Travel Britain: Trains pass so close, your drink rocks gently in the glass

Three outstanding bars are to be found on one of Britain's busiest railway lines.
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EVER MINDFUL of drink-driving, it's becoming difficult to visit any pubs beyond walking distance of home. Unless, that is, you live on the Transpennine railway line, where you can travel by train to three of the finest bars in the North. They are located on platforms at Stalybridge, Huddersfield and Dewsbury stations on the Leeds-to-Manchester line. On a winter's afternoon all three, original or restored, offer the warm glow of a real fire, and an appropriate setting for a remake of Brief Encounter.

Stalybridge, on the eastern edge of Manchester, might be home to pubs boasting the shortest (The Q Inn) and longest (The Old 13th Cheshire Astley Volunteer Rifleman Corps Inn) pub names in Britain. But a traveller alighting at platform one need walk no more than a few paces to the original 1885 Victorian buffet bar. It's the place where Jack Judge penned "It's a Long Way to Tipperary" in 1912.

Inside the bar there is a crackling log fire and the house speciality. Pots of hot "black peas" seasoned with vinegar (40p) can be washed down with an array of winter ales, including Grainstone's Winter Oats and Hanby's Black Magic Mild. Bottled beers include Chimay Blue Cap at pounds 3 a bottle, strawberry-flavoured beer from Belgium, and wheat beer from Germany. For teetotallers there is that old favourite of the Temperance movement, hot Vimto. Outside, the trains pass so close, your drink rocks gently in its glass.

Stepping onto the Leeds-bound express, the next stop is Huddersfield. The Head of Steam pub and restaurant, former derelict station offices on platform one, caught the eye of an imaginative developer whose train happened to stop outside its musty windows. Now it is four large rooms replete with railway memorabilia and log fires.The food is excellent value - a three-course Sunday lunch for pounds 3.75, with a veggie option available. Sit at one of the tables on the platform and you can eat and watch the trains go by.

Two or three new real ales are offered daily. On the day I visited they included Barnsley Brewery's Marples Takes a Dive (he being the goalie of nearby cup heroes Emley); and Bank's & Taylor's Sheffield Mild. Don't catch your train before you step outside and view the magnificent Corinthian station entrance. More stately home than station, it makes Huddersfield "one of the best early railway stations in England" (Nikolaus Pevsner).

On to Dewsbury, birthplace of Betty Boothroyd. Where the West Riding "licensed refreshment rooms" offer a cosy mix of coal fire and the day's newspapers, plus a selection of real ales from Bateman's, Maxton Moor, and the local Church End Brewery. The West Riding also boasts a separate dining room and an extensive, even ambitious menu, which includes chicken in lime and cranberry sauce with a generous rice and salad garnish for pounds 3.50.

All three station bars also offer music and quizzes. Stalybridge has folk on Saturday; Huddersfield blues on Sunday; and jazz on Wednesday. Dewsbury has jazz on Thursday. A ticket between all three stations costs pounds 7.10, and takes 30 minutes for the picturesque 25-mile journey through the Tame and Colne valleys. The 24-hour train service to Manchester Airport means that these are perhaps the only three pubs in England where you can never miss the last train home.

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