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Tag: London

Flying Scotsman Trip – Epilogue

Now some time has passed, the bags are completely unpacked and back on the attic, and I’ve reverted to a slightly healthier lifestyle again, I’m taking some time to look back on my epic Flying Scotsman Trip. In general, it went remarkably well!

Trains & Buses

All the trains I booked well in advance—notably Eurostar, the Caledonian Sleeper to Inverness, and the LNER back to London—were on time, and fully functional. Only the catering side was still a bit sub-par, due to COVID measures, or other reasons: no full menu on the sleeper—which I only know about because of a text message sent to my Belgian phone number, since I only had charcuterie and whisky—and they ran out of bacon rolls on the LNER way too soon!

Most of my ScotRail train tickets were flexible, although most of the time, I took the train I planned on taking anyway. I used the offer to upgrade to first class for £3 a couple of times, mainly because I really prefer solo seats, especially when travelling in a kilt. On one train, the train conductor refused to sell me the upgrade, but let me sit in first class for free, because I was ‘not getting anything in return anyway’… It was nice being able to buy and save all my tickets in-app, an option that wasn’t available yet when I first started planning this trip.

To get to Culloden Battlefield, to Peterhead and Ellon, and to St Andrews, I used Stagecoach buses, usually with digital DayRider tickets. They were never scanned, by the way, I just had to show them to the driver. It’s really convenient to have USB charging ports available on those buses.

In Glasgow and Edinburgh I only used digital tickets as well for the local buses, and for the Glasgow Subway the smartcard I still had from years before. I didn’t buy a single paper transport ticket the whole trip!

Hotels

In northeastern Scotland (Aberdeen, Dundee, and Perth) I stayed in Travelodge hotels. It’s remarkable how different they can be! The first one had two extra single beds in the room, the second one just one, and the third one —just when you’re getting used to having an extra bed to put your stuff on—only had the double bed I actually booked. The last one, in Perth, still used actual keys, instead of keycards!

In Glasgow I stayed at easyHotel, as I had oft before. No surprised there, but I do think I’ve started to outgrow them, or at least their smallest rooms: when travelling for over a week—with a rather large bag and a kilt to air out every night—a bit of extra space is not just a luxury anymore.

In Edinburg and London I stayed at a hub by Premier Inn hotel, in virtually indistinguishable rooms. Even though they discontinued the room control app they used to have, the ease with which you can still control everything—light, temperature, DND sign…—and plethora of USB and power outlets, both UK and EU, to keep everything charged, make these my favourite rooms of the trip. A really nice bathroom helped too… To my surprise the London hub even had a breakfast buffet, which was really convenient on my last day.

Beers & Bars

This was a very beer-centric trip, to say the least… Apart from the BrewDog bars—discussed separately below—I also visited quite a few other bars and taprooms in the towns and cities I visited. Scotland sure has a lot to offer in that department! Unfortunately I missed out on a few, due to their often (still) limited opening hours, especially on Sundays and the first couple of days of the week. I’ll just have to go back another time!

I actually had about a third of my beers in London, and almost half of the bars I visited were there! Considering the only noteworthy hangovers I had this trip were after a day or evening in London, next time I might avoid cramming so many London bars in my schedule…

BrewDog Bars, Stamps & Badges

So the BrewDog bars I visited in Scotland were BrewDog Inverurie, BrewDog Castlegate, BrewDog Aberdeen, BrewDog Peterhead, Dogtap Ellon, BrewDog Union Square, BrewDog St Andrews, BrewDog Dundee, BrewDog Perth, BrewDog Stirling, BrewDog Merchant City, BrewDog Kelvingrove, BrewDog Cowgate, and BrewDog Lothian Road.

When people hear I visited all of them, they tend to ask “Which was your favourite?” Now that’s a very hard question to answer! Some of them will always remain special to me: Cowgate was my first BrewDog bar ever, and where I drank my first BrewDog beers. In Kelvingrove I spent many hours—and had over a hundred beers, according to Untappd—and it still feels like home there… To fully appreciate the other bars, I should really revisit them a couple of times. A hungover afternoon visit, or being the first customer in for lunch, or the last customer on a Monday night, it just doesn’t compare to a visit on a buzzing Saturday night, or when meeting a friend during quiz night…

That being said, I had a great time in all of them. I didn’t catch anyone on a ‘bad day’, and felt very welcome in every single BrewDog bar. And even though I already tried most of the BrewDog beers on tap—and it didn’t take long to try the remaining ones—the guest beers were sufficiently different and interesting to keep me occupied for quite a while, and without having to drink the same beer twice.

