The UK Beercation 2019 Day 2: Bath and Beyond (No Bed)
Here I’ll continue an epic series of beercation blogposts about our trip to the British Isles this summer. Much like last year’s beercation to Germany and the Czech Republic, this was a self-organized tour with our friends Jim and Lori Stroner, as well as my wife Sarajo (Sj) and myself. I’ll be posting a day-by-day travelogue of the trip as I organize and go through my multitude of pictures. While the posts won’t be fully about beer–there will be a focus on good pubs, real ale, distilleries, and food! So here goes: enjoy!
Bath: A town, also an actual bath.
After my wonderful breakfast of banana and salted caramel stuffed French toast at the Apple Tree B&B, I was fortified and ready to face the world again. Still a little jet-lagged, but we had to get going to hit all the things we wanted to do today!
We headed right for the namesake of this Unesco World Heritage city–the ancient Roman Baths. The history of the city is intertwined with these hot springs and the spa city that the Romans built here. Over the centuries, this fell into disrepair and was covered over by the elements. The excavated and rebuilt baths are a wonder to see and include a lot of cool artifacts discovered from the site. We arrived early enough to get a few shots before the tourists got thick as a tick on a hound in springtime. And yes, I realize we are also tourists here. Looking at the architecture of pipes and dams to move water throughout the complex, this was a marvel of technology. At one point in our visit there was a costumed lady (totally in character) explaining how she would take care of perfumes and make-up for her Roman mistress. While we were inside the sun miraculously arrived on the scene, bringing longed-for blue skies and warmth.
Once we had our fill of ancient architecture, we headed out of town for our day trip to Wales. We wanted to add more time there and maybe see Cardiff, but had to shave time off for other things. Our first stop was Tintern Abbey, a beautiful ruin of the first Cistercian monastery in Wales–fallen to decay in the 1600’s. Green grass grows within the walls of the abbey and this is such a photogenic place to visit! The rain continued off and on making photography difficult but not imposssible. The positive is that less other people were present to get in our pictures!
Once we realized that it was already 2 PM and we hadn’t eaten, we tried to get to the local pub in town–only to find it closed between 2-5. Getting Hangry we ended up stopping at the Abbey Mill restaurant. We had a local Wye Valley Golden Ale and some overly large lunch portions of food. Rain had stopped by the time we finished lunch and we were able to walk back to the car nearly dry.
Our next beercation stop for the day, also in Wales, was Chepstow Castle. This castle was built starting in 1067. So a bit old. Much of the place is intact and it has beautiful high walls and towers. We arrived only 30 minutes from closing time and the two young ladies working the shop were hesitant to let us in. We paid full price and power walked to the rear of the castle–working our way back toward the exit as quickly as possible.
Landscape photography takes time–so we were feeling a bit rushed here–but we made it work. No other people were still around, just several cranky and loud nesting gulls. With the WC (toilets) closed, we were never going to make it back to Bath without a stop–so we ran across the street to the Woodfield Arms Inn and pub for a half-pint of beer and a restroom stop. We discovered a couple on holiday from England and a nice local fellow just having a pint after work–all were happy to talk to strangers and this made a comfortable and relaxing beercation stop for us after zipping all over the past 24 hours.
On our way back into Bath we stopped at a modern craft brewery: Electric Bear. This was the first brewery of the beercation and really reminded us of American brewery taprooms: dogs, babies, patio, industrial area, food truck, multiple hoppy beer options, etc. They had about 10 beer offerings and all but one (the too bitter American brown ale) were really good. Our favorite was the bright and hoppy pilsner beer. We shared a picnic table with a local fellow who was happy to suggest his favorite local pubs to us. During this whole trip we found so many of the local people to be friendly and talkative, making navigating a new place so much easier. Speaking the language sure made things easier than on our Germany/Czech beercation last year as well!
And then back to Bath (with some cans of Electric Bear beers clutched child-like to our bosoms). We wandered Bath a bit, taking advantage of the blue skies and ability to take pictures without shielding our cameras from the elements.
As it got later, we ended up at The Raven pub, known for having several cask beers on tap and good meat pies. What more can you ask? Interestingly as we entered the ground floor some other patrons recognized Jim’s Tin Whiskers hat–they were also from Minnesota! Small world. They offered to let us sit with them, but the four of us wouldn’t fit very well (along with our future pies) so we tried out the small upstairs area. They had 7-8 caskk beers or ciders on tap and we tried through all but one of these between the 4 of us. Lori is not a beer drinker but was happy with the cider choices. The favorite of the night was the Raven Ale (made for them by Blindman’s Brewery) which was slightly dark, malty and well balanced. And the pies were wonderful!
Next was a pub suggested by the fellow at Electric Bear (this was also on Jim’s CAMRA list): The Star Inn. It was getting dark by this time, and the place was a fair hike from our dinner spot, but we needed the exercise to burn off some of the pies! When we first walked in, we were a little overwhelmed–the place was packed with locals having a pint. The small front room had a table in the back corner filled with musicians performing celtic jigs and reels. We decided it was too busy and stepped back outside until Jim managed to talk a group into squishing over a bit for us to sit in the music room. A hot fire crackled at our backs and we clustered into a corner with our pints of Titanic Plum Porter–a fantastic amber ale with distinct plum flavors. Once we were settled in, this was as authentic a pub experience as we had in the whole of England.
We finished up the night with a few night shots of the bridge, and pleasant walk back to the B&B. Coming up next: English breakfast, quaint towns, more rain, and pubs. Always more pubs!
Neolithic Stone Circles: 1
Ruined Abbey/Churches: 1
Unesco World Heritage Sites: 2