I had been looking forward to this weekend in Sheffield for ages. I have been to Sheffield many times and made many happy memories there. I went to The Crucible to see Blackpool snooker player James Cahill beat Ronnie O’Sullivan in the World Championships. I visited every elephant in the Herd of Sheffield street art trail. I had my first ever real ale in the Bankers Draft – and I’ve enjoyed ale in many fine Sheffield pubs since then, including The Fat Cat, New Barrack Tavern, Rutland Arms and Sheffield Tap. I’ve seen Blackpool play at Hillsborough and Bramall Lane – and watched Chasetown play at Sheffield FC, the world’s oldest football club, which has a Thornbridge pub in the corner of the ground. But there was yet more of this wonderful city to be discovered – and we had a packed itinerary to do just that this weekend.
Lee and I set off from Blackpool at 0715 on Friday, fully fuelled up and armed with snackage for the journey (cherry tomatoes on the vine for me, as I’m on SlimmingWorld). The roads were still pretty quiet and we were making good time when we stopped off at Woolley Edge Services.
Woah – what’s this? There’s a dine in M&S? That was a gamechanger. We could stop there for tea on the way home. I headed in to explore. I found the M&S shop easily enough.
But where was the food hall?
Oh. Was that it? Were we expected to buy a ready meal from M&S and heat it up in a microwave in a service station? Don’t they know M&S shoppers at all?
I returned to the promo sign outside and surmised it was probably suggesting we buy the food and ‘dine in’ at home. Bit of a misleading advert there, I thought.
We continued on to Sheffield. As we drove down Derek Dooley Way, I wondered who Derek Dooley was, so I looked him up. I learned from Wikipedia that Dooley was a very prolific striker who began at Lincoln City before signing for Sheffield Wednesday. He scored 55 in 38 for their third team, then 37 in 49 for the reserves. In the first team he scored 46 goals in his first season, including a run of 22 goals in 9 matches. In the 52/53 season, Dooley had scored 16 in 24 before he broke his leg in a match at Deepdale. An x-ray revealed that he sustained a double fracture. As he was preparing to leave hospital the following Monday a nurse noticed that there was no reaction in his toes when touched. When the Orthopedic cast was removed it was found that a small scratch on the back of his leg had become infected. Gangrene had set in and it was decided to amputate his leg. It was rumoured at the time that a chemical from the white touchline marking had got into his injury.
Dooley went on to become manager of Sheffield Wednesday and later Chairman of Sheffield United, having a big hand in the Blades’ resurgence and return to the Premier League. There’s now a statue of him at Bramall Lane, which you can see in the video at the end of this Football Tourist’s Guide.
At 1000 we arrived at our first stop of the day. We were here to learn about the history of Sheffield – in particular its famous steel industry. This is a free museum but visitors are encouraged to make a donation.
We were greeted immediately on entrance by an enthusiastic volunteer who told us all about what to expect. We were told a little about the Kelham Island area and the floods it had experienced. We learned of the wildlife that inhabited the area and enjoyed a display of these made from Sheffield cutlery.
As we perused the gift shop, we were approached by another eager volunteer, who told us all about the other museums in the Sheffield Museums group. We learned about the local street artist called Phlegm.
We were interested to discover that Hendersons Relish is a famous product of Sheffield.
I’ve been using this as an alternative to Worcestershire Sauce in recent months to add a bit of extra spice to my chillies and baked beans. I can confirm it is quite delicious.
There was Hendersons Relish merch on sale here and I might have been tempted by the tee, but there was only one left and it was not my size. I’ve taken to collecting tees from my travels now and was today wearing my Dead Bod tee from Hull.
I was fascinated to learn about The Crystal Palace, which the football club is named after.
How had I never thought to question how Crystal Palace got their name? For this is where they are based.
We learned that steel is not just ‘a thing’, how it has to be made and how there are many different types of steel.
I was amused by this hardness testing machine.
A ‘hardometer’ like something from Wallace & Gromit.
I learned about Sheffield’s part in the development of maps.
There was a ‘neighbourhood’ section where we could see how people lived and worked in Sheffield in the past. This put me in mind of Joe Gargery’s forge in Great Expectations.
We learned that Sheffield was bombed twice in the war – the city centre to demoralise the people and then the steelworks to disrupt industry. Bramall Lane was bombed in the former attack and United needed to play at Hillsborough for a short time.
Can you tell we visited on Halloween weekend?
In the below photo you can see how high the flood water was in the recent flood. It was up to my hips.
