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Archive for the ‘Dumfries and Galloway’ Category

Occasionally a tearoom grabs your attention from outside but inside it disappoints.

Sometimes it happens the other way round, and that was exactly my experience at the Pilgrim Tearoom in Whithorn.

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Whithorn’s Pilgrim Tearoom – not, to me at least, an attractive frontage

During a recent soujourn to Dumfries and Galloway, my delightful assistants persuaded me to take morning refreshments in the Pilgrim Tearoom, a place I’m afraid to say I had previously dismissed as lacking appeal.

I mention this merely to explain my thinking, but I suspect a large part of the problem lay in the grey painted window surrounds, which struck me as dull and drab. Also, the blue sign above the tearoom seemed to me to clash with the local stone.

The delightful assistants, however, had not been put off by any of this and had visited on a number of occasions. Having found it to be very good, they were keen for me to overcome my prejudices.

The Pilgrim Tearoom is attached to an archaeological exhibition called The Whithorn Story, which is all about early Christianity in Scotland. It’s a place I feel I should have visited by now, but I’m afraid other distractions are always too plentiful during my visits to Galloway.

When we arrived I was in fairly desperate need of a scone. There were two options available, one of them being treacle (I forget what the other one was but it was either plain or fruit).

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Treacle scone at the Pilgrim Tearoom, Whithorn

I eschewed my usual mid-morning beverage and dived into a hot chocolate. I took this option because it was described in the menu as Fairtrade, and every other time I’ve had Fairtrade hot chocolate it’s been very good.

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Fairtrade hot chocolate at the Pilgrim Tearoom, Whithorn.

The scone was wonderfully treacley and the hot chocolate was tip-top, not too sweet but chocolately and delicious.

The delightful assistants also had scones, with coffee to accompany them, and then we trotted off for a walk at nearby Monreith beach to work up our appetites for luncheon.

We hadn’t decided where to go for lunch, but after the success of morning snacks at the Pilgrim Tearoom we opted to tootle back there.

I was encouraged by the wording on the front of the menu:

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An encouraging menu at the Pilgrim Tearoom.

The menu included a surprisingly good choice for vegetarians and although there were several things I fancied, I plumped for the lentil soup, which delightful assistant no.1 had too:

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Lentil soup – the menu stated: “All of our soups and are homemade and suitable for vegetarians. If you really like the recipe ask the staff for a copy.”

The waitress was apologetic about the lack of brown bread and asked if white was acceptable. My delightful assistant said it was, but I asked if I might be allowed to have oatcakes instead (I had noticed that some items on the menu came with homemade oatcakes).

I was very pleased with my choice, the oatcakes were excellent:

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Delicious homemade oatcakes nestling alongside bread in a little basket.

Delightful assistant no.2 chose a dish unique to the Pilgrim Tearoom (at least, I haven’t seen anything quite like it elsewhere). It was a take on the classic Scottish dish, stovies.

I forget the details now but I seem to recall it included haggis, and the mashed potato on top had spring onions through it. He enjoyed it greatly:

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Stovies with accoutrements.

There were several puddingy choices that appealed to me but, being in the neighbourhood of a first rate ice cream producer (Cream o’ Galloway), we all went for a little pot of local ice cream.

Delightful assistant no.2 got the tearoom’s sole remaining pot of Honeycomb and Choc Chip:

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Delighful assistant no.1 and I went for the Real Raspberry, a flavour I’d had before and enjoyed. One of the things that often prevents me from choosing ice cream is that it’s so cold. Teaming it up with a nice hot cup of tea, however, makes it a far more appetising prospect in my book:

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Raspberry ice cream with a nice cup of tea.

On many previous visits to Galloway I’ve driven through Whithorn and not stopped at the Pilgrim Tearoom, because of my unfounded fears that it would be a disappointment.

I now know, having been forced to get beyond what I considered an uninviting exterior, that it is well worth a visit for snacks or a tasty luncheon.

I hope I’ve learned a lesson from this experience, not to judge a tearoom by its exterior, although I confess I’ve had a similar experience elsewhere and apparently didn’t learn the lesson. Still, one can be a slow learner but get there in the end.

