Another day in the North East, this one involving a trip along the northern side of the River Tyne, with a visit to an excellent micro pub, a brewery tap, and a couple of old favourites....
It had been another good trip up North....
After a most enjoyable day in South Shields, I awoke next morning to another sunny day. After an excellent breakfast at my B'n'B, I checked out, and decided to go for a walk out to look at the beaches and the South Pier with its lighthouse. It certainly wasn't what I was expecting: 6 miles of beaches, with cliffs - in which a pub, the Marsden Grotto, now closed - was actually built into the cliffs, as the coastline heads south towards Roker, with Sunderland beyond. With the sun beating down and a gentle breeze wafting, it was idyllic; fishing boats in the bay, fisherman with their patient rods and seatboxes strategically placed along the pier wall.
Whilst we were chatting the previous evening, Bez had suggested over a beer that I got the ferry across to North Shields and took the Metro into Newcastle from there. And with loads of free parking in South Shields, I could leave my car all day. It was a good shout, particularly as I found out later that the Metro at South Shields was undergoing maintenance work and the service was terminating a stop earlier at Chichester.
The ferry takes about 7 minutes to cross the Tyne, with the docks and North Sea ferry terminal visible as you cross the river. You disembark at North Shields, and go through an alleyway with a former pub directly opposite, called the Crane, which appears to have been absorbed into a block of upmarket flats. In fact, there is a lot of open land as you arrive in North Shields; a poignant reminder of the days when shipbuilding was king around places like this and Wallsend, and Jarrow and South Shields across the river.
It is a steep climb up into the town with quite a bustling town centre. The town was until very recently home to the multi-award winning Mordue Brewery, who sadly had to call in the administrators last month after 24 years of trading. The town doesn't currently have any pubs in the Good Beer Guide, but it does seem to have a lot of traditional street corner pubs, although not all of them are still open. I came across one that was, the Mariners Arms, and whilst the warm fires on the sign would have been appealing in the middle of winter, it wasn't the priority on a warm summer's day!
I found the Metro station in the middle of the main shopping area. My original plan had been to head to Newcastle, but the sunny weather had reduced my interest in shopping to south of zilch. I realised it was only a couple of stops or so in the opposite direction to Whitley Bay, and so I got this crazy idea to visit the town's GBG listed micropub, the Dog and Rabbit. And that's what I did, passing through the grand old station at Tynemouth, reflecting an earlier age when visitors poured in by train into the town from the industrial heartlands a few miles away.
It all became crazy when, as I sometimes do, instead of taking 5 and working out where I need to be, I assume the default position of thinking that where I want to be is on the side of where I get off the Metro, or train. I emerged into pleasant suburban streets and set off. It was only when I turned on to a main road, turned left, and passed a sign saying 'Welcome to Cullercoats' that I realised it had all gone horribly wrong....
I turned around, and followed the main road in the opposite direction until I came to a roundabout with a school on my left. Straight ahead and then I was into Whitley Bay. Left on to Park View and straight across was the welcoming and tidy frontage of the Dog and Rabbit, with a couple of tables on the pavement outside.
I wandered in, it was not long after 12, but there were already a few guys in there stood at the bar, chatting to the lady who was serving on. A corner bar, in a decent sized room, decorated with old pictures and memorabilia. A place that looks loved and cared for. There were 4 hand pumps on the bar, and a similar number of kegs, including one from my favourite brewery around these parts, Almasty. I had forgotten that the Dog and Rabbit was home to its own brewery, and as it happened, brewing was taking place round the back today. And so I felt I should try a half of one of their beers, which was a pale session ale, I think around 4.1% - I have lost my notes - but it was definitely Centennial with, I think, Columbus hops. But whatever, it was a most refreshing and enjoyable beer. The Dog and Rabbit has just celebrated its 3rd birthday, and is a lovely, relaxing place, definitely one of the best new-to-me micro pubs I have been to in ages! I look forward to visiting again, when hopefully I will have time to try Whitley Bay's other micro pub, the Left Luggage Room, based just along the Metro at Monkseaton.
|A great place to chill: The Dog and Rabbit....|
It took me little more than 5 minutes to walk back to the Metro from the Dog and Rabbit...if only I'd checked first I wouldn't have wasted so much time finding it!
Whitley Bay Metro Station is another former train station, and whilst not as grand as Tynemouth, is still a reminder of a previous age when the train was king, a proper old-fashioned station with a cafe and a few new enterprises occupying some of the spaces that would have previously been the domain of the Station Master, parcels, and left luggage.
The tram duly arrived, and I was whisked through stations with evocative names like Wallsend, Hadrian Road, and Percy Main. I got off at Byker, the nearest stop to the Ouseburn Valley, which is my default location in Newcastle. The station is just off the bustling main road in Byker, where a sign for an old department store called Beavans - now a charity shop - reflects a grander past. The road slopes down to a busy roundabout just above the valley. It was about 10 minutes walk from the station to the Cumberland Arms, which regular readers will know is one of my favourite pubs. I ordered half of Almasty Grapefruit Pale - which was excellent - and went outside to the terrace, which was deserted for the first time ever when I have visited this wonderful pub....
I decided to walk down to my other favourite pub in the area, the Free Trade Tavern, so set off down the path through the woods by the farm, picked up the path beside the Ouseburn Beck below The Cluny, and wandered down towards the Tyne quayside. As the woods became replaced by flats, I just happened to look left and there was a sign saying Brinkburn St Brewery above a small industrial unit up a side street, where barrels were being loaded on to a van. I wandered up, spotted an open gate a little further along, and slipped in. There was an outside garden with tables, different coloured chairs, and artificial grass, and a door which led into a large room with a bar and open kitchen opposite, with the brewery in a room to the side of the bar. There were a few people sat around at the tables, a few eating. I ordered a half of Byker Blonde from the sadly somewhat surly, slightly sarky, lad behind the bar. I did manage to get out of him, though, that the place had been open for getting on for a year. I retreated with my beer to a table away from the bar. The beer was not bad, as befits a brewery whose beers are solidly mid-table, and who also brew a mix of beers on tap and in cask, such as Byker Brown, and The Pursuit of Hoppiness. Overall, the Brinkburn Street Brewery Tap is quite acceptable, plenty of choice of cask and keg, the food looked pretty good as it was being carried out to the waiting tables, and unlike many brewery taprooms, has long and regular opening hours. It certainly adds another option to a trip to the Ouseburn Valley.
|Brinkburn Street Brewery Tap|
Time to move on, I had just time for a quick half at the Free Trade Tavern before I needed to get the Metro back to North Shields. I ordered half of the Almasty Echelon, and as the first spots of rain started to fall outside, I grabbed one of the window seats with fantastic views over the Tyne. The beer was spot on as usual here, and then sadly it was time to climb up that hill back to Byker.
I arrived back in North Shields, and wandered down the hill towards the ferry terminal. At one point, the DFDS Ferry passed by, completely dwarfing a row of houses in a view that was reminiscent of the old black and white images of ships being built in the area, but I wasn't quick enough to get my phone out and take a picture. The ferry duly arrived, and then it was back across the Tyne to South Shields, some chips, and then back home.
It had been another good trip up North....
|South Pier Lighthouse, South Shields....|
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