More repressed retiredmartin childhood memories today.

These posts don’t write themselves, and a week on the road gives you little time to catch up, as Simon is no doubt finding out after his Bucks/Southampton epic crawl.

A week on the road with a fellow traveller also gives you rather more material, as well as photos, than you can cope with, which is why I’m so grateful for a sudden outbreak of glandular fever which has scuppered my camping trip in Lewes. Keep your sympathy.

Lothianbridge to Dalkeith or Hell to Heaven

In August 1987 I made a similar road trip into the Lothians with another Simon, a chap whose activity at my cousin’s wedding in Dalkeith was the stuff of BRAPA legend.   I remember nothing about the actual wedding, a full-on kilt and pipe affair straight out of “Four Weddings”, but I do remember a lunchtime trip to HMV in Princes Street to watch Jesse Ray. This clip will disabuse you of any notion that the ’80s were any good.

Deciding back in ’87 not to spend the £5.99 on Jesse’s LP, I then had more for an ill-advised family tour of the little town’s impressive number of bars.  The Ship was definitely one of them.


Intriguingly, WhatPub has no mention of the Ship, though Facebook tells me it still has “some crazy but good characters“, which sounds right. Is it odd that only some of the keg pubs are recorded on WhatPub ?

Whether this was the one where I knocked a lad’s full pint of McEwans over his girlfriend 30 years ago, I can’t remember.  I bought them both replacement pints, sharpish.  She was drinking coke so he was quids in. My first deep fried haggis as well.

I remembered Dalkeith as a solid but unexceptional town with some pleasing stonework, including an imposing townhouse in Eskbank whose owners let their daughters’ rooms out while they were at an Aberdeen Uni (a theme here).  Oddly, they chose to leave their daughters’ underwear and record player in the rooms for the enjoyment of guests.


We walked from Lothianbridge past Eskbank into town, a journey of true Edinburgh suburbia, the Epsom of the North. Sort of.

I possibly went to a wedding here in 1987

WhatPub records a mere three pubs with real ales; an Ember, a Smith & Jones, and the Beer Guide Spoons.  No traditional cask pubs. Of course, real ale pubs are rarely the most exciting options anyway.


As it turns out, the Blacksmith’s Forge is the beating, if slightly worse for wear, heart of Dalkeith.

I assumed it ran on Tennents and Bud, so the cask range was a revelation.


And folk were drinking the cask.  In fact, so good were the Gold, Azure and Deuchars (all NBSS 3.5) that we blew the treasured horde of Spoons vouchers waiting for the direct bus back to Musselburgh.  All at the perfect temperature, though Charles regretted the lack of an 80/.

I’d expected a family dining pub; instead this was the home of professional boozers, including a lovely chap drinking the Bud Light as only Scots can.



  1. Shocking! Is a straw common? I am going to pretend that only the glass is bud light related or use it as proof that people do go to pubs to socialize and NOT drink real beer.


  2. The Scottish branches are perhaps understandably reluctant to list keg pubs on WhatPub?, presumably because it would be such a dispiriting task if only 5% or less of their local pubs have real ale.

    When I was doing my “Keg Pub Challenge”, trying to find a locality where all ten of the first page of results were keg, I expected some parts of Scotland to be a dead cert, but alas not. The winner was Collyhurst in the Manchester inner suburbs.


    1. That’s certainly true. It was the fact the Ship wasn’t in, though the other keg pubs were, that stood out. Perhaps the others had cask once.

      There’s quite a few chain diners across Scotland; even in the cask wastelands you seem to find a Vintage/Ember/Spoons at regular interval.


      1. Historically cask held on in the central belt, certainly in the east, due to Belhaven & Maclays staying independent through the 70s/80s. MacEwans 80/- and Youngers were staples in pubs around there until relatively recently. Spoons may have actually been the final nail for some smaller real outlets in places like Dalkeith.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Interesting perspective. Actually, I see visited the Black Bull in Dalkeith at some point while in GBG, before it dropped cask. When you can buy Deuchars in Spoons for £2 or less, why pay £3.20 up elsewhere ?


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