Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Ethical Ales in the land of Honest Men: 15th August 2015

A new Scottish brewery is always an interesting event (there's 'only' ~110 of them), so I was intrigued to see that fledgling brewery Ethical Ales were operating out of East Ayrshire where there is a definite dearth of decent (well, progressive, shall we say) pubs. I'd spent a number of years on the Ayrshire coast and made quite a few trips out to the long-lamented Windie Goat Brewery in the East Ayrshire hamlet of Failford (brewster Michelle is now operating the Offbeat Brewery in Crewe), so this was a welcome chance to head down that way again (into the land of Honest Men, according to Robbie Burns) to visit Ethical Ales on their Brewery Open Day.

Outward travel was as follows:-
  Train: Glasgow Central to Newton-on-Ayr (often)
  Bus: Newton-on-Ayr to Mossblown (Stagecoach West 43/43A, 08, 21, 38, 51 on the hour)

The way the trains had worked out I'd just managed to miss the bus from Newton-on-Ayr out to the centre of Annbank so instead I had to wait for the next bus out to the not quite so handy village of Mossblown (I've always though this is a great name, it should really be in the American mid-west!). I walked down the hill, past a church & a school before reaching the 3-way junction before Annbank proper. Instead of entering the village I kept on walking further down the hill and within 5 minutes I had come to the narrow bridge over the River Ayr which connects into the River Ayr Way. Even from here I could see the arches of the long Enterkine Railway Viaduct slightly upriver.

This line takes used coal to the nearby Killoch Disposal Point and as I got closer I could see the huge length & height of the viaduct as it spans the River Ayr and its wide flood plain.

I headed east on the narrow River Ayr Way which is really just a footpath, and certainly not a cyclepath, at this point. I'd worn shorts that morning (thankfully long-shorts, not short-shorts), but even so managed to get my knee-regions quite impressively red with a number of scrapes/stings from various brambles, thistles and other stingy plants & insects. The narrow path of the River Ayr Way eventually opened up into the edge of a huge field of golden wheat that had just been harvested - I did think about hitching a ride on the combine harvester but decided against it.

The path along the field took me took me past a small farm and then onto a narrow road at a stone bridge over the River Ayr at Stair.

Just up a slight incline from here I came across the welcoming sight of the Stair Inn with a large car park at the rear and tables out front.

I went inside, ordered a glass of water and a beer (Strathaven Summer Glow was the only choice, with the other hand-pull turned around) and contemplated the food choice. They don't do light-bites (sandwiches, paninis etc...) at lunchtime so I decided on the soup of the day (Cream of Mushroom) and some chips; it wasn't a problem at all to order these rather than a main course. I had these outside on one of the tables at the front and they were very good indeed (and really hot-very-hot).

It was outside at the table where one of the strangest things that had ever happened to me around-abouts a pub/bar occurred. I was waiting for my soup & chips when I noted that a car had pulled up outside The Stair. I thought it was a bit strange that the car had parked immediately outside the front of the pub rather than in the car park at the rear but later found out that that is supposedly a normal thing-to-do by some of the locals. A few people got out of the car, entered the pub and (I assume) ordered some lunch. A good few minutes later I heard a bit of a creaking sound (I was facing the Stair and so had my back the car to block out the sun) but didn't think anything of it. About 30 seconds later I heard another loud creak and decided that it could be that something was wrong with the car's handbrake. I got up, walked into the pub and went to find the owner of the car. This must of taken all of about 10 seconds, but when I eventually got the guy off his mobile phone and told him about the creaking sound, we looked outside the window of the pub to see his car starting to trundle down the hill! Cue absolute panic and 'where the f**k are the keys'. By the time we got out of the pub the car was half way down the small hill and there was no way it was stopping... except when it ploughed into a wall before a bridge over a small burn. The left front wheel of the car was totally buckled and I'm guessing it had to be towed back to a garage. Thankfully no-none was hurt, but maybe if I'd only been a bit quicker in going to find the guy... it really was just one of those bizarre occurrences.

After the drama at the Stair Inn I headed out into the countryside almost due east on a narrow single track road (with passing places) taking a curved route around Stairhill Farm until reaching a number of crossroads. It was here that I spied a laser-printed notice for a Brewery Open Day; this was definitely promising. As I took the road downhill even more promising was the sight of an Ethical Ales sign in front of a collection of buildings called Roddenloft House (the official name of the actual brewery is Roddenloft Brewery).

