Sunday, 6 January 2013

2013 Pub Scoring System

The new year is here again and so I'm giving my pub scoring system it's annual over haul. Not many changes this year. I feel as though I'm really closing in on perfection now. The list is still divided into two. The first half is concerned with the bread-and-butter element that make a great pub. This score considers a number of factors, with each factor being weighted to take into account its importance. The score add up to 100 and give a percentage mark.
The second half of the pub score is the bonus score. This contains all the elements of a pub that make visiting it a pleasure. It is rated with stars. So an ideal pub would be 100%*****.
The result of the score can be seen on my map of pub scores 2013.

Bread and Butter Score
Ambiance 30 points
This is deliberately vague score that measures how much 'you enjoy being in the pub'. It's usual for a pub to score much lower than 20 on this scale, because if I don't want to be in the pub then I'm not going there in the first place.
Beer Quality 30 points
I've been forced to qualitate this after been accused giving higher scores to my favourite pubs. So here is how it works. You score 1 point for every hand pull beer at the bar. You then add a further 3 points for every beer that isn't Brains (Gold and Craft Brews don't count). Each beer is then scored out of 5 and added to the total. There's a ceiling of 30 points. It's very usual for top scores to be achieved by a pub in Wales, but very normal for one in England.
Cider quality 15 points
Again this has been made mathematical. Two points for every draft cider (Strongbow doesn't count). Each cider is then given a score out of 5 and this added to the total. Finally, each brand of bottled cider scores one point (Bulmers, Magners, and Koppenberg) and an individual score out of 3 for proper bottled ciders.
Bar Staff Niceness 10 points
Exterior 10 points
This takes into account the type of pub; you can't score a pub down for not having a thatched roof if it is in a city centre.
Clientele 5 points
TOTAL 100%

Bonus Score.
Bar Staff Attractiveness 20 points
Again this is not really that nice, and it wasn't my idea, but it does make doing the scoring that much more fun.
If there is only one person behind the bar they are score out of 20. If both sexes are represented then each is scored out of 10 and the scores summed. If there is more than one person of a sex behind the bar then only the more attractive is scored.
Toilet quality 20 points
Men's is out of 10 and likewise for the ladies. If I'm by myself I double the men's toilet score.
Beer Garden Quality 20 points
This takes into consideration the pubs location.
0-9 no stars, 10-19 one star, 20-29 two stars, 30-39 three stars, 40-49 four stars, 50-60 five stars.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Llantwit Major to Monknask - 7 miles

Distance: 7 miles
Pubs: 3 (or more)
Longest distance between pubs: 7 miles
Footwear: Walking boots (unless it's been very dry)
Public transport: train and bus (50mins from Cardiff).
Sundayable: Absolutely NOT.

Some of the minimum feedback I get about this blog has been criticism that my walks don't have enough pubs. Those of you who feel this way are not going to like this walk. This is basically a coastal walk bookended by a couple of pubs. However, it is a very nice walk along the coast and it visits an almost perfect country pub (and the current high scorer on my pub scoring system).
This walk is best done on a sunny day, when there is no wind and when the tide is low in the mid-afternoon.

