Five Kirkwall GBG pubs ticked, and it’s only 7pm as we enter what professionals call “Pre-emptive time”.

This is where CAMRA comes in, What Pub providing a list to all the cask outlets in Kirkwall, the closest of which attempts to bewilder us with its pointy arrows.

The Neuk was closed, the Bothy Bar was closed, but it’s a good job we persevered with the Albert, as it’s just “landed” (ugh) in the new 2023 Guide, so if I do this year’s GBG I’m one up.

Of course, “purists” (ugh) will say “But you didn’t do the Bothy Bar you did the main hotel“, but us tickers make up their own rules apart from BRAPA who stick rigidly to the laws and only drink pints.

Anyway, there’s hand pumps.

A different one for the Scapa, note.

Actually, I had a hard task seeing what beers were on (though could have taken a wild guess) as we were met by a greeter, escorted to a table, and told “It’s table service only“, so I had to negotiate that trip to the clips the way you’d negotiate a trade deal with Latvia.

We were presented with menus we didn’t want, waited five minutes for our orders of two halves to be taken, and a further ten as the lovely barperson struggled with the pumps.

Those women are struggling with the handpumps” I noted.

Don’t be racist” said Mrs RM.

Oddly, the beer was once again excellent. On the next table, a pashmina’d lady was given a choice of “Small, Medium or Large” for her wine. “Don’t be stupid” she replied.

Because all the places here get full quickly, we’d booked tea (or is it dinner ?) at the lounge bar at St Ola, which some purists will actually see as a separate tick.

Hotel California“, a group of young folk who had never heard of S Club, haggis burger and Scapa Special (3.5); lovely. As was Kirkwall, as Gabi B’s photo proves.

I tried to capture the beauty of St Olaf’s,

but failed.

Still only 8:30, time to go in the trendy young person’s bar.

Torvhaug (Gaelic for “A pint’s a taster”) is the sister bar to the Auld Motor Hoose, aimed at a rock audience, so we get “Somewhere in my Heart” and Star Trek on the screen.

Mrs RM was all beered out so I got her the Thatcher’s Lemon Cider (CAMRA approved) so she could feel sophisticated.

Guess what I had ?

One thing I’ll say about Orkney, it’s a remarkably Punk IPA free place.

But you’ll never forget you’re in Scotland where Tennents rules.

That was the Royal Cask bar in the Orkney Hotel, yet another unfussy Kirkwall place with a mixed age group and Swannay.

As this was a Special Night, the night before GBG completion, I had a local single malt.

And when the Royal Cask gets in the Guide I’m claiming that as a tick too and no-one can stop me.

Time to sleep, early start tomorrow“, said Mrs RM, the spoilsport.


  1. Shame you missed out on the Bothy Bar, we’ve had a few good nights in there, far more characterful than the hotel lounge bar! One of the best folk sessions I can remember.

    I would also recommend you should eat at Helgi’s next time you’re there in 2025 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. 2025 sounds right, Chris, though I’d happily go back there right now !

      I assume the Bothy Bar closure is temporary. Rather more genteel in the hotel bar, but again good beer.

      Now you’re one of the Top 4 pubs in the country, CAMRA should get you to visit Kirkwall as part of a series on what makes a great pub.


  2. When I was up in Orkney last year, Twenty-One on Albert Street in Kirkwall was where all the Scottish craft on keg including plenty of Brewdog was. Good food too. No cask though so you haven’t missed out a pre-emptive ! I agree with you about the quality of the cask throughout Orkney – think much to with local pride in their breweries and the work Swannay and Orkney do to help ensure pubs sell it in top nick.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I can’t believe I missed the Fierce in Twenty-One, Tom. And I must have walked past it twice.

      I think the issue is I use the GBG app which has all the non-GBG pubs but only if they have cask, however bad. WhatPub lists keg pubs as well (sometimes).


  3. By the way, clearly a single malt counts, as would a keg beer. I’ve even counted a cup of coffee, but then I’m not ticking Good Beer Guide pubs. (It wouldn’t be right to count a glass of water, obviously.)

    I imagine that the video assistant referee is even now looking at your so-called completion of the GBG and discovering that your big toe was marginally off-side.

    Liked by 1 person

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