If you’re ever in the vicinity of Whithorn looking for a nice place to park yourself for refreshments, I would wholeheartedly recommend the Pilgrim Tearoom. In addition to the food and drink being of a high standard, they seem remarkably considerate and keen to make your visit enjoyable, as shown by the wording on the back of their menu:

“We wish to make your stay in Whithorn as pleasant as possible. Should you have any requests or requirements please ask a member of staff, i.e. baby food warming, colouring sheets for children, information about the area.”

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I was interviewed by a local newspaper yesterday about my “Tearoom Delights” book and one of the questions I was asked was ‘What is your favourite tearoom?’

Although I found this an extremely difficult question to answer, one particular tearoom popped straight into my head. It wasn’t, however, a local tearoom, so I gave her my second favourite instead.

I’ve written about my favourite tearoom before but I when I visited recently there was a new sign in the window:

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The sign reads: “Awarded Best Tearoom in Dumfries and Galloway 2012″

My first thought when I saw this was, ‘indeed, but why limit the area to Dumfries and Galloway?’ If I had my way I’d scrub out the “Dumfries and Galloway” bit and put “Scotland”.

My pictures might encourage you or put you off depending on your tastes, but what they can’t properly convey is the wonderful atmosphere this tearoom has, and the delightfulness of the staff, not to mention the magnificence of the food and drink.

Without further ado, this is the place I’m raving about, Kitty’s Tearoom in New Galloway:

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The last time I did a post about Kitty’s I mentioned that the proprietress was about to hang up her apron and retire after a long and very worthwhile career running this marvellous tearoom. I believe the tearoom is still up for sale, and my hope is that a suitable person will buy it and continue to run it to the same high standards (one wonders if this is possible).

Thankfully, when the delightful assistants and I visited last week, everything was still as normal: tip top and tickety boo.

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The polished wood inside Kitty’s came from an old ship at nearby Palnackie Harbour and has been very nicely incorporated into the building.

En route to Kitty’s I had been dreaming about the Fat Naan, a naan bread stuffed with curried vegetables, but when we arrived for lunch I discovered that one of the daily specials was asparagus quiche, which was extremely tempting. I’ve had Kitty’s quiche before and it was truly outstanding, but on this occasion I was all geared up for the Fat Naan, so Fat Naan it was:

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Vegetable Fat Naan

Delightful assistant no.1 went for a salad, which you might think would be a light option, but it fairly filled her up. I wasn’t surprised after seeing the size of it:

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Delightful assistant no.2 succumbed to the quiche, which I was pleased about as it meant I got to try a little. It was every bit as good as I’d imagined it’d be. If only I’d had room for two lunches.

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Drinkswise, the assistants had water and lemonade, and I had rose petal tea, which was pleasantly fragrant and served in a magnificently decorative silver teapot:

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With a beautiful hand painted teacup and saucer:

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Going to Kitty’s and not having a cake is akin to visiting Edinburgh city centre and failing to notice the castle. However, we were so full of our main courses that we needed a little stroll first, so we mentioned to the staff that this was our plan and off we tootled for a bit of exercise.

Delightful assistant no.2 was more in favour of snoozing off his first course, so delightful assistant no.1 and I left him in the car while we walked along a very quiet little road. The weather was murky with some light rain but fine for walking.

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Revived and ready for course no.2, we scooted back to Kitty’s and settled down to consider the cakes.

After considerable deliberation we made our choices. Delightful assistant no.1 went for a special of the day: Scarlett’s secret, a splendid concoction of strawberries and cream:

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Scarlett’s Secret – more of a mousse than a cake: very fruity and very creamy. This cake would have been ideal for the toothless consumer; once the confection was in the mouth nature did the rest, the thing positively melted and disappeared with no effort whatsoever.

Delightful assistant no.2 opted for Vicar’s Vice, a Victoria sponge very generously filled with whipped cream (that, I imagine, may have been what swayed it for him):

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Vicar’s Vice – an excellent choice for the clergyman and layperson alike

These two cakes were not the only temptations, there was a whole cabinet full of them, and deciding what to have wasn’t easy. I chose what could be considered an unadventurous option, but there was nothing dowdy about it – a plain scone with jam and cream:

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A scone with jam and cream – simple but superb.

Our sweet treats were washed down with leaf tea, Ceylon for delightful assistant no.2 and English Breakfast for delightful assistant no.1 and me. The English Breakfast came in a large and beautifully bulgous* silver teapot:

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The cream and jam were plentiful enough for me to ladle them on generously:

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In fact, both were so abundant that I felt compelled to layer them:

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Which led to the consumption or rather a lot of good strong tea:

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While we were sitting there in Kitty’s lovely tearoom, I made a remark about how I felt. Just before I left I thought it might be nice to put the comment into their visitors’ book. I may not have it verbatim but it was along the lines of “Every time I come here it feels like one of the best days of my life”. Quite true.