Out in the courtyard between the various buildings the Ethical Ales mobile bar had been setup (it does look a bit like a double-glazing stand with fold-out glass windows & advertising signs), and in front of it there was a scattering of tables, chairs and additional bales of hay to sit on. There were 2 sets of double-keg fonts connected up on the bar with all 3 beers that they currently brew (future beers are listed on their website) available to try-and-buy, these being Horny Cow classic IPA (with 3 new-world varieties of hops), Hoppy Daze pilsner (with Saaz hops) and Stag Do stout (with Willamette hops). I'd had the Horny Cow in the Allison Arms in Glasgow's south-side a few weeks earlier so went for the Hoppy Daze pilsner (slightly sweet, but then loads of smooth, earthy bitterness, not bad at all), for the special thanks-for-getting-here first pint price of £1 - can't say better than that.

I sat down on one of the hay bales, grabbed a sausage roll to nibble on, and chatted away to the brewery owner (and owner of Roddenloft House), George Hammersley. It seems that after starting up in April of this year they will be initially targeting the outdoor event & show market (such as the Doune & Dunblane Show and the Moffat International Sheep Dog Trials) but in this first year of operation are finding a bit of resistance from supplier tie-in from the 'big' breweries, however they are also supplying their beer to a number of 'local' pubs that have the correct keg lines, currently the Allison Arms (this was the IPA but is now the pilsner), the Quarter Gill on Dumbarton Road (pilsner), the Foxbar Hotel in Kilmarnock (IPA), and (when the keg line gets fixed) the nearby Stair Inn that I'd just visited. I also asked George about the name itself, Ethical Ales, and it seems they want to be as environmentally friendly as possible, with a carbon-neutral brewery and an Ethical Fund whereby 15p in every pint goes to support good causes connected with wildlife & the countryside (this is their 'mission statement' on the side of the mobile bar).

There was a steady flow of people into the courtyard and so the guys decided to run a tour of the brewery with head brewer Michael Sullivan (he also owns part of the company) taking the lead. The brewery building itself used to be a cottage but was converted into a 2-level brewery in 2014-2015. Inside there's a brand new 4 barrel system with hot-liquor-tank and mush tun...

...and also a copper and heat exchanger close to which Michael had placed various types of malt & and hops for us to try. From the choice of these there's no doubt that Michael prefers the more intense flavours & aromas of new world hops from the US and Australia/New Zealand.

In a separate section of the ground floor are the 2 fermenting vessels and some filtration equipment which lightly filters the beer...

...and also the 4 conditioning tanks; since they're brewing a 'real' pilsner in Hoppy Daze, this takes a significant time to lager/condition and so the tanks are well used.

Once finished the beers end up in the bright beer tank where they are carbonated and dispensed into to kegs (and mini-casks/kegs which can be picked up from the brewery or bought at the mobile bar).

Michael indicated that currently Ethical Ales don't plan to produce real ale in cask form (although bottled beer is still a possibility); Michael's personal preference is for a cooler, slightly carbonated style of beer and they're happy to go down that route at the moment, perhaps to distinguish themselves from a number of nearby West of Scotland real ale breweries. I thanked Michael for the tour and headed back into the courtyard for a pint of the Stag Do stout, full of dark chocolate, spicy blackcurrant and with a bitter-fruit finish (a lovely hoppy stout). On a fairly hot afternoon outside in the courtyard these were all great - good luck indeed to Ethical Ales in the future. I next had to find my way into Mauchline itself and walked north along some more narrow roads for 45 minutes of so before reaching the town limits. Due to the vagaries of the Stagecoach bus service I didn't have time to visit a number of interesting Burns-related places in Mauchline, the Burns House Museum or the turret-like Mauchline Castle where Burns was married, but I did at least pass Poosie Nancie's Inn where the Bard was meant to 'socialise'.

Instead I took the bus into Kilmarnock bus station where I got off and walked through the town centre towards the train station. Immediately opposite this is the magnificent restored 19th Century façade of Fanny by Gaslight, a 'Victorian Saloon Bar'.

Since I was first here back in early 2013 the interior seems to have become even more cluttered (in a good way) but they've also introduced a couple of hand-pulls on the fantastic island bar as well as a selection of bottled (mostly Drygate) beers. Even better this week they were celebrating Kilmarnock Food and Drink week with a number of additional real ales and so I took a pint of Deeside Swift and, before having to cross the road for the train back, contemplated a very interesting day out in East Ayrshire.