Get the train from Cardiff to Llantwit Major. These are hourly and leave Cathays at 31mins past the hour. I recommend getting the 10:31 or 11:31. On the train buy a return to Bridgend and then sit back. The train takes 50 minutes.
Get off the train in Llantwit Major and leave the station. Walk across the car park using the two zebra crossings and then go down the steps into a second car park. Walk straight across the car park and through the gate marked "PoundField 1987". Turn right and resist the temptation to go into the toy shop. Walk towards the Co-op. This is a good place to buy a drink to have with your packed lunch. The staff here can be insanely rigorous about seeing ID so if you're a student you'll probably need your driving license with you.
Turn left at the co-op and walk past Greggs and down the steps. This is also the last cash machine you'll go past before the walk really gets started. Don't use the zebra crossing instead turn right following the sigh for St Illud's Church. Continue down the road past the King's Head and White Lion pubs. If you are not wanting to go for a drink in Llantwit Major before starting the coastal walk turn left when you see the brown road sign to the beach. Assuming you are going to the pub keep going until you come to the Old Swan Inn and opposite it The Old White Hart. Both pubs are worth a visit, but aren't scored on my 2012 scoring system. The consensus amongst my friends is that The Old Swan Inn is the better of two, but often there's better beer in The Hart.
After leaving the pub turn left retrace your steps to the turning for the beach. Turn right down Colhugh Street following the road signs pointing to the beach. Stay on this road for around half a mile passing at least one sign pointing to the beach. When the road ends at a small roundabout go straight on. The road will cross over a small stream and almost immediately there is a footpath leading off to the right. Go through the metal kissing gate and follow the foot path towards the beach. Around half way the the beach the footpath is replaced by tarmacked surface. Continue along the path keeping the stream to your right. When you reach the car park at what the road signs have rather generously called 'the beach' turn right and walk toward the cafe. Walk to the left of the cafe and then towards the public toilets. Take the paved path between the toilets and the metal fence. Continue up the steps onto the coastal path. From here on you are on the "Wales Cost Path" that is well signed with yellow arrows on a blue circle. I'm only going to give the briefest of directions. Walk along the coastal path. You'll know your going in the right direction if the sea is on your left. After around 1 mile you will approach St Donats ignore the path going down the beach and continue on the coastal path.
When you reach the hard standing outside St Donats go down and then back up the steeps on the slipway. The path then goes up some steps in to the woodland. There is a stone ledge by the base of the steps leading up from the beach and if your going to have a pack lunch then this is probably your best spot.
After lunch go up the steps turn to the left when the path forks in the woodland then follow the coastal path until you reach the lighthouse at Nash point. The path takes you through the grounds of the lighthouse and then to the car park at Nash point. If the wind is really blowing and your keen to escape the coast then walk up the road into Marcoss and then straight into The Horse Shoe. Assuming you want to keep on with the hike then walk past the cafe to the small and pointless gate marked with the message "no fires or BBQs please". At this point you have to make a decision if you are going to walk along the beach to Monknash (only if it's a low tide) or the top of the cliff. I'll deal with each in turn.
Along the Beach: after the gate turn left and follow the footpath down to the beach. Scramble over the wave cut platform and continue down the cost. It's about a mile to Monknash beach and there is a bit of climbing over rock pools. The going gets easier as you get to the end of the beach. Once you've rounded Monknash point you have to cross over the stream that crosses the beach. Opinion is divided about the best way to do this but I think your best to go down the beach towards the sea where the going is easier. To the left of the stream is the footpath to Monknash village. Use the small bridge and walk up the valley towards the village.
Along the coastal path: after the "no fires" gate turn right and follow the path down the hill, over the small bridge and then up the valley (or reentrant  as an orienteerer would call it). You'll know you've gone the right way if you see the familiar yellow arrow on a blue background "Wales Coastal Path" sign. Use the style over the stone wall and continue for a mile. The path descends very steeply to join the path going up a valley towards Monknash.
Walk up the path towards Monknash with the stream to your right. Monknash beach is quiet popular and it's normal for there to be quiet at lot of traffic on this path. The path takes you through woodland and past an old mill, eventually ending at the gate (with style) where the road begins.
At this point you could turn right and walk up the road towards the village but there is a shortcut across the fields. Turn left after the gate and then right over the style that is marked with a wooden way-marker. Cross the field keeping to the hedge on the left. At the end of the field cross over the style. Do not cross over the bridge. In the next field head for the far corner where there is a style that will let you back onto the road. However, you wont be able to see it until your reasonably close. Once over the style turn left and walk up the road. Within a quarter of a mile you will reach The Plough and Harrow.
The Plough and Harrow is one of the best pubs in Britain and certainly a contender for best pub in Wales. It is on the Guardian's list of the 10 best pubs in Britain. It also has the honer of being the highest scoring Welsh pub in the Drunken Rambling 2012 Pub scoring system, scoring 92%***. The Plough has a large and sunny Beer-garden and an ultra-cosy interior with open fires and wooden beams. There is a good range of beer and an excellent range of ciders. I've had mixed success with the food in The Plough so can't really bring myself to recommend it.
When you leave the pub turn left and walk the sort distance to the bus stop. From here you can either get the bus or turn right and walk a mile down the road to Marcross. Once in the village go to The Horse Shoe.
The Horse Shoe is a very under-rated pub probably because it is so close to The Plough and Harrow. There is a large beer garden and good beer range. It scores 83%****.
After leaving the pub turn left, the bus stop is right next door. The 145 Bus arrives at ten past the hour and will take you to Bridgend. Press the button when you see Wilkinson's and then walk up Court Road to the train station. There are around 6 trains an hour to Cardiff.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Pub Crawl in Bath

