A guide to some of the licensed premises that contribute enormously to Britain’s renowned pub culture. Most of them have featured in some form in publications such as The Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph, written – and researched – by Alastair Gilmour
over power, while ramblers and cyclists have also long appreciated its restorative qualities.
Much extended into adjoining byres and outhouses, Sheriffmuir Inn is a sympathetic grouping of public bar, lounge, restaurant and letting rooms. Its natural surroundings are raw – rough pasture, voluptuous hills and heather moorland – while skylarks and curlews call from somewhere up yonder.
Its flagstone floors, stoneworked counter, hand-carved bar top and contemporary ironwork fittings contrast with softer furnishings, mostly finished in tartan. Tartan carpet, tartan upholstery and tartan cushions could be a recipe for discord, but here they harmonise in blues and greens crisscrossed with strips of white. An educated guess narrows the pattern to Hunting MacRae – just along the narrow road is the MacRae Memorial, a cairn commemorating a local clan all-but wiped out in 1715 at the Battle of Sheriffmuir. It was a tactically inconclusive engagement and a rare “draw” in British battlefield history where the right wings of the opposing armies – Jacobite and Hanoverian – outflanked each other. A verse from a traditional air elaborates: “There's some say that we wan and some say that they wan/And some say that nane wan at a' man”.
On Sheriffmuir Inn’s bar, Inveralmond Thrappledouser (4.3% abv), a red-tinged ale with a malty palate and hedgerow aroma, has traced the drovers’ route from Perth. A thrapple is a Scots throat, so the brewer’s intention is clear. Gundog Fox (3.8% abv), a golden-hued visitor from Northumberland, brims with lemon and pine notes. An impressive line-up of whiskies celebrates the distilleries around this area, dubbed the gateway to the Highlands.
A group of Americans animating the bar claims their beer-battered haddock, chips and peas “the best ever”. The specials board includes risotto of cultivated mushrooms spiked with Perthshire chanterelles and grana padano cheese, plus braised haunch of venison in a cranberry-rich gravy with a puff pastry topping. It’s stylish food, taking simplicity to the outer reaches where chef/patron Geoff Cook recognises deep flavours lurking in oft-ignored cuts and clever combinations.
One of the US visitors recalls an Edinburgh Festival exhibition, Van Gogh to Kandinsky, that also featured Gauguin, Munch, Mondrian and Monet.
“It was amazing, we saw all of those artists back-to-back,” he says in monument-ticking fashion. “And I knew a great KFC nearby.”
By now thoroughly Thrappledoused, the company is in fine fettle to dispute the “nane wan at a’” line. Joining them, we conclude that Sheriffmuir Inn is mighty hard to beat.
*Sheriffmuir Inn, Dunblane, Stirlingshire FK15 0LN (01786 823285 www.sheriffmuirinn.co.uk)
+44 (0)7930 144 846
SHERIFFMUIR INN, DUNBLANE, STIRLINGSHIRE
The family-owned Sheriffmuir Inn is happy sitting “in the middle of nowhere”. Isolated it may be, but the late 17th century drovers’ inn is only minutes from Stirling and its conurbations.
Some 300 years ago, stockman and beast would hoof it over the Ochil Hills to marts in Central Scotland, resting and recuperating here before the all-too final leg. The pub retains that pull-
IT'S ABOUT EVERY AGE GROUP
More than ever we need pub owners with the vision and determination to do something that will persuade people to venture out on a wet Tuesday when Holby City might seem the better option. We have plenty of them around the North East and the better ones are doing very well, thank you very much.
Entrepreneurial publican Dave Carr is one such chap.
Meet and Drink writer Alastair Gilmour regularly conducts beer events throughout the UK and internationally – tours and tastings that have included a platform suspended 30 metres above the River Tyne and a real ale festival in a Moscow nightclub – and was for several years on the judging panel of the Pilsner Urquell International Master Bartender programme. [READ MORE]
+44 (0)7930 144 846