Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Architecture’ Category

The pretty seaside town of Pittenweem sits on Scotland’s east coast, in the Kingdom of Fife.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

With its red-roofed, white-washed buildings and quiet streets, it’s a delightful place to take a stroll and relax on a sunny day.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Last year, as part of Pittenweem in Bloom, a curious selection of old bicycles appeared throughout the town.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Fisherman’s bike near the harbour.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A cheery chap with a sack of potatoes outside the church.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A bike selling eggs, although they’d all been snapped up when I walked past it.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Little red bike that had apparently just come in from a swim.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

An artist’s bike with paintbrushes sticking out of paint pots attached to the frame.

Not all of the bikes were the right way up.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Upside down bike harnessed to a tree in the main street.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A question many bicycle owners consider at some point in their lives.

And at least one little bike had jumped up above street level.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A surprisingly musical bicycle down a side street.

Pittenweem’s attractive ice cream shop had a bike secured outside the front door (you can only see the back wheel of it in the picture, I’m afraid).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
This next one had been fixed up with an unusual (if not terribly practical) set of square wheels:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

“The Flintstone Flyer”, a square wheeled oddity.

It was such a gloriously sunny day when I was snapping away at all these bikes that I felt I was somewhere considerably more exotic than the east coast of Scotland.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A moment of disorientation – have I been transported to a Spanish island?

All of this bicycle business was pretty exhausting, but luckily revitalising victuals weren’t far away.

At the excellent Cocoa Tree Cafe, I fuelled up on an exquisite chocolate cake and a pot of cardamom tea:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

My treat came with a jug of single cream and I was very pleased with the little slug that formed when I poured the cream over the cake:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

My delightful assistant sated her hunger with a cream scone:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

*   *   *   *   *

If you’re ever mooching around in the Fife area wondering how to fill your time, I heartily recommend a trip to Pittenweem.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
A walk along the sea front makes for a pleasant bit of exercise, and while you’re dondering along be sure to keep an eye out for this appealing local resident.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Read Full Post »

One of the things that repeatedly surprises me about Scotland is the number of fascinating little out of the way villages there are, sitting quietly waiting to be discovered.

The county of Fife is full of such places, and yesterday I took the delightful assistants out for a seaside adventure in search of one.

Anyone who knows the Fife coast well might already be familiar with the village of West Wemyss (pronounced Weems), but it’s the sort of place you could easily miss, being at the end of a road that leads to West Wemyss and nowhere else.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The village of West Wemyss, nestling on the Fife coast at the end of the road.

We parked in a free car park by the harbour, overlooked by some commanding buildings complete with pantiled roofs very typical of Fife coastal villages.

The cream coloured building is called the Belvedere, and was built in 1927 to serve as a miner’s institute and reading room. I would have liked to have gone inside and had a look for the books, but alas it was all closed up.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
The village of West Wemyss was a planned community, built by the landed gentry of the Wemyss Estate to house their workers.

Despite still having a few grand buildings the current village has a popluation of around 240 and I don’t imagine that these days many of them have work within West Wemyss itself.

The Wemyss family have lived in this area since around the 12th Century and in 1421 Sir John Wemyss built Wemyss Castle, which is now in a state of some disrepair.

The castle lies a short distance along the bay from the main part of the village.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Wemyss Castle hiding behind trees and a most curious wall which, viewed from afar, I thought was a long arched bridge.

I’m sure there’s a lot of interesting history attached to Wemyss Castle, far more than I’ve been able to find with a quick online search, but I did learn that much of the Wemyss family wealth was built on coal mining. I also discovered that in 1565 Mary Queen of Scots first met Lord Darnley (the chap who was to become her second husband) at Wemyss Castle.

As we walked past the castle we noticed that close to shore in the bay, stretched out on rocks, were a few fat seals.

I believe that both grey and common (or harbour) seals are found in the Firth of Forth and I really don’t know which these were, but they were satisfyingly plump and shiny.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Fat seals.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Is a shiny seal a healthy seal? I like to think so.

