Drinking Odyssey in Crieff

It’s a typically cloudy morning in Kincardine when I set out on my bicycle to the nearby town of Crieff.

Since moving to Scotland in 2012, I’ve been trying to explore as much of this varied, gorgeous country as possible.

It’s estimated that bonny ol’ Scotland’s tourism is worth around ¬£11bn, a number that’s unsurprising when you consider the amount of activities and sights there are to take in for both big budgets and small. For travellers on a budget there are thousands of miles of tracks to explore for free through some truly stunning scenery. If you’ve got a bit more cash to splash there are a litany of luxury hotels, spas and retreats just waiting to pamper you to silly.

Part of the joy of travelling is exploring new places and (of course) new beers – unfortunately, when you plan on sampling as much drink as I do, it’s kind of irresponsible to sit behind the wheel of a car. That’s why I opt for my two-wheeled friend. Although it’s still illegal to cycle over the limit, I feel more comfortable sipping half pints, eating food and then cycling off the booze in my blood, than woozily stepping in to my car and drifting off to the next venue.

‘Why Crieff?’

This is as good a question as any.

I chose Crieff as a destination because I knew that I could cycle there within a few hours and that there were a variety of low-high budget drinking options at my disposal.

There are a handful of affordably priced Highland lodges with hot tub facilities that you can rent, but few as peacefully serene as the site at Highland Heather Lodges. More of a collection of holiday homes than a proper holiday park, each lodge is fitted out with more than ample facilities, including a private hot tub – just the thing for a post-cycle drinking marathon.

Although I had the option of staying at most of the drinking destinations that I had in mind, I thought it would be wiser to stay on my bike and simply cycle my way around.

The first stop on my route was the Tower Gastro Pub. This family run establishment combines the elegance of city dining with the comfort of a simple country pub, offering some interesting twists on some pub classics as well as a wide selection of excellent beers.

I sit inside feeling a little weary from the forty or so miles that I’ve cycled so far to day – time for a drink! The first pint has travelled less miles than me. Look West is a ‘refreshing blond beer’ from¬†very local brewers StrathBraan brewery. Produced in small batches, this is a smooth tasting, light beer that certainly delivers on flavour.

From there it was on to my next destination: Crieff Hydro. Opened as a hydropathic spa back in 1868, Crieff Hydro is now a modern holiday park without the cheap trappings that are usually associated with these kinds of places.

I cycle past families on segways and kids with painted faces, along a gravel drive up to The Hub, their dedicated bar. There’s a relaxed modern vibe here epitomised by their range of beers all of which are supplied by craft beer heroes, BrewDog. I order some snacks and spend an hour sipping on a pint of Dead Pony Club, a truly excellent American-style session ale.

Feeling a little lighter on my feet, I bid farewell to the expansive grounds of Crieff Hydro and head on to my final destination. The Meadow Inn is one of those down-to-earth places that you could easily spend a whole day in. The decent range of local and national beers on tap include Tribute, one of my favourite beers from Cornwall, which I greedily glug two pints of, before ordering a steak to celebrate my successes.

I’m a little wobbly on my feet as I return to my lodge and just thank my lucky stars that I was wearing a helmet…

Dave Reynolds has been a Forth Valley resident since 2012, after he moved up to Scotland from his life-long home of London. An avid beer and travel enthusiast, he is currently spending his retirement exploring his new adopted home. He writes about his travel experiences here and for select publications, both in print and online.