Motorbikes, The Yorkshire Dales, Music and Venues
Breakfast at Audlem's Priest House Cafe with Pop, Wooly and the 'Wasp', it is the only way to start a ride out up to the Yorkshire Dales.
It's a Friday morning, and it is a crisp start to the day as I wipe the condensation from the Bonnie. Loading up the pillion seat with a 30-litre Kriega bag, the total sum needed for four days away in the autumn, sensible layers, undies and socks, wet stuff protection, spare casual boots, gloves and buffs.
All neatly packed, it's just a case of getting the Jacket, helmet and gloves on and fire the bike up. Only the 'Wasp' had hit the kill switch at some point when my back was turned, generating that initial panic that courses through your body at a dead engine, a fear that never leaves you.
Anyway, after that little flutter the engine does fire up, and we are heading to the first meet with our 'leader' Steve and then on to the Yorkshire Dales.
Soon after hitting the M6 the rain is starting to fall, and we have travelled all of two junctions before pulling over to retrieve waterproofs. Then we are back on our way, and for a Friday the M6 is relatively plain sailing up to Preston where we join the A59 and the start of the run to the Dales.
Heading up to Skipton before turning north on the B6265 and our first stop at Threshfield for no other reason than Wooly has booked a cottage for New Year there. Pulling up outside the Old Hall Inn, and the idea of some liquid refreshment is met with our leader's promise of a quaint little place not far away.
The weather has turned to that golden autumnal glow, sunny, dry and a freshness in the air that makes it all the more reason to ride. Inspired, or just ready for a beer, we head up the B6160 for to Arncliffe, and that welcome drink at The Falcon Inn.
The Falcon Inn, the original Woolpack in Emerdale Farm, is a pub with not the largest of bars, but a great Timothy Taylor with which to enjoy the ambience of a pub.
The Falcon Inn is far removed from the gastro pubs that usually draw the punters. By all accounts, there's great food, fair accommodation and welcome landlord banter that tells you all you need to know about a place.
We are made to feel welcome, and conversations strike up with the fellow guests in no time; it's that type of place. I must just say that the lounge is just that, a front room type of lounge with a piano, and yes in tune, a nugget of a pub. A great venue for a knees-up and some honkey tonk jazz
We say our goodbyes and head down the other side of the valley which accommodates the River Skirfare and back towards the B6160 and our destination for tonight, The Blue Bell Inn, Kettlewell.
Kettlewell, Wharfdale, (think Calendar Girls), is truly a village best summed up by the writings, nearly 100 years ago, of Professor Moorman
The charm of Kettlewell is an abiding charm, and to those of us whose life is spent amid the hurley-burley of city life, the village seems the peculiar abode of peace and quiet beauty; its limestone terraces, with their fringes of hazel and rowan coppices, give to the district a characteristic beauty.
But the special glory of Kettlewell is not that of colour, but of line. Situated at the junction of the main valley of the Wharfe Valley, which descends from the Coverhead Pass, Kettlewell is the converging point of many contour lines, and to the eye which delights in the flow and ripple of skyline, there is a beauty in Kettlewell which is all its own.
So there you go. The Blue Bell Inn itself has comfortable accommodation for the price, along with good food and ales and, for my part, education on the 'how to pour a Guinness' front, straight from a can, yes a can, and sonic boosted to create a near perfect pint of the black gold.
Following a couple of early doors at the Blue Bell, the evening in Kettlewell saw a few more beers taken at the Kings Head, more an eatery these days, and what looks to be a fine one at that. Great banter at the bar with fellow drinkers, again a very welcoming feel.
Race Horses was our next stop and is probably more run of the mill in presentation, hence just a quick beer before returning to The Blue Bell for an evening meal. The hosts, Dave & Julie (O'Brien?!) are just the best, a real home-from-home feel to the place, and as for breakfast next morning, well that pretty well kept us going until the evening.
So for today, before riding off towards Tan Hill Inn north of Keld, we take in a short walk to Cam Head that rises alongside Reservoir Lane and Scabbate Gate. Enough to get the blood circulating and the lungs working.
Saturday's route to Tan Hill takes in the B6160 and a few dales' roads toward Hawes and a visit to Wensleydale Cheese. The riding is breathtaking weaving between dry stone walls and open dales that typify this part of the UK.
As is the case with the British Isles every region has its beauty and characteristics that create this unique island, the dales are one part of that, whether walking, cycling or touring there are so many ways to enjoy the area.
After a visit to Wensleydale's finest, we head out from Hawes on the B6255 and on to our next respite The Green Dragon Inn, Hardraw. Dating from the 13th century and home to the famous Hardraw Force, England's highest single drop waterfall.
