Thursday, 28 May 2015

A wander in the Western Isles


           for many years now WF has been praising, suggesting and planning a long trip away in North and lower down in Scotland. Specifically, he wanted to island hop around the Western Isles. You know, Lewis, Harris, Uist etc. After last years scare in hospital he resumed his ruminating. And me and Tash and Matt and Wee Keefy finally agreed we could go. In three posts, I will tell you how we got there, what we did whilst there, and how we got home.

The trip started well in bright sunshine - heading North for cold and wind and rain it seemed. As always, this was not neccessarily accurate - the weather was mostly fine. And even dry. Our first beer stop came in the Borders, at the Blue Bell in Annan. This is a National Inventory of Historic Pub Interiors boozer whch makes it worth a visit, but also it sells 3 real ales. Deuchars is the regular with 2 guests - we had 2 and a half pints of the loallly brewed Cummertrees Pale Ale. Af ine, hoppy start to the holiday.

A trundle down country roads later and we were in Dalry. Having thought the Clachan Inn was closed we found the door further up and went in for a pint. This fabulous boozer has many old fittings and largely an unaltered layout. Two beers were on, of which me and Tash had pints of the Fyne Ales.Clachan Dubh Dark Ale and a half of Inveralmond Loch Ossian. This was a fantastic stop in a pub that seemed to be doing very well for itself - long may that continue.

Our next stop was in Maidens and a walk up to the grounds of Culzean Castle - the sight my Grandad's ashes are scattered at. You can't climb the steps up the cliff now so we ventured into Culzean Castle grounds then out on the headland to find the now much more gown over - in 20 years, promentary. WF walked the quick way back to the swan pond whilst me and Tash got lost, eventually finding WF and heading up, or not, Electric Brae and into Alloway then Ayr.

Once there we visited the Ayr Brewery Tap the Glen View Hotel for pints of their ale and a lovely meal, chicken Balmoral, stuffed with black pudding and topped with whisky sauce. Beers tried included the Ayr Scaur Doon, Leezie Lundie, Pale and Amber. Our final call of the night was down teh road from the B and B, at Geordies Byre. Here we had absolutley excellent pints of Fyne Ales Jarl at £3.00 a pint. We both enjoyed our visit to Geordies - I may have only been there 4 or 5 times in 20 years nut nothing has changed in this excellent small local boozer. A fantastic finish to an excellent first day.

The next day we headed out over Glennifer Braes and over towards Dumbarton, Gairloch Head and our first stop was the Village Inn at Arrochar. In stunning sunshine in a prime location next to the loch this is a popular restaurant but with a prominent bar on the left. I had a pint of Fyne Avalanche and Tash a pint of Houston Warlock with WF on soft drink. Soon we would be entering the huge tors and ben's of the High;ands....

Soon enough we were on Rannoch Moor and stopped in the Kings House Hotel. The bar is hidden round the back but is popular with walkers and car travelling tourists. After Tash had fed the deer we went in for a snack and pints of the excellent Trade Winds IPA from Cairngorm. Another excellent spot for a decent [pint of real ale.

We soon arrived in Fort William and headed for what we thought was a barge on Neptune's staircase. No sign was seen and we asked WF to check but he couldn't. A long walk and chance meeting with a Welsh boater made it clear the barge was 10 miles further up, and despite getting lost and turning towards our stopping place we ended up at Laggan Locks for the Eagle pub. On a barge. Sumptuously set out, with four real ales, the obvious attraction was the An Teallach Beinn Dearg ale at 3.8%. Not much over £3.00 a pint this delicious brew was really easy to sup but packed with flavours of soft Scottish malt and a subtle hop character. Topped off with a shot each of Kilchoman for me and Tash this was a fantastic stop.

Our final destination was where we stayed, a the Benleva Hotel at Drumnadrochit, Loch Ness. The Loch Ness brewery tap serves 5 or 6 real ales including their own, and lovely food - we all opte for the haggis neeps and tattoes which was served in massive portions. To be fair, my favourite beer was the Windswept APA, but the Loch Ness Redness and Lightness were also worth a try, as was the mild.

More to follow soon on getting to and being on Lewis, Harris and beyond.


Wee Beefy

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