I always seem to find myself with a couple of days of annual leave from work to take in December. In days gone by you could choose to get paid for working the extra days or carry them over to the next year, but in today's financial climate it's a use 'em or lose 'em situation. Today I decided to use one of 'em and travel to Edinburgh for some Christmas shopping and a walk between some pubs just outside Edinburgh on the East Lothian coast.
View Lothian coast in a larger map
Outward transport was as follows:-
Train : Glasgow Queen St to Edinburgh Waverley
Edinburgh Waverley to Prestonpans
My first stop was Prestonpans, scene of the first battle of the Jacobite rebellion in 1745 (the battle site is a bit out of town), and also an impressive ruined Tower and Market Cross, just down from the train station. The 'Cross' is quite distinctive, albeit it's more of a monument with cross at the centre (complete with Unicorn and heraldic cartouche), and is supposed to be the oldest of its type still on its original site.
The Market Cross was also used as the centrepiece of a lot of Prestonpan's Fowler's Ales labels and pump-clips, which took me to my first port of call - the Prestoungrange Gothenburg, more commonly known as The Goth, on the High Street facing the shoreline (although it now seems as if it does actually trade under The Goth name).
The Goth has an extensive history - see here for more details, but suffice to say that it was initially run under Gothenburg semi-temperance lines (hence the name) back in 1908, was taken over by various brewery companies and then closed for a period of time, then restored and re-fitted in the early 2000's to be a community and arts centre pub, complete with a microbrewery - a great development. The microbrewery was called Fowler's Ales after the last brewery in Prestonpans and brewed beers based on some of Fowler's historical recipes. Sad to say the head brewer passed away recently, but Scottish Craft Brewer Dave Whyte is now operating DemonBrew on the same equipment. He's still brewing the Gothenburg Porter (really, really nice & check-out the pump-clip image) and also a number of his own brews - Demon Pale, Demon Black and Summer Storm (a wheat beer), all of which are served slightly cooler than the CAMRA 'norm' - not a problem as far as I'm concerned. Dave couldn't be around to show me the brewing kit during my visit but there were enough windows to get an idea of the size of the operation and what happens.
The Goth is really impressive inside - a large island bar, murals on the ceiling, old brewing paraphernalia and other original features. There's also a restaurant, art gallery and meeting rooms upstairs. The toilets are also about as good as it gets (no pics though!).
Since it was just past St Andrew's Day I had the special - Haggis, Neaps & Tatties, and this kept me going until well into the next day.
Across the road from The Goth on the beach wall there's a mural of Prestonpans through the ages - a bit worse the wear due to the North Sea storms, but still pretty distinctive.
It had now turned out to be a bright (if cold & crisp) day as I started to walk back along the East Lothian coast. Just out of town past the Prestoungrange mining museum are a couple of pubs/restaurants - the Levenhall Arms and Mrs Forman's (newly renovated).
I went into the Levenhall Arms as I'd done on a couple of previous occasions, but I'd have to say it was looking bit dingy. However the young lad behind the bar was quite happy to chat about the state of the weather for a while, and the Elland Brewery Beyond the Pale was outstanding - really nice and hoppy.
I'm guessing that some of the lunchtime business has been going next door to Mrs Forman's - it's certainly setup to be more of a foody enterprise, although a number of cask ales were advertised (which I didn't see).
It was then a walk past Musselburgh race course and the raised beach area around Loretto School to the Volunteer Arms or Staggs. It's been owned by the same family for over 150 years (original owner, I. G. Stagg) and has won numerous CAMRA and other pub/beer awards.
The craic and the beer here have always been great - skip the ubiquitous Deuchars and there was Fyne Ales Jarl, Highland Orkney IPA, Hadrian Ouseburn Porter and Tempest Into the Light - about as good as it gets! I had the Into the Light and it was great - crisp and almost pils-like. This really is a great, old fashioned boozer.
Forcing myself out of Staggs after only 1 beer I then walked towards Joppa & Porobello and the stunning Portobello beach and promenade.
I'd been hoping for a beer at Dalriada, but it was closed - I'd missed the lunchtime service and it was shut until the evening - 'null points' for my research!
I therefore had a quick look at nearby places on BeerInTheEvening and decided to walk further along the promenade to what was the Old Pier but is now The ESPY
It's a trendy place - sofas, low slung chairs, cappuccinos etc..., but quite nice to spend an hour or so.
They do something a bit strange with some of the pump-clips here - the Darkstar Espresso was fine and normal, but the picture of the JW Lees Hopmeister was tiny - and had a Caledonian logo above it - it's almost homemade and very confusing! You can see some of these on the ceiling above the bar.
After soaking up the warmth for a while I caught the bus from Portobello High Street to Easter Road and got off at the beer haven that is Cornelius off-license - a good way to the end the day.
Bus : Portobello to Easter Road (26 - First Lothian)
Train : Edinburgh Waverley to Glasgow Queen St