Friday, 10 June 2016

BRAPA - Ayrshire (Day Two - Up the Coast)

Day two dawned a bit too bright and sunny (hangover) after the five pubs in three hours end to the night before, but a great breakfast and chat with a lovely golfing couple from Motherwell helped.

After an additional can of Irn-bru and some weird fizzy sweets, I was soon on the train to Largs (changing at Kilwinning of course you absolute novices!) and with the rain mercifully freshening me up further, I was the only passenger on the top deck of the Slip to the Isle of Cumbrae.  A bus met me at the harbour, and dropped me in "the capital" Millport.....

Looking back towards Largs

Millport Jetty
Some irritating schoolkids had commandeered "Crocodile Rock" (so I couldn't "play" on it) so I wandered lonely as a cloud until the sun came out, then I hit the pub.....

929.  Frasers Bar, Millport, Isle of Cumbrae

"Aye, the storms are a comin'" warned the barman with a gleam of presentiment in his eye.  In fairness, he was a fresh faced friendly twenty something but in training for the day when he becomes a rugged pirate.   I ordered a nice pale pint of Glasgow Jaw Drop and I think he wanted me to stand at the bar and chat but I was still not feeling my most sociable so retired to a corner.  Also, I hadn't realised the two old locals, one was a blind Scotsman trying to do a crossword and the other was a deaf cockney, so bar conversation was stifled to say the least.  The pub had a nice comfortable front bar with a long thin tardis-like back area which I think became a bit more foody (there was a random woman stood around with cutlery who mysteriously vanished after 10 minutes).  The island 'joker' appeared and told a story about pissed tourists, but apologised for his language when he realised a woman had walked in, but she looked like a pissed tourist to me.  The bus was waiting, as they tend to do here, and soon I was back on the Slip to Largs (gentle touristy town) for ice cream and pub two.

10 second walk from the bus stop was my first pub of the day

Nice start to day two of pub ticking in Ayrshire

930.  JG Sharps Bar, Largs

It sounded shit from the name, the Carling sign jutting out of the side of the building did nothing to help (how many GBG pubs have this feature do you think?), and a huge Sky Sports banner just added to my sense of worry as I entered here, despite trying to keep an open mind!  The pub was long, thin, dark and dingy with a huge screen blasting out Sky Sports News and I could only see one beer, Doom Bar.  I'd like to take this opportunity to apologise for an error I made in my Mossley/Greenfield blog, pubs with Sky Sports don't get 'free' Doom Bar, they may get the odd promotional barrel for free but it is a deal as part of the Molson Coors chain which presumably also explains why huge lager fonts dominated the bar. I did find a neglected looking Deuchars pump hiding behind a cantankerous old man who wasn't going to move, so I ordered this just to be awkward.  I regretted it, it tasted like the seawater I'd just floated across on (and was served in a Black Sheep glass).  The barmaid looked miserable.  A Jeremy Kyle couple came in for lunch, in the huge soulless back room where a window cleaner had earlier gurned at me through french windows.  They had a buggy with an evil looking "twild" in it (term we York folk use for a child who is also a twat, think my sister invented that).  My "snug " area was quite nice and peaceful and ornate even, but this was a rubbish pub experience and noticing my train was cancelled just put the cherry on the top!

A bad "sign" for my second pub.

View from across the road not much better

A lot nicer inside, but still not convinced.
My mood was black by now and Google Maps wouldn't work so I could not work out where to get a bus from.  Why was the train cancelled?   Maybe the phantom storms had hit somewhere else?   In the now searing heat, I walked the 2.5 miles to Fairlie which wasn't too bad, most of the walk past Largs Golf Course (one of many along this coast) so I got to watch some terrible putting close up, and then across the road, some ladies were crown green bowling and they had more of a handle on things.

