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Mac of Cygnet

2015 Pub Cruise

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Last year I gave an idea of (one of ) my summer activities in the 2014 Pub Cruise, where I visited, commented on and scored 94 different pubs visited in an extended cruise from Yorkshire to the Great Ouse including a month on the Middle Level.

 

This year's cruise, from April 9th to 27th September, was through an almost entirely different area of the waterways, and involved visits to (rather alarmingly!) 129 pubs, almost all different from last year - in fact only 5 were repeated, even though my route from Great Haywood Junction back to Sowerby Bridge was the same - I tried not to visit the same ones unless they were unmissable. Where a pub is repeated, I've added last year's entry for comparison. (Only one, the PUZZLE HALL, maintained its score.)

 

Once again, I must warn pub diners that FOOD IS NOT INCLUDED. I haven't eaten out in a pub while cruising for at least two years. My wants are simple - an excellent pint of real ale and a packet of crisps. In fact my 'price' criterion i when scoring is based on these two items together. This year it varied from £2.40 (!) to £5.40 (!!!).

 

To remind of my scoring system:

 

There are 20 points: 10 for beer and 10 for everything else. Up to 5 for beer choice to include one non-national brand or unusual beer type (certain mediocre 'cooking beers' such as Doom Bar and Bombardier are not counted!), and 0 to 5 for quality: 0 and 1 would be sent back - (didn't happen this year) - 2 means wouldn't have another - 3 is acceptable - 4 very good - up to 5 absolutely superb. To make it clear, I'm talking about real ales (cask beers) here. I'm a beer fanatic.

 

So a score is in three parts: Beer choice+beer quality+everything else. e.g 1+5+7=13 has the same total score as 4+2+7=13, but the first pub has 1 superb beer, but the second 4 rubbish ones. So you can tell quite a bit from the scores as opposed to the comments

 

Everything else includes service, staff, clientele, general atmosphere, situation, decor, interesting pictures, special features (eg library!), quirkiness, cleanliness, price, and the presence of live or other music, juke box or fruit machine (all minus) and whether there is a place for drinkers as opposed to diners. And beermats.

 

I had visited many of these pubs before, of course, in the past 30 years, and most were just as I remembered, but others had changed a lot, mostly for the better, I'm glad to say. Some of my comments may seem a bit downbeat, but often they explain why the score isn't higher. I've limited the comments to a very few words, although my notes are more detailed - but including them would make for a REALLY long post!

 

You may know some of these pubs well, and may disagree with my conclusions, and I'll try to justify them if you like, but remember each is just a snapshot - the great majority were visited only once, although I did manage several visits to some! Although many are canalside, some are a mile or more away - I'm prepared to make an effort to seek out a promising pub, with a bit of research using the site whatpub.com so avoiding the depths of a couple last year (although I had one or two disappointments).

 

GBG means that the pub is in the latest (2016) Good Beer Guide.

 

So here we go.

 

Rochdale Canal

PUZZLE HALL, Sowerby Bridge 5+5+8 =18 A unique experience. Live music Fri & Sat. GBG

2014 entry:

GBG 5+5+8=18 A little gem. Go with an open mind.

 

FOX & GOOSE, Hebden Bridge 5+5+8=18 Now a community pub. Back to its former glory. GBG

MASON'S ARMS, Gauxholme. 5+5+8=18 A favourite, but rumoured to be for sale.

RED LION, Littleborough 5+4+8=17. A warren of comfortably shabby rooms. GBG

SHIP INN, Slattocks 1+4+7=12 Lees bitter. A pleasant local's pub.

HOPWOOD, Slattocks 1+4+6=11 Hobgoblin. Large, dedicated to food and football.

ROSE OF LANCASTER, Mill Hill 4+4+6=14 Large, busy pub overlooking canal. GBG

JOLLY ANGLER, Ducie Street. 1+5+8=14 (Hyde's Original.) A home from home.

 

Bridgewater Canal

WHARF, Castlefield 5+5+6=16 Twelve beers! Large, busy and expensive.

AXE & CLEAVER, Dunham Town 4+4+5=13 Chef & Brewer, but Dunham Massey Brewery nearby.

SWAN WITH TWO NICKS, Little Bollington 5+4+7=16 Rather upmarket and expensive. GBG

RED LION, Moore 2+5+8=15 Friendly and unpretentious, with family photos.

Trent and Mersey Canal

SALT BARGE, Marston 2+4+8=14 Another unpretentious pleasant pub, quiet on a Saturday night.

