Monday, 30 January 2012

Cardross and along the Helensburgh coast: 28th January 2012

One of the advantages about living on the west side of Glasgow is that it's fairly easy to get away to either the Loch Lomond area, the Trossachs or the north Clyde coast. Today I decided to go to the Clyde coast to visit Cardross and then Helensburgh and a couple of pubs along the surrounding coastline.

View Helensburgh in a larger map

Outward transport was as follows:-
  Train: Glasgow Westerton to Dumbarton Central
            Dumbarton Central to Cardross
            Cardross to Craigendoran (later)

Cardross Station is almost on the coast and on leaving it I found the semblance of a beach, but it's mostly mud flats for the Inner Clyde Nature Reserve up to the River Clyde waterline.

I walked along the sodden raised beach for a few minutes and then crossed the railway line to the main Dumbarton-Helensburgh road and the Coach House Inn, a large multi-roomed old coaching inn (doh!) with a decent sized car park to help capture the passing traffic.

Inside there's a really nice relaxed-style lounge (with real fire), dining room and separate bar area (including pool table) with the main TV in the bar set in an ornate picture frame. It was really quiet today (not sure why) even with the FA Cup on, but the staff were still helpful & friendly. On hand-pull in the bar are Theakston Lightfoot and Caledonian A Man's a Man, a decent, malty 60/- (unusual to see a 60/- nowadays, only 3.4% abv). I like the place, I just hope it gets busier - there are certainly good food offers and entertainment is put on on at the weekend, but I think a lot of people take the train into Partick or Glasgow, both during the day and in the evening.

I'd checked the O/S maps and Google Maps but there didn't seem to be an obvious walking/cycle path from Cardross to Helenburgh and since this was a busy main road, the risk involved in walking along the side of the road was just too great. I therefore returned to the station, waited for the train and got off at the next station, Craigendoran. It was then a 15 minute walk past some impressive Victorian/Edwardian houses (there's money in this here town) towards Helensburgh town centre to the Argyll Bar.

This is a real locals bar, and even after years of doing this I still get vaguely apprehensive when going into such a place for the first time. However so long as you are polite, make sure you don't take someone's seat and order a pint of real ale then there's not normally a problem and there certainly wasn't today - the barmaid was more than welcoming. Actually you also have to make sure you're not in anyone's eyeline to the TV, especially when it's a Liverpool - Man Utd FA Cup tie - something I had to check for quite a few times today! The only real ale on was Deuchars IPA (sigh... I thought about trying the McEwans 70/-) but it was certainly well kept. Inside the place there's a bar area where pretty well everyone was standing or sitting today, a U-shaped seating area opposite the bar and a snug through the back. I noted lots of books & dictionaries in the bookcases and a couple of large brewery mirrors and lots of military drawings & pictures on the walls. There was no chance of any interior photographs today - maybe next time when there's no football on.
The Argyll and Southern Highlander Drum Major on the outside wall is a bit of an 'icon' for the place - until recently it was more of a plaque/sculpture but now it's been re-done as an oil painting and it's certainly very distinctive.

I continued on into the centre of Helensburgh and took a walk out onto the pier where the ferry to/from Gourock/Kilcreggan had just docked - this is the best way to get to the Kilcreggan Hotel, a great pub on the Rosneath Peninsula, but you have to be (very) careful with the ferry times.

There's decent selection of interesting, independant shops in Helensburgh - a number of cafes/ice cream parlours, bakers, picture/framing shops, a whisky shop (Clyde Whiskies) with a nice beer selection from Loch Lomond Brewery & Williams Brothers and a great butchers/deli (Callaghan of Helensburgh) selling Fyne Ales minicasks & bottles. I decided to visit some of these on the way back to the train station and so continued along the esplanade until The Commodore Hotel.

This is a Vintage Inn (another in the Mitchell's & Butler / Nicholsons group) and seems to have been given a similar sort of modern, spotlight-obsessed makeover as the Three Craws in Glasgow that I visited last week (although it doesn't have the specific left/right drinkers/dining split). It's got a great beer garden, and even today in the depths of winter there were people at the tables with their dogs, drinks & coffees. The Commodore has the best selection of real ale in Helensburgh and on today were Deuchars IPA, Harviestoun Natural Blonde and Great Yorkshire 2012 Top of the Hops. The latter was certainly interesting - made with 2012 different types of (experimental) hops it was certainly bitter, but a little unbalanced and (to be honest) a little unpleasant. It also had the first pump-clip I've seen with a QR code - I scanned it and it pointed through a QR connection hub to the Great Yorkshire web-site with all the technical beer information you could possibly want - the beer geek in me certainly likes that.

Further up the coast is the Helensburgh Sailing Club building, location of the Helensburgh and Lomond Real Ale Festival last year (and this year - 18/19th May). For some reason I've never made it there (mostly due to taking my main Summer Holiday at that time of year) - hopefully this year.

Just past the sailing club is the Ardencaple Hotel, another hostelry with tables outside which can be busy during the summertime. It's definitely been done up (outside and in) and looks far better than the last time I was there.

As well as the bar and dining room there's a large room at the side with a pool table & dart board which is always great to see, but from a beer point-of-view there was only Deuchars IPA (double sigh...) and London Pride.

Leaving the Ardencaple I walked past Rhu Marina (quiet at this time of the year) and then into Rhu itself - a small village with a lot of really nice houses, a corner shop, Post Office, a few B&Bs and the Rhu Inn.

This is another locals place with the barmaids greeting everyone who came through the door by name (except for me of course!). I eventually found out there was a Houston beer on, although since there was no pump-clip no-one could be sure which one, but I'm pretty sure it was the Killellan. The place has a multi-level bar, TVs in the back, quieter in the front, with a stained glass partition between them and also a small snug off to the side by the front door. The real fire in the front area was blazing away and warmed me up in minutes. It's a nice local pub with live music advertised in the evenings and this is meant to happen all year round.

Before heading back to Helensburgh I walked out to the spit of beach at Rhu Point between the Clyde and the Gare Loch. At the Point there would normally be a great view up the length of Gare Loch up to Garelochhead, but unfortunately that was not to be in today's slight mist and haze. Still the view across to the Rosneath Peninsula and the view back to Rhu and the Marina were pretty good.

Also at the Point is an automated coastguard radar beacon - I dread to think of the radiation that was coursing through my body!

As I walked back I heard the sound of bagpipes (a wedding ?) and also a sign for Rosslea Hall which I hadn't noted before - that's what I like to find - somewhere new for investigation the next time I'm out this way.

Return transport:-
  Train: Helensburgh Central to Dalmuir
            Dalmuir to Glasgow Westerton

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