A Week In Olton: Part 2

You’ve made it past the halfway mark and I think I should mention another possible that I haven’t yet completed…the rather wonderful No. 11 Ale Trail pays homage to the 26 mile circular bus route that takes in Acocks Green amongst others and has an abundance of boozers en route.

No 11 Ale Trail

This is planned for a pal and me in the summer, so this could easily take up a further couple of days if you either walked or caught the bus/train to Acocks Green and made this your starting point.

Thursday

Knowle/Dorridge

However, I’d suggest Thursday is a good day to head towards the other side of Solihull and Olton Station has a direct train to Dorridge.

There is of course The Forest Hotel the minute you step off the train but I reckon there are better options and prepare yourself for a decent trek from Dorridge Station to Knowle High Street.

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In fact, when you get there you can keep going till you reach the Grand Union canal towpath at Knowle Locks.

A short stroll will take you to a cracking canalside boozer known as The Black Boy.

This is a well-established old school type canalside pub, which does major on food, but it isn’t gastro and keeps top notch beer as well.

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Head back towards the High Street and your next port of call is The Red Lion.  

The fourth consecutive Ember Inn might have some beer snobs baulking but in the West Midlands these are a different animal and this is arguably the most ‘local’ of all the Knowle pubs.

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Lively and raucous with a definite drinking area to the right, and eating to the left, this has long been the place to go to on a Friday night in the village.

You can of course tie it in with some food but The Bilash is also on the High Street and this is a renowned Indian restaurant so this might tickle your taste buds or there are plenty of delis as well.

The Vaults is Knowle’s longstanding GBG entry, or was for many years, when it was the only kid on the block.

It is pubby though and probably sells as much Carling/Carlsberg as it does ale and is always good fun tucked away next to Loch Fyne Restaurant.

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The Ale Rooms Knowle has been a great addition to the High Street and on my last visit here with Mrs BB we ended up chatting to a local character who insisted on buying our drinks…

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…I can’t guarantee he’ll always be here though!

It’s time for another decent walk now as you head back toward Dorridge although the walk is broken up by a stop off at Knowle & Dorridge CC en route.

This cricket club has won the local CAMRA club award for the past three years and is a cracker.

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I can’t imagine there will be any cricket on a Thursday evening but you are free to go in and drink and there is always a top selection of beer, live sports on the box and a pool table to boot.

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It’s as bustling as any pub and fills the gap between Knowle and Dorridge, (Bentley Heath if you want to be pedantic), and attracts a good customer base.

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From there, your final boozer of the day is The Railway Inn, which is past the station in Dorridge.

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It’s not too far past it mind and 500 yards from Dorridge CC as a signpost and an absolute classic boozer.

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Beer garden, lounge and bar areas, bench seating and food, it has been in the same family for many years and the TLC shows when you walk in.

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I’d spend a fair bit of time in here before heading back to the station and catching the last train back to Olton.

Friday

Balsall Common/Hampton In Arden/Meriden/Catherine De Barnes/Barston

This will be a day of navigating some of the outliers in Solihull and you have a number of ways of doing this.

Leisurely breakfast and jump on a train or the 37 into Solihull and you’ve got a choice of two buses from the station.

You can take either the 82/87/88 and all roads will lead to Balsall Common and, ultimately, a train station.

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If on the 82 then it is probably worth stopping at The Boat Inn in Catherine De Barnes.

It’s not an award winning boozer but the bus stops right outside and if you time it right you could be there for opening!

Next stop is The White Lion, which is an award winning boozer in the subsequent village of Hampton In Arden.

My last visit saw a vicar necking beer in one room whilst it was an ‘all things to all people’ kind of local and an absolute corker of a pub.

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So far so good and staying on the bus to the centre of England will lead you to The Queens Head in Meriden…

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…which is tucked away from the Main Road but a hit with walkers and locals alike.

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The locals pub in Meriden and selling Bass as a bonus!

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From here, you will need either to walk (3 miles – about 45 minutes) or get a taxi into Balsall Common.

