Wednesday 23 October 2013--Take a few photos around the Craigdarroch Arms this morning before going on my way. It's a lovely clear
sunny morning, the first I've seen in a while; so unaccustomed to such am I that it does not occur to me to stop in Thornhill for a walkabout.
Pity, it's a handsome village, with roots in antiquity, its current character the result of a major rebuild in the 18th century.
I remember my camera in Sanquhar, where I stop to fuel up the car, ten or twelve miles up Nithsdale. There are some lovely old buildings here, notably the old tolbooth. The post office is not much to look at, but it dates from 1712, and claims to be the oldest operating post office in the world. I note also some references around to encounters with Robert Burns, probably pretty common around southwestern Scotland. I've neglected Burns rather inexcusably in my travels, just as I've neglected this region. File for future reference.
Backtrack a few miles down the A76, then turn up the B797, into the Lowther Hills again. From the sunny valley, I can see that the hills are wreathed in cloud, and shortly I am once again driving through gray misty weather. At the top of the pass sits Wanlockhead, a former lead- mining village, which happens, incongruously, to be the highest village in Scotland. I stop for a look around, noting the Wanlockhead Inn, the highest pub in Scotland. It's closed midday, which is probably just as well--I forgot to bring my Tan Hill Inn t-shirt. (The Tan, on the moor above the Yorkshire Dales, is the highest pub in the UK.)
The village of Leadhills is a mile or two along. It's larger than Wanlockhead, with a couple of hotels, although still not very big. It would probably be a better bet if I ever wanted to spend a night up here.
I descend into the Clyde watershed, out of the clouds and back into sunshine, and pick up the A74 north to Glasgow, 35 or 40 miles on. Find my lodgings in the West End, at the intersection of Great Western Road and Byres Road, by the usual method of half-remembered maps and dumb luck. I've never been keen on Glasgow, and have avoided it for years, for the most part; I'm here now for two concerts by two very different old favorites, Peter Gabriel and the Battlefield Band, coincidentally and happily on consecutive evenings. Tonight I am free to explore the neighborhood of the University and Byres Road, which I do by undertaking a pub crawl. Stops include the Curlers Rest, the Lismore, Brewdog, Inn Deep, and Ņran Mór. All of these are of interest to me as CAMRA-approved pubs, but they are five very different places.
The Curlers Rest is the sort of pub I'd be happy to find anywhere in the UK, with a selection of cask ales and a good pub menu. But it seems businesslike and impersonal...I can't fault it, but I don't find it terribly interesting.
The Lismore is a rare beast, a grumpy old man's bar (grumpy enough not to have a website) with a discerning taste for cask ales and malt whiskies. If I lived here, I'd be happy to have this as my local. As a tourist passing through, I have no illusions about being accepted as a regular.
Brewdog are self-described punk brewers of American-style draft beers. I like their beers, but their marketing really puts me off--it's aimed at a younger crowd, and gives the impression that they think they've reinvented the wheel. Their Glasgow pub is all right, but is full of pretentious hipsters, and I get the feeling that my presence is being tolerated. Too cool by half, at least.
Inn Deep lies below street level, at the intersection of Great Western Road and the River Kelvin. This one seems, at first glance, the best of all worlds--sophisticated, but friendly and unpretentious. Being able to take your pint out onto the terrace overlooking the rushing river is a major plus.
Ņran Mór, just across the street from my lodgings, is a large pub and music venue in the deconsecrated Kelvinside Parish Church. It's no more personal than the Curlers Rest, but is architecturally interesting. It's also open until 3:00am. The Batties will play here on Friday. I run into an American couple at the bar, from Seattle, and suggest to them that we meet at the Lismore after tomorrow's concert, which they are also attending.