Thursday, 23 January 2014

Aberdour to Kinghorn, with Burntisland in the middle: 18th January 2014

Normally like most people I tend to head to the seaside in the summertime, but since I'd previously walked both across the Forth Road Bridge to Aberdour and from Kirkcaldy to Kinghorn, today I decided on the relatively short length of the Fife Coastal Path in-between that I hadn't walked before. Hopefully this would prove a good choice for the reduced daylight hours & murky weather of this winter weekend.

View Aberdour in a larger map

Outward travel was as follows:-
  Train: Glasgow Queen Street to Haymarket (every 15 minutes)
  Train: Haymarket to Aberdour (12, 42 on the hour)

I arrived in Aberdour just before noon and so decided I would try to find my way to the Aberdour Obelisk at the top of Cuttlehill, just to the south of the Aberdour House apartments and the train station. This wasn't going to be as easy as I had initially thought from looking at Google Maps with the very specific 'Private Footpath' sign planted in front of the apartments. Instead I had to clamber over a gate at the end of Livingstone Lane and then squelch my way through the mud (and 'other' stuff) at the gate entrance to reach the bottom of the hill (I did find an 'easier' gate to Shore Road on the way back).

There are no inscriptions or markings on the 40 foot high 18th Century obelisk, but it seems it was built by the then landowner so that he could see it through a telescope from his estate in Edinburgh (and show it off to his wealthy friends, of course), with the obelisk visible across the 6 miles or so of the Firth of Forth as the crow flies. When I walked towards the beach at Aberdour I could about just make out the obelisk (on the very right hand side, on top of the hill) giving an indication of its height and its proximity to the water.

As I headed back towards the centre of town I came to the Foresters Arms (note no 'double-r'), situated at the corner of Shore Road and the High Street (with entrances on both).

I'd planned to meet Fife CAMRA member Paul McAllister there and he was already supping away at a pint of Rooster's Wild Mule, so it was a pretty easy decision to join him; it's a lovely light, lemon-citrusy golden ale with a very dry finish.

There's a good choice of beers for such a small town, and they certainly seem to go through a fair amount of guests with beers from Adnams & the Warwickshire Brewing Co. next to go on. The bar also has a lovely fire, books available on a number of shelves, TVs showing the early football game and a well used pool table and juke-box. In addition there's also a large function room further into the rear of the building.

Lunches available at the Foresters are a good range of traditional mains (with 2 course & 3 course specials) and snacks, but I was happy just to go with a cheese & ham toastie - which I almost forgot to pay for (I was heading out of the door before the barman *subtly* reminded me, with the dogs about to be let loose to drag me back).

I chatted to Paul for a while about a number of beery subjects, in particular the increasing number of breweries in Fife, and it seems there will be a Champion Beer of Fife again at the Glenrothese Beer Festival in the first weekend of May (twitter @FifeAleFestival). I left him to survey the rest of the pubs in Aberdour but decided I could pop into another licensed establishment just down Shore Road from the Foresters Arms, the whitewashed premises of The Cedar Inn.

There are a lot of rooms in here - a lounge bar, a conservatory, a large public bar and this small, cosy snug/whisky bar, but they only had Deuchars IPA & Doom Bar available today so I took a swift 1/2 of the Doom Bar and was on my way fairly quickly.

I decided that the easiest way to head back to the Fife Coastal Path was to return to the High Street, skirt the train station and then cross the railway line just past Aberdour Castle and Garden. This looks an impressive, well-maintained structure and probably a great place to have a wander about in the summertime but not really in the depths of a dreich winter.

The signs took me back down towards the Firth of Forth and Silversands Bay where some of the Forth Islands could easily be seen, both Inchcolm (nearer with the Augustinian Abbey visible) and Inchmickery (further away with its battleship-like profile).

I then followed the rocky shoreline for some distance before heading under the railway and reaching the Starley Burn waterfall which cascades down for 15 feet or so above the path and 6 feet below and was certainly in full flow today.