There is a selection of around four boozers in this ever growing village but I would plump for the two nearest to Berkswell Station (which is in Balsall Common…)

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The Railway Inn is top notch and had the added bonus of selling Keg Brew XI on my visit although cask is also available!

About 100 yards up the hill is The Brickmakers Arms.

This has undergone a few changes in ownership but is still a good two roomer, selling good beer and is well worth a visit.

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Depending on your mood (and the time) there are two options left to you…

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The Bulls Head in Barston is so good that you must visit but it’s not on any bus or train route.

A walk there and back is a six mile round trip so I reckon it is time for a taxi again.

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It is an absolute gem of a pub and well worth the effort.

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The long serving landlord and landlady have finally retired last summer but they have been in the GBG oodles of times and it’s easy to see why.

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Once back at Berkswell Station you can get a train to Hampton In Arden and it flies there before jumping back on the 82 to Solihull and then on the rattler back to Olton.

Yes, it’s a fiddly kind of day but well worth it for the quality of the pubs.

Saturday

Birmingham

I used to love getting on the train from Olton into Brum in the eighties when it was a lot less cosmopolitan than it is now and can remember the stop offs to this day.

Acocks Green/Tyesley/Small Heath/Bordesley and then on to Moor Street and it is still the same nowadays.

A Saturday in Birmingham is perfect pub going and an absolute doddle to reach from Olton as it is roughly 12 minutes by train and won’t cost you more than a fiver if you book in advance.

When in central Brum there are plenty of pubs I still haven’t blogged about, that are well worth a visit but here are nine to keep you going on with…

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Post Office Vaults has made it into all my all-time Top 20 boozers and is a perfect starting point as you walk from Moor Street towards New Street.

Tilt is possibly the last man standing in the City Arcade but combining pinball machines and craft beer has proven to be a successful recipe.

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Compare that with the Great Western Arcade, which is still successful and has the added bonus of The Good Intent.

Craddocks Brewery have created Britain’s first not for profit pub and it works perfectly in an arcade you couldn’t have envisaged a boozer five years ago.

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The Wellington is well known by all ale buffs in Brum but I’d head next door to Pint Shop Brum for a change of scene…

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…and a terrific pub in one of those glorious Birmingham buildings that seem made for pubs!

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Head off towards Snow Hill Station and you will find The Old Royal,

Brum Old Royal 16.12.17 (9)

which is unlikely to host royalty any more but is a solid town centre boozer selling good priced beer and shows live sport.

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The Old Contemptibles is even more impressive to look at and one of the cracking Nicholsons (M&B) boozers in central Brum

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but this is the pick of the bunch for atmosphere.

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Whilst in Brum it’s also worth checking out Indian Brewery Snowhill under the railway arches

for a bit of food and drink if you haven’t already eaten…

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The Craven Arms is a walk over towards The Mailbox side of town

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but it’s a terrific pub and one every punter should visit on their tour of Olton

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before finishing off in The Square Peg.

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This spoons contains every element of Brum life and what seems to be one of the longest bars in Britain.

Brum Square Peg (2)

It’s in one of the last unloved parts of Brum – Dale End – and is absolute carnage, in the nicest possible sense.

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A stroll back to Moor Street, in time for the last train back to Olton, means you will be tucked up just after midnight ready for one final Sunday push.

Sunday

Digbeth/Jewellery Quarter

To all intents and purposes, you are heading off to Brum again but it is so close, so accessible and so cheap to get why wouldn’t you?

And the fact that Birmingham is best covered leisurely over a couple of days means you have plenty of time to visit other areas of England’s Second City.

I’m going to say exploring Digbeth is as good a starting point as any and why not head straight for The Bull Ring Tavern at midday after catching the train from Olton to Moor Street again.

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There’s not a lot of cask on show but it stands proudly and defiant as Selfridges and the gleaming new Bull Ring sprouts up around it.

