This cycle ride follows much of the Sustrans route entitled "Way of the Roses" but with a few diversions and add-ons so that we could incorporate some lovely pubs. And, believe me, there are some pub treasures on this route.
The official distance for the "Way of the Roses" is 273.5 kilometres [170 miles] but with a Lancaster Loop at the start, a meandering day cycling from Bridlington to Hull, plus a few extras, we rode 563 kilometres. Don't let that figure put you off because, if you follow these directions, it can be completed at a leisurely pace over six days. We stopped to look at most places and locations of interest, called into some classic inns and enjoyed some of the most beautiful scenery. Taking in parts of the Lune Valley, Yorkshire Dales, Nidderdale and the Yorkshire Wolds, this is a ride to enrich your soul. There are nutters who complete the Coast-to-Coast ride in a day but I see no point in traversing the country without appreciating the rich tapestry the journey has to offer.
Some of our route deviations throughout this Coast-to-Coast ride were added to ensure we were in a busy town during the evening with plenty of pub choices but, more importantly, in locations where we could book into a Travelodge and leave the bikes to explore places on foot. At the end of a long day riding a bike the last thing we want to do is start erecting a tent in a field. Plus, after spending the evening enjoying a few beers, I prefer the comfort of a nice clean toilet a few yards away rather than tramping across a field to a shower block or getting stung by nettles when spending a penny in the nearest bush. Besides, we prefer to travel light, not lugging tents and camping equipment across the countryside. If you plan ahead you can sleep in relative comfort at very affordable prices at a Travelodge or Premier Inn. We use them for many trips as you can take your bikes in the room for extra security and added peace-of-mind. Admittedly, some are located next to busy motorways but, increasingly, they are being opened in ideal locations within towns and cities. On this trip we were located in the heart of Lancaster, Harrogate, York and Hull, all of which proved perfect for a nice pub tour during the evening. Cycling Tip : If you wish the likes of Travelodge or Premier Inn to continue allowing bikes within their rooms, please do not treat the place as a garage. Bike cleaning, repairs and maintenance should be conducted outside the building. Care should also be taken not to mark or scratch the walls and/or furniture.
By spending our first night at Lancaster Travelodge, it facilitated a pleasant evening in Skipton. In order to fulfil our "Coast-to-Coast" objective, I created a loop so that we could take the bikes to the official start line at Morecambe and take a look around some delightful pockets of Lancashire. This loop is 86.46 kilometres. Most people finish Day 1 of the "Way of the Roses" route in Settle, leaving themselves a very challenging second day tackling the notoriously 'lumpy' territory in the Yorkshire Dales. By stopping at Skipton, we found that the difficult climbs were spread across two days. My riding partner, La Goddess du Vélo, found this to be quite a bonus.
If you are unsure about bike and equipment here are a few of my guidelines. My weapon of choice for this ride was a touring machine that was realised in the Spring of 2014 after I had collected together a Tifosi carbon frame and components from a range of manufacturers. I had tested this custom-build on a couple of century rides and it had proved to be such a comfortable bike - always go for comfort on long days in the saddle. I opted to ride with a compact chainset but for those who like an easier time going uphill you may want to consider a triple chainset, particularly if you are not used to riding with the weight of pannier bags. This route has a couple of challenging climbs in the Yorkshire Dales.
Clothing and Equipment
If you intend to ride for six days, as we did, ensure you take ONLY the clothes you will NEED. If you finish the ride with clothing or kit you did not use then you will have carried extra weight up hills for no reason. I used large sealable food bags [available from supermarkets] and allocated a bag for each day, labelling each one for easy identification in the panniers. As you use the clean kit you can then recycle the bags to store dirty clothing. By using your bicycle as a clothes line, air your spent clothing overnight before packing away in the plastic bags during your morning ritual of preparations for the next leg of the journey. We did consider normal 'civilian' clothes for our evening strolls but, after weighing our pannier bags, decided against the extra weight and simply packed some leg warmers.
Reserving spaces for our bikes, we travelled to Lancaster on the Virgin Trains service to Edinburgh. And once out of the station concourse, we were off - straight into our journey of exploration. Just time for a very quick look around Lancaster. So a quick whizz down Meeting House Lane and left onto a short climb up the cobbles of Castle Hill. I love riding pavé sections and will often go out of my way to fit a cobbled element into a route. Cobblestone, incidentally, is thought to derive from the Middle English term 'kobilstane,' something to ponder whilst your bones are being shaken as you concentrate on avoiding a wide slit between the 'setts,' the more accurate term for road cobbles. Kassei is the Belgian name for setts, a term that might come in handy next time you want to impress fellow riders when discussing Flemish racing!