On the outskirts of Burntisland the path then took me alongside a number of new housing estates where the water & mud had washed down from the higher up developments and completely flooded the path. This sodden track eventually took me down past the huge Burntisland Fabrications yard to the shops of the High Street. At the end of the High Street I'd hoped to find a deli called Delicate Essence (ouch!) as per Google Streetview, but instead the shop seems to have recently been redeveloped and renamed as Potter About, an interesting ceramics gift shop and café.

In its previous incarnation as a deli it had sold bottles from the Burntisland Brewery (which stated brewing in 1995 and closed in ~2000), and the Brewery itself was *meant* to have been behind the deli (for at least some/most of the time). When I asked for some Burntisland Brewery beer on the only time I ever went to the deli, the girl behind the counter initially had absolutely no idea what I was talking about. I was eventually sent down to a fireworks shop along Burntisland High Street where the brewer, Steve Madley, was supplementing his income by selling pyrotechnics (not quite sure if beer & fireworks quite mix). We then traipsed back to the deli where Steve sold me 4 bottles from his under-the-counter stash. I got 2 bottles of 5.1% Dockland Rivets (a Pils) and 2 of 4.3% Alexander's Downfall (an 80/- I think ?), and I don't believe I even got a discount for having to stick the labels on the bottles of the latter myself.

There's a fantastic green/raised beach at Burntisland called The Links; this separates the sea from the main road and is where the summer fairground is located and the Burntisland Highland (or lowland) Games takes place in July.

At the town-side of The Links I found an intriguing corner pub called The Crown, situated with great views down the whole length of The Links.

I was able to spy a single hand-pull through the front window and so decided to go in and give it a try. This turned out to be a local Loch Leven Brewery beer, Golden Goose, and although it had some citrus bitterness, there was a bit of astringency to the finish that I don't think I remember it having before - just a slightly off 1/2 pint I hope.

I did manage to get a couple of photos of the interior of this single room pub (with some of the locals watching the football results), but since there was a notice on the far wall stating 'No photography using mobile phones' I'll respect their wishes. I then set off up The Links and onto the steadily rising main road heading to Kinghorn. About half-way between Burntisland and Kinghorn I came to the reason why one of the Burntisland Brewery beers had been called Alexander's Downfall. Legend has it that in 1286 King Alexander III of Scotland was returning on horseback from Edinburgh to be with his young second wife at Kinghorn Castle. It was well after dark, in some terrible weather and separated from his companions when Alexander came along the cliff road, his horse then stumbled and pitched him to his death over the high cliffs. The Alexander III Memorial was built in 1886 with donations from (amongst others) Queen Victoria.

The Inscription on the monument was just about readable and states - 'To the illustrious Alexander III, the last of Scotland's Celtic Kings, who was accidentally killed near this spot, March XIX - MCCLXXXVI. Erected on the Sexcentenary of his death'.

Further up the road towards Kinghorn I came to the huge Pettycur Bay Holiday Park which includes an incredible number of static caravans perched on the hillside with what must be stunning views across the Forth of Forth and there's also the modern facilities of The Bay Hotel on-site.

The roadside path eventually stopped its incline and led me into Kinghorn itself. On the main street, just past the turning for the train station, I came to the Crown Tavern (there are certainly a lot of names associated with Royalty around here).

Mr Paul McAllister had beaten me to the place (hey, he'd taken the bus) but thankfully he had not demolished all of the Beeches Brewery seasonal special, Auld Grumpy's Winter Brew (starring a picture of the brewer himself). This was a lovely dark fruit, spicy, red winey winter ale, with a nominal strength of 5.9%, but we both agreed that it had definitely gone up a notch or 2 from that. (Hop Back Golden Best was on the other gleaming tall font).

