GOLDEN SHOVEL AWARDS FOR BEST PUBS
1 The Sair, Linthwaite, Huddersfield
2 Rat and Ratchet, Huddersfield
3 The Grove, Huddersfield
4 The Guesthouse, Southport
5 The Grove, Leeds
6 The Sportsman, Huddersfield (pictured, above)- NEW
7 The Marble Arch, near Manchester city centre
8 Star Inn, Lockwood, Huddersfield
9 Three Pigeons, Halifax
10 King's Head, Huddersfield
11 Buffet Bar, Stalybridge
12 The Swan, The Three-Legged Mare and other York pubs
13 Leggers, Dewsbury
14 Victoria, Leeds
15 Sheaf View, Sheffield
16 Britons Protection, Manchester
17 Crown Posada, Newcastle
I've only included my absolute favourites that I visit regularly.
1 THE SAIR INN, LINTHWAITE, NEAR HUDDERSFIELD
If you've never been to The Sair before, a note on the front door may alarm you - "Please do not feed Danny despite his persuasive moves. He was bringing up bile for three days."
Fear not. Danny is not a desperate regular but a dog with give-me-a-crisp eyes.
The Sair is the pub of dreams, serving up to 10 home-brewed Linfit beers, ranging from stouts to light bitters in four homely rooms, two of which have real fires while the others have cooking ranges.
You'll rarely find Linfit beers at any other pub or festival and the quality hasn't dropped since The Sair won the National Camra pub of the year award in 1997.
The pub itself is 300 years old and hasn't been tarted up, especially the front rooms which overlook the Colne Valley.
This is a great summer pub to end a walk and there are loads of friendly dogs and their walkers on a Sunday. You'll feel you deserve a pint as the easiest way to find The Sair is to negotiate what appears to be a 1 in 3 hill - Hoyle Ing - off the Huddersfield-Marsden road.
If all this wasn't enough, The Sair has a fantastic jukebox with rare blues and sixties stuff.
Opening hours: Monday-Friday 5-11. Saturday 12-11. Sunday 12-10.30. No food apart from occasional rolls.
Pub crawl? Slaithwaite, down the hill, now has two great pubs, The Commercial and The Swan. The Riverhead, in Marsden, three miles away, is another home brew pub in attractive surroundings.
2 THE RAT AND RATCHET, HUDDERSFIELD
There were worries when Ossett took over this brew pub in 2004. It wanted to do it up and there were fears the beer quality could drop. But it is now the best pub in town.
It's a two-room establishment with a homely feel, comfy seats and plenty of nooks and crannies to hide away and read a paper or book, although at weekends it's a lively place, as it should be.
The 12 handpull selection is a mixture of Ossett and others, including Fullers which replaced the Taylors in May 08. Where it has the edge over other pubs is that has always a dark beer on (they also have had a mild festival) and the landlord tends to reorder popular guest beers such as those made by Acorn and Phoenix, rather than taking a punt on some obscure southern brewery. There are also continental lagers, ciders (it was a runner-up for best cider pub in Yorkshire in July 2008) and a good selection of wines.
The staff are friendlier since it was taken over and the jukebox has been updated and is great. A jukey may offend the Camra fundamentalists but a bit of Stones and Squeeze on a noisy Friday is just what you need and the pub attracts a younger crowd at the weekend.
Food at lunchtimes. Terrestrial TV. Opens until 12.30am on Fridays and Saturdays, midnight weekdays.
Huddersfield pub of the year 2007, 2008 and 2010.
3 THE GROVE, HUDDERSFIELD
This was once a shabby pub which has been transformed in 2006 (I think) into a real ale boon for the town since it reopened.
Eighteen real ales, several continental lagers and 200+ bottles of beers from all over the world, as well as some bizarre snacks (smoked elk, chocolate chilli flavoured jerked meat, cheese and onion flavoured insect larvae).
It's been done out nicely inside with dining room chairs that wobble more than my arse, while cartoons and bottles adorn the walls. There are Old Private Eyes and beer stuff to read and the pub has some great promotions too - Welsh beer and Fullers nights.
It's good to see they've got a mix of regulars and guests - I don't like all guests in a pub. There are always two Taylors, two Thornbridges, Fullers ESB, Empire Grove Grog, a Brewdog, a Durham Guest, a Marble and nine guests.
