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.

Monday, 22 April 2013

A couple of microbreweries in Perthshire - Moulin Brewery & Strathbraan Brewery: 15/16th April 2013

I was based in the lovely Perthshire town of Pitlochry for a short break of a couple of days and (just for a change) this gave me the chance to visit the 2 local microbreweries - the long established Moulin Brewery and the more recently opened Strathbraan Brewery.

View Perthshire in a larger map

It's a fairly easy walk up the hill from Pitlochry to the small village of Moulin. Directly behind the whitewashed Moulin Hotel and the adjoining Moulin Inn (and owned by the same people) is the Moulin Brewery, formerly a coachhouse & set of stables. It's one of the older microbreweries in Scotland, first brewing in 1995 when the owners of the Hotel & Inn decided to celebrate the establishment's 300th year anniversary by brewing their own beer.

I like the open house policy they have here - it's basically pop your head around the door, holler and brewer Mike Mudie will take pity on you, stop what he's doing to come around for a bit of a chat and a talk about the brewing process. Today wasn't a brew day (this currently happens 3 times a week) and so Mike was cleaning out casks and just performing some general maintenance. Near the brewery entrance there's a display with leaflets, gift packs of beers to buy, various types of malt & some fuggles hops. Mike explained that due to the vagaries of the 2012 hop harvest he might be switching to goldings hops with little difference in the taste or texture of the trial beers he's brewed.

The 4 different beers that are produced by the Moulin Brewery are brewed on a small 3bbl plant with mash tun & copper...

... and 4 fermenting/conditioning vessels.

They are only available in the Moulin Inn and also in the Bothy Bar of the Atholl Arms Hotel in Blair Atholl and they get through a serious amount of them, in winter as well as summer. For Beer Festivals casks are distributed through Inveralmond in Perth so Mike only gets feedback from festival events 2nd or even 3rd hand. Of course after meeting Mike and having had a look around the brewery I then had to try all 4 beers in the bar of the warm & cosy Moulin Inn.

The Ale of Atholl (4.5%) was very malty, with some licorice and a hint of of smoke, quite OK. The Braveheart (4%) I found be be a fairly sweet bitter, a bit thin, an astringent finish and not all that great. The Moulin Light (3.7%) had some citrus bitterness but was far too watery. The Old Remedial (5.2%, Ale of Atholl blended with honey) was malty, lots of sweet molasses, with some honey & blackcurrant, and quite boozy - this was by far the best beer I had. Taken as a whole they were a bit disappointing, very traditional and perhaps some needed a bit more conditioning, but as mentioned previously, they do go through a serious amount of all of them so I guess there's no need to change a winning formula. Only one beer, the Ale of Atholl, is bottled at the moment - with the help of the hotel staff it's all done in one go in a couple of hours, but Mike's been thinking about bottling the Old Remedial as well. He's also put out feelers about working with the nearby Edradour Distillery for both whisky barrel ageing and bottling but anything that happens between them would still seem to be fairly far into the future.

It was on the way home from Pitlochry that I planned to visit Strathbraan Brewery (it's named after the local area between Dunkeld and Amurlee). I'd first seen one of their beers at Greyfriars in Perth last year, the Head East, and as a first-off beer it seemed quite promising - a nice fruity bitter with a dry aftertaste, and it was in really good condition.

The brewery is located on Deanshaugh Farm, approx. 7 miles to the south west of Dunkeld on the A822 - if you come to the junction for the A826 to Aberfeldy you've gone too far. I arrived in the middle of what seemed to be a Force 6 gale and horizontal driving rain so I couldn't get a photo of the outside of the brewery. Thankfully brewer Mark Procter sent me this picture of the large pre-fabricated structure that houses the brewery a couple of days later (on a lovely sunny day!) - thanks Mark.

