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Pub review: The Craven Arms, Appletreewick

The Craven Arms

The Craven Arms

  • by Simon Jenkins
 

THE locals pronounce it “Aptrick”, which always seems a bit of a shame.

Appletreewick sounds like the idyllic backdrop to some gentle old novel set in the English countryside – Cider with Rosie maybe, or Memoirs of a Fox Hunting Man – though I suppose it becomes a bit of a mouthful if you have to say it all the time.

Appletreewick is in the south eastern corner of the Yorkshire Dales, north east of Skipton and roughly equidistant between Addingham, Grassington and Pateley Bridge and just inside North Yorkshire. It’s an ancient settlement; sheep farming and lead mining underpinning its wealth from medieval times. By the 17th century, merchant taylor Sir William Craven had built or restored a number of grand properties in the village, including the pub. He was Lord Mayor of London in 1610, and some say he was the model for the Dick Whittington legend. The High Hall in Appletreewick is a grand monument to his life, even if it is the pub which bears his name.

In many Yorkshire communities, a pub such as the New Inn, with its real ales, great food and warm family welcome, would be the pride of the village and right at the heart of local life. Here it rather sits in the shadow of the Craven Arms, a quarter mile along the road, and absolutely the quintessential Dales pub.

It certainly looks the part, stone-fronted, windswept and interesting, it stands on one side of the deep Wharfe valley, its stone-framed sash windows affording spectacular views to a wooded hillside opposite. Inside, a fireplace, stone-flagged flooring, huge oak beams and gas lighting tick a number of significant boxes.

For many years this pub has traded well on tourists and walkers, on villagers from nearby, on those from towns a little further afield – Leeds, Otley, Skipton, Harrogate – each of them drawn by the promise of great food and beer, and the atmosphere of a genuine country inn.

It has been a regular in pub guides over the years.

We called in a couple of weekends back, when the Craven was hosting its annual beer festival. For a few days every year, landlord David Aynesworth opens up the pub’s bars to an extended range of traditional real ales and in doing so attracts a ready-made and thirsty clientele. As we drew up outside, it was already evident that the event was a serious hit – punters were spilling out of the pub onto the row of roadside tables, the beer garden was packed and it was standing room only at the bar.

For sheer picturesque perfection, this year’s festival was well timed. The Virginia Creeper which clings to the pub’s sturdy front wall has turned with the onrushing autumn to warm golden browns and rich reds, lending a rosy glow to this lovely Yorkshire scene.

This year the theme was “Wars of the Roses”, and 20 beers – 10 each from Yorkshire and Lancashire – were going head-to-head both on the pub’s main bar, and in two temporary bars which have been set up in the spectacular Cruck Barn to out back.

The barn was built in 2006 to traditional medieval specifications, the work led by David’s son Rob. It takes its name from the distinctive bent oak A-frame, known locally as a “cruck”, which supports a vertiginous roof of tightly-packed treetrunks.

It was the first to be built in the Dale for more than 300 years and is based on a now-destroyed barn at nearby Barden. Heather is used for the thatch, sheep’s wool for the insulation and the walls are plastered with traditional lime and horsehair. The timbers are held together with giant wooden pegs.

On completing the project, Rob had his wedding in the Cruck Barn; since then it has lent itself to all manner of functions and events.

And there can be fewer more inspiring locations for a beer festival anywhere.

Here they charged £8 for a programme with five half-pint tabs, which works out at £3.20 a pint, a fixed price whether you’re on the humblest session ale or something a little more challenging.

The beers varied in strength from 3.5 to 5.5 per cent ABV, and between our little party of three, we tried several: rich, refreshing Amber from Lancaster Brewery, the effervescent Golden Goose from Yorkshire’s Gooseye, and the bitter Joshua Jane from Ilkley. Our best beer of the festival was a toss-up between chocolatey Black Cat from Moorhouses in Lancashire and the dark, vanilla-accented Mrs Simpson’s Thriller from Yorkshire’s Brown Cow. After the weekend, and the votes were counted, it was the latter which took first prize. Predictably White Rose ales took all the major places!

Factfile

Name: The Craven Arms

Type: Traditional country inn

Host: David Aynesworth

Opening Hours: 11.30am-3pm and 6-11pm Mon-Tue, 11.30am-11pm Wed-Thur, 11.30-midnight Fri-Sat, 11.30am-10.30pm Sun

Beers: Up to eight real ales at any time, from around £3 a pint.

Wine: Great choice

Food: Quality meals available lunchtimes and evenings Mon-Thurs, all day Fri-Sun

Children: Welcomed. High chairs and kids’ meals available

Disabled: Slightly awkward access

Functions: Cruck Barn is ideal for special events Beer Garden: Enclosed area to side, roadside tables to front

Parking: Spaces to side and rear, and on the roadside

Telephone: 01756 720270

Website: www.craven-cruckbarn.co.uk

Email: info@craven-cruckbarn.co.uk

Beer of the Week

Butcombe Blond

The stylised image of Concorde taking off over a silhouetted treeline might seem something of an anachronism, but Butcombe Blond was first brewed to mark the final flight of the great supersonic liner, to Filton near Bristol – close to the brewery – where it opened as a visitor attraction.

Mind you, if anachronisms are your thing, you might raise an eyebrow at their claim to use “hops from Czechoslovakia”, a state that was disbanded a good decade before the crash in Paris which signalled the end of Concorde.

No matter. Butcombe has been around since 1978, and has gained a reputation for quality ales.

Their Blond is made using the palest English lager malts which create a beer of light golden colour; the aroma is floral and summ-ery; hops from Czechoslovakia (disbanded 1989) and Slovenia (est 1991) give it a crisp and determinedly dry taste. It’s a lovely refreshing beer, which actually benefits from an hour or two in the fridge.

 

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