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Rail Ale Trail - Sobriety Fail

Jonathan Schofield travels with some Confidential Heroes into the hills on the promise of beer

Published on August 22nd 2011.

Rail Ale Trail - Sobriety Fail

'THE RAIL Ale Trail up the East Lancs Railway is one of the best ways to learn of the history of Bury and Ramsbottom, and enjoy the views of the passing West Pennines from lovingly restored trains.'

Yep, of course.

Just as importantly it's also one of the jolliest ways of getting inebriated – as I found out with 18 Manchester Confidential Heroes one recent Friday.

Life was good. We were ale and hearty. Issues were simple.

There’s beer everywhere in these hills.

This was the timetable.

At 11.30am we met our witty, amusing, knowledgeable and brilliantly trained Green Badge Guide Suzanne Hindle at the Trackside pub at Bolton Street Station in Bury. We drank beer. Then she took us on a brief tour of Bury where we didn’t drink beer, before we got on a train where we did drink beer until we reached Ramsbottom.

At that point we had another brief walk (guided tour incorporated) to the marvellous Irwell Works Brewery where we drank beer. After that it was up to the Chocolate Cafe where we sampled  choccy beer before moving on to the Major pub where we drank beer – and were given chip butties.

On the way back to the station and the 4.20pm train, Suzanne had a fabulous and innovative idea. She suggested we find another pub and drink some beer. We did.

The Confidential group made time fly with good conversation, ready smiles and after about 3pm, total gibberish. The group was of all ages, backgrounds and proclivities, including one gent who showed real promise with a video camera.

Still, this was an ale trail so I couldn’t help slipping into cliché.

“So what are you here for, young woman?” I asked twenty-something Katrina Urwin of Manchester Fashion Network. “Are you sure this is your sort of thing? I see no beard, I see no pot belly, nor any humorous t-shirt advertising 'Old Goat's IPA' or some such. ”

“There are vintage trains and real ale, what’s not to like?” Katrina replied so sensibly tears sprang to my eyes. "Those two are like meat and drink to me."

Meanwhile Victoria Galvis won the award for oddest story of the day.

Vicky is from Cali in Columbia (via a husband in Hyde) and had brought along her mother-in-law.  She told a strange tale of a festival in her home town where ladies who’ve had breast enhancements ride horses through the city streets with white shirts on while being sprayed by men with water pistols. No idea how this conversation cropped up or why she told it but it was an entertaining if unnerving story. I'm just hoping I didn't dream the thing.


Irwell And Car Parks 363 

In Ramsbottom we met Chris Johnson in the street, proprietor of one of Confidential’s favourite restaurants Ramsons, who broke some good news - click here. Sweet man. 

With the tour formally finished on our return to Bury station many of the party decided they were so enjoying the day they'd continue in the Trackside pub.

And then in the Met bar. 

At some point in the evening there may have been some food eaten.

Life was good. 

We were ale and hearty. 

Issues were simple.

There are a couple of ways to enjoy this excursion. You can pick up a Rail Ale Trail leaflet and self guide yourself.

Or you can take a guided rail ale tour on various routes such as the one Confidential Heroes enjoyed.

Routes include: 2 September Two Brewery Tour (Irwell Works and Phoenix); 24th September Ramsbottom; 25 SeptemberSummers; 29 October Pale Ale Halloween.

For more information and prices contact 0161 764 7790. our guide Suzanne Hindle can be reached on suzannehindle@hotmail.co.uk


Irwell And Car Parks 320Platform 9.75 Hogwarts-Ramsbottom Express

Irwell And Car Parks 319Abbey Rail re-enacted

Irwell And Car Parks 322Summerseat station with view of hills

Irwell And Car Parks 323Guide Suzanne Hindle does her impersonation of a steam train

Irwell And Car Parks 293Bury's Bolton Street Station

Irwell And Car Parks 297

Irwell And Car Parks 298

Irwell And Car Parks 303


Irwell And Car Parks 299Trackside pub

Irwell And Car Parks 300Anorakside pub

Irwell And Car Parks 301Guide puts best foot forward

Irwell And Car Parks 307

Irwell And Car Parks 308Bury has a cultural quarter?

Irwell And Car Parks 309Bury Castle attacked very slowly by Heroes

Irwell And Car Parks 313 

Irwell And Car Parks 333Victoria tells odd story of Columbian women in white shirts 


Irwell And Car Parks 332Micro-brewery texting in Ramsbottom's Irwell Works Brewery

Irwell And Car Parks 334Irwell And Car Parks 336

Ancient spirit of Ramsbottom welcomes group

Irwell And Car Parks 338The house of the Ancient Spirit of Ramsbottom

Irwell And Car Parks 345Chocolate beer at the Chocolate Cafe in Ramsbottom

Victoria tells odd story of Columbian women in white shirts

Irwell And Car Parks 356


Irwell And Car Parks 365

Irwell And Car Parks 368

Irwell And Car Parks 36927 pints later and going back on the train

Irwell And Car Parks 370

Irwell And Car Parks 372Time for a quick last ten pints everyone thinks and dashes into the Trackside pub again

Irwell And Car Parks 385Manchester Confidential Hero goes mad and climbs the wall

Irwell And Car Parks 390Hero turns into dog through too much drink and enjoys a tickle

Irwell And Car Parks 397Picture of food found on camera proving that some sustenance was taken in the evening


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6 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Maggie MilnerAugust 23rd 2011.

really sorry we missed this but looks you had a good time Andrea!! x

DiscoutureAugust 23rd 2011.

Erm, which hills exactly are you talking about Jonathan... :-/

RevaulxAugust 30th 2011.

Couldn't make this alas; when's the next one?

hkSeptember 20th 2011.

Brilliant - good to see you made it to a couple of Rammie's finest boozers (Major and Irwell Works) instead of following those in the Ale Trail Leaflet. Railway... good beer... my arse

knowallOctober 12th 2011.

Surely any real, real ale trail would start in Stalybridge buffet bar,en route to Greenfield, Marsden, Huddersfield a,Dewsbury and Batley !!!

Jane WhithamOctober 25th 2011.

Yup, everyone knows the Real Real Ale Trail starts at Stalybridge Buffet Bar...and we don't drink our real ale from tea cups!

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