0South Pennines Réal Ale Trail

Recently a group of friends and I went on the South Pen­nines Real Ale Trail. This is the same Ale Trail that fea­tured on Oz and James Drink to Bri­tain. Before going into detail, a quick sum­mary — we all had an excel­lent day, and enjoyed a good few ales.


We decided to start at the Leeds end of the line and work our way towards Manchester. There are 8 stops along the way, and as we were intend­ing to have at least 1 drink at each we had to care­fully plan our times so we did­n’t miss the last train home. A South Pen­nines Day Ranger (for £19) cov­ers all the jour­ney, and in our case, also covered our jour­neys to and from Shef­field. For a handy quick-ref­er­ence to each pub I’d recom­mend print­ing a copy of this ale trail fly­er and my google map of the rail route and pub locations.


The ser­vice required for the ale trail is oper­ated by North­ern Trains and is called the Hud­der­sfield Route There are 2 dif­fer­ent train ser­vices required, each cov­ers half the route and both run to Hud­der­sfield. The first is the Leeds — Dews­bury — Mir­field — Hud­der­sfield ser­vice which stops at Cot­tingley, Mor­ley, Bat­ley, Dews­bury, Raven­sthorpe, Mir­field, Deighton and Hud­der­sfield, and the second is the Hud­der­sfield — Ashton-under-Lyne — Manchester Vic­tor­ia ser­vice which stops at Slaithewaite, Marsden, Green­field, Moss­ley, Sta­lybridge, Ashton-under-Lyne and Manchester Vic­tor­ia. Both of these ser­vices run once every 60 minutes. The Hud­der­sfield Line Timetable cov­ers both these services.

To save a bit of time, we did­n’t fol­low the route in a straight-through fash­ion as we did­n’t want to spend a full hour in each pub. We star­ted by trav­el­ling from Leeds to Dews­bury, before trav­el­ling back towards Leeds to Bat­ley. We then headed back towards Manchester but bypassed Dews­bury (where we’d already been) and went from Bat­ley straight to Mir­field. Whilst this only saved us 34 minutes on the ale trail, it allowed us to catch a later train from Shef­field to Leeds (A Cross Coun­try ser­vice which only takes 41 mins to Leeds)

The pubs

The Ale Trail web­site lists a pub for each stop, but hav­ing done part of the Ale Trail before, I knew there was more than 1 pub to choose from at each stop. Below I will cov­er all the pubs I am aware of


Loc­a­tion: 100m from the plat­form in the station.
Food: Yes, stand­ard Weth­er­spoons menu
Our thoughts: We did­n’t vis­it here due to time — plus of course we’ve all been to a Weth­er­spoons before.


The Cel­lar Bar
Loc­a­tion: 60m from the plat­form on the far side of the sta­tion car park.
Food: Unknown
Our thoughts: The Cel­lar Bar looks like it might be rather dis­ap­point­ing from the out­side (i.e. it looks like a typ­ic­al football+carling bar) but once inside the friendly staff, excel­lent beers and res­id­ent cat give a much bet­ter impres­sion. Between our group we had Saltaire Blonde and Cop­per Dragon Golden Pip­pin, both of which were excellent


west-riding-refreshment-rooms-dewsburyWest Rid­ing Refresh­ment Rooms
Loc­a­tion: In the sta­tion with dir­ect access from plat­form 1
Food: Menu depends on day. On Sat­urdays there is an Ale Day Break­fast from 10am — 4pm
Our thoughts: The West Rid­ing has a great interi­or, and lots of drink­ers mem­or­ab­il­ia. It also has an excel­lent selec­tion of beer, and does a great sound­ing break­fast. Our only com­plaint was how busy it gets. At mid­day it felt more like mid­night, abso­lutely rammed full of people who’d obvi­ously star­ted very early and were already drunk enough to be very loud. It was­n’t unfriendly drunk, every­one was jolly, but when you’re hav­ing your first pint of the day its nice to sit down and have a gentle nat­ter at a nor­mal volume!


the-navigation-mirfieldThe Nav­ig­a­tion Tavern
Loc­a­tion: 300m from the plat­form. Walk down the road from the car park, turn right and go under the rail­way. Take the first left after passing under the railway.
Food: No
Our thoughts: This was one of my favour­ite pubs. The interi­or is dated, but each time I’ve been there has been room to sit and quick ser­vice. There is also an extens­ive selec­tion of ales so what’s not to like! There are hand-pull pumps on the bar, and more handles with labels above the bar — these labels are for the beers that are avail­able on the back bar! Don’t make the mis­take that some of our party made of assum­ing the selec­tion is lim­ited to the pumps on the front bar. If in doubt — ask!