The Hawley Tool Collection was amazing. Here we met yet another highly enthused volunteer, who explained that this was one man’s tool collection, which started in his garage and eventually grew too big for his house. Here I was fascinated to learn how garden forks are made.
And I was highly amused at the A-Z of Planes.
But the undisputed star of the show here was The River Don Engine.
This is the largest and most powerful working steam engine in Europe. It is brought to life at 1200 and 1400 each day – and we made a point of being here for the 1200 display today. And boy were we glad we did. The room was packed with people watching on in awe as this magnificent machine sprung to life.
I’ve seen amazing works of engineering in action before – the car making robots at Birmingham’s Thinktank were eerily monster-like – but this was breathtaking stuff. You can see the engine in action in the accompanying Football Tourist Guide video on Lee Charles TV.
Now it was time for lunch. We drove out of the city centre out onto the Fulwood Road and soon arrived here.
The Rising Sun is the pub of Abbeydale Brewery, one of my local favourites.
Here’s what I had to drink.
It also has a magnificent menu which, importantly, featured healthy options that would not throw me off my diet (shush about the beer). After a long perusal of the menu, I opted for the oat crusted fillet of hake with Jerusalem artichokes, wild mushrooms and cavolo nero.
I am still none the wiser as to what cavolo nero is but it was a delicious meal – and beer – in what was a really great pub. It even had a couple of dogs.
There was a beer garden, too, which it was a bit wet and nippy to enjoy today.
Now this place – back on Kelham Island – was recommended to me by fellow beer blogger Retired Martin, who lives in Sheffield. I was promised ‘two dozen keg beers, gourmet burgers, shuffleboard and arcade games’. Lee and I had no idea what shuffleboard was but made a point of not looking this up and instead going along to find out for ourselves.
We also made a point of coming here directly after we had eaten, so we wouldn’t be tempted by the amazing aroma of the (not diet friendly) food from Slap & Pickle.
If I hadn’t just eaten, I know for a fact I would have been unable to resist these.
The beer list was fabulous – much of which was brewed on the premises.
I was delighted to spot a pumpkin beer on the board, so I promptly ordered a third of How Much Pressure Can A Pumpkin Take. And oh my word it was the best beer I had in Sheffield this weekend. I love spicy flavoursome beer such as this.
Even the non-alcoholic offerings here were exciting. Not only did they have Dandelion & Burdock (have you ever seen that in a pub? I thought it was just a chippy thing), but they had a range of pops from Soda Folk.
Other flavours in their range include Key Lime Pie, Jam Roly Poly, Cherry and Root Beer. Yum!
So what is shuffleboard? Well first of all it was free at the time of our visit (before 1700). We were provided with four black and four white pucks. The board (table) itself was at the rear of the room. The rules of the game are thus.
It is a bit like a modern cool tabletop version of bowls. And it was brilliant! It took a little time to get the weight of the launch right, but we soon picked it up.
Lee won, which made his day (as I usually win at everything). We were having so much fun playing that the time whizzed by and we sacrificed our visit to the Tropical Butterfly House, which would have been too much of a rush.
I cannot recommend Heist highly enough. Great beer, great menu, great fun. Oh and the arcade games.
After checking in at our hotel – where the WiFi was down, so they couldn’t charge us for the car park (result!) – we walked through the city centre to our next destination.
Earlier today, Twitter had alerted me to the fact that there were limited places available at the National Videogame Museum this half term week. This prompted me to pre-book the 1630-1900 session. This required me to input my details for Test & Trace (something I have not done since we have not been obligated to) and advised that the wearing of a mask was required before entering the museum. I hoped that the website simply hadn’t been updated since the rules changed, as I don’t wear a mask these days either, except when I’m at the opticians or having my eyebrows done which, let’s face it, involves having someone right in my face.
Growing up in the arcades of Blackpool (and at Fleetwood Pier RIP) – and with a childhood spent programming games in the ZX81 and playing games on cassette on the Commodore 64 – I was excited to see what games were available to play at this interactive museum.
On arrival it became clear that masks were, indeed, required. We were further advised that we were not allowed to enter the yellow boxed off areas surrounding gaming zones if someone else was occupying that area. And we should sanitise our hands before and after using each game. The hand sanitising I could understand – and the distancing, to some degree – but the mask wearing seemed overkill to me. It wasn’t as if we were getting close to anyone else anyway. Maybe it was to stop people inadvertently spitting on the machines? But those were the rules, so we had to abide by them. I dug out a mask that had been at the bottom of my handbag for months (and was probably riddled with goodness knows what) in order to comply. Note to self: put a clean one in my big coat pocket for future emergencies.
