IT’S not exactly on the road to nowhere but neither is Welbury – a rather pleasant village in the triangle formed by Darlington, Northallerton and Yarm – on the route to anywhere in particular.

Appleton Wiske might argue with that, it being an adjacent sizeable village which until the end of last year managed to support two pubs.

The Shorthorn is now closed, to be demolished and the site developed for housing. The Lord Nelson is still there but nevertheless the village cannot be considered a destination of note unless you live there.

Welbury is certainly not sizeable and has not been more than a dot on the map ever since its station on the Northallerton-Teesside railway line closed way back when.

But it does still have its pub – the Duke of Wellington – and that is something to be celebrated.

It has had its ups and downs over the years. The last time we called back in 2007 it was called The Monk’s Table – a restaurant masquerading as an interiors business. It has been closed a few times since then and also survived an attempt to convert it to a home. Thankfully, a planning inspector put a stop to that.

The Leivers family are now at the helm as leaseholders but mercifully free of tie. So there is a good range of real ales.

While we can’t recall quite how it was when we last visited, “The Welly” has clearly been freshened up but is essentially still a traditional country pub interior with a few contemporary touches.

And it was pretty full, which is always cheering. Come to think of it few things give me as much pleasure as walking into a pub in a very small village and finding it rammed to the doors.

While it wasn’t completely rammed, we had to burrow our way to the bar from the door through a crowd of enthusiastic young (again, that’s a good sign in my book) locals to announce our arrival and find our booked table. We were eating in a dining area to one side of the bar where there were plenty of folk already chowing down.

What has not been freshened up in pub’s revamp are the chairs, some red leather high-backed jobs with squabs that had simply endured the impact of too many well-upholstered backsides and offered little support. After five minutes sinking in to them, we decamped to an adjacent table with some much better bench seating.

The evening menu was modest in size and ambition and I say that in a good way. Traditional pub fare – gammon, steak and ale pie, hunter’s chicken, scampi, burger, salmon fillet – was enlivened by three specials – rack of lamb, BBQ pork ribs and chicken and leek filo pastry pie.

Tempting though the specials were – particularly the lamb which we saw being served nicely pink with a potato gratin and red wine sauce – we stuck to the main menu for both our starters and mains.

Sylvia’s salmon and prawn cocktail (£5.95) came without the salmon at her request. The prawns were deemed to pass muster (decent size, no sogginess) as did the Marie-Rose sauce (not too sweet) and the salad (fresh rocket and pea shoots)

My moules mariniere (also £5.95), served with a crusty baguette, might not have been the plumpest mussels but they were certainly succulent. The white wine, garlic and cream liquor was well seasoned and just the right consistency necessitating the request of a spoon to ensure none of it went to waste.

On to the mains which were a mixed bag. Sylvia’s battered cod (£10.95) was disappointing. It looked good on the plate but the beer batter was not the crispiest, particularly not the middle section of the fillet. The cod, while cooked perfectly well and looking fresh, didn’t taste of anything much. The tartar sauce was excellent, the mushy peas – properly steeped overnight, Sylvia reckoned – were a little on the claggy side.

My Welly Burger (£12.95) was a monster which came with all the usual trimmings, including onion rings. I confess I hadn’t properly registered that the Welly Burger is in fact two burgers and they come in a bun, sandwiched with bacon and cheese and liberally lubricated with barbecue sauce.

The burgers, from the top-notch butchery at Roots Farm Shop just down the road at East Rounton, were beautiful and I concentrated all my efforts and stomach-capacity on ensuring I finished them off.

The very good chunky and twice-fried (perhaps thrice-fried) chips, which also accompanied Sylvia’s cod, were almost untouched along with the onion rings and part of the bun. I know, what a lightweight I’ve become.

Puddings were out of the question, sadly, so we settled up. Including a soft drink and a small glass of sauvingnon blanc, the bill was £42.45.

While the food might not have been universally great and the service a was little patchy at times, the Wellie has a lot going for it. The next time you on the road to nowhere, or even the metropolis of Appleton Wiske, call in.


The Duke of Wellington, Welbury, Northallerton, DL6 2SG

Tel: 01609 882464


Vegetarian and gluten free options

Disabled access

Open for food: Wednesday-Saturday from 5pm. Saturday lunch noon-2pm. Sunday lunch noon-4pm,

Ratings (out of ten): Food quality 7, Service 8, Surroundings 7, Value 7