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Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Run For The Border - Station Bar, The Lovat, The Boundary

Station Bar, 2493 Dumbarton Road, Glasgow G14 0PR
The Lovat, 2562 Dumbarton Road, Glasgow G14 0PT
The Boundary, 596 Glasgow Road, Clydebank G81 1JA

There have been a number of books recently published commemorating the Clydebank Blitz of March 1941, two nights of bombing which killed hundreds, made 35,000 homeless and saw the heaviest concentration of bombing experienced in the British Isles.

Nicknamed “The Holy City” Clydebank’s tenements on the hill above the modern Clyde Shopping Centre and cinema were decimated in the bombardment whose target was the Singer armaments factory as well as the naval dockyards. Some believe the Luftwaffe mistook the A82 Boulevard for the River Clyde, a blow for the notion of German wartime efficiency.

Glasgow’s westernmost district, Yoker, adjoins Clydebank and this, in stricter licensing times, made for some desperate attempts to secure more drink on a Sunday, when normal hometown residents were prohibited from imbibing. Under the bona-fide traveller’s dispensation, if a Glaswegian could convince a Clydebank, or any other neighbouring town, landlord of his genuine travelling status then the demon liquor was allowed to pass his grateful lips. So for Yoker folk the trip over the city boundary became quite a ritual.

Today, Yoker has fewer public houses than for many years and even the ones that remain standing have their troubles. Smugglers Inn has recently been boarded-up, The Anchorage continues to look for a buyer and The Dry Dock has changed its name to The Gulf of Corryvreckan in an attempt to re-charge interest. And The Wharf, a relative newcomer to the district, was burnt to the ground, but that’s another story.

These troubles reflect the difficult times felt in Yoker as a whole. Forget blue-ribbon companies as being the pioneers of re-branding, Yoker had done it years before, re-naming notorious streets, so bad was their reputation for lawlessness.

With less business from the shipyards, changing drinking cultures and draconian legislation the area’s nightlife has altered dramatically from the times my own great- grandfather was a regular in The Anchorage. Still, if you can stop yourself from drowning in your pint from despair at our brave new world, there are some good wee places around, especially around the Glasgow/Clydebank boundary.

One such is The Station Bar, a pub of quite some longevity and run for a large proportion of that time by the Scott family. It presents a reasonably smart exterior; its nameplate resembling that seen in older railway stations.

Inside there’s the customary split between public and lounge bars, and as usual the public bit is the more inviting, despite the ugly false ceiling. Having been in on a number of midweek occasions it is busier than you might expect, with a crowd mostly in their forties and above.

A friendly bunch it appears. On my first visit I was sizing up my options at the bar – drink options that is – when a punter nudged me to recommend I go for one of the bottled beers. A good choice as it happened: £1.10 for Stella, Peroni etc. Yes, you read it correctly. Prices to rival off-licences for a change.

The Lovat (Arms) is a few hundred yards further west, on the other side of the main road. Unlike The Station, it sits on its own; a wedge shaped one-level building framed by the high rises to its north.

The depth of the building is surprising, the interior stretching away improbably into hidden, secret corners, for those of fanciful minds. Quieter than The Station, on my visits, inside it is predominantly dark green to match the paint-job outside. Notable is the high shelving and ornate fans.

It is owned by Punch, and an indication of the difficulties faced by wet-led pubs such as these is the new sign outside. To paraphrase, it goes: “Want to help your local community? Want an excellent business opportunity and help create a great local service and attraction? Contact Punch at _____ and begin your new life!” Prospective tenancies beware, never has so much been hidden between the lines.

The actual border between Glasgow and Clydebank sits between The Lovat and The Boundary Bar – as aptly named as you can get. The Boundary occupies the ground floor of two buildings and adjoins a tanning salon and a filling station. Two businesses, at least, that you can see will remain in demand for the foreseeable future.

There’s nothing much else about other than the high flats I mentioned earlier, much space has been created presumably by those bombings, so-called urban improvement plans and wider economic forces. The kind of area tourists don’t exactly flock to, and a camera pointed at solitary buildings viewed with suspicion, a DSS snoop more likely than a bar chronicler seeking illustration to accompany his words.

So The Boundary is a good refuge from harsh late autumn winds and the fiscal realities expressed in the countenance of the surroundings. On my first visit the few afternoon customers in the pub seemed to have the same wish as me, to get out of the cold and enjoy a pint and a bit of contemplation. As good a reason as any for visiting a tavern. Though any warmth they might have gained is lost as they huddle outside the door (there is a beer garden out back beside various small business premises, but if you are only out for a couple of minutes with a roll-up, the front door is handier).

I got talking to an old bloke and he commented on how quiet things were in here, though I couldn’t work out whether he meant five or forty-five years ago. But next time I came in, on a midweek lunchtime, the place was busy with two score customers of different ages with both genders equally represented, and I thought this place was bucking the trend, turning back the clock. What’s more the clientele were smartly dressed, as if for an occasion, raising the tone of the place.

And it was an occasion all right. A wake, to be precise. So no real upturn in trade, and a sign that for some landlords even good news is bad news if you see what I mean. Anyway, two of the threes sections of the pub the public and lounge bar - were lively, with Suspicious Minds on the juke. The third section, The Boundary Late, was empty. I’ve yet to find out how late is late with regard to that section.

Added together you have a spacious pub, that’s made very few changes in décor and fittings recently, red leather seating of a 60’s/70’s vintage and a fairly old-fashioned projector screen set-up for the big games.
Despite the party beginning to hit its stride, I decided to limit my lunchtime imbibing to one drink and headed off, though not before toasting the dearly departed. And raising my glass for these three brave frontier pubs, hoping they and their like remain in the land of the living for many years to come.


  1. hey you want to try the Lovat now new Tennant food offer from 12 to 8 daily fab beer garden and upbeat staff its like a new pub but with all the history

  2. Been meaning to get back there after the change of management. Will do it soon.

  3. Such an exciting place. Aside from the corryvreckan whirlpool, there are a lot to look forward with the place.