Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Moon under Water.....The perfect climber's pub?

I re-read George Orwells ' The moon under water' essay the other night. If you are not familiar with the piece, it details Orwell's idea of the perfect pub. It got me thinking of what would constitute the perfect climbers' pub and if anything comes close in North Wales?

Firstly, let's 'do a George' and have a stab at my idea of the perfect climbers' pub. Well, it would have to be conveniently located and pleasantly situated. If not in the heart of the mountains then at least in close proximity to a decent crag. Aesthetically, it would be an interesting building of character. Old....certainly, and built in the vernacular style with local materials. Naturally, the hostelry would offer itself as a welcoming sight to the weary crag rat or hill-walker, ambling down from a day on the hill, drawn like a moth to a flame by the warm glow radiating out from the small shuttered windows.

Entering through heavy latched door, you would notice immediately, the huge slate flagstones, the roughly hewn dark beams, the yellowing walls which host original mountain art and black & white old climbing photographs. An old spaniel wanders through the bars, tail inevitably wagging while inside a group erupts in laughter. At the end of the corridor, a young women emerges backwards carrying two steaming plates and smiles.

Wandering inside you notice that this is the real McCoy. No faux rustication or intentional distressing has gone on here. This is a pub not a mountain theme bar. You take in the room, scanning for a seat. You notice the mismatched chapel chairs which compliment the big old pine tables which are big enough for six people to eat around and big enough to spread  out an OS map.

An open fire is blazing up the blackened chimney around which a sagging but still comfortable old sofa complimented by old armchairs is strategically arranged. You notice that an old walker has nodded off in one of the chairs. A newspaper folded across his lap. It's a given that the pub will carry a decent selection of reasonably priced micro brewery real ales, quaff-able wines and rare single malts. Of course it won't sell frothy gnat's piss like Fosters, Carlsberg, John Smiths and Strongbow. You have to discourage the riff-raff.....and mountain rescue team members.

The pub will have a spread of quality newspapers and journals to read. It will also have a selection of second hand outdoor related books and publications for sale. All proceeds going to a local animal rescue sanctuary. It will serve food of course. Nothing fancy. Just a small selection of traditional dishes like Lancashire hot pot, Lasagna, Curry (vegetarian option available) Liver & Bacon, Fish & Chips and big doorstep sandwiches. These will be knocked up in the back kitchen by Dave, a tattooed 20 stone ex roadie who used to make meals for Wishbone Ash when they were on tour. Ably assisted in the kitchen by Jason who is doing 100 hours of community service after breaking into Spar in Bethesda, and Brenda, a  feisty single Mum with a dragon tattoo on her bare arm,who lives down the road in a converted ex Crosville bus .

No TV's of course, showing SKY Sports or even a Juke Box; although there is a pool table in the back bar where you can be hustled by the local young farmers! You might hear a radio on in the kitchen- Dave can't work without Planet Rock- although it won't disturb your reverie.
The two bar-maids will be  Polish. It seems a given these days that all barmaids-certainly along the A5 corridor- will be Polish....” Zo..dat's a pint of Ode Spackled Han and von rad vine'. Overseeing proceedings will be Frank...old rambler and ex miner who bought the Free House with his savings and redundancy money. Genial and generous to a fault, the avuncular bearded mine host wanders amongst his punters, asking them what they've been up to and offering his sage advice on worthwhile outings and quiet backwaters worth seeking out. Frank keeps a couple of rooms for guests but of more interest to outdoor types, is the cheap and cheerful bothy he keeps, across the yard. A fiver a night including hot showers.

I know...there isn't a pub in north Wales or indeed England or Scotland within a million miles of this climber's 'Moon under water'. The nearest I ever found was The Crown at Llanfihangl Glyn Myfyr near Cerrigydrudion when it was run by Scouse Mike. Alas now long gone although the pub remains and has since undergone a tartification upgrading. Although camping and hut accomodation is available for those who want to stop off on the edge of the national park.

* In the orginal article, I listed what I thought were five half decent climbers pubs in north Wales. However, that was four years ago and things change. The Stables in Betws y Coed was once a fairly regular stopping off point, for despite its mock mountain bar interior, it did serve a decent range of nice beers...if somewhat overpriced. However, since the great kitten outrage when kitchen staff clubbed a stray kitten to death (see the orginal story) I, and I know hundreds of others, wouldn't go near the Stables for love nor money! So I've deleted these suggestions and leave it for others to decide if anything comes close?


  1. Hows about the following:
    Brondanw Arms, Llanfrothen
    Tanat Valley Inn, Llangynog
    Grapes, Maentwrog (currently closed but should re-open).
    Meet most of the criteria, plenty of locals and not too many annoying people talking about grades.

    Or a little further afield the Quiet Woman in Earl Sterndale!

  2. I´ll drink to those suggestions! I remember good mass singsongs in the PyG in the 70s - does it still have them?

  3. I´d drink in that pub! I remember mass singsong nights in the Pyg in the 70s - does it still have them?