SCOTTISH INNS, BARS AND TAVERNS
This month we feature the Old College Bar in Glasgow's High Street. The Old College Bar is one of very few traditional old pubs (some say the oldest) left in Glasgow, and now threatened with demolition.
Interior of the Old College Bar, Glasgow - March 2013 (threatened with demolition)
Sighthill stone circle, Glasgow
The Sighthill Stone Circle
Back in 1979 some unemployed people in Glasgow built a stone circle. They didn't build it in a 'there's-a-bit-of-vacant-ground-what-can-we-build-instead-of-a-doocot' kind of way. They built it as part of a grand government jobs creation scheme that would get these unemployed people off the streets, give them hope for the future, and maybe give them a few skills that might come in handy whenever real jobs appeared (I mean, let's face it; it's got to look good on a CV: 'Skilled in 'Stone Circle Construction', with an SCE A-Pass in O-Level 'Star and Moon Alignment''!).
But what the government hadn't bargained on, even on ending the project prematurely, was that the unemployed people would build the first astronomically-aligned stone circle to be built in the UK for over 3,000 years.
Because that is what still stands today at Sighthill; something rather unique; something mystical and magical; something that is a true testament to the skills and dedication of Scotland's unemployed workforce.
It is also a testament to the dedication of the man behind it all: Duncan Lunan. Duncan was the Manager of what was known as the Glasgow Parks Department Astronomy Project.
The whinstones used were chosen from a black powder quarry in Kilsyth. It was completed on the hilltop by a Royal Navy helicopter in March 1979. Solar, lunar and stellar observations made there since have cast considerable light on the uses of the ancient sites of Britain. This is a stone circle where people can stand to see the midsummer sunrise.
Clearly, even in its unfinished state (no fault of the workforce - the government pulled the plug), this is an important monument. And yet Glasgow City Council now want to pull it down and get rid of it. Glasgow City Council do not have a good record where parks are concerned. You only have to visit the dilapidated Winter Gardens in Springburn Park to see how much the city council cares about things. And now it wants to mess with the stars, the sun and the moon. It could be a step too far.
The Sighthill Stone Circle is in Sighthill Park. Best way to reach it is to walk up North Hanover Street, past the bus station, on to Kyle Street, and turn left into the short section of North Wallace Street. A footbridge over the M8 will take you to Sighthill Park. The circle's more or less ahead of you on top of a small slope.
Visit it, before it's gone for good.
Scotland's Online Tourist Guide
August 2013
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GOVAN AWAKENS
Things are happening in Govan. And they don't involve string vests. The Govan Stones - ancient carved stones that include the sarcophagus of a King - have been moved around in Govan Old Parish Church and now look even better than they did before. And up until the 11th August 2013 the Govan ferry that runs between the Riverside Museum in Glasgow and Govan will run almost continuously AND WILL BE FREE!
And if all that isn't inducement enough to visit Govan then let me reveal that a new cafe has opened. And it looks like a good cafe to me. Cafe 13 is near the underground station in Govan, just up from the ferry jetty.
So, you can have a free ferry ride, slurp some good soup, then see where the body of a King of Strathclyde once lay, also for free.
Govan's time has come again.
One of The Govan Stones in Govan Old Parish Church
Snippets
FAR BE IT for me to moan too much about pubs, BUT... I was in the Red Lion in Culross recently. Like a lot of places, the bar was given over largely to the consumption of food, and there was hardly any space for folk who like just supping ale and thinking thoughts. Every table had a menu and was set out with cutlery, and the majority of tables had a 'RESERVED' notice on them. I feel inns and bars could be more welcoming to drinkers if they put aside a small area that was not so blatantly given over to food.
I WAS IN Cottiers in Glasgow recently, supping a delicious bottle of the Williams Brothers' 'Seven Giraffes' ale. It's good stuff. 'Did I want a glass with it?' asked the bar person. It's a question that always annoys me, because it presumes all bottles of beer must be cold and served with a slice of lime. 'IT'S ALE!' I felt like screaming, 'OF COURSE I WANT A GLASS!' My Alloa ale was served in a Fosters lager glass. I'm beginning to think it's time I moved to Belgium, where they do the ale glasses thing right.
WHILE THERE ARE many complaints against Scotrail, a large number of them are actually to do with Network Rail, the firm that looks after the rail network that Scotrail's trains run on. A lot of train problems in Scotland are down to signalling issues. If so many issues are down to signalling cable breaking, sticking or being stolen, why on earth do we still have cables? Are cables not an antiquated means of controlling signals that invite problems? Why can signals not be operated electronically? Anyone know?
Tourism Adviser advert
The New Alloa Brewery is just as the name suggests: new. In the able hands of the Williams Brothers they brew what I reckon are some of the finest ales made in Scotland. All of which begs the question: why's no one in Alloa drinking them?
Previous Alloa entries in Scotland's online tourist guide have included The Locker Room - it used to stock bottles of Alloa ale but has since closed down; and The Junction, part of The Thistle Bar, which used to stock bottles of Alloa ale but now no longer do so because there is no demand. I'd previously checked out The Old Brewery, a fine new pub occupying one of Alloa's closed breweries, and they too said they had tried stocking Alloa ale but had to stop as there was no demand.
Now, I have to emphasise that none of this is a reflection on the quality of the Alloa ale made by Bruce and Scott Williams. As I've already said, the ale they brew is without question some of the tastiest in the country. So, what on earth is going on here?
Perhaps Joe Public has been brainwashed by the drivelling hype spewed out by big national breweries so that every time he sets foot in a pub he is unable to think any further than some tasteless foamy crap that has travelled hundreds of miles on roads to get here.
I just find it all more than a bit alarming. Now, more than ever, we are trying to focus on the consumption of locally grown or made things so as to reduce the number of huge delivery lorries on our roads, not to mention carbon footprints and all, and here we have a town with a brewery and not one pub in that town sells its ales. I would ask what the people of Alloa think, but concede that thinking can be difficult without a brain.
If these pubs have, as they claimed, tried stocking Alloa ale but found there was no demand for it, then this whole sorry situation has to be a reflection of the type of people who drink in Alloa's pubs. Having lived in Alloa for a while, I can tell you that some of Alloa's pubs are on the rough side. In fact, Alloa's not a place I'd wish to be late at night as the whole town exudes a certain palpable roughness. Perhaps this has put good reasonable people off from drinking in the town's pubs, and perhaps these folk get their Alloa ale from the supermarket.
Alloa's pubs are mostly dives, places no discerning sane man or woman would wish to visit. Which is why I'm quite happy staying in Glasgow, a city with many fine public houses, and a city where I can visit a pub and drink the New Alloa Brewery's tasty ales. Why on earth would anyone wish to live in a place like Alloa, a town with not one decent pub? The town with people who have no taste.
Some bottles of the New Alloa Brewery's ales
 ALLOA - A TOWN WITH NO TASTE
I recently passed through Alloa on my way to check out Clackmannan for Scotland's online tourist guide. It's important that I revisit towns already listed in the guide as changes can occur, more so in these grim financial times. On far too many occasions I see coffee houses closed down or pubs with big 'To Let' signs on their facade. My Alloa revisit revealed a serious situation, one that had almost nothing to do with the recession: there is now no pub in Alloa that sells the local New Alloa Brewery's ales. Feel free to gasp aloud!

Alloa was once a great brewing town, boasting as many as eight breweries whose ales were sent all around the world. It was indeed known as the 'Burton of the North', the term putting the town on a par with England's, and probably the world's, brewing capital, Burton-on-Trent. All those breweries have now closed down.
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