Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Waterways and pubs in South-West Edinburgh: 5th May 2012

This Saturday I wanted to watch the FA Cup Final with some friends in Edinburgh so a walk in or around Edinburgh seemed a sensible choice. I therefore looked up the extremely useful Beercast Edinburgh Beer Weekly, found out that the Blue Goose on Lanark Road was having a May Day Weekend Beer Festival and decided I could work in a walk from Colington in the South-West of Edinburgh to the City Centre, around a visit to the Blue Goose.

View Edinburgh : South-West in a larger map

Outward travel was as follows:-
  Train: Glasgow Queen Street to Edinburgh Haymarket
  Bus: Lothian Road to Colington Village (Lothian Buses, 10)

The number 10 bus took me on a fairly mazy route through south-west Edinburgh, past Redford Barracks and the recruits on parade and then dropped me off just outside Colinton Village, a well-heeled part of suburban Edinburgh (which, in general, seemed very quiet today). Steps took me down into the main Bridge Street past the Colinton Inn (Deuchars IPA only) and then furthers steps brought me out opposite the Spylaw Tavern a nice sandstone terraced building with a great beer garden out the back with views down to Spylaw Park.

Just exiting the building was a group of 20 or so walkers who had stopped off for lunch, so the staff were somewhat frazzled but otherwise very friendly and very polite - great to see. On at the bar was Harviestoun Bitter & Twisted and Deuchars IPA, but I managed to get the last taste of the Adnams Sole Star - a malty low alcohol beer (2.7%), but with a decent bitter hop kick at the end, not bad at all. My soup and sandwiches came really quickly and I sat in the small bar/snug away from the main restaurant (with the TV off - it is possible!), looking at the pictures of the Water of Leith and Colinton Village.

Just down from the Spylaw Tavern I managed to find the entrance to Spylaw Park which led down to a footbridge over the river to join the Water of Leith Walkway. I'd walked the section from Balerno to Currie a couple of weeks ago (see here), but this section called the Dells was really stunning with a full-scale green canopy, numerous criss-crossing paths, quite a few weirs in full flow, and some impressive & secluded riversides houses - it really is a great piece of nature in the midst of a large city.

After meandering through the Dells for a couple of miles I left the Water of Leith Walkway at the intersection with the Union Canal.

The Water of Leith Visitor Centre, a converted schoolhouse is located here, and directly across the road is the Blue Goose Country Pub, which used to be known as The Dell.

The Beer Festival/May Day Holiday Party was in full swing in mid-afternoon in the beer garden with a BBQ sizzling away, some covered seating and live music about to go on. There were a number of Scottish beers on outside (including the lethal Orkney Skull Splitter) but I was intrigued to try the Blue Goose Cask Ale brewed by Tetley's (now part of the Carlsberg group) in Northampton (and sadly not Leeds any more).

To be honest it was 'just' OK, with the slightly bitter smoothness almost bringing back memories of the never to be repeated night I had on the Tetley's Smoothflow a long time ago, but to compensate the riverside beer garden was great, the funk/blues music pretty decent and the sun had started to shine - although some people were were in T-shirts, others still stuck to parkas.

I walked back up the steps to the Union Canal and started to walk towards Fountainbridge and the city centre. Both the canal footpath and the canal itself were quite busy with walkers, joggers, a couple of canal boats and even a single scull rowing boat.

I got off the canal towpath just after the Harrison Park Moorings and found the park really busy (perhaps that's where everybody goes in Edinburgh on a Bank Holiday) with football being played, frisbees thrown, kids on swings & roundabouts, and even an al-fresco student party/picnic. Towards the edge of the park the cherry blossom trees were in full bloom - really quite something.

Inhaling the great aroma from the nearby Caledonian Brewery I headed down to Angle Park Terrace and the Caley Sample Room.

It's been re-furbished in the last few years to become a bright, modern, open-plan establishment with one half setup mainly for drinkers on comfy sofas & wooden tables and the other set aside for the classy food. As well as a long list of coffees, wine and bottled beer, the 'craft' beer choice was really impressive today with a great selection from Williams Brothers (Joker), Tempest (Rye PA & Into the Light), Cromarty (Red Rocker), Black Isle (Export Scotch) and Magic Rock (Curious & Carnival) with the Carnival being a really full-on citrus flavoured beer, with some caramel malt, but if anything just slightly too bitter (I don't say that too often and would probably be willing to re-consider if I have it again outside in a beer garden!). They were also promoting their Summer Wine Brewery Dinner/Food and Beer matching evening - I've never been to one of these and really must try one sometime soon. I guess The Caley really is a cutting-edge contemporary pub/bar/restaurant, with something to offer a whole range of differing clientèle - so much so that it's been deemed to be worthy of a place in the 2012/13 The List Eating and Drinking Guide to Edinburgh - congratulations!

Just a short stagger from the Sample Room is the Athletic Arms, more commonly known as The Diggers due to the adjacent graveyards.

This is about as different from the Caley Sample Room as you can get but that doesn't detract from the fact that it's still a great place - a more traditional, old fashioned pub with large painted glass windows with the McEwan's logo, a wrap-around 3/4 style bar, small tables with enough room for a pint and a newspaper (and that's about it) and a great floor - partially wooden, partially chequer-tiled. I remember going here after a rugby game and having to drink Caledonian 80/-, just because everyone else was, but now it's Stewart Brewing that have their Diggers 80/- on a couple of the taps. Also available were Broughton Clipper IPA, their Coulsons EPA, and Caledonian Flying Scotsman and their 2point8. Since I'd had the Adnams 'lite' beer earlier in the afternoon I though I'd try the 2point8, especially since the beer miles involved from the brewery would have been minimal, but it wasn't too good, a bit bland and there was definitely some diactyl kicking about at the end.
(You might just be able to spot a large dog spread-out on one of the seats - this was definitely a case of 'let sleeping dogs lie')

From here it was just a fairly short walk up Lanark Road to Haymarket, with a slight detour into Appellation Wines (again) to pick up the new Stewart beer (Radical Road) and Tempest's Double Cresta Black, and then into William Street to meet my pals in Bert's Bar, now a Maclays pub.

Maclays have refurbished the place somewhat in the last few years so that there are more tables to have something to eat at (apart from their famous pies) in the side room, but the bar area's still pretty much the same (long and narrow) and can get really busy when there's a big sporting event on as per today. We quite happily had a few great pints of Fyne Ales Jarl, Stewart Forth Mist and Knops California Common (quite caramely today) watching the game come to life in the last 30 minutes - can't really ask for much better than that - except for the result to be different I guess!

Return transport:-
  Train: Edinburgh Haymarket to Glasgow Queen Street

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