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Let's Go To Clitheroe....

I spent a night in Clitheroe last weekend, and I found that this small Lancashire market town in the heart of the Ribble Valley punches well above its weight in terms of the number of pubs and bars and the quality of the beer available within its boundaries....


I had only been to Clitheroe once before, in 2009, when FC Halifax Town played the first of two seasons in the Unibond League North to where they had been banished after the previous club collapsed in a mire of debt. That was one Tuesday evening when they took on Clitheroe FC at the team's somewhat sloping Shawbridge ground. I remember Town winning the game that night 2-1 and also having a pre-match pint at the New Inn, nestling in the shadow of the castle, which was then, as now, in the Good Beer Guide. So this was pretty much new territory for me, and whilst the town only has two entries in the current Guide, I'd heard there were several new bars, and indeed a quick check of WhatPub? indicated around 22 places to catch cask or craft beer. This number does include a few clubs, one of them being the football club, but I can't honestly remember whether I had a pint of anything there all those years ago.

It had been a last-minute decision to book a night away, and with a rail strike and soaring petrol prices to contend with I didn't want to go too far. So I had looked for somewhere where I hadn't explored before, ideally within 40 miles from home, with a decent number of pubs. Clitheroe fitted all of these criteria, and I got myself booked in at the grand-sounding Waddow Hall, which was just out of the town on the other side of the Ribble. After about an hour and a half's drive through the likes of Todmorden, Burnley, and Padiham, and a few satnav errors (ie. not putting it on early enough!), I eventually found the place. It is a beautiful, white-walled 17th century hall on the banks of the Ribble, owned by the Girl Guide's Association who use it is an activity centre. But besides that the hall doubles up as a hotel and there are campsites on what is a large and attractive area of countryside. My room had a great view down to the river, with Clitheroe Castle perched on a hill in the distance marking the location of the town. 

A grand view towards Clitheroe

It was a taxi ride into town as I had business to conduct there, and the girl on reception kindly rang one for me, and I waited outside in the pleasant grounds overlooking the river. It turned up a few minutes later, and a few minutes after that I was walking into the Bowland Beer Hall, (opening picture) part of a complex around Holmes Mill on Greenacre Street which also includes a hotel, cinema, food hall, and coffee shop. It is also home to Bowland Brewery whose shiny tanks can be seen behind a glass wall at one end of the beer hall. There is a large range of beers on with up to 24 guest cask ales augmenting the range of the ones brewed on the premises, as well as several beers on tap. I ordered a pint of Hen Harrier, Bowland's 4% pale ale, and it was in a great condition, definitely worth a NBSS 4 rating. I drank it fairly quickly and decided to try one of the guest ales to see how they fared in comparison, with the likes of Marble, Roosters, Ilkley, Vocation, and Eagles Crag on offer. I opted for a Marble Pint, and that too was worth a NBSS rating of 4. Whilst the place was busy, there were plenty of friendly staff on, and it didn't take long to get served. The Beer Hall had just received an award that day as Taproom of the Year, and on this visit, I could see why they had. There was a good atmosphere, plenty of seating inside and outside of the hall, and what could have turned out to be a bit false and over-commercialised was in fact a stylish and sensitive restoration of the old mill. 

Bowland Beer Hall

I decided to move on and immediately set off in the wrong direction up a street of stone terraced housing. I had just passed a fish shop with its Friday teatime queue spilling out into the street when I realised the error of my ways, so turned around, and found myself walking up another sloping street which, with a number of bars, eating places, and shops rather than houses, felt like the right way to the town centre. The slope began to flatten out, the castle was up on the left with another sloping street heading away. This was Parson Lane, and a short distance down the hill was my next port of call.


The place in question was the New Inn, as mentioned previously, where several tables outside the front of the pub were occupied by customers enjoying the evening sunshine. I just about remembered it when I walked in, with the bar in a small room at the end of the corridor as you walk in, from which a number of rooms fan off, and on a trip to the loo I noticed there was also a lovely beer garden out the back. It came over as a pub where the team have pride in the place and what they do, with friendly staff dispensing around 10 beers on hand pump to an enthusiastic group of customers. I ordered a pint of Moorhouses' White Which, another beer I drink regularly, and headed off to a quiet room at the side of the bar. It was another excellent pint, which like the ones I had drunk earlier, warranted a NBSS rating of 4. 

