Knowing that Neil Hanson was a past editor of the Good Beer Guide I was perhaps hoping that the content of The Inn at the Top would be a little more centred on the pub and its history, but instead it is more like a book that James Herriott could have turned out had he ever decided to write in partnership with Alfred Wainwright. Whilst this isn't a bad book I was a little disappointed by it, and I think that this is because it doesn't seem to ever decide whether it is a Herriott-style, life in the Dales book, full of humorous anecdotes about the local farmers and the tourists drawn to Britains highest pub or whether it is a Wainwright-style book, describing the highways and byways of the bleak countryside surrounding the remote North Yorkshire tavern. For my taste the best parts of the book are the tales about the pubs clientele, which generally make for good reading, in contrast to the sections about the local countryside that tend to drag a little.
As with previous reviewers my major annoyance was that Hanson never names anything; everybody knows the Hill at the Top is the Tan Hill Inn and he presumably doesn't use that name for legal reasons but why doesn't he name Appleby as being the home of the Horse Fair that he visits? It is very, very peculiar. It will be interesting to see if, should Neil Hanson write a follow up book, he manages to avoid giving a name to Ted Moult, the man who made the inn famous in his double glazing adverts.