My journey to the boozer usually follows a similar pattern: an urgent drive straight from the office on a Friday evening, bedraggled shirt and tie prised from my neck as the first pint goes down the hatch (think of that ogre from the annoying Thompson holiday adverts, only my elixir isn’t the white sandy beaches of Costa del Anywhere but a cold pint after a long week).
This week, however, I managed a more enjoyable journey, hopping on my bike for a tour of the Ribble Valley before stopping off for a tipple at what must be one of Lancashire’s most picturesque pubs – the Aspinall Arms, near Clitheroe.
Last I knew, admittedly some time ago, the place had shut down. But while out cycling the lanes I was pleasantly surprised to find it not just re-opened, but totally overhauled and looking great.
Perched on the banks of the river overlooking the 14th century Great Mitton Hall, the once-tired inn is now a smart country pub restaurant. A lot of money has been spent restoring the flagged floors and open fires.
But it’s outside, on a sunny, late summer afternoon, when the place shines. There are landscaped gardens along the river, terraces with seating, an outdoor BBQ area and a small children’s play area.
The focus is clearly on the grub, but at the same time the place was teaming with hikers, dog walkers, families and cyclists during my visit.
The weather was warm so I settled for a refreshing, light Timothy Taylor’s Boltmaker, despite my favourite Moorhouse Black Cat being available too.
The beer was obviously well kept, with its malty, hoppy aroma. I couldn’t help but wash it down with a bar snacks platter of fried whitebait, pork pie and pickled balsamic onions, and pork chipolatas. Delicious!
A pity I couldn’t try one of the other five real ales on offer. Drunk in charge of a bicycle: now that would not look good on my CV.