Thursday, 28 July 2016

Off the beaten track

The Black Lion, Consall Forge, Staffordshire
I recently visited, for the first time, the Black Lion at Consall Forge in Staffordshire (pictured), a pub that early editions of the Good Beer Guide claimed was “inaccessible by road”. Now, I’m sure that was always something of an exaggeration, as I can’t see beer deliveries being made by canal or preserved railway, and I doubt whether the customers there at the declared closing hour of 10.30 pm (11.00 F,S) were walking home. Maybe it was a bit of a challenge in a Morris Marina, but I’m sure a brewery dray or an early model Range Rover would have taken it in their stride.

Over the years, I’d guess that vehicular access has been made easier, possibly connected with building a paved road to the nearby country park. It’s certainly accessible by car now, with only about the last six hundred yards being an unmade road, although I can see that becoming a touch treacherous in very wet weather. There’s also a nasty unmarked “reverse road hump” on the final paved stretch that can catch you unawares.

It’s certainly in an idyllic setting, deep in the wooded Churnet Valley, with customers having to cross the Caldon Canal and the preserved railway to reach the pub. I have to say I found the pub itself a touch underwhelming, although maybe a Sunday lunchtime when food and families predominated was not the time to see it at its best.

It was always a bit special and exciting, though, to make a trip to a pub so remote it didn’t even have a metalled road leading to its door, and many of these pubs acquired something of a legendary status. A number of other well-known examples that spring to mind – either accessible only by an unmade track, or along a dodgy no-through-road – are:

Quite a few of these seem to be associated with canals or waterways.

Obviously, over the years, our increased censoriousness about driving after drinking within the legal limit has reduced the appeal of pubs of this type, but all of the above are still going and some, especially the Double Locks, have received substantial brewery investment. I understand the Live & Let Live has been turned into something of a gastropub, although it’s still down a dirt track.

Are there any others you’re aware of, and do they bring back memories of any particular good times in the past? Or any that have bitten the dust? I believe there used be a handful of extremely basic Brakspear’s “dirt track pubs” in the Chiltern beechwoods that are now long gone.


  1. I would add the Shipwright’s Arms, at Hollow Shore, to your list, Mudge. Over-looking Faversham Creek, in the marshes which form the coastline in this isolated part of northern Kent, the Shipwright’s is a real, no-frills, drinker’s pub. It is reached by means of a narrow, unmade road to the north-west of Faversham, and is definitely worth a visit.

  2. A couple of local examples while not on dirt roads but down narrow country lanes that turnings could easily missed and if you're not sure of where you're going will seem in the middle of nowhere.
    The Little Mill at Rowath. At the end of a cul-de-sac where there is an unmade road/green lane leading on from the pub.
    The Fox at Brookbottom. One of those pubs I keep meaning to get to but not yet managed it.
    Both not far from Manchester and Stockport yet quite remote when you get there

  3. The Bounty can be accessed by footpath, or boat!

  4. Old Point House , Angle would also fit the requirements.

  5. The Ship Inn on Piel Island, near Barrow-in-Furness, is accessible only by boat.

  6. You'll have to go some to beat The Old Forge on Knoydart. It's part of the UK mainland, but the only way to get there is by boat of walking 20 miles over the moors. We visited (by boat) a couple of years ago and it is a cracking place. They bring in beer from various Scottish breweries by boat, and the walls are adorned with musical instruments which visitors are welcome to play.

    The Corrour Station House is another remote pub. Corrour is a stop on the Glasgow to Fort William rail line, but there is no road within 20 miles. The only way to get there is by train.

  7. Funny that you should mention the Double Locks, Exeter. Most Beer in the Evening posters consider that it is not a patch on what it used to be (I tend to agree - haven't been there for some time - I mean, a Young's pub which doesn't sell Special? Come on!)
    Now the Turf, a bit further down the canal - now that fits your criteria perfectly.

  8. The Old Forge - - is on a road; but not one that connects to the rest of the mainland road network.


Comments, especially on older posts, may require prior approval. See here for details of my comment policy.