Sunday, 17 September 2017

17/09/17 - RGR Geocaching and The Weighbride at Alvechurch

Distance - 4 Miles
Geocaches - 20
First Cache

I noticed these caches being published around a week ago.  There was no hesitation in moving them to the top of the to do list for the following reasons;
  1. I've enjoyed the Leaky Cauldron's other cache trails in the area
  2. Alvechurch was the best walking areas when I took inspiration from the Capital Ring Long Distance Path to create a 2nd City Alternative - The Brummie Ring
  3. There's an unticked CAMRA Good Beer Guide Entry, waiting to be er... ticked
With Mrs M otherwise engaged, I headed out for some solo caching.  If I had been a little earlier, I could have teamed myself up with Modge UK.  I'm fairly sure I parked up next to their Geowagon at the Rowney Green Chapel and certainly saw their same day stamped logs.

As expected the walking was fine.  A few ups and downs, with plenty of sheep/horse fields to navigate and serenaded by the ever present hum of the M42.

Here's the views;

Starting off in Chapel Lane
Starting off down Chapel Lane - Chasing Modge UK
Into the Countryside
Into the Countryside
Horses in their Finery
The Horsey Part of Birmingham
Geocaching Views
Worcestershire Views

If anything, the geocaches were better than expected.  Who knew I could decipher complex Roman numerals without a Smartphone?  Would Combination Locks cause the blue face of shame?  How did I end up doing an impression of Jeremy Beadle?

Answers can only be found in the online logs.

Great circuit - so thanks for the challenge, Leaky Cauldrons!

Onto the Pub.

The Weighbridge, Alvechurch

Something else that exceeded expectations today.

I've been to Alvechurch a few times but even though this is handily positioned for the train station, I've never turned away from the town and headed towards the marina.  Even then, you really need to know its there as it's not that obvious its a pub.  Entry involves navigating the huge Marina Car Park and heading towards the Marquee.

Weigbridge, Alvechurch
The Weighbridge, Alvechurch
But people do know about it.  Just gone midday on a Sunday and the place is packed.  The Sunday Lunches are apparently legendary but with just a Northern Irish £5 and some shrapnel available to me, I made do with a pint and a Tuna Bap, from the bar mounted smorgasbord of sandwich delights.

Which Pint?  Selection is made either by peering over the small bar or reading the overhead chalkboard.  It would have been a LocALE Wetheroak Tillerman Tipple but on pouring, the bar lady wasn't happy with the quality and instantly offered something else.

Wye Valley Butty Bach has never tasted so good.

Weigbridge, Alvechurch
A Rare Quiet Time at the Bar
Wye Valley Butty Bach
Butty Bach.  Gentlemen sharing a plate of Scratchings 

Monday, 11 September 2017

11/09/17 - The Northenmost Tick, the Northernmost Geocache

The view from our 4th Floor Porthole is rain.

Horizontal rain.

We are in Kirkwall, Orkney Isles.

The gang plank is near our room and we see the pensioners, holding on to their headscarves, walk down - touch ground - and walk straight back on again.

The 6 mile walk up a hill with no trees is off.

Other adventures await.   There is the chance to record my Northernmost Geocache.  Kirkwall joins Florida, Greece and the Canaries as the compass extremes on my Geocaching Profile.

Northernmost Geocache
Clue - it doesn't normally hide there
Pre Trip, the bible had been consulted.  There was simply no way I was going to miss out on a Good Beer Guide Entry called the "Auld Motor Hoose".

I'd even looked at Google Maps and wasn't surprised to find out it was a Theme Bar.

Northernmost Pub Tick
Kirkwall in the Rain
And the Theme is.....
As Paul Calf Said "Its a theme pub, The theme is get pissed"
The book provided an excellent representation of what to expect.  The locals, sheltering during a Monday Lunchtime, were friendly.  I even got a laugh when I asked if the TV Images of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico was the local news channel.

The juke box was kicking out rock ballards.

The memorabilia was all motor related, including a petrol pump on the way to the juke box.

The Swannay Brewery Scapa Special Ale was exceptionally good.

A fitting end to the British Isles Tour.  We just need 48 hours on a boat in Storm Aileen to round off the holiday in style.

Scapa Special
Pint of the Week - Scapa Special
Get your Motor Running
Warning:  Contains Poodle Hair Soft Rockers.

Sunday, 10 September 2017

10/09/17 - Tobermory and Aros Park

Distance - 6.5 Miles
Geocaches - 3
Walk Inspiration - Country Walking Magazine, December 99, Walk 1
Post Walk Refreshment - The Mishnish and the Distillery

Not even Tobermory's famous brightly coloured buildings can do much to lift the gloom on a filthy September Sunday.  However, the yellow house is instantly identified from the choppy tender boat. The Mishnish is the main pub.

