Stockport & South Manchester

Campaign for Real Ale

Campaign for Real Ale

Weekday Wander - Astley Bridge

Tuesday 30 January 2024 11:15

This is described as an Astley Bridge outing and, in fact, we will be visiting all the real ale pubs in the district, ie the Bank Top Brewery Tap! There is a club also noted on WhatPub, but it doesn't open until 8pm so was eliminated from the itinerary. With nine handpulls dispensing up to eight Bank Top beers plus one guest we could count this as three different pubs, hence the extended stay. There can be six bag-in-box and bottled ciders available of which usually one will meet CAMRA's criteria for being real. The pub is a real community hub with plenty of chatter, the only distractions being limited to quiet background music and the thud of darts, though there is a small, often silent, TV in the bar. The buses back to Bolton are every 15 minutes, so take the timetable as a guide rather than cast in stone; half an hour either way can easily be accommodated.

Assuming we don't stay all afternoon, we still have time to fit in one or two pubs in Bolton itself. To this end after catching the 534 bus back towards Bolton we will alight on Deansgate and walk the 5 minutes along towards the Old Three Crowns.

Though not being able to compete on the availability of cask ale, the Old Three Crowns oozes history, starting with the impressive frontage, including both stained glass plus etched windows. Note the mosaic under the front bow window which includes the initials MB for Manchester Brewery Ltd. They owned the pub from 1899 until 1912 until the company went out of business and the pub passed to Walker & Holmfrays, who themselves were taken over in 1949 by Wilsons. Wilsons eventually passed into the Watney empire, but thankfully a Red Barrel makeover didn't stretch this far north — Phew! The pub has a community feel and the pool table attracts a regular trade, however the karaoke can often dominate. An escape may be possible in to the conservatory, or we could cut our visit short [or try to out-sing the locals?]

Almost across the road is Bolton's other medieval pub, þe Olde Man &amp Scythe, with the name alluding to the crest of the Pilkington family. In 1651, having stayed the night in the pub, the Earl of Derby was beheaded outside the Man & Scythe – owned at the time by his family – for his part in the Bolton Massacre. Outside a cross marks the site of his execution. A market charter of 1251 mentions the pub by name. It has been rebuilt at least once since then according to a 1636 date stone inside. Confusingly its historic architecture is described as timber framed with a slate roof. But in 1636 the cost of transporting slate from either North Wales or the Lake District all the way to Bolton would have been high, especially as excellent Haslingden flags [Yorkstone 'slates' a bit like flagstones] were available nearby. Bank Top's Flat Hat is always on the bar, so maybe avoid in the Brewery Tap if you don't want to repeat beers. Oakham Citra is also a permanent beer along with two others. There is also an impressive cider bar with four handpulls and some bag in box options available, though whether all meet the new stringent CAMRA definition is open to debate.

Now we have a decision to make, with three (potentially four) options. We could call it a day, especially if we have over imbibed in the Bank Top Brewery Tap, and make our way straight back to Bolton Rail Station and thence home. We could call in one last pub, say the Northern Monkey Bar, on the way back to the station and delay our departure from Bolton by maybe an hour, thence back to the station and home. We can return to Bolton Rail Station, then deliberately take a Victoria bound train and call in the Victoria Tap, thence home. There is always the option to visit both the Northern Monkey Bar and the Victoria Tap — but that would be being greedy!

11:1511:20Meet at Manchester Piccadilly
11:2011:33Platform 14 for train towards Blackpool North, arrive Bolton 11:52.
Also calls at Heald Green at 11:20 — Oxford Road at 11:35 — 11:39 Deansgate at 11:39
12:0312:1812:03 Bus 534 from Bolton Interchange stand C
Food isn't available but there is an excellent chippy adjacent to Bolton Interchange, then catch bus 15 minutes later.
12:2014:35Bank Top Brewery Tap68-70 Belmont Road, Astley Bridge, Bolton BL1 7AN 
14:4014:55Bus 534 to Deansgate (Bolton) stop
15:0016:00Old Three Crowns14 Deansgate, Bolton BL1 1BR 
16:0017:00Olde Man & Scythe6-8 Churchgate, Bolton BL1 1HL 
We now have three options: (1) Go straight home (2) Return via Victoria station and sample the Victoria Tap (3) Call in Northern Monkey Bar then home {there is obviously option 5, ie Option 3 followed by Option 2, but that is a bit much!}
17:0017:10Option (1) Go straight home — Walk to Bolton Rail Station
Various trainsTrains to Victoria at 17:18, 17:25 and 17:49
Trains to Piccadilly (then Heald Green) at 17:21, 17:36 and 17:54
17:0017:10Option (2) Return via Victoria station and sample the Victoria Tap
Various trainsTrains to Victoria at 17:18, 17:25 and 17:49
17:0018:10Option (3) Walk to Northern Monkey Bar and stay an hour
Various trainsTrains to Victoria at 18:18, 18:25 and 18:49
Trains to Piccadilly (then Heald Green) at 18:21, 18:36 and 18:54