Thursday, 8 November 2012

Inverkip to Greenock along the Clyde Coast: 3rd November 2012

I'd wanted to go for a walk along the Clyde coast all summer but never found the time to do it for various reasons. Instead I decided that an autumn day that started off bright & breezy was too good an opportunity to miss and so headed off to Inverkip with the intention to walk up the coast (as much as possible) to Greenock.

View Inverkip in a larger map

Outward travel was as follows:-
  Glasgow Central to Inverkip (50 on the hour)

It's only about a 45 minute journey from Glasgow to Inverkip and if you sit on the on right hand side of the train there are some great views of the Clyde, especially across to Dumbarton Rock and its historic military garrison. There's also the huge IBM complex a couple of miles outside Greenock, so extensive that a train stop was built just for it.
After getting off at Inverkip station I took the road down the hill and onto the main street to the Inverkip Hotel

The hotel restaurant looked a bit too formal so I headed into the quaintly named Elbow Room bar. Quite a few regulars were propping up the bar, but I managed to spy Arran Red Squirrel & Houston Peters Well pumpclips on view, although the actual handpulls are in the lounge bar. I took a pint of the malty, liquoricy Red Squirrel (there are only Red Squirrels on Arran and I think a percentage of the price goes to a Red Squirrel trust) and went to sit at the far side of the bar. The bar gantry is really bright, enhanced by the full length mirrors, twinkling whisky bottles & a shiny new WEST 4 font, whilst the back of the bar has a flashing puggie and lots of black-and-white photos of old Inverkip.

There were 2 soups available - chicken broth or curried carrot(!), so I had to try the latter and when it came (after approx. 3 minutes - wow!) it was very good indeed, thick & really quite spicy with all that curry heat. Kudos to the chef for making that work.

I now had to find the Coastal Path and so followed a helpful signpost towards the main road flyover at the entrance of Kip Marina

I decided to head towards the coast rather than follow an inland path and so walked further into the marina and a brand new housing development. This was a bad move since I couldn't find a way out of the estate, but I did manage to get a nice shot of the huge number of berths in the Kip Marina complex.

Instead I had to backtrack to an unmarked path (and also now a contractor's road) before the housing estate. This was very, very muddy in places (welly boots would have been the better choice of footwear) and I even managed to slip once and get only one leg of my jeans completely covered in mud - a nice look. However I eventually connected into the real Coastal Path and found my way up to the car park and picnic area at Lunderston Bay

From here I had to follow the pavement of the main road and came across a number of 'unusual' sea shore shacks (perhaps old fisherman's huts) on the beach - some were boarded up, but quite a few were inhabited (surely not full-time, the sea can get incredibly rough out here at times).

At the very point where the land and sea make a right-angled turn into the Firth of Clyde is the Cloch Lighthouse, which is now someone's home (and mightily impressive too) with the date of 1796 on the lighthouse tower.

The path now continued parallel to the northern bank of the Clyde past the Western Ferries McInroy's Point ferry service, now the only car & vehicle ferry to Dunoon (don't worry these two didn't hit each other).

From this point the views across Clyde are spectacular - up the length of Loch Long and the snow-capped Arrochar Alps.

The esplanade into Gourock is fairly long with large houses and developments of flats (mostly retirement homes) facing north over the Clyde. One of the smaller buildings contains the Spinnaker Hotel

In here are 2 main rooms - a more formal restaurant on the left and a bar lounge on the right. There was only a limited choice of either Belhaven IPA or Greene King IPA available in the bar (though the barman was cleaning the 3rd handpull, but only cleaning, sigh...) so I went for a pint of the Scottish beer. Also available were Belhaven Black, Peroni, Stella & (surprisingly) Tartan Special. It's a nice homely bar at the back of the room with chatty, friendly staff, a few seats (& today's papers) for those sitting at the bar, colourful stained glass of a Spinnaker-type ship and other nautical objects and a lot of comfy seats to take in those views over the esplanade & the Clyde. I liked the place & just hope they do have some decent guest ales in from time to time.

Further on into Gourock High Street past Gourock Outdoor Pool (closed for the wintertime) is Cafe Continental with a welcoming Erdinger Weissbier sign in the window.

It was really quite bustling inside - tables full of families, shoppers & quite a few dogs and a further number of regulars propping up the superb 1/4 oval marble bar. There are no handpulls, but Erdinger, Black Isle Blonde, St Mungo, Estrella Damm & Budvar are available on draught but for some reason I went for a bottle of Blue Moon, complete with slice of orange (I think I must have wanted a bottle after the fizzy Belhaven IPA). As I squeezed myself into the corner of the bar I noted the huge bar gantry with backing mirrors & large large clock and also all of the great wall tiling, in Glasgow close green & white.

The place narrows towards the centre (next to the toilets) and then opens out again further back to a packed-out conservatory dining area with really quite fabulous views across the Clyde.

I then went searching for Greenock Esplanade, but just before reaching this I went through Battery Park which was being set up for the evening's Firework Display with fairground rides, fast food stalls, sparklers, flashing lights etc... all about be fully set-up & manned.

It's a lovely long Esplanade, up there with those at Brought Ferry, Portobello and Troon, perhaps the only thing which slightly spoils it are the cranes of the Clydeport shipping complex at the end of the Esplanade.

My final stop of the day was going to be the JD Wetherspoon pub The James Watt (note that this is not at all close to the James Watt College buildings), a conversion of a large elegant Victorian Post Office and named after the famous Scientist/Engineer born in Greenock.

It really is a large building (it must be up there in size with the Counting House in Glasgow) and fairly open plan with lots of tables around the windows, a large family area in the centre and a dedicated section for worshipping the TV (the football results were on when I was there). It perhaps doesn't have the reputation for real ale that some of the other Wetherspoons pubs have, but since their Real Ale Festival was still on I went for the 3 1/3rd pint tasters option irregardless. From the 6 handpulls I chose Shepherd Neame Red Sails, Greene King IPA Reserve & Woodforde Norfolk Hawker (a nice appley flavour in that) but it probably took longer to find the glasses (not too much demand I guess) than drink the beer. I sat down at the rear of the TV section and next to one of a number of pieces of old technology in the building - a really nice touch. I think this was a Lister diesel engine in its traditional Brunswick Green livery displayed under a number of shelves of old books.

I like pubs that are close to stations & which also have free WiFi to allow the Scotrail App to track trains in real-time, so with The James Watt only a 2 minute stroll to Greenock Central it was nice-and-easy to judge the train back to Glasgow after a good Saturday afternoon walk.

Return transport:-
  Greenock Central to Glasgow Central 15, 32 (express), 45 on the hour)

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