Just inland from the seals was a row of large concrete blocks: tank defences put there during the second world war to stop the Jerries from climbing aboard our shores.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Between the castle and the village, stuck onto an old bit of wall, were some mosaics, including one depicting two swans:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Swan mosaics stuck onto an old bit of wall by the coast.

There was a snazzy mosaic door, too, which didn’t seem to lead anywhere but looked very pretty.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Lovely mosaic door stuck into an old wall.

A plaque informed us that this artwork had come about as a collaboration between three local artists and the nearby primary school at Coaltown of Wemyss (another village along the coast). The project was supported by Fife Council and included a little picnic area:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A view that delightful assistant no.2 claims brings sorrow to his very soul – a picnic area with no picnic in sight.

Constructed in 1512, West Wemyss harbour lies at the west end of the village.

In the old days it was an important port for ships carrying coal and salt (and, somewhat unfortunately in 1590, the plague, which spread from here throughout Fife wiping out a good many of the inhabitants).

These days it provides shelter for a few fishing and pleasure craft:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

West Wemyss harbour.

Next to the harbour we spotted a beautifully weathered building with a few bricks set into the surrounding stonework. It looked to me like a work of art.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Interesting textures created by wind and weather, nicely contrasting with a bit of brickwork.

Having enjoyed a bracing walk along the coast with a cold wind blowing rain into our faces, we were ready for sustenance and plunged into the West Wemyss Walk Inn Cafe.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The West Wemyss Walk Inn – the cafe inside is run by a combination of paid staff and volunteers, and jolly good it is, too.

It was lovely to get inside out of the wind and rain, and settle down in the warm cafe to peruse the menu.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Inside the West Wemyss Walk Inn Cafe – cosy and welcoming.

I opted for the soup of the day, which was cream of tomato and came with a roll and – delightfully – a cheese and chilli stick covered in sesame seeds:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Outstandingly good soup with bready snacks on the side.

Not having been there before I wasn’t sure what to expect, but am delighted to report that it was exceptionally good soup and a very nice little stick and roll. The soup tasted of fresh tomatoes and cream, it was thick and delicious and, I’m quite sure, the best tomato soup I’ve ever tasted.

Delightful assistant no.1 went for fish and chips, which came with a side order of bread and butter.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Battered fish with chips, peas, bread and butter. Carbohydrates covered.

Delightful assistant no.2 chose one of his favourite toasted sandwiches, a brie and cranberry panini, which came with a fresh side salad and a few crisps:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Brie and cranberry panini with salad and crisps.

We all had tea to drink, and a free refill of the teapot. Everything we had was just the job to warm us up and make us feel contented.

The cakes on offer were freshly baked in the kitchen upstairs and looked very tempting, but we all felt too full to have anything straight after our savouries, so we’ll save that treat for another occasion.

On the windowsill next to where I was sitting there was a small Christmas tree made from driftwood and decorated with fairy lights.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Driftwood tree at West Wemyss Walk Inn Cafe.

Behind the tree there was a framed certificate that made me happy; it declared that in 2013 West Wemyss had won a Silver award in Beautiful Scotland’s ‘Wee Village’ category.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

An award in the Wee Village category for the West Wemyss Bloomers, 2013.

I’m not surprised that West Wemyss has won such an award and I intend to revist later in the year when there are more blooms to be seen. Even on a dull, damp January day there were bright colours dotted about to cheer us up and make us glad we’d taken the little dead end road down to the coast.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Bright colours to cheer a dull day in West Wemyss.

Read Full Post »

Nestling quietly down a back street in the small town of Blair Atholl in Perthshire there sits an interesting old stone building.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Blair Atholl Watermill: a building housing unexpected delights.

A watermill was first sited at this spot in the 1590s and more than 420 years later it’s being used for the same purpose -viz. the milling of cereals. The current building dates to around 1830:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Blair Atholl Watermill: a robust construction looking tip-top at 180 years old.

Production stopped in the late 1920s, but after renovation work in the 1970s the mill was up and running again, and is now producing a range of flours and oatmeal, all stoneground in the traditional fashion.

