THE HEST BANK INN, LANCASTER
The Hest Bank Inn is the pub you’d want at the end of your street. It’s the sort of place where elderly locals can reel off the names of every landlord going back to their childhoods – and beyond – and who readily welcome visitors into their “family”.
From the pub’s origins in 1554 it has hosted cockfights and bare-knuckle bouts, harboured highwaymen, nourished navvies, welcomed stagecoaches and sheltered travellers. The handsome pub’s random stonework bears traces of elbowing-work into neighbouring dwellings and stables and it’s said its floorboards are timbers from shipwrecks.
Five separate and distinctly differing rooms mop up drinkers and diners, while the public bar is quietly laid to aside for those who fancy a pint or two, a scan of the paper and another round of “landlords’ monickers”.
Hest Bank lies three miles north of Morecambe, above the eponymous, notorious bay with its fast-moving tides and treacherous quicksands, but those dangers are overcome momentarily by views of the distant Lake District to inspire the soul and astonishing sunsets that bring an extra glow to a nightcap.
The pub garden butts up to the Lancaster Canal linking Preston with Kendal – an unusual 41-mile, lock-free coastal run where, in its commercial days, coal went one way and limestone came t’other. And there can hardly be a more relaxing pint than one supped to the tune of a narrowboat slipping leisurely past your table, followed closely by a family of ducks.
Fellow customers are a mixed bunch. Day-trippers, canal-istas, cyclists, holidaymakers, recovering joggers and dog-walkers form a constant flow towards the counter and are further described by owner Robert Glenn as “lovers, families, travellers, friends, beer drinkers and foodies”.
He and his wife Susan taught hospitality and catering at Lancaster & Morecambe College where they regularly winkle out talent trained to maintain standards and develop menus that lean heavily on quality local produce. The principals in venison and beef cobbler are sourced from next-door Cumbria; the lockkeeper’s platter is an assortment of the pub’s own boiled ham, Morecambe-raised pork pie, and Lancashire cheese, while Fleetwood platter features kiln-roasted salmon, dill herring and Morecambe Bay cockles. Sausages and ice-cream originate from virtually within sight of the canal, and a basket meal selection is a curiously inviting Seventies revival.
Golden and fruity Thwaites Wainwright (4.1% abv) and the lightly biting Black Sheep Best Bitter (3.8% abv) vie for best-seller status with their well honed dependability. Red Squirrel Hopfest (3.8% abv) offers something different and it would be wrong for our canal-side sojourn not to include Lancaster Blonde (4.1% abv), an earthily Germanic creation advertised as “brewed just up the road”.
On one wall of the pub, a framed photograph dated 1921 depicts the Bradford Motorcycle And Light Car Club Trial, a 100-mile round-trip that attracted 38 contestants, “including five ladies… who all finished the course”.
Bare-knuckle fighters wouldn’t have stood a chance against Ida Pickles, Nellie Suddard and their three companions.
*The Hest Bank Inn, Hest Bank, Lancaster LA2 6DN (01524 824339)