*a perfectly good word that ought to be in the dictionary as a hybrid of bulging and bulbous

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Last week I tootled off to Scotland’s peaceful south-west with the delightful assistants for a little holiday.

Purely for scientific reasons (although what they were I couldn’t say), I gave myself the challenge of having a scone in a different tearoom every day. What follows is the photographic evidence of my work.

On our way south, we stopped at Le Jardin Cafe near Kinross. There was an excellent choice of scones, and I plumped for a plain one.

The scone was delightful, but the jam was outstanding. We were brought two different jams: mixed berry and apple, and apple and plum, and both were extremely good. This is not the best photograph of a scone, but I’ve included it because there’s a little pot of jam in the background.

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Saturday at Le Jardin Cafe – a plain scone with excellent jam

The next day, settled in nicely at our holiday cottage, we went to the beautiful Logan Botanic Gardens, where we had both morning tea and luncheon in the Potting Shed Bistro.

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Sunday at Logan Botanic Gardens – a fruit scone

The following day we visited Wigtown, known as Scotland’s Book Town for all the bookshops it contains, and called in at Cafe Rendezvous for our morning snacks.

It’s very nice when your expectations are exceeded, and such was the case with my scone at Cafe Rendezvous.

The scone was not only somewhat on the small side, but looked to me as if it might be lacking any great taste sensation. How wrong I was, it was a triumph!

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Monday at Cafe Rendezvous, Wigtown – a fruit scone

Tuesday’s scone was provided by the Pilgrim Tearoom in Whithorn. There were two scone choices, I think one was plain (it might have been fruit) and the other was treacle. I chose the treacle.

When you’ve had a particularly good scone experience one day, it  does make you wonder what the next one might be like. Again, my expectations were low, and again they were exceeded. What a happy set of circumstances.

The scones were so good that we returned to the same place for lunch, and I daresay I’ll be doing a separate post about that anon.

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Tuesday at the Pilgrim Tearoom – a treacle scone

Wednesday, the middle of the week, was a red letter day. We went to one of my very favourite tearooms anywhere in the world, Kitty’s in New Galloway (a post will follow about that too, no doubt).

We went there for the first part of our lunch and, after a walk to work up our appetites between courses, returned for sweet treats.

The many exquisite cakes on offer at Kitty’s made choosing what to have very difficult, but I was lured in by the prospect of a cream scone. It was served with an excellent full-bodied English Breakfast leaf tea.

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Wednesday at Kitty’s Tearoom – a plain scone with cream and jam

Topping Kitty’s would be very difficult and indeed it didn’t happen. Thursday’s scone was taken at the Seasons Tearoom in Dunskey Gardens, where we met up with various other family members. The company on this occasion was what mattered more than the comestibles.

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Thursday at the Seasons Tearoom – a fruit scone

The joy of Friday was that we went to a tearoom we’d never been to before, Granny’s Kitchen in Newton Stewart, where there were several flavours of scone on offer.

I delighted in choosing the unusual coconut scone, one that I’ve rarely seen in tearooms. It was a top class confection.

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Friday at Granny’s Kitchen – a coconut scone

Last year when I was in Galloway, I had a truly magnificent scone at the Woodlea Tearoom in Sandhead and I had been dreaming about having another one there.

On the last day of my holiday my dream came true. Just look at the stretch on this beauty:

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Saturday at Woodlea Tearoom – a fruit scone

Thank you to all of the wonderful Galloway tearooms that provided me with opportunities to conduct my work, it was a most enjoyable task.

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According to the boffins at the BBC weather centre, Tuesday the 7th of May has been the warmest day of the year so far in Scotland.

It also happened to be the day I earmarked for a little day out with the delightful assistants.

Our first stop was Le Jardin Cafe at Kinross, about 45 minutes into the journey.

It was over 4 hours since I’d had my breakfast, so I was ready for a little something, and I opted for a pot of tea and one of their delectable apple and cinnamon scones:

The two assistants chose coffee and fruit scones. The scones were accompanied by dishes of outstandingly delicious apple and plum jam, which were heartily consumed.

