North Sea Cycle Route (Part 3)

An opportunity to clock up another 117 miles of the North Sea Cycle Route down Scotland’s east coast was taken last week. 

An evening train to Montrose allowed a couple of hours in a town where real ale has never been fully embraced. There were only two handpumps in the place – one in the George where the Deuchars on the turn; the other a better Harviestoun Bitter and Twisted in the Market Arms. The latter is a proper pub with some nice wood and glass.

Nearby the Corner House lies long abandoned, though a view through a broken window shows tables and beermats still in place as if serving had just stopped.

The following day was a relatively gentle 51 miles to St Andrews, via a lovely stretch of coastline to Broughty Ferry (with an obligatory ice cream plus half of Top Out Pale Ale at the Ship).  From there it was over the Tay Bridge into Fife. 

Cobbie’s in Tayport has this intact Aitchison’s window- an Edinburgh Brewery of some infamy that closed in 1961. quotes Anthony Avis: 

Aitchison’s small estate of sixty eight houses was in poor order; those I inspected in England were bad enough, but were palaces compared with those in Edinburgh. They were literally drinking holes with no shred of comfort, which was true of most licensed premises in Scotland then; and the north of England was not much better. In Scotland the bleakness had been turned into an art form – bare wooden floors with sawdust, spittoons, zinc counter tops, the customers almost entirely men, outside toilets, and beer slopping everywhere; a silent, brooding atmosphere, as though something was about to happen.”

He makes it all sound rather compelling for the pub blogger. 

The altogether more sophisticated  atmosphere of St Andrews was our evening destination but before that we cycled through Tentsmuir Forest, a place where Jim Crumley wrote “it looks as if the trees are wading out among the captivating mix of sand dunes and heath, hell-bent on the three-mile-long beach, the surf and the sandbanks”.  In the same essay he describes how his “I am a Tree” strategy persuaded a badger to pee on his wellies. 

Students had been replaced by tourists in St Andrews on this glorious summer day, just as traditional pubs are being replaced by craft bars in the town. The Criterion remains an honourable exception- the Edinbrew 85/- was a charcoal pleasure there (from a brewery whose beers I have struggled to find in top order) and where the whisky flights were doing a roaring trade. Whilst the Central is also a pub survivor but under the thumb of Greene King. 

Most of the others tried were frankly not very enjoyable either for  their environment, beer quality or both. St Andrews Brewing Co didn’t sell any of their own beers in cask. From there we went to the Beer Kitchen- which is one of Innis and Gunn’s forays into the craft market. 

Their own Maple and Thistle Rye Ale  (5.9) worked for me, even at £4.85 for 2/3 of a pint, brewed to celebrate 150 years of Canadian confederation.  Two Roads IPA from Connecticut was £5 for the same quantity. The pub also sold 2.5l beer towers for £18.95. 

We should have probably sampled the 24 Hour Bakery as too many strong beers and not enough food is not a great combination, albeit an occupational hazard in this game. 

The next day was a more punishing and largely beer free trip to Edinburgh in less favourable conditions, pausing to rest the bike outside this pub in Inverkeithing, formerly the Crown until it sold half the building, hence the current name.  


3 thoughts on “North Sea Cycle Route (Part 3)

  1. Grief, it took me 2 days to read this !
    Love those photos, especially McEwans.
    “A town where real ale has never been fully embraced” – beautiful use of words !”
    Can you restart the Aitchinson’s chain – sounds wonderful.
    Good to see you being so strident on beer quality, Tandleman would be proud.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Martin. It was much longer than usual. I was going to split it into two but thought I might not get round to second leg if I did that. Got some good pics in Hull – one frontage that you will like in particular I think.

      Liked by 1 person

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