Jane Stuart – Writer

Writer on beer, football culture and Blackpool FC.

Far East Tour: Day Five – Lincoln

If you missed Days One, Two, Three and Four, you can find them here, here, here and here.

After another delicious breakfast at our b&b (same as Day Four) we headed down to Lincoln, a city I fell in love with on my first proper visit in 2019, and now another recipient of an annual visit. With Blackpool’s relegation now confirmed – meaning we would rejoin Lincoln City in League One next season – this summer visit wasn’t strictly necessary, but I couldn’t resist anyway, as it was on the way to Norwich.

Steep Hill

On arrival, we parked up in Lucy Street Car Park and made our way on foot through the city towards Steep Hill. This hill almost killed me on my first visit but has been getting progressively easier through the application of various tactics. One of these is to grab hold of and pull yourself up by the railing. Another is to take it slowly, taking small steps. Another is to take a different route to the top of the hill, cutting out the steep section. But Lee and I had been in training this time, walking on the treadmill at the gym three times a week for the last year (well apart from when we had COVID and probably not so much lately since I’ve been prioritising my book). We were no longer getting short of breath – and often not even noticing – when we were walking up hills. But Steep Hill – and it is fucking steep – was the ultimate test.

So, how did it go? Well we certainly noticed we were walking up a hill! But I took normal steps, did not need to take a break on the way up or grab hold of the railing – nor was I gasping for breath at the top. So that 12 degree incline on the treadmill has certainly helped with my fitness.

At the top of the hill, we turned left through the market and into the gardens of Lincoln Castle.

Coronation @ Lincoln Castle

We’d been here for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee last year, so it seemed fitting that we return for the King’s Coronation today.

It was hot but threatening rain. We grabbed a couple of bottles of water and found a place to sit where we could see the big screen.

I’ll confess that I was surprised and discomfited by the religiosity of the service. There was something about Jesus wanting justice for poor people and I thought about how much this Coronation cost and the rising cost of living and the number of homeless people I pass on the street and struggled to make it make sense. Nonetheless we stayed for the crowning part before I muttered something about needing a wee so we could head to the pub.

Magna Carta

This pub is in a prime location at the top of Steep Hill – but I’d not been in before. Plus I can’t keep blogging the same pubs every time I visit Lincoln. And they do have beer.

Boring beers. I had a half of the Brakspear.

The pub was busy – inside and the outside seating area – but we managed to find a table in the window. I broke out the British Birds Top Trumps and we played a few games uninterrupted by fellow drinkers.

I also contemplated the menu, the highlight of which was the puddings.

We then headed down Steep Hill for a bit of shopping (more of that later) but one of our favourite shops bore a sign on the door saying BACK IN 25 MINUTES so that of course meant we had to go to another pub to kill some more time. Dammit.

Strugglers Inn

I love love love this pub! It’s a traditional boozer with loads to look at on the walls and ceiling and shelves.

Not the correct time. A theme of the week.
Soz you’ve missed this now.

And as for the beers…

Dear reader, that Tiny Rebel Chocka Block was the best beer of the week – so lush, I had to have two.

Quite simply, this pub gets everything right. Great beer, great pub. And well worth hunting out in the back streets behind the Castle.

They even had something more interesting than coke/lemonade for the non-drinker.

There was no need to resort to Top Trumps here – there were games in the back room, including a table doubling up as a chess/draughts board.

It had to be draughts because Lee knew I was a chess champion in my youth and was already mentally beaten at that. The draughts sort of ended in a draw, as I allowed Lee to correct a fatal move which then allowed him to win.

We went on to play Connect Four but there were quite a lot of counters missing. This led to us having to put our fingers in the slots in lieu of counters, giving the game an added Twister-like element.

The pub had got much busier since our arrival, not only due to its all-round awesomeness, but I also suspect because the Coronation was finishing (or people were getting bored of it) and because it was now raining quite heavily. This latter point presented us with a problem, as we had two paper bags containing our shopping. We waited for the rain to ease before heading back out and hoping for the best.