Most wonderfully of all, Blair Atholl Watermill has a tearoom:

P1110172

The rustic interior of Blair Atholl Watermill’s tearoom, housed in what was once the kiln drying floor.

Yesterday afternoon I found myself there, along with various family members, for afternoon refreshments.

There were a number of tempting looking cakes on offer, and after some deliberation I dived headlong into a slice of chocolate cake:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Chocolate cake with creamy looking icing.

I’m sometimes a bit wary of icing, since it can be very sweet and sickly, but to my utter delight, the icing on this cake was a sort of creamy fluffy chocolatey mousse, light and airy and almost like a pudding in itself.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Two puddings rolled into one: cake with mousse on top.

Had I not gone for the chocolate cake, I would probably have plumped for a fruit scone, which was what my brother had:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I have had a fruit scone here before, and what I particularly remember about it is the lustrous blackcurrant jam it came with.

Thankfully I have a visual record of it:

P1110176

Glossy blackcurrant jam glistening atop a fruit scone.

My mum had a slice of Victoria sponge, which appeared to have been made with some wholemeal flour or perhaps brown sugar, or both, and was devoid of decoration but pleasingly tall:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Large and upright: a decent sized slice of Victoria sponge.

My dad chose the carrot cake which, like my chocolate cake, was topped with a creamy looking wodge of icing:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Carrot cake topped with a thick layer of creamy icing.

My sister had a piece of tiffin (a chocolatey biscuity traybake) but I’m sorry to say the picture I took of it is rather out of focus. Instead, let me show you the magnificent latte with which I slooshed down my cake (the tiffin can be glimpsed peeking out in the background to the right, behind the latte):

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A fine latte filled beyond the brim.

One thing I like when it comes to a hot beverage is a decent full cup, and the Blair Atholl Watermill scored top marks in that department.

My latte had a noble bearing, knightly one might say. I imagined it having begun life on its knees, so to speak, when the coffee was put into the glass, and risen to stand proud when filled up with milk and capped with foam. The barista invested it with a flourish of chocolate sprinkles, the insignia of the Order of Coffee Toppings. I may be getting a bit carried away here, but it was a very fine beverage.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Arise, Sir Latte.

Had the weather been different, it might have been nice to sit out in the tea garden, but alas it was a trifle dampish:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Tea Garden: a little too damp for al fresco dining.

A railway line runs through Blair Atholl, and to get to and from the Watermill you have to cross it. Although I always hope to see a train, I tend to be a bit nervous about driving across railway lines, in case there’s a fault with the lights and a train’s coming but you’re not alerted to the fact:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Blair Atholl railway crossing.

Last time I was there, on the other side of the crossing, the lights came on and a train whizzed past.

P1110182

Barriers down and lights flashing at Blair Atholl railway crossing.

P1110184

A train whizzing through Blair Atholl, I was very glad the barriers had come down.

Yesterday, the nearby railway bridge was looking attractive with autumnal colours in the trees and mist rolling across the hillside:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Autumn colours at Blair Atholl railway bridge.

If you’re thinking of visiting Blair Atholl this year, and hoping for tasty bites at the Watermill, you’ll need to be quick because it closes for the season at the end of this month.

Read Full Post »

Following on from my previous post, my delightful assistant and I escaped the claustrophobic atmosphere of the tapestry viewing area and legged it upstairs to the relative calm of the Scottish Parliament’s Debating Chamber.

As we made our way through the building we were struck by the very angular architecture, which made me think of those mindboggling drawings by Dutch artist, M C Escher:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Had we been visiting on a different day of the week, the Debating Chamber might have been full of MSPs (Members of the Scottish Parliament), but we were there on a Monday, which is one of the days when the Parliament doesn’t sit. On the down side, it meant we couldn’t attend a debate, but on the up side it meant we could wander around freely.

I’ve often seen pictures of the Chamber on TV but I wasn’t quite prepared for the scale of it. It was vast and airy, and delightfully free of milling bodies, in contrast to the downstairs lobby:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Small assistant in a large Chamber.

