The 2019 UK Beercation Day 9: Hadrian’s Wall
Here I’ll continue an epic series of blogposts about our trip to the British Isles this summer. Much like last year’s trip to Germany and the Czech Republic, this was a self-organized tour with our friends Jim and Lori Stroner, as well as my wife Sarajo (Sj) and myself. I’ll be posting a day-by-day travelogue of the trip as I organize and go through my multitude of pictures. While the posts won’t be fully about beer–there will be a focus on good pubs, real ale, distilleries, and food! So here goes: enjoy!
All right! Another day in Scotland! Today was actually a day-trip day for us with Edinburgh as our anchor. We started out early with a drive to Rosslyn Chapel, a beautiful building from 1446. We opted not to pay the price to go in, but were able to walk around the outside of the gates and catch a few shots of teenage tourists sitting in the courtyard on their phones. There was one brief instant of no one standing here, so there’s the shot you see above. OK, maybe not the best of our stops.
Our next stop was a bit more interesting. This was Lanercost Priory, back into England proper. This is a ruined 13th century church that has seen some action over the centuries of war in the area. We spent a good amount of time wandering around the somewhat overgown graveyard, taking in the large old lichen-coated gravestones.
Not far from here was another brewery for us try out: Twice Brewed Brewery and Inn. There is a small brewery building to the rear of the place, which also hosts a nice pub and restaurant, as well as providing lodging for visitors to the area. The food here was good (I had fish & chips again) and much needed before our coming exercise. They had several of their own beers available on cask, with our favorite being the Steel Rigg porter. All of the beers are named after local places–of which there are plenty to choose! The brewery is a great place to stop when visiting some of the most scenic areas of Hadrian’s wall (which is why we happened to be here.) They also do some distilling, but we didn’t get to try the hard stuff on our stop!
We parked in the pay lot near the brewery and took a long walk from around the actual Steel Rigg to Hadrian’s Wall, another Unesco World Heritage site. Hadrian’s Wall is a 73 mile long wall built in the 120’s AD and went from sea to sea across northern Britain, mainly to keep the barbarians (yeah, those pesky Picts and precursors to the Scotsmen) out. Imagine building a huge wall across your entire country to keep out the unwanted. Wait a minute… Ok, that’s as political as I’m going to get here, sorry but it had to be done. Much like China’s great wall, this eventually fell into disrepair as the Roman’s pulled back from the northern border of their empire but lasted for nearly 300 years. Eventually the stones making up the epic wall were used by locals for building homes or fences, and only by the 18-19th century was effort put to limiting this and conserving the remaining wall remnants.
This area is some of the more picturesque of the wall since it has some partially reconstructed areas and covers some of the rolling hills. We hiked a very long distance (at least 3 miles) up and down said rolling hills, and swat a lot, while hauling our camera gear along with us. This is the most exercise we had all trip–for sure! Along the way is Sycamore Gap–as shown below–were an iconic scene from Robin Hood Prince of Thieves was filmed. Ah memories of high school and sappy theme songs come flooding back…
Our death-march took us to a roman fort, where we struggled a it to find a path from our current spot on the wall to either the fort or the road out. Lori scaled the wall into the fort like some invading barbarian, while Jim, Sj, and I dodged sheep dung and walked through a farmer’s field in search of escape. We eventually found the gift-shop and discovered that the last bus back to our parking area would be by shortly. Lori eventually found her way back to us (I swear we weren’t going to leave her there…) and we walked a ways to the bus stop at the bottom of the hill. I would have liked more time to see the ruins of the fort, but no way was I walking 3 miles back to the car!
We drove back to Edinburgh, unfortunately the old Traquair House Brewery was closed by the time we headed back from the Wall so we had to pass it by. Sorry Sarah and Dave, we thought of you guys!
We ended up having dinner at The Barony, an old Victorian era pub with extensive cool tilework on the walls. The vibe here was a fun combination of old style pub and trendy new gastropub–I think it worked. We had really tasty truffle mayo fries and other tasty morsels to eat. This is also where I talked our group into trying “whitebait” as an appetizer. This turned out to be a fishier tasting version of smelt fries and was not a very big hit amongst the group. At least I could do my puffin impression and let these hang out of my mouth like a puffin returning to the nest!
Our final stop of the day was the Guildford Arms, another classic Victorian pub. We had a Orkney Brewing Dark Island on cask here. This was once my favorite Scottish beer and I remember buying bottles at The Four Firkins backk in the day. This time, we picked up a fair amount to butterscotchy diacetyl in there and it distracted a bit from the otherwise good dark fruit and malty flavors present in the beer. Oh well, sometimes you can’t go back.
Ruined Abbey/Churches: 7 (OK, Rosslyn isn’t really ruined but I’m counting it)
Distilleries: 3 (I’m counting Twice Brewed!)
Unesco World Heritage Sites: 4
If you want to hear the episode of A One Pint Stand where Dan and I recap the entirety of my UK Beercation, click on the link below. If you like the podcast, subscribe so you don’t miss an episode!