It sounds the perfect country inn from Dickens or one of the Brontes; a rural retreat where coaches disgorge weary travellers for a hearty meal while the horses take a well-earned rest.
A genial sideburned landlord would serve foaming pints of home-made ale in dimple glasses while his wife busies herself with a side of beef and vegetables from the cottage garden.
The present day reality may be a little different, but – I’m happy to say – not massively so.
Without the rugged splendour of the dales, the beautiful Crimple Valley owes more to the gentle rolling charm as the Yorkshire Wolds; the name Follifoot recalls – for those of us of a certain age – a children’s TV series of horses, farmyards and charming, salt-of-the-earth country types.
All would be at home at the Travellers. Its website says it welcomes pensioners, dogs, locals, walkers, shooting parties, ladies who lunch – and, curiously, those attending funeral teas. Given that the townie Jenkins family arrives by car, at teatime, without a pet, firearms or a corpse, I half wondered if we will be made to feel a little out of place, or might step into a deafening American Werewolf silence – but fortunately we are made equally welcome too.
The Travellers dates from the 17th Century when this will have been a handy staging post between Leeds and Harrogate, Bradford and York. And though Harrogate has sprawled south and spread in the intervening years, it has yet to quite reach the Travellers. It is tucked away a little off the beaten track in the evocatively-named valley, on the fringe of the Yorkshire Showground whose green acres are a reliable buffer against that sprawl.
A brown tourist sign points the way from the main road and the last hundred yards take you along a narrow and pothpoled concrete track, which opens into the broad car park.
From here you enter a warren of little rooms – the oldest part of the building presumably – where gnarled oak trunks and branches have been pressed into service as doorways, divides, and as imaginative furniture frames for some of the cosy little nooks and crannies of this fascinating old pub. The ancient brickwork is woven through with the untamed wood, as though the trees have grown right through the building.
As we duck through doorways, pausing again to imagine the craftsmanship which created this amazing space, the pub slowly unfolds itself before we finally emerge into the main bar. Here the stone walls and huge oak beams speak of this building’s great age; the L-shaped conservatory with its huge picture windows is clearly a more recent addition. By days the views south from here are spectacular; walkers and cyclists on the popular 20-mile Harrogate Ringway track come right past the front door.
A row of four handpulls dead ahead immediately trumpets its real ale credentials. Two are from Theakston’s – the Masham brewery’s Best Bitter and its crisp summery Lightfoot. Caledonian Deuchars and John Smith’s Bitter complete the line-up. The Theakston’s Best proves an absolute delight – smooth and refreshing with just a suggestion of Seville oranges and a subtle dryness as it fades away on the palate.
Which is to say nothing of the food. The menu focuses on traditional pub favourites, and I am soon fighting my way through a Herculean portion of haddock, chips and mushy peas, while my wife tackles a mixed roast of beef, chicken and pork. Most of the main courses are around the £10 mark, but the quality and sturdy portion size more than justify the premium price.
The Travellers has seen a few changes of ownership over the years. The latest – partners Mark Leith and Claire Keen – arrived just three weeks ago, determined to build the business slowly, maintain the things which are working well, gradually change those which are not. For Mark, brought up nearby, it renewed his acquaintance with a pub he has known for years. “I think when I first came in, the room which is now our office had a billiard table.”
The couple are fresh from a stint running a 17-bedroom hotel in Kent. “There we were working for the owners; we always wanted to downsize and work for ourselves,” says Mark. “I don’t think we could have found anywhere better.”
By summer, once the crowds arrive for the Tour De France and Yorkshire Show, they should be really in their stride.
Name: The Travellers Rest
Type: Quality countryside pub and restaurant
Hosts: Mark Leith and Clare Keen
Open: Noon-11pm Mon-Sat, noon-10.30pm Sun
Beers: John Smith’s Bitter (£3), Theakston Best (£3.40), Theakston Lightfoot (£3.40), Caledonian Deuchars (£3.40), John Smith’s Smooth (£3.40), Foster’s (£3.25), Kronenbourg (£3.60), Strongbow (£3.50), Guinness (£3.60)
Wine: Good selection from £4.25-glass
Food: Great range of pub meals available noon-3pm and 5.30-9.30pm Mon-Fri; noon-9.30pm Sat, special Sunday roast menu noon-6pm.
Disabled: Slightly tricky access
Entertainment: Occasional themed events; areas available for hire
Beer Garden: Yes – terrace to the front and beer garden to the side
Parking: Large area
Tel: 01423 883960
Beer of the Week
Ama Mora Doppio Malto
As beer buyer for Booths, John Gill has one of the plum supermarket jobs on the planet. For a start, Booths has a proud and long reputation for the range of its beers, both from the UK and overseas. The company’s concentration on ales from around Yorkshire, Lancashire and Cumbria means he gets to travel the region’s breweries and sample their wares.
Even so, when I ask him to choose a favourite beer, he reaches for this stylish curvy bottle of 9% ABV double malt porter, the product of a collaboration between Amarcord Brewery in central Italy and New York’s Brooklyn Brewery. The craft brewing scene has exploded in Italy in recent years; this lively, foaming black ale is just one of many great beers to have emerged there
Not as smoky as you might expect from a beer of this colour and strength, complex coffee-ish chocolatey notes emerge from a beer where biscuity maltiness dominates, with just a little bitterness emerging right at the death.