One of the remarkable things about the Chamber is the absence of supporting columns for the enormous ceiling. Instead, there are reinforced steel and laminated oak beams spanning the area. The beams are held in place by 112 steel joints, each one made to fit the unique angles at its point in the structure.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

There are 131 seats and desks, laid out in a semi-circular arrangement to avoid the sort of confrontational style of debate that can be seen, for example, in the Chamber of the House of Commons in London.

The desks are made of oak and sycamore and over 60 of the MSPs’ seats are wheelchair accessible. My dad thought the desks looked as if each one had a pair of trousers laid over the back of it (the Presiding Officer and her clerks sit at the big desk at the front):

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Can you spot the ‘trousers’ adorning the desks?

While we were strolling around a tour came in and I overheard some of what the tour guide was saying (you can book to go on a tour of the building for free but there were no spaces available while we were there).

She pointed out the clocks that are placed at strategic points throughout the Chamber, explaining that some of them show the time and others show how long the current speaker has been talking for.

Speaking time for individual MSPs is limited, and each desk is fitted up with a microphone. The microphone is turned on when it’s a speaker’s time to talk, and abruptly turned off when their time has run out. I imagine that speaking for the exact amount of allotted time is quite a skill, and once honed could prove useful for radio interviews:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Above the MSPs, a semi-circular gallery seats 225 members of the public, 18 invited guests and 34 members of the media. The tour guide mentioned that this constitutes a larger public gallery than you will find in any other parliamentary building in Europe.

We rested our weary bones by trying out the seats and I thought they were remarkably comfortable. I could well imagine attending a debate here and nodding off in the sunshine flooding through the huge windows:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Talking of windows, there’s a lot of natural light in the Chamber. There were no artificial lights on when we visited and it was a dull day, but the room was very bright.

Fine views were to be had out to the old Palace of Holyrood across the road, and up to the local hill, Arthur’s Seat, and the Queen’s Park:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

View out to Arthur’s Seat, with turf roofed area of the Parliament Building in the foreground. The white building you can see at the back on the right of this picture is part of the Our Dynamic Earth exhibition, well worth a visit if you’re loafing around Edinburgh mulling over the amazing processes involved in the creation of this planet and wondering where you might learn more.

The vision of the building’s architect, Enric Miralles (who sadly died before it was inaugurated), included landscaping around the building to make it look as if it was part of the natural environment. This included laying turf on the roofs and planting Scottish wild flowers around the grounds.

He also chose to plant the same sorts of trees as are found in the grounds of Holyrood Palace across the road, in addition to planting rowan trees, because they’re traditionally regarded as a symbol of good fortune.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

View from the Debating Chamber across to the Palace of Holyrood, the Queen’s official residence in Scotland.

When we’d had our fill of sitting around in the Chamber, we got up to leave and both reported feeling somewhat dizzy.  Whether this was due to sitting up in the gallery looking down or, as I think more likely, having our brains confused by all the hard lines and angles in the building, I don’t know but we were both relieved to get back outside into the fresh air.

Outside, there were giant twiglets stuck to some of the walls. Perhaps noticing these on our way in explains the curious yearning I had for salty snacks during the visit:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Giant twiglets at the Scottish Parliament.

Embedded into part of the outside wall we found a number of large panels filled with quotations. Some of these were from poets or writers, and others were from the Bible or anonymous sayings. They seemed to me to be rather a strange collection, including Scots and Gaelic as well as English:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

If you fancy visiting the Parliament yourself, it’s open from Monday to Saturday, and if you want to go on a tour I would recommend booking in advance.

There’s a cafe (which we didn’t patronise, on this occasion) and a shop, and perhaps most surprising of all, a free creche. You can deposit your offspring there for up to four hours while you visit the Parliament. It’s apparenty the only facility of its kind in Europe, and sounds like a good idea to me.

Read Full Post »

A couple of weeks ago my dad and I trotted off to Edinburgh to see the world’s longest tapestry and have a mooch round the Scottish Parliament building, where the tapestry was on display.

Such an expedition required sustenance, and we called in at Mimi’s Bakehouse in Leith en route for energy giving morsels:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Delightful assistant no.2 making himself at home in the plush surroundings of Mimi’s Bakehouse.

