Saturday, 17 August 2013

Fairlie to Largs: 17th August 2013

As always I don't need much of an excuse head down to the coast. This weekend the Village Inn in Fairlie was holding its first Beer Festival so it was an easy decision to take the train and head on 'Doon the Watter' to visit Fairlie and the nearby bustling seaside town of Largs.

View Fairlie in a larger map

Outward transport was as follows:-
  Train: Glasgow Central to Fairlie (48 on the hour)

It was definitely a bit of blustery summer's day as I took the train to Fairlie from Glasgow Central. This route took me past the infamous stretch of coastline just outside Saltcoats where the wind & tide can whip the water up & over the breakwater & the railway line, and yes being hit repeatedly by waves in a metal box with (practically) no warning can be pretty exciting & unsettling at the same time! Thankfully the wind & rain had calmed down somewhat as I left Fairlie train station and walked through a footpath to the bottom of Castle Gardens hill. I then found a signposted footpath up the hill to Fairlie Castle and Fairlie Glen and when I took this it was only a matter of a couple of minutes until I came to the well preserved ruins of Fairlie Castle.

It's fairly high structure (on 4 levels) partially covered in ivy & moss, with lots of open gunloops and I assume great views over to Cumbrae, Arran & the Kintyre peninsula on a clear day. It's still an impressive structure to walk around even though it's (very) difficult to get into (the main entrance archway is completely cemented up). After taking a couple of photos I decided to give Fairlie Glen further up the hillside a miss on this dreich day and so headed down to the main street and along to The Village Inn, with entrances both on the main street (with car park)...

... and on lower Bay Street.

Inside there's a small bar area with a couple of TVs and 2 hand-pulls and there's a larger, bright restaurant area to the rear, however today I was really only interested in the marquee that had been setup in the beer garden towards at the back (just down from the car park). Inside I found a good selection of Scottish cask beers on gravity (Fyne, Alechemy, Kelburn, Harviestoun etc... with more to come on later in the weekend) and a number of boxed ciders. I wouldn't normally go for a cider when there's beer about but the Tempest/Thistly Cross Snakebite collaboration was there (and had almost been tanned on Friday night) so I thought I'd give it a go. And very nice it was indeed - a sort of apple/blackcurrant fruit shoot with a good amount of texture and a nice bitter hoppy aftertaste.

I got chatting to Ale Trail tweeter extraordinaire mr h (aka Henry) and also a couple of the Ayrshire CAMRA people who were helping out - all really nice, enthusiastic beer people. I'd been to the Village Inn a couple of times previously and been a bit disappointed with the beer choice (really only Deuchars IPA and some Belhaven beers) but one of the CAMRA guys told me the owner was now out of the Belhaven/GK tie so had decided on a first beer festival - very good to see and always worthwhile supporting. The food today was only fairly standard BBQ stuff, but the cheeseburger was pretty thick & juicy and certainly filled a spot.

After 4 or so 1/2's of beer there was still a bit of a lull in the weather so I decided to make tracks up the coast to Largs whilst I still could. The well signposted coastal path continues from the Village Inn almost to the headland at Fairlie Pier and there were some great views to be had along the curve of Fairlie Bay.

The path then turned slightly away from the coastline and took me along the main road for a bit until just about to the entrance of Kelburn Estate (the Glen walk here is stunning given decent conditions). The path then crossed the railway line and allowed me to continue straight on and past the large expanse of Largs Yacht Haven. It was difficult to get a picture of all the boats at anchor without trapsing through the marina area so instead I took this picture of a number of different types of anchors all in a row at the entrance to the Haven.

There is meant to be the occasional sighting of real ale in the clubhouse of Largs Sailing Club close to the water's edge in the Haven but I decided to continue on down the coastal path until the town of Largs came into view. The most prominent feature when approaching from the south is the long tapering shape of The Pencil, built in 1912 to commemorate the Battle of Largs in the 13th Century when the Scots defeated King Haco of Norway's troops on the shore at Largs, leading to the departure of Norwegian troops from Scottish shores. The battle is commemorated every October at The Pencil (I would suggest taking warm clothing).

There's a lovely green/raised beach/esplanade at Largs with flower gardens, a rare sighting of a putting green and a kids playground. There's also some great views over to the Cumbraes, but today the most prominent feature was definitely another squall coming in from the north of Great Cumbrae.

At the very end of this section of the esplanade and just before Largs Main Street I came to The Waterside, with the small frontage hiding a quite extensive drinking establishment going well back into the rear of the building.

There's a quite long bar here which also extends quite far into the main bar/lounge area with a lot of kegged beers available and 2 hand-pulls - today Deuchars IPA and Timothy Taylor Landlord. It was quite busy with people in watching the football results (one of the first weekends of the Scottish season) both at the bar and at the many tables opposite.

They do some pretty standard pub grub-type food throughout the day and there was a nice snug all done up for evening meals.

I decided I could try one more pub before heading back to Glasgow and decided on Charlie Smith's on the Main Street.

By now the squall had struck and I had to fight my way to the bar through the groups of people sheltering from the downpour. Thankfully they had a decent dark beer available to warm me up somewhat, Theakston's Shot in the Dark, a pretty good roasty Mild. Again the pub itself was somewhat long & narrow with the bar situated along most of the length of the building down the right side.

As I expected the rain only lasted 15 minutes or so and that left me enough time to head down to that Largs' institution, Nardini's at the Moorings.

This is one of those Ice Cream Parlours/Gelaterias/Cafés owned by an Italian dynasty (including the lovely Daniela Nardini) that has been around since visits to the Seaside started way, way back in Victorian times. The café was busy, but I was really only interested in the selection of fabulous ice creams. This time the Jaffa Cake flavour caught my eye (and my sweet tooth). And if I'm honest this was probably even better than the (pretty well outstanding) Jammie Dodger flavour that I had had at the Stewart Tower Dairy a couple of weeks ago. It was definitely just as well that I had an appointment at the Dentist's setup for the following week.

(That's my Ice Cream waiting for me in the metal hook)

Return transport:-
  Train: Largs to Glasgow Central (48 on the hour)

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