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We have just returned from a lovely trip to the North Yorkshire and the beautiful Yorkshire Dales. We picked our location (Leyburn) because it was handy for public transport and we could give our friend who normally drives a break and travel by bus. We looked in our Yorkshire Dales travel brochure and planned trips out throughout the week. On Wednesday we decided to go to Masham for few different reasons.
Firstly, Wednesday is market day in Masham, so coinciding our visit with that seemed like a good idea. Secondly, Masham is also on a direct (and surprisingly regular for the Yorkshire Dales) bus route from Leyburn and, thirdly, the little town is home to TWO breweries!
So, we had picked where to visit, now we had to work out how to get there. A trip to the Tourist Information centre later and the extremely friendly lady had furnished us with a bag full of bus timetables. Masham is on the main bus route between Richmond and Ripon and the 159 bus leaves Leyburn every two hours (10.30, 12.30, etc) from Monday to Saturday and costs around two quid each way.
We opted for the 10.30 which was due into Masham Market Place at 10.55, giving us time to visit both breweries, have a few drinks, look around Masham and get the 2.03 back to Leyburn. Please note that the last 159 back to Leyburn is 6.03 pm so don't get stranded! If you are going by car market day might not be the best choice because normally that is where you can park! You can park at the Black Sheep Brewery visitor centre but only if you are visiting.
The bus was hassle free and arrived on time. We decided to go the Theakstons Brewery first (they were the first signs we saw when we got off the bus) and followed the brown tourist signs. It only took about five minutes from the bus stop. The Theakstons Visitor centre is by the side of the tower brewery building and you can either go on a guided tour of the brewery (£4.50 for adults) or just pay £1.50 to look around the centre and have a beer. Both options include a half pint of beer (or soft drink if you prefer).
We had a Theakstons Old Peculier ~ named after the town's status as a Peculier (a place with its own ecclesiastical court and the authority to govern its own affairs). As we had already been on numerous tours of breweries we chose to just go for the drink and the wander ~ a good choice for us. If you do go on the tour be aware that there are steep steps, uneven floors and that you should allow about an hour and a half.
After an excellent beer and a look around the centre and the shop we headed off to the nearby Black Sheep Brewery to see their Visitor Centre. Both breweries are extremely close and it only took us about five minutes to get there. At the moment there is an expansion project going on at Black Sheep so there is quite a bit of building work and noise.
I could tell straight away that the folks at this brewery are far more visitor orientated! The shop was bigger and there is a larger bar and restaurant area ~ I much preferred the pub like feel of Theakstons to the restaurant and bistro feel at Black Sheep. It was nice to know that you could get a meal here although it did look a little on the pricey side. For the same reasons as before we didn't do the brewery tour and sat outside the bar area and had a pint of Riggwelter each ~ it is quite rare to see it on draught so we couldn't resist, even though it is quite strong.
One pint later and we moved back inside to have a look around the Sheepy Shop! Again this was larger and more swish looking than Theakstons, the prices were a little higher at Black Sheep (a standard fit t shirt was £8.50 at Theakstons, compared to £9.95 at Black Sheep), but there was definitely a lot more choice of natty sheep related gifts. I was really pleased because there was a sale area ~ I got a couple of t shirts for £5.00 each (two ladies fit for me that should have been £15.95 each and a Riggwelter t shirt for Alun).
It was getting on for one o'clock by now and we had to start thinking about looking around the village before it was time for the bus back to Leyburn. It was a really hot, sunny day so we could have a nice stroll around. I'm not sure how nice it would be if there was rain because, apart from the church and the breweries, there aren't a lot of indoor attractions.
There are one or two nice shops ~ I recommend Beavers Butchers (commonly known as The Masham Sausage Shop) on Silver Street, for the unusual flavoured sausages (we came home with Duck and Orange, Cumberland and Wild Boar and Ale). We also spent quite a while in Bah Humbugs sweet shop on the Market Place ~ an excellent place to get "proper" old fashioned sweets and chocolates (they even have a website with an online shop!). Most of the other shops were pretty similar to those you can find in any touristy village or town.
I was rather disappointed in the Market. There were only about twenty stalls and they weren't very inspiring. We were pleased that we had somewhere else to visit in Masham and hadn't just gone for the market. Thankfully we could have a nice walk round in the sunshine and take in the lovely Georgian houses around the Market Place and admire the church. St. Mary's church used to stand near the Market but the present building dates from Norman times and is certainly worth a look around.
We also had our customary look at the library (we do that everywhere to see if the staff there have to work less or more hours than us!), leaving us with just enough time for a sit outside one of the pubs with a pint of Black Sheep Bitter at the Bruce Arms.
Our time in Masham had run out by now and we went to wait for the bus. I did enjoy our visit but probably wouldn't visit again. It is a lovely place but I'm not sure if there would be anything left to do there to tempt us back. The sausage shop, the sweet shop and the two breweries all have online shops and the other things weren't unique enough to warrant a second visit! That said it was a lovely place and we had a really nice day ~ the sunshine and beer helped too!
I would certainly recommend a trip to Masham if you find yourself in that part of the world. The breweries are great, the town is pretty, but it definitely isn't a place for a rainy day! Looking around in the glorious sunshine is free and I couldn't fault the weather!
Wander round the largest market square in Yorkshire and enjoy the calmness and peace reminiscent of days gone by. But don't be deceived by the calm atmosphere - Masham is a buzzing and lively community and there is always something to do and see.