Lancaster Castle was still being used as a Category C Prison until 2011. Given the state of security these days, this probably meant that inmates could nip out for a paper, put a bet on in the bookies and enjoy a quick pint in Wetherspoon's before popping back to the nick for dinner. The castle, built on the site of a Roman fort, has its origins in 1093 when Roger de Poitou, a cousin of William the Conqueror, built a motte and bailey castle on the site. The Pendle Witches were tried at Lancaster Castle in 1612 - if only they knew a famous beer would one day be named in their honour. Another very famous prisoner was George Fox, the founder of Quakerism. Around 200 executions took place at Lancaster Castle, 43 of them being for murder. Old Ned Barlow was responsible for 131 of the executions.
If you think you have enough time during your day the Lancaster Cottage Museum is just across the road from the castle. Here you can soak up life in Victorian days within a building that dates back to 1739. Also in the vicinity is the Judges' Lodgings, Lancaster's oldest town house and once the home of the keeper of the Castle.
We cycled along Long Marsh Lane to circumnavigate Lancaster Priory before taking a look at our first pub of the trip. Formerly known as the Red Lion and the Carpenters' Arms, the Three Mariners is, according to the pub, "one of only two sites in Britain with an original gravity-fed cellar, and the only one to be cooled by a natural spring seeping through from the castle rock." The cobbled road in front of the building is all that remains of Bridge Lane, the thoroughfare that the pub fronted in days of old. The medieval bridge which the lane's name references was demolished in the late 18th century to facilitate the passing of ships into Lancaster's developing port at St. George's Quay. Fragments of the old bridge have been seen when the water is low. Indeed, a section of the old bridge survived until the mid-19th century and was shown on Victorian maps of Lancaster.
The Three Mariners dates from the late 17th century though it is thought that a tavern has existed on the site since the 1400s. Certainly, the pub is one of the oldest surviving vernacular buildings in the city, though it was extended in the 19th century, and restored in later years. As the Carpenters' Arms, the house had a shocking reputation in the 19th century. In 1849 the licence was only renewed after owner had "got rid of all the disorderly characters who occupied the upper part of the premises." In the same year the publican, Charles Swithenbank, was summoned for allowing prostitutes to gather in the pub. In earlier times, it is claimed that prisoners at the castle were given their 'last drop' at this public house before their execution.
We pedalled around some of the streets of Lancaster before heading uphill for the first time on the trip. Even loaded with panniers, the climb up to Williamson Park was not too difficult and we wound our way up to the Ashton Memorial, a building commissioned by Lord Ashton as a tribute to his late wife. Overlooking the city and surrounding countryside, the memorial was designed by John Belcher, the work being completed in 1909. Unfortunately for us, the building was undergoing restoration so we were unable to look inside and visit the viewing gallery to enjoy an outlook across Morecambe Bay.
The former Palm House has a café and shop, along with toilets - all good stuff for cyclists. The building has been transformed into a tropical oasis and houses a large collection of butterflies. There is modest entrance fee.
We rolled down the hill and followed a canal and river route to pick up a cycle lane to the north of the River Lune. This afforded views across to St. George's Quay, an important reminder of the town's role as a port associated with the Atlantic trade. The Quay was developed in the mid-18th century on glebe land downstream of the aforementioned medieval bridge. The cycle route passes alongside a purpose-built cycle track. Bike-friendly Lancaster certainly has good provision for cyclists with excellent cycle lanes around the city.
The cycle lane joins Lancaster Road and passes in front of the Golden Ball Inn at Snatchems, a colloquial name that possibly derives from the actions of Press Gangs who took local farmers and fishermen off to sea. Impressment also took place at the aforementioned Three Mariners. The term is thought to derive from an old French term prest or an advance of money offered to sailors. In the army the inducement was the King's Shilling which was sometimes surreptitiously dropped into the jar of ale of an unsuspecting imbiber who, on finishing his drink, would be charged with accepting money from the crown and forced to enlist. The glass-bottomed tankard became popular, particularly during the Napoleonic period, and was manufactured in order for drinkers to inspect their ale before consumption and thwart any scurrilous activity by a pressgang-leader.
