Apologies about the photos here folks - I thought I'd taken more than I ended up with. Suffice to say, I'm having to ration them a bit between this article and the next part!
Well that was quick. After waiting what seemed like an eternity for the first weekend in June to arrive, it's been and gone in a blink of an eye. No sooner was the car parked up, the tent unpacked and the first beer poured, then it was time to reverse the process (sort of) and head back down the road in a daze, trying to comprehend the previous couple of days and all the shenanigans that ensued.
"After waiting what seemed like an eternity for the first weekend in June to arrive, it's been and gone in a blink of an eye."
Incase you're wondering what the hell I'm actually talking about here (as if the headline wasn't enough to give it away), this weekend past had the honour of hosting 2018's Fyne Ales FyneFest extravaganza, which yours truly was actually at. Starting on Friday the 1st June, this sprawling celebration of beer, food and music took place in a huge field at the back of the Fyne Ales Brewery, near Cairndow, Argyll. Boasting 250+ different beers on tap, the event was something I had been looking forward to attending for months now; it seems like an absolute age since I gave the event a shout out on here back in December. And, in all honesty, it didn't disappoint. And the weather even managed to behave itself, for the most part (more on that later).
I'm really lucky in that Cairndow is about 31 miles from my house, so getting there was a doddle for me and the missus. A short ride up the A82, followed by a slightly longer, windier drive on the A83 and we were there. Thankfully, the Scottish weather - despite all the doom and gloom predicted in the press through the week - continued to amaze on the way up and the sunshine kept us in good spirits, despite the proliferation of slow ass drivers and caravanettes. And maybe the promise of some good beer and great food at the end of the journey helped too...?
We arrived shortly after lunchtime, a couple of hours after the event had officially opened its gates at 11am. It's been a while since I've driven round past Loch Fyne and I wasn't quite sure what to expect when I got close to Cairndow. As you round the corner, past the cut off for the Cairndow Inn, your view of the Fyne Ales Brewery is blocked by trees and other vegetation. On the occasion, when you can see the water through the brush at the side of the road, you can catch a glimpse of the famous Loch Fyne Oyster bar on the opposite bank, but not much else. And it didn't help that I wasn't 100% sure which cut off I was supposed to take, praying that there would be a sign, or at the very least, a really drunk person holding a beer and wearing a FyneFest 2018 t-shirt at the end of the road...
"I was praying that there would be a sign, or at the very least, a drunk person holding a beer and wearing a Fynefest 2018 t-shirt..."
I shouldn't have worried though - there was indeed a rather large sign at the end of the road and it also helped that the car in front, laden with camping gear and people, was also on its way to the festival, so you'll be pleased to hear that I didn't get lost and end up in Campbelltown.
I must admit though - the road up to the brewery was a bit more 'rustic' than I was expecting. I'm no stranger to single-track country roads - there are more than a few of them around my way and my wife likes nothing better than to rally round the ones near her folks in Perth - but I had it in my mind that the brewery was closer to the main road for some reason, not that it really mattered... we were here! A short, bumpy trip along the road, we came upon the brewery building itself to our right. As the road wound its way onwards, nearing what looked like a farmhouse, we had our first glimpse of the festivities, almost giving ourselves whiplash in the process - the courtyard bar. This bar, situated outside the entrance to the brewery shop, looks like something from the south of France. It has a laid back, chilled vibe to it and, at the time of our arrival, was packed with people enjoying a beer or two under the canopy that covers the courtyard.
A little further along the road and festival itself is in view, in all its glory. I'd seen diagrams of the layout for the event, but you can't really get a sense of scale from a drawing. It's not until you're actually there, sitting on the cusp of the steep gravel embankment that marks the entrance to the car park (OK, field), that you can see how big FyneFest is. Alright - its no T in the Park (thankfully - and long may that continue), but the scale is still pretty huge. When we arrived, the carpark was maybe a third full - bearing in mind this was early on the Friday afternoon. From the lofty view of the carpark, you can see the camper park to the left, both campsites straight ahead and kind of off beside those, the tops of the festivals tents.
Parking as close as we were allowed to, it was time to disembark. And it was at that point, reality sunk in. As close as I'd managed to get the car to the entrance, it was still a fair hike to check in and set up out tent. A fair hike, mostly downhill. Laden with bags. Think back if you will/can to the 80's. Or use the internet, whatever is easiest. There was a 'game' (term used loosely) called 'Buckaroo', where the object was to load up a spring-loaded mule with as much luggage as possible, until it finally gave in and "buck-buck-buckaroo'd". Well, on Friday past, I was living out the real life version of Buckaroo, with me in place of the mule. On a sweltering hot day. Pushing a buggy (which was also laden with camping gear - don't worry, my son was safely running round enjoying himself at this point). It was also at this point that I found out how friendly and helpful everyone at FF was - on at least two occasions, I managed to lose a bag and, like some kind of comedy routine, drop another as I bent down to pick it up. And every time a passer-by stopped to offer help. So much appreciation to you all, random FF patrons! Of course, my pride stopped me from accepting the help, but the offer was most gracious!
"On Friday past, I was living out the real life version of Buckaroo - with me as the donkey."
But if one good thing came from me half killing myself to get all of our gear to the campsite, it was the slaking thirst that can only come from a sweaty near-death experience. And by luck or fortune, I was in the one place on earth that had enough beer to quench that beer-lust and then some!
Come back tomorrow for the next part of my FyneFest 2018 article, where there may actually be some interesting stuff happening...