The Sandpiper Inn, Leyburn, North Yorkshire

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Normally there’s only one choice for eating at the eastern end of Wensleydale – the Blue Lion at East Witton – and that’s where we were for lunch on the Friday before Christmas. East Witton is a beautiful village with houses either side of the green. The village is quiet as the main road just skirts the edge and the houses face each other with a wide green between. Houses rarely come on the market and are snapped up quickly, such is its popularity, helped in no small part by the excellent pub.

We’ve now discovered an alternative in nearby Leyburn, the market town which sits at the foot of the dale. The Sandpiper is a delightful pub, which welcomed six adults and three children [3, 15 months and 9 months] for a very tasty pub lunch during the busy period between Christmas and New Year. High chair? no problem – it arrived before we had time to ask; extra plate and spoon? no problem. In fact, nothing was too much trouble and they laid a spacious place in the restaurant [kept the debris out of the main pub!] and ensured the children’s food arrived promptly. The pulled pork sandwich was a triumph, and there was a good selection of wines and beers. The Yorkshire Brewing Company’s Jingle Pot was full of hops and surprisingly light yellow in colour – somehow we’re expected a dark, rich fruity beer – perhaps with a Christmas Pudding consistency. Great though, light and refreshing at 4.1% ABV. All in all a proper pub with excellent food. We’ll be back to try the evening menu in that dark and barren January period.

Pub The Sandpiper Leyburn

We travelled not by car, but by the Wensleydale Railway. Formed twenty five years ago to revive the line from Northallerton, on the main Edinburgh to London line, up through Wensleydale, and run by a growing and enthusiastic volunteer force supported by donations, membership and good grants from the local council. The line runs from Leeming Bar up to Redmire, via Bedale and Leyburn with varying frequency depending of the time of year. A new station has now opened at Northallerton, restoring the link with the east coast main line and there are plans to extend to Aysgarth, and then right through to join the famous Settle-Carlisle line – but that’s probably another twenty five years away and heavily dependent on further grants. They run steam and diesel trains and include some splendid “Santa Specials” with mince pies, mulled wine and generous presents for the children from Santa and his helpers. A good way to get right up Wensleydale, perhaps taking bikes. Sounds like a plan for the summer…

The bar at the Sandpiper

The bar at the Sandpiper

The Wensleydale Railway Santa Special...

The Wensleydale Railway Santa Special…

For those who don't like sprouts, nail them to your front door...

For those who don’t like sprouts, nail them to your front door…

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