Thursday, 25 April 2013

Newton to Dalmeny via South Queensferry: 19th April 2013

With a day off forthcoming I always find it's a good idea to look at what's happening in the great beer city of Edinburgh courtesy of the ever informative Edinburgh Beer Weekly and this week there was a lot on - DM Stewart New Brew Beer Festival, 30 Days of IPA, and the release of some new Madcap Brewery beers. So it would have been an easy decision to head to Edinburgh to just wander (OK, crawl) around some pubs and beer shops. But sometimes the lure of a walk along the coast or the hills is too strong to ignore (especially on what was promising to to one of the first sunny days for ages) so I decided to compromise and have a walk around a few pubs in West Lothian near the Firth of Forth coast and then take the train into Edinburgh afterwards.

View Queensferry in a larger map

Outward travel was as follows:-
  Train: Glasgow Queen St to Linlithgow (15, 45 on the hour)
  Bus: Linlithgow to Newton (23 E&M Horsburgh, 09:29 then every 2 hours)

The bus from Linlithgow took a bit of a meandering route through Philpstoun but eventually dropped me off in Newton opposite the Duddingston Arms on the busy road to Forth Road Bridge approach. It's a low-slung corner building with outside plants & hanging baskets, a function room and an outside decking area and just seemed very welcoming indeed. (* though see end of blog *)

I walked into the main bar, took a look at the 2 hand-pulls and was really quite surprised to see a pump-clip for Strathbraan Brewery's Due South pale ale. I'd been up in Perthshire visiting their brewery earlier in the same week and to see one of their beers in the first pub I'd gone into after that visit was quite some co-incidence (spooky!). Also available on the bar was Dark Horse from Scottish Borders and the friendly landlord indicated that they try to keep one dark and one light cask ale on at all times if at all possible.

After a chat about Strathbraan Brewery we also touched on the tastings of the new Bangour Brewery beers at the Duddingston Arms last December, although I received the impression that Bangour is still very much in extended 'home-brew' mode with another tasting session due at the Duddingston Arms in the near future. I then ordered some food, took my pint of Due South and sat down at one of the many tables located opposite and to the sides of the bar. It's a nice bar with lots of dark wood, exposed brickwork, books on the many shelves, newspapers, a large number of paintings from local artists for sale, a single large TV, WiFi available and what seemed to be a free-to-use internet connected PC, I liked it a lot - the only slightly incongruous feature being some 'fake' book wrap/border above the bar.
Thanks to @borrachoeneldia for the picture merge

I'd ordered the soup-of-the day (mushroom) and a cheese-and-ham toastie (hooray - I don't seem too see many toasties available in pubs any more). It more than hit the spot and when I was paying-up there was a nice surprise - 20p off a pint and 20% off food for CAMRA members - maybe I won't be burning that CAMRA membership card quite yet!

I wanted to walk into South Queensferry but both the landlord and Google Maps told me that there wasn't any pavement for a distance of about a mile or so after leaving Newton village and because of the busy main road it just wasn't sensible to walk on the grass verge. Instead I decided turn left at end of village, then turn right parallel to the main road. From here I wasn't sure if I could get past the Balfour Beatty Rail (ex-Motorola) building so I decided to detour slight back on myself into the grounds of Hopetoun House until I reached the Sustrans 76 cycle route. I hadn't realised that I was actually so close to the main part of Hopetoun House otherwise I would have turned left to see it, but instead I turned right to exit from the ornamental gates of the House.

Thereafter it was a straightforward walk along the shore road with great views of the current Forth Bridges and the on-going construction of the new Forth Replacement Crossing, started in Autumn 2011 with a projected cost of £1.60 Billion. A proper name for this bridge still has to be chosen

It's only when you get close to them that you realise what huge engineering structures are required for the new crossing - I assume these are the foundations for the support frames just at/before the landfall of the new bridge.

I then entered South Queensferry proper. I used to come here often 10-15 years ago to visit friends and then head out for some food and some beers (the evening when Princess Anne sat at a nearby table in the Pierre Victoire restaurant has passed into legend). In the intervening period the High Street has certainly become a lot of more touristy with a large number of cafés & restaurants, gift shops and fashion boutiques, but thankfully The Ferry Tap has stayed pretty well the same.

They were proudly displaying that they were taking part in the 30 Days of IPA festival and had a number of 'IPA's available on the 4 hand-pulls - Tryst Raj IPA, Coulsons EPA, Deuchars IPA and this special beer from Tryst - 30 Day IPA (though minus points for the Caley glass). This was another lovely pale'n'hoppy beer from Tryst, with some lingering orangey bitterness, but I think I probably prefer the extra ooomph from the Raj IPA.

As well as the hand-pulls they have a serious amount of single malts available in the brightly lit bar, and there's a lot of old fashioned beer and whisky signs, brewery mirrors, beer barrels, whisky bottles/cases and miniature spirit bottles on display - as a throw-back to a previous visits there was even ELO on the juke-box!

The only real concession to draw-in the passing crowd for lunches or snacks are the chequered tablecloths on a number of the tables on the far side of the pub - I think I would definitely have been tempted to come in for the free curry buffet that Friday night as part of the 30 Days of IPA event.

After leaving The Ferry Tap I took a stroll along the busy esplanade area. When you get a bright sunny day the wide-screen panoramic view of the two Forth Bridges is quite stunning, especially with the Rail Bridge having been recently re-painted.

Enjoying a prime location for this view is The Two Bridges but I believe they've gone through a number of owners in the last few years with some very mixed (to say the least) reviews and at the moment the place is definitely closed.

Still open at the end of the esplanade (almost in the shadow of the support towers of the magnificent Forth Railway Bridge) is the Hawes Inn, once used by Robert Louis Stevenson (and mentioned in Kidnapped), and now a Mitchells & Butlers Vintage Inn.

As with all Vintage Inns it's been refurbished really well - lots of different dining/restaurant sections dotted around and also a more welcoming separate area if you don't want food, with a huge fireplace, comfy chairs and pictures of the Forth Bridges.

And if you ignore the Deuchars IPA there were a couple of excellent guest ales to try - I hadn't seen Triple fff Moondance in Scotland for quite some years and the Itchen Valley Sticklebracht New Zealand Pale Ale was lovely, very refreshing and citrusy, and a completely new hop type to me.

I could have stayed in the Hawes Inn for a while but needed to head into Edinburgh. At the side of the Inn there's a large beer garden and at the very far side (past the car park) there is a steep set of steps which provide a useful short cut to Dalmeny train station. It's a bit of a climb and I definitely wouldn't recommend any more than 3 or 4 pints before attempting to rush up there in less than 5 minutes to get a train!
Return travel:-
  Train: Dalmeny to Edinburgh Haymarket
            Haymarket to Glasgow Queen St

* UPDATE May 2013 *
According to their Facebook page it may be that The Duddingston Arms has either closed or changed hands. Still to be confirmed, but please 'phone before visiting - 0131 331 1948.

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