STORM Kathleen proved a treacherous travelling companion at the weekend. From inside the car it benignly bathed the beaches of the east coast in sun beneath azure blue skies, but whenever we dared venture outside it turned malevolent, trying to rip the car door from its hinges with its 50mph winds and then, if we made it onto the wide open no man’s land of the sands, firing horizontal raindrops like bullets at us.

From Filey up to Robin Hood’s Bay it blew us off the beaches, so we went inland, seeking shelter in the deep dale of the River Esk, where every turn presented the car with another 33 per cent drop to negotiate.


The Northern Echo: The Board Inn, LealholmLooking down on the Board Inn in Lealholm

One such drop took us down the steep side of Crunkly Gill into the small village of Lealholm, where the Esk has been crossed for centuries. Here, honey-coloured stone houses dribble down the side of the dale and cluster around the bridge, beside which is The Board Inn.

A tearoom on the other side of the river also beckoned to us, but I decided on trying the Board solely because I have an interesting piece of trivia about how it probably came by its name.

The Northern Echo: The Board Inn, Lealholm

It was a good choice, because the bar, made of large carved blocks of that distinctive local stone, was neatly decorated with pinks and light greens, and an open woodburner provided welcome warmth and a slightly smoky atmosphere.

Gloriously incongruous, there was a television on a 1960s music channel so, as we arrived, we were treated to a lavishly suited Jimi Hendrix playing his guitar outrageously between his legs while singing about a Purple Haze.

At Sunday lunchtime there was one other group, of eight, dining, and the large restaurant was shut off, waiting for summer when Lealholm is very much a honeypot. Three people briefly braved the beer garden which, when the sun was out, was an idyllic spot on the edge of the river.

The current proprietors have only been in the Board since September, and their menu offers a wide range of pub classics to appeal to everybody.

But, disappointingly for one of our party, no Sunday dinner.

There were baguettes for £6, and a selection of 'nibbles' – pigs in blankets, mozzarella sticks, chicken goujons – also for £6 which double as snacks or starters.

The Northern Echo: Chicken tikka masala

We chose from the mains, which are all £16. There were four curries, ranging from a chicken tikka masala (above) to a beef madras, a couple of Oriental-looking dishes with sweet and sour or black bean sauce, and some traditional English fare: scampi, ham and eggs, and a couple of pies.

For vegetarians, there were three choices: vegetable curry or lasagne or a sweet potato, spinach and goats cheese pie.

After we had placed our order there was time for me to regale my family with my fascinating piece of trivia.

In 1830, in a bid to divert people from drinking hard spirits like gin, the Duke of Wellington’s government passed the Beerhouse Act which allowed any ratepayer to buy a licence for two guineas enabling them to brew or sell beer in their front rooms. All they needed was to display a board outside their premises with the name of the licensee on it.

This was extremely popular. In ten years, more than 45,000 'board inns' opened across the country. Some took the name of the Prime Minister or King William IV, one of whose first duties on coming to the throne was to give the Act Royal Assent, but many remained as the local board inn.

People were quickly becoming bored by my not-very-bawdy stories about boards so thankfully our food arrived, all tidily packaged in different pots and bowls which must have quadrupled the washing up.

The Northern Echo: Whitby scampi and chips

As, in my mind, we were still at the coast, I’d chosen the Whitby scampi (above), which came in a metal bowl with a mini-saucepan of peas, a pot of tartare sauce and a bowl of 'double cooked chips'. The scampi were great – pinky, fleshy and juicy in a well cooked batter.

Theo, our son, had chosen the chicken tikka masala, which was a little different from the bright red, super-sweet gloop that is his favourite takeaway. This was more subtle with the green peppers given room to breath among the gentle curry sauce.

The Northern Echo: Steak and ale pieSteak and ale pie

Two of the party had chosen the steak and ale pie, which seemed to be homemade, full of meat and served with a great meaty gravy, while grandma celebrated her birthday with an enormous plate of home cooked ham, two free range fried eggs – nicely orange, not insipidly yellow – and plenty of chips.

The Northern Echo: Ham, egg and chipsHam, egg and chips

Everyone gave the chips rave reviews.

There were desserts at £7 each – jam roly poly, apple crumble, chocolate sponge and the ubiquitous sticky toffee pudding – but I’d spotted an ice cream shop just down the road and others in the party were itching to visit the Poets Corner plant nursery.

The Board is a classic country pub, in a lovely setting, serving honest fare with wide appeal, and our meal left us enough time with the sun now shining to try the stepping stones, enjoy an ice cream and look at the plants before Kathleen blew another vicious April shower at us and drove us homeward.

The Northern Echo: The view from the window of the bar towards the bridge at the Board Inn, LealholmThe view from the window of the bar towards the bridge at the Board Inn, Lealholm


The Board Inn, Village Green, Lealholm, YO21 2AQ
Tel: 01947 897279

Ratings (out of ten): Surroundings: 9. Food quality: 7. Service: 8. Value for money: 8.