Shropshire Union Canal

BADGER, Church Minshull 4+4+7=15 Much improved since it re-opened.

CHESHIRE CAT, Christleton 3+4+5=12 Not as bad as feared, but horrible intrusive music.

TELFORD'S WAREHOUSE, Chester 5+5+8=18 An interesting conversion. You can watch your boat! GBG

SHROPSHIRE ARMS, Chester 1+4+5=10 Basic town boozer. A mistake.

RED BULL, Chester 5+5+8=18 Very old and friendly pub. 20% CAMRA discount.

BREWERY TAP, Chester 5+5+8=18 Jacobean vaulted hall with tapestries & huge fireplace bar. GBG

OLDE COTTAGE INN, Chester 4+5+7=16 Pleasant enough, but obtrusive music. GBG

OLD HARKERS ARMS, Chester 5+5+5=15 Food oriented and very expensive. GBG

BUNBURY ARMS, Stoak 4+4+6=14 Typical modernised largeish village pub.

SHADY OAK, Tiverton 2+4+7=13 Rather stark modern makeover. Good welcome.

TOLLEMACHE ARMS, Alpraham 2+2+4=8 Large pretentious Robinson's 'coaching inn'.

TRAVELLER'S REST, Alpraham 2+4+7=13 A delightful fifties time-warp, but basic.

JOLLY TAR, Barbridge 1+3+6=10 Odd sort of place, like a 70s seaside bar.

OLDE BARBRIDGE INN 4+4+7=15 Pleasant, with good helpful staff.

BLACK LION, Nantwich 5+4+8=17 Rambling place with lots of rooms. GBG

CROWN, Nantwich 4+4+8=16 Grandly historic and rather homely at the same time.

WICKSTEAD ARMS, Nantwich. 4+4+6=14 Friendly and comfortable, but too loud music.

TALBOT, Nantwich 3+4+7=14 Good to average inexpensive town bar.

ODDFELLOWS ARMS, Nantwich 5+4+9=18 Closest to canal. Really friendly locals' local.

LORD COMBERMERE, Audlem 5+4+7=16 Rather upmarket, large and expensive. GBG

SHROPPIE FLY, Audlem 3+4+6=13 Suppose we should be glad it's open.

BRIDGE INN, Audlem 3+4+5=12 Cheapest in the village, but very loud music.

RED LION, Market Drayton 4+4+8=16 Interesting modern conversion,surrounded by Joules brewery. GBG

CLIVE & COFFYNE, Market Drayton 5+4+4=13 A pity, but only the beer was good. GBG

TALBOT, Market Drayton 3+3+6=12 Unexceptional, but the only pub close to the canal.

WHARF TAVERN, Goldstone. 3+4+7=14 Beautiful situation and pleasant atmosphere.

JUNCTION INN, Norbury Junction 4+4+7=15 Surprisingly homely pub for locals and boaters.

BOAT, Gnosall 3+4+7=14 Couldn't be closer to the canal! Pleasant unfussy interior.

SWAN, Brewood 5+4+7=16 A good traditional pub, but extremely busy. GBG

THREE STIRRUPS, Brewood 2+4+7=13 Basic back-street quiet locals' pub.

LION, Brewood 3+3+4=10 Totally dining. Had to sit in the back yard. But not expensive.

BRIDGE INN, Brewood 4+4+8=16 A pleasant surprise with a proper bar and no music!

HARTLEY ARMS, Wheaton Aston 5+3+5=13 No evidence of advertised 'beer festival'.

(Edited because a whole lot of pubs decided to take a trip up the Llangollen!

Llangollen & Montgomery Canals

COTTON ARMS, Wrenbury 5+3+7=15 A pleasant relaxing pub, but food-oriented.

DUSTY MILLER, Wrenbury 3+3+7=13 Pleasant enough Robinson's dining pub.

SUN, Welshampton 5+5+8=18 Worth the walk - sofa, woodburner and books.

WHITE HART, Ellesmere 4+4+8=16 A pleasant cheap pub with local people and local beer. GBG

MARKET HOTEL, Ellesmere 1+4+6=11 1+4+6=11 A standard, unimaginative town pub.

BRIDGE INN (THE TRAP), Chirk Bank 3+5+10=18 Everything a local should be. The best this year.

MILL INN, Cefn Mawr 1+4+6=10 Rather neglected former GBG pub.

TELFORD INN, Trevor Basin 2+4+6=12 Better than expected in pleasant surroundings.