Perhaps one of the best things about living in Wales is that England is only a train ride away. Jump on a train at Cardiff Central and in just over an hour you can be in a City free from the tyranny of the Brain's Brewing Company. Anyone smart enough to read a blog does not need too many instructions on how to go on a pub crawl in Bath. We really are talking piss up in brewery here, but below are a few tips.Getting the Train to Bath
Your only public transport option is to get the train. Trains leave Cardiff Central at 9:30, 10:30 & 11:30. The train takes an hour and four minuets to get to Bath. The cheapest tickets is a group of 3 or 4 which will make a ticket cost around a tenner each, obviously you have to travel as a group. Allow at least ten minuets to buy the tickets at Central since the ticket office can be busy. The train normally leaves from platform 2 and gets in about ten minuets before so it's worth getting early if you want to grab your self a table.
Pubs in Bath
Okay, you don't need me to tell you the best pubs in Bath. There's the good beer guide for that. However her are some of my favorite pubs scored using the 2012 pub scoring system (see map). The scoring system is a little flawed here. It is designed for pubs in South Wales and is simply overwhelmed by the quality in Bath. As a result the scores are very high.
This tiny pub's score is somewhat let down by its limited range of beer and cider. However given that the bar is the size of an ironing board this is understandable.
The Raven 92%**
A great pub popular with rugby fans on match day.
The Old Green Tree 93%*
A very small pub with a great range of beer. Visiting in the gent's toilets is like taking a ride on a ghost train: scary but entertainingly so.
A great pub tucked away in a side street that does excellent food. The beefburgers got very good reviews when I visited.
There is an excellent range of beer and ciders in this gig based pub. A sunny drinking area out the back make this stand out from other Bath pubs as does the bar billiards and fuzz-ball tables.
A series of tiny wood paneled rooms make visiting the Star feel like a trip back in time.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Radyr to Taffs Well 7 miles 4 Pubs

Distance: 7 miles
Pubs: 4
Longest distance between pubs: 4 miles
Footwear: Walking boots (unless it's been very dry)
Public transport: train (15 mins from Cardiff).
Sundayable: Yes.

This is one of the stepper walks I'll cover on this blog, but it takes in three wonderful pubs (and one reasonable one). There's also some great views over Cardiff and the opportunity to visit an aquarium and a reptile house. This is also a Sundayable walk meaning that it can be done using public transport on a Sunday. As always I've created a map of the walk that you can download.

