Wednesday 16 September 2015

On the Rail Ale Trail

One of the great things about this blog is that I get to visit random corners of Britain that wouldn't normally make it to my radar. There's no reason I shouldn't visit those random corners – they all turn out to be stunning – but were I not led by an obsessive quest I'd probably be more likely to visit the major tourist destinations than willingly be sent to Coventry.

Fortunately for me, I like randomness and the unexpected gems you find when you take a different path. And that enjoyment's not limited to bookshops.

I'm a card-carrying CAMRA member and a fan of real ale, real ale pubs and real ale drinkers. So when a friend invited me to join a handful of strangers for a privately-organised Rail Ale Trail around Yorkshire I jumped at the chance. Three days, 18 people, 30+ pubs and a drink in every stop isn't for the fainthearted, but it's a brilliant way to see some gorgeously unassuming villages, meet new people (including one book editor) and try out some delicious local ales.

Which is how I found myself half a pint* down in Castlegate Books, Knaresborough, one sunny Saturday afternoon. The half – accompanied by a fish finger sandwich at The Mitre Inn – had been just the fuel required for the uphill walk to the bookshop, but the bookshop (and town) is definitely worth the effort.

Found to one corner of the main square, Castlegate Books looks to be the perfect size for its community, with space for fiction, children's and all flavours of non-fiction while also catering for tourists. There are also Buy One Get One Free bookcases and a selection of other money-saving options scattered around the shop – offers I was only able to resist because I knew how far I'd have to carry my purchases later.

For this visit I was accompanied by the above-mentioned book editor and another reading beer-drinker, both of whom seemed less concerned by the weight of their backpacks when it eventually came to buying. The recommendations table inspired our conversation – leading us to compare favourite reads and classics and eventually prompting me to buy Agatha Christie's The Body in the Library – while the bookshop's relaxed, friendly atmosphere easily distracted us from the pubs that had brought us to the town.

Castlegate Books may have been an unplanned pitstop, but it was a lovely added extra to my Rail Ale Trail experience and ticked all the boxes for a bookshop on holiday. Which is something I raised a glass to at my next destination, Blind Jacks...

Castlegate Books
13 Market Place, Knaresborough, North Yorkshire, HG5 8AL
Tel: 01423 862222

*Trust me, halves are the only way to go when you're visiting *that* many pubs.

PS. Knaresborough is definitely a random place worth visiting even if (for some strange reason) you're not a fan of books or beer. As evidence I give you this:

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