Back down Steep Hill, our little shop (which we visit every year) was still bearing that BACK IN 25 MINUTES sign so we had no choice but to go to another pub while we waited. Plus we did need food.

Wig & Mitre

This pub was on my hitlist as a potential eaterie. We had yet to find somewhere we liked to eat in Lincoln (aside from a couple of cafes for breakfast). Could this be The One?

Ooh this was a good start! Any pub that looks after dogs is usually a good un in my book.

How exciting is this?! I don’t even have a dog and I’m all over this.

Anyway, beer.

Can’t resist a Harvest Pale.

The pub was busy but we discovered an empty restaurant upstairs. After checking with the bar staff, we took a seat upstairs and contemplated the menu before heading back downstairs to the bar to place our order.

Ooh these look tempting.

On my way back up to the restaurant, I noticed something odd.

I’ve only seen these fridges used to store dead bodies (in television dramas, I must add). I was tempted but ultimately too scared to look inside this one. But it didn’t put me off my lunch.

Katsu Chicken and Rice.

The verdict? This wasn’t The One but that was partly my fault because there’s no way any Katsu can ever compare with the one I had at the Clickham Inn in Penrith in 2021.

Right – would our shop be open now?

Steep Hill

Dear reader, it was – with profuse apologies that he’d had to pop home to tend to the dog. With the benefit of hindsight, we could have taken it to the Wig & Mitre for him but never mind. All was good now.

So, the shops we visited today on Steep Hill were as follows:

Roly’s Fudge – We now know this to be a chain (we’ll spot another one next week) but nonetheless it is a must visit on our visits to Lincoln. We always go for the offer of five (or is it six?) different flavours and it is always so hard to choose that number because we want them all! This time we went for Sea Salt, Baileys, Cherry Bakewell, Maple & Walnut and Lemon Meringue. Roly’s Fudge melts in your mouth and is quite delicious. This formed Lee’s breakfast and supper for the rest of the holiday plus for a week after we got home.

Carousel Chocolates – This place stocks my favourite (but rarely spotted) chocolate bar from Montezumas.

This is what I bought. In addition to my fave Hot Pickle (cool lime, followed after a pause by a WHOOMPH of chilli), I couldn’t resist these bars from Gnaw (ooh they’re from Norwich, where we’re headed). Can you tell I’ve consigned Paddington to my luggage by this point?

The Mouse House Cheese Company – This is where I go to buy my Lincolnshire Plumbread – a lush local delicacy that I find it impossible to source elsewhere (although I have found kindly locals that smuggle it out of the county for me). This shop also sells exciting cheeses (which go well on Plumbread), so I acquired the Smoked Cheddar, Beer and Limoncello cheeses. I also bought some local honey whisky which caught my eye. I can confirm all are good and you’ll have to excuse me now while I go and get some cheese and Plumbread to eat.

Imperial Teas of Lincoln – This was a shop we hadn’t visited before but I do love exciting teas (which I drink all morning most mornings). Struggling to choose, I identified the Herbal Tea section as where I wanted to be (black teas can be a migraine trigger) and was advised by the friendly staff that the tins were there so we could open them and smell the tea inside. As soon as I took a whiff of the Pina Colada Fruit Infusion I knew that was the one for me. And, indeed, I can now report that it is the best tea I’ve ever had (drinking one now to wash down my cheese and Plumbread). I can see an online order from this place in my near future (thanks to MG for the tea filter papers I’m using with this tea). An added bonus of shopping here was the provision of a waterproof plastic bag, into which we could decant our shopping from the drenched paper bags.

Ashby Aromatherapy – We were entranced by the aroma diffusers in the window here on our visit in 2020 and now visit every year to buy our favourite oil for our diffuser. We also bought some new flavours to try this year to help our living room smell lovely and remind us of our hollibobs in Lincoln.

Right – that’s enough shopping. A pub crawl would have proved much cheaper! Now it was time to head to the hotel to check in before returning to town for the evening.