The pub has 2 distinct areas - we were sitting at the dark wooden bar on the left side, with a number of high-backed double seats & tables available behind the partition on the right and a small games room at the back of the pub complete with pool table. It seems like a great community pub with lots of banter with the owners and they have comedy nights, bands & the occasional craft fair. In particular I really liked all the coloured glass on the door and the windows at the front and the back.

As I bade Paul goodbye I headed down to the small harbour in the sweeping bay below the railway station, complete with active RNLI station (there are a lot of steps here). It's a stunning part of the Scottish coastline, as is the East Nuek of Fife further north past Kirkcaldy, another place definitely on my list to visit this year.

Return travel:-
  Train: Kinghorn to Haymarket (04, 34 on the hour)
  Train: Haymarket to Glasgow Queen Street (every 15 minutes)

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Dunblane to Stirling down the Darn Road: 11th January 2014

On probably the first dry day of the year so far I decided it was worth taking this opportunity to visit to an interesting new pub in Dunblane and then walk down an historic old road to both Bridge of Allan and then onwards into Stirling.

View Dunblane 2014 in a larger map

Outward travel was as follows:-
  Train: Glasgow Queen Street to Dunblane (48 on the hour)

On arriving at Dunblane Station I walked past both the Village Inn and the Dunblane Hotel until I reached the newly opened & completely refurbished premises of The Riverside, a tall, imposing building standing guard over the Allan Water.

This used to be the Stirling Arms Hotel until it was bought over and then refurbished in August last year, and it seems there has been an inn of sorts at the location for a long, long time.

The Riverside had been open for breakfast and coffee & cake since 10am so I entered through the light, modern doorway, stood at the 'Please wait to be seated sign' and managed to get a table next to the bar on the left side of the room, spookily quite close to the Henry Lawson quote on the wall - 'Beer makes you feel the way you ought to feel without beer'.

The glass doorway, all the light wooden tables, chairs & decorative trim, the tiny pairs of down-lighters and the use of chrome fittings certainly gave the place a bright, modern feel and I liked the large blackboard with food, drink and cake specials and the slightly smoky smell coming off the real fire across the room where much in the way of coffee, tea & scones were being consumed on the more comfy seats. There is also a more formal restaurant downstairs and an outside riverside terrace (think I would probably have guessed that from the name of the place!) complete with retractable canopy; it'll be great place for a beer during the summer. Although it seemed very much a food-led place there were a number of seats at the well-stocked bar and available today on the counter were 3 keg lagers (Amstel, 1664 & Bierra Moretti), keg Caledonian 80/-, and 3 hand-pulled beers - Deuchars IPA (which looks permanent from the super-shiny font), Loch Lomond Ale of Leven and Loch Ness FestiveNESS. A week back at work had not quite knocked the memories of Yuletide 2013 out of me so I decided I could still handle a pint of the FestiveNESS - all dark fruit, spices & even a hint of oxo cubes - definitely Christmas in a glass.

Food switched over from the Breakfast Menu to Lunch at 12noon, with a wide selection of starters, sharing platters, more traditional mains and lots of sandwiches including the 'Soup Club', a bowl of today's soup for an extra £1.50 with any sandwich or starter. So that made it an easy choice for me - I went with the Green Lentil & Bacon soup (with a nice amount of smoky bacon pieces in there) and a cheese-and-ham toastie including quite nippy home-made mustard mayonnaise. It was all really tasty & well-made but the bread was the star - thick sour dough from the Village Bakery in Stirling and absolutely stunning.

For dessert I was almost tempted by the ice cream selection since it's fabulous stuff made by the Stewart Tower Dairy people and there were also tempting jars full of Mini-Eggs & Jelly Babies on the shelves behind the bar. During the day at least this is certainly a food-led establishment with a nice beer selection, but it has a similar vibe & ethos to both The Hanging Bat and the St Andrews Brewing Co. Pub (which are beer-led bars with nice food) - it's independent, modern, makes use of local produce and has great staff & service - I was most impressed. Next I needed to head off and find my footpath to Bridge of Allan, but as I walked up the Main Street towards Dunblane Cathedral, there (literally glinting in the winter sunshine) was one of the fabled Gold Post Boxes, this one painted over to celebrate Andy Murray's gold medal at the 2012 Olympics - go Andy !!

