Features

Published on May 9, 2019 | by Alastair Gilmour

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Sharing the joys from outside inn

We’re celebrating the beer garden, the roof terrace, the patio and the back yard, places where pubs can capitalise on the outdoor offer – while the cannier operators will spend a bit of thought on how to make there’s look great and inviting on Instagram.

Many pubs have moved away from the standard, advertising-led umbrellas and gimmicks like mini-golf, offering instead a high standard of comfort, drinks choice and al fresco dining to attract custom to begin with and to keep them there a bit longer.

There’s hardly a better example of this than The Rat Inn at Anick, near Hexham with its gorgeous terraced garden and individual areas where from this month, hanging baskets, window boxes and climbing plants will burst into colour, adding another dimension to the pub experience.

The Rat, regularly highlighted among the nation’s top twenty gastropubs, is owned by Karen Errington and Phil Mason. Regulars and visitors alike post photographs on social media showing the views across the Tyne Valley, the garden and, say, a serving of pan-fried blade of local beef, wild garlic and pearl barley.

Karen says: “We live in a society now which is hugely focused on image so any means we have to showcase our business in a positive light which we can get customers to share is basically free advertising. People love to share images of what they are doing so a colourful beer garden is a huge draw.

“Garden culture is huge and along with the English country pub there’s nothing quite like a good beer garden. When the sun shines people love to sit outside and once there will stay longer if the environment is attractive.”

Of course, the North East has some brilliant beer gardens – from Northumberland’s Bamburgh Castle Inn at Seahouses and the Jolly Fisherman at Craster with their sea views, while By The River Brew Co on the banks of the Tyne at Gateshead is an astonishing space with architectural and engineering marvels to gawp at over your beer.

The outdoor area at the Railway Hotel, Birtley, Tyne & Wear, has that special ingredient that sets individual beer gardens apart – an element of surprise. Secluded, walled and fenced off, it’s a sheltered oasis of calm, a suntrap behind the quite magnificent pub, surrounded by greenery and ringing with birdsong.

Like the pub itself, the beer garden is immaculately maintained with its well-trimmed lawns and rows of tables, while a sturdy shelter that wouldn’t look out of place at a railway station is ideal for sitting in the shade when the sun gets a little too much.

Through a gate is another surprise, a quoits pitch eagerly waiting to be used – yet another Instagrammable opportunity. Any budding quoits enthusiasts in Birtley?

An outdoor “concept” might be totally out of the question – such as an Alice In Wonderland trail or sculpture park – but publicans can take inspiration for these ideas and adapt them to suit, while colour and surface materials (wood, stone, metal) can create intrigue and hype. The key is to use the space appropriately and keep it simple.

The obvious Instagram backdrop is a floral display, either in baskets, planters or troughs, or colourful shrubbery and a herb garden, while unusual outdoor furniture – particularly made from recycled materials – will always be a talking point and a camera angle.

The simple approach also appeals. The Cumberland Arms Byker, Newcastle, is famed for its music and there’s invariably something of that ilk featuring on the terrace of a sunny weekend. It’s another suntrap and the regularly passing Metro trains beyond Byker Bridge offer no intrusion and merely emphasise what a busy city Newcastle is. It’s a place for conversation and contemplation – is there any better pub occupation?


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Alastair Gilmour



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