Return travel:-
  Bus: Mauchline to Kilmarnock (Stagecoach X76, 08 on the hour)
  Train: Kilmarnock to Glasgow Central (27, 57 on the hour)

Monday, 17 August 2015

Around the Scottish/English/Continental border in Ayton: 7th August 2015

It's great to see that there's been a load of interesting beery things happening recently in & around the Scottish Borders. Tempest Brewing have at last moved to larger premises in Tweedbank, Scottish Borders Brewery have renamed & rebranded as Born in the Borders after the success of their eponymous local co-operative enterprise, the first Scottish micropub, Rutherford's, opened recently in Kelso and even more recently the second Hemelvaart Bier Café opened in Ayton, near Eyemouth. I had hoped to visit the latter 2 in one visit this week, but had decided that plan was a bit too ambitious, so I compromised (reluctantly) to have a morning walk along the coast to Eyemouth and then a visit to Hemelvaart hopefully for lunch (and probably a few beers).

Outward travel was as follows:-
  Train: Glasgow Central to Berwick-upon-Tweed (various)
  Bus: Berwick-upon-Tweed to St Abbs (35 Travelsure, 30 on the hour)

It was a bit of a long journey to Berwick-upon-Tweed but going with a Cross-Country train from Glasgow Central at least meant that I didn't have to change trains at Edinburgh. I got into Berwick, walked down Marygate to the town centre and waited on my bus back across the border. This took me to Eyemouth and then through Coldstream to the high cliffs at St Abbs and St Abbs Head. The vista here is breathtaking, with the small harbour at St Abbs set amongst the rocky escarpments of the shimmering North Sea coast.

I took the direct route via the steep staircases to the bottom of the cliffs rather than the winding, narrow road, but both come out at the same point, the car park where Ebb Carrs Cafe is located.

I'd been in here a few years before (and it's well recommended for a mid-morning bacon roll or some fresh fish), but this time decided to give it a miss. Instead I had I quick wander around the harbour where the St Abbs RNLI lifeboat is located. It's currently under threat from closure, but I saw loads of fund-raising events and more direct support for it (loads of T-shirted people) around the whole community.

I then climbed up to the south side of the cliffs and continued on the sign-posted coastal path south by south-eat. This took me along a narrow winding path before descending towards the lovely sandy beach, colourful beach-huts and café (as well as the overlooking mansions) of Coldingham Sands.

After walking along the beach it was a bit of an energetic ascending/descending route between a number of secluded rocky coves & beaches...

...before I reached the large Eyemouth caravan park perched precariously atop the cliffs-tops and beside the isolated sea-stacks.

I took the gradually descending path into Eyemouth and went past the small town centre before finding the Eyemouth Maritime Museum. It's a large building on the riverside, with a long front canopy which doubles as an advertising shelter, but it's well worth going into for a wander around the permanent and seasonal displays.

Only a fisherman's line's throw from the museum is Oblò with a small bar on ground level, a large first floor lounge and a superb balcony restaurant with views of the river; this was busy even just after noon on a weekday.

Inside I found a very modern, leather, glass & chrome interior, brightly lit by downlighters and although I had hoped that there might be a single hand-pulled beer available I couldn't see it on the long bar (it might have been located in the downstairs bar). However there were quite a few bottled beers from Knops, Born in the Borders and Greene King/Belhaven in the fridge (and these were being well promoted), but I really fancied a cold 'summer' beer to quench my thirst and so went for a pint of the WEST Hefeweissen. This had really travelled well from Glasgow (or possibly from Arcobräu in Germany at the moment until the new expanded WEST brewery comes online), and I just love how opaque/murky this can be - it just adds to the taste for a Hefe.

I had thought about walking the couple of miles from Eyemouth to Ayton, but had noted that there was a handy bus available which would mean that I wouldn't have to walk up the hill. The bus came pretty well on time (although do not take the same numbered bus back to Berwick!) and after 5 minutes or so this dropped me off opposite the bank in Ayton High Street. Not too far away I spied the brand new signage for the Hemelvaart Bier Café (Hemelvaart itself translates as Ascension).

On the day I visited they'd only been open for just over a week so the place definitely felt somewhat like a work-in-progress but, in all honesty, it was looking quite impressive. The only doorway opens up into a large single roomed space, with the front having a number of differently-styled wooden tables & chairs, a very basic floor, lots of wooden furniture & shelving and an expanse of painted & more exposed exposed brickwork walls.

The small bar is located at the centre of the left side of the room and then the space extends further out towards the back with more tables & chairs, lots of beer related posters & prints, bright lights & downlighters, although it's broken up a bit by a floor-to-ceiling grey support post.