PONSONBY ARMS, Llangollen 5+4+8=17 Dedicated to beer, but variable quality. GBG

AQUEDUCT INN, Froncycyllte 2+5+7=14 The Big Yellow Pub. Great views. GBG

HAND HOTEL, Chirk 2+3+7=12 Big, old and worn. Lots of rooms and old-fashioned bar.

POACHER'S Gledrid Bridge 3+4+5=14 Large Marston's dining pub.

ORIGINAL BALL, Maesbury 3+4+8=15 Lots of rooms and corners. Good staff. Books.

QUEENS HEAD, Queens Head 3+4+7=14 An eating place, but OK for a quiet drink.

OAK, Oswestry (by bus from Queens Head) 4+5+7=16 A good basic town bar in a listed building. GBG

BLACK BEAR, Whitchurch 5+5+7=17 A beer Mecca, but a bit OTT Interesting decor. GBG

WHITE BEAR, Whitchurch 4+4+7=15 Rather luxurious.

OLD TOWN HALL VAULTS, Whitchurch 5+3+7=15 Nothing special.

HORSE & JOCKEY, Grindley Brook 5+3+7=15 Large eclectic collection of pictures. GBG

WILLEYMOOR LOCK, Willeymoor lock 5+4+7=15 Check the opening times! GBG

SWAN, Marbury 2+4+6=12 Despite its claims, a very ordinary village pub.

FARMER'S ARMS, Ravensmoor 3+3+6=12 A pleasant walk across the fields, but not worth it.

Staffs & Worcester Canal

SWAN, Compton 4+4+9=17 A proper old fashioned pub - bar, parlour, and snug. GBG

(Terrific off-licence across the road - hundreds of beers)

ODDFELLOWS, Compton 3+3+5=11 Loud, noisy family food establishment.

MERMAID, Wightwick 3+4+6=13 Large rather expensive dining pub, but comfortable.

ROUND OAK, Wombourne 4+4+7=15 Inexpesnsive canalside local with pleasant staff.

MOUNT PLEASANT, Wombourne 5+4+8=17 Pleasant indeed, an open airy pub with a proper bar.

NEW INN, Wombourne 5+4+5=14 Large open pub with pompous humourless service.

WAGGON & HORSES, Wombourne 3+3+4=10 Bargain dining roadhouse by canal.

GREEN MAN, Swindon 3+3+6=13 Undistinguished but OK locals' pub with lots of dogs.

OLD BUSH, Swindon 2+3+4=9 Basic boozer with juke box and 6 varieties of Scotch eggs.

VINE, Kinver 5+3+6=13 The only pub near the canal. Music too loud.

CROSS, Kinver 5+4+8=17 Not much tradition, but free food fridays.

WHITE HARTE 3+3+6=12 Uninspiring (except for the quotes on the walls).

WHITTINGTON, Whittington 3+3+7=13 Very old and quirky dining and function pub.

ANCHOR, Caunsall 5+4+7=16 Cobs (filled rolls) its raison d'etre. Check opening times! GBG

QUEEN'S HEAD, Wolverley 4+3+8=15 Beautiful building and situation, with a proper bar.

LOCK, Wolverley 3+4+8=15 Very popular lockside pub. Masses of gongoozlers.

EAGLE & SPUR, Cookley 3+3+8=14 Good honest inexpensive pub. Dame Edna barmaid.

NAVIGATION, Greensforge 3+4+6=14 Pleasant but rather characterless. GBG

HINKSFORD ARMS (OLD BUSH), Hinksford 2+3+6=11 Unremarkable, depending on chalet park.

BELL, Trysull 5+4+8=17 Beautiful pub nestling by the church. GBG

RAINBOW, Coven 2+3+7=12 Pleasant airy pub with a very large telly to watch the Test Match.

FOX & ANCHOR, Cross Green 2+3+6=11 Expensive chain dining pub with annoying music.

CROSS KEYS, Penkridge 1+3+6=10 A nice locals' pub with some beers pretending to be cask.

LITTLETON ARMS, Penkridge 5+4+8=17 A warren of little rooms in a well revamped large hotel.

BOAT, Penkridge 3+4+5=12 Surprisingly spartan for a canalside pub.

STAR, Penkridge 5+4+7=16 Relaxing pub with good service and atmosphere.

MOAT HOUSE, Acton Trussel 3+3+6=12 Impressive grounds, buiding and interior. I suppose.

Trent and Mersey Canal (again)

WOOLPACK, Weston 5+3+7=15 Comfortable, rambling pub on village green.

SARACEN'S HEAD, Weston 2+3+6=11 Totally unremarkable but inexpensive.

