Tuesday, 29 August 2017

The Village Inn - Arrochar (Loch Lomond & The Trossachs, Scottish Highlands)

To say that I love Scotland would be an understatement, and I didn’t actually take a trip north of the border until I was 23. I had just returned from New Zealand after an unsuccessful working holiday (it was the recession and all I could get in the way of work was working for accommodation, unfortunately my savings only stretched so far before I had to come home), it was mid-winter when I took the trip and there was snow on the ground as well as the mountains. We took a short car ride from where I was staying near Glasgow (Kilmarnock on the West Coast) to the lower parts of the highlands, Loch Lomond and the Trussachs. I remember exclaiming at this time that I had travelled all the way to New Zealand to see sights, that in fact, were on my doorstep.

Scotland is beyond beautiful.

I’ve been impatiently craving to go back for a number of years, even more so when I found out that the chap has never been to The Highlands, the furthest he’d ventured was Edinburgh. I had to show him this glorious country as I knew he would love it as much as I would (I was right by the way).

I felt myself getting slightly emotional as we reached just below Glasgow and the mountains came in to view. My heritage on my dad’s side are from West Scotland so it feels like poetic return to my roots, although my granddad sadly passed before I was born.

We broke up our trip on this occasion (it’s a long way to The Highlands from Leeds) by staying in The Loch Lomond and Trossachs national park. The place I visited first on that trip many years ago. As it was half term and we’d booked late, 2 months before, we had limited options on places to stay in our price bracket. Luckily AirBnB came to our rescue again and we found a nice little self-catering apartment in Arrochar.

The last time I had visited the Scottish Highlands, and perhaps the time in winter too everywhere was so quiet. I’d had no problems with getting a table at restaurants and the roads were so quiet it really did feel remote. The Scottish Tourist board have clearly been doing some grafting since this time, advertising late May and early June as ‘the best’ time to visit Scotland. That, combined with the fact it was half term made everywhere much busier than I anticipated.

Because I hadn’t expected it to be so busy (the bells should have started ringing when we were struggling to find accommodation really) I hadn’t booked anywhere for us to eat. In Arrochar there is only really one restaurant and a chippy (that you would want) to eat at. I tried booking The Village Inn online but the online booking system wasn’t having any of it, so we decided to turn up early in the hope that we could get a table.

Turning up at 6pm did us no favours and we were told they were fully booked in the restaurant for the whole night, but if we wanted to we could wait in the bar and see if a table came free in there.

There was some sort of sport on in the bar and so a few people were more bothered about watching this than eating. No one seemed like they were going to move any time and so after a time of nursing half a pint propped up against the bar the chap approached a couple similar in age to ourselves and asked if we could share their table because we were starving. They said yes, gladly or seething I’m not sure, but we split the two tables apart and we ordered some food. Another couple at the bar (who arrived after us) looked on in envy clearly wishing they had taken the same initiative.

The mains looked pretty big and hearty so we decided against starters, plus we didn’t really want to spend too much time crammed in to the bar eating food whilst everyone else was trying to watch sport on the telly above us. 

D opted for the chicken pie which came with boiled veg and mash potato. The pie has a crispy top and came with a base (for those who doubt a pie is a pie without a pastry base), packed full of filling. D ate his dish in no time at all, all that driving clearly is a cause for an appetite.

Chicken Pie

I decided to go for the fish and chips, something I seem to quite regularly choose in pubs now I think about it. We were fairly near the sea and Scottish fish is supposed to be some of the best in the world so, why not?

Fish and Chips with important tartar sauce and mushy peas

The fish was beautiful. Crispy batter free from squishy lumps of fat, pearly white fish that was truly delicious. There was tartar sauce for bonus points (why don’t all places serve this with their fish and chips?) and proper mushy peas (none of this ‘crushed’ malarkey). The thing that let my meal down was the chips, which is essentially have of the dish. They were a little stale and chewy, as if they had been reheated in the fryer maybe? Either way they just didn’t cut it for me.

Service was minimal due to being sat in the bar rather than the restaurant. The waitresses seemed more annoyed with us than welcoming when we were stood/sat at the bar as we were making it more crowded for them. If you’re planning a visit to Arrochar or anywhere local to here, definitely book in advance, by advance I don’t mean on the day.

Looking out from The Village Inn

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