ONE of my very favourite things about living in Leeds is that from pretty much anywhere in the city, you are only about 10 minutes drive from some unspoiled countryside and never more than 30 from some dramatic walking country.
On Sunday morning our walk group headed up to Malham from a bracing windswept ramble above Malham Cove. The previous evening we had driven to Kettlesing, a village whose name predates Tolkien but sounds like it comes straight from one of his tales.
The village lies just off the Harrogate-Skipton road, close to the US airforce intelligence base at Menwith Hill. From the main road, you drop down through a series of hairpin bends to reach this attractive stone built pub, where a yellow bicycle remains as a reminder of the visit of the Tour de France in 2014.
Stepping through the front door you are greeted by a sizeable portrait of Elizabeth I, and though it is her picture on the inn sign too, she doesn’t have it all to herself here. Queens Victoria and Mary are both featured in arched alcoves at one end of the pub’s main eating and drinking space, like little Royal shrines.
The Queen’s Head has a very traditional feel, with polished wooden tables, and pews upholstered in purple. Old lanterns cast a pale yellow light across walls which are decorated with country scenes, while crockery, brass kettles, shields and trophies jostle for space on the shelves. It is no doubt the influence of the American servicemen which has led to the inclusion of posters advertising the delights of Myrtle Beach Golf and celebrating the achievements of the Washington Redskins.
From the entrance porch, you step to the left into the main dining room. To one side is the bar, with the very welcome sight of three real ale handpulls. Masham rivals Black Sheep and Theakston’s Old Peculier are the regular beers and there is one changing guest ale to serve those who don’t want to choose between those two branches of the Theakston family.
On this visit, the guest ale is the slightly citric but easy-going YPA from the Rooster’s Brewery at Knaresborough, which I take to our table while we peruse a menu which is packed with hearty Yorkshire dining choices. We have taken the precaution of booking, which is certainly advisable at a pub which trades strongly on the quality of the food. On this wintry Saturday night, the place is packed, and it seems as though everyone is eating.
The menu touches most of the predictable bases with steaks and pies, fish, seafood and salads. The regular menu is augmented by a list of specials chalked up on blackboards in front of the bar. The pub makes a big play of its provenance: the meat is from Kirkby Malzeard and the fish and seafood from the Ramus Seafood Emporium in Harrogate, though presumably originally from the coast.
I choose the jumbo haddock (£12.95) which is a moist chunky fillet wrapped in a thin crispy batter and served with a heap of chips and a swamp of mushy peas. My wife opts for the 14oz slab of gammon steak (£10.95) with a runny fried egg and more peas, mushrooms, tomatoes and chips than you could shake a stick at. This all adds up to sturdy Yorkshire dining and great value too – and the Sunday lunches are the stuff of legend.
Upstairs, eight ensuite bedrooms give the option of some comfortable overnight accommodation in the heart of walking country, with the obligatory full English breakfast to set you up for a day in the hills.
Little wonder that this fine old pub, some way off the beaten track, is an evergreen favourite.
The Queen’s Head Inn
Kettlesing, nr Harrogate, HG3 2LB
Type: Traditional Yorkshire hospitality
Opening Hours: 11am-3pm and 6-11pm Mon-Sat and noon-11pm Sun
Beers: Three real ales. Black Sheep and Theakston’s Old Peculier are the regulars plus one changing guest ale. Also Carling, Carlsberg, San Miguel, John Smith’s Smooth and Guinness
Wine: Great selection from £3-glass and £14.95-bottle
Food: Great choice of hearty Yorkshire meals served 11.30am-2pm and 6-9pm Mon-Sat plus noon-9pm Sun
Disabled: Slightly tricky access and a little cramped inside
Accommodation: Eight ensuite bedrooms with bed and breakfast available
Functions: Three rooms are available for private events
Beer Garden: Tables on terraced area to the front
Parking: Large area to rear
Telephone: 01423 770263