‘Going on up to the spirit in the sky / That’s where I’m gonna go when I die / When I die and I’m at heaven’s gates / I’m gonna go on the piss with Jerry Yates.’

Doubletree by Hilton

We wouldn’t normally stay at the Hilton but everywhere in Lincoln was the same (expensive) price for accommodation so I figured we might as well stay at the Hilton if we were paying that much. This was also the reason why we were spending only one night in Lincoln this year (it’s usually two, but Lincoln’s loss was Clee’s gain).

At check-in, we were each presented with a fresh, warm cookie.

Lee can’t eat chocolate so I of course had to eat them both while they were still warm and at their best. I was loving the biscuit action on this hollibob! I don’t eat biscuits at home so this was a treat.

Our room was directly opposite the hotel gym but sadly we’d not packed our gym kits, else we would have taken advantage of this (not now but in the morning). Had we done so, we might have encountered some Shrewsbury Town players, as they were staying here tonight ahead of their final match of the season at Lincoln tomorrow.

It was (as you would expect) a lovely room, although the view wasn’t up to much.

Perhaps this was our punishment for refusing the free upgrade (because I couldn’t be arsed with the paperwork to join Hilton Honors).

We chilled in our room for a while before heading out to my favourite pub in the whole world, where we would not be budging from for the entire evening.

Strait & Narrow

So, why is this my favourite pub in the whole world? Well you can read this article I wrote about it for Pellicle. For a pub to inspire me to dedicate an entire piece to it, it is clearly something special. If you can’t be arsed following the link, simply be satisfied with the knowledge that this pub was created with love – and that love oozes out of its every pore.

RIght – where on earth to start with this beer menu?!

I’d actually selected this beer from the beer menu – not spotting that it was on tap as well as in a can. This was pointed out to me by our friendly host and of course it was the tap version I went for. It was every bit as lush as expected.

As a non-drinker, I requested a mocktail for Lee, and this was duly rustled up.

He didn’t know what it was but he liked it.

Now seated, I was, as always, drawn to the alluring literature on the table.

Oof! I want all of these…

This was my second beer. I had been a bit wary of the 11.3% ABV – would the strength of the alcohol overpower the flavours in the beer? The answer is quite categorically NO – and this beer was exquisite.

It was lovely to finally meet Jez, co-owner of the Strait & Narrow. He regaled many interesting tales about the pub, including the sourcing of durable prison phones for the Strait Exchange.

It was also interesting to hear how much love goes into the Stella Artois they serve here. Who knew this was a thing? The male competitor below was from the Strait & Narrow and arguably should have won…

Such is the allure of this place that even Lee was tempted to try some alcohol.

After discussing the medicinal values of Fernet Branca at length, Lee’s first drink was the one on the left (can’t remember what the rest of the drink was, but that’s a shot of Fernet Branca in it). The one on the right (which we both love and cannot resist) is this little beauty.

Nightcaps duly necked – and feeling quite zonked after another day on our feet – we reluctantly departed in the direction of The Land of Nod.

Our walk took us through lots of people clearly not used to all day seshes like me, one woman accidentally belting Lee in the face with a flailing arm, causing her phone to fly out of her hand and smash on the pavement. I did spy a temptation as we neared our hotel…

Royal William IV

I learned too late that there was a Brew York tap takeover here tonight. Dammit! Never been in this pub but must go in next time.

And that, dear reader, completes Day Five of our end of season hollibobs. Join me for Day Six, when we meet Captain Mainwaring, accidentally discover my new favourite sport and do a seven-pub crawl of Norwich.

If you enjoy reading these blogs I now have a Patreon account where you can remit your thanks in the form of a donation to help support me and keep me writing. I provide Patrons with regular updates on my writing projects (including my forthcoming book). I can also write pieces for and about Patrons if you have a business you would like me to promote. Here’s the link to find out more and offer your support.

Next Up: A Football Tourist’s Guide to Norwich – Day One.