DOG & DOUBLET, Sandon 4+4+6=14 Dining. Difficult to find a corner.

GREYHOUND, Burston 3+4+8=15 Beautiful little village, but pub is a walk away.

THREE CROWNS, Little Stoke 1+3+6=11 A Vintage failure, as far as I'm concerned.

SWAN, Stone 5+3+7=15 Lots of beers, but quality variable. Very busy. GBG

POSTE OF STONE 3+4+5=12 A below average Wetherspoons. Rather dark.

LANGTREYS, Stone 3+4+7=14 Old-fashioned bar with ceiling fan. Music too loud.

PLUME OF FEATHERS WITH NEIL MORRISEY, Barlaston 5+4+5=14 Seriously!

HOLY INADEQUATE, Etruria 5+4+9=18 Folkies banished to the back shop. Yay! GBG

BLUE BELL, Kidsgrove 5+5+8+18 Gave it another chance. Check opening! For sale?

Macclesfield Canal

YOUNG PRETENDER, Congleton 5+3+7=15 Large, arty eclectic mix in old toyshop. GBG

QUEEN'S HEAD, Congleton 5+5+8=18 Just climb the steps and stumble down!

SUTTON HALL, Gurnett 5+3+8=15 Worth a visit for the magnificent interior. Expensive-ish.

2014 entry:

5+4+9=18 A mansion with a fantastic interior and friendly staff.

 

COCK IN TREACLE, Macclesfield 4+3+6=13 Very cheap basic boozer spoiled by awful music.

WHARF, Macclesfield 5+4+9=18 A proper local dedicated to beer. Good atmosphere. GBG

VALE, Bollington 5+5+7=17 Own brewery. Rather dark. Easily the oldest customer. GBG

BOAR'S HEAD, Higher Poynton 2+4+8=14 A good local with pleasant atmosphere and staff.

Peak Forest Canal

HATTERS ARMS, Marple 4+4+7=15 Refurbished and improved local bar. Robinson's, of course.

Huddersfield Narrow and Broad Canals

STATION BUFFET, Stalybridge 5+4+8=17 A bright spot in an awful town. Full of interest. GBG

RAILWAY, Greenfield 5+3+5=13 A real disappointment. Empty, cold and cheerless. GBG

2014 entry:

GBG 4+5+8=17 Real tradition - felt transported back in time.

 

KINGFISHER, Greenfield 3+3+5=11 Large characterless Marston's dining venue.

CHURCH INN, Saddleworth 5+3+9=17 Great pub, terrific location, disappointing but cheap beer.

CROSS KEYS, Saddleworth 5+3+7=15 Rather expensive Lees tied house. GBG

SWAN (TOP HOUSE), Dobcross 5+4+8=17 Worth the walk up the hill. Comforatble armchairs. GBG

RIVERHEAD, Marsden 5+5+8=18 Standards maintained in this great brew pub. GBG

2014 entry:

GBG 5+5+9=19 Ten great beers, mostly brewed in-house.

 

RAILWAY, Marsden 4+3+4=11 Plastic glasses (Saturday). Handy, but nothing else.

SHOULDER OF MUTTON, Slaithwaite 5+4+7=16 Stark makeover but good vibes.

WOOD ST. CRAFT BEER HOUSE, Huddersfield 4+5+7=16 Weird throwback to student days. GBG

VULCAN, Huddersfield 5+4+5=14 Good cheap beer spoiled by awful music. GBG

KING'S HEAD, Huddersfield 5+5+8=18 Large echoing half-finished barn. GBG

ROYAL & ANCIENT, Cooper Bridge 2+3+8=13 Under new management. Still relaxing.

2014 entry:

3+4+8=15 Old-fashioned and very relaxing.

 

Calder and Hebble Navigation

RICHARD OASTLER, Brighouse 5+5+8=18 Very good Wetherspoons with magnificent interior. GBG

SHEPHERD'S REST, Sowerby Bridge 5+4+8=17 Surprisingly cosmopolitan decor. GBG

A full circle with considerable diversions! Neither the heights nor lows of 2014 were found this year - even one of the winners from last year lost a point because I found them playing music!

My favourite on the 2015 Pub Cruise? The BRIDGE INN (THE TRAP) at Chirk Bank on the Llangollen. If it had more beers, it would have been out in front in the scores, too. I visited it three times, and left the boat for a week on the excellent moorings by the English end of the aqueduct. I just wish my own village local even approached it.

Cheers!

Mac

Edited by Mac of Cygnet

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