Very occasionally, Little Oliver finds itself venturing beyond the borders of Leeds, out into the Great Beyond, where fields roll, cattle seem to outnumber people and where the weather can change in the blink of an eye.
These days, of course, owing to the fact our annual Oliver Awards now has its very own ‘rural’ category, it’s a necessity to spread one’s wings a little.
Thus it was we found ourselves in Skipton, a town positively thronging with people. In fact, we cycled there, all the way from Leeds, which you might think is a bit of a mad thing to do but there are plenty of upsides to the alternative.
Putting the boring ‘fitness’ thing aside, if you cycle along the Leeds-Liverpool Canal from Leeds, it’s 27 miles, which should take about three hours at a steady pace. That’s three miles of unadulterated Yorkshire beauty, of the kind of landscapes you dream about getting away to (and here they are, right on your doorstep - all you need is a little bit of will/pedal power).
On the way, you’ll pass other pubs, of course, including one at the top of the famous Bingley Five Rise Locks and there’s nothing to stop you calling in at those but on this particular day, Skipton was our goal (well, it was the first stop on a larger journey but for the purposes of this review, it serves).
And so to the Red Lion, which was recommended to us by a nice bloke sitting on the canalside reading his paper, as being one of the best places to go to eat, drink and watch the footy (inside or out).
Staff were really friendly, even letting us store our bicycles in their outdoor storage area. The beer is decent, with a good range of real ales on handpulls at the bar. We went for Chinook (Goose Eye Brewery, 4.2 per cent, £3.30), a nice light hoppy citrussy pale ale and very sessionable.
They also do a very nice Carlsberg shandy (the shame of it, I know - but we were cycling another 30 miles that day, so at least I have a valid excuse in not wanting to get tipsy) at £2.85.
In fact, there are two permanent real ales and a ‘real’ cider, in the form of Rosie’s Pig (4.8 per cet), while the stock ales incluide Greene King IPA and Blonde Witch (Moorhouses, 4.5 per cent). There are also five others on rotation and these tend to include a mix of traditional bitters and pale/golden ales.
Food-wise they have a very good selection of pub grub but well above your average quality. We ate gammon and eggs (£8.49 but two for a tenner, so great value) and the big porky burger (£9.99). Both dishes were superb to be honest, with a good selection of condiments on the table to boot, including Heinz tomato ketchup and Mayonnaise in bottles, service was excellent and all this happened while Liverpool drew against Tottenham Hotspur in a lacklustre match.
We spent a couple of happy hours at the Red Lion and could have easily remained there for the rest of the afternoon.
The sun was shining and despite a few rain clouds threatening to spoil the show, we enjoyed sitting outside, where there was adequate room for a couple of dozen people to watch the game on the TV on the wall. Inside the pub, there was an even bigger TV.
After that, we were back on our bikes heading for Church, near Accrington and if I’d know how hard that would turn out to be, I’d have probably stayed in the pub.
Address: 27 High St, Skipton BD23 1DT
Tel: 01756 790718
Opening hours: Mon-Thu: 8am-11pm, Fri & Sat: 8am-midnight, Sun: 8am-11pm
Food hours: Mon-Sun: 8am-9pm