A quiet pint of beer in the Aidensfield Arms? No thank you.
Readers of a certain age will know well the television series “Heartbeat” – ideal ironing fodder for a Sunday evening and now relegated to daytime TV.
The series, set in the fictional village of Aidensfield in the North Yorkshire moors, centres around a community police station and is populated by stereotypes who, each episode, conspire to deliver some moralistic message dressed up in gentle humour. It’s not demanding, it’s not intellectual – it’s just gentle family viewing for those with little else to do.
So, picture the scene after a family day out in the North York moors – a visit to Pickering (and the remarkable church of St Peter & St Paul), and a day at Robin’s Hood Bay followed by 2 hours fossil hunting on the beach. Taking the slow road back to York in lowering light, the family takes the road to Goathland (the setting for Aidesnfield) to be decanted outside the Aidensfield Arms, just opposite the fictional “Scripps Garage”. A fun pint is promised – jokey texts to friends and photographs outside the door. Except…
The first welcome to this family pub is a sign saying “children not allowed” in the main bar. That’s right, the very bar used as the set for the pub in the family series. OK, so no fun there then. Instead, families are shunted to a side “family room”, which is utterly bereft of character save for a curious collection of photographs of members of the cast from the first series of the programme…
Next, two glasses of Coca Cola for the Children and beer for the adults. The Cola glasses, carrying the Coca Cola logo, are larger than half pint but not a full pint in size. Mein Host, the bar man, unlike any other in Yorkshire, pours only a half of Cola and no more into each glass, leaving an inch of empty space to the top of the glass. Ah such generosity of spirit!
And finally the beer. Mine, to be fair, a perfect pint of the notorious Cameron’s Strongarm – the beer that splits the temples with a strange dart-like headache after only 3 mouthfuls. My wife’s, on the other hand, is a glass of the always excellent “Black Sheep”. Except it wasn’t excellent, it tasted sour and was clearly on the turn. She didn’t want it; I tasted it too and it was disgusting.
Re-enter the bar man. On returning the beer to the bar, he says that no-one else has complained about it and doesn’t even taste it to see for himself. He didn’t offer an exchange and didn’t offer a refund. He refused to acknowledge that there could be a problem.
What does this say for the Aidensfield Arms then (real name: the Goathland Hotel)? It says this: we’re happy to exploit the connection with TV’s “Heartbeat” but we don’t welcome families to the main bar where many of the scenes are shot. We are mean spirited – you ask for a half pint of Cola, you get a half pint of Cola, no more, no less – no matter the glass size. And if you complain about the beer, tough luck! After all, you’re a tourist, you won’t be back again, so we don’t care.
So, if you go for a visit to the North York moors, go to Goathland by all means. See the beautiful scenery. Take in the North Yorks Steam Railway. Visit the ancient Roman Road at Wheeldale. See the haunting early warning radar at RAF Fylingdales. But don’t, on any account, visit the so-called Aidensfield Arms at Goathland.
This mean-spirited establishment is a grotesque tableau of all that is wrong about the British tourist industry: tatty brand, poor service and high prices. If you want to see the Aidensfield Arms for yourself, best watch it on TV. If you want a pint of Yorkshire beer, with good Yorkshire hospitality and friendly people – go anywhere in Yorkshire but Goathland.
The title song of the series asks this question: “Heartbeat, why do you miss, when my baby kisses me?” Answer: probably because it brings back memories of poor customer service and contempt for anyone whose “not from round these parts”. Good riddance to Aidensfield – bring back the real Yorkshire.