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Big screen sport, bouncers at midday on a matchday and a lively atmosphere in one of the original market traders pub when Birmingham had a big thriving market.

Staying on the ‘no cask’ scene then another Sunday afternoon classic is The Big Bulls Head on the corner of Milk Street in Digbeth.

A lively no nonsense local that sells pub grub as opposed to food it is distinctive and a survivor and a pub to be cherished amongst Digbeth’s gentrification.

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Talking of which, there are drinks aplenty to be head near The Custard Factory and Dig Brew Co is a cracker but I’m not sure it opens on Sunday’s….

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However, The Ruin nearby certainly does

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and they have made a great job of rescuing a derelict pub and making it a place that is visited by local businesses and the ever growing local population.

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Not forgetting of course, Brum’s oldest pub The Old Crown,

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which is at the end of Digbeth High Street as you head towards the Mecca of Midlands football!

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Heading out towards Millennium Point and the proposed new Curzon Street station in Digbeth is The Woodman.

A gorgeous Lister Lea terracotta building it is a fantastic pub in all sense of the word with tradition oozing out of this lovingly restored pub.

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Of course, I’ve not blogged about The Spotted Dog, The Anchor, The Lamp Tavern and all of these are Digbeth institutions and well worth a visit.

I’d either walk (to clear my head) or jump on the metro and head towards the Jewellery Quarter end of Brum and you just cannot miss The Lord Clifden.

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Another classic Brummie pub that is in my all time Top 20 boozers this has something for everyone including a beer garden, table tennis and slushy cider!

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A bit of a walk takes you out towards another classic JQ pub in The Black Eagle.

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This is tucked away from the gentrified development and part of the old industrial area of Birmingham and is a gem.

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My last visit there saw plenty of gritty humour and I reckon this is the norm allied to good beer.

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There are many more options of course but I am going to plump for stopping off at The Wolf for a bit of craft murk on Constitution Hill.

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These were involved in a long legal battle with BrewDog over their bar name and eventually settled on changing it from The Lone Wolf but is hasn’t done them any harm whatsoever.

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So, it’s been quite a week and as you jump on at Moor Street back to Olton (or on the 37 bus) then back for your final snooze.

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43 pubs in seven days and plenty of miles clocked up walking as you discover the Olton Tourist board and all it has to offer!

10 thoughts on “A Week In Olton: Part 2

  1. What a work of art. Love the Friday route. (Pull the taxis. RM says we aren’t allowed to ride in them. Not sure what the punishment is though for doing so.) Some of the Birmingham pubs look really spectacular too. What jumps out though is the mix of places. You really get the sense that a lot of these are not pubs that will shut down. They seem really well used. Interesting the number of Ember Inns as well. Not used to seeing them in many positive posts. Need to read and reread this post!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’d walk it but I like walking! Meriden to Balsall Common is a doddle really. Barston a bit further as a round trip but some fantastic Warwickshire countryside en route and the pub is a cracker.
      Brum pubs are good and ever evolving with plenty more available! I like Knowle and Dorridge for a drink too as a good atmosphere….

      Like

  2. The Forest and the Railway were both regular Guide entries at one time. Can I suggest you offer guided walking tours of the area, with a particular focus on Dorridge and Catherine de Barnes. People would come from far and wide to benefit from your knowledge (though suspect your fitness levels will pit them to the test). PS Charge a premium for Coalville.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Count me in! Pubs here don’t open outdoors till Monday (more sensible day to start) but there are very few with gardens close by so won’t be getting anywhere. Meantime get working on the full colour brochure and maps for this enterprise!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. The impressive itinerary continues with a real mixture of the great, good and the Bull Ring Tavern! Hope all these places survive the Covid situation. Less flat roof numbers during the second half of the week but Barston and Berkswell are probably too refined for that kind of architecture. Doing Digbeth and the Jewellery Quarter on the same day might be a push given the amount of choice, I always liked to pop into the Irish Centre for a Guinness but alas it’s closed now. Cheers, Paul

    Liked by 1 person

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