“ Address: Beck Hole / Whitby / North Yorkshire / YO22 5LE „
Whenever we go to North Yorkshire we try and pop over to the village of Goathland. Unlike many of the tourists there, we are not on a pilgrimage to see the sights of Heartbeat, or try and spot a cast member. We are there because it is close to one of the best (and possibly smallest) pubs you are ever going to visit. It is not only in a beautiful setting, it is also an amazing little building and the centre for the little community it is housed in.
This pub is the Birch Hall Inn, nestling at the bottom of the hill from Goathland, in the lovely village of Beck Hole. Beck Hole is around nine miles south of Whitby and a mile or so down the lanes and paths from Goathland. The Birch Hall Inn is pretty much the only amenity you will find in Beck Hole - there are a couple of B&Bs and guest houses and the mobile library visits every now and again, but apart from that it is the beautiful countryside that draws people to Beck Hole.
From Goathland Beck Hole is signposted, but the walk down (and more importantly back up again) is VERY steep, although exceedingly pretty. We generally walk down and then con the other halves into going and getting the car!
The pub comprises of two previously separate buildings which became one larger entity in the early 19th century. The earliest of these buildings dates from the 17th century, while the other is a century or so later. The pub now consists of the "big bar" (which actually isn't very big either) and the "little bar", with a small shop in between the two.
During the 1860s the new improved larger building was given a license to sell "Ale, Porter, Cider & Perry", which was gradually extended to a full license as time went on. During the 1960s Mrs. Schofield, the tenant since the late 1920s, purchased the pub, where she remained until the early 80s.
In 1860 this building was granted a license to sell 'Ale Porter, Cider and Perry' and in 1869 this license was extended from 6 to 7 days a week. However it was not until as recently as 1960 that the Inn was granted a full license to enable it to sell Spirits. The Inn remains privately owned.
As you can see from the picture of the outside the pub is a typical old looking building. You can distinctly see the two separate buildings - one whitewashed and one in the original stone. There are signs above the doors to direct customers to the different areas - the main public bar, the shop which separates the bars and the smaller bar at the top of the building. Along the little corridor which accesses the public bar there is also access to the toilets.
Outside, to the rear, there can also be found some little steps that lead to a little beer garden that is very pleasant to sit in on a nice sunny afternoon - be warned though that these steps are a little on the steep side. The beer garden is on three different levels, and offers a superb view, making it an excellent way to see the surrounding valley. If you want to sit outside but not venture up the steps you can sit on the benches and picnic style wooden tables and seats at the front of the pub. These however fill up quick when the weather is decent!
The small bar is extremely small and definitely lives up to its reputation as cramped! This bar was originally part of the old shop and, according to the Beck Hole website (http://beckhole.info/home.htm), the record number of folk packed inside was hit in November 2000 and rests at 27 people and a dog - the size of the people and the dog are not noted! I would say this would be extremely uncomfortable and a feat NEVER to be repeated (especially if I'm there!). Children are allowed in here (maybe because they are small?) and there is also a way through to the beer garden.
The shop is also on the compact side. It began its life in 1860 as a place for railway workers and miners to buy supplies. Now it is mainly a haven for tourists, selling such things as plasters, postcards, ice creams and soft drinks. Of particular note are the varieties of sweets on sale - a real blast from the past are the penny mixes and the chance to get things you won't have seen for years! Walkers can also buy maps and guide books of the local area. We just got some sweets to suck on the journey home!
When they say "big" they were really just using the other bar as a comparison! This bar isn't what you'd really call large at all. This is my favourite room - cosy and welcoming, with a real fire and wooden benches and tables. Sitting in here you can picture what it would have been like to visit in years gone by. To be honest I can't imagine it has changed much in decades! Around the walls there are old photos and little knick-knacks from times gone by. It is a fascinating room and well worth spending a relaxing few hours with a pint in. Service in this bar is via a hatch, with a sign politely asking that you return your empties back through this hatch to save the barmaid a journey round from the other bar.
This is the room we normally sit in because we prefer the more comfortable and homely ambience - and the little bit of extra breathing space of course! You may also like to know that children aren't allowed in the Big Bar.
~~What's to eat and drink?
As well as the usual array of wines, spirits and soft drinks, the Birch Hall Inn also serves a pretty good pint of Real Ale. On the numerous occasions we have visited the beer range has varied and we have always managed to find an interesting and often previously unsampled beer. Often the beers come from local breweries - we have had beers from Cropton (from near Pickering), Daleside (from near Harrogate) and many others, including a chance to try the house beer - called, unsurprisingly Beckwatter! From a pub that started out with no Real Ale at all they have come on leaps and bounds since 1989, when they had their first proper brew from Theakstons. Prices are a little more than you would pay in a less touristy place, but not astronomical and no where near the prices we have paid in some other pubs. The Beer quality is usually top class too!
On the food side there are no meals offered, but beer soakage comes in the form of bar snacks - pies and sandwiches. These are very filling and the pies are also locally sourced. You can choose from pork pies and (my personal favourite) turkey and ham pies, which cost £1.80 each and from a range of butties, served on flat bread cakes baked in Whitby - they are yummy and cost £2.60, with a choice of cheese, ham, pate or corned beef. All the food comes on an interesting range of plates (none of which have ever been known to match while we've been there) and a little dish of pickle.
I thoroughly recommend trying both the Real Ale and the snacks. If you're still hungry they do scones (with jam and cream) and beer cake, but so far we've never been able to manage anything after the pie and sarnies!
During the summer months (which began this year on May Day) the pub opens all day, between 11am and 11pm, but this is cut down a lot during the winter. Check the pub part of the Beck Hole website before you visit to make sure you won't be disappointed, or give the pub a ring to check opening times as they may be subject to change. You will be glad to find out (as I was) that they now serve the bar snacks during all the opening hours - they used to only sell food during the day!
Despite the walk and the lack of space The Birch Hall Inn is a great place for a drink, a snack and a chance to meet some friendly and interesting folk. The compact and intimate atmosphere makes for a buzz of conversation - in these surroundings it isn't possible not to get talking with the other customers and I'm sure many friendships have been forged while sharing a bench in one of the tiny bars!
We love visiting and thoroughly enjoy settling down by the fire to dry out, or sitting in the glorious sunshine at the tables in the beer garden. The Birch Hall Inn is many things to many people and a trip here can be entirely different depending on the season. Next time you are knee deep in tourists at nearby Goathland, consider following the signs to Beck Hole for a singular experience in a unique little pub!
PUB ADDRESS AND OTHER DETAILS
The Birch hall Inn