The delightful assistant ordered a cappuccino and a plain scone:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A plain scone at Mimi’s: imagine a scone of normal proportions and then double it to get an approximation of the size of this gargantuan delight.

I went for tea and a fruit scone:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Large dishes of butter and jam next to an outsize scone, all very satisfactory.

To my surprise the fruit scone was highly spiced, and extraordinarily fluffy inside:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Spiced fruity fluffiness inside a Mimi’s scone.

Although the fruit scone was remarkably good, the plain scone really took the biscuit, so to speak.

Not only was it inordinately fluffy but it was also immensely buttery and melted in the mouth. The texture was that of a perfect scone but the taste was more like that of a croissant:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Mimi’s plain scone of immense butteriness, I think of it now as a croisscone.

The plain scone was so good that not only were we completely enchanted by it during our time at Mimi’s, but it kept coming up in conversation at various points throughout the day.

It was a Scone Great, the sort of scone that, if there were Royal decorations for baked goods, would be in line for a Knighthood.

Having thoroughly enjoyed our comestibles, we scooted up into the old town of Edinburgh. Our destination was Holyrood, where a very modern sort of building sits directly across the road from a more aged one:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The modern: Scottish Parliament building, opened in 2004.
Although it looks like concrete the facing is in fact made from granite, purchased from an Aberdeenshire quarry at considerable expense.  Initial estimates for the building’s construction were between £10 million and £40 milllion but the ultimate price tag sat at a whopping £414 million. Despite this, and the fact that construction took longer than anticipated, it has won numerous architectural awards. I don’t know why there are giant haidryers stuck to it.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The aged: gateway into Holyrood Palace, the Queen’s official residence in Scotland.
Building began here in 1128 but most of what can be seen today dates to the 16th and 17th centuries.

I had only once before been to the Parliament building, some years ago, and at that time it was possible to simply walk in off the street.

On our recent visit, there was a police presence outside the entrance (just one lone policeman, but I daresay he could summon others pretty quickly if required):

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Entrance to the Scottish Parliament building, complete with strolling policeman.

Inside, we had to queue up in an airport-style security area where our bags, jackets, belts, phones, etc. went into boxes and through a scanner, while we passed through one of those full body scanner doorway things. The staff on duty were wearing bulletproof vests:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Tightened security at the Scottish Parliament building.

Once safely inside with guns left at the door for collection on the way out (just kidding), we made our way into the main hall where the massive tapestry was on display.

It was hung in sections and there were lots of people milling about inspecting the stitching.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The tapestry is a highly educational creation, as well as being a work of art. Prior to visiting the exhibition, I had no idea there had been a false alarm threat of Napoleonic invasion on my birthday in 1801:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

One of the many panels in Scotland’s Tapestry. The whole thing is 143 metres long, more than twice as long as the Bayeux Tapestry.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Detail from the Napoleonic Threat panel; each panel took at least 500 hours to complete.

It was so busy in the hall that after a short time we toddled off upstairs to look at the Parliament’s Debating Chamber. It’s rather a splendid place and I’ll post about it separately.

In the meantime, here’s one last detail from the tapestry, showing a Scottish soldier fittingly togged up in tartan garb:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Read Full Post »

During a country walk a few days ago I happened upon a peculiarly shaped ash tree.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Peculiarly shaped ash tree, with two ‘legs’

It reminded me of a giraffe.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

As ash tree that looks like a giraffe.

Read Full Post »

There is a rather wonderful tearoom in Edinburgh called Eteaket.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I had been wanting to visit this place for ages and I finally got round to it a couple of weeks ago when I popped down to the city.

A chum and I were lunching there, and although I was looking forward to my grub I found it hard to give my attention to the food menu because the tea menu stole the show.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

When the waitress came to take our order I think she mistook my delight for confusion when I told her that I was spoilt for choice and not sure which tea to go for.

She was keen to help and asked me what sort of tea I liked so that she could offer some suggestions, but my answer (‘I like all these teas’) probably didn’t assist her much. In any case, I had already whittled down my options to a handful and was simply trying to choose between these.

