We visited Harrogate over the Christmas holidays, a place I’ve always liked. It’s a town that’s rather pleased with itself, but it has every right to be, with its countless Georgian and high-Victorian buildings. There’s also the beautiful Stray – Yorkshire’s answer to Blackheath – which has me fantasising every time I see a property with a For Sale sign. There are lots of shops selling hats to elderly widows of company directors. You might well see Alan Bennett squinting through the windows of Betty’s Cafe, notebook in hand.
On our trip, I was still feeling the effects of the beer that I’d enjoyed at Keighley’s Brown Cow Inn on the previous evening. I’m always searching for the perfect pub, and this one comes pretty close. It’s a simple Victorian building made from four knocked-together cottages, the only survivor of the Pinfold, a notorious slum pulled down in the 1930s. The Brown Cow had a bad reputation for decades afterwards – in fact, right up until The guv’nor Barry and his wife Carol took over about 4 years ago, and as Barry (who is about the size of a K8 telephone box) put it: “cleared all the idiots out”. Now it’s just about the friendliest pub in the area, and along with the Boltmaker’s Arms down the road serves the definitive pint of Taylors. However, on this night I was on Rosey Nosey, a lushly delicious Christmas ale from the Lincolnshire brewer, Bateman’s. At 4.9% it’s not a fighting beer, but it soon crept up on me – particularly as we were out with eight friends, all of whom insisted on getting a round in – and then finishing off the night with a couple of malts. Consequently, as we strolled round the avenues of Harrogate, I was feeling quite ‘baggy’. That was until we stopped by the Pump Room museum, where I braved a tiny glass of the famous spring waters. The actual taste is almost beyond description – dishwasher salt mixed with rotten eggs might be a fair attempt. But blimey, I instantly felt like a new being, and an hour later I was eating a biryani washed down with a Franziskaner Weissbeer. So don’t let them tell you that there’s no hangover cure. There is one – and it’s in North Yorkshire.
(For the first time in years I didn’t have a camera on me, so the picture here is actually of a pint of Old Brewery at The Angel on St Giles High Street, London )