Mark's father, Martin, gave me shelter from the wind & rain and made me a seriously strong coffee whilst Mark came down and we then had a long chat about beer and brewing (as always - beer people are great). Strathbraan have only been commercially producing beers since March 2012 and have made a specific decision to focus on only 2 beers, the aforementioned Head East and a refreshing, bitter pale ale, Due South. Both had to be fairly easy drinking and sessionable (though the Due South has somewhat more bitterness than planned, but that seems to have gone down well) since that's what the Perthshire outlets really need (there is a lot of travel to/from pubs for Saturday or Sunday lunch). Mark's thinking about a 3rd beer this year but he is still not quite sure what that's going to be (I'm guessing 'something' West or North!). There are now quite a good number of outlets for Strathbraan beers in the local area, and most are on consistent re-delivery. Except when the weather is utterly atrocious there is easy access to the main A9 trunk road and then on to the rest of Perthshire and beyond. Mark's made his first direct deliveries to Edinburgh and its outskirts and has also been on Belhaven's guest list for the last few months, so a slow, but steady expansion is planned. There are no bottles produced at the moment but Mark definitely recognises that it's something that needs to happen to give the Strathbraan name some further exposure in local delicatessens, off-licenses, gift shops etc...

Mark then took me into the brewing premises. The first thing I noticed was the large cold water storage tank, used in the brewing process and as a cold liquor tank. Water comes from a borehole at front of farm and not from the water mains. This means they don't have to treat the water at all and the temperature & mineral content of the water stays consistent all year round - perfect for brewing.

As the brewery was constructed numerous problems had to be overcome. Some examples included the connection of a 3-phase AC mains electricity supply - this meant it made more sense to use electric heating for the brewing process rather than gas. The outflow from the brewery had to put in on the other side of the road from the farm & the main brewery building and had to done over one specific week when huge wind farm turbine blades were not being delivered to the nearby wind farm and also when the roads could close (as they had (on occasions) to stay open for the various local music festivals). There was also going to be a balcony area for malt & hop storage and to support the grain hopper but it was decided that this wasn't going to be worthwhile - the additional support structures would have been too expensive so instead this is all located on the main floor of the brewery - similar to system I saw at Abbeydale Brewery.

All the equipment (here mash tun, hot liquor tank and copper) was custom built by Johnson Brewing - it's a 10 barrel capacity plant, but probably only running at about 7bbl at the moment.

There are 3 Fermentation Vessels with both beers fermenting in approx. 3 days...

...and 3 Conditioning Tanks with the beers taking approx. 7 days to condition. These were put in slightly after the Fermentation Vessels and Mark is in no doubt that the beer quality has improved since they were put in. It all seemed fairly spacious when I was there but when Mark racks out the beer the conditioning room is packed full of casks.

Mark brews mostly only once a week (sometimes twice a week) but this is likely to increase as the long delayed good weather comes in (a good summer in 2013 would be soooo welcome). The Due South certainly proved very popular last year and would be a great pint to have in one of Perthshire's lovely beer gardens such as that at the Taybank Inn in Dunkeld where it or the Head East are permanently available.

Thanks indeed to Mark for the hospitality and for showing me around. As always I was amazed at the planning, perseverance and sheer hard work required to get a new microbrewery up-and-running nowadays and I certainly hope to see Strathbraan Brewery beers a lot more often down Glasgow-way.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

A beery walk around Pitlochry: 14/15th April 2013

We'd decided to stay in the lovely town of Pitlochry for a few days away - Perthshire is definitely one of my favourite places to visit. I think I'd been to the town a couple of times as a kid, and once for a fleeting visit a few years back, but it seemed like a fairly interesting place for a short break. It was always going to be quite touristy, but I was assuming it wasn't going to be as chaotically busy in April as it would be in the height of summer. From a beer point-of-view the Tayside CAMRA website was invaluable when deciding which of the numerous eating & drinking establishments in the town to possibly visit over the course of a couple of days.

View Pitlochry Town in a larger map

On our first night we decided to splash out a bit and eat at The Auld Smiddy Inn, literally only 20 metres from where we were staying (definitely no need for a taxi then!). The main entrance is in the centre of two buildings, with the larger bar & bothy restaurant at the front and the more formal restaurant in an out-building at the rear, and to top it all off there's a beer garden at the front.