Tobermory and the Floating Hotel
Yellow Peril and the Floating Boatel
If the town is all pastels, the walk is all green.   We head along the coast and into Aros Park, woodland where if you stand still long enough, everything gets covered in moss.  I spend a long time looking for a superb geocache at a spookily abandoned cottage.  When I return to Mrs M, I half expect to to have succumbed to its inevitable progress.

Aros Park
Into Aros Park
Into the Woods
Everything's Gone Green
Gardener's Cottage
Abandoned Cottage and Geocache Ground Z

It's funny, a week after the walk and I can hardly remember the rain that caused so much misery at the time.  I can remember the stunning Waterfall and Mrs M's poor attempts at giving up the walk and hitchhiking back to civilisation.

Aros Burn Waterfall
Aros Burn Waterfall
Poor Hitchiking
You're meant to put your thumb out, not point where you want to go.

We eventually get back to town and do the only thing reasonable.  Try and dry off in the Pub.   The Mishnish is as good on the inside as it looks on the outside but prime position in front of the log fire is taken by cruise based coffin dodgers who do not have soaking wet underpants.  Although, to be fair, I cannot say this with 100% certainty.

They refuse to acknowledge our discomfort and are so getting it the next time I am on the London Underground.

Beer wise, there's a couple of hand pull pumps on but turned backwards.  Apparently, it was a big Saturday night and time has not been found for replacements.

The Mishnish up close
Mishnish Guinness
When Real Ale is absent, Guinness it is.

The booze related treats don't end there.  It was my birthday last month and Mrs M knows me well.  A distillery tour beats slippers.

Tobermory Distillery
Where the magic happens, quickly.
Tobermory Distillery
Where the magic happens, slowly.

The best bit is always the end.  I am the only Birthday Boy who has the "Full Tasting" experience. My joy at getting four doubles to everyone else's single is quickly lost in the embarrassment of having the tour guide ask me to describe the various tastes from my four snifters.

Fellow students were expecting me to say something along the lines of "a powerful taste of salty toffee, smokey vanilla with a hint of orange peel".

They were disappointed with my response of "Nice".

Tobermory Distillery
Look at what you could have won, fellow Students
A life changing experience.  After years of threatening violence on anyone adding water to my whisky, I found a pipette's worth really does make all the difference.

Saturday, 9 September 2017

09/09/17 - Belfast Walking Tour

For the first time on the 10 day discovery tour of the British Isles, I am not responsible for entertainment.

Mrs M, presumably now bored of Geocaching, pub ticking but not walking has hired a professional tour guide to show us the sights of Belfast.

His name is Marty.  He is one of fourteen children.  He is not shy when it comes to walking into buildings (town halls, hotels, cathedrals, pubs), whether they are open or not.  He knows his stuff. Everyone on Tripadvisor agrees.

The blogs not here to show my holiday snaps.   We're bound to go past one of the six Belfast Good Beer Guide entries.   I might also find a Geocache.

Bittle's Bar

Marty tries to take us in here, but the landlord is quite adamant that he is not open.  It's OK, I've been before.  I've seen the whiskey collection.  I've seen the artwork that has been traded over the years for pints.   I've remembered the other flat iron building in Manhattan.

It's not in the Good Beer Guide but the soulless looking Kitchen Bar directly opposite is.

I'm back in my quandary of good bar vs. good beer.

Bittle's Bar
It would be a crime to foresake this for the Kitchen Bar to the left
The Crown Liqueur Saloon, Victoria Street, Guinness

This is another must visit bar and a 2017 GBG Entry.  The name itself may conjure up images of a wild west saloon, but this is ornate Victorian Boozing at its finest.   All fancy tile work, completed by Italian craftsmen as after hours "foreigners", once they had finished working on the churches.

Photos were in short supply.  Outside, is a constant gaggle of smokers.  Inside, only the Japanese are brave enough to pull out cameras without fear.  I attempt a surreptitious photo but get clocked by a local, giving me the look.

Crown Liquer Stores
Put it away, so you will.
If you're either lucky, or not visiting on a Saturday Afternoon, you might strike gold and get one of the ten hermetically sealed booths.  They come complete with door to lock, vanity glasswork and a little bell to summon service.  How I would have loved to give that a dong to see what happens.

Beer wise, it's a Nicholson House, complete with some familiar handpulls like Purity UBU.

I stuck with the Black Stuff.

The Duke of York, Guinness

At the start of the tour, Marty asked us if we had any preferences for the Tour.  Our Canadian co-students wanted to learn all about the troubles.  I asked to be taken to the pub with all the fancy mirrors.