Having done both GBG pubs I was now into new territory. I had spotted a few new bars on WhatPub? and the first was about 5 minutes away on King Street. This was the Beer Shack, just down the road from a wine merchants, D. Byrne & Co, that I had encountered when I had been at a wine-tasting during my time when I was buying beers, wines, and spirits. This is a more modern bar featuring several independent breweries on cask, but with a range of craft beers as well. I was intrigued here by a font selling Hofmeister Lager, which I am sure many of you will remember as a horrible weak lager with an irritating advertising campaign encouraging you to Follow the bear that featured in their promotions. It seems the brand has been invigorated after a re-launch and is now promoting itself as a premium Bavarian lager with heritage. I didn't order a pint, not being convinced, needless to say, instead going for a pint of New World Order from Liverpool brewers, Top Rope, which was a hazy pale ale and another outstanding NBSS 4 rating. There was a nice friendly vibe to the place with friendly staff and customers.


Just down the road on the continuation of King Street is Corto, a Mediterranean-themed bar with a cool vibe and a stylish decor. No cask was available here but there were some keg beers on from which I went for Never Known Fog Like It, a 5.2% hazy NEIPA from Lancashire brewers, Rivington, whose beers are somewhat underrated in my opinion. This one was delicious, with Citra, Mosaic, Simcoe, and Chinook hops all contributing to a beer with a delicious juicy flavour. Corto also have a small food menu offering light bites. I ordered sardine pate - which was sourced from Portugal, not the kind of stuff you'd get from Shippams or Princes - which, served with locally-baked artisan bread, made for a most enjoyable supper. It seemed popular too; as soon as a table emptied it seemed to be occupied again as passers-by eyed an opportunity, and represented another strand of Clitheroe's impressively varied pub and bar scene.


It was then back up King Street and left on to Market Street, where a short distance along situated on a corner was another place I'd picked out from WhatPub?, The Ale House. A few guys were sat outside this double-fronted pub enjoying their pints as the evening light was beginning to fade. Inside, I ordered a pint of Vocation Chop & Change which on this occasion featured Simcoe hops. Alongside the cask beer there were others available in bottles and cans. The beer was another good one, again I rated it as an NBSS 4. This town was not disappointing on the beer front! I got talking to Simon, the owner who, when I told him where I was staying, said that prior to lockdown he had organised a couple of beer festivals at Waddow Hall, which would have been a great location. I mentioned I was from Brighouse, which he knew due to using the local drinks wholesaler, James Clay & Son, and a guy stood nearby heard us, saying he was from close by in Rastrick, but had now moved to Clitheroe. All in all, a great friendly, quirky pub with some very good beer. It was getting time to head back to the hotel, though, so I got a taxi from a rank conveniently stationed across the road to ferry me back.


The following morning was bright and sunny again, and having had breakfast and checked out of Waddow Hall, I headed into Clitheroe for a wander around. I walked up to the castle where, from what remains of the keep, there were stunning views over the town and the sweep of the beautiful Ribble Valley countryside. Back down in the town, I stopped for a coffee, bought a few bits and pieces including a bottle of Rioja from the afore-mentioned D. Byrne & Co, but with the time on my parking running out, it meant I had to move on. 

Market Street, Clitheroe

A mile or two away was a pub I had been to before, probably on my way up to the Lake District. Just off the A59 is the village of Pendleton, where The Swan With Two Necks sits proudly overlooking a small stream that flows down the middle of the main street. The pub has been run by the same family for over 30 years during which time it has won numerous awards including CAMRA Champion Pub of Britain. I parked up in the car park, and wandered across the road to take a picture of this attractive country pub. A few tables outside were already occupied, whilst inside several were already taken, but I managed to find one in an area to the right of the bar, next to a group of three guys who had come for something to eat as well as a couple of pints. From a choice of 5 beers on hand pump I'd opted for a half (of what I have completely forgotten - sorry guys!) but I remember thinking it was another good one. Maybe it was the unhurried and unfussy charm of the place which rendered such details irrelevant, but half an hour nursing a half there was a very welcome diversion. Another great pub worthy of a re-visit.

The Swan With Two Necks, Pendleton, Lancashire

And from there, it was the drive back home, this time via Skipton and Keighley. Once again I had discovered another area with plenty of great beer to be had in some great places, and I will definitely be heading back there sometime in the not too distant future....

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Comments

  1. Blimey. Great beer scores !

    Always loved Clitheroe and Forest of Bowland. I thought the beer hall had too many beers on. My first was dull, but a second visit the same day was good.

    New Inn was pretty much the only GBG entry for many years, with the Guide places taken up by the surrounding villages.

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