The road passing in front of the Golden Ball is subject to tidal waters at times - little wonder that the former Mitchell's-operated house is on an elevated position. At one time there was a ferry to transport customers across the River Lune. Nathaniel Thornton, landlord of the pub in the 1880s, used the ferry almost exclusively for his patrons. We only had to contend with a centimetre of water on the road passing in front of the Golden Ball. There is an old rampart up to the front of the house.
Unfortunately, on this occasion the pub had yet to open for trading so it was not until a return visit in September 2017 that I was able to venture inside this cosy tavern. With modern comforts for contemporary patrons, the oldest parts of this early 18th century building remain reasonably true to the spirit of the place. Low beamed ceilings, cosy corners, some antiques and maritime memorabilia make for a pleasant drinking environment. And then there's that view across the River Lune - great stuff.
The Golden Ball sells a range of real ales and is a key outlet for the Cross Bay Brewery at Morecambe. Sunset Blonde Bitter and Zenith India Pale Ale were both available during our visit and supplemented by Black Sheep Best Bitter from Masham. For some reason we did not encounter beers from Cross Bay in any other of the Lancaster pubs we visited - and we patronised around a dozen boozers. Another good reason therefore to seek refreshment here on the Lune estuary. Cross Bay Brewery started production in 2011 and have gained a good reputation, picking up a number of prestigious awards en-route. I believe that the brewery's origins go back to Bryson's, an older microbrewery established in 2000 by George Palmer at Heysham Industrial Estate. He sold the business which was relocated to the White Lund Industrial Estate, on the outskirts of Morecambe. Indeed, the brewery is only a stone's throw from the Golden Ball. The small brewing kit was enlarged after acquiring plant from Moorhouse's Brewery at Burnley and Nick Taylor was brought in as a new head brewer.
The Golden Ball Inn is a pub of some antiquity. It is claimed that there has been a hostelry on this site from around 1650, though documented evidence seems to suggest a slightly later date. The tavern is mentioned in September 1779 when it was the venue for an auction for a number of sailing vessels and a warehouse on St. George's Quay. This sale included the Lancaster-built 200-ton vessel named Nanny, the 120-ton British-built snow-boat named Watson complete with all her guns, and a quarter-share in a vessel named Lancaster, an 80-ton brigantine that had been built two years earlier in the town. However, I do need to stress that the advertisement does not state the address of the Golden Ball Inn so this could refer to another pub of this name in St. Nicholas Street.
I do not know the story of the rifle mounted above the pub's stove within the ancient stone fireplace. However, the Golden Ball Inn was once a popular venue for pigeon-shooting, particularly on New Year's Day when an annual competition was staged, no doubt boosting trade at the pub and kick-starting the annual profits. As a veggie I was somewhat glad to read that in January 1869 hardly a bird was shot "owing to a high wind and the birds being strong on the wing they well got away." The Golden Ball also offered prizes for games of quoits back in the day.
We were able to cycle up the old rampart to park our bikes outside the Golden Ball. In days of yore this was used by many a horse-drawn vehicle. This led to a fatal accident in November 1887 when William Shuttleworth rolled up to the pub for a quick glass of ale. He had taken his sister-in-law, wife of the fisherman James Shuttleworth, into Lancaster and was returning to his brother's house in Overton when he rolled up to the front of the Golden Ball Inn. He left Margaret Shuttleworth sat in the pony-trap outside the front door whilst he nipped inside for a quick beer. He was served by Mary, wife of the publican Nathaniel Thornton but he had not long been inside the pub when he saw the horse backing over the wall of the rampart, a depth of about five feet. On seeing the horse and trap and Margaret Shuttleworth falling over the rampart, he ran outside to her aid. However, he found her lying on the road under the horse, her head partly under the cart head, one shaft being over her chest. This broke several of her ribs on the left side. Also suffering from a badly broken leg, she was carried into the Golden Ball and Dr. Irvin was sent for. However, the poor woman had suffered such injuries that she could not be transported back to Overton so remained in the tavern. Her condition deteriorated and the 38 year-old fisherman's wife died three days later.