Who would have thought the two could be combined?

I've been before but couldn't remember the Duke of York's name.  Through a process of elimination, Marty was able to determine my request.  I was able to teach him something in return.

This is not in the Good Beer Guide but if you're in town, you must visit.

It's what my living room would look like if Mrs M didn't rule with an iron fist.

Duke of York and Marty the Tour Guide
The Duke of York.  And Marty the Tour Guide.
Marty was keen to come in and show us a photo near to where he is standing showing of the pub destroyed by a bomb in 1973.

I was keen to show Marty the Whiskey Menu, which unbelievably comes with a number of Whiskies that are so rare, they have "Not For Sale" as a price.

The tour, a two hour bargain for £15, ends here.

We're off to find a Geocache.

Duke of York
Tour Over and left to my own devices outside the DOY

Friday, 8 September 2017

08/09/17 - Howth Head, Dublin

Distance - 5 Miles
Geocaches - 4
Pub - Abbey Tavern, Howth

If Mrs Mappiman had her nefarious way, she would have has us adding more Temple Bar Pubs to the our Dublin Ticklist.

I said we've done enough drinking on the Floating OAP Home that is the Cruise and Maritime Columbus.  Its time to get some fresh air in our lungs.

I had no idea what was at Howth Head, but I knew it was relatively easy to get there on the Dart.  A slow train ride across the Dublin rooftops to get to the end of the line.

Now, I am not going to say its easy to navigate from the Station to the Ben of Howth but the views make it worth it.  We scramble along old tramlines, the back of estate houses and possibly end up trespassing on the Golf course.  It takes a walk abroad to really appreciate the detail on OS Maps.

Ben of Howth Views over Dublin
Views from the Ben of Howth
We explore the heathland, grabbing a Geocache or two and fight our way down the hill to the Coastal Path.

The walking moves from great to spectacular.  A jaw dropping view of Baily Lighthouse and a superb cliff coastal path, that is appealing to all ages and nationality's today.

Bailey Lighthouse
Baily Lighthouse
We can't believe our luck.  A random walk has turned into an absolute booster.  We even laugh off the drenching the rainstorm provides and are rewarded with a superb ocean based rainbow.

Rain's Reward
Not the only ones admiring what the rain leave behind
No possibility of an inland short cut, so we follow the headland all the way around.  The scenery keeps on delivering.

Howth Coastline
Howth Headland
Back in the town and there is a choice of eateries.  Smart Phone based research suggests the Abbey Tavern would appeal to a history loving pub ticker the most.  C16th and former patrons include Katherine Hepburn, John Wayne and Neil Diamond.

If you go, ignore the eye watering price tag on the Dublin Bay Scampi.  It might be the best 20 Euros ever spent.

The Abbey Tavern
Our sort of Place
Predictable - both in beverage and what happens after a week at sea with no WiFi

It that good that two coach loads of fellow pensioner cruisers were delivered for an upstairs buffet.

We thought we had escaped.

Thursday, 7 September 2017

07/09/17 - St Mary's Circuit, Scilly Isles

Distance - 9 Miles
Walk Inspiration - Walk 24, Country Walking Magazine, May 2001
Geocaches - 7
Pubs - The Atlantic and the Bishop and Wolf

The Scilly Isles have long been on our "to visit" list.  We finally make it, courtesy of Cruise and Maritime Columbus on a British Isles Discovery tour.  We might be the youngest people on there by 15 years and have been forced into Vera Lynn sing-alongs after the bingo but we are ticking off some hard to reach bucket list destinations.

We're on shore for less than 10 hours, so a Coastal Circuit Walk seems the best way of discovering all the island has to offer in a limited time.

The tenders drop us off at the jetty in Hugh Town.  The high street, along with two of the three island pubs we found, is discovered in all of two minutes.  We head out on the coastal path for easy walking with no amenities until we reach Old Town and the remaining boozer.

Here's what we found;

Solitude and Burial Chambers

Little civilisiation on the coast.  The paths are building free, with the exception of ancient burial chambers.

St Mary's Coast Path
Striding out on the Western Coast Path
Burial Chambers
1st of the ancient Burial Chambers

Giving Way, on Foot
Traffic lights for Ramblers - we walk across the end of the Runway
Golden Sand Bays

We'd heard of the similarity with the Caribbean, with the gulf stream climate and golden sandy beaches.   St Mary's didn't disappoint.  Apart from a couple of other hardy cruisers, we had the beaches to ourselves, with views past our floating hotel to the other inhabited Scilly Isles.

