A guide to some of the licensed premises that contribute enormously to Britain’s renowned pub culture. Most of them have featured in some form in publications such as The Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph, written – and researched – by Alastair Gilmour
heartbeats with a pint of Hadrian Border Tyneside Blonde IPA, brewed in Newcastle 20 miles to the east, and the amber, fruity Cumberland Corby Ale which surfaces from a microbrewery near Carlisle.
We sup those in the walled, terraced garden. Hexham is just over a mile away; the sparkling Tyne gently meanders between, building its bulk before carving through Tyneside and its once-mighty shipbuilding riverbanks. Only the thrum from the tree-veiled A69 takes a little shine off heaven.
The Rat Inn is a long, low, sandstone building, much like the others in Anick (pronounced Ae-nik), a hamlet reliably dated to an 1188 monks’ settlement. It was likely converted from barns to drovers’ inn around 1750.
Wintry weather is an obvious hazard and although customers are ferried home on occasion – by 4x4 – and deliveries often left at the foot of the hill, they are rarely marooned. Rat habitués tend to be an all-weather breed, anyway. Plus, the pub has a guardian angel – a regular who drives a snowplough. The joke during snowfalls is that the road outside is the only black one in Northumberland.
The counter in the tiny flagstoned bar, where a log fire tinkles in a blackened range, appears to be constructed from an old sideboard, though multiple layers of brown paint disguise its provenance. A collection of chamber pots hangs from the ceiling, one with a picture of Adolph Hitler inside; a curiosity that concurs with an off-kilter ambience.
A dining area spreads over a raised level just out of earshot from taproom banter and two restaurant rooms – one a conservatory – are regularly well inhabited. Remarkably for such an isolated spot, another two ales are on parade, Vale Best Bitter and perennial favourite Timothy Taylor’s Landlord.
“The Corby Ale is very popular here,” says licensee Karen Errington. “We’ve had a request from a customer for Harviestoun Bitter & Twisted and I’m getting their Old Engine Oil, too.”
Yes, the essence of the country pub; you can suggest a beer and before you know, it’s been delivered and is flying out the door. And so with the food – The Rat’s fiercely local network of suppliers offers Durham blue cheese, North Sea coley, rib of Northumbrian beef, Craster kippers and Tom Stephenson’s Northumberland sausages, all enlisted to impressive culinary advantage.
There are numerous stories as to how The Rat got its name – it’s where rodent-catchers gathered, or it’s the largest rat ever caught, while another version involves Jacobite informers whispering reports to government agents.
No whispering now as, fed and watered, we glide past the 30mph sign and let out a loud “yahoo”.
*The Rat Inn, Anick, Northumberland NE46 4LN (01434 602814 www.theratinn.com)
+44 (0)7930 144 846
THE RAT INN, ANICK, HEXHAM, NORTHUMBERLAND
Nothing prepares the unwary cyclist for the quarter-mile approach to The Rat Inn. One minute you’re freewheeling along the Tyne Valley plain, then round a bend, lordy lordy, up she goes; a lung-searing, thigh-thumping stretch disappearing between hedgerows. A sign on the hill reads “30”. Presumably it’s mph; if only we could reach three.
But it’s worth it. We regain normal
IT'S ABOUT EVERY AGE GROUP
More than ever we need pub owners with the vision and determination to do something that will persuade people to venture out on a wet Tuesday when Holby City might seem the better option. We have plenty of them around the North East and the better ones are doing very well, thank you very much.
Entrepreneurial publican Dave Carr is one such chap.
Meet and Drink writer Alastair Gilmour regularly conducts beer events throughout the UK and internationally – tours and tastings that have included a platform suspended 30 metres above the River Tyne and a real ale festival in a Moscow nightclub – and was for several years on the judging panel of the Pilsner Urquell International Master Bartender programme. [READ MORE]
+44 (0)7930 144 846