Arriving at pub number three

931.  Village Inn, Fairlie

The sign said Fairlie is Scotland's first 'fair trade' village, but it didn't feel very fair to charge me £3.40 a pint when everything else had been £3 on the dot.  I'd again made the mistake of entering the left hand bar to find three young smiling waiter/waitress types who guided me round to the bar (well, when I asked) where I said "aye" to 5 burly locals, whilst a sinister version of Tom Quill (gay baddie from Neighbours) played on a colourful mobile phone.  A girl with incredible eyebrows served me, or the eyebrows did, I saw a sign showing a Tarot night was happening later, but the ghost spelt out "w a x y o u r e y e b r o w s".  I took my Kelburn Jaguar (a beer not a large cat) outside as there was no way I was staying in that silent strangeness though to be fair, the locals were friendly in a reserved way and an old lady smiled at me through a conservatory window.  To my relief, I found a 'hidden' upstairs beer patio area  at roof level with about 50 signs explaining how pub ordering works (see below).  It was baking now, about 30 degrees I would guess with no shade but it was a nice outlook and a back car park could take me back onto the "A" road without walking back through the pub, which was perfect.   So mixed feelings but enjoyable if a bit scary on the whole.

Upstairs pint of Jaguar

Nice of them to explain how a pub works, just ignore the word "restaurant".
It was only an extra 10-15 min walk back to Fairlie railway station, where the next train was on time so I had some lunch and waited.  When it arrived, I heard a weird sizzle on the overhead line and then we were delayed due to an electrical fault for the next 20 minutes, not sure if these two were related.  The locals dealt with the news a lot more calmly than they do on the York-Leeds train I can tell you!

Irvine was my next location after another Kilwinning changeover, and the walk to my next pub reminded me of that between Middlesbrough's Riverside Stadium and the station, and I mean that in a good way you might be surprised to hear.  It was all very calming though, and a bit cooler right on the harbour/seafront.

Funny statue with pub just behind it.
932.  Ship Inn, Irvine

I could hear some wailing come from within the building as I struggled to find the entrance, the song was "I'll Tell Me Ma" which I love when done properly (Irish-punk version) but this club style Phoenix Nights version was possibly distorted by the walls.  At the bottom of some steps, I found the entrance, and a  massive group of frail but cackling old dears, the most I have ever seen in a BRAPA pub.  Turned out for listening to the staff that they have four coach trips a year to random locations, and this was one, hence the live entertainment in the back room.  Further staff comment proved they shared my view of the singing quality.  When he finally encored with "Can't Help Falling in Love" by Elvis, most people had left or their ears were bleeding, Getting the last few women out of the loos/venue seemed to take an age due to various zimmer frames, sticks etc ("they're doing the last of the cocaine in there!") one jovial barman kept repeating ad nauseam  until it became no longer funny.  Pub was a fantastic old building, dark and low roofed and a steady stream of diners started to appear just as the coach had departed.  Although these people had booked tables, I loved the no nonsense way they were basically told to "get in, sit down and shut up" without the staff obviously saying that.  Recommended.

But what's that horrifying noise coming from the right of the building?

Excellent old pub.
I felt like I was flagging by the time I got back to the station, where a train took me to Troon which I had been led to believe was just two golf courses with a couple of streets.  Of course that isn't true, it's two golf courses, a couple of streets, and two real ale pubs!

Doon in Old Troon Toon! 

933.  Bruce's Well, Troon

But is he well?  Whether we are talking about Forsyth (he'll die soon, sorry), Steve (don't get me started) or the landlord, if indeed he is called Bruce (a bit thin and pasty looking), the jury would have to be out.  This was much more what you might envisage of a typical Scottish pub experience, you walk into a large room, very undecorated, very basic, 2 ales on and not much else, a few men stood at the bar chatting and laughing and drinking, and you have to say "hi" and look at them all expectantly until one of them cracks and wanders round to serve you, and you are never quite sure which one it's going to be!  Happens a lot in proper pubs.  Just like Kirkmichael, the ale I wanted had a name hard to pronounce for a wee sassanach bastard like myself, Lia Fail, so it was damage limitation as I tried not to look/sound like a total tool.  If ever there was a pub to open a bag of your own mini cheddars and eat them very loudly and blatantly, this was it.  It caused some reaction as Bruce came over to ask if I had the Cask Marque app.  I told him not to be silly but explained BRAPA (of course) which he was interested in for all of 5 seconds.  Then, one of the locals wives rang and asked what he wanted for tea.  "As long as it's got fish fingers and beans with it" came the response.  It was that kind of a pub.  