Bar Point and Chez Mappiman
Looking from Bay Point, past Chez Mappiman and over to Tresco

Always got entertainment options when you have Geocaching as a hobby.   7 finds today and a shout out to fellow Cruise Geocachers, rallisalli & hawkeye, who we followed around hunting tupperware. We eventually bumped into each other in a rain lashed Kirkwall and were grateful for the advice on how to gain access to the Cathedral Cache

Geocache at Pulpit Rock
Geocache at Pulpit Rock. 

The Pubs

The all inclusive drinks package on the ship included only Bitburger.  Real Ale fans were seduced with the availability at a price of Spitfire and London Pride.   After three days of Bloody Mary's and Bloody Lager, my taste buds were crying out for excitement.

The first pub was 3/4 of the way around the walk at Old Town.  The Old Town Inn used to be in the Good Beer Guide, but not in the 2017 edition.  We looked.  We saw a Tuna Mayo Sandwich provided a penny change from a tenner.  We ate pasties at the Old Town Cafe.

The remaining pubs were conveniently at the end of the walk.   Both functional, both stocking St Austell Beers. I'd spotted the Atlantic on Twitter a couple of weeks before arrival.  The Tribute didn't disappoint, taken in the beer garden with a good mixture of locals and tourists.   To maintain balance, it was a HSD in the unusually named Bishop and Wolf.

The Atlantic
The Atlantic, St Marys
Never been so happy to see a Tribute
Bishop and Wolf
The Bishop and Wolf

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

06/09/17 - Accidental GBG Ticking in Guernsey

Distance - 2 Miles
Geocaches - 4
Pubs - The Rockmount, Cobo and the Albion House, St Peter Port

I always knew that Geocaching can provide entertainment in any part of the world we happen to find ourselves in.

Seems that Ticking the CAMRA Good Beer Guide Pubs provides similar joy.

Even in Guernsey.

This blog needs to be filed under fortuitous.  We had no idea that the day would involve a visit to Cobo.

Guernsey is port call 2/7 on our British Isles discovery tour.  It was also the only place where we thought we would wing it and have no concrete plans.  We had heard a nice walk could be had by heading along the coast from St Peter Port Dock to Fermain Bay.

And it was.  Well signposted and the usual Geocaching adventures.

Path to Fermain Bay
Strangely, no OS Map Coverage in the Channel Islands.
Guernsey Coastal Path
The Guernsey Coast
Geocaching - with our Floating Hotel in the distance
At Fermain Bay Cafe
Arriving at Fermain Bay

The cafe proved popular with our other cruisers, with a recognised traveler taking photos of her Chocolate Cake and Stella Artois.   She must also have a blog.

Having rested with nothing stronger than tea, we had a choice.  We could have carried on walking but we had heard rumours of the mythical Bus 92.  This chariot of fire circles the entire coastline and charges a flat fee of £1.

Mrs M thought it would be a good way to see the Island.  I simply cannot resist a bargain.

So we borrowed the cafe's timetable and headed up to Fermain Road, more in hope than expectation that it would arrive at its allotted time of 12:08.

GOOD NEWS! It's bang on time.  BAD NEWS!  It's packed to the rafters with bargain hunting cruisers.

Strap hanging didn't provide much opportunity to see the sights, so after 40 minutes of being glared at by two locals trying to use public transport for its intended reason, we decided to bale at the next likely looking location.

This was windswept Cobo Bay.

Nicer in the Sunshine
Too cold to hang around, so we look for the nearest boozer.   There is one, the Rockmount.  It has a smart restaurant and a Tap Room around the back.  Once home, I checked the bible and yep, I'm now sniffing out GBG Pubs with no prior research.

Although I can't really remember the beer (a hoptastic brew called Barefoot Something), I do remember two other things.

1) The best Fishfinger Sandwich known to man.

2) The staff are entirely decked out in Superdry gear.  A query as to the reason is met with "we are sponsored by them".  My best mate is the Photo Studio Manager for Superdry, so we text to ask if they have branched out into sponsoring Good Beer Guide entries closest to France.  They haven't.  He is consulting his legal team.

Rockmount Hotel, Cobo
The Unknown Barefoot Something Ale
The less busy 42 Bus whisks us more directly back into St Peters Port.  A couple more caches to be found in the town and worryingly, a blazer is purchased from M&S.   Two days, and we have already been on this cruise too long.

A final Guernsey Pint in the Albion House Inn, simply because I support West Brom.  Have I struck lucky twice in a day?

Not quite, but it has a story.

The closest British Pub to a Church, courtesy of a overhanging gargoyle.

Albion House
Home from Home for a Baggie
By a Gargoyles Nose
Closest Pub to a Church - by a Gargoyle's Nose