But first, brunch at Betty’s.
I may not win much indie credibility for choosing historic Betty’s as the morning’s refuelling point, but I’ve been blethering on here for long enough without ever having visited the iconic old place, and here was an opportunity to break that duck.
There’s already a steady trade in both café and shop when we land just before 10am. There are tourists bemusedly eyeing up trays of Fat Rascals, locals ordering their usuals and a regal dowager explaining methodically, volubly and painfully to a saintly waitress precisely how she’d like her sandwich to be filled and sliced, at the same time ensuring that surrounding tables overhear and clock just how special she is.
Fortunately, booze is allowed from 10am, so under the dowager’s disapproving glare we swig a bottle of something cold and fizzy to take the edge off.
Eggs Royale (£10.15) are exemplary; the salmon cut thickly, the eggs prime for popping and the hollandaise luxurious. Coffee is oomphy. Service is on it. Touristy? Perhaps. Good scran? Certainly. Pissed before 11am? Life goals.
The Boar’s Head, a looker of a place, sits a couple of miles outside Harrogate in the quaint and compact hamlet of Ripley.
There is a church, there is a castle, and there is a regular bus service either back to Harrogate or on to Ripon and York. Within three minutes of arriving, Asbestos Tongue’s totted up the relocation figures.
The pub’s 24 rooms are divided between the boozer itself and a separate building over the road. I like this sort of comfortably neat but unshowy accommodation, although a drop of fresh milk wouldn’t go amiss. During the week, you can bag digs, dinner and breakfast for 200 quid, give or take.
Once you’ve had a squiz around Ripley Castle (Boar’s Head guests are entitled to mate’s rates for the guided tour) and had a bit of an amble about, the civilised thing to do in these sorts of places is to bed in for a beery sesh, and The Boar’s Head is a sound pub in which to do precisely that. Where some of these rural spots can feel a little too serious or self-conscious, the bar here is full of bustle, like how your local was before it got made into a Tesco Express.
A fella at the bar insists that I dip into his bowl of chipolatas. Civilised.
Food at The Boar’s Head is robust, and after a strenuous afternoon spent wandering around castles and sitting outside in the late summer sun, robust will see us right.
Pub staples include a wild mushroom rarebit – plenty of it for seven quid – and a chunk of deftly cooked calves liver that lands with good mashed spud, crisp onion rings and a deeply flavoured
There are sausages from Masham, too; the last one smuggled back to the room to enjoy as a kind of porky petit four before bed.
As you can see from my beige-tinted photos, this isn’t Insta-bothering food. Nor is it, unlike some boozers-with-rooms, trying too hard to push the culinary envelope.
Rather, the kitchen at The Boar’s Head is quietly going about its business of feeding slightly squiffy folk with a reliable canon of crowd-pleasing dishes. And it does its job well.