Under a little pressure from the helpful waitress (who was in fact providing a very useful service) I jumped to the quick conclusion that it was their Bollywood Dreams Chai I was after.

It was delivered to the table in a yellow teapot, while my chum’s choice of Awesome Assam came in a red one:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The little egg timer that came with the teas told us when a 3 minute steeping time was up. Being desirous of a strong cup, I left it a little longer and shoogled my tealeaves about a bit before pouring.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I’ve tried quite a few versions of what they call chai tea in the UK, i.e. a black tea with various spices such as cardamom, black pepper, cloves and ginger added to it, but I don’t think I’ve ever had such a full bodied and complex-flavoured one as Eteaket’s Bollywood Dreams.

Chai tea, as I first came to know it in Pakistan, was a thick, creamy and usually very sweet concotion. The whole caboodle was boiled up together: black tea, buffalo milk, sugar and all the spices that went into it. It was like the Guinness of teas, a veritable meal in itself.

I took the Bollywood Dreams chai black with no sugar to start off with, to see how I liked it. I liked it so much that way that I didn’t even try adding milk or sugar, and drank the whole pot black and invigorating.

To munch alongside my tea, I chose a cheese and tomato croissant.

I had in my mind a fluffy French pastry, puffed up with air, crisp on the outside and stretchy and delicious inside, with a nice bit of cheese and some tomato resting gently inside.

Much to my amusement, what arrived looked as if it had slipped onto the kitchen floor and been trodden on by a large boot:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This was infintely more exciting than what I had been anticipating. I’m extremely partial to a toastie, and a toasted croissant, no matter how flat, was an unexpected highlight.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I wish I had a photograph of the flattest toastie I’ve ever had, which was a sheer joy I experienced once at Dawyck Botanic Gardens. It made this croissant look like a balloon by comparison.

On tasting, I discovered that my squashed croissant was utterly delicious, and the salady items it was served up with were tip-top. I was particularly pleased with the couscous which came as plain little grains in a mound with nothing else in it.

My companion had a cheese and ham sandwich, which came untoasted but with the same sorts of salady accoutrements:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Having devoured a chocolate and almond scone before lunch and then filled up nicely with the flat croissant, I didn’t indulge in a sweet treat at Eteaket. My comrade did, however, succumb to a cream scone, which I wished I had room for. The cream and jam came in little jars packed to the gunwales:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Devonshire method was employed: cream first, with jam on top:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Somehow or other I managed not to even taste this scone. Despite being offered a bite more than once, I persisted in declining the kind offer. I was told it was exceptionally good and looking at the photographs now I find myself questioning my decision. However, being of the general opinion that hanging onto regrets serves little purpose, I have been endeavouring to accept it and move on.

One thing I like to see in bathrooms is a spare loo roll or two, and I was delighted to note that the Ladies’ facility at Eteaket was very well equipped:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

My chum wanted to pop into the Lyon & Turnbull auction rooms to have a look at a paperweight he was thinking of buying, and so we trotted down there after lunch, passing some of Edinburgh’s beautiful Georgian architecture on the way.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

One of the items on display in the auction house was an enormous stuffed white dog in a glass case, and there were several media people there with a real live dog, trying to get the real dog to look at the stuffed one.

Try as they might, tempting the dog with treats, things suspended above the glass case, etc. the little dog seemed interested in looking everywhere but at the stuffed dog.

By sheer chance, I happened to lift my camera and snap a picture at the exact moment the small dog complied with their wishes. My picture was zoomed in from the other side of the room so it’s a bit fuzzy and not the best of compositions, but this appeared to be the only occasion on which the wee one looked at the big one. I trust the photographers were pressing their buttons at the vital moment.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Read Full Post »

One day last week the weather forecast showed the whole of Scotland under cloud apart from one little triangle in the Aberdeenshire/Banffshire area on the east coast.

Chasing forecasts often proves a futile business in this country, but as it happens on this occasion the forecasters got it bang on.

Delightful assistant no.1 and I hopped into the motor and sped off in the right direction, stopping en route at the splendid Balmakewan, where we partook of light refreshments.

