollocks as I joined my latest travel companion Chris B (Krzbi) on the 142 rickety bus from York to Ripon on a windy cool December morn.

This was my first time in Ripon and was immediately impressed by this pretty market style town.  The Cathedral was impressive in it's sturdiness, but looked a bit too new and immaculate if anything.  There was also an old prison which is now a museum, and the river Skell ran through the town, to mix things up a bit.

534 - WATER RAT, Ripon - And it was along the Skell where we found our first pub, tucked away off the main drag.  This had some good distinctive areas, meaning that although the majority of the pub looked a bit foody, we found a nice grotto-like cosy area (we'd be annoyingly asked if we were "dining with them today", which always makes me want to say I'm here to get pissed!)  Barman was good in fairness, jolly and friendly.  The pub was quite quirky with games tables for chess and stuff, a big toy hamper and very red toilets which contained an entire encyclopedic volume of books - who has a toilet session that lasts that long?  The outside area looked like it would be an amazing location in the summer.  Sadly, my pint was poor, very sour - it was a red one and despite no sulphur, I find it hard to believe it was supposed to taste like that.  Krzb's was fine on the other hand.

Me at a jaunty angle outside the very good Water Rat
535 - ONE EYED RAT, Ripon - Another Ripon pub, another rat (not sure what their obsession is with this particular rodent).  The GBG described this as a "classic" and we were both unanimous in that it was "pub of the day".  Long and thin, it may not have been the most outwardly traditional old pub but it had such a cosy lived in feel, you could almost feel the love emanating off the walls.  Red walls helped the warmth, and a friendly barmaid who humoured me with my "will mistletoe ale taste of mistletoe" attempt at witty banter.  They wrapped their pictures/photos in wrapping paper which seemed like an idea they'd got straight from Laurence Llewllyn-Bowen.  The front area was bustling with a log fire in, we found a lot of room in the (warm anyway) back of the pub,  This was my second Rudgate ale of the day but much improvement in terms of quality.

"Pub of the day?  What of it?" says Krzb at the One Eyed Rat

536 - KING WILLIAM IV, Ripon - Described as a "social drinkers pub for sociable people" by the GBG, but it was hard to see how a non-local could infiltrate the very local inner ring of barman and the 5 or 6 regulars greedily surrounding the bar, watching Man City v C Palace with one eye, and Derby v Norwich with the other, in a slightly raised section which was cordoned off for a Christmas function later on.  There was no disputing the architectural beauty of the pub, the original West Riding victorian windows outside, plus that general very old skool pub feel I notice a lot on my pub trips to Liverpool.  The beer quality was also good, but the Whitby Abbey ale we chose was uninspiring.  And I'm pretty sure they had a problem with us using our mobile phones to check-in.  Yes, I believe conversation is king in a proper pub environment, but 5 quick mins of Untappd and Twitter has to be tolerated in the 21st Century, no matter how old skool you think you are! 

Me trying not to look cold outside the "Billy".

537 - ROYAL OAK, Ripon - This time of year means pubs are always susceptible to that "raucous party season" feel, and today, it was the Royal Oak that suffered mostly.  Rather than my Christmas jumper, I wish I'd had one of those "a pub is for life, not just for Christmas" t-shirts on as a gaggle of overly merry middle agers milled around.  The fact that the pub was quite geared up for dining didn't help either, and we had to sit right in the middle of the main bar despite many empty tables in the back area, a pet hate of mine as I've said many times since BRAPA started.  On the plus side, the beer was good with the full Tim Taylor's range plus guests available, and my Ram Tam was as good a pint as I had today.  This pub could be excellent, perhaps on a wet Tuesday lunchtime in Feb! 

Krzb about to encounter a raucous hubbub at the Royal Oak
538 - UNICORN HOTEL, Ripon - Our final pub in Ripon was this Wetherspoons in the market square.  It benefits greatly from being a former coaching house rather than the usual bank, post office or shop so had a nice old atmosphere about it.  There was nothing old about our ale choices, just a half this time but a strong American craft (cask!) ale for me, and a Japanese style one for Krzb both slipped down very nicely, in a warming winter way.  The pub was also a bit darker and lower ceilinged than most 'Spoons, but it was still a maze trying to get to the toilets!  I'd read about the walls being adorned with tributes to the likes of Lewis Carroll and Fountains Abbey, but we got stuck next to a quite horrific looking unicorn with tinsel on it's horn.  I think this place also classes as a "Wetherlodge" as it had a proper reception and rooms to stay in. 

Horrendous Unicorn statue at this good 'Spoons
539 - BLACK BULL HOTEL, Boroughbridge - With the dark night looming upon us, a 20 minute bus journey took us back to Boroughbridge, for the final and most important (for BRAPA alphabetical purposes) pub of the day.  Luckily, I still didn't feel too drunk or desperate for the loo as we arrived in the smaller town square to this ancient 13th century pub.  On entering said establishment, a wizened old man in a small low down bar area served me an excellent Battle Axe, my third Rudgate ale of the day and this was of supreme quality.  We explored to the many side rooms, nooks and crannies to get seated.  Krzb said it was a bit like entering someone's front room in the 70's, but he could actually have meant the 1670's it had such a nice feel.  I'd also heard the Taylor's Landlord was top class in here.  This was a very comfy experience, despite the ghost monk that was almost definitely roaming the premises.

Me looking well oiled outside the Black Bull in Boroughbridge
There was still time for the traditional BRAPA Saturday epilogue of York Tap plus KFC, both were a bit too busy to be pleasant experiences but seemed worthwhile at the time.  

So, the BRAPA shop is closed for Christmas week and although I doubt any new ticks in Sunderland on Boxing Day (Isis and/or Kings Arms/Museum Vaults is likely), I'll be in East Yorkshire on 28th getting my first 'ticks' in this county since W M Hawkes in Hull, showing I've neglected my spiritual home for the whole of 2014. 

Happy Christmas, see you soon!


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