There was another fatal accident outside the Golden Ball Inn seven years later when the horse-breaker John Wright drowned in the River Lune. The 56 year-old had been engaged in breaking in a couple of horses belonging to Titus Escolme of Moss House Farm at Morecambe. One evening in June 1894 he rode up to the Golden Ball Inn and asked Mrs. Thompson to supply him with some rum in a bottle. However, the landlady could see that he was already inebriated and, from the window, refused to serve him. He subsequently walked the horses down the rampart and into the river. On entering the water the horse on which Wright was riding stumbled and threw him into the river, where he sunk at once, and was never seen to rise again. Although every effort was made by two fishermen, William Bland and John Woodhouse, to recover his body, he was not found for a couple of days. At the coroner's inquest the landlady of the Golden Ball was commended for refusing to serve him and a verdict of "Accidentally drowned' was returned.
The two fishermen involved in trying to recover the body of John Wright were living in huts close to the Golden Ball Inn. During the Victorian and Edwardian periods there were a number of huts next to the tavern which, during the height of the salmon season, were the abode of the local fishermen working the Lune Salmon Fleet.
One of the most bizarre incidents seen outside the Golden Ball Inn took place in January 1890. The story involved Elizabeth Gibbons who, "having differences with her husband," had decided to leave him. However, she hired a Preston haulier to remove a piano, sewing machine and some items of furniture she had purchased with her own private income. The firm duly sent a driver named Haydock to transport the items. He was warned not to go near the Golden Ball Inn but the lure of the pub's excellent ale proved too much for him and, consequently, he called inside for a beer. On returning home James Gibbons found that the piano and other items had been removed and he went in search of them. With the driver enjoying a session in the Golden Ball, he was able to catch up with the vehicle and took the decision to smash the piano in the road. Elizabeth Gibbons was able to prove that the driver had not taken reasonable care of her belongings and successfully sued his employers, Messrs. Harding & Co. of Preston, for damages.
The isolated location of the Golden Ball Inn made it an ideal venue for those who sought refreshments outside of strictly regulated opening hours, particularly on Sundays. Back in Victorian times a public house with inn status was able to offer victuals to a lawful traveller - the rule being that a customer had travelled more than three miles from the place where they had slept on the previous evening. Consequently, people living in Morecambe would hire a charabanc or landau and head over to Snatchems for a beer or two. Some even took a boat around the estuary to enjoy a pint.
It was perfectly legal during a period when those travelling long distances on horseback could reasonably seek shelter, food and refreshments, but other imbibers took advantage of the ruling. Superintendent Moss of the County Police Force took exception to what he deemed a loophole in the law and, in the autumn of 1883, decided to take action against the publican of the Golden Ball Inn. Consequently, he sent a police sergeant from Morecambe to follow two men who travelled to the pub by road. Coincidentally, six other men had come up the river and entered the Golden Ball to order some ale. The publican protested that the men had travelled more than three miles to his house. Superintendent Moss then set about establishing that it was less than three miles from Morecambe to the Golden Ball Inn. And so he used several police officers to measure the distance by chain. However it was touch and go whether the distance was less than three miles so, determined to gain a conviction, he instructed his officers to take the chain through a private farm yard and along Euston Road, a street that was still under construction. To gain a few feet the officers even went through the yard of the New Inn. And so, with all their manoeuvring and manipulation, the police got the distance eight yards within the permitted distance of three miles.
The case caused quite an uproar in the local press. Both the media and the local magistrates also took exception to the behaviour of Superintendent Moss. The Bench refused to admit the measurement by Euston Road. A professional land surveyor had to be commissioned to measure the distance and he made it three miles and eighteen yards, thus the publican was able to vindicate himself from the charge brought against him. The six men who had travelled by boat had actually come from Glasson Dock and Thurnham and the publican had to expend travel allowances to bring them to the court as witnesses. The bench considered the actions of Superintendent Moss as "reprehensible." The press condemned him and reported that "these attempts to strain the law and distort facts in order to obtain a conviction are not creditable, and are calculated to undermine public confidence in the police."
Whether this particular case stayed in the memory of the local police force is not clear, but the use of the Golden Ball Inn as a "Jolly" destination remained for decades and the pub was still visited by Morecambe-based charabancs during the mid-1950s.
Mitchell's, the Lancaster brewery that had bought the property around 1910, closed the Golden Ball a century later and put the pub on the market. In 2010 it was acquired by Stephen Hunt who manages the pub with his children Joseph and Nicole. They added an extension to the building in 2012. The family now offer hotel rooms and camping pods. In the pub itself there is a wide range of cheap bar meals on offer.
Have Your Say
If you would like to share any further information on this route - perhaps you drank in different pubs? Or maybe you spotted something I missed en-route? Whatever the reason it would be great to hear of your stories or route guidance for others. Simply send a message and I will post it here.