It also marked my first visit to Stockport since the spring of 1978; a date that ended the post-graduate year I’d spent living in nearby the nearby town of Romiley. Somewhat ironically, my first term as a student at Salford University, was also spent in Romiley, staying with my aunt – my mother’s sister to be precise.
On the whole British Rail delivered, but the organisation lacked cash and was starved of investment, and today, following the botched privatisation of the railways, trains on the London-Manchester route were operated by Richard Branson’s Virgin Rail Group – in conjunction with Stagecoach. Then in December 2019, the rolling stock was given a new coat of paint and the franchise handed over to Avanti West Coast.
Comfortable, fast and on time, my outward journey from Euston, took a mere two hours. The return journey was slightly longer, as it followed a different route – via Macclesfield and Stoke, rather than Crewe and Wilmslow. My only gripe is there were no USB charging points, or standard three-pin sockets for that matter.
I arrived in Stockport with plenty of time to spare, so after exiting the station, I followed Pub Curmudgeon’s detailed directions, and made my way towards the first pub of the day, and the agreed meeting place. Sensing that I would be too early, I took a look around the town’s attractive Covered Market Hall. This Grade II listed building dates from 1861 and is home to a multitude of different and independent retailers.
Pub Curmudgeon (Mudge), who not only organised this “Proper Day Out,” but also acted as out guide, has produced a definitive, two-part write-up of the pubs, so I won’t attempt one of my own. Instead, I will paint a brief picture of the seven hostelries, as they all had something special to offer, and contribute to
The two Sam’s pubs, whilst contrasting in size, are all that one might expect from this most traditional of Yorkshire brewers. Multi-roomed, with plenty of wood panelling and both selling some very good Old Brewery Bitter. OBB is “beer from the wood” in the true sense of the word, as it is still delivered in wooden casks. At £3 a pint, it was also the cheapest beer of the day.
The two Robinson’s pubs feature on CAMRA’s National Inventory of Historic Interiors. The Swan with two Necks is, long, narrow and features much wood panelling and several different rooms. The interior dates from 1926, when the pub was re-modelled. The Robinson’s Unicorn Bitter – an old favourite from my student days was in good form.
The Arden Arms is a solid, 19th Century brick-built pub, situated a short distance from the town centre. It features three rooms, a serving hatch for a bar, and also has a reputation for good and reasonably priced meals. Most of us took advantage of this, although given the Arden’s popularity, it was a good job that Mudge had pre-booked a table for us. My cod, chips, and mushy peas (small portion), was just right, as was the Unicorn Bitter.
With the aid of Google Maps, I found my way to the Sun & Castle, situated along the aptly named, Middle Hillgate. Fortunately, this solidly traditional Holt’s pub was on the route back to the station, and luckily as well, Martin, Will and the two Peter’s had waited for me to arrive. There was even a pint waiting for me as well – thanks Martin!
I left the Sun & Castle in good time and arrived at the station in plenty of time for the train. Time enough, to dive into the nearby Sainsbury’s Local and purchase food (sandwich), plus drink (water) for what my Irish colleague Annette, would call a “train picnic.”
The train itself was on time, and not especially crowded (something of a surprise for a Friday evening). The journey back to Euston was uneventful, and after stuffing my face and reading for a bit, I dozed off. It had been a brilliant day out, that was made all the better by the company of members of the “Beer & Pubs Forum.”
After an absence of over a year and a half, it was great to be able to travel un-hindered, drink freely in pubs and enjoy one another’s company once again. Fingers crossed, there will be many more such trips!