Friday 12th October 2012
This pub is about halfway down Fort William's High Street. This is, more or less, the only street in town. There are others but this is where all the shops, restaurants, cafés and, of course, most of the pubs, are concentrated. You can be fairly sure that if it isn't on the High Street, it's close by. At the north end is the Railway station and the long distance bus stands and the local buses depart from close by.
The story of this pub is rather interesting and its beginnings were back in 1994. The management team behind The Clachaig Inn in Glencoe wanted to establish a presence in Fort William and purchased the Rock Bar and Luigis restaurant and set about converting it to a pub. The name was to be The Hogshead but, at the last moment, it was pointed out that there was a chain of Whitbread pubs under the same name south of the border. (They didn't last long, a great pity). Because of this there was a hurried change of name to The Grog and Gruel. They had acquired two hogsheads, which are 36 gallon barrels that they used as tables. A character, named Horace the Hog, was also been created and he is still with us today, luckily.
The ground floor pub certainly has an alehouse feel about it. However, there is also a first floor restaurant that opens at 17.00 daily, and this has a relaxed yet slightly more formal feel than downstairs.
The pub is the CAMRA Fort William and Lochaber Pub of the Year 2012 and has won many awards prior to that including Les Routiers Best Real Pub in Scotland 2005.
It is not just the great beers that mark out this excellent pub, as it has a great range of whiskies and specialises in the local distillery, Ben Nevis. That famous peak, the highest in the UK, broods over the town but might has well been non-existent on my visit as the cloud level was about a hundred metres. This is a not uncommon situation on the West Coast.
There were five beers on offer that night. There are more in the summer months but in a location that is heavily dependent on the tourist trade at certain times of the year, a cold rainy night in October is not going to produce the maximum number.
Nevertheless it was still a good selection: from Williams Bros. of Alloa there was Scottish Joker IPA (5.0%) and Fraoch (5.0%), their famous ale flavoured with Bog Myrtle and Heather. Brewed by Scottish Traditional Ales (Throsk, near Stirling) was William Wallace Ale (4.5%) and there was also from the An Teallach Ale Co of Dundonnel near Garve the eponymous An Teallach Ale (4.0%). Finally, there was the house beer brewed by Isle of Skye Brewery (Uig) Nevis Race Ale 2008 (4.2%).
The pub hosts open mic sessions and occasionally live bands and it holds a summer beer festival and sometimes others during other times of the year.
This is a great pub with great beers that caters for all.
The Grog & Gruel Alehouse, 66 High Street, Fort William PH33 6AE
Open: Monday to Wednesday 12.00-23.30; Thursday to Saturday 12.00-00.30.
Sunday (Summer): 12.30-23.30; Sunday (Winter): 17.00-23.30.
In November it is possible the pub will be closed on Sundays. Please check before visiting.
As mentioned before, the pub is no more than ten minutes walk from Fort William Railway Station (for trains to Mallaig, Glasgow and the overnight sleeping car train to London) and the long distance bus station alongside Morrison's store (for buses to destinations all over the Highlands and Glasgow). Local buses are nearby.