Inverness (Clachnaharry), Highlands & Western Isles:
Saturday 13th October 2012
I did make an attempt to research the history of this venerable pub but didn't come up with much more than the fact that it obtained its first licence to sell alcohol in 1836. It is on the main road to Muir of Ord, Dingwall and the far north, so I would suggest it was catering for travellers before then. However the village itself was the site of a notable battle in 1454 (some say earlier) between the Clan Munro and the Clan Macintosh.
The Munros were returning from a cattle raid and had to pass through the territory of the MacIntosh. The normal procedure was to pay a toll but there was an argument over the amount and a battle was fought. I'm not sure who won, but the battle is commemorated with a monument on a hill overlooking the village. It was erected in 1820 and nowadays is just a plinth with an inscription, yet it originally had a tower. That blew over in a storm sometime during 1951.
The pub has two entrances from the High Street. The one on the left leads the visitor to the main bar. This is where most of the drinking is done. It has a coal fire in winter and is extremely homely. If this is the Public Bar, then the other must be the Lounge Bar, reached through the right hand door. This is where most of the dining is done and leads to an outside area.
I first visited this pub in 2009 but I understand it was taken was over by a new licensee shortly after. He installed a noted chef and tried to take the pub up-market but ultimately it was not a successful move and he has moved on to be replaced by Mike Maculloch earlier this year.
I was there with drinking compatriot Bob and we went to the outside drinking (and dining) area at the rear of the pub. It is a terrace on two levels and it is immediately above the single track railway line that runs from Inverness to Kyle of Lochalsh on the West Coast, and also to the far north (Wick and Thurso, the most northerly station in the UK). The view is very good, as beyond the railway is the village itself and the vista extends further to include the sea lock out of the Caledonian Canal into Beauly Firth. Across the Firth you can see the Black Isle in the distance.
We went back into the warmth of the bar and it seemed to me that nothing much had changed since I was last here. We were joined by Bob's partner Anne and ordered another beer. Although the pub is leased from Belhaven Brewery of Dunbar (a subsidiary of Greene King), the landlord has a free choice. So we had a choice of Lia Feil (4.2%); Fyne Ales Jarl (3.8%); Houston Peter's Well (4.4%) and Scottish Borders Dark Horse (4.5%). I had Jarl and Peter's Well and both were excellent and in very good condition.
Although no longer having pretensions to become a gastro-pub, the food is very good. Their Sunday roasts are now extremely popular. I don't eat very often in pubs but I did that night and had Stovies, a traditional Scottish dish of slow-cooked beef with onions contained within a dish of roughly mashed potato. It was excellent and the perfect meal to soak beer up with, although it has plenty of carbohydrate and some protein, there's not a lot of fibre. You'll not get anyway near your five a day with this dish! In fact, there was probably more in the beer!
So, to summarise, a brilliant pub that is back to its former glory and well worth the trouble of leaving Inverness to visit.
The Clachnaharry Inn, 17-19 High Street, Clachnaharry, Inverness IV3 8RB
Open: Monday to Saturday 11.00-01.00; Sunday 12.30-23.45
Clachnaharry is about two miles from Central Inverness. It is served by buses 28, 28A and 28B from Queensgate in the city and these stop right outside. The basic daytime service Monday to Saturday is every hour. However in the evenings it drops to approximately one every two hours. There are only three buses each way on Sundays.