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The Keys and The Messenger....

One of the best pubs in Calderdale, and, indeed, anywhere, celebrated an anniversary this week. Wednesday marked 4 years since Hugh Kirby and Ruth Dunsmore took over the Cross Keys in Siddal, Halifax. This had previously been an unremarkable place belonging to a pubco, the sort of place that you would drive past and to which you would never give a second glance. Definitely not the sort of place to trouble any fan of real ale.

Now a Good Beer Guide regular and serial award-winner, it features a choice of 6 ever-changing ales on handpump - which have recently included the likes of Abbeydale, Salopian, Great Heck, Vocation, Squawk, and Titanic - all of which are served in tip-top condition. The pub also hosts a very popular beer festival each August with beers from near and far. The pub is warm, comfortable, and friendly, with a main bar area, another sitting area to the side, and a tap room. Outside there is a paved beer garden which is a real sun-trap. The pub doesn't do meals, but has some wonderful pork pies for sale!

The Cross Keys has become such a popular fixture of the local pub scene that it is hard to remember a time when it didn't exist. I remember my first visit, probably around April 2013, when I visited with our Tom, my mate Harry, and his sister, and her husband, who live close by. The beer was superb and we ended up staying far longer than we'd we planned so that all notions of getting the train back to Brighouse were abandoned in favour of a taxi! And later that night I left my shopping in Wetherspoons...not that that early evening visit to the Cross Keys had anything to do with it(!)

A few months later, our Tom was house and dog-sitting for his sister, who happens to live in Siddal,  for a week or two while she was away on holiday, so a few times Tom would walk Holly the whippet to the pub and I would join them on my way home from work. As on the first visit, the beer was consistently good, the locals and the bar staff were all welcoming, and the fire was warm and roaring. What also struck me was the fact that Hugh, and Ruth would take the time to come and talk to you and welcome you personally even though we were newcomers to the place. And then, just as now, we received a warm welcome from Poppy the dog! A reet proper pub!

It is not far from The Shay so we have called in from time to time before or after watching Town play, but visits have now become more frequent since our Tom and Annie moved nearby, and most weeks we will meet there for an early evening pint, and with them both working in the trade, we quite often end up having a natter about pubs and beers with Hugh and other frequent visitors like Russ and Snap. Or Hugh may entertain us with one of his rants - about breweries he won't deal with any more, incompetent sales reps, or his views on craft beers(of which the Cross Keys has precisely none), for example. All good stuff!

So, many congratulations to Hugh and Ruth, they have created a wonderful pub, and long may they continue. Here's to many more anniversaries! If you haven't ever visited the Cross Keys, you should give it a try. You will not be disappointed.

On the music front, I enjoyed seeing Chris Martin's band Rusty Nails at the Cock of the North in Hipperholme last Saturday where the blues and beer were most enjoyable, and then last Sunday I was lucky enough to see Hiss Golden Messenger at the Brudenell Social Club in Leeds. Hailing from North Carolina, they play a mix of country rock, bluegrass, funk and blues, and kept us entertained for over an hour and three quarters. Led by MC Taylor on guitars(which he swapped after virtually each song) and vocals, they are a five piece with guitar, bass, keyboards and drums as the other main instruments, with the odd banjo chucked into the mix from time to time. They are an extremely tight band musically and boy, can they play! The audience, which ranged from students to old timers more senior than me, loved it and it is clear they have a large number of devoted and long-standing fans from the number who sang along to many of the set list. They also talked a lot to both the audience and each other, and came across as a top set of guys. This was one of the best gigs I have been to this year, and I love their current album, 'Heart Like a Levee', from which much of the set was taken.

Last night, I went along to the Halifax Minster to see Low. This was organised by the local Doghouse promotions, which is run by Michael Ainsworth who also has The Grayston Unity. The gig was sold out and it was great to see so much support from the people of the town and beyond. The band - who had warmed up with a low-key gig the night before at the Eagle pub in Salford - were playing a Christmas set which included a number of traditional favourites interspersed with some of their own songs. I actually didn't think they were quite as good as when they were on at the same venue a year or two ago, but long may Michael and Doghouse continue bringing artists of this calibre to the town!

Real ale, real pubs, real music - what could be better?

The Cross Keys, 3 Whitegate, Siddal, Halifax, HX3 9AE
Opening Hours: Mon - Thurs:3.00 to 11.oo, Fri - Sun:12.00 to 11.00

The beer garden, The Cross Keys, Siddal, Halifax


  1. Nice one Chris! Cheers!! (rant over!!LOL)

    1. Thanks, Hugh, always a pleasure to visit, see you soon!


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