This road then took me up to the town bypass and the entrance to Dunblane New Golf Club. At the very far edge of the golf course (still on the bypass) I found a helpful signpost to Bridge of Allan along the historic Darn Road, a route said to date back to Roman times.

I followed this path alongside a number of the golf holes (there were a lot of golfers out, golfers are as committed as walkers) but this eventually led me to a more rocky and puddle covered track.

This then dropped steeply in a couple of places (and was very muddy, I was glad I was heading downhill) until reaching a bridge over the Allan Water.

Just down from the bridge is a large cave in plain sight. Robert Louis Stevenson was meant to have sheltered here whilst holidaying at Bridge of Allan and the cave is supposedly part of the inspiration for Ben Gunn's Cave in Treasure Island.

The path then followed the Allan Water for a bit longer before emerging beside a new housing estate into Bridge of Allan proper. The main street of Bridge of Allan was busy as always but it wasn't too long before I could head out into a side-street just past the Adamo Hotel and step into the familiar surroundings of the Allanwater Brewhouse (not too much changes here on year-by-year basis (at least from the outside)).

I was welcomed by the lovely Katie Jane who had just started in the Brewhouse a few months ago (and was finding it far more fun than her previous job at No2 Baker Street in Stirling). She took me through all of the beers but did mention that I'd just missed the last of the Christmas specials on cask (drats!), but that they were still available in bottles (hooray!). Instead there was the Chilli Pot, Wheat 70/- Pot and Czech Pot available with the IPA just about to go on. At first the Chilli Pot seemed deceptively like a standard golden ale, but then a pretty huge blast of chilli heat battered the inside of my mouth with a herbal bitter aftertaste lingering at the back of my throat for quite some time. It wasn't actually unpleasant when I'd gotten used to it, but I don't think I'd have more than a pint of it in one sitting.

Brewer Douglas Ross was also in and out that afternoon and we chatted about what was happening at the De Brus Brewery in Dunfermline (he's still brewing there, but hoping to recruit someone this month) and there were also lots of bottles of the De Brus beers available to buy.

Once Douglas had established that I was walking, he was also good enough to give me a sample of mead that had been been brewed(?)/fermented/made 6 months or so ago. This uses only local honey and water and was currently maturing at about 12% abv. It was very sweet (obviously) & floral, but still quite light and certainly didn't taste 12%. It'll probably creep up a further few abv percentage points and Douglas wasn't sure what to do with it. My suggestion was to put it into some large ornate bottles, call it Craft Mead, and then sell it at some of the evening Fireside music sessions that get held at the Brewhouse.

Beers bought and mead drunk I bade Douglas & Katie Jane goodbye and then started off to Stirling (although I think it was actually a bit more of a stagger due to that sample of mead I'd had). I decided to give both The Meadowpark Hotel and The Birds and the Bees a miss and headed down the main road past Cornton Vale prison. Along the road there were some great views of the Wallace Monument as the moon rose.

I walked across the Auld Bridge and decided I had time to clamber up Gowan Hill, located at the very northern-most point of the same crag that Stirling Castle is also perched on. It's not a steep or long climb and at the top of the hill are the Beheading Stone (set behind some serious bars) which was the site of numerous executions in the 15th Century and 2 cannons representing those that were destroyed by artillery fire from the Castle during the Jacobite Rebellion.

As well as sweeping panoramic views out to the Wallace Monument and the Ochil Hills I could just about make out the snow capped Trossachs and the Southern Highlands in the low sun.

Only a short walk from Gowan Hill I found the Settle Inn, said to the oldest inn in Stirling.