It's quite a long central bar (though with no bar stools), with a fair number of tables at the front and also some comfy chairs and tables dotted about if you're only in for a drink. The bothy restaurant is quite modern & informal, with a decent fireplace and a blackboard displaying all the specials - these were slowly rubbed-off as the evening progressed (which I always take as a good sign that it's worthwhile choosing them).
(Interior pic from the Auld Smiddy web-site)

There are 2 hand-pulls at the bar, though only one was ever available this weekend. Initially this was Inveralmond Thrappledouser, but this tasted only just about OK (and never really cleared) and finished soon after I had ordered my first pint. Thankfully Inveralmond Lia Fail came on immediately afterwards, a lovely dark amber, dark berry ale in (hooray!) great condition. The food was excellent as well - I had the Flat Iron Steak (from the specials board, not too tough at all), and then the Poached Pair with some fabulous Passion Fruit Ice Cream. And the service was excellent - attentive, chatty, very good indeed.

I decided to go on a (vaguely) circular tour of some of the pubs of Pitlochry and headed directly south from the High Street under a very narrow railway bridge and came across a large amusement arcade and an impressive putting green - there aren't too many of these about nowadays in Scotland and this seemed to be very challenging (i.e. not flat!).

I followed the road towards the river and this took me into a large park-type area and then onto the high section of Pitlochry Dam. Here only the main spillway was open (but with still quite an impressive flow), but on Sunday morning (after a lot of overnight rain) the main blue sluice gates were also open and the noise was incredible.

On the other side of the river is the Fish Ladder built to allow salmon to return to their breeding drounds further up the River Tummel. It was definitely the wrong season for them today.

Following the path on the other side of the river I came to the Pitlochry Festival Theatre, fairly quiet at the moment, but in the late spring & summer they put on a quite amazing number of plays, concerts, musicals and other productions - it's justly world-famous.

The large bar area in the theatre does have a single hand-pull available dispensing an Inveralmond beer (here Thrappledouser) - a vast improvement on the majority of concert or gig venues that I've been to.

Slightly further on is a stunning riverside restaurant & pub, the Port Na Craig Inn & its associated Fisherman's Bar (and another contender Scotland's Oldest Pub). This was being set-up for a private function when I walked past so I didn't get the chance to have a look around - in the sunshine this must a fantastic place for a few beers.

I then walked across the pedestrian bridge over the Tummel (there was a nice 'bounce' to this bridge but I'm not sure I'd want to be on it with too many other people) and headed back up to Pitlochry High Street. Just before yet another narrow railway bridge is Drummond's with a cracking terraced beer garden and some Cairngorm bottled beers.

Back on the High Street there are a huge number of other place to eat and drink. For our final night we chose Café Biba where the Chilli (with extra jalapeños) was great, as was the home baking (a huge sticky Rocky Road) and it was all washed down with a bottle of Inveralmond Ossian.
(Exterior pic from the Cafe Biba web-site)

I'd heard that the bar of the Fisher Hotel had a hand-pull, but there were always too many people hanging around the entrance (smoking & not smoking) for my liking, so instead I went further up the High Street and into a small side lane to the Old Mill Inn.

On this Saturday evening the place was absolutely packed, it was easily the busiest place I went into. There were people still having food at tables near the entrance, and a large crowd had gathered to listen to a decent covers band playing The Who, Led Zep and the like - they were pretty good. On at the bar was certainly the best selection of beer I'd seen in Pitlochry - Cairngorm Winter Flurry, Orkney Dark Island and Strathbraan Due South - the latter being a real bonus since I'd only had their Due East before. This was a nice bitter Pale Ale with a good bitter/sweet balance and very welcome indeed. There was also Old Mill House Lager on keg, but I couldn't find out who had brewed this for them. It was just a bit too busy for me (at least on my own) so I left after a single pint, but I did manage it make it back the next afternoon. By now it was somewhat (a lot) quieter and they'd also added Orkney's behemoth of a beer, the award-winning Skull Splitter to the range on the hand-pulls. I sensibly took only a 1/2 pint of this (at £2.25 for a 1/2, not bad for 8.5% beer) and initially sat on the comfy seats next to the fireplace.