On at the bar were 2 hand-pulls and 4 craft-keg/Belgian beer fonts on a chrome rail, today dispensing Truefitt Brewing beers on cask (great to see, I hadn't tried any of their beers before) as well as Sparta Pils by Brouwerij Van Steenberge, Wild Beer Millionaire, Tempest Long White Cloud, Brugse Zot from De Halve Maan, a cider-in-a-box (Dog Dancer from Wales) and a couple of fonts for BrewDog/Mikkeller beers. From chatting to the owners, John & Phil, it seems they've taken a leaf from The Hanging Bat in Edinburgh and only provide 1/3, 1/2 and schooner (2/3) pint options, and go with the same reasoning - i.e. that a lot of the beers they sell could be high in abv and it only makes sense to drink less than a full pint of these, and also that by the end of a pint it *could* be argued that the beer isn't in its optimum condition (note that the beer prices for everything I tried today were absolutely fine).

I took a 1/2 of the Truefitt Bottle Of Notes (a slightly sweet golden ale with some elderflower hints, nice) and enquired if they were serving any food. And they were - either platters of sliced meat/cheese/bread, or they'd just had a delivery of a range of Pieminister pies. That was an easy decision then, I went for a pie (actually the decision was made far more difficult by the great range of pies), specifically a Shamrock (Steak & Guinness) with mash and minted pies - this was all very good indeed and piping hot.

As per a continental bier café there's also an extensive menu of bottled beer to peruse and these can be seen in 2 of the huge fridges next to the bar (growlers of beer can also be taken away). More Dutch beer (especially De Molen) had just been ordered.

The Hemelvaart Bier Café was a great place to have lunch and a few interesting beers in. They'd wanted to expand from their original Hemelvaart Bier Café in Bedale North Yorkshire for quite some time, had looked for a place just north of the border and had eventually settled on the closed Black Bull in Ayton. They're currently open from Thursdays to Sundays (and Bank Holidays), were just putting Tempest cask beers on and plan to have a lot of live indie/folk music; here's wishing them every success. I now had to get back to Berwick-upon-Tweed and although there's a fairly decent bus service by the time this got to Berwick it had gotten caught up in the early Friday afternoon rush-hour/get-away. I therefore got off the bus well before the town-centre stop and walked past the busy shops to Bridge Street, home to the most northerly micropub in England, The Curfew.

It was great to see the place doing a lively trade this warm afternoon with almost every outside table in the courtyard taken, and inside there was the usual impressive selection of cask & bottled beer. One of the owners recognised me from my last visit (marred by an SDL rally/counter-rally) and after chatting away for a bit I took a flight tray of the 3 light beers out into the courtyard to enjoy the sunshine (the Blackjack Specials Farmhouse IPA was the pick of this bunch - biscuity sweet, earthy, a hint of fennel and a slightly pepper finish).

I bought a Brouwerij Kees Farmhouse IPA for the train journey back and also stopped in The Green Shop just along from The Curfew where they had local Tweedmouth-based Bear Claw beers back in stock - hooray!

Heading back to the train station I had hoped to find some decent beer in the historic interior (and impressive exterior) of the Brewers Arms but sadly this was not to be (Deuchars IPA and Bombardier were the only choices) and with the Free Trade closed until later in the day I had to make do with popping into the Castle Hotel before getting my train back north.

Return travel:-
  Bus: Ayton to Berwick-upon-Tweed to St Abbs (34 Travelsure, 25 on the hour every 2 hours)
  Train: Berwick-upon-Tweed to Glasgow Central (various)

Saturday, 1 August 2015

A cycle loop around lower Loch Lomond: 24th July 2015

I hadn't managed a cycle anywhere this year, the weather really has been pretty poor for the majority of this summer of 2015, but with the possibility of a slight improvement for the next couple of days I decided a trip out to the Bonnie-Bonnie banks of Loch Lomond to visit a few pubs was a worthwhile risk to take.