A pint of Lia Fail in a classic auld local.
934.  McKay's, Troon

Just across the street, things got even better in here and I was feeling reinvigorated by Troon.  I walked in to a great hive of activity, all wooden floors and bare boards with really friendly female barmaids (well, I guess you wouldn't get a male barmaid) and a cracking range of ales with names even I could (just about) pronounce.  She even understood the "would you like the extra 10p" concept without getting confused as I ordered a "Thrappledouser" from the name people who'd brought me the Lia Fail.  I asked about a beer garden as there wasn't a spare seat indoors and I found even that quite full with early evening/post work drinkers, I thought they'd be all golfers.  Luckily, the garden went back for miles and once you got to the grassy bit, people seemed reluctant to use those tables, again perhaps maybe the folk of Troon see too much green and need a break from it.  Whatever, in the more mellow evening sun, I reached my state of contentment for the day.  I declared it "the perfect end to a great day" at first, but I had Prestwick plans forming ....

Outdoor evening bliss in Troon
As I edged my way back towards Ayr, it was Prestwick time .....

935.  Prestwick Pioneer, Prestwick

A heaving Wetherspoons awaited me and it was my first opportunity to test out Pub Curmudgeon's warning about Scottish 'Spoons being a bit funny when it comes to the 50p off vouchers.  As I ordered a Coachhouse Gunpowder Mild (the first time I'd had to go English all day!) I passed my voucher over only for the barmaid to tell me I'd be better off using it on a Friday or Saturday and gave it back to me.  At that moment, a drunk teenage girl knocked over a 'craft bottle' display next to her table and it created the most almighty crash, the whole pub stood up to have a look.  I 'bonded' with the girl next to me at the bar over the incident (Ayr Utd shoulder tattoos always a turn on) and wished me a good rest of evening which was nice!  I lost my concentration in all of this and 10 mins later, went back to the bar to re-quiz the barmaid on the voucher issue.  She explained the pub puts it's prices up on Fri and Sat, but surely 50p off is 50p off??  But she got a bit defensive, "I'm only trying to save you money!" she wailed, well no cos I haven't saved anything but hey ho, it was £1.99, I'd had six pints plus, I left it, but kind of regret it now!  A picture of Elvis stared at me from across the room, disapproving,  He'd come to Prestwick and maybe came here for a burger.  Bet he got to use his voucher.  Ayr Utd girl reappeared behind a door to say bye, the drunk teenager was finally scooped off the floor (they cleared the bottles up first), and I returned my glass with a sarcastic 'thanks!'

Elvis and not my San Miguel!
Seven new pubs completed, felt ok, popped to Tesco to get some supplies in, B&B bedroom picnic, very classy and all tucked up in bed for 10pm ready for day three trip to Glasgow .....



  1. The bulk I will leave to my policy of digesting overnight (or over the weekend as I am going to a mystery destination tomorrow - it is so mysterious I haven't decided where it is yet), but the factual query.

    The 12:48 Glasgow Central - Largs and 13:53 return on Tuesday were cancelled as the unit was failed before departure.

    I'd put in for a delay of 58 minutes for a journey from Largs to Irvine. Explain that you broke your journey at Irvine en-route to Ayr on the form. See:

    1. Thanks Tom, that might just help as I need all the cash I can get since that weekend!

  2. J G Sharp's Bar sounds lie the classic Scottish "keg pub with apologetic handpump" where you just know you're going to get a poor pint.

    On my visit to Largs in 2010 I went in a different pub where the same applied. I decided to have a pint of smooth something which was awful too.

    1. Yes, it was more like the stereotype of real ale Scottish pubs I had in my mind a few years ago, but the overall standard of pub experience was so high, I think things could be turning around and Ayrshire could be the new Greater Manchester by 2030! Perhaps.

      My old GBG's show Largs had pubs in guide in 1982 and 1989 even, when hardly anywhere in Scotland did, so maybe there is a rule they have to include at least one!

  3. I've been doing some research and apparently the Prestwick Pioneer doesn't give the 50p discount as they don't want you drinking too much in case you have to fly the planes over (most of their custom comes from pilots and passengers). Surprised you missed that.

    You did pick up the similarity between M'boro and Irvine though, which impressed me a lot.

  4. Simon Roger Everitt, you have pleaded guilty to the charge that on Tuesday 4th June you broke the BRAPA code of conduct, namely by exceeding the limit of 6 pubs for a day. You did wilfully visit 7 pubs on the day in question. It is now my duty to pass sentence. I note that you have a previous conviction for this offence, however I take into consideration your guilty plea and am therefore constrained to reduce your sentence by a third. You will therefore be transported to the Newhampton in Wolverhampton where you will be placed in the stocks in the beer garden and must remain for 4 hours.