The only minor criticism is that it's also one of those pubs where the occasional Camra fundamentalist booms out all over the pub with their pedantic opinion, blocking sight of the beer pumps by leaning against the bar.
But it deserves a Huddersfield pub of the year award and it's a mystery why the local Camra branch ignores it (apart from seasonal awards).
Opens until midnight on Friday and Saturday. No meals. No TV. Occasional musical acts.
Picture: Grove Inn's T-shirt by Martin Honeysett who did/does marvellous cartoons for Ivor Cutler poems and in Private Eye.
4 THE GUESTHOUSE, SOUTHPORT
The best pub in this town by miles. Three wooden-panelled rooms full of contrasting characters, from old fellas having a quiet jar and couples who've run out of things to say to each other to footie fans with names like Tony the Ticket, Tony Wolves and Tony Spy talking surreal nonsense.
There's an ever changing range of guest beers, although Cains is usually on and there's usually a mild.
A beer garden is out back and benches out front for beery lizards to soak up the rays on a summer's evening.
Opening hours: Does have a licence to open after 11pm, but listen out for the bell. No food.
Pub crawl? Barons Bar, in Scarisbrick Hotel. Windmill is a good summer pub and has OK beer. The Masons is full of characters and has a great feel and good beer.
5 THE GROVE, LEEDS
Monty Python made a short film called Crimson Permanent Assurance (part of Meaning of Life) about an old-fashioned office block dwarfed by huge modern skyscrapers and I'm always reminded of this film when I see The Grove. It has two hideous office block looming over it on two sides and is dwarfed at the back by Leeds' tallest building.
The Grove is a four-room pub. One reminds me of Great Aunty Mary's lounge, with its tasselled lamps and armchair, another room has wooden seats which give me pins and needles in my balls, yet another room has a wood-burning fire and a cashpoint machine, and the fourth is a concert room where old men sing older folk songs.
The Highland Terrier with the Hannibal Lecter mask appears to have passed on, but John the landlord, who occasionally looks hangdog, is still there and so are the pints of Moorhouses, Elland and other good beers.
There's a real mix of people, especially on a Friday night when the suited and booted from the offices are gradually replaced by the bearded and cardiganed from the folk club.
Food is served at lunchtimes, no TV and there's seating outside.
Shake a fist at the monstrous offices which hem it in and prevent the pub festival from taking place. I saw the great Mik Artistik here, drawing portraits on paper bags and singing a blues song about his daughter selling shoes.
The Grove is a great boozer and is a former Leeds Camra's pub of the year.
Pub crawl? The Grove is about a 10 minute walk out of the town centre. Three new pubs have sprung up nearby in the past few years - The Cross Keys, The Midnight Bell and The Hop, all rather swanky but all serve decent ale. There's The Scarborough back in town which is usually packed. And as you're back in town, you may as well got to the Palace. And as you're at The Palace, you may as well go to the Duck and Drake!
Picture: Leeds Camra
6 THE SPORTSMAN, HUDDERSFIELD
A lesson to pub companies in how to do up a boozer and run it well.
The Sportsman was refurbished in April 2009 with furnishings and fittings in keeping with the original features. It's been beautifully decorated with art deco touches and lovely paintwork (I don't know what type - don't get Lawrence Llewellyn Bowen on my ass).
The curved bar and wall seating are still there in the main room, while two smaller rooms have chunky tables and comfortable seats. Real fires in all rooms.
Yorkshire beers dominate here. It's good to see a local pub tap into the wealth of breweries in the neighbourhood.
Staff are friendly, the beer's cheap and the pies (eg venison and stout) are wonderful.
Oh.. and it's run by the people who look after the excellent West Riding Refreshment Rooms, in Dewsbury.
Open all day, late at weekends.
7 THE MARBLE ARCH, ANCOATS, NEAR MANCHESTER
It's a desolate 15 minute trek out of the city to reach this gem but you'll be cheered once you open the doors - there are glazed coloured tiles on the wall and ceiling, a sloping mosaic floor (which can be quite confusing when you're pissed), the rough-hewn benches (and the occasional rough-hewn regular) and the delicious home-brew beer.
The organic, vegan Marble Beers are brewed on the premises - the regulars include Ginger Marble, which tingles on the tongue, Manchester Bitter and Lagonda IPA, all light beers, although there's also a Chocolate Heavy and some guests.
