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Roaring good time in the Lion's den ...; WHITE LION GRANGE ROAD, WEST KIRBY, WIRRAL.

HE shortest day of the year. A day that requires a bolthole to escape the cold and early dark. Somewhere with a warming fire, intimate corners and a healthy serving of good grog to fuel the first flut-ters of festive cheer. Somewhere just like the White Lion, a recommendation to visit which came at the footnote of a Chrimbo card from an old school pal who jumped ship and moved to The Other Side. But how to get there? For a north Liverpudlian, previ-ous expeditions into this unfamiliar land have had much in common with Captain Willard's gunboat journey up the river to search for and destroy Marlon Brando's Colo-nel Kurtz in the film Apocalypse Now. In short, there's every possbility of getting lost and being captured by the locals and subjected tofiendish torture such as being forced to listen to the new Atomic Kitten album. A native guide was needed, a man of stealth familiar with the minu-tae of the local terrain, possessing the eyes of a cat and the ability to strike like snake when required.

Well, you can't have everything and on this occasion that Old Wir-ralian The Stud - later joined laterby his offspring, Junior Stud - wasonce again on hand to guide this navigational half-wit to his destination.

The White Lion stands on the hill that glides down into West Kirby's town centre, with Hilbre Island seemingly floating in the late December sea of slate grey sky. A return to harsh reality came with the realisation that the Lion has no car park - but the muncipal at the next major turning right provided a cheap (30 pence for three hours) and accessible (less than five minutes walk) alternative.

The inside is a traditionalist's dream more like a warm cave than a boozer. Lanterns shed dim light across the stone floors and walls, a pleasant musky smell from the coal fire beside the bar adding extra savour to the welcoming atmosphere and the excellent qual-ity of the ale. And being a trad pub there is strictly a `no young kids allowed' policy. We parked ourselves on wooden benches around the long oak table in a raised alcove facing the pumps dubbed t he Royal Box by Christine Stokes licensee/manager of a decade-plus. ``That's what we call the naughty table - it's always very noisy and rowdy up there'' explained Chris-tine later, aware that perhaps we'd found our spiritual home. The Royal Box is also home to a potted history display for this building w hich has been s erving ale for much of its existence since the 1600s.

Special prominence is given to a period through the late 70s and early 80s when it became the focus for national press attention as an early bastion of Girl Power.

The former licensee Margaret Richardson declared one of the alcoves a Man Free zone where women could drink without harass-ment' It has, however, been consigned to the knicker drawer of history because as Christine stated: ``It's not necessary any more; women are far more confident these days than to need such things.'' That confidence extends to knowing a good pint when they're served it too. There are three cask ale main-stays - John Smith's, Theakston'sand an especially hearty Courage Directors. There are also two regu-lar guest ales. On our visit the Cain's Doctor Duncan's was the one that won The Stud's heart. The favourite visitor, however, is Theakston's Old Peculiar.

So if you fancy a good pint of it, then you know where to go! Happy New Year.

FACT FILE:

OPENING HOURS: Monday to Saturday,

noon to 11pm, Sunday, noon to 10.30pm.

FOOD: Extensive barmeals menu. Noon to 2.30pm from Monday toSaturday. Gammon is the favourite but dishes of the day include lamb, beef and fish concoctions. Food is not served on Sunday.TOILETS: Straight-forward hatch and despatch.

DISABLED ACCESS: Ramp at the rear but no appropriate toilet.

SPECIAL NIGHTS: Monday quiz verypopular, includes roll-over cash prizes, 8.30pm start. 9037 for sarnie/vol au vent requirements.BUFFET PARTIES: Yes. Ring the pub on 0151 625

CAPTION(S):

MAIN ATTRACTION: The White Lion in West Kirby has a warming fire, intimate corners and a healthy serving of good ale
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Copyright 2002 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Dec 28, 2002
Words:700
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