Outward travel was as follows:-
  Train: Glasgow to Dalreoch (11, 23, 41, 53 on the hour)
  Water Bus: Balmaha to Luss (13:10, 14:20, 15:30, summer 2015)

I headed first of all to Dalreoch where the train line splits to either Balloch or Helensburgh and where it also happens to intersect with Nation Cycle Route 7 along the western bank of the River Leven. Along the winding route I came across a few gates & cattle grids (for the animals that can graze along the river bank) but it's mostly flat and was quite busy with (serious) cyclists & walkers. I crossed the Leven by the Bonhill Bridge at Alexandria, took the path up the hill and eventually connected with the fairly steep Auchincarroch Road out of Jamestown, just to the south of Balloch. This road eventually narrowed, but was very quiet, and after a few miles high-up on the hillside I re-joined Cycle Route 7 (which had detoured into the centre of Balloch). This took me to the small village of Croftamie where I decided that I could ride along the main road for a few miles before crossing the Endrick Water and then turning off towards Drymen. Drymen is a busy place during the summer being the start of the Rob Roy Way and just off the West Highland Way, with a number of hotels, B&Bs, a good bike shop (Peloton Bikes), cafés & pubs both heading into and on the main village square (I'd previously visited The Clachan).

However this time I had decided to try The Drymen Inn, just slightly along Stirling Road, with a great front conservatory restaurant and a number of outside seating areas at the back. (I locked my bike up to the rear beer garden staircase.)

Inside there was also quite a lot of space, both around the bar where there were some comfy low sofa seats & coffee tables, and at both sides of the bar around the stone walls, the fireplaces and the wooden fixtures - it's a good mixture of traditional and the more contemporary.

The hand-pulls are situated on a slightly built-up section of the bar-top and today it was good to see both a light beer (Skye Gold) and a darker one (Fyne Ales Maverick).

I took a pint of the Maverick (malty, smooth, a nice nutty-bitter finish), a glass of water, ordered some food and then decided it was only fair to the staff to go and change my T-shirt. The chef seems pretty good here, there was an interesting choice of main meals and grilled specials, but I went for the Coronation Chicken sandwich with some chunky fries. This was certainly full of spicy pieces of chicken in a thick sauce and the use of a napkin was absolutely essential.

I next had to take the road from Drymen to Balmaha which has had the recent addition of a tarmac'd combined cycle/footpath for part of the way. This was great when it existed, but when it ran out the non-tarmac'd pavement was still pretty muddy, gravelly and beset by low hanging branches and so it made sense to hop on the road at those points. I went past the holiday homes at the Loch Lomond Waterfront resort and then it wasn't long before I was pulling up at the lovely Oak Tree Inn. Nowadays this is a sprawling collection of buildings which comprises the original pub/restaurant, standard & bunkhouse accommodation, an ice cream parlour/café and the village shop (they even provide a 'comfort partnership' facility since the public toilets in main car park now operate only limited hours). (Bike stands are available outside the ice cream parlour.)

Both the main inside bar/lounge and the outside beer garden at the Oak Tree were busy as usual, but it it only took a few minutes to percolate to the front of the small rear bar counter and peruse today's hand-pull selection. There were beers available from Loch Lomond, Fallen Brewing and a Belhaven house lager, but the only beverage available from the in-house Balmaha Brewery was a cider/perry, Balmaha Pider (ouch!).
(sorry for the poor photo!)

I had hoped to talk to owner/brewer Sandy Fraser (the Frasers have owned the Oak Tree for a long, long time) about the Balmaha Brewing Company (he wasn't available), but it seems they still brew some in-house beers & ciders from the tiny in-house kit developed in conjunction with Douglas Ross of Bridge of Allan/Tinpot. However they have been hoping to move into larger brewery/smoke-house premises, separate but still adjacent to the Oak Tree, sometime in 2015 (it wasn't clear if this is still going to be the case from the small amount of information I was able to obtain today) but the Balmaha’s Braw Weekend is scheduled for the 3/4th October this year so here's hoping the new brewhouse will be ready for then. Instead I was more than happy to bag a table outside in the shadow of the eponymous oak tree and enjoy my Pider (very sweet pears, apples & pomegranate with a slightly sour lemon finish).

Having finished the Pider (at a hefty abv of 6% I decided against having another one), I went into the ice cream parlour to see what was available. I don't think the ice cream was selling too well due to the Scottish summer weather but the White Chocolate and Raspberry Crunch was fantastic and as good as anything I'd had for quite some time.

With a bit of time to spare I headed down to the Balmaha boatyard to check out some of the Loch Lomond cruises for a few friends and then walked further down from the Oak Tree to the actual lochside. It's here that the statue of walker, writer & broadcaster Tom Weir is located, which was officially unveiled on 29th December 2014, the 100th anniversary of his birth. It's an impressively life-like bronze statue (complete with trademark bobble-hat) and I think Mr Weir would be impressed with the great backdrop of lower Loch Lomond and the loch islands.

