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A Good Day for The Blues....

A day out in Harrogate to watch football, along with some good beers and a couple of bars, with the game providing a welcome but unexpected outcome....
Blues Bar, Harrogate....
Boxing Day.

There's Football.
Usually away.
And you have to drive.
Normally.
And you don't want to, after the fun of Christmas Day....

So... up stepped, Pete, one of the guys I see at the football, who a few weeks before Christmas had said he was organising a bus to go to Halifax Town's away match at Harrogate on Boxing Day. So with no trains, buses and a general reluctance to drive, it made sense. So I enlisted my brother, our Tom, and most of the lads I normally go with.

We met at the Old Post Office in Halifax, a friendly pub near the bus station in Halifax used by the Town Supporters' Club. They had put a breakfast on for us, there was the opportunity to try a beer brewed for the team (brewed by Bingley, I think, although I didn't try it), and from where the bus was leaving.

Breakfast consumed, 31 of us set off on a 49-seater coach. We made good time, and within just over hour we were dropped off in the centre of Harrogate, which without even thinking about the pubs is a great place to visit, especially with the greenery of the Stray extending into almost the innermost parts of the town centre.

We had earmarked a few pubs to visit, as things had changed since our last visit about 18 months ago, but sadly, the first on our list, the Little Ale House was shut - not opening until 2 which didn't fit in with the football schedule. So we wandered around the corner to the North Bar, a northern outpost for the eponymous bar and brewery about 13 miles down the A61 in Leeds. It was OK, the beer was OK, lots of people were drinking coffee, friendly staff, but, probably because it was early, a little subdued. In fact one of the lads, a little unkindly I think, suggested there might have been more life in the Christian Science reading room in the next door building....

Our next port of call was planned to be Major Tom's Social, but a note on the door of the quirky bar we had enjoyed on a previous visit said it would be opening 'later than expected'. 1 out of 3 so far, but we were in luck with our next one, the Starling Independent Beer & Coffee House, which was fairly busy when we arrived there.

It's name pretty much says what it does, and whilst there was, like the North Bar, a lot of coffee being sold, it was a lot more comfortable, it all seemed to work, the place - which has been open 2 years - seeming very relaxed in its skin, which made it all the more welcoming. The beer choice was good , 4 hand pulls, 4 taps, and I enjoyed my pint of Brew York Jarsa, whilst the comments on the Hawkshead Pale and Northern Monk Chocolate and Cranberry Porter from the others were very positive. And it is bigger than it looks from the fairly narrow frontage, it goes back quite a way, and there is additional seating upstairs. As we gradually started to think about the impending action at 3pm, people wandered in; families, couples with their bags of post-Christmas sale shopping bags, guys on their own seeking a coffee or a beer, but it was all very relaxed. Well worth a visit, with friendly staff, and a great addition to the Harrogate beer - and cafe - scene.
The high flying bird that is The Starling....
We moved on, as some friends were joining us, and with the 3pm deadline approaching, we had time to visit one more place. Which made sense, as our glasses were emptying.... 
Glass more than half empty....
With the Blues Bar only a few minutes walk away, it was the obvious choice. Like the Starling, it does what it says on the tin. It is a bar, and it features blues artists on an almost nightly basis. Situated on a sloping road, overlooking one of The Stray's grassy forays into the heart of the town, just down the road from the famous Betty's tearooms, it is a great bar with a small, split-level room downstairs, and a further room upstairs where the music is on. Blues and musical memorabilia line the walls, with the soundtrack adding to the atmosphere. The beer choice is though a little disappointing, though the beer I had was quite acceptable, but with a lot of competition around these days - Harrogate has 9 pubs in the Good Beer Guide for 2019 - means it has missed out on recognition this time. But is still a great, must-visit place, my mate Rob goes there on a regular basis because he loves it, and it has a great vibe.
Happy customers in the Blues Bar....
It was time to go to the football.

We headed up the road, it was 2.30, and we noticed as we passed that Bettys was closed, so it wasn't just pubs that were working on restricted hours! We got to the football ground, situated on Wetherby Road next to the town's hospital, just as the game was kicking off. And after a disappointing first half, which we trailed as the teams turned around, a great second half performance saw Halifax Town, in their white away colours rather than the blue they wear at home, run out 2-1 winners against the promotion-chasing home team after a long sequence of poor results.
Action from Harrogate Town v FC Halifax Town....
It had been a most enjoyable day. Great company, good beer, a couple of smashing bars, a great trip organised by Pete, and a welcome, but totally unexpected result at the football.

Next time, a trip to the North East for more football, family time, and some wonderful pubs and beers....

Follow me on Twitter: @realalemusic

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