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Derby

   
              Derby Cathedral                                                  Ye Olde Dolphin Inne                                                             Old Silk Mill    

If you arrive in Derby by train, coming from the south, you pass the football ground on your right, just before entering the station. If going straight to the ground, you leave the station by the south entrance/exit. However, if you want a few drinks first, you come out of the main entrance and make a choice. How much time do you have? Are you staying overnight? Over the weekend? Whichever, you have a good choice of places to visit and eat and drink at, but my favourites are?

Well, if you are just looking for somewhere near the station to find good beer and something to eat immediately before going to the stadium, I suggest you try my option B. However, if you would like to see a bit of the old centre before either catching a cab direct to the ground, or going to the ground via the places named in option B, in which case try option A. Indeed, you could take option A before the match and option B afterwards, before leaving Derby, which I did on my last visit.

Of course, if you are staying over for longer before or after the match, then it’s probably best to use CAMRA’s Good Beer Guide, ask at the Tourist Board (particularly regarding the history/sights of Derby and its environs), or undertake some other research on the internet or with the local CAMRA group, before visiting Derby. Derby folk are very competitive when it comes to supporting their local hostelries, particularly when considering Derby CAMRA's rivalry with Sheffield CAMRA, so I have no doubt you would get much advice offered.

Option A has to include a visit to the Cathedral, in which, on my last visit, my brother found loads of interest, as he always does, and I did my usual reading anything I could find to read (usually on brass plaques). Of course, you may just wish to eat and drink, so visit the nearby Ye Olde Dolphin Inne, 5 Queen Street, DE1 3DL (01332 267711), the oldest pub in central Derby (circa 1530). The Dolphin is a great old building, beams, wooden panelling, the lot, and it also serves a good choice of very good beer and I have always enjoyed eating there. It caters for all sorts, young and old, beer tickers, tourists wanting lunch (like me) and any sort of person you may meet who doesn't have a fixation for real ale! I've had friends from their teens to their fifties enjoyed the Dolphin, and they are great friendly staff. This is a must visit, in my opinion, when you visit Derby. The Dolphin and other bars in the old city centre, are a fair old walk from the station though, a good 15-20 minutes.

Near to the Dolphin (literally round the back and over the road) is The Old Silk Mill, 19 Full Street, DE1 3AF (01332 369748), if not spending too much time in the centre, this leads you to a decent alternative crawl back to the station and to Pride Park. There are about another dozen ales available here too, served up either from handpumps or straight from the barrel on gravity feed.
 
Next stop, just over the River Derwent, is The Brewery Tap, 1 Derwent Street, DE1 2EN (01332 366283), ie the brewery tap for Derby Brewing Company, not that original a name you may say. I have a good opinion of Derby Brewery's ales, though, and here is the place to drink them if you have no bars near where you live that sell them, so I recommend you try a pint or two here. There is also 'locally sourced' home made food served from Monday to Saturday between 12 and 8pm.
 
Walking back to the ground, still on the other side of the River Derwent, is the Smithfield, Meadow Road, DE1 2BH (01332 370429), right next to the river and open 11 to 11. This is a great freehouse, selling a selection of varying types of ales, including the likes of Draught Bass, Burton Bridge Top Dog Stout, Hartington IPA, Hook Norton Old Hooky, Hop Back Crop Circle, and Oakham Brewery’s Bishops Farewell, JHB and White Dwarf, and sandwiches/rolls/breadcakes/cobs (mark your choice) on the bar matchdays. As an away fan here I've had no problems, though I've not expressed my love of the opposition too loudly, but have ended up talking to the bar staff about the match to come (they're obviously pretty good guessers of accents and, despite my long exile from my birthplace, I haven't lost my accent much). The last time I went direct to Pride Park from this pub it took about 15 minutes to reach the stadium, a 20 minutes stroll I'd guess. Though you could stop off at the Alexandra on the way.
 
   
                                    The Brewery Tap                                                                             Brunswick Inn     

Option B includes the 3 real ale houses on the station's doorstep, 3 pubs from CAMRA's Good Beer Guide within less than 5 minutes of each other, it's like it was planned. You come out of the main entrance and, right opposite you, there is the Station Inn, 12 Midland Road, DE1 2SN (01332 608014). This has a traditional interior, and a reasonably enticing frontage, with a panelled counter, cast iron foot rail and quarry-tiled floor. The atmosphere is very sporting and friendly, and, oh yes, they do look after their ales, last time I visited I had a great pint of that classic 'Bass'.

If you turn right when you reach the road, with the Station Inn opposite, cross over once you have turned right and another 3 minutes or so down the road on your left is the Brunswick Inn, 1 Railway Terrace, DE1 2RU (01332 290677), a freehouse that also brews it’s own beer (I’d recommend you try their own Triple Hop if you enjoy a dry hoppy light and bitter session beer, I love it). Apparently, the Brunswick was the world's first railway inn, and is a very interesting mixture of rooms of different shapes and sizes. Good sandwiches, good beers, up to 16 at a time, and the usual friendly Derby welcome, if that's not starting to sound like a cliché. This is my personal favourite of the 3 pubs nearest to the station, but do not feel constrained by my thoughts.

There's more to come, just after the Brunswick, about a minute away, hidden slightly by a bend in the road, is the Alexandra Hotel, 203 Siddals Road, DE1 2QE (01332 293993), another freehouse owned by a small brewery, Castle Rock. The Alexandra was named after the popular queen of Edward VII, and the pub is a great find for railway lovers. Also, at the Alexandra, you can eat good food and drink fine ales, and get a room for the night, though I'd book up well in advance if wanting board, if I were you.  There has been a bit of coming and going with managers of the Alex recently, but I have been assured by a friend from Derby that the place is back up to a good standard. 

On leaving the Alexandra, you cross over the road, go under the flyover, and follow the canal along to the football ground. There are usually police persons along the way, but certainly you will see many fans walking that way to follow. If you cannot remember the walk back this way for after the match, you can head straight for the railway station and walk back through it to the previously mentioned 3 bars, an easy route to follow.

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