Yorkshire’s Best Pub? It’s a piece of living history

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SKIPTON’S Market Square slopes gently upward towards the town’s magnificent 14th century castle, Yorkshire’s last Royalist stronghold during the English Civil War, when it was under siege for three years.

It remains as one of the best preserved medieval castles in England.

A short walk from the sturdy stone towers of the gatehouse brings you to the Castle Inn, which found itself besieged by thirsty customers on a busy market day, last Saturday.

Ostensibly we had travelled to Skipton for some Christmas shopping, but inevitably a clutch of pubs around the market square proved a greater draw. Timothy Taylors’ excellent Woolly Sheep, which was reviewed here a few months ago, the quirky little Early Doors Micropub and Greene King’s cavernous, sports-heavy Red Lion all enjoyed our custom before we rocked up at the Castle Inn.

The pub appears to be spread across two buildings, an imposing three storey stone building close to the road, alongside a lower whitewashed two storey structure set a little further back. A poster proclaims this as “Yorkshire’s Best Pub”, an accolade it apparently picked up in the White Rose Awards, though some subsequent Googling revealed that this award was actually bestowed in 2014. The current laureate is the Bay Tree at Stillington, north of York.

Stepping through the Castle’s front door you emerge into a low-ceilinged central lounge. Its short bar is dead ahead and crowned by a host of real ale handpulls serving well-known Yorkshire beers such as Theakston’s Best and Old Peculier, plus the less familiar Dizzy Blonde from Robinson’s Brewery in Stockport and Poltergeist Porter from Caledonian in Edinburgh. Masham’s famous brewery dominates the keg choices too with Theakston’s Pale and their IPA both available on tap.

A warren of intimate drinking spaces open off from the bar area, some with bare floorboards, others with well-worn flagstones, though most were fully occupied when we arrived. We found a place to the rear which has the feel of an old extension, as if a low roof has been slung between the gnarled stone walls of two ancient outbuildings.

The menu offers some really hearty pub grub choices and most customers seemed to be dining. A couple close to us were tucking into steaming steak pies, and we might have done so ourselves, had we not enjoyed a sizeable lunch at the Woolly Sheep earlier. Interestingly the pub also prides itself on the vegan choices available.

I’ve always liked pubs which have sufficent sense of their own history to be able to exhibit it in a genuinely unselfconscious way.

So while some might have thrown out the fading, long-outdated, posters of the history of Theakston’s brewery, or the display of 1950s advertising prints for Worthington Ales, here that heritage is prized and left on show, specially for drinkers like me who have a fascination with the social history of drinking and of beer as a great British craft. So I split off briefly from the rest of my party to spend time looking around these little museum-pieces, before I was tempted back to try my friend’s Strongbow Cloudy Apple cider, which she loved, but to me tasted like someone had poured a half-pound bag of sugar into a fruit juice.

Still, Old Peculier proved a reliable mouthwash.

FACTFILE

The Castle Inn

Mill Bridge, Skipton

Type: Cosy former coaching inn

Opening times: 11am- 11pm daily

Beers: Real ales include Theakston’s Best and Old Peculier plus a changing choice of guest ales. Keg beers include Theakston Pale and Theakston IPA, plus Foster’s, Moretti and Amstel lagers and Strongbow cider

Wine: Decent selection

Food: Good choice of traditional pub meals served noon-9pm daily

Children: Welcomed and kids meals available

Disabled: Slightly tricky access and rather cramped in places inside

Entertainment: Sunday evening quiz

Beer Garden: Narrow terrace to the front of the pub with further tables on the roadside

Parking: Town centre parking nearby

Telephone: 01756 796304

Armley Jail.

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