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Branch chair Colleen presents the Pub of the Season Winter 2018/9 plaque to the staff at the Wuthering Heights, Stanbury, February 2019

Branch chair Colleen presents the Pub of the Season Winter 2018/9 plaque to Nicci and Darren at the Wuthering Heights, Stanbury, February 2019

The Helwith Bridge Inn, Helwith Bridge

Despite having driven within a quarter of a mile of it on so many occasions, I remained blissfully ignorant of the Helwith Bridge until the Summer of 2001. This was the year that the Dales was virtually closed to visitors because of the foot and mouth epidemic and that first visit was on a bus trip arranged by Keighley & Craven CAMRA to support some of the struggling rural pubs. To say I was impressed would have been an understatement and I’ve been a regular visitor ever since.

Six regular beers – Old Speckled Hen, John Smith’s Cask, McEwan 80/-, Theakston’s XB, Webster’s Bitter, and Charles Wells Bombardier – are supplemented by three guest beers. The guests seem to change on a frequent basis and, unlike some pubs with this level of choice, quality hasn’t been sacrificed in the interests of quantity. A good range of food is served on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings and at lunchtime at the weekend. Alternatively, if you’re feeling peckish, licensee Colin Hall can be persuaded to knock up pie and peas whatever time you may turn up.

With some country pubs alienating locals by appearing to cater exclusively to the tastes of visitors, and others doing the opposite, it’s refreshing to find such a varied clientèle at the Helwith Bridge. Here locals mix with cavers and cyclists, with railway enthusiasts and with those simply looking for a good pint.

In other ways this is a pub of contrasts too. If you’re simply wanting a homely place to relax over a pint in front of an open fire you’ll find it here. But if you want to chat there’s every likelihood that you’ll be drawn into conversation by one of the locals lining the bar. The Helwith Bridge is also known for its occasional theme nights. On my third visit here, on a hot August evening, I found a Hawaiian party in full swing – palm tress, grass skirts, water pistol toting locals and all.

The Helwith Bridge is in the small village of the same name, just a quarter of a mile off the B6479, about 4 miles from Settle and 2 miles from Horton in Ribblesdale. If you’ve never ventured here before, why don’t you give it a try? I’m sure Colin and his friendly staff will make you feel most welcome.

Mike Bedford.

Ed’s note: This is the 2nd time the pub has won ‘Pub Of The Season’, the 1st being in Autumn 2002.  Another member of the editorial team has admitted to being impressed that the Helwith Bridge advert [in the Alesman], paid for by licensee Colin, seems to plug the village as much as the pub.

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