Monday, 12 March 2012

From Lenzie to Lennoxtown: 10th March 2012

I'd decided on only a short walk this weekend due to the 6-Nations game between Scotland & Ireland, so opted to travel to Lenzie and then get a bus to the foot of the Campsie Hills at Lennoxtown for a walk back to Lenzie.

View Campsie in a larger map

Outward transport was as follows:-
  Train: Glasgow Queen Street to Lenzie (18 & 48 on the hour)

Coming out of Lenzie Station I hoped to spend a few minutes happily perusing the shelves in the nearby Peckhams store for some bottled beer until the bus to Lennoxtown was due, but I was surprised to see that the place was closed (with lots of kid pictures on the windows) - a real shame. I'd forgotten that part of Peckhams went in and then out of Administration at some point last year with this shop closing, and this might also explain the somewhat disappointing current range of beer at their shops in Glasgow.

This meant a slight change in plans - since the bus wasn't due for 20 minutes I decided to start to walk to Lennoxtown and then get the bus back - a complete reversal of plans, but not too much of an issue. It was then a 20 minute or so walk to the centre of Kirkintilloch and the Kirky Puffer, a JD Wetherspoon pub located right on the Forth and Clyde canalside.

It was fairly quiet when I first came in, but filled up pretty quickly with the normal mixture of diners and people dropping in for a quick beer (or half'n'half). The bar area was really colourful today with loads of balloons as well as sparkly streamers, and the staff were all dressed up in 'Cops and Robbers' outfits - this was all due to the fact that the Kirky Puffer was celebrating its 9th Anniversary that day and I'll have to admit some of the outfits were quite fetching! They were also having a 'Bake-Off' later in the afternoon to raise money for CLIC Sargent - well done to all involved and nice to see that the JD Wetherspoon people are all for allowing this.

Ales available were GK Abbot, Fyne Maverick, the house Strathaven Kirky Puffer, Fullers London Pride and Orkney Dark Island & Orkney No 1. I hadn't seen the Orkney No 1 before and it was great - a nice, smooth best bitter with a good hop/fruit balance - hopefully a forerunner of some great beers at the forthcoming Wetherspoon Beer Festival.

I always get slightly confused with Kirkintilloch High Street but eventually found my way to the bypass and the turning to Milton of Campsie. The pavement along this road isn't exactly wide in all places, but at least it's there. After the small hamlet of Birdston I came to the entrance to the Kincaid House Hotel in a dip in the road. On entering here there's a fairly long, winding & narrow driveway through some wooded grounds, but the sight of the main house with its turrets and Grade A front always lifts my heart. That's because this is the place in which I was married, with the ceremony in the bright and airy conservatory and the meal & evening function in the main dining room - a fantastic day.

I indulged in a quick trip down memory lane by wandering through the beautiful grounds at the rear of the house, but then made my way around the side to the more informal Stable Bar.

Inside there's a bar in the middle of the large room, with a seated area to the left and a pool table and dart board on the right.

The young staff were more than welcoming and friendly - showing me to a table, letting me know there were papers available and lighting the real fire. I had the soup and sandwich deal - it was the first time I'd ever had Cream of Courgette Soup and I was somewhat wary, but it was really thick, warming and tasty - I'm a convert!

I obviously have a soft spot for the Kincaid House Hotel, but I'd have to admit I was disappointed by the beer selection today. Normally they have 2 real ales on, but today there was only Deuchars IPA (not Black Sheep Bitter as on my Wedding Day), and for some reason they have a large choice of fizzy lager - Carlsberg (normal & cold), Tuborg(?!), San Miguel and Birra Poretti (soon to be replaced by Staropramen) - I guess for some reason the demand for this must be there. I went for the Poretti as I hadn't tried it before, and contemplated the great Alloa Brewery mirror, champagne bottles on the walls, low wooden beams and brass ornaments - all very nice.

I left the Kincaid by the side entrance and managed to find my way through a housing estate back to the main road. Just before the A891 T-junction I found a set of steps (and a ramp) down to the Strathkelvin cycle/foot path.

This is a great path following the old railway line from Kirkintilloch all the way to Strathblane. I encountered cyclists, joggers and horses on my short walk until I left the path after of a couple of miles at the Glazert Bank in Lennoxtown. After this it was a short walk along Lennoxtown Main Street until The Swan Inn, situated at the junction of the road up to the Campsie Hills carpark.

I go up this way quite often and I've noted that the place has been intermittently open and closed quite often in the last few years. The latest incarnation has definitely had some money spent on it and is an impressive modern place (there are a quite a number of more 'traditional' boozers in Lennoxtown) with spot lights, downlighters, 'olde' round tables and a 2-way split bar between an informal restaurant and more 'stand-up' bar/lounge. There are a lot of old pictures of The Swan through the ages on the walls (as well as deer antlers and lacrosse sticks/bats(!)), so I assume the place has existed as a pub for some time - here's hoping the current management stay for some time. It's great to see the time & effort they've invested for the place (and they 'get' real ale - hooray!).

However I wasn't having much luck with real ale today (apart from the Kirky Puffer) in that the Cairngorm Wildcat was off which meant that Belhaven IPA was the only choice, so I decided to go with the kegged WEST Munich Red. However that was also off (no real demand - they're replacing it with WEST Pure), so I reverted to the Belhaven IPA. It's an OK(ish) golden brew with some hops (and far better than the awful GK IPA), but I was quite happy to chug my half pint before the half hourly bus to Glasgow was due.

Return transport:-
  Bus: Lennoxtown to Glasgow Buchanan Street (X85 First in Scotland, 01 & 31 on the hour)

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