However I quickly decided it was a decent enough day to sit outside on the terracing next to the quietly spinning water mill - there are not too many opportunities when you get to do this!

Almost next to the Old Mill Inn is an excellent off-licence, drinkmonger, run by the same people who own Royal Mile Whiskies. As well as the obligatory selection of standard and rare whiskies they have a very nice selection of interesting and differnt bottled beer, both from the UK and abroad. I was able to pick up bottles of Ilkley Stateside IPA, Wild Card Jack of Clubs, Kernel Pale Ale Columbus Tomahawk Zeus and others - definitely recommended if you're in Pitlochry.

That was about it for Pitlochry itself but on Sunday afternoon I decided to walk the short distance up the hill to Moulin. About half-way is the fairly large Craigvrack Hotel, blessed with great views over Pitlochry. I'd hoped for a couple of different ales here, but there was only one beer on the two possible hand-pulls, Timothy Taylor Landlord, so I gave it a miss a resumed my climb up the hill. It wasn't too long before I came into Moulin where the whitewashed Moulin Hotel and adjoining Moulin Inn are located in the centre of the small village.

I really only wanted to visit the Inn so I entered the low arched door to find the warm, cosy bar. This really is a nice, welcoming, traditional place, busy on a Sunday afternoon with lots of people out for food, and others happy to (mostly) stand in the bar and chat away. The most striking feature of the bar is the large painting of Moulin and the surrounding countryside just above the roaring fire (it was putting out an incredible amount of heat!) at the back of the bar. (Note that I took these pictures on Monday afternoon after visiting Moulin Brewery across the road.)

There's also a mass of old, new, foreign (and I assume) counterfeit notes displayed around the bar - on walls, in display boards, hanging up above & behind the long bar, as well as water jugs, whisky bottles and the odd gold club and dishing rod - these (and the occasional dog) all add to the atmosphere of the place.

Food is available all day and is meant to be very good, with lots of specials available and plenty of tables available in rooms adjacent to the bar.

As for the Moulin Brewery beers (all 4 are available on the bar) - I was tad disappointed with some of them (see my comments here), but they're quite OK and more than drinkable as traditional Scottish beers and, in any case, there is a superb pub to drink them in.

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Deanston & Doune to Dunblane: 6th April 2013

I'd wanted to have a look at the small village of Deanston for quite some time - the Stirling to Callander bus that I use fairly often detours from the main road to loop through the village and I've always been intrigued by these planned industrial-age settlements. So this weekend I decided to head out to rural Stirlingshire to visit both Deanston & nearby Doune before walking back to Dunblane.

View Doune in a larger map

Outward travel was as follows:-
  Train: Glasgow Queen St to Stirling
  Bus: Stirling to Deanston (59 First Scotland, 59 on the hour)

The bus from Stirling to Callander via Deanston got caught up in a large snarl-up of traffic just after crossing the M9 motororway. I wasn't quite sure what this could be until it dawned on me that it was the middle weekend of the Easter Holidays and since the weather had warmed up (slightly), a significant number of people had decided it would be a good idea to take the kids to the Blair Drummond Safari Park. It was therefore quite late when I got off the bus in Deanston in the centre of one of a number of long rows of cottages. These were initially constructed for the workers of the Deanston Paper Mill (as were the school, Post Office & a number of shops). The whole village was a lot larger than I'd thought it would be - not surprising when you think that the Mill employed close to 1100 people in its heyday.

The Mill closed in 1965, but was then converted at a cost of £300,000 into the fledgling Deanston Distillery complete with its own on-site multi-megawatt hydro-electric facility. It's located on the bank of the River Teith in an incredibly picturesque setting.

Following various boom and bust periods in the whisky industry the current owners, Burn Stewart Distillers Limited, felt confident enough to open a new Visitor Centre and café in 2012 in the canteen of the former Mill. This holds information and memorabilia on the history of both the Mill and the Distillery.

