29 November 2017

Edinburgh on Sunday

Arriving in Edinburgh early on a wet Sunday morning with a suitcase, the Booking Office (Wetherspoon), above Edinburgh Waverley station, proved a good place to spend some time before checking in to my hotel.
An indoor spot by the patio area gave views towards Edinburgh castle and passing tour buses.
The unlimited refills of Lavazza coffee kept me awake and gave me a 'seat ticket'.
The Edinburgh DAYticket (£4 for City zone) for trams and buses is good value especially if your budget hotel is near Gyle Centre tram stop, only a few miles from the airport.
The trams run frequently and there was always a seat available on the journeys I made.
Heading back to Edinburgh, after leaving my suitcase at the hotel, involved a slightly shorter journey - to Haymarket.
Thomson's Bar doesn't open until 4pm on a Sunday but I took an external photo of this Morrison Street pub which is included in CAMRA's Good Beer Guide 2017.
Edinburgh Castle from Grassmarket Square
Making full use of my DAYticket, I caught a number 2 bus up the hill to Bristo Place, passing Grassmarket and Greyfriars Kirkyard.
My research had shown that traditional music sessions are held at Sandy Bell's including one on Sunday afternoons from 4pm.
All the seats were taken so I stood by a window facing the bar with a pint of Dark Island from Orkney Brewery, a 4.6% ABV ale which has twice won CAMRA's Champion Beer of Scotland award (£3.80 pint).
While waiting for the music to start I looked around the pub and noticed the musical instruments above the bar.
An article about Sandy Bell's had been framed which mentioned how people used to phone the pub just to hear the traditional music being played on the other end of the line.
Gradually a music session developed where some musicians were seated at the far end of the pub.
Interest was also generated by the dog who appeared to be a regular fixture and comfortable in any position.
I returned to the bar and was impressed by Williams Brothers Joker IPA from a keg font (£2.20 for a half pint).
As the music session got going and more people joined in, there were also new customers arriving at the bar with a friendly atmosphere of general appreciation for the talents displayed. I was pleasantly surprised when new arrivals mistook me for a local on what was my first visit! Perhaps Sandy Bells is my natural home? I only wish there was a similar pub near Newbury!
Although I would have been happy to stay longer there were other bars to be visited and next for me was The Hanging Bat Beer Cafe, 133 Lothian Road, passed earlier in daylight.
The interior was suitably gothic and dimly lit. Here I enjoyed Tryst Brewery APA on cask (4.2% ABV, £3.40 for 2/3 pint - the standard measure here).
While I sat at a table, near the bar on the ground floor, there was the unusual but well-remembered sound of a typewriter being used from a lower floor.
It was now time to find an evening meal and I headed to the recently opened Caley Picture House for some typical Wetherspoon value.
The entrance hall features an antique piece of projection equipment somewhat in keeping with its previous role as a cinema.
The ground floor interior is impressive and spacious with a long bar.
Caledonian Deuchars IPA was an unadvernturous choice but a suitable beer to match my meal.
My only complaints here were that a visit to the toilets involves the time and effort of an heroic ascent to the balcony! At least this visit provided a view of the bar from a different perspective.
However, the tidying zeal of the staff meant that the balance of my pint had disappeared after returning to my table on the ground floor. Thankfully, an immediate complaint at the bar allowed me to be reinstated with my beer glass and no beer was lost on this occasion!
Suitably nourished and refreshed it was now only necessary to find a tram back to Gyle Centre from the West End - Princes Street stop.

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