I’ve been on many camper van road trips to Scotland and there has always been one thing that I’ve noticed, a real absence of good pubs. Living in a tiny hamlet in Yorkshire with an outstanding local pub I have grown accustomed to a good local with a roaring open fire and most importantly a great selection of Gin and wine. So you can imagine my delight when driving Horace my camper van north from Fort William in the pouring rain, I spot a sign saying ‘Floating Pub!’
‘Excellent!’ I declared to my travel weary friend, Suzanne. ‘I don’t care what the pub is like, I’m ordering a bottle of Red and not leaving until the rain stops.’ We park Horace in a secluded car park by the side of the Caladonian Canal at Laggan Locks at the northern tip of Loch Lochy (20 miles north of Fort William). Horace settled, we jog the short distance to the barge in the driving rain. As we approach the barge Suzanne slows down, ‘Come on.’ I yell. She’s not looking impressed. Ok, I admit the barge looks a little dishevelled in places and probably requires a little tlc. Everything looks grim in the rain though, right?
We open the door of the barge that leads down a set of wooden stairs to be greeted by the cosiest looking pub, complete with a wood burning stove, comfy looking leather sofa and arm chairs and most importantly a well stocked bar. We take our seats at the bar and are greeted warmly by the barmaid and other drinkers. ‘We’re here til closing’ I declare, ‘can we set up a tab?’
We spend a lazy afternoon chatting with all aboard, grateful to be seeking shelter from the torrential rain and howling wind. The The Eagle Barge Inn is fascinating, built in the 1920s and used as a troop carrier during the war and weighs a staggering 200 tonnes! The current owners have filled it with fascinating artefacts from Star Wars light sabres and stuffed animals to model ships and bizarre unidentifiable nik naks.
The charming nature of the place is not limited to the interior, it extends to the characters that stumble across this floating bar. We were joined at the bar by three very unique characters, a guy who was riding his bike north through Scotland and wild camping along the way. A teenage busker touring Scotland alone with his bivvy bag and a guy traveling coast to coast on a barge. We joined forces for the evening to become ‘The Randomers’ pub quiz team! This was no ordinary quiz, one particular round consisted on making a paper aeroplane, launching it the length of the barge and picking up bonus points for hitting the quiz master!
The food options are as entertaining as the quiz, there is a Chilli Challenge. Daredevils are invited to sample a toothpick sized amount of chilli sauce on a cracker before signing a form and committing to ordering the monster, fire inducing Chilli dish! I witnessed grown men cry, breakdown and admit defeat and leave the pub red faced! Proceed with caution. If you opt for a less traumatic option from the menu you will be rewarded with a delicious meal.
There is never a dull moment on the Eagle Barge Inn. When the shenanigans, laughter and drinks are over it’s a short stumble back to the car park where you can stay the night in your camper. There are no camping facilities, but the car park is fairly large and secluded, surrounded by trees and sits next to the tip of Loch Lochy. A great camper van pub stop over on a Scottish road trip.
If you’re feeling energetic and fancy a spot of walking while visiting, don’t forget to buy a map of the local area, the Ordnance Survey Explorer Map shows all footpaths.
They say don’t judge a book by its cover, well on that basis don’t judge a barge by its paintwork!
Eagle Barge Inn: www.eaglebargeinn.weebly.com
Note the Eagle Barge Inn is closed on a Monday and Tuesday.
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