The café is run by the Coffee Bothy people who run a number of similar operations in & around Stirlingshire and it was certainly proving to be very popular today. The Visitor Centre is light & spacious with lots & lots of bottles and the standard whisky associated products can also be purchased. There are tours of the Distillery and Tutored Tastings available for booking (or you can just walk up) but I didn't really have time to wait for the next next one, though I definitely did fancy trying one of the signature Deanston malts. The lovely lady 'holding fort' in the visitor centre was quite happy to oblige with this request and poured me a small sample of the Deanston 12-Year old, a non-peated single malt matured in bourbon casks. This certainly was quite sweet with lots of honey, lemon & vanilla, and a touch of spiciness at the end. I was impressed enough to buy a miniature but not enough to buy a full bottle (but that's just an issue I have with whisky in general - see here).

It was then a short walk into Doune. The arched bridge across the fast-flowing River Teith (the Brig o' Teith) is very narrow for a main road bridge (2 cars can just about fit side-by-side) and dates back to 1535, although it was widened in 1866.

On entering Doune I passed the Woodside Hotel and turned left at the Mercat Cross on the Main Street to the find the whitewashed Red Lion Inn.

The bar area was definitely undergoing an extensive re-decoration with some undercoated walls, exposed brickwork and a lack of pictures on the walls, but the bar area seemed pretty well done with the 1/4 circle bar having been recently wood panelled, the brasswork shined-up and a real fire burning away in the modern fireplace.

The single hand-pull had a hand-written pump-clip proclaiming 'Golden Amber' which actually threw me for a minute (and the friendly barlady hadn't been able to read the brewery name from the cask). Thankfully Untappd came to the rescue - it was an Atlas/Orkney Pale Ale with a nice citrus aroma & a decent bitter kick, probably one the best beers I've tasted from Atlas/Orkney since they've moved from Kinlochleven to Orkney. I took my pint, ordered the soup and settled down into one of the back seats to chat with one of the locals about bus times, speed cameras and the weather. When it came after only a short delay the chicken & thyme soup was lovely & herby and boy was it hot.

Doune is justly famous for Doune Castle and this is definitely worth a visit, but I'd taken an extensive tour of the castle fairly recently and so instead I headed out to the north side of town, past a great playground for kids, and onto a section of the Doune Trail.

This follows the route of an old railway line and is part of proposed Sustrans Route 765 from Stirling to Callander. It's another one of those arrow-straight long tracks.

Not far out of Doune I could hear the sound of bike engines. I thought this would just be a couple of kids playing about on a quad bike in a field or something similar, but no - this was a large number of motocross bikers on a very professionally set-up circuit - the Doune Motocross Track. Some of the jumps these guys were taking would certainly have done my back in!

The old railway line only lasted for a couple of miles and I then had to cross the A820 main road to connect into the Old Doune Road path. This took me over the M9 motorway and past Dunblane High School to a long decent into the town of Dunblane. Just across from the train station I arrived at the Dunblane Hotel proudly displaying a sign for their 1st Cask Ale Festival.

On the hand-pulls in the bar I found Deuchars IPA, Williams Fraoch, London Pride and Rudgate Ruby Mild - an OK selection, with the Ruby Mild being a nice surprise, but not too much of a Cask Ale Festival. I took a pint of the Ruby Mild (with some lovely dark fruit flavours and almost a touch of port) and decided if there was beer anywhere else in the Hotel it would be in the lovely terraced riverside beer garden down at the Allan Water's edge. And I was correct, 3 casks were on gravity wrapped up in their thermal blankets - Tetley Dunblane Hotel Ale, St Austell Proper Job and Wells' Bomabrdier.

However I didn't really fancy staying even for the one beer I hadn't had before (the Tetley Dunblane Hotel Ale) and so drank my lovely Ruby Mild and headed off to the Tinpot/Bridge of Allan Brewhouse one stop down the railway line. Once I had negotiated the salt & grit encrusted Bridge of Allan railway station I finished the afternoon off with a few of their (always) interesting beers.

Return travel:-
  Train: Dunblane to Bridge of Allan
           Bridge of Allan to Glasgow Queen St