We stayed in Musselburgh for a couple of nights at the excellent Old Bakery, where a lovely lady gave us an unnecessarily detailed tour of a flat vacated by her son for the lesser comforts of Aberdeen Uni. The irritation of a tutorial on how to sit at the table was offset by the joy of finding these next to the cafetiere.
There’s still a joy in visiting places for the first time, especially in Britain, and especially when my Dad has already been here to card “8 over the par”, whatever that means.
Charles and I had the completely unreasonable ambitions of doing all the Guide pubs in the Scottish Borders (18), walking more miles than Mrs RM had done a week earlier (18), finding Charles some scotch pies (18) and me some Stoats porridge. Some folks have bucket lists etc. etc.
But mainly, the ambition was to visit Staggs.
For, ooh, a long time, this has been one of the Big Pubs, one of Scotland’s acknowledged stars along with the Fisherman’s Tavern (pre-Greene King), Diggers, the State Bar and, of course, the Spoons at Edinburgh Airport.
I was so excited I was nearly run over twice running across North High Street*, leaving young Charles to attempt to guess which pub I’d shot off to. Particularly since I’d told him it was called the Volunteer Arms, which clearly isn’t what it says on the tin.
Luckily, there aren’t many pubs in the centre, and Staggs stood out like a beacon.
At 8pm on Sunday night it was perfect, a symphony in brown.
We found the last table in the public, though a snug and music room were soaking up the numbers as well. The sound of laughter overpowered an odd showing of the League 1 playoffs (hard luck Fleetwood), fuelled by extensive but not uniform cask drinking.
Charles was surprised to see Oakham in the line-up, and followed me on to the Jarl, which was magnificently cool and tasty (NBSS 4.5).
Because I have to compare, I’d say this is the Cooper’s Tavern of Scotland. We’ll see later whether it has the curry house to match. It certainly had the atmosphere, the range of visitors, and the beer quality.
Small groups of social drinkers dominated the pub, and we sought their advice on the best Indian. That started a minor war, which we ended by turning the conversation to our next Beer Guide pub, a mile walk east of town.
“You don’t want to leave here, this is the only pub”
Charles patiently explained my weird predilection for new pubs.
“Oh well. But you’ll need to take a taxi”
It’s only a mile or so.
“You’ll be needing a taxi. I’ll call me mate“.
He wasn’t touting, but I do struggle with the “T” word.
So deep was the impression Staggs left, we came back two days later, and not just to lust after the Bass mirror. The return, after a 20 mile slog round the Borders, was inadvisable but even better.
That’s what Tamnavulin Single Malt followed by Oakham Green Devil (NBSS 4.5) can do. It really does travel well up the A1 from Peterborough.
*I will die jaywalking across the road to a pub. Probably in Nuremberg.