The word ‘tour’ adds a certain sense of panache to an activity doesn’t it.
It evokes a sense of discovery, education, gravity.
I mean it depends on the context of course.
I’m buying tickets for the Little Mix (or insert band you’ve heard of but are old enough to have given birth to – albeit amidst scandal as you were doing your GCSES) Tour
does not suggest this.
I’m going on a pub crawl
I’m going on a walking pub tour
and you’re literally good to go.
So. Imagine my glee when I found a new justification for going out for a drink, when the lovely people at Altrincham Unlimited kindly invited me to join them on the inaugural said tour – part of the new campaign Explore Altrincham.
Hosted by celebrated and hugely engaging Manchester writer and tour guide extraordinaire (honestly he was ‘extraordinaire’) Jonathan Schofield, the event takes you on foot to four of the best drinking establishments in Altrincham, interspersing historical fact with witty and entertaining anecdotes.
Yes I laughed out loud at a story about buttermilk and a potato – and I rarely ‘laugh out loud’. I usually make a kind of expelling of air type gesture at best.
Starting off at the Orange Tree Inn, walkers/drinkers/’pupils’ can buy a drink and settle down to listen to tales from Jonathan of the area, the pub (and the tragic tale from 1880 of its previous incarnation and site) and local life back in the day (a handy phrase I bandy about to cover a multitude of dates and decades).
We were even treated to anecdotes (and sandwiches) from the lovely landlord, Damien, of ethereal happenings in the establishment.
For anyone concerned about the physical aspects of the tour, the four stops are not too far from each other, the first three really aren’t and the first two certainly aren’t.
For the next destination was next door neighbour, the Old Market Tavern.
Indeed, Damien informed us that at one time we wouldn’t even have needed to step outside to get to our next destination, as you could used the adjoining cellar to gain access. However given the haunting story of who currently hangs out down there, I was relieved to hear that the passage is now bricked off.
Here we learned of local tales of political skullduggery and underhand tactics to pull in the voters – astonishing! Thank goodness systems across Britain and indeed the world are now free of such practise.
Almost using the green cross code, a short hop across the road takes you the very floral Old Roebuck. Or Roebuck. I’m never sure but have you seen the delightful beer garden?
It was here that we learned of bizarre pub games and sports back in the day even odder than Beer Pong. What? It’s weird.
And all I’m saying that is that I’ve never seen an entire cow’s head consumed on Man v Food.
It is at this point that walkers/drinkers/’pupils’ are treated to a trivia test – musical interlude, if you will. In small teams, we were to ‘name that tune/artist/band’ – all with local links.
Top tip – make friends with somebody on the tour who is essentially a walking Shazam (hi Richard).
The final destination (and what an apt phrase given its name and origins – I’m smug right now) is and was the subterranean Belgian bar Mort Subite.
Here, the lovely owner Wyn gave us a potted history of the building (the rumours are true – it was the mortuary) and raison d’etre of the bar.
It was here that our memories and concentration skills were tested, as the quiz and indeed tour reached its climax and us ‘pupils’ had to demonstrate what we’d learnt.
Some of us demonstrated it better than others. Then again some of us had enjoyed their Sauvignon Blanc more than others (what, I don’t even like wine…👀).
And so endeth the story of a lovely group of local residents and Altrincham enthusiasts who one evening this week, embraced history and Beer and left leaving a little more
It is at this point I emphasise that I remember a lot more detail from the stories than I have shared – I simply don’t wish to spoil the tour for you. Ok?
Genuinely, I urge you to delay no more and head to Altrincham Unlimited – Explore Altrincham for details, dates and booking information for both this event and the general walking tours.
Occurring on the last Thursday and Saturday of each month, they’re already proving popular.
So head along and learn a little more about this market town we all think we know but definitely love.