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Highland hotel owner drowns sorrows over wasted beer bought for Joint Warrior troops


By John Davidson

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Hugh Morrison of the Smoo Cave Hotel in Durness who is left with barrels of excess beer after the rules changed about who could visit the bar....story Mike Merritt...pic Peter Jolly
Hugh Morrison of the Smoo Cave Hotel in Durness who is left with barrels of excess beer after the rules changed about who could visit the bar....story Mike Merritt...pic Peter Jolly

Europe's biggest war games have claimed an unusual casualty – nearly 900 pints of beer!

For a Sutherland hotelier placed a bumper booze order to cater for the scores of military that base themselves in Durness during Exercise Joint Warrior.

The nearby Cape Wrath bombing range is one of the major centres of the almost two-week long war games, which ended on October 15.

Hugh Morrison, who runs the Smoo Cave Hotel at Durness, ordered 10 kegs of beer for the thirsty sailors and troops.

The beer arrived on the second day of the war games, but three days later the Scottish Government announced new regulations that meant premises could only open indoors between 6am and 6pm, with no sale of alcohol.

Though some outdoor drinking was permitted, windswept Durness in October was not necessarily the best place to experience it!

Mr Morrison, who is also a Highland councillor for the North, West and Central Sutherland Ward, was left pouring one opened keg down the drain and is stuck with the other nine.

"To make matters worse, it is the second time I've had to do it this year, because the first of the Joint Warrior exercises was when lockdown came in [during March]. I'm still negotiating over getting my money back for them," said Mr Morrison.

Smoo Cave Hotel in Durness.
Smoo Cave Hotel in Durness.

"I bought 10 kegs this time of Orkney Gold and Coast to Coast, which the military and tourists like – but it's not the locals' favourite tipple. They like Tennents and Guinness.

"The beer has a shelf life of about three months, so I'm hoping restrictions are lifted in the Highlands next week to I can sell the beer between now and Christmas. The kegs have cost me about £1200 and it's the second time this has happened to me. The open keg I had to pour away."

With the Highlands expected to be placed in tier one yesterday, an announcement due to be made by the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon as the Northern Times was going to press, there was some hope that Mr Morrison may be able to serve the beer indoors.

"I'm not crying in my beer, literally, because it's the risk you take and there's far more serious things to worry about at the moment," he said.

"But on some nights – pre-pandemic – you would get 40 to 50 military in and they are a thirsty lot. We also had international football games coming up that we were showing on TV to help boost trade. We are just keeping our fingers crossed we can get rid of the beer before its shelf life expires.

"We are not a pub which has run out of beer – we are a pub with too much beer!"

Exercise Joint Warrior saw 11 nations taking part, bringing 28 warships, two submarines, 81 aircraft and over 6000 military personnel – including 130 ground troops – to military ranges across the country and to maritime exercise areas off the east, west and north coasts of Scotland.


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