Some people get the glamour assignments: Rome. Paris. Madrid. Some people get Salford, Eccles & Patricroft. Such was my fate as I was invited to keep the Old Contemptibles company on their peregrination of some of Manchester’s fruitier outposts.
First stop was the Queens Arms in Patricroft. Known locally as the Top House due to its position at the top of the hill next to Patricroft station, it dates back to 1828 and can claim to be Britain's first railway pub, as it was built in the specific hope of catching the passing trade on the new Manchester to Liverpool rail line
Originally called the Patricroft Tavern when it opened, the name was changed following a visit to Salford by Queen Victoria in 1851. It’s currently the holder of the local CAMRA branch’s Traditional Pub of the Year Award and it’s not hard to see why. It’s beautifully maintained by long time licensees Lynn and Chris Benson.
Uncle Albert felt immediately at home in the cosy Victorian rooms and was in danger of becoming mistaken for a historical artefact himself. A Boddingtons house for many years, it still sells the (rarely seen now) cask version brewed by Hydes.
A little stroll took us to the Stanley Arms on Liverpool Road. This is a small Holts pub that is on CAMRA’s National Inventory. Again local history was very much in evidence, not least in the Lancashire range in the back room.
Another National Inventory delight beckoned with the Lamb in Eccles proper. This is an imposing Edwardian boozer with a vault, two lounges and (not many of these nowadays) a billiards room. The Holts Mild was some of the best I’ve had for many a year as well.
It was time to get back to Manchester. A little free advice here-Eccles rail station is a little basic and you may have to improvise on discovering the toilet closed. Or risk getting on the train and discovering the onboard facilities are out of action.
Back at Victoria it was a short hop to the Dutton on Dutton Street. This tucked away Hydes boozer sells just their Bitter but it was in good condition and if you ask nicely they will tell you what the blowlamps are for.
The Star on Back (not Bob as someone said) Hope Street in Salford has become something of a celebrity since the locals bought it. It was a great local when Robinsons had it, but now it’s going from strength to strength. We sat outside and sampled some of the house beer brewed by Bazens.
Our last stop in Salford was the Racecourse Hotel in Lower Kersal. This is a part of town where the muggers refuse to work alone and you are more likely to get kneecapped than find a decent pub. However, the Racecourse is the exception to that premise.
Built in 1930 by Salford brewers Grove & Whitnall to fund demand by the nearby racecourse (which closed in 1963) it’s an impressive affair. Revolving doors and a giant central bar help to impart the grandness of days long gone by. Cask ale is available in the form of Oakwell Barnsley Bitter.
Last stop was the Wellington in Shambles Square, close to Victoria station. It really pulled the proverbial rabbit out with the appearance of St Austell’s Proper Job. This is simply one of the best cask ales currently available. At 4.5% it crackles with grapefruit and pine resin, whilst Chinook, Cascade and Willamette leave hopheads begging for more. As always with this, one is never enough. Or two...