Take the train to Radyr station (presumably from Cardiff) remembering to buy a return ticket to Taffs Well. Trains are every 10 minuets on Saturdays and every 40 minuets on Sundays.
After leaving the train at Radyr Station walk up the steps of the footbridge and turn left towards the platform 1 (the platform closest to the river). After descending the steps down to platform 1 continue towards the small building at the end of the platform. From here you will gain access to a flight of stairs going down from the station. Turn left at the bottom of the stairs and use the footbridge to cross over the river. After crossing the Taff the path from the bridge turns left and you want to keep walking in this direction along the Taff Trail. Walk up stream keeping the river to your left. Stay on the Taff Trail for around half a mile passing the weir. When the path ends at a T-junction turn left and continue under the M4. Around 100 meters after the passing under the M4 turn left on to the footbridge over the Taff towards Gelynis Farm. Walk through the farm and use the level cross to pass over the railway. Gelynis Farm do seasonal pick our own and may be worth a stop depending on the time of year you're doing the walk. After 50 meters turn right down the small path. The turning is marked by a wooden bollard with a yellow arrow marked "more Capital Walks 7" (photo). When you reach the playing fields head for far corner, walking towards Castle Coch which you should be able to see in the distance. As you approach the far end of the fields you'll notice a skate park, you want to head to the left of this. Turn left down the road at the edge of the playing fields and you'll reach a small retail park. Here there is an aquarium (walk toward the sign with a clown fish on it), a pet shop with an impressive reptile house and a farm shop. Leave the retail park and turn left on the main road (Tynant road). You will be able to see the Tynant Inn on the other side of the road. This is the first stop (photo).
The Tynant Inn is what I would describe as a "classic Brains' gastro pub". If you're looking for a pint that isn't a variety of Brains then tough. If you're looking for home cooked food then tough. If you're looking for a pub with some personality and individualism then tough. This is a pub in the same way the McDonald's is a restaurant. Of course there is something reassuringly familiar about McDonald's and the same can be said for a Brains pub. It doesn't matter where you are, if you're in a Brains pub you know what you're going to get: a Big Mac. The Tynant scores 48%*** on the 2012 pub scoring system.
After leaving the pub turn right and head for the far end of the car park. Here you'll find a small but well signposted footpath between the pub car park and some allotment gardens. Head down this footpath that shortly comes to a T-junctions. Turn left and follow the footpath for around a quarter of a mile. When the path splits take the path over the pointless footbridge although both paths merge back together shortly. The path continues genitally uphill and passes a brick hut (photo) eventually turning sharply to the right. At this point there are two stiles very close together. You want to take the stile on the left (photo). Take a moment to make sure you get this right. The correct stile also has a footpath next to it going down a steep hill with steps cut into it. Go over the stile and follow the footpath downhill. If you have an OS map with you then ignore it, from here on the footpaths on the ground bare no resemblance to those on the map. At the bottom of the hill there's a signpost with yellow arrow (photo). Here you need to cross the narrow stream. This may be easier said than done if there has recently been a lot of rain. Once over the stream turn right and use the footpath going up the hill. At the top of the hill go through gap in the hedge into the next field (photo). Turn left and head toward the leftmost edge of the row of evergreen trees (photo). These trees mark the boundary of a house, once you reach them walk along the edge of the property so that the hedge is on your right. At the far end of the hedge there's a watering tough. Turn right and follow the hedge to a stile. Cross over this onto the road that leads to the house. Turn left and walk down the road away from the house. Keep on this road for around a quarter of a mile crossing over the two cattle grids and ignoring the footpath leading off to the right. When the road ends turn left and walk downhill. Almost immediately you'll come to The King's Arms (photo). This is the second pub stop on the walk.
The King's Arms was a Brains pub until February 2012 when it was taken over by Otley. This of course means that there is now some decent beers, with O1 permanently on offer and a second Otley on rotation. The pub has flagstones floors, oak beams and a wood fire. The large beer garden could do with some attention and is disappointingly shaded by some large trees on the opposite side of the road, but has potential. I visited the pub in February 2012 when the bar was being renovated and the whole place did have a 'work in progress' feel to it. For this reason it scores a rather low 79%***. Otley pubs do have a reputation for good food so here is probably the best place to eat.
Leave The King's Arms and turn right walking up Heol Y Pentry. Follow the road as it turns to the left and keep going up the hill (I'm afraid continue up the hill will be repeated several times for this section of the walk). Shortly after the Spar the road turns sharply to the left. Turn right following the sign to "Efail Isaf". Follow the road as it turns to the left and then continue up the hill ignoring the various turns offs. The road thins after you leave the village. Ignore the tuning to the left down Tyn Y Coed Road. For some reason the road here has an alarming number of man holes all fighting for the same position. After 1,000 yards the road splits into a Y-shape. Take the turning to the right. You'll know your on the correct road when you pass the entrance to Pinecroft Cattery. Continue up the hill crossing over or going around the cattle-grid. Shortly the road turns to right and contours along the edge of Garth hill. At this point there is a road turning off to the left that is going up Garth hill that is signposted with a footpath sign that is beside a right red road sign. I would recommend ignoring this turning and staying on the road. If however you want to walk to the top of the Garth, this is the turning you need to take. Continue along the road that is relatively flat for another mile. The road turns to the left and starts to descend into Gwaelog Y Garth. Eventually the road does an insanely sharp hairpin bend and and descends very steeply to join the main road in Gwaelod Y Garth. At this junction is the Gwaelog Y Garth Inn. This is the third stop.
The Gwaelog Y Garth Inn is regular in the good pub guide. It has a nice open fire and a good range of beers. It scores 82%***.
After leaving the pub turn right down Main Road. After 100 yards turn left down the path marked by the "public footpath" sign. Follow the path as it slaloms down the steep hill. At the bottom go through the small subway and use the footbridge to cross over the river Taff. Follow the footpath until you reach Cardiff Road in Taffs Well. Turn left and follow the road for 200 yards. Shortly after passing over the railway you will reach Fagins Ale and Chop House, this is the forth and final stop on the walk.
Fagins has and excellent range of beers and ciders. And while it is somewhat lacking in the country pub charm of the other pubs on this walk it always has a welcoming atmosphere. As you might guess by its name it also does rather good steak. If you are planning on eating here it's best to phone ahead as the restaurant is often used for functions on Saturday evening.
After leaving Fagins turn right and follow Cardiff Road back over the railway and into Taffs Well. After round 600 yards you'll spot the co-op some distance ahead of you. Turn left down the small alley immediately before the zebra crossing. Continue in the same direction as the alley becomes a road and then back to an alley again. Carefully use the level crossing to cross the railway and turn right down the wide road. When the road turns to left walk up the grassy bank into Taff Well train station car park. You are on the correct side of the track to get trains back to Cardiff.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Pub Scores 2012