The Green Dragon Inn stands in a stunning location in this charming Yorkshire village beneath the rising fells of Great Shunner Fell, overlooking Upper Wensleydale.
This ancient traditional Dales Inn has been lovingly restored with flagged floors, open fires, beamed ceilings, stone walls and is a privately owned free house. Good food, though it felt a bit on the touristy side, but then again, technically that's what we are doing.
From there we leave for Tan Hill Inn, Britains highest pub, up through High Shaw to Thwaite and onto Angram, past Skeugh Head towards Keld. Here we go right on to Stonesdale Lane with its initial switchbacks and upwards on to the dramatic roads that wend up to the Tan Hill Inn on the Long Causeway.
The Tan Hill Inn is in every sense of the word remote, attracting walkers, cyclists, motorbikes and tourers, oh and yes coach tours. That's how you fill a pub up that far out from anywhere. Accommodation in the Bunk Rooms is as you would expect, sadly breakfast was not the best we have had at the Tan Hill, but there was live music.
When I say live, this is where I question the type of music put on in this sort of venue. This is a hearty drinking pub of a Saturday evening, and the music was performed in the bar. The Tan Inn also has a barn for live music. Back in the bar, it's fairly raucous with good banter, so whoever is on is going to have to be up for it.
The landlord introduced Anna Leigh Stainton. Influenced by the likes of Adele, Christina Aguilera, Amy Winehouse, Pink, Florence Welch and Emeli Sande, Anna Leigh also grew up listening to a very eclectic music mix from Elvis, to AC\DC, but also loved the classic jazz/blues icons such as Aretha Franklin and Etta James. So you get a feel for where this is going.
Do not get me wrong, Anna Leigh Stainton has a great voice, plays the guitar, tinkles the keys very well, and was well received by the audience. It's just not what the Tan Inn audience needed on a Saturday night, and here is my point.
Though Anna Leigh was good, in another venue more suited to her style and approach she would have been perceived as exceptional. Apart from some close fans and support not many left there feeling 'entertained', and this is detrimental to the perception of her talent.
A venue has an obligation to match the live musicians to the type of place it is and to the night. From experience I would suggest that Anna Leigh on a Sunday to Thursday at the Tan Hill would have gone very well, Friday and Saturday you need to up the level.
I'd also question Anna Leigh and her management on why she is not playing a club or upmarket wine bar or eatery on a Saturday to a younger audience.
This is not Anna Leigh Stainton's first gig up at the Tan Hill so she must be good to be invited back, and for Anna Leigh to make the journey out there, she must feel it's right for her gig cv.
Anna's first EP was released when she was only 15, and she is in the process of writing and recording her first album, planning a release at the beginning of April.
Shortlisted for Glastonbury and supporting the likes of Sandi Thom @ The Sage Gateshead, The Animals and Beautiful South she is pulling in the gigs to be heard playing at, so good luck with that.
The next day was reflective of how we were feeling, for whatever reason. The Tan Hill was shrouded in cloud, a wet, greasy surface lay before us as we gently made our way back down towards Hawes and then on across the dales to Malham, and from there to Settle and our final overnight stay.
The route takes us back through Kettlewell and then out to Arncliffe where we take the minor roads out over the Dales towards Malham Tarn and on to Malham for a spot of lunch at The Buck Inn.
Refreshed, we head back out of Malham past Malham Cove taking a left at the crossroads at Streets and down towards Langcliffe before turning to Settle and Falcon Manor.
In sharp contrast to the Tan Hill Inn bunk room, oh yes, Falcon Manor is wildly different, a boutique type residence, welcoming five bikers in a top gaff. Stunning rooms, comfy beds and proper showers. Anna Leigh Stainton playing in the lounge here? Yes, I'd get that.
The early evening entertainment sees Scotland rugby team lose a quarter-final by a point to the Aussies, more beer! A walk into Settle, few more beers and a curry to round off the night.
Monday brings a glorious crisp sunny autumnal morning, and it's a gentle pack up after a superb breakfast of Manx kippers. salmon, poached eggs, porridge and a dram, not to mention a full Yorkshire to name but a few.
We head out of Settle, back on to the Dales and on to coffee at Penny Garth Cafe, great stop for bikers, back in Hawes.
From here on to Garsdale and Cowgill then Dent via some breathtaking by roads. Tea and final goodbyes at Devils Bridge, Kirkby Lonsdale, then to Lancaster and Motorway back down to Cheshire.
A fair ride out, as it should be.
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