THREE centuries together and still going strong? Seemingly not.

Yesterday marked the 300th anniversary of the ratification of the Act of Union between Scotland and England, so The Diary was intrigued to find out whether the people of York had been celebrating unification with our northern friends.

Where better to try than The Whisky Shop in Coppergate Walk, a veritable Aladdin's Cave of all that's best about Caledonia?

Alas, the staff member we spoke to revealed they do not seem to have been inundated by nostalgic unionists. He said: "We have had one guy in spending more than £100 on a couple of limited editions, but apart from that it's generally quiet at the moment."

At least they're happier than The Press's Edinburgh-born political reporter Gavin Aitchison, who has been cursing whichever Guildhall officer arranged a full council meeting for next Thursday - Burns Night. Denied the chance to celebrate his national bard, Gavin is now threatening to turn up in full Highland regalia in protest.

YORK is famed for not only the excellence of its myriad boozers, but also the quality of the real ales on tap across the city.

Now a pub in the city has won a top quality mark for its beer, along with its sister pubs across the Yorkshire region.

All ten outlets owned by Knaresborough-based Market Town Taverns have been handed the Cask Marque, which recognises quality of presentation for hand-pulled pints.

Assessors from Cask Marque carried out inspections at each of its pubs, including Brigantes, in Micklegate, York, the Old Bell Tavern, in Harrogate, Tithe Bar and Brasserie, in Northallerton, and the Muse, Wetherby. The inspectors carefully checked all the beers on sale for their appearance, temperature, aroma and taste.

Annabel Smith, from Cask Marque, said: "Achieving Cask Marque accreditation in one pub is a challenge in itself. But to repeat those high standards across all ten outlets is simply outstanding."

Simon Midgley, operations manager for Market Town Taverns, said: "We pride ourselves on offering top quality beer and ensure all our beer handlers are properly trained."

Our picture (above) shows Annabel, Simon, and Paul Theakston, managing director of North Yorkshire-based Black Sheep Brewery, on the right, carrying out a quality test.

As well as Cask Marque accreditation, three Market Town bars have featured as Campaign For Real Ale (CAMRA) Branch Pubs of the Year, and eight as CAMRA Pubs of the Season. Here at The Diary, we'll drink to that.