Back in November I created a pub scoring system which I've used to score a number of pubs. Shortly after creating the system I realised it was flawed. Good pubs were getting low scores for not having a beer garden or outside toilets. Also, scoring the menu in every pub was a total pain. I decided it was time for a change.
So the menu score is gone. I've taken the elements of the original list and decided which are 'essentials' and which are luxaries. The score is now divided in two. The main score is based on the bread-and-butter elements that make a great pub. A second star rating has been added that represents the luxury elements of the pub. So a perfect pub would score 100% ***** (five stars).
Here's how the scores breaks down.

Main score
1. Beer 30 points
2. Cider 15 points
3. Ambiance 30 points
4. Exterior 10 points
5. Bar Staff Niceness 10 points
6. Clientèle 5 points

Star Rating 10 points = 1 Star
1. Toilet quality 10 points
2. Beer Garden 20 points
3. Bar Staff Attractiveness 20 points

Once again the Bar Staff Attractiveness is only there since it makes compiling the list that much more fun. The boys and girls both get 10 points each.
I've created a google map showing all the pubs I've visited and so scored in 2012. I'll keep it updated.

Machen to St Mellons 6 miles 3 pubs

Distance: 6 miles
Pubs: 3
Longest distance between pubs: 3 miles
Footwear: Walking boots (unless it's been dry)
Public transport: train and bus (1 hour from Cardiff).
Sundayable: Absolutely NOT. 