A flat white with coffee and walnut cake for my delightful assistant:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Imagine sinking your teeth into an extremely light, soft and delicious coffee sponge cake with unbelievably fluffy icing that melts as soon as it hits the tongue, and you’re part of the way to having the Balmakewan coffee walnut cake experience.

I had a very hard time choosing what to have, as Balmakewan always has a painfully extensive selection of delectable goodies on offer, but in the end I plumped for this coconut affair with blueberries and raspberries through it, accompanied by a first class decaf flat white:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We decided to share these two items and while the coconut cakey thing was certainly very palatable, we agreed that the coffee walnut cake was outstandingly good.  I’m sure I’ve never had fluffier butter icing in any cake.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A delicious duo with first class flat whites to wash them down with.

We left Balmakewan feeling that our day had got off to an excellent start. The weather was not particularly good but we had high hopes for our destination.

Around about lunchtime we reached the twin towns of Banff and Macduff, which lie on the Moray coast, and headed for Duff House.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Duff House is a rather magnificent Georgian building designed by William Adam in the 1730s:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Today it’s used by the National Galleries of Scotland to house some of their artworks, with the building being maintained by Historic Scotland and Aberdeenshire Council, but it was originally built by a chap called William Duff (aka Lord Braco, later 1st Earl of Fife).

William Duff had a large family, and even though the side wings Adam designed were never built, I expect the 50 rooms they ended up with were quite sufficient.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Room for a small one?

I thought the building had many lovely features, but the curving staircases at the front were a particular favourite:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Due to a broken pelvis that continues to heal slowly, going round the inside of the house with all its floors and stairs wasn’t really possible for my delightful assistant, but there was one area of the building she was very capabale of reaching.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A sign to gladden the heart – tasty morsels this way!

Inside, the tearoom had the same sort of feel I’ve noticed in other National Gallery tearooms, being light, airy and tastefully decorated. The history of Duff House was written up on the wall in a timeline with photographs, which made for interesting reading.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The menu was not extensive, nor did it cater particularly well for vegetarians, but there were various sandwiches to be had and I opted for egg while my delightful assistant went for tuna. I’m pleased to say that the sandwich far exceeded my expectations, being freshly made on very tasty brown bread and served with a delightful little carrot salad.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

One very nice surprise was that there was ‘proper’ tea, by way of leaf tea popped into long teabags of the sort that appear to be getting more popular in Scotland’s tearooms.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We ordered a pot of Assam and a pot of Darjeeling and they were both tip-top. I often find I’m squeezing out the last cup from a teapot when I take tea, but in this case I had to leave some as there was so much to begin with (I managed three cupfuls):

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I don’t take sugar, but I liked the way it was served at Duff House, in a little kilner jar with lid (no flies landing on these lumps) and tongs on the side (hygenically encouraging people not to dive in with their dirty great mitts):

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The facilities at Duff House were another fine feature of the building, being nicely tiled in green and white with pull chain cisterns above the loos:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

After lunch we waved goodbye to Duff House and made our way along the coast to have a look at the two little villages of Gardenstown and Crovie, but I’ll save those for another post.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Read Full Post »

As promised in my last post, I am about to present you with several skulls and a host of cherubs.

They were found in Glamis churchyard, a most interesting and slightly spooky place, even in broad daylight.

Before any of that, however, I would like to make up for not including any edible treats in my last post and am starting off here with a pavlova I made for pudding not so long ago.

Pavlova

Pavlova made with brown sugar meringue, whipped cream, strawberries and blueberries.

Back to the graveyard, and several skulls:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This skull was skulking at the foot of a headstone.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This one, complete with crossbones beneath, has been embedded into the wall outside the graveyard. I don’t know what it’s doing there or where it came from.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The skull projects quite spectacularly from the wall.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I found gazing into the emtpy stone eye sockets slightly disconcerting.

Another skull at the foot of a most elaborately decorated headstone:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A skull at the bottom and a cheery cherub up the top, with Masonic symbols in the middle and Corinthian pillars either side = a headstone and a half.

There seems to be something of a skull theme going on in Glamis.

