The idea came from a friend and regular visitor to Zelo Street: to follow the Real Ale Trail that has become established between Leeds and Manchester following the televised exploits of Oz Clarke and James May recently. And it’s not a difficult or expensive tour: you can make up your own trail, there are frequent train services to take you from one watering hole to the next, and the beer is very, very good indeed – well, mostly.
So, on a warm and sunny Saturday, we gathered in Leeds and decided to start just outside the station at the Scarborough. In the days when I worked in the city, which admittedly is many, many years ago, this was one of many city centre pubs that were best left well alone, but not any more: a good choice of beers and ciders, with food on offer throughout the day.
Back at the station, we headed for Platform 13 and the first train stopping at Batley. Opposite the station is the Cellar Bar, where the beer was, once again, very good indeed. The barman came out to chat to us, and to take the photo that one of the group wanted at each stop (he’d done a lot of this). As we caught the next train for Dewsbury, a group we had seen in Leeds were alighting. We saw more of them later in the day.
Only three minutes along the line, at Dewsbury station, the West Riding is actually on the platform – no problem finding your way here. We mingled with a rugby club outing and a pre-wedding party, and found that the beers on offer included a “Rail Trail Ale”, which was not half bad. One word on travel validity: you’re OK to break your journey on Off-Peak and Day Return tickets.
Then it was off to Mirfield, where the Navigation was a short walk from the station, in a quiet setting next to a canal. The sun was beating down, and the temptation to linger was significant, but we managed to drag ourselves away and catch the next train. On board, the guard even offered advice on which of the two bars on Huddersfield station was the best. And, as it had been since departing Leeds, the railway was punctual, the trains had plenty of room, and the staff were welcoming and good humoured.
The story of the day, as they say, is to be continued.