TAVERNER THE Abbey may or may not be the most haunted pub in Leeds, but it is, without question, the hardest to find.
I spent the best part of an hour looking for it last week, admittedly armed with neither streetmap nor sat nav, during which time I drove down a host of hopeful-looking streets, guided purely by memory of my last visit.
Now it is entirely possible that in the intervening decade they've jacked the place up on rollers and moved it a couple of hundred yards downstream, but I'm sure it's not where it used to be.
In short, the only way to drive to the Abbey is to go via Bramley, and pick your way carefully along the steep and narrow Pollard Lane which meanders down from Bramley Fall Park to the side of the River Aire.
The pub sits tucked away close to the end of a footbridge, which gives pedestrian access to drinkers from the Kirkstall side of this green and pleasant valley.
I finally gave up altogether and went for a pint somewhere else, but – armed with better geographical knowledge – made a return visit this week. It was Tuesday night, and if it's Tuesday, then that means music night at the Abbey.
By the time we wandered down from the car park, and past the pub's open-sided conservatory, a host of guitarists were already tuning up in readiness for the evening's entertainment.
The beer garden was empty, the fruit machine silenced, the pool table unoccupied – it seemed as though just about everyone in the place was ready do a turn.
Not me, of course. I was here for the beer pure and simple, and given that the Abbey is Leeds CAMRA's community pub of the year, there was plenty of it on offer. A blackboard beside the bar keeps tally of the real ales, but when we dropped by there was Elland's Bargee Bitter, Old Bear Hibernator, as well as Naylor's Old Ale and Naylor's Pinnacle, which both come from the same Yorkshire brewery which provides this week's bottled beer of the week (See below). An impressive array of beer mats and pump clips tell their own tale of real ales past. There will be even greater choice during the annual Abbey Inn beer and music festival which starts next Friday.
The pub's own history is interesting. It began life as a farmhouse in the 18th century, but by 1826 it was an inn. By the turn of the century it was owned by the Whitaker family, who were keen to regulate the drinking habits of the workforce at their dyeing plant next door.
It takes its name from nearby Kirkstall Abbey and local legend says a tunnel links the building to the Abbey grounds. The picturesque setting between the Aire and the Leeds-Liverpool Canal makes it a popular point for walkers to stop off for food and liquid refreshment.
Its reputation for ghosts partly stems from the fact that for many years the pub doubled as a mortuary. The bodies – many of them suicide victims pulled from the canal and river nearby – were laid out in the room now occupied by the pool table.
Curiously, having the odd body around didn't hamper trade – it just meant that customers had to pick their way past the coffins on the way to the toilet.
According to the pub's website, at least four ghosts are reputed to frequent the Abbey, including a grey lady, a man with a Guy Fawkes-style hat and a mysterious cloaked figure. There are reports of taps that won't turn off and bar stools moving around by themselves.
Licensee Martin Lockett has yet to see any of them since becoming landlord last summer – but he has heard a girl's giggling coming from a deserted cellar. "The ghostly goings-on all add to the atmosphere, there's no doubt about that," he said. "Some people get a bit nervous occasionally, but it doesn't bother me in the slightest – and I live here!"
I had a great night in the Regent at Chapel Allerton on Thursday. In scenes no doubt repeated in pubs across the county, grown men hugged each other, danced around with total strangers, and generally behaved like big daft idiots as Leeds United booked a place at Wembley with Jonny Howson's last-minute winner. Fantastic.
Host: Martin Lockett
Type: Real ale haven
Opening hours: Monday to Saturday noon-11pm; Sunday noon-10.30pm
Beers: Great choice of real ales which change regularly. Plus Foster's, Stella Artois and Beck's lagers, Strongbow and Guinness
Wine: Small selection
Food: Pub grub served Friday 5-8pm; Saturday and Sunday noon-3pm
Live music: Forthcoming acts include: tonight, Redwood Thinkers, "smooth and cool"; May 23-26, music and beer festival; May 30, Kwam D, "local reggae band"; May 31, Black Dog Blues
l Other entertainment: Pool table, games machine, quiz Sunday
l Children: No special facilities
l Disabled: Slightly tricky ramp access from pub car park
l Beer Garden: Attractive open air area to the front of the pub, partly covered
l Parking: Small area
l Telephone: 0113 2581248
l Website: www.theabbey-inn.co.uk