Pubs & Bars

The Mash Tun

In the early months of 2012 I returned to the United Kingdom and once again set away touring some of the many malt whisky distilleries. I had been fortunate to tour a variety of distilleries in the lowlands, highlands and even on the northern most islands. I made a decision to venture a little further a field to travel and stay in Speyside. Located on the banks of the River Spey, Speyside is the geographically one of the smallest whisky regions of Scotland, but home to a good number of distilleries including some of the industries finest.

Before deciding on which tours I was interested, I needed a place to stay, and the first place to pop up on my search engine was The Mash Tun. Located in Aberlour, the Mash Tun is within a small taxi ride of countless distilleries, prefect for anyone looking to go along the whisky trial. After a quick look at their website, I began planning tours to surrounding distilleries. Accommodation at The Mash Tun is splendid, and exceeded any and all of my expectations. They offer B&B in five rooms, each named after a local whisky, and all painted with bright and fresh colors. Every room offers the typical on-suite facilities, not to mention in-room tea, coffee and locally made shortbread biscuits. Breakfast consisted of an assortment of bacon, sausage, eggs, hash browns, porridge, cereal, and fresh fruit.

I had a chance to meet a few of the locals while I stayed in Aberlour, and without question, they were some of the most nicest, kindest people I have had the privilege of meeting. When I checked in late on Sunday night, I was shown to my room and told that breakfast would be served anytime I was ready. After a great night of sleep, I awoke, washed up and made my way downstairs for breakfast. As I was waiting for my meal to be served, I enquired about local taxi services and asked if they knew of someone they could recommend. I was asked what time I needed a lift, and was told not to worry, and that a taxi would be here to collect me when I was ready. I was standing outside for no more than 30 seconds before my taxi arrived, and I was away for tour number one.

My driver was an older man, and very willing to talk about the area, and answer questions by tourists like myself. He was unlike any taxi driver I’ve had before, as he had a marvelous habit of rounding fares down. The first stop came to ₤12.60, and he said, “Just give us a tenner lad.” After being dropped off, I asked if he would be free to collect me and take me to my next destination. “Nee worries lad, I’ll be here for ya.’ he proclaimed, and sure enough as I was browsing the gift shop he pulled into the parking lot. On my arrival at tour number two, he once again trimmed my fare down to another “tenner” and told me that he would be back to collect me whenever I was ready. After tour number two, I certainly needed a taxi home, and not to disappoint, I had the privilege of another “tenner” fare. I graciously thanked him and offered to buy him a pint should he turn up at the pub later.

The Mash Tun is truly an exceptional B&B, but it is just as outstanding if not more so as a pub. Featuring a fine selection of beers, from crisp refreshing lagers, to locally produced ales, there is certainly a drink for everyone. Oh, and then of course, there’s the whisky. The Mash Tun owns one of the most exceptional collections of whiskies I have ever witnessed, including the Glenfarclas Family Series, a collection of Single Cask whiskies for each year from 1952 up to 1995. Sitting in a display cabinet on the back wall, I was looking at whiskies that were distilled before the introduction of cellphones, microwave ovens, and some even before man walked on the moon. I remember sitting there and thinking I should give one a try, but I relented, and stuck with a nice frosty pint of Tennent’s Extra Cold. As I look back, I think it might be cool to have a dram from the year in which I was born, but that would mean another trip to The Mash Tun, and judging by my first experience, that certainly would be a good thing.

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The Hadrian Hotel

The Hadrian Hotel is a traditional English pub situated in the north-east of England. Located in the village of Wall, four miles north of Hexham, and twenty-five miles west of Newcastle, the Hadrian isn’t a pub I can frequent on a regular basis. Located roughly 3700 miles from home, the Hadrian is a pub I’m only able to visit a few times a year, and yet I have probably had more pints in the Hadrian over my lifetime than any other pub, anywhere. 

 There’s something special about this pub, something that I struggle to explain. It’s not the collection of paintings and pictures by local artists, nor is it the ever-changing selection of real ales from Wylam and Jennings. I’m not sure if it’s the picturesque setting, or if it’s the staff and locals who make this place so special, or is it something else, I just don’t know.

Upon entering the pub, you notice the artwork hanging on any available wall space. Hand paintings of the area, like nearby Hadrian’s Wall, and the famous Sycamore Gap, are joined by photos of the village from years past. Even the place settings on the tables have an old photograph looking up through the village from the pub. It gives the pub a sense of community, a place where everyone gets together for a celebration, a night out, or a quick pint while out walking the dog.

I don’t know if I would consider myself a local, but no matter how much time passes between visits, whenever I make a return, I am always greeted with the same warm welcome. I’ve been hugged, kissed, high-fived, had my hand shook, and been slapped on the ass when I’ve come through the door, thankfully not all by the same person. It’s a feeling that means a lot, and a feeling that I’m sure other visitors experience, as the people either side of the bar have a genuine good nature and are always looking for a bit of banter.

The menu is what you would find at a typical country pub, with daily specials and homemade desserts. Without hesitation I would suggest the Gammon Steak, or perhaps the Steak and Ale pie, and for dessert, try the homemade crumble with custard.  The selection of real ales from local breweries Wylam and Jennings is ever-changing, and always provides a choice of new experiences and old favourites. Try a pint of  Wylam’s Gold Tankard, or a Cumberland Ale from Jennings, both of which are local favourites.

No matter how long I write, or what words I use, I will never be able to fully express my admiration for The Hadrian. It’s been a small part of my adult life, and provided me with memories (some fuzzier than others) that will last a lifetime. Should you ever have the chance to visit, find Davey, order a pint, and ask him about his trip to Canada, and maybe you too will see why this pub is so special.

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