Published on July 5, 2018 | by Alastair Gilmour0
Join the chain gang
Summer is made for cycling and pubs were invented for visiting. Alastair Gilmour puts them both together
Ask any group of cyclists in the North East to name the pubs they like to stop off at on their regular spins into the countryside and nine out of ten will say The Boathouse, Wylam. It comes up time and time again, not only because it’s a great pub with as wide a selection of ales that you’d ever need but because it sits on a criss-cross of traffic-light and vehicle-free walking and cycling routes that are a joy to pedal along.
Adrian Murphy who runs the family-owned Pedalling Squares Café Bar in Swalwell, Gateshead, knows full well the advantage of being close to a cycle route.
“Cycling and beer go together,” he says. “When we opened four years ago we always had a Tuesday trip out all on quiet roads out to Stamfordham, stopping off at various pubs. We’d get 15 to 20 turn up then they came back here.”
Pedalling Squares (with attached, separately-run bike repair business, bakery and cycling top retail outlet) is the ideal place to start and finish a bike ride and it’s right on the Coast To Coast route – plus for the more modest cyclist, very close to the popular Derwent Walk.
Adrian says: “We also keep a stock of Belgian beers and when we go over there for the Spring Classics (one-day races often over very rough roads and in inclement weather) we bring back beers produced from each event with bespoke labels. Our local suppliers Firebrick and Box Social breweries have also done us bespoke-labelled bottles. It’s a great tie-up between beer and cycling.”
We don’t have to go to Belgium to enjoy cycling and beer, however (as appealing as the thought is). Northumberland, Tyne & Wear, County Durham, North Yorkshire, Cumbria and the Scottish Borders offer everything for the Lycra-clad pro and the day-tripping dawdler – with plenty of pubs for refreshment.
A quick shout around Pedalling Squares comes up with riders’ favourites within easy reach and the admission that “we go for the hills first, that way it’s more rewarding”. The Boathouse Wylam; The Anchor, Whittonstall; The Feathers, Hedley-on-the Hill; Grey Horse Consett; Tyne Bar, Newcastle; Keelman, Newburn; The Ship, Eighton Banks, Gateshead; The Red Kite, Winlaton Mill; The Black Bull, Matfen, and nearby High House Farm Brewery.
The Coast And Castles route that runs 200 miles from Newcastle to Edinburgh is part of the National Cycle Network (NCN), taking in must-visits such as The Ship Inn at Low Newton by the Sea, The Jolly Fisherman at Craster, The Greys Inn, Embleton, plus Berwick’s finest – The Barrels, Curfew, The Pilot and Brown Bear.
Other long-distance routes show Northumberland off well – the challenging Pennine Cycleway and Hadrian’s Cycleway approximately following Hadrian’s Wall with Twice Brewed Inn and attached, eponymous brewery a sight for midge-splattered eyes. The popular Coast to Coast (C2C route) crosses the county too, featuring lofty Alston (Cumberland Inn) and Allenheads and hilly Pennine roads which can work up a fine thirst.
Of course, you can pick up small snatches, such as parts of the 120-mile Sandstone Way from Berwick to Hexham (The Tannery). There are many quiet routes, such as the 10-mile Alnmouth/Warkworth Loop (Red Lion to Hermitage Inn) that’s half car-free, but you might need transport to get there.
South Shields (The Steamboat and Alum Ale House) westwards through Gateshead (The Schooner, the Central) forms part of C2C and follows the Tyne. There’s a Rothbury Circular (the Narrow Nick) and a link between Stockton (Golden Smog) and Darlington (Number Twenty 2, Quakerhouse, Orb Micropub). The 54-mile South Durham Orbital mixes rail trails with roads (The Bonny Moorhen at Stanhope and the Dun Cow at Witton le Wear), while the 25-mile circuit linking Consett (Grey Horse) and Chester-le-Street (Lambton Worm) is mostly off-road. Durham itself has the Victoria Inn, The Woodman, Head of Steam, Station House and Colpitts where you can make up your own route – then you can get on the train at The Waiting Room (platform 2).
The Tour de France will no doubt encourage us to get into cycling mode but there’s no need for that sort of torture to enjoy a day on a bike. Tootling along a rail trail with a pub at both ends is simply perfect. Saddle up!
The Lanterne Rouge (red light) is traditionally awarded to the last man over the finish line in the grueling, three-week Tour de France. It’s also the name of the Belgian-style pop-up bar organised by Mick Potts of the Free Trade Inn in Byker, Newcastle. And there’s one arriving this summer.
Mick says: “Join us to celebrate Belgian National Day on Saturday July 21 as we pop up at the fab Cycle Hub at the mouth of the Ouse Burn. Expect Belgian beer, live music and a Belgian food menu by the incredible Shanty Town BBQ, all set against one of the best views in Newcastle.”
Dan Wetherspoon – an appropriate name for a keen cyclist who enjoys a beer – is attempting to get some fitness back into his legs, so he invested in a fixed-wheel bike – no gears – to help him on his way.