In the nearby Glamis Castle, childhood home of the Queen Mother and well worth a visit if you’re ever in the area, there is said to be a Room of Skulls.

This room, now walled up, tells a particularly nasty tale. It contains the remains of the Ogilvie family, who came to Glamis in the 15th Century seeking protection from their enemies. Instead of being welcomed and well treated by the castle inmates, they were put into a chamber and left there to await their demise.

On a cheerier note, how about some cherubs?

There were lots of them in Glamis churchyard, each with its own character and expression.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Last one (there were more but I realise I’m already pushing my luck):

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The day I visited this graveyard, and the one in the previous post, was a day on which I had very little appetite due to feeling a bit under the weather.

My delightful assistant and I did partake of a little luncheon between graveyards, but I wasn’t in the mood for photographing it and in any case the interior of the cafe we had it in wasn’t conducive to photography, being rather dark.

However, I’m pleased to say that I have since indulged in a number of small treats, including a piece of deliciously moist gingerbread at the excellent Caoldair Coffee Shop near Laggan:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Delicious gingerbread with a mug of Darjeeling tea. The gingerbread had occasional nuggets of crystalised ginger in it, making it even more exciting.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

An arresting sign on the road just before Caoldair.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Outdoor seating at Caoldair (there are tables inside, too).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Part of the interior at Caoldair, with all manner of things for sale including clothing, pottery, toiletries, cards and toys.

By the way, if you liked the look of the pavlova at the top of this post you might be interested to know that it’s been made into a note card and is available for puchase on Etsy, here, along with several other teatime-related cards, including the photo from the front of my Tearoom Delights book:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

You might recall that I put four of my other cards for sale on ebay to see if they would sell in an auction. They didn’t sell there, but I have sold a few on Etsy, so thank you very much to my lovely customers.

Read Full Post »

Needing a change of scene yesterday, I whisked delightful assistant no.1 off to the peaceful countryside of Angus.

It was a muggy sort of day, not cold, but not sunny; the sort of day when, if feeling slightly out of sorts or under the weather, refreshment could be gained from a slow amble around quiet places.

En route to a lunch stop, we were diverted by a nice little church with an interesting looking graveyard:

Carmyllie Parish Church, originally built in 1609 (various alterations and additions have been made since). Inside, there’s said to be a pew dating back to 1657 but the building was locked so we couldn’t get in to take a peek.

There were some splendid gravestones to be seen, several of which had an agricultural theme.

This one, as well as having the most impressive stone carved rope I think I’ve ever seen on a headstone, had the motto, “We plow in hope”:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Over 200 years old and still very clear.

Not all of the headstones were in quite such good nick, but this one from 1799 possessed unusual shaping across the top:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A headstone inspired by a bat? That’s what the little peaks at the top made me think of.

It also had an open pair of scissors  and what looked like an iron carved into one side. The burial spot of a tailor, perhaps?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I couldn’t make out a date on this next one, but I would guess it was erected in the late 1700s. It had some notable features:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Near the top there was a little sort of tableau featuring a lady in the centre with an angel or cherub on either side of her:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The little chap on the right appears to be flying, while the little chap on the left appears to be affecting a teapot-like pose.

I thought she was wearing a crown, and there certainly was something above her head that seemed to be the right sort of shape, but beneath that and encircling her head there was what could have been a halo. She was cradling an infant, although whether or not said infant also had a halo was hard to tell. This wasn’t a Roman Catholic graveyard and so I think it unlikely that the lady pictured was the Blessed Virgin, but perhaps she was, or maybe the headstone marked the burial place of a mother who died along with her small child. Unfortunately, I was unable to decipher the inscription beneath the picture.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

In any case, she looked serene:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Some of the stones featured fancy swirls and flourishes, like the one on the left of the picture below:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And one was bedecked with magnificently carved foliage:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Fabulous foliage on a carved stone cross at Carmyllie Parish Church.

As it turned out, this was only the first of two fascinating graveyards visited yesterday.

If you think you can stomach another post along the same lines, tune in next time for several skulls and a host of cherubs.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,672 other followers

%d bloggers like this: