Welcome to my celebration of celtic casks, in 7 parts (time period between posts not specified!)
We woke up at Taigh Lusnambansith to a fantastic Scottish breakfast which set the scene for a week of quality morning foods, and 20 minutes, or rather 90%, of the day's sunshine. After a quick wander round the centre of Clackmannan we headed off to Loch Leven castle, in thick grey cloud and a biting wind.
The castle is situated on an island in the centre of the Loch and is reached by a small boat. We had a good hour or two there looking round the castle and grounds before we headed off up over the Tay bridge into Dundee for our first pub stop of the day.
The Speedwell Tavern is one of Dundee's most famous pubs, and shares its place on the Regional and National Inventories with Frews bar, The Clep, and the Tay Bridge Tavern just down the road. Inside is a magnificent multi roomed pub with a panelled room on the left, a long bar curving to run parallel as you enter with an ornate back, a second lounge room on the back left, and a fantastic ornately plastered ceiling, all bathed in warm subdued lighting that shows off the wood brilliantly.
There are two real ales, Deuchars and a Greedy King offering which was off. The Deuchars was OK so we had that in the back lounge admiring the ornate fixtures and fittings - not least the excellent tiling in the gents.
Next we headed down the road to the Tay Bridge Tavern, sporting a red and cream colour scheme with angular almost futuristic style writing and signage on the outside. The main room as you enter is a magnificent high ceilinged bar with a good bar back and a small snug off on the left, reached through a separate entrance within the room, all topped by the striking patterned red and cream ceiling plasterwork. There is another room through a door on the right, with a distinctive sloping (or self emptying) spittoon, also accessed via a small and likely unused side entrance off the main entrance.
The room was not in use on our visit but we asked if we could take a few pics and the barman obliged, before we took our seats, supping McEwans 70/-, in the raised seating area looking towards the entrance.
After dinner we travelled north to the fabulous Dunnottar castle, a sprawling and well preserved picture postcard castle on a rocky outcrop on the Aberdeenshire coast. We managed to get round almost all of the enormous site before struggling back up the path to the car park and heading for a deserved pint at the Marine at Stonehaven.
This is a CAMRA award winning real ale pub on the harbour, with a great reputation for food, and a rather optimistic pricing policy for its accommodation. The old 1900's bar is long and narrow with about 7 handpumps and a board at the end displaying the beers available, next to which is the restaurant.
Alas even the best of pubs can be plagued by idiots who insist on blocking the bar and your view of the handpumps, but we overcame this annoyance to order and enjoy a pint of Burnside Mpire (thats what the clip says anyway), half a Strathven Summer Glow, and an Inveralmond Dunnottar ale, all in excellent condition. The pub two doors up on the quay also does real ales, but we wer short of time and so did not visit.
Before reaching our destination for the night we headed to the Creel Inn at Catterline, the least photogenic pub I have ever visited (unless you are stood on top of a Double Decker bus), but which hides within a small cosy local with an emphasis on real ale as well as their famed food menu. Here we enjoyed a pint of Orkney Corncrake and half of the Iveralmond Lia Fail.
Our final stop was at our accommodation. The Douglas Arms at Banchory is on the Scottish Regional inventory of unspoilt pub interiors, with a splendid unchanged traditional bar retaining the features of a 1900 refit, with a stunning collection of mirrors inlcuding huge Devhana and Thompson and Marshall ones at either end of the room. The room next door is traditional but slightly altered and the rest of the hotel radically changed to encompass a restaurant, a hotel bar and its hotel rooms, all in a sadly jarring modern style.
The food attracts restaurant prices but, despite WF's complaints about the portion size, was fantastically prepared and presented. There were two real ales in the bar, Caledonian Deuchars and Kelbun Pivo Estivo, a fantastic pale ale that I had 3 or 4 pints of just so as to be sure not to miss out.
Alas WF retired early after the exertions of walking to and from and around the castle and his driving, so I retired to a corner of the smaller bar with a copy of Private Eye for my Kelburn appreciation society meeting.
Up next time - more Aberdeenshire drinking, and real ale near Fraserburgh, without a Brewdog in sight.