Friday, 30 December 2011

In and around Stonehaven: 29th December 2011

I was in the East Coast of Scotland for New Year to visit family and friends and took the opportunity to visit a few pubs and beer shops in Stonehaven, a place I'd never stopped in before.

View Stonehaven in a larger map

Outward transport was as follows:-
  Train : Broughty Ferry to Laurencekirk
             Laurencekirk to Stonehaven
  Bus : Stonehaven to Roadside of Catterline (113 McColls Buses)

The first part of the journey began with a definite surprise - I could actually take the train from somewhere close to my parent's house - Broughty Ferry train station, rather than head into Dundee. The occasional service to Aberdeen had only recently changed to stop at The Ferry and being able to take the train from there definitely helped from a timing point-of-view. {end trainspotting dialog}

Since it was effectively en-route to Stonehaven I left the train at Laurencekirk Station and headed to the nearby Industrial Estate to see if Burnside Brewery was open - unfortunately not, closed over the Christmas holiday period as I had guessed. Oh well - I hoped to at least be able to pick up some of their beers in Stonehaven.

After a warming Cafe Mocha at Muffins Coffee Shop in Laurencekirk High Street I got onto the next train north to Stonehaven. It's a bit of walk from the train station to the town centre and harbourside, not a problem when going downhill into the town, but a good 15 minutes hike uphill when returning. I managed to get my local bus from just off the town square and was dropped off on the main A92 road at Roadside of Catterline about 5 miles south of Stonehaven. From here it was a 20 minute walk (in the only rain shower of the day) to the coastal village/hamlet of Catterline and the Creel Inn, perched on the cliff-top above a shingle beach.

Inside it's a large place with a separate restaurant area (for those who pre-book), a bar area (including dart board - I like dart boards!) and a fair number of additional tables in the bar area. There's lots of farming and nautical paraphernalia dotted along the walls (including some interesting sea-shells) and also displayed are a large number of original seascapes for sale (from ~£499 from what I could see).

The beer selection was typically seasonal - Williams Brothers Yule Smile, Stewart 3 Wise Men and Taylor's Landlord. I chose the Yule Smile and it was malty and sweet - masses of molasses sugar me thinks. Thankfully I managed to get in just before the visiting hordes of lunchtime diners arrived and my lunchtime 2 course special (£12.95 for soup, seafood duo and coffee) was served really promptly - a great non-turkey meal.

After getting on the return bus and heading back to Stonehaven I went looking for a couple of wine/beer shops which I'd heard good reports of. The first of these The Liquor Store had a good selection of Scottish and North of England beers, but also a decent Belgian selection as well - I bought bottles of some Mallinsons & Naylors beers which I'd never tried before. In the other shop (just up the same street) Dunnottar Wines & Spirits I managed to find some Windsor and Eton beers (which I'd never seen outside London) and a great selection of US 'craft' beer.

I bought all the Windsor and Eton beers which I hadn't previously tried and also a couple of US IPAs. I also found Burnside's bottle conditioned M-PIRE, but was told I could only buy these in cases of 12 due to licensing issues - a pain since I wasn't going to be able to fit that many in my rucksack! The guys working there were really knowledgeable and into their beer - a great shop to browse in and definitely recommended. It was surprising but good to see 2 such shops stocking such an unusual and different choice of beer, especially in the same town. I left the 'beer street' with my rucksack seriously laden down with bottled beer.

I then went in search of a couple of ales before my train back. The real ale pubs are all down by the harbourside and require a walk over the Carron Water and then follow the shore. In the bay a number of wet-suited guys were attempting to catch the waves - real dedication in the freezing cold surf of the North Sea.

First stop for a beer was the Marine Hotel

It's owned by the same people as the Creel Inn above and a similar dedication to real ale is obvious. On today were Highland Dark Munro & Island Hopping (quite superb), Inveralmond Dunnottar Castle, Taylor's Landlord & the aforementioned Williams Yule Smile - a really great choice. As impressive (if not more) is the bottled selection - bottles from Timmermans, Cantillon, and Lindemans were all present as well as St Mungo from WEST in Glasgow. The bar area is small, but it's modern and well lit by a number of LED downlighters, highlighting the handpulls, fonts, decorative pump-clips and old-style paper currency. It would be a really great place to while away a few hours before and after the Bells at Hogmanay.

On the same street is the Ship Inn

It's perhaps a bit more traditional (and dark!) compared to The Marine, but still a nice place to have a few drinks (there were a lot of whiskies available) although there were only the 2 hand-pulls in use today offering Inveralmond Thrappledouser and Houston Barochan. I really liked the old fashioned diving helmet on show above the bar as well as the brewery mirrors and other nic-nacs (especially the sailing knots).

All told it was a most enjoyable visit to some great pubs and beer shops. I'll definitely be marking the Stonehaven Beer Festival down in the calander as a great excuse to return in 2012.

Return transport:-
  Train : Stonehaven to Broughty Ferry

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