Sunday, 31 March 2013

Thank Heaven for The Union

The Union Inn, Camelon, Forth & Clyde Canal, with Kimberley II tied-up outside.
(Thanks, Martin, for the photograph)
For our last night on Kimberley II instead of taking her back to Marine Cruisers' base we continued a short distance along the Forth & Clyde Canal to the top of the locks that lead down to Grangemouth and tied up outside The Union Inn.
A quick inspection, however, showed the pub to be bereft of decent beer. The Canal Inn, a little way down the locks, proved to have none either and  was a little unspoiled rough to say the least. The canal here runs through a suburb of Falkirk known as Camelon, so it was off to Camelon's High Street to find somewhere to spend the evening.
What a mistake!  The "High Street" is actually a dual-carriageway that doubles as the A9 Edinburgh to Glasgow road! It is lined with fast-food joints, derelict shops and a handfull of pubs that you'd have to be pretty desperate to even think of entering, let alone staying for a drink. Just about the only place I could have contemplated going in to was the Tesco supermarket, which shows what a desperate place it is!
What we should have done at this stage is to carry on a hundred metres or so to the railway station and get a train into Falkirk, or back to Linlithgow, or just about anywhere, really. But instead we decided to make the best of a bad job and return to the Union Inn.  It turned out a better night than expected. The pub itself was not at all unpleasant - "shabbily comfortable" (or, perhaps, "comfortably shabby") would be a fair description, a large, wood-pannelled bar with old brewery mirrors on the walls, friendly locals and Guinness to drink. No sooner had we settled ourselves into a corner though when a side door burst open and in marched a Pipe Band - four men with drums and bagpipes in full Highland Dress! They marched to the centre of the bar and began playing a selection of tunes (if "tunes" is the right word for bagpipes).  We couldn't really believe it was happening. Maybe in some Highland bar, or a tourist-trap pub in Edinburgh -  but in a locals' pub on a housing estate in suburban Falkirk???.  Evidently the locals thought so too. After a few numbers, one of them approached the band and a heated conversation ensued.  I must admit I couldn't follow the argument, such were the accents, but the gist of it was that the locals would prefer an alternative form of entertainment! Shortly afterwards the Band packed-up and left, the jukebox was turned back on and normality returned to the Union Inn.

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