Spring gives way to summer, and with the flora and fauna Britain’s hospitality industry also begins to take stride, seeming to picking up pace with every passing day. Financial experts have estimated that each citizen in this country will need to drink the equivalent of 124 pints each to shore up our beloved establishments; a tall order.
Never has such a delightful task been asked of so many, and so it is with patriotic fervour in my heart, and a small bundle in my wallet, that I have taken it upon myself to drive around Scotland for two weeks, boosting the economy as I wander through a little drinking. After a night’s wild camping in the borders, I have arrived in Edinburgh, where I have been fortunate enough to be shown around by some friends and introduced to some excellent establishments where one might perform some acts of patriotic fidelity, inevitably, at least for now, on tables of six or less.
The Scots as a people have a fondness for grand architecture. Even small country houses will often be adorned with turret of a set of imposing gates. One building that is certainly justified in its magnificence is the imposing Balmoral Hotel. During my visit there I was informed that their world class whisky bar, ‘Scotch’, was closed for refurbishments, and so I moved to their ‘Bar Prince’ for one or two post lunch snifters.
This was by no means a downgrade and the service was impeccable, but I could not help but feel as though I had missed out on a unique experience. With an ever changing collection of whiskies numbering over five hundred, whisky ambassadors on hand to assist and tasting courses aimed at the green horn and the expert, all held in exactly the sort of room you would expect (oak panelled and handmade storage for the whiskies, granite bar with brushed copper), I will be swinging by again in the near future. In the ‘Bar Prince’ I was recommended a Balvenie 12 year Double Wood and was not disappointed. As you may have guessed from the name, it is aged in traditional whisky casks (American ex-bourbon and then Spanish sherry) providing a mellow drink leaving you with the expected sherry notes.
It is likely that if, like myself, you are an Englishman, the word ‘teuchter’ is one that is entirely alien; while its origins are not definite its meaning certainly is. A teuchter is a derogatory name for a Highlander, used by the Lowland Scots to imply a certain lack of refinement; one might exchange it for the more common yokel. When the owners, both hailing from the north of the country, attempted to start their own restaurant and bar, they were contemptuously told that it wouldn’t work out for them, being but a pair of ‘teuchters’. The name stuck, and today there is no better pub to watch the rugby at and have a drink (as well as some excellent food).
Rough and ready in appearance, with little nooks to tuck into, but without losing a lively atmosphere, they have an excellent selection of Scottish drinks. With the inevitable selection of whiskies, ranging from the well known pub classics to some exceptional single malts, as well as a large selection of Scottish beers both bottled and on tap, it is very popular. I was fortunate enough to get a table for an hour and had an exceptional time. It has an appeal that is universal, signalled by the good mix of locals, students and tourist like myself. I whole heartedly recommend it, especially on a match day.
Am I about to describe the fourth year’s house I stayed in the other night? It would certainly have the same sub-heading, although my experience at this youthful and modern establishment was anything but frigid. Self consciously trying to steer away from the pretentious hipster nonsense that so often follows a brewery owned pub, Cold Town Beer have excelled themselves with this new bar. It has, and I say this knowing the gravity of this statement, one of the best views of any bar in the country. It’s rooftop terrace sits in Edinburgh Old Town just below the famous castle. With a young crowd of what seemed to be mainly students exuding that end of exams energy, I arrived just as the evening was coming on, not that I would have realised with how late the sun goes down up here. Feeling as though a whisky might be an issue with my early start the next morning I tried a few of the beers, all delicious, and promptly ordered myself a pizza that put to shame anything I could have ordered in (the dough is made with the brewery’s own beer). The sun began to go down on Edinburgh and the rooftop bar was the perfect place to watch it happen.
There are hundreds of good places to get a drink in Edinburgh, and even doing three in one day made me feel slightly rushed as there is so much to look at and the friendly locals can often be difficult to stop talking to. Although I am leaving the hustle and bustle of the city behind me I doubt it will be long before I am there again.
By William Prior