The food is simple but a cut above the usual pub fare and is served all day until early evening. The jukey is also good with plenty of 80's Manc favourites.
Pub crawl? Near the Victoria/Northern Quarter end of town - The Bar Fringe on Swan Street has continental beers and a great jukey and the Crown and Anchor nearby has reopened - a smart pub serving real ales.
Marble beers are also served at The Knott, near Deansgate.
8 THE STAR INN, LOCKWOOD, HUDDERSFIELD
Like The Grove, this was once a real dive that's been transformed into a cosy real-ale emporium that offers about a dozen real ales including Taylors and Pictish regulars.
The Star is famed for its annual beer festival where up to 70 ales are available.
It would be better if it had a few more regular beers on. Even if you try beers you've never heard of, there's only so much time and money to drink them.
It's about 15 mins out of town.
No food, TV or jukey (but two dogs). Pub only opens all day at weekends. After 5pm on other days, closed on Mondays.
Huddersfield pub of the year 2009.
9 THREE PIGEONS, HALIFAX
Another Ossett pub that's actually got better since the brewery took it over in 2005.
Tiled fireplaces, cosy rooms and art deco flourishes bring a smile to face as soon as you walk in. The beer selection is the usual mix of Ossett and others, I think there's usually half a dozen pumps on. Won a national Camra conservation award in 2007 and was listed in 2010.
The Pump Room is nearby. Fine selection of ales and a chance to watch rugby on TV.
Terrestrial TV, no food or jukey.
10 THE KING'S HEAD, HUDDERSFIELD
The Head of Steam is perhaps the better known of the two former railway station ticket office that are now pubs, with its high ceiling rooms and hearty food, but it's the King's Head (formerly known as The Station) which has the better beer.
There's one big room, with a tiled floor and attractive fires, and two smaller rooms. The big room can seem rather than spartan when there isn't a band on or many people in, but the beer and the service is spot on and it's cheap. Eight real ale handpumps, at least, and plenty of local breweries such as Eastwood, Abbeydale and Moorhouses.
I have to confess when I first went in a few years ago, there were couples arguing and some ageing hardmen, but while there's the occasional man talking to himself (eg: the belching man with elastic holding up his glasses shouting 'Leeds!'), there's a friendly atmosphere now, especially when there's a band on (usually bluesy or covers bands) and the punters start jiving.
Closes at 11pm (frustratingly) Great ham/pork/beer rolls. Terrestrial TV.
Pub crawl: For its size Huddersfield town centre is hugely disappointing. Mainly dodgy dives or garish yoof joints - both with appalling booze choices and an uncomfortable edge. Head of Steam tries hard with beer choice but quality flags occasionally, Albert is a shadow of its former self - beer quality ok but mundane choice. Zephyr and Vox are nice bars with a good but not adventurous choice of bottled beers (Anchor, Duval). Wetherspoon's Cherry Tree keeps its beer well but it's soulless and has some obnoxious customers.
11 BUFFET BAR, STALYBRIDGE
I don't know if it's the real fires, the twinkly lights, the railway paraphanalia or the fact the bars are like train corridors, but of all the bars converted from railway station buildings, this is my favourite building.
Good selection of northern ales - Heywood's Phoenix, Wigan's Allgates and Leeds brewery in a friendly cosy atmosphere, quite different from the rather grim pubs in Stalyvegas town centre.
Black peas are among the delicacies on offer and there are crumpet nights on Tuesdays (the bread product, calm down matron).
The bar became a real ale pub in 1997 formed from waiting rooms and the old buffet place itself.
12 THREE-LEGGED MARE, THE SWAN AND OTHER YORK PUBS
Named after a device which allowed three criminals to be hung at once, a sort of Daily Mail w*** fantasy (not that they do that sort of thing), the Three Legged Mare is one of four York Brewery pubs in the city.
Besides making great beer (Guzzler, mmm), the brewery designs great pubs.
This one is a converted shop near the cathedral. The best part is the high-walled garden with views of a church and houses around (and a three-legged mare for Daily Mail readers to foam over).
You can't get into the garden itself but there is a conservatory and some chairs outside and it's so secluded it feels like stepping back in time to 1806.
You can almost imagine some Jane Austen heroine opening the windows next door and asking Mr Hobhouse, her beau, for her bustle and how the reader would laugh because Jane Austen is so funny. Obviously.