I walked into the quiet bar and noted that there was only 1 real ale available on the 2 hand-pulls, Everards Beacon (an OK golden bitter), so I took a 1/2 of that and a packet of BBQ mini-cheddars. The landlady told me that I'd just missed a number of An Teallach beers (drats, although they can be somewhat inconsistent), and there were signs of their passing by the number of An Teallach bar towels and beer mats all over the place.

I sat down at one of the tables opposite the bar, took a paper and certainly warmed up quickly in front of the fire. The landlady was looking for some help in repairing one of the hand-pulls and the guy at the bar was more than happy to help, to the extent of bringing in his own tools from his van (not quite sure why he was drinking in that case). I took the opportunity to pop into the larger room at the back (almost a 'bunker') used for gigs and (a wild guess) darts.

It was a bit too much of a hike to go up to The Portcullis at the top of the Castle crag, but instead I decided to try a couple of other pubs in the centre of Stirling. No2 Baker St. had only Green King IPA, Belhaven 80/- and Old Speckled Hen (although Fyne Ales Avalanche did come on later, so at least they are trying), and Morrisons Cold Beer Co. had nothing at all on their hand-pulls (but did have a lot of continental keg beers), both are Belhaven/Greene King outlets. However after much legal opposition (mostly from the aforementioned Belhaven/Greene King) there will be a large JD Wetherspoon opening up in the former HMRC premises in Spittal Street later on in 2014; perhaps this will shake up the Stirling beer scene a bit.

Instead I decided to give my custom to La Ciociara, a great Italian Café/Deli just up the road from the train station. This has well-priced take-away coffee and a mouth watering selection of sweet & savoury pastries and so I took 2 huge fruit/cherry scones for later on in the weekend and was tempted by a white chocolate/raspberry/shortcake slice for the train journey back to Glasgow. I suspect this all took me over my recommended calorie intake for the day, but then my excuse was that I did have a more than decent walk.

Return travel:-
  Train: Stirling to Glasgow Queen St. (23, 53 on the hour, + others)

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Blairgowrie, Alyth & Meigle in Strathmore: 30th December 2013

I was spending a couple of days at my parents' house in Dundee before the New Year and was determined to visit Blairgowrie, a town in Eastern Perthshire I'd never visited before even though it's been home to one of the most acclaimed 'small-town' real-ale pubs (The Ericht Alehouse) in Scotland for a good number of years. As always the Tayside CAMRA website was a useful source of information for the surrounding area, be it called Eastern Perthshire, Tayside or (my preference) the Strathmore valley.

View Strathmore in a larger map

Outward travel was as follows:-
  Bus: Dundee Seagate Bus Station to Blairgowrie (10:20, every 2 hours, Stagecoach 59. Buy a Tayrider Day Ticket)

I got into Blairgowrie at ~11:15, and although I did have a bit of a wander around the main streets of the town in the teeming rain, it wasn't too much of a tough decision to head into the recently opened JD Wetherspoon pub, The Fair O'Blair, for a look around, a bite to eat and just to dry out.

It's a long, narrow former Woolworths building as per the Prestwick Pioneer amongst others (I wonder how many Woolworths are now JD Wetherspoon pubs ?), was supposedly converted to a pub at a cost of £1.35Million and is named after the numerous fairs & markets that were historically held in Blairgowrie, the largest town of the Strathmore valley. And as per pretty well all of the newer JD Wetherspoon conversions it's been kitted out really well. The long bar covering a lot of the left-hand side is brightly lit, there are lots of slatted hanging lights, row-upon-row of glinting beer & wine glasses hang upside down above the bar, there are painted green beams, dark polished marble high-tables with brown leather stools and also the occasional long, thin quartz clock on the painted pillars.

At the back is a small outside decking area and also some longer bench tables with a view into the kitchen, whereas at the front are more comfy sofas and a multitude of coloured hanging lights.

It was still pre-noon, was I going to have a beer? No - not this time. Instead I decided on a hot chocolate (& cream, lots of scooshy cream) accompanied by a slice of the local butcher's lorne sausage in a roll (this was pre-brown sauce treatment). For all of £2.19 this was pretty good value.

