Samuel Johnson nailed it when in 1777 he famously said, "Why, Sir, you find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London. No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford." Whilst I love a trip to the countryside and have often debated moving away from London, I can't quite bring myself to do it.
This afternoon, spent on the Thames on a glorious summer's day, seeing so may landmarks whilst sampling craft beers just helped to affirm that I'm not moving anytime soon!
We were invited by my friend Laura to accompany her on the craft beer cruise as a present for our civil partnership and birthdays. She's often to be found working on the cruise as a freelance beer expert, she's a leading member of CAMRA, passionate about promoting women in the beer industry. So do look out for her, and say hello if you decide to take the cruise. In fact, all the crew are independent experts - 'beer sommeliers'. This isn't a big corporate enterprise, and all of them are more than happy to explain the pours, and don't pass judgement if you happen to prefer a lager or a sour to a stout.
As it really was a hot day, we opted to sit inside in the shade. There is outside seating too and many people chose that option. I had thought that the cruise might have attracted stag dos on a Saturday afternoon, but we only saw one chap who we guessed was the groom. The passengers were all age groups (over 18s obviously), and a pretty diverse bunch. Laura said that when there are stag do's on board that they are really nice; they've chosen this trip because they are beer lovers, not because they want to drink a lot of cheap lager to get drunk.
It happened to be low tide, so we got a long way on this particular cruise, from our start point at Lambeth pier through to Bermondsey to the east and then back as far as Battersea Power Station to the west. This may not be the case on every cruise.
There are multiple beer stations on board, so there is a much bigger choice than the 5 beers included in the ticket price. You can also purchase additional beers, or other drinks from the bar.
We passed too many sites to list, but the photos tell the story well I think, London really does have so much to offer.
London Eye, Southwark Cathedral, Oxo Tower, Tate Modern, Millennium Bridge, Tower Bridge.
MI5, the Globe, Battersea Power Station
We also passed four riverside pubs that are worth a visit in their own right:
The Prospect of Whitby, which claims to be the oldest riverside pub, however it's only the stone floor that's over 400 years old. It does have a colourful history being frequented by sailors, pirates and footpads. Today it's rather pretty and a nice place to stop for a drink.
The Mayflower. The Mayflower is claimed to be one of the oldest pubs on the Thames and was the docking place of the famous Mayflower Ship which set sail to Southampton with Captain Christoper Jones and then on to what we now know as the United States of America in 1620. Quirky fact – The Mayflower is the only pub in the UK who are still able to sell stamps! This originates from the 1800s when sailors docking in the area had little time to spare so could stop at local public houses for a drink and to buy stamps to write home. They also have a ‘Mayflower Descendants Book’ where if you can prove you are descended from the pilgrims who travelled to America in 1620 you can sign your name and leave your details.
The Town of Ramsgate near Wapping Old Stairs. Wapping Old Stairs have their own rather interesting history. They’re where pirates were chained to a post and left to drown, to be covered by three tides just to sure, and you can still see the remains of this post at low tide. Captain Bligh also first inspected the Bounty here before that infamous voyage.
The Grapes at Limehouse (owned by Sir Ian McKellan) - where there's an Anthony Gormley Statue in the Thames which gets revealed at low tide.
A few shots of what else was happening on the river - including paddling (it's not safe to swim in this part of the Thames) and sunbathing on a beach.
Beach life, Port of London patrol, Horrible Histories cruise
If this sounds like your kind of outing, I've answered a few of the basics below:
Where does it go from?
Lambeth Pier, close to Lambeth Place and Lambeth Bridge (we walked from Waterloo Station, but there are also a couple of buses that go from Waterloo)
How long does it last?
2 and a half hours
How much does it cost?
What does that include?
The price includes 5 beers (175ml serves) and your glass to take home. The beers are from different craft brewers each week.
Is there food available?
There are curated cheese boards from Neal's Yard which are designed to accompany the beers.
When is it on?
It takes place every Saturday from mid-May to mid-October. There are 2 cruises each day, the first departs at 12.30 p.m. and the second at 3.30 p.m.
Are there other types of cruise available?
Yes, there are craft cider cruises, and craft gin (I'm booking that one next!)
How do I book?
Via the Website