Thursday, 19 June 2014

A dam fyne hike around FyneFest: 14th June 2014

FyneFest 2014 was going to be big. All the tickets for the weekend had been sold, the sun was going to shine (for the Saturday at least) and there were going to be some great beers available (including an incredible 34 from Fynes Ales, collabs & all). It was definitely the place to be this weekend.

View FyneFest 2014 in a larger map

Outward travel was as follows:-
  Coach: Glasgow to Loch Fyne Oyster Bar (CityLink 926, frequent).

On leaving the 926 Citylink I met Jason (the main man from the State Bar in Glasgow) & his missus and together we walked along the main road to the old bridge at the head of Loch Fyne (a favourite place for a police speed-trap and doing a roaring trade today). On heading up the narrow driveway to Fyne Ales it seemed as if there were more people leaving the site than coming in; I can only assume they were going in search of cooked breakfast somewhere. Just in front of the Visitor Centre & Tap the new £2 Million Fyne Ales brewhouse expansion seemed to be almost finished; it'll certainly make some difference to the distribution of Fyne Ales beers nationwide and further afield.
(June 2013 - Old Sheep Shed)

(June 2014 - New Brewery)

I left Jason contemplating the great choice of beer in the Tap and walked down to the main FyneFest site, fairly quiet at ~11:15am, although it was good to see a couple of my London-based friends already in the beer tent and they were the only ones at that moment sitting at the long bench tables, FyneFest beer glasses in hand.

We decided to head off straight away to the Walkers' Bar, ~3 miles of so up Glen Fyne. It's a great way to clear the head and walk up a thirst & an appetite and of course, the scenery and the wildlife on the way is pretty stunning (& pretty cute).

Just before reaching the Walkers' Bar I decided that since it was such a nice day, a walk further up the Glen to the large dam for the hydro-electric station was worthwhile, for curiosity's sake if nothing else. Following the right-hand fork for this took me almost directly over the Walkers' Bar which last year was inside the stone-bricked fishing/shooting hut/bothy. However the roof of this had collapsed during the winter gales and so the great FyneFest people had instead erected a small marquee for all the thirsty walkers.

Continuing on my trek to the dam it was a fairly constant steepish incline all the way up the side of the hill, and before the path made a sharp right-angle turn there were some great views down the length of Glen Fyne with the head of Loch Fyne visible in the distance.

It was probably an energetic hike of 35 minutes or so from the fork in the path near the Walkers' Bar before I came in sight of the Allt-Na Lairge Dam. Built in 1956 it's not the highest dam I've seen but, as always, there was still an impressive plume of water from the spillway causing a continuous rumble of white noise and the occasional fine spray of mist (very welcoming today).

It was far easier coming down the hillside than up (although probably worse on the knees) and I managed to get back down to the Walkers' Bar a fair bit before it was due to close. By now there were *a lot* of people here and they'd managed to drink the temporary bar dry of cask beer (bottles were still available until they closed) - this was some of the detritus at the end of the lunchtime session.

And there was a long (but good-natured) queue for burgers (I was pretty ravenous). The FyneFest people manning this didn't flag despite the heat and after a long wait (a larger BBQ next year, please) I got the 2nd last cheeseburger (everyone did get a burger) and went to sit on the bridge over the River Fyne with this and my growler of Arbor Motueka (a lovely bitter grapefruit session beer).

After that it was time to walk back to the main FyneFest site. By now the car-park, campsite & beer tent had filled up considerably and there were (normally) queues approx. 6-8 deep at the main bar from now on (although since it was tokens-only the queues did move pretty quickly). The beers on at the time were put up on a couple of huge tetris-style beer boards and these did have the tendency to change really quickly; some of the more interesting & one-off beers only lasted maybe 2 hours or so. My favourites from the huge choice on offer were the Fyne Ales/Hanging Bat Brew Co. intense juniper berry collab BatFynk, Cromarty's light & refreshing Flemish Session Ale and (douze points for this) Ilkley's Marie Jaune, with a lovely smooth body, but still spicy from the French hops & yeast.

I headed back up to the Tap where the Pub Quiz had just started and found the courtyard absolutely mobbed. The compère commented that she had only expected about 25 people and not 250, but she still managed to organise the quiz pretty well, with only a small amount of good-natured (perhaps slightly drunken) heckling. I guess the nice thing about the quiz was that it would be 'completely' fair - it wasn't possible to cheat using a smartphone (there was absolutely no 3/4G phone signal), and I couldn't even get the Tap WiFi to work.

After an outstanding pint of Fyne Ales Jarl (it always tastes better at source) and buying a couple of beers from the Tap's increasing impressive bottled beer selection, I headed back down to the beer tent where the sun had come out (as well as swarms of those pesky midges). Inside it was good to see The Good Spirits Co. people providing spirits & cocktails and the guys from Hippo Beers had a bottled beer bar under the outside teepee complete with straw bales to sit on - with all the music it was almost like a good ol' fashioned hoedown.

And as well as all the 'normal' great music there was an audience participation FyneFest Choir (which I missed, damn), loads of food (I had some spicy tomato pasta soup with really tasty home-made bread), hand-ground coffee, massage/relaxation from Sephora Health & Beauty and even yoga sessions.

I had to leave at about half-past seven to get my bus back to Glasgow and at that time the sun was just disappearing behind the hills leaving me with a great final view of FyneFest 2014. Many thanks to all those involved in it and I look forward immensely to FyneFest 2015.


  1. Great blog and you have got it spot on! Fyne is one of the best wee festivals in the UK!!

    1. Cheers! Great festival, def wouldn't want it that much bigger :-)

  2. We have loved being part of this festival for the past three years. Providing massage, face painting etc Great bunch of lovely festival goers every year. Suzi from Sephora Health and Beauty

  3. Thanks for information! Blog updated :-)