The Pubs of Castleton
The Derbyshire village of Castleton is home to the ruined Peveril Castle, four show caverns, a Visitor Centre and 6 pubs. It can be reached by buses 271/272 or 273/274 from Sheffield. For my visit on 4th November, I travelled on the 11:40 271 from the Interchange. This goes via Brough, home of the Intrepid Brewery, and those needing to work up a thirst can take a footpath from there, about 3-4 miles. My thirst, however, was already worked up so I continued on the bus.
Shortly before pulling in to the bus turnround (where timetables for return buses are displayed), we passed the first two pubs. Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese is the first. Turn left for the bar, right for the restaurant. The names of all past landlords, starting 1748, are displayed written on beams in the cosy bar. There are 6 real ales: Abbeydale Moonshine, Storm Ale Force, Acorn Barnsley Bitter, Bradfield Farmers Brown Cow and Farmers Ale and my choice Peak Ales Chatsworth Gold (£1.80 half). There is a £5.50 lunch menu M-F, but you can also pay considerably more (eg Barnsley Chop £13.95). Those with a sweet tooth may like to visit the Fudge Shop opposite.
Our next pub is the Peak Hotel, a few yards back towards the village centre. Under the same management as the Old Hall in Hope, the Peak is open for breakfast from 08:00, but I think you have to wait a little longer before you can get a beer! Those available were Wychwood Hobgoblin, Black Sheep Best, Kelham Island Easy Rider and my choice Bradfield Farmers Blonde (£1.70 half). Also one vacant handpump. Meals were mainly priced around £10 to £15.
Turn left from here, then left at the t-junction for the village centre and the other pubs, but before I describe these, a few words about the other attractions. The castle is quite close to the centre, but up a steep hill and approachable on foot only. Of the show caverns, only the ‘Devil’s Arsehole’ is central. The others, Speedwell, explored by boat, Treak Cliff and Blue John caverns are further out, accessible by road, but not public transport, or on foot. The footpaths are rocky and quite steep, and you have to endure the sneers and bleats of laughter from the sure-footed sheep as you stumble past them. Oddly, it is the Treak Cliff Cavern which is home to the famous mineral Blue John, rather than the Cavern named after it.
But back to the pubs. Next is Ye Olde Nag’s Head on the first corner after the t-junction. There is a restaurant area to the left, and the bar is straight ahead. Beers available were Bradfield Farmers Poppy Ale, Sharp’s Doombar and Atlantic, Black Sheep Best, and 2 from Intrepid: Porter, and, my choice, Explorer (£1.75). Also a vacant pump. Tasting notes accompanied each beer. There’s a very wide-ranging menu here. You could pay up to £40 for three courses and a pint, but there are also mains at well under a tenner. With steps up to the entrance, and toilets upstairs, this pub is not wheelchair accessible.
Turn left out of the Nag’s and you will soon see the next two pubs: the Castle on the same side of the road, and the Bull’s Head. The latter is our first tied house, a Robinson’s establishment. Four of their beers were on: Unicorn, Dizzy Blonde, my choice Trick or Treat (£1.85) and the excellent Old Tom at 8.5% abv and £5 a pint. Food was the usual £10-15 mains, but they also offer pork pies and cream teas. There was a poster advertising a numberplate TR02PER for £1,000. As I own neither a car nor £1,000 I was not tempted.
Opposite is the Castle, and we are back to a freehouse. The bar area is quite small, but there is a larger restaurant. The beers available were Sharp’s Doombar, Marston’s Pedigree, Leeds Pale (my choice £1.85 half), GK Old Speckled Hen and Brain’s Rev James, with Exmoor Silver Stallion coming soon. Unfortunately, my shock at seeing their 3 course Christmas lunch advertised at £52.95 caused me to forget to check out their “normal” menu. (My local has 5 courses for £40 and includes a half-bottle of wine.)
Turning right out of here you will soon see the final pub, another tied house. If you had to guess the brewery, it might take you a while before coming up with Charles Wells of Bedford! This pub closes between 3 and 5 weekdays; all the others open all day. Rather like the Cheshire Cheese, the bar is to the left, with the restaurant on the right. Four beers were on, all from Wells: Bombardier, Young’s Bitter and London Gold, and Wells Try Time, which I, er, tried (£1.70 half). A more limited food menu here and similar prices to the other pubs. No food on my visit, however, as the chef had had a flu jab and was unwell. I was about to send this article to the editor when my tablet ran out of charge, so I plugged in my charger and prepared to order another beer. However, I was told that they don’t allow people to use chargers! I’ve never encountered this before. So they lost the sale of another beer for a tiny fraction of a penny that charging would’ve cost. Unbelievable.
So, six pubs. Many similarities, especially the food offers and generally rather unimaginative beer ranges. But, I suppose, people come here for the castle, the caverns and the walking. I wonder whether there might be an opportunity for at least one of the pubs to offer more exciting beers. Only three Sheffield breweries represented, and only two from Derbyshire of the 28 different beers available.
All the pubs welcome children, dogs and muddy boots. They all serve real ale and food, and have WiFi. If you are visiting Castleton anyway, you will find no difficulty getting decent beer, but I’m not convinced it’s really worthwhile for a pub crawl. Only one way to judge for yourselves, though, and that’s to judge it for yourselves. And make sure your device is charged if you go to the George!