There are a number of Loch Lomond cruises which start at the Balmaha boatyard (and also at Balloch, although the famous Maid of the Loch is currently undergoing a complete overhaul), but there has also been a water bus service operating between the piers at Balamaha and Luss for the last couple of years. I had timed the mid-afternoon connection fairly well and for £7 for a single trip (£9 for a return, bikes go free) this was well worth the effort of getting out to Balmaha.

The service was being well used today (mostly by visitors judging by the accents I eavesdropped on) and there was the option of either a warmer inside seat or sitting outside at the back around the sides of the small vessel (albeit some diesel fumes did waft my way). However what I did get by sitting there were great views of the Loch Lomond islands, the sealife/wildlife (including the occasional wallaby (honest!) on Inchconnachan), canoeists, speed boats, swimmers and panoramic views north up the length of the loch with Ben Lomond and the western hills of The Trossachs in the distance. It's certainly an impressive wee trip.

It was only a journey of about half an hour across the loch until Luss pier came into view (although we were delayed by quite a few minutes by a tardy cruise boat) with the heavily forested Beinn Dubh hill prominent behind Luss.

I thanked the guys for taking my bike off the water bus and headed off down the road from the pier. Luss is very much a tourist haven during the summer (far busier than Balmaha), with a number of cafés, gift shops, a small museum and at the end of the pier road, the large Loch Lomond Arms Hotel. (I tied my bike to the car park fence.)

I hadn't been here since its first opening weekend almost 3 years ago, and it's definitely become a very slickly run establishment. The bar staff were friendly & efficient, they were more than helpful in finding everyone who came in that afternoon the table that they wanted, and beer-wise they seem to have settled on Loch Lomond Brewery ales and WEST St Mungo lager - no complaints from me with that selection.

I decided to stay in the centrally located bar area for my 1/2 of Loch Lomond West Highland Way (a new recipe tag was present, more lemony-g/fruit citrus bitterness than before?) before starting off on my cycle back to Balloch on the Loch Lomond cycle path. It's a fairly flat, easy path but I think I must have followed a wrong sign-post close to the Loch Lomond Golf Club (I had to lift my bike over a gate), but I eventually made it past Duck Bay before reaching the large expanses of Loch Lomond Shores car park. Normally I would indulge in some retail therapy (Jenners/House of Fraser do some decent bottled beers) but this time I bypassed the shopping units and continued on Old Luss Road to the very new Marstons establishment, the Queen of the Loch, which includes an adjacent 27 room lodge. (There are excellent bike stands between the pub and the lodge.)

Inside it's pretty similar to the Steam Wheeler at Braehead; from a food point-of-view they seem to specialise in carvery a bit more and as always the tempting desserts & cakes are on show at the front. On the 6 hand-pulls are some permanent (Pedigree, Hobgoblin) and some seasonal beers from Martons & their regional breweries (Ringwood, Jennings, Banks's, Wychwood and Brakspear) but this time there didn't seem to be the option of a flight tray, so instead took a 1/2 of the Ringwood Best Bitter (a bit too malty sweet) and headed out into the rear beer garden through the patio-style doors. This is quite extensive with a shaded canopied area and also quite a few individual large benches and must really be a sun trap come late afternoon & evening.

From the Queen of the Loch it was only a 2 minute or so cycle into the centre of Balloch and I headed past the Tullie Inn (without stopping, which must be a first), across the bridge over the Leven, past The Balloch House (again without stopping, this was becoming very strange) before arriving at The Dog House, just before the entrance to Balloch Country Park. (Bike stands are available across the main road.)

This used to be a managed Maclays pub, but when the group was put into administration early in 2015 it was transferred over to LT Pub Management and not sold off to Stonegate (who have bought The 3 Judges, Tullie Inn etc...). Irrespective of all the management changes the place still promotes itself as very dog friendly (as per the name), there was a busy rear bar full of locals and the front bar/lounge has had a modern, light re-vamp and looked very inviting (although I don't think they do any food).

It was also great to see that there was now a single hand-pull available and it looks as if they will be selling a Loch Lomond Brewery beer for the foreseeable future, plus there were branded bar mats, towels & signage around the interior - these local tie-ups can only be a good thing. And the Loch Lomond Southern Summit was excellent (great condition, loads of grapefruit citrus bitterness and an earthy dry finish) albeit in a somewhat non-Loch Lomond Brewery glass! I even stayed for another before eventually forcing myself to wheel my bike across the Leven to Balloch train station.

Return travel:-
  Train: Balloch to Glasgow (23, 53 on the hour)