This is a variation on the Machen to Lisvane walk. It's a flat 6 miles walk that takes in three pubs: The Hollybush, The Cefn Mably Arms, and The Coach House. All of which are cracking pubs. Warning: The Cefn Mably Arms is closed from 3:30 to 6:00 so it makes sense to start the walk early. I now have a nice shinny phone with a GPS on it, so the gmap I link to in this post is accurate enough for others to follow on their phones. I edited out the bit where we got lost and walked in circles for 10 minuets.You can follow the instructions from my Machen to Lisvane Walk for the first section of this walk. I'm repeating them here with a few improvements.
Starting at Cardiff Queen street station buy a return ticket to Caerphilly. The best train to get is the one leaving at five past since this connects up well with the bus in Caerphilly. Once in Caerphilly go over the foot bridge and find bus stand 6. Wait here for the No 50 Newport Stagecoach bus (time table) that is due at twenty five past. You need to buy a single ticket to Machen. The journey takes around 15 mins. Get off at the bus stop just after the Spar, opposite the Fwrrwm Ishta restaurant.
Continue down the road for 100 yards and turn right down Tyn Y Waun road. Cross over the bridge and continue into the estate. Take the second left down Tyn Y Waun road at the end you come out on some playing fields. Walk to the far right of the fields and pass through the kissing gate. From here you can follow the "Rhymney River Circular" markers (see photo). Continue on the path until you come out at an unnamed hamlet. Here walk through the hamlet and south along the quiet country road towards Draethen. After 1 mile turn off to the right on the footpath immediately after the "slow" sign painted on the road (see photo). Once up the steps turn to the left and follow the path across the cleared woodland. The trees here have been felled rather recently and there is the potential for more forest clearance. Staying on the road and walking straight into the village is also an option. Follow the path that is marked by some red and white hazard tape when I did the walk in January 2012. Aim for the corner of the forest you can see to the left. You may have to climb around some fallen branches to reach the path. From here follow the path to a small alley that runs between two houses. You emerge opposite The Hollybush pub (see photo) which is the first break in this walk.
The Hollybush (65%**) serves Timothy Tailor Landord, has cheap but nice food and a big open fire. It is nice enough pub that is littered with signs warning any patrons that the bar staff are gits. There's a particularly heartwarming sign in the girls toilets warning you that children are likely to hurt themselves in the pub, and that one cares if they do.
When you leave the Hollybush turn right and walk through the village on the main road. Follow the footpath on the right immediately after crossing over the stone bridge. Follow the path along the edge of the meandering river until you reach an iron gate. Resist the urge to go through the gate and turn left following the hedge. Turn right when when you reach a farm track. Walk down the track towards the Farm house and turn right onto a second track. Continue down this track until it takes a sharp turn to the right. Here leave the track and go straight on down the footpath at the edge of the field. Go though the gate at the end of the field and follow the well signed footpath for half a mile until you appear on a road. Turn right and walk up the hill ignore the turning to the right and continue through the village. Continue on the road for 1 mile until you reach the village of Michaelston-y-Fedw. You'll soon reach the
The Cefn Mably Arms which is on the left. This is the second stop. Remember The Cefn Mably Arms (60%**) is closed from 3:30 to 6:00 so you may be unlucky if you spent too long in The Hollybush. This is a reasonable pub with a couple of guest beers and a nice log fire. The jokes in the toilets may not be to everyones taste.
After leaving the pub turn right and continue on the road for quarter of a mile. After you cross over the M4 ignore the turning on the left and continue on Druidstone Rd for a further mile. When the road ends at a T-junction turn left down Tyr Winch Rd. After a quarter of a mile you'll reach The Coach House pub (72%**). This lovely pub is the only reason to visit St Mellons. There's a log fire and normally a couple of descent beers.
When you're done in the use the bus stop on the opposite side of the road to get the number 30 bus back into Cardiff.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Pub Scoring System 2011

In my last post I mentioned several pubs and gave each of them a score out of 100. This came about after my friends and I listed all the qualities that we thought were important to make a good pub in a Moon Under Water style. We then look these topics and weighted each of them in relation as to how important we thought they were and made sure that the final score added up to 100%. The scoring system we came up with was...
1. Beer 20 points
2. Cider 10 points
3. Ambiance 20 points
4. Exterior 5 points
5. Bar Staff Attractiveness 5 points. Not my idea
6. Bar Staff Niceness 10 points
7. Menu 10 points
8. Toilet quality 5 points
9. Beer Garden 10 points
10. Clientèle 5 points

We were deliberately vague about what was required to get perfect scores. A note about "Bar Staff Attractiveness". This was not my idea and it's not something I really think you should score a pub on. However, it does make doing the scoring far more fun.
For the rest of 2011 I scored all the pubs I visited using this system. The results are shown below from best to worse.

1. The Lansdown (Bristol) 88%
2. The Horse Shoe (The Vale) 86%
3. The Plough & Harrow (The Vale) 82.5%
4. Cornobia (Bristol) 71%
5. The Angle (Abergavenny) 66%
6. Victoria (Bristol) 65%
7. The Bank (Bristol) 64%
8. Hen & Chickens (Abergabenny) 59%
9. The Station (Abergavenny) 59%
10. The Pelican In Her Piety (The Vale) 58%
11. Vittoria (Bristol) 54%
12. The Coach & Horses (Abergavenny) 50%
13. The King's Head (Abergavenny) 48%
14. The Star Inn (The Vale) 46%
15. The Old White Heart (The Vale) 45.5%
16. The Lamb & Flag (The Vale) 42%