The staff were chatty, knew how to treat the regulars and as I next approached the bar I was still swithering about whether or not to have a beer after my hot chocolate & roll. There were 10 hand-pulls on the bar, although the beers were duplicated on 2 banks of 5, but it didn't really take too much encouragement for me to try a 1/2 of the latest Adnams/Sixpoint collaboration beer, the 6.3% Righteous Ale - a spicy rye, almost sweet banoffee pie type bitter(!) with a light coffee finish - really very nice indeed, especially for £1.15 a 1/2 pint.

It was a busy place, not packed, but doing a good trade on a Monday morning, but after I'd finished the Righteous Ale I decided to leave and try to find out if my main target, The Ericht Alehouse was open for business. It wasn't - cue a bit of panic, and there weren't any Opening Times on the (definitely closed) door - but then I eventually spied some light & life inside and it seemed as if it was going to open fairly soon (Google then gave me a 1:30pm probable opening time) - phew! This meant I could take a bit of a walk up the River Ericht towards both Cargill's Leap and the Falls of Ericht. The muddy path alongside the Ericht was fenced off just before the Falls but since the guy in front of me just threw his bike over the fence I decided I was probably going to be able to manage it as well (it was only really fenced off for 4-wheel drive vehicles, pedestrian access was fine). Cargill's Leap used to actually be 'leapable' but certainly wasn't nowadays, but the Falls of Ericht were impressive with all the recent rain (if a bit obscured by trees & branches).

I walked back down the Ericht to the town centre and by now The Ericht Alehouse's door was half-open - I needed no second invitation to head on through the door.

Just inside the external door is an up-to-date beer board, I like seeing these outside since it means you can decide if you want a beer without going in and scanning all the pump-clips, and today the beer list was more than acceptable (for keg beer as well as cask).

There is a central island bar with 2 separate bar areas on either half of the room. The young barmaid (Zoe, I think) was cleaning away on the right side but was quite happy to serve me a 1/2 of Gower Samson Jack (a pretty standard bitter) and a packet of mini cheddars, and then let me take a few photos.

As mentioned there is also a separate bar area on the left side of the pub (I think the pump-clips were also different on the 2 sides of the bar) with a well-stocked fridge of Belgian and German beers...

... and then some sofas, benches and games areas further up on both sides. It really is a great traditional, no-frills (no jukebox, no TV) pub and I was glad that I'd made the effort to pay it a visit.

Exploration done I took a 1/2 of Thwaites' Good Elf (ouch for the name, but a lovely spicy, Christmassy dark ale) and then chatted away to Zoe for a bit. The obvious topic was what the Fair O'Blair had done to takings and the atmosphere of the place since it had opened last June. And the answer wasn't too surprising - takings were pretty well holding up during the week, but were definitely down at the weekend. So basically the regulars were staying, but the 'transients' were heading to the Fair O'Blair and ordering the cheaper beer. What would I do in Blairgowrie ? I'd definitely be in The Ericht Alehouse as much as possible, but I'd still probably try any interesting guest beers (and especially the newer UK/US collab beers) that were available in the JD Wetherspoon's, so (as always) there are swing-and-roundabouts wherever/whenever a Wetherspoons opens. There is no kitchen in The Ericht Alehouse (and no space for it) but they do allow food on the premises, so you do see people going for a fish supper or a Chinese takeaway and then bringing it in to The Ericht to have with a few beers; that certainly wouldn't happen in the Fair O'Blair.

After a bit more of a chat with Zoe regarding Glasgow pubs, American Football and the Broughty Ferry New Year's Day Dook I needed to leave to get the bus to Alyth, perhaps 5 miles or so to the east. Normally I would walk this, but in these conditions, along narrow country lanes, it just didn't make any sense to do so. It was therefore just over 20 minutes before the bus dropped me off in the centre of Alyth, a small town split north-west/south-east by the Alyth Burn. There are a fair number of modern bridges & footpaths over the burn which were all decorated with twinkly Christmas lights, and at the very north west end of the town, the 15th Century Pack Bridge (still in use today).

