I arrived back home from a three day business trip to Scotland at around 6.30pm on Wednesday evening. I want to emphasise that it was a business trip, so there was precious little opportunity for sneaking off and doing some pub exploration of my own. Despite this, it was an enjoyable, and at times fun, experience and, as the old cliché goes, just good to get out of the office!
I travelled up with our Business Development Manager, in order to give a presentation to the sales representatives from one of orlargest UK customers. This was new experience for me, but everything went well, we picked up some first rate feedback and met lots of interesting and useful (from a business perspective), people.
Dundee was our destination, and was my first visit to the city which looks out across the Firth of Tay. We debated the best way of travelling there and back, with flying coming out on top, despite me wanting to let the train take the strain. Our fly-drive was definitely the best option, as it meant we had the use of a car whilst in Dundee. In addition the flight from Gatwick to Edinburgh was only just over an hour, compared with four and a half hours by train and seven and a half hours by car, should you be foolish to attempt the drive in one hit.
There is one direct, daily return flight to Dundee, with Logan Air; never heard of them, then you are not alone. They are a Scottish regional airline which operate out of Stansted for the Dundee route. We drove past Dundee Airport on Monday evening, when we took a quick drive into the city. Let’s just say it was small, with a tiny, 1930’s style control tower, perched on top of the flat-roof terminal.
So all things considered, our choice of plane plus hire-car, was the best, and least stressful option. I was impressed with Edinburgh Airport, despite the construction work being carried out to improve its capacity. It is well-laid out making it easy to navigate one’s way around.
There are good public transport links, not just to the city centre, but to two peripheral stations, where onward journeys can be made to various Scottish destinations, as well as some across the border into England. On the way to collect our hire car, we passed the tram terminal. I made a mental note of it for future reference.
Our route to Dundee took us north across the recently-opened Queensferry Crossing, which carries the M90 motorway across the Forth, and runs adjacent to the Forth Road Bridge. Use of the latter is now restricted to buses, taxis, cyclists and pedestrians, following the discovery of a number of structural defects in 2005. Visible the other side of this 50 year old suspension bridge, is the iconic Forth Rail Bridge, which opened in 1890.
After crossing the River Tay, to the south of Perth, we turned onto the A90, which took us all the way to Dundee. The city’s Double Tree by Hilton Hotel was our home for the next two nights. It was comfortable, well-appointed and reasonably priced at £66 per night; a rate which included a decent buffet breakfast, or kippers, if preferred.
The presentation we attended was held at the nearby Invercase Hotel, which had fine views across the Tay estuary. We returned to the hotel on the Tuesday evening, for a dinner and fancy-dress party. It was a long and tiring day, especially for my colleague who talked himself hoarse, but it was good for our company and we received some really positive feedback about our products and the service we provide.
I said at the beginning of this post there would be very little about beer or pubs that I could write about, and for a start, I saw no cask on sale. On the first evening, my colleague and I walked along to the local Beefeater restaurant, at Gourdie Croft, largely at his suggestion.
It was only a 15 minute walk, but quite a dodgy thing to do, as the route followed the A90 dual-carriageway, and whilst there was a pavement along one carriageway, we had to cross over to the other side - a move that included hopping over the crash-barrier on the central reservation!
There were two hand-pulls on the bar, both with their Doom Bar clips turned round. The bar manager was quite apologetic, but the non-availability of DB was no great loss as far as I was concerned. I consoled myself with a couple of bottles of Erdinger Wheat Beer. The meal was pleasant enough, even if it was standard Beefeater fayre. We walked back along the grass verge on the opposite carriageway, as I said I would rather end up with muddy shoes, than get knocked down by a speeding car!
The beer selection at our hotel was actually better than the Beefeater, as the bar offered bottles of Schiehallion Lager from Harviestoun as well as Brew Dog Punk IPA. At the Invercase Hotel though, it was Tenants, Stella or a real blast from the past in the form of McEwan’s Export (keg of course). I had a pint of the very bland Tenants, before moving on to red wine for the rest of the evening.
My colleague was careful not to consume too much alcohol that evening, as although we took a taxi to and from the evening party, there was the small matter of him having to drive the following morning. I’d warned him about Scotland’s draconian drink-driving laws, as had several other people, because given the much lower permitted blood-alcohol limit, it is quite possible to be over the drink-drive limit the morning after the night before.
Fortunately he heeded the advice, although as it was 11am when we checked out of our hotel, I imagine there was ample time for the alcohol to be fully metabolised. Our flight wasn’t due to depart until 14.55, so we took a leisurely drive back to Edinburgh Airport.
There was still time to kill before our flight, so after returning the hire car, and passing through security in double-quick time, we decided that a drink and something to eat was in order.
There is a large Wetherspoon outlet airside, at the airport in the form of the Sir Walter Scott, and cask is obviously a feature, but my eye had been caught by the nearby Brew Dog bar, so that’s where we ended up. A pint of Lost Lager for my colleague, plus a pint of Indie Pale Ale for me, was just right.
Afterwards we each grabbed a baguette from Pret A Manger, before boarding our Easy Jet flight back to Gatwick. My train journey back to Tonbridge took the same time as the flight, as there were delays due to signalling problems.
It was an interesting trip, although I unfortunately picked up another cold, whilst away – hence the delay in publishing this post! The photos are rather random, but they should convey something of the flavour of my short trip north of the border.