LIBERATING FOOTBALL TRAVEL

Forfar

Bridie anyone? Only club with a pastie for a mascot

Teams, tales and tips – a guide to the local game

Forfar is close enough to Dundee for football to have developed early on – but the county town of Angus has always maintained a certain air of independence. The identity of this former textile centre is wrapped up in its scenic Strathmore valley location, in its historic links to Robert the Bruce and, of course, in a potatoless pastie revered throughout Scotland as the Forfar Bridie.

Other clubs have bulls, bears and bees as mascots – in the summer of 2016, perhaps in an effort to assuage the disappointment of yet another relegation to the lowest league tier, flagship club Forfar Athletic announced the launch of Baxter The Bridie.

The football stadium where Baxter struts his stuff during the pre-match warm-up might be called Station Park, but it’s over 50 years since the last passenger train left Forfar, the line a victim of the Beeching cuts.

Welcome to Forfar/Simone Pirastu

The closure of the namesake station and goods yard left the ground marooned in a non-descript industrial area north of the town centre. All the same, football has always been a main focus in Forfar, and the artificial pitch at Station Park is in regular use.

Organised football was first played in Forfar in the late 1870s/early 1880s, a club called Angus FC, later Angus Athletic, about whom little is known – only that their second XI split away to form Forfar Athletic in 1885. The Angus first team had joined with Forfar West End in 1883, causing the rift.

West End still exist, a Junior (ie non-League) side based at Strathmore Park on Craig O’Loch Road west of town, although they give their official foundation date as 1892, presumably after a split from Angus. They currently compete in the Junior Football East Region North, aka McBookie.com East Region North Superleague.

There was also a Forfar East End, established in 1881, who later merged with Forfar Celtic (1891) to create Forfar Albion. Based at Guthrie Park, they merged with local Lowson United to form Forfar United in 2020.

Welcome to Forfar/Simone Pirastu

Forfar Athletic, meanwhile, quickly gained the nickname of the Loons, an acknowledgement that local folk were watching a second-string outfit. In 1906, Athletic broke the Dundee/Arbroath monopoly of the Forfarshire Cup, having first won the County League crown in 1898.

Forfar gained League status in 1921 though rivalries with Dundee rivals have usually been played out in rare meetings in cup tournaments. Lower-flight dust-ups with Brechin and Montrose are more the norm, along with Arbroath.

By chance, all four were divisional rivals in League One in 2018-19, not only an eclipse-like rarity but two, including Forfar, made the Championship play-offs. Ironically, it was Arbroath who won the title, under the same Dick Campbell who had taken the Loons to three play-off ties for a place in the second tier in 2011, 2013 and 2015.

Nevertheless, longevity and tradition count for a lot in these parts – and Forfar have been based at Station Park, train or no train, since 1888.

Getting Around

Arriving in town, local transport and timings

Forfar is a rare case of a town being able to host a UK league club without any rail connection to the outside world. The nearest station is Dundee, 23km (14 miles) away – its underused airport is 34km (21 miles) from Forfar.

The nearest international airport is Edinburgh, 108km (67 miles) from Forfar. Xplore Dundee’s FLY service sets off every 90mins from stop E outside the terminal to Union Street (£16 up to 1wk before journey, £22 afterwards, journey time 80mins) in Dundee, alongside the Forum Centre stop for Forfar.

From the Forum Centre in Dundee, Stagecoach buses 20 and 21 run in tandem every 30mins (every hr eve & Sun) to Forfar’s main East High Street, journey time 35mins (£4 single). Buses then go on an extra 10mins to Tesco Side Entrance, close to Forfar’s Station Park north of town. To walk from East High Street to the ground is a steepish trek but easily doable. Stagecoach also offers a £4 DayRider ticket for travel around Forfar and surroundings.

Local RK Taxis (01307 468 000) also offer airport transfers – the going rate from Dundee is about £40.

Where to Drink

The best pubs and bars for football fans

Pubs line the town’s spinal thoroughfare, East and West High Street. Tucked away down a narrow passageway off West High Street, The Osnaburg is a convivial spot to watch the match, with a decent kitchen and traditional pub games – its history dates back to 1835. At the far end of West High Street, the West End Bar at No.121 is as cosy as it gets.

Steak pies are the main draw at the traditional Queen Street Tavern, a couple of minutes’ walk from East High Street – but decent ales also encourage a longer linger. It’s currently looking for new management.

Also on East High Street, the Old Mason’s Arms goes big on TV football and karaoke – and lays on occasional live music. Entertainment also features at the Thistle Bar, along with pool, TV sport and a courtyard beer garden, nearby at No.199. Across at No.67, more food-focused but still a fun place to drink, the Giddy Goose provides a convivial terrace for outdoor relaxation.

Where to stay

The best hotels for the ground and around town

Visit Angus has a modest amount of local hotel information.

Atholl Cottage (01307 465 755) is the nearest lodging to the ground, a smart, comfortable B&B run by a friendly couple. Rates include a Scottish breakfast. The ground is less than 10min away, heading for the nearby roundabout at Market Street, then second left up Carseview Road.

You’ll find a cluster of lodging options at the main junction of East High Street and Castle Street. The landmark, renovated Queens Hotel was a coaching inn back in the early 1800s and now offers pleasant, mid-range accommodation in nine en-suite rooms, with plasma-screen TVs, and a lively lounge bar downstairs. Close by, and a notch or two above, the Royal Hotel offers a pool, sauna, gym and restaurant.

For a sense of space, and spectacular views across the Strathmore Valley, Kinettles Castle is luxury itself, 11 superior guest rooms, Scotland’s Young Chef of the Year in the kitchen and a private wine cellar. It’s just over 4km south-west of Forfar on the A94.