the-head-of-steam-huddersfieldHead of Steam
Loc­a­tion: In the sta­tion with dir­ect access from plat­form 1. Towards the south-west end of the station.
Food: Yes. A very good selec­tion is served until 9pm. We ate here and were very impressed with the qual­ity of food and speed of service.
Our thoughts: We much pre­ferred the head of steam to the kings head. The food, as noted above, was good. There were a couple of neg­at­ives though, both related to staff. The first was when we looked to get a table in the buf­fet room we were told only those people in our party who were eat­ing could sit in there, so in effect we were told to split our party up. We chose instead to eat in the bar part of the pub which was­n’t a prob­lem. The second issue was with one of the bar staff delib­er­ately ignor­ing one mem­ber of our party when she was at the bar. There was no-one else at the bar at the time, and as soon as one of the oth­er mem­bers of our party went to the bar instead they got ser­vice. It is our belief that the reas­on for the ini­tial non-ser­vice was related to eth­nic back­ground. How­ever, I would prefer to think that it was an inno­cent acci­dent. On the pos­it­ive side the beer was excel­lent. I had a Saltaire Rasp­berry Blonde which was by far the best fruit beer I’ve ever had. It had a deli­cious taste of rasp­berry without being sickly and sweet like most fruit beers.

the-kings-head-huddersfieldKings Head (FKA The Sta­tion Tavern)
Loc­a­tion: In the sta­tion in the “East Wing”
Food: No
Our thoughts: The Kings Head has a good selec­tion of Ales, but des­pite being grade 1 lis­ted is dis­ap­point­ing in terms of decor and comfort.


the-commercial-slaithwaiteThe Com­mer­cial
Loc­a­tion: 300m from the plat­form. Leave the plat­form into the car park. Do a 180 turn and go down the little road from the car park. At the main road take a hard-right and go down the hill. Fol­low the curve of the road to the left. At the round­about the pub is on the near left corner.
Food: No
Our thoughts: We were a bit dis­ap­poin­ted with the com­mer­cial which is billed as an ale pub and wine bar. It was­n’t a good start when our pints of ale were served in skiffs, espe­cially as my bet­ter half’s Lager-Shandy was served in a prop­er glass — Surely the wrong way round! I asked the bar­man to recom­mend a Pale Ale and was presen­ted with what I was told was a loc­ally brewed pale ale. I was­n’t giv­en the name, but I believe it was “Com­mer­ciale”. I would like to recom­mend people avoid it — it was quite eggy and very dis­ap­point­ing, not helped by the skiff no doubt. This is not the sort of exper­i­ence I expect from a “CAMRA pub of the year 2009” so maybe we were just unlucky?

the-swan-slaithwaiteThe Swan
Loc­a­tion: 550m from the plat­form. North-East.
Food: No
Our thoughts: The swan is owned by the same people as the Com­mer­cial, and is fur­ther from the sta­tion. As a res­ult we chose not to visit.


the-riverhead-marsdenThe River­head Brew­ery Tap & Din­ing Room
Loc­a­tion: 300m from the plat­form. Go past “the rail­way” pub and fol­low the main road to the bot­tom of the hill. Go over the river. The pub is facing the river on the right.
Food: Yes, details unknown
Our thoughts: The River­head is owned by Ossett brew­ery, and as expec­ted, offered a good choice of ales. It has a lovely set­ting right next to the river Col­ne. Whilst sat in the right hand half of the pub you get a great view into the brew­ery room which is always interesting.

tunnel-end-inn-marsdenThe Tun­nel End Inn
Loc­a­tion: 800m from plat­form. Leave the sta­tion, turn right and right again to cross the rail­way. Turn left and fol­low Red­dish­er Road due West. The pub is on the right hand side after 650m.
Food: Yes
Our thoughts: Unfor­tu­nately the Tun­nel End Inn is tem­por­ar­ily closed. Hope­fully it will reopen soon as it sounds like one of the best poten­tial pubs on the trail


the-railway-inn-greenfieldRail­way Inn
Loc­a­tion: 50m from plat­form, on oppos­ite side of the road
Food: We did­n’t enquire, but believe there are pork pies available.
Our thoughts: The Rail­way Inn had a slightly less extens­ive selec­tion of ales than most of the oth­er pubs. When we vis­ited the only ales avail­able were Deuchars, Cop­per Dragon and Bom­bardier. The lim­ited selec­tion aside this was a decent pub, and it was nice to be able to get a table fairly readily.


buffet-bar-stalybridgeSta­lybridge BuffetBar
Loc­a­tion: Dir­ect access from plat­form, in the station
Food: No
Our thoughts: A very long thin pub, which made it hard to get into. Once we made our way through the crowds we were able to find a table at the far end. The selec­tion of beer was good but by this point we’d lost interest in mak­ing many notes. I do remem­ber some inter­est­ing pic­tures on the walls how­ever. I think this would have been one of our favour­ites if it had been less busy, and we’d been more sober!


We did­n’t go as far as Manchester, but there are doub­less pubs near the sta­tion if not in it.

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