To keep myself from forgetting to get my Beer Visa stamp, I usually put the booklet in front of me on the table. More than once, a crew member would come to my table with the stamp when they noticed it. It was really nice to see how much pride some took in making sure the stamp was the nicely centred and the right way up, and rather funny to get warnings about other bars, because ‘they always put the stamp upside down’…

I tried to get a pin badge in all bars as well, but some didn’t have any: I seem to be missing the ones for Inverurie, Ellon, St Andrews, and Merchant City. Another reason to go back soon?

Even though they swiped my EFP card in about half the bars, none of the digital stamps appeared automatically. After reporting them online however, they soon showed up, and even the Homedog and coveted Flying Scotsman challenge now appear as completed!

Kilts & Compliments

From the moment I alighted the Caledonian Sleeper, until the day I went back to London, I was wearing my eight yard MacLaren kilt, and I loved every minute of it. Some of the time I wore it with brogues—not ghillies!—and with proper garter ties, especially in more formal settings, like museums and memorials. Most of the time though, I wore it more informally, with a T-shirt, hiking boots, and the hose scrunched down, showing off my calf tattoos… Since I hardly ever wear shorts, I don’t get to do that very often!

As I’ve experienced before, even when a kilt isn’t an everyday occurrence, even in Scotland, no-one blinks an eye. If there is any reaction at all, it usually is a smile. On a couple of occasions, I even got a “Nice kilt”, or “Love your kilt” shoutout—thank you Glaswegian girls! When in one museum I suddenly noticed being followed by a guard, it turned out he had recognised my tartan, because he used to be in the Clan MacLaren Society council.

Only once this time, I was asked “Is Scotland playing tonight?” Apparently for some, that, and getting married, are the only reasons to kilt up! I don’t really need a reason though, and next time when I’m going to Scotland, I will definitely do it kilted again!

Flying Scotsman Trip – Day 10

Last Call in London

The last day of my trip was a bit calmer than originally planned. Instead of hitting the streets early in the morning, after breakfast in the hotel, I just went back in my room for a couple of hours. I prepared for the return trip—making sure I don’t have to dig too deep for my Belgian SIM, Brussels transport card, an house keys—and edited and uploaded the photos for the blogpost of the previous day. Those pull-out desks they have at hub Hotel really are perfect for this!

Then it was time to head out to Dalston for my vegan lunch… only to find out BrewDog Dalston doesn’t open until 16.00 on Mondays!

I briefly considered coming back then, but when I also found out that BrewDog Old Street wasn’t even open, I decided to take it very easy my last day, and save both those bars for another trip.

I did however go to BrewDog Chancery Lane, and had the blackened cajun chicken bowl for lunch there. That place is way bigger than I expected, by the way!

After that, I already I picked up my bag at the hotel, and walked over to BrewDog Camden. I spent my last hour and a half there, to meet up with its GM Ryan after all, and a last couple of beers.

From there it was not even a twenty minute walk to the Eurostar terminal in St. Pancras International train station.

Flying Scotsman Trip – Day 9

LNER back to London

After putting on my trousers again—and that feels weird and uncomfortable after a week in a kilt—I boarded the LNER Azuma to London. Unfortunately, because of railroad works, it would take a different route, and take around six hours to get there, instead of the usual four. At least I would be well fed and hydrated, or so I thought… They already ran out of bacon rolls by the time the trolly arrived at my seat! A cheddar and pickle pickle roll for breakfast is was, then. A bit after noon I was lucky enough—yes, lucky, since they skipped the early boarders to feed all the newcomers first to see if anything would be left—to get a chicken and salad sandwich as well. Plenty of tea and cold drinks, though, and even their own ale!

The longer ride, also meant less time in London, so a lot of places to visit in a short time. A quick checkin in my hub Hotel—with a view on King’s Cross train station, highly recommended for trainspotters—and off I went!

I managed to get to the Bermondsey Beer Mile in time and have a drink—sometimes even more than one—in the Hawkes Taproom (yes, for a stamp), 73 Enid Street | Cloudwater London, new kid on the block Craft Beer Junction, and finally The Kernel Taproom Arch 7.

Then I went to that other set of arches in Hackney, where I visited Brew Club, Hackney Church Brew Co., and The Experiment.

To finish the night, I went to the OG London BrewDog bar: BrewDog Camden. Never seen it that calm, but it was a Sunday night, and already getting late. Still enjoyed my time there, some bars always feel a bit like coming home…

Flying Scotsman Trip – Day 0

To London, and on the Caledonian Sleeper

Finally, it is happening! I had to postpone this trip three times already, each time amending, or cancelling and rebooking most of the eleven trains and six hotels. This Friday morning however, I was actually back in a Eurostar travelling through the Chunnel to St. Pancras International.

Because I arrived in London earlier than usual, I had decided to use that extra time to make the trek all the way to Ealing, after first dropping off my bag at a Radical Storage point, and a coffee at Origin Coffee in the British Library. In Ealing, one of the newest BrewDog bars had recently opened, not surprisingly called BrewDog Ealing. There I met up with beer friends Jackie and Simon, and BrewDog’s beer trainer Paddy joined us as well. Since it was only noon, and drinking on an empty stomach is never a good idea, we had lunch there as well.

After lunch, we made our way back to the centre of London again, making various beery stops along the way: Kill the Cat, where we were joined by fellow EFP Liam, the Mikkeller Bar, the Mikkeller Brewpub, where Emma joined us, and finally, after picking up my bag again, the Euston Tap.

After a last couple of beers, we said our goodbyes, because it was time for me to board the Caledonian Sleeper. I had traveled on it before, but since then, the service has been completely overhauled. Even though it has been plagued with issues since then—especially recently—there was nothing wrong with the train I was booked on for the night: it departed on time, I had warm water in the shower, and the lounge car was open for business!

Bye bye Britain!

We wanted to eat something very British as our last meal in the UK, so we went to Piebury Corner for a meat pie and a Scotch egg.

It’s also conveniently close to the station where we’re taking our Eurostar back home, for the last time in the foreseeable, uncertain future of this island…

When things turn sour…

A last museum: the Postal Museum.

We then visited the Mikkeller bar, to get a taste of their sour Baghaven beers. I can totally see a collab with OverWorks happening someday!

Last day, last stamp

After two busy days, we’re taking it easy today: sleep in—it’s not very often we stay in a hotel where check-out is at noon—and enjoy brunch at our last stampwanking stop: BrewDog Canary Wharf.

Sippin’ in the South

An important part of this trip, is visiting newly opened craft beer destinations, which leads us to the southern part of London.

But first: coffee, at Federation Coffee this time. Then it’s time to collect a stamp and have some beers at BrewDog Brixton, until yesterday, BrewDog’s newest bar in London.

Anspach & Hobday only had their brewery taproom, until recently, but now they have The Pigeon, a pop-up bar serving a lot of their own beers, and a nice range of beers from other interesting breweries. And while we were down there, we visited the new Brew By Numbers taproom and Brick Brewing as well!

Bite, bed & beer

After the festivities in Paddington, we headed back to East London to grab a bite, and to finally check into our hotel—hub by Premier Inn—but only to drop off our bags… The night was still young, so we visited one more bar to have a few more beers.

EFP Preview

We’ve been to quite a few BrewDog bars, and even have one in our home city, but somehow we’ve never been to an official opening night or EFP preview. Until now, that is: by sheer luck, BrewDog Paddington is opening during our visit to London, and we’re on the guest list for the special EFP preview tonight!

Places of worship: coffee, Mithras & beer

The places we usually go for our daily dose of caffein tend to be on the smaller side, but Host is something else: it’s in a church!

After coffee, we quickly visited another place of worship: a mid-3rd century mithraeum, nicely reconstructed underneath the Bloomberg headquarters.

Finally it was time to worship our own god—beer—at BrewDog Outpost Tower Hill. We had only been there for breakfast before, so today we finally have the opportunity to see it when it’s beer-o-clock!