Saturday dawned, sunny but chilly.Just the ticket for a day of exploration along the East Lancs Railway. 🙂 My Birthday Present for the O H this year was a Rail Ale Trail Tour which started at ‘Bury Bolton Street Station’, stopping off at the Lancashire towns of Ramsbottom and Rawtenstall. Happily Wils brother very kindly gave us a lift to Bury, where we immediately made ourselves at home in the station’s The Track side bar on Platform two.. After a quick coffee we got straight onto the Ale ( or in my case,cider) and Wil bought a hunk of homemade Pork Pie. ‘The Track side’ has up to ten real ales as well as award winning ciders and perries.
By 11-30am our Tour Guide Suzanne had rounded us up and with childlike excitement ( on my part, anyway! ) we boarded the train. There’s something quite thrilling about taking a journey on an old fashioned steam engine. I felt like I was channeling my inner Railway Children. 🙂
Whilst on the train there was time to buy bottled beers and our guide regaled us with a few titbits of information about the countryside we were chugging through. The track is twelve miles of Heritage Railway , it’s upkeep is solely done by hard working volunteers. It spans some of the Irwell Valley’s picturesque Pennine scenery. First stop was the vibrant market town of Ramsbottom. Lunch is provided on the tour and after trackside photo opportunities we piled into Owens Restaurant & Bar for Fish and Chips. This comfy modern restaurant has two ales on tap. It’s also dog friendly, as is the Rail Ale Trail Tour. 🙂 If we had realised beforehand we might have brought Hugo.Not sure he would have been well behaved enough though!
After lunch Suzanne took us to a fab little micropub called The Ramsbottom Tap on Bolton Street and bought everyone a quick half. The Tap is a bright and cozy space with retro prints adorning the walls and a good selection of ales and ciders.
Ramsbottom seemed to have a varied selection of interesting independent shops, tearooms and pubs so I think it would be somewhere we would return to in the future.The town even has it’s own brewery. Our next stop was indeed the Irwell Works Brewery which is situated back down the hill from the ‘Ramsbottom Tap’, in a former Steam,tin,copper & Iron works. The bottom half of the building houses the brewery which makes several beers including ‘Copper Plate’ bitter,’ Iron Plate’ Lancashire Stout and the brilliantly named ‘Marshmallow Unicorn’ Milk stout. These are served upstairs in the Brewery Tap along with most other tipples you can think of. 🙂
Mid afternoon , and we were back on the steam train and meandering our way to the town of Rawtenstall. Rawtenstall is actually famously the home of England’s oldest original Temperance Bar Fitzpatricks, which I would have loved to visit. I am a big fan of their Rose Hip and Rhubarb Cordial! However we decided to remain in the vicinity of the station and enjoy a couple of drinks there. Buffer Stops offers five ales and one cider as well as locally made pies, outdoor seating and a traditional style waiting room area. There were plenty more photo opportunities of our mode of transport for the day too….
The great thing about the East Lancs Rail Ale Trail Tour is that your not strictly confined to sticking with it all day.As Rawtenstall is a little nearer home than Bury, we decided to remain here a while instead of joining the others back to Bolton Street Station.Wil’s brother very kindly picked us drunkards up at five and took us back to Clitheroe. We definitely owe him one! If you are interested in doing one of the many types of tours along this beautiful stretch of railway check out the East Lancs Railway Website for more information. The tour we took cost £35.50 each and included lunch, a bit of beer sampling and a professional Blue Badge Tour Guide. It is also possible to ride the train and explore the area yourself without doing an official tour. We will be back!