Heading out of town from the Mare, there's the Minster Inn, a lovely multi-room backstreet boozer with....wooden panelling, hurrah!
York Brewery has another splendid conversion, Last Drop Inn, about five minutes in the other direction from the Mare. This is a former solicitors' office in the tourist centre of the city, so watch out for jugglers (and morris dancers). And there's the Terrier, a converted old shop.
Further on there's the Blue Bell, which is small and means you will be sitting cheek by jowl by narky old gets who moan if you dare move an inch towards their place while they're at the bar.
Heading out of town past the rail station is one of my favourite back street boozers The Swan, (coal fires, old-fashioned green padded seats, cosy and friendly) and nearby The Golden Ball (another multi-room gem).
13 THE LEGGERS, DEWSBURY
Dewsbury has the same honey-coloured stone buildings as Huddersfield, and is in the same council area, but seems like Huddersfield's poorer, down-at-heel cousin.
A couple of old mills have been converted into trendy flats but the town centre streets are quiet and some impressive looking buildings are neglected or boarded up.
Heading towards The Leggers, it gets bleaker - a grimy industrial estate. But suddenly you see the canal and boatyard, near the pub, and things start to look cheerful, especially on a nice summer's day.
The Leggers itself doesn't seem much from the outside - the toilets are downstairs and the pub is upstairs, but what an interior! It looks an old attic with a triangular roof and the beams kept in. It was in fact an old hay loft for canal horses.
Everard's Tiger is regular here as well as various guests. There's some tasty ham rolls and armchairs so comfy they threaten to swallow you up. Ideal for looking out of the window and watching the barges coming in and going out again.
Voted Heavy Woollen pub of the year 2009
Pub crawl? The West Riding Refreshment Rooms in the train station is a gem of a place.
14 THE VICTORIA, LEEDS
Another pub which has been through a battle to save its gorgeous interior. Huge wood and frosted glass screens, wooden panelling (again) and posh furniture (dining table type chairs).
Range of beers, tasty food and varied clientele from boasting barristers, shrieking teachers and hairy students. It can get sweaty on jazz night.
Pub crawl? The opposite end of town from The Grove and a chance to visit two rather trendy bars which serve beers from here and abroad - the North Bar, a long slim bar which is heaving at weekends, and The Reliance, bit more relaxed with vast sofas.
15 SHEAF VIEW, SHEFFIELD
This pub which was a bit of a grim dive until it was transformed in 2000.
The interior is bright and cheerful with the furniture looking as though it has escaped from a 1950s dining room. A conservatory and outdoor seating area has been added because it's so popular.
Vast range of guest beers.
Pub crawl? The White Lion is an unspoiled pub round the corner. In the city centre, there's the cosy Red Deer and Rutland and just outside the centre, the Fat Cat and Kelham Island.
16 BRITONS PROTECTION, MANCHESTER
This seems to be a small bar until you notice the serving hatch at the back and the door leading to two decent sized rooms.
Our old friend wooden panelling is in evidence again with comfy red velour chairs. The staff are decked out in white shirts and black ties and are very polite. Jennings and a beer named after Pete Postlethwaite are among the beers they serve.
At lunch , there are pies with names like Grunt and Gobble (pig and turkey, geddit?) and upstairs Frank Randle films are shown.
Opening hours? 11pm last orders. Pub crawl? Knotts and the tiled splendour of Peveril of the Peak beckon.
17 CROWN POSADA, NEWCASTLE
It's easy to miss this boozer, which is downhill from the train station near the quayside, Baltic Gallery and the Sage Arts Centre (spectacular glass slug from outside; looks like Salford's Lowry Centre from inside).
There's a sign jutting out from the Posada and then you notice the two stained glass windows on the outside. It's easy to miss because it's wide enough for about two people at the bar and three elsewhere, but it's beautiful inside with high, cream and brown ceilings and mirrors a-plenty.
Five guest beers are served including many local brews, there's a snug where sea captains used to frequent, friendly service, and best of all a record player with hits from the 1920s - tinkly piano tunes for Noel Coward-types to polish their monocles, smoke their cigarettes in holders and utter weary witticisms: "When one is tired of Gateshead, one is tired of life."
Pub crawl: Bridge Hotel, near the..er. Bridge and the Union Rooms, a great Wetherspoon's conversion.