Whether it’s kitchen, pocket, or hunting knives, scissors, razors, or even letter openers, if it’s sharp, it has probably been made in Sheffield, England since at least the 14th century. The local football team is nicknamed The Blades. There are restaurants that keep with that naming tradition including Cutlers, Silversmiths, Cross Scythes, and Steel Foundry. There’s even a Grindstone Pub. There are at least 2 dozen breweries in town such as Steel City, On the Edge, and Toolmakers. Thanks to our friends Gaynor and Pete, who were the reason we went to this north-central English city, we got to sample real ale all over town.
You know the expression that starts “When in Rome….”? That’s pretty much our philosophy when we travel, figuring that food and drink couldn’t get any better than where it’s most well known and that applies to home as well. Our wine rack is full of bottles from our region of France, many of them coming from just a few minutes from our front door. This country produces at least 400 cheeses, so that’s what we buy from local producers. When a city we visit is declared the real ale capital of the world, we have no choice but to find out first hand why it has been so selected. We wasted no time in discovering that first pint of beer since the Sheffield Tap is located on platform 1B at the station where we had just arrived on platform 4. A walk from there through the center of the city let us see the Winter Garden, City Hall, and the Millennium Gallery, all included on several must-see lists. A stop at the Bath Hotel pub ensured that we did not become dehydrated on this suburban adventure.
You could spend the day on Kelham Island exploring the Industrial Museum and more pubs than you can count, and we did! The museum houses a massive 12,000 horsepower steam engine, 3-stories tall, that they power up twice a day just for the thrill, exhibits on the impact of steel in Britain’s history, and a small village of workshops where craftspeople demonstrate their skills. There’s even a reconstruction of a steelworkers’ pub but it was missing one important ingredient, beer, so we had to leave the complex in search of ale. Luckily, historic pubs like the Kelham Island Tavern and the Fat Cat plus the new Old Workshop, were just a block or two away.
Our excursions weren’t limited to town since country walks are easily reached just outside the city limits. One day out took us hiking through Longshaw Estate where we stopped to watch sheep dog trials before tackling the rocky riverside path that later surrounded us in a sea of fragrant heather. On a second day we wandered the grounds at Chatsworth House, ending up in Edensor, a village that the original manor owner had disassembled and moved a short distance away so that his view of the countryside would be unobstructed. A fireside meal with hand-pulled ale capped the day.
Sheffield managed to escape some of the Nazi bombings in WWII by cleverly creating a pattern of roads and lights in the nearby countryside that, from the air at night, appeared to be the major rail lines and munitions factories in the middle of town. We look forward to discovering more of these hidden gems of Steel City.