In the aftermath of #ScotStorm on Thursday/Friday when the entire Scottish train network was cancelled and before #ScotStorm2 was going to hit later in the week, I decided that a local wander around some pubs to the north-east of Glasgow was a more sensible option rather than a planned excursion down Ayrshire-way - at least I could always (eventually) walk home if things turned out really bad!
Outward travel was as follows:-
Train: Glasgow Queen St. to Bishopbriggs (18, 48 on the hour)
It took just over 5 minutes for the Stirling-bound train to deposit me at Bishopbriggs station and then only a further minute to reach Bishopbriggs Cross (I think this must be my shortest ever travel time). This central part of Bishopbriggs is set along the main road from Glasgow to Kirkintilloch and is known as 'The Village' and consists of a number of shops, offices, restaurants & pubs and also the Triangle Shopping Centre. Just across the busy road from this I found The Avenue bar & restaurant, which has been open since late 2013, but there has been a pub/restaurant/night-club (Chaplins, The Hermitage, Fuel…) on this same site for many, many years.
I entered from the door on the right and inside encountered a large, modern, brightly-lit place, with a soaring ceiling, lots of comfy seats & low tables at the high windows, some raised tables (in fetching pink marble) in a line along the centre and a dark marbled bar towards the back. As I gravitated towards the bar I could see lots of wine bottles set into their square cubby-holes, bottles of spirits & whiskies on a couple of shelves, lots of coffee-making paraphernalia and also a row of interesting beer bottles (good to see this taking a prominent position). A selection of the core Drygate beers, Jaw Drop & Drift, Deeside Talorcan & Macbeth, Leffe and Blue Moon wasn't bad at all (OK, Innis & Gunn were up there as well) with these being duplicated in one of the fridges, but there was also the appealing sight of 2 hand-pulls, with Orkney Dark Island the only cask beer of choice available today.
I'm a big fan of Dark Island (we based our Craft Beer Kitchen birthday beer on it), especially on cask as it has a far better body and a more burnt, bitter finish, so I was more than happy to take a pint of it, order a sandwich and grab a seat at one of the pink marble tables. As well as the large downstairs level there's an upstairs mezzanine with couple of tables and also a function room out at the back where today a 'Little Angels' party could be heard in full (high-pitched) swing. It's a nice place, but strangely there's not a lot of features on the painted walls (with just a few abstract photos clustered together on the left wall), but there are a couple of great brass chandelier-type light fixings hanging from the high ceiling.
Judging by the amount of people in for lunch the food seems very popular, and I could see why when my Avenue Club Sandwich came. Loads of chicken, crispy bacon, tomato & garlic mayo on some toasted, slightly sourdough bread - it was very tasty indeed.
It's always good to find somewhere a bit different to try and hopefully The Avenue will be around for some time. On leaving I headed up Kirkintilloch Road and, since I didn't fancy heading past the chaos of Strathkelvin Retail Park, I turned left onto Balmuildy Road and followed this down to the Leisuredrome on the very outskirts of Bishopbriggs. It was here that I was able to pick up National Cycling Route 754 on the northern towpath of the Forth and Clyde Canal.
I followed this north through some fairly normal Scottish winter weather - driving rain, sunshine and the odd 2-minute snowstorm, before reaching the large church at Cadder and also the new storage sheds at Cadder Wharf - these are for the 6 mooring berths on the wharf (and part of Scottish Canals 'Living on Water' initiative), but it's certainly a pretty isolated spot to put down for any length of time.
The canal path then led me underneath the main road to Torrance and between a number of sodden fields, but it wasn't too long before I reached some moored narrow-boats and also an old Clyde-ferryboat that had been converted into an Arts/Craft Shop & Studio - Craft Daft on a Raft.
It was sadly closed for the winter season (opening again on Saturday February 7th 2015), but the adjacent Georgian-built canalside premises of The Stables country pub & restaurant was thankfully open and provided a welcome shelter from the blustery weather.
The Stables is a Mitchells & Butlers Vintage Inn with a great canalside beer garden (though looking a bit storm-battered today)...
...and the standard, more than acceptable, Vintage Inn-type 'rustic' decor and food & drink facilities. I had hoped they might have had a Jaw Brew beer available (owner Mark lives nearby and has done a meet-the-brewer here in the past), but there was only Taylor's Landlord and Purity Ubu available (although there was a helpful glossy 'flier' with some information about Jaw Brew's beers next to the hand-pulls).
The Stables is (effectively) in the middle of nowhere; although there were quite a few walkers & cyclists out today the large majority of their clientèle will be car-based. With the new (and definitely welcome) alcohol limits now in place in Scotland, car drivers can’t take the chance of even a 1/2 pint of 'normal' beer so it will be interesting to see how this new law affects beer sales in general at this type of pub/restaurant establishment - I can't really see it helping unless the brewers start producing a lot more (almost) alcohol-free, but still tasty beers such as Weihenstephan Alkoholfrei, Brewdog Nanny State or the new Tennent's Hee-Haw and the pubs start taking a bit of a risk by stocking them. However this didn't apply to me today, with my Purity Ubu being a well-bodied, spicy amber ale, and once I had finished my 1/2 of this I headed back out to the canalside path. Less than a mile or so along from The Stables is another small wharf, Joe's Wharf (which does seem a bit home-made)...
...and then it wasn't too much further before I came in sight of the new modern Southbank Marina development on the outskirts of Kirkintilloch. This is (unsurprisingly) set on the southern side of the canal and I was able to cross over to this by using the new, sweeping, arcing footbridge complete with large viewing platform which juts out quite far over the canal.
The Southbank Marina has been open since 2008 so there's quite a few boats moored here as well as a number of office-based premises, but in the depths of winter there was also a bit of an unfinished air about the place.
I did think about a quick detour to the Kirky Puffer (a decent JD Wetherspoon pub, again just off the canal in the centre of Kirkintilloch), but with the daylight fading I decided to continue on to Lenzie. It's always a longer walk than I expect from Kirkintilloch to Lenzie, but after 15 minutes or so I was at the foot of the hill where a few shops mark the centre of Lenzie, the most interesting of these being Billington's Deli & Ice Cream.
This used to be a Peckham's deli before they had to close a number of shops back in 2011, and then it was re-opened as a deli & café by local couple Mark & Sue Billington. Inside the long, narrow shop, which opens out in a sharp left-hand right-angle turn at the back, are some tables at the windows and around the corner, a seriously large & tasty range of deli food, home-baking, ice cream from a farm in Fintry (which they then mix-and-match with fruit & coatings), lots of spirits & wine and an impressive beer selection (Fyne, Williams Bros, WEST, Tryst, Fallen, Jaw, Belhaven and others), both in the long fridge around the corner of the shop and also stacked up on the shelves at the front. It’s a well-stocked, interesting and welcoming place which also does sit-down meals (although it’s best to book a table for these).
With a walking time of ~30 seconds to Lenzie train station I was able to browse for a bit before dashing off to get the train back to Glasgow and chose a couple of Tryst beers (including a Billington's Pale Ale, but it may be this is a re-badged Brockville Pale) and a saaz-hopped 'Craft Czech Lager' (a can from Hobo Beer & Co.). There is also a tap with Billington's Lager on draught if you want to sit in, but I suspect this is the 'standard' house lager from Belhaven.
Train: Lenzie to Glasgow Queen St. (20, 50 on the hour)