I was excited to find Space Invaders, Ms Pacman and Donkey Kong, games I had spent hours playing in the past.
But this was clearly quite some time in the past, as I wasn’t very good at them any more! I found the controls tricky to master and I no longer had the dexterity to progress very far. It was very frustrating. Trying new games proved even more frustrating, as I had no idea what was happening. Then Karen turned up and didn’t understand how anything worked either.
Eventually Karen found a cool electronic pinball machine that she could have happily spent all night on. And Lee was happy in Marioland. But I hadn’t found anywhere I could settle. I was also a bit gutted there hadn’t been a PacLand, which had been my favourite on North Pier back in the day. Plus my back was hurting (still not recovered from the rushed Great Orme hike two weeks previously). I just wanted to sit down with a beer and my tea.
I mooched around the museum and spotted a Commodore 64, complete with cassettes.
And there was even a ZX81.
If you’re a gaming enthusiast – or are local to Sheffield and can make regular visits here to practice – this is a great museum.
As the end of our session approached, we made our way to the next port of call.
Dear reader, this is my favourite pub in the world. Why? Well, it is handy for Sheffield station, is a traditional pub, is home to fellow creative types, has a jukebox (complete with a banned music list) and dinosaurs. Oh and there is a great selection of beer and the food is delicious. It is basically everything I want from a pub.
Here we had arranged to meet the oft-and-aforementioned beer blogger Martin and his wife (only known to me via his blogs as Mrs Retired Martin). I didn’t know what they looked like but Martin provided a clue with a photo on Twitter.
I also had a message confirming they had a table by the jukebox.
I followed the clues and soon located Mr & Mrs RM, inviting them to join us at our larger table at the front of the pub – and thanking them for the kind gift they had brought for us.
Here are tonight’s cask offerings.
I opted for the North Riding Toasted Marshmallow Stout, which was delicious. I later followed this up with a Tartarus Witch.
Martin asked me to ‘surprise him’ with a beer (no pressure there at all) and he somehow guessed it correctly, which was pretty impressive.
Foodwise, I was confused but slightly relieved to find no Slutty Rutty Butty on the menu. I might have felt compelled to order this famous sandwich for blog purposes (‘I can’t be the only one who reads it for the food?’ probed Martin).
Instead, I think I was able to stick to my diet (again, shush about the beer) by opting for the Kedgeree, which was bloody delicious.
It was lovely to spend the evening with Martin and Christine, who happily guided us around a couple of new bars that we would otherwise have not found. Martin reminds me of my friend and fellow beer blogger Evo Boozy Scribbler, in that, when he sees a pub, he finds it hard to pass it. That’s my kind of friend.
This place reminded me very much of Dig Brew Co in Digbeth, Birmingham. It is a modern, clean and clinical bar with the shiny silver brewery visible through windows.
I opted for the Triple Point Kokos (oatmeal stout).
Food is on offer here, too, courtesy of Twisted Burger Co. From their menu, I would have been all over the Chicken Katsu Fries, so again I was glad I had just eaten, for the sake of my diet. I am winning at this!
We then returned to a place we had earlier passed owing to its lack of cask offering (I was trying to keep Karen off the keg because of Nottingham reasons). But they had been so friendly and helpful when they thought we were lost (‘oh we’re not really lost…we’re just scared’) we decided to return.
I was excited to see Staggeringly Good beer on a real life menu. This was the dinosaur-themed brewery I had found on my virtual crawl of Portsmouth last season – and whose dinosaur glasses we drink out of at home.
That said, I was on a committed dark – and Yorkshire – beer run now, so I opted for the Beer Ink Mugshot.
This was before I saw the fridges. Oh. My. Goodness.
What a fabulous fruit beer selection. And this was only the first fridge. I dared not look any further – or stay any longer. Mercifully, last orders were called and we were saved from ourselves.
At the end of the evening, our delightful hosts kindly walked us back to our respective hotels. It was lovely to have the experience of local guides and they had been great and entertaining company, too.
Back at the hotel, my key card would not work in the lift (so I tailgated) or at the room door. Fortunately Lee – who had left us after the Rutland to start work on the Football Tourist’s Guide video – was still up and able to let me into the room.
So that was Part One of A Football Tourist’s Guide to Sheffield. Stay tuned for Part Two, which features the video accompaniment, as well as:
- National Emergency Services Museum
- Three Tuns
- Beer Engine
- Sheffield United v Blackpool