We’re on a roadtrip from Glasgow to London, seeking out little towns, history, and craft beer. To read the first in this series, click here.
We tried to find a brewery in Carlisle. In fact, we were sure there was one, until the VIC staff told us we were confused with a Carslile brewery in Pensylvania. Not one to leave a tourist disappointed, they pointed us towards Hesket Newmarket.
So, after a much-anticipated stop at Hadrian’s Wall (which you can read about here), we hit the road in search of The Old Crown.
Our directions lead us way off the beaten path – 30 minutes from Carlisle and way off the motorway. We arrived at 5pm and parked directly in front of the pub. A local popped his head out of the window when we parked.
“You looking for the pub?”
“Doesn’t open til 5:30.”
We left Glasgow with exceptionally loose plans, just a few route markers between Glasgow and London we wanted to hit on our five-day adventure, and, at 5:00, our mind was on where we would sleep. So with 30 minutes to kill, we wandered. There was a sign that led us to a public foot path right out into a field of sheep. We scouted a few places in the public field (something I wasn’t too keen on), or, the alternative, heading two more hours along our route to Todmorden and taking our chances on an open field, cheap camp, or friendly person with a yard.
But in our wanderings, we turned a corner and saw a sign – ‘Camping’. It was just a gated open field with a small sign pointing to a toilet and a second with the rates. Four pounds per person. The owner, Joan, came out to greet us.
“You’re not from here.”
“No, we’re visiting from Canada.”
“It amazes me. We’re this little town in the middle of nowhere and people show up on my steps from all over the world to check out the brewery.”
With the promise of our first true English pint of the trip on our minds, we set up our tent in 4 minutes flat, then walk the 40 steps or so from our campsite to The Old Crown.
The Old Crown may indeed be in the middle of nowhere, but it’s a popular spot. Five minutes past opening, most of the seats were occupied, and the rest reserved for dinner.
There are four house brews and one guest tap. All are “Real Ales”, a return to true English-style hand pumped cask ale (which we’re learning is quite a movement taking place here in the UK). We ordered a half pint of all five to share and drank them under the watchful eye of Prince Charles. His photo is hung by a plaque at the bar, toasting what we learn is Britain’s first cooperative brewpub.
Beers in hand, we found a perch at the side of the bar. Drew read, I wrote, we sipped, as the bar continued to fill. There were locals perched on the pool table using the pockets as pint holders gossiping on the local news, and visitors amusing themselves with a set of Trivial Pursuit cards. As we sat and sipped, we couldn’t help but marvel at how we had managed to find ourselves in Britain’s first cooperative brewpub without planning it.
When it was time for bed, we made the short trek back to our campsite – our cheap but lovely field accommodations. In the dusk, a half dozen cows stared at us from the field next door as we stared back. We fell asleep just as the English rain began pattering on our tent.