By following the Alyth Burn I would have come to the Den O'Alyth woods & river-side paths, but (again mainly because of the weather) I decided to stop at the Losset Inn at the very corner of Losset Road.

There seemed to be a bit of a 'domestic' happening just outside the bar, so instead I headed into the (very empty) lounge. There was a single hand-pull there amongst the Christmas decorations with Inveralmond Thrappledouser available so I took a pint of this, a packet of Bacon Flavour Fries and the barmaid very kindly gave me a Courier to read.

It was definitely a very homely lounge - a few tables in front of the bar and the fire, and then a further number of tables through the partition complete with hanging hops all over the place, some nice beery signs, a ship's wheel, antique clocks, china plates, water jugs and the proverbial piano.

And the restaurant area on the other side of the building seemed pleasant enough as well.

The hourly bus back to Dundee wasn't due for a while so I was able to head back across the Alyth Burn and then down Airlie Street from which the bus had come up from Alyth. From my vantage point on the top level of the bus I had been able to spy the Airlie Street Bar.

And also just about make out the sign on the door.

Disappointing enough though when I got into the large single-roomed bar there was nothing on the only hand-pull. However the barmaid was quick to point out that there were bottles of Inveralmond beers available and so I took a bottle of Ossian, Inveralmond's finest, and sat down at one of the 2 or so tables set away a fair distance from the crowded bar. It was a busy place that afternoon with lots of locals coming & going and all kept in-check by the commanding barmaid, even though there was a bit of banter about the availability (or lack of it) of ice for the drams. There certainly were quite a few whiskey bottles and other spirits displayed high up on the bar but sadly there was no way I was going to get a photo of this although I did manage to get one of the very friendly pub dog, who eventually left me alone for the warmth of the fire.

The next bus was just heading back from the centre of Alyth so I took this down a long straight B-road and across the River Isla until the next village, Meigle. Again I might have been happy to walk this in the summertime, but in the winter, with no pavements (just a muddy grass verge), it wasn't really an option. The bus dropped me off at the bus shelter in centre of Meigle where it seemed most things were either closed or closing. The Meigle Sculptured Stone Museum which houses a number of Pictish Stones was closed for the winter (open April to September) and one of the few other large public or commercial buildings was The Joinery coffee shop (which was closing at 4pm).

However there was the more than welcoming distraction of the Kinloch Arms Hotel across the road from the bus shelter - hooray!

I walked into the large bar and this time the pub dog didn't take to me at all. When the barmaid had stopped laughing about this she was happy to serve me a pint of Strathbraan Head East, a lovely well-balanced fruity bitter from the single hand-pull as well as another packet of Bacon Flavor Fries (thankfully I can now get these from Amazon).

This time the bar was deserted with a good number of the locals having gone to Perth on a beery day trip, great to see. And there did seem to be a great community spirit about the place, pies for the return of the Perth crowd were delivered whilst I was in, and the barmaid told me that a lot of the villagers pitched in with shifts at the bar when the owner was away or out on a delivery run. This seems to be compensated by the frequent private parties/lock-ins, especially around the Christmas/New Year period.

They also seem to go through a good number of guest beers - on the wall I spied pump-clips from Harviestoun (Bitter & Twisted) and Fyne Ales (Hurricane Jack) in addition to a well remembered beer from the now deceased Angus Ales (Mashie Niblick).

I do sometimes tend to rush about a bit between pubs but this time it was a bit less hectic and a most enjoyable way to spend a dreich afternoon between Christmas & New Year.

Return travel:-
  Bus: Blairgowrie to Alyth (50 on the hour, Stagecoach 57)
  Bus: Alyth to Meigle (13 on the hour, Stagecoach 57)
  Bus: Meigle to Dundee (23 on the hour, Stagecoach 57)