Six of the best pubs now part of The Yorkshire Dales National Park

For some people, the words “north-west” will evoke tales of exploration in far-out territory.

Landlord Dave Gibson at the Three Greyhounds Inn at Great Asby. (Tony Johnson).

Classic movies like North-West Passage and North by Northwest perpetuate this view.

The Yorkshire Dales National Park (YDNP) has its own remote north-west territory too, made official four years ago.

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It was on August 1, 2016 when YDNP boundaries expanded westwards, enlarging God’s Own County’s national park by nearly a quarter. With this expansion it brought more local hostelries into its fold, and here are half a dozen of the best that I discovered.

Chris Henderson who has bought The Black Bull at Nateby

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Located on the Hawes to Sedbergh road this has seen heartbreaking times. One of Britain’s worst railway accidents happened nearby in 1910; a Glasgow bound London express collided with two locomotives. Twelve people died in the disaster, their bodies stored in the Moorcock’s cellar until they could be buried in Hawes.

A subsequent landlord decided to upgrade the fire extinguishers. When the new ones arrived a framed photo of a newspaper report of a calamity that happened in 1975 fell off the wall, smashing the glass. That newspaper story? “So poignant,” says a cyclist drinking a pint of Theakstons Best. “The Moorcock had burned down, trapping the owners inside.”

Since mine host Jo Cox arrived here four years ago, the ancient inn has had a new lease of life. You can enjoy cask ales like Copper Dragon Beer (brewed in Skipton) and the straw-coloured Wensleydale Bitter (brewed in Leyburn), along with a food menu that includes steak pie with the crispiest pastry and succulent, home-made apple pie and cheesecake.

The Moorcock Inn, at Garsdale Head. (Tony Johnson).

Locals gather here for quiz nights and musical evenings complete with trumpets, guitars and squeeze boxes, which make for a lovely old atmosphere.

The Barbon Inn near Kirkby Lonsdale

This dog-friendly base camp for Calf Top on the boundary of the Yorkshire Dales National Park – the YDNP’s latest hill to be officially re-assessed as a 2,000ft ‘mountain’.

Besides refreshing walkers exploring the Howgills, cyclists are also revived here after tackling the steep road from Dentdale.

The Fat Lamb pub between Kirkby Stephen and Sedburgh.

The inn is an unofficial pitstop when the Barbon Hillclimb happens each summer – registered competitors drive their cars as quickly as possible up Barbon Manor’s winding estate road.

It has in the past accommodated such celebrated racing drivers as Mike Hawthorn, John Surtees and Nigel Mansell.

Old-fashioned roast beef sandwiches, chips and “proper” gravy is a typical example of staple fare during the week. Slaked with – for example – the ever-popular Timothy Taylor’s Landlord and Lancaster Brewery’s Blonde.

How Sandra and John Grainger, who run the place, accommodate everyone comfortably in this veritable cigar box is a mystery. Sandra admits it has been called a Tardis more than once.

John Grainger, landlord at the Barbon Inn near Kirkby Lonsdale.

The Black Bull at Nateby

The pub sits at the end of the Mallerstang valley; opposite the mountainous Swaledale road.

“Any doms?” asks a newcomer to the Black Bull, ordering a pint of Theakstons best bitter and shrugging off a rucksack with a “Coast to Coast Walker” sticker.

“Doms?” Replies a local with a Yorkshire terrier. “They’re fussy, the doms players here. The temperature has to be just so, the lights have to be right, and to keep them happy they even have to have them washed in Fairy Liquid.”

“What?” I ask. “The dominoes?” “No, silly. The players.”

“No jukebox, no video games, no wide screen television is the rule,” says landlord Christoper Henderson. “Bliss say many.”

The Marton Arms is situated opposite St Oswalds Church.

“Try the roast beef on Sunday. Plus – depending on the season of the year – Yorkshire pudding, roast parsnip, mashed potato, roast potatoes, cabbage, green beans, carrots and sprouts and a jug of gravy.”

Wainwright Golden Beer is a favourite with locals as is the Kingstone Press cider, and Eagle Brewery’s tasty Bombardier.

The Three Greyhounds Inn

This is a free house standing across the beck from St Peter’s Church in Great Asby.

Nearby are limestone pavements so iconic of the Yorkshire Dales; with Sunbiggin Tarn adjacent, a “shining level” for walkers and cyclists.

On the edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, the pub is ideally placed to serve those walking the Dales Highway stretching from Saltaire to Appleby.

This traditional hostelry has been reinvigorated by Dave and Amanda Gibson and appears in the 2020 Good Beer Guide.

Two real ales are always available on hand-pumps. At the time of writing these are Boat House Blonde and Langdale Bitter.

There is an ever changing selection of local cask ales. Just now there are half a dozen, including Nine Standards from the Settle Brewery and Monumental from Kirkby Lonsdale Brewery.

The food is popular, especially the pies (which include steak, fish or cheese) and the wild boar and venison burgers.

The building is over 300 years old and the evening entertainment includes things like the intriguing Tales and Tunes by Candlelight, with customers entertained by storytellers and folk musicians (a scene that has probably changed little over the decades).

The Fat Lamb in Ravenstonedale

The pub was bought in 1978 by Paul Bonsall, becoming one of the YDNP’s longest serving landlords.

In the late 80s he added a nature reserve next to the beer garden. Customers can enjoy short walks and watch wildlife from red squirrels to the occasional otter.

“Guided walks have long been our specialty,” he says, pouring me a glass of Black Sheep, his most popular hand-pulled cask ale.

He’s led many such groups himself, like over Wild Boar Fell or down to Smardale nature reserve with its huge viaduct on the now-defunct Darlington-Tebay railway branch line.

Such routes work up an appetite for the likes of fat lamb shank, or slow roast beef brisket.

A couple request a port and brandy. “To settle my stomach,” says one. They had braved the switchback roller-coaster known as the “Tommy Road” from Pendragon Castle in Mallerstang. Paul commiserates.

One of his passions is classic cars. He drives an Austin Healey 3000 and a Mk2 Jaguar and the pub has its own heritage when it comes to four wheels.

“The Fat Lamb has long been a base for visiting Classic Car clubs touring the high Pennines and Dales on pre-planned routes,” he says. “Coast to Coast from St Bees to Robin Hood’s Bay is just one example.”

The Marton Arms in Thornton-in-Lonsdale

This is a springboard for the Yorkshire Dales, the Trough of Bowland and Morecambe Bay. Spectacular waterfalls, wind-blown peaks and bone-white limestone pavements are among the riches of the Pennines to explore from its doorstep.

This area has allure for cavers, with show caves for families and myriad pot holes for the more experienced.

Dating back to 1679, the Marton Arms is situated opposite St Oswald’s Church. It was here Arthur Conan Doyle – author of Sherlock Holmes and a big fan of the Ingleton area – married his first wife.

Proprietor Heather Dawson is no doubt of the value her hostelry offers: “a cut above your usual pub food for lunch, dinner and anything in between.”

“Our ethos,” she continues, “ is very much ‘field to fork’. We know where our food comes from, actually breeding our own pigs while our beef comes from a farm at the foot of Ingleborough.”

“Heather has a great kitchen team,” says a local sipping a gin. “The chef creates specialities on a par with Michelin dishes. The burgers and fish and chips are pretty scrumptious, too.”

More than 60 different gins are on offer for customers to try plus hand-pulled cask ales, fine wines and with non-alcoholic options for the driver.

I sup my apple and mango J2O and say “cheers.”