Suitably refreshed, we buzzed off on the road again into lovely sunny weather, heading for the county of Dumfries and Galloway.

Due to misunderstanding my road atlas, I didn’t quite manage to reach my desired destination and ended up not in the village of Moniaive as intended, but 40-odd miles away in the town of Moffat.

Moffat is a place that offers several attractions to the tourist, one of which is a big sheep (a ram, in fact) on a plinth above a drinking fountain in the town centre. Rather curiously, it has no ears, and apparently never has had any:

The Moffat Ram – a trifle deaf perhaps, but a fine fellow nonetheless

It was sculpted by celebrated Scottish sculptor William Brodie, and gifted to the town in 1875.

Another point of interest in the town is the Moffat Toffee Shop:

A Moffat institution, not to be missed.

This splendid shop has been in existence (although not always on these premises) for about 120 years, and is still run by the same family who started it up in the late 1800s.

I’m getting ahead of myself here but after our lunch, which I’m about to detail below, the delightful assistants and I entered this haven of confectionery, where I captured them attempting to make off with two large tubs of sweets:

Assistants trying to abscond with stacks of sweets

They managed to restrict themselves to 200g bags of two types of sweeties, and I purchased some deliciously melting praline delicacies, which I meant to photograph before we wolfed them yesterday. I do still have a bar of interesting chocolate to try, however:

A treat still to be savoured.

To get back to the proper order of things, before we went into the sweet shop, we wondered where we might partake of a little luncheon.

Although Moffat is a busy tourist centre, particularly in the summer when coachloads of visitors appear, it’s not what I’d call a hot spot for tremendous tearooms.

Given this state of affairs, we decided we’d try one of the hotels for our meal.

The first one we looked at is quite a landmark in these parts, indeed it bills itself as ‘The Famous Star Hotel’. I suppose it has good reason to claim this accolade since it features in the Guinness World Records as the world’s narrowest hotel.

The Star Hotel with a crow helpfully flying over the roof to give scale to the picture.

It’s only 20ft wide, but it’s one of the tallest buildings in the main street and it stretches out a considerable way at the back:

If you look along the side of the Star Hotel you find that it goes back a fair distance. I think it looks like a steam engine at the front with a string of railway carriages behind.

We mulled over the menu outside, but felt we needed a little more stretching of the legs before sitting down again and so wandered along to another hotel.

This rather magnificent building was designed by Robert Adam and was built in the 1750s for the Earl of Hopetoun:

There were several seating options, including the sun lounge:

But it was such a glorious day that we chose to sit outside:

The back of the building proved to have some nicely rounded walls. Our table was just behind the tall dark green tree left of centre below:

As is the norm in Scottish hotels, there was one token veggie option on the menu (a pasta dish, which is frequently the case), but I wasn’t in the mood for pasta so I plumped for fish and chips:

The assistants both went for cottage pie, which came with lovely baby carrots:

I must say, the fish was particularly good, the peas eminently edible and the chips nice and crispy. The assistants declared their meals equally acceptable.

Despite tantalising choices on the menu, we decided to save our puddings for a tearoom on the way home, but we did enjoy sitting in the sun admiring the Moffat House Hotel garden and an attractive little seating area that would be delightful with rambling roses growing over it and a cream tea spread out on the table:

On our way out of the hotel, delightful assistant no.1 spotted an extravagantly finished banister rail. This is part of the original, and extremely impressive, Adam-designed cantilevered staircase that spirals up inside the building. I imagine he made it swirl a bit extra at the bottom for aesthetic reasons:

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After leaving Moffat, we stopped to look at some fair weather cumulus clouds which were bubbling up from the skyline:

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As usual, my post is elongating beyond a healthy length so I’ll save our afternoon snacks for a separate article.

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This particular intriguing sight is something I have witnessed on more that one occasion and it can be somewhat distressing. However, this tale has a happy ending so please don’t let that put you off.

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Sheep, as you might know, sometimes make the unfortunate error of getting onto their backs, from where all they can do is wave their little legs in the air helplessly. From this position, if not assisted, they are often unable to get back the right way up.

I’m sorry to say that I have seen a few dead ones in this position, but on the up side I have also seen a few live ones, and was recently even able to play the caped crusader myself and rescue one.

It was a few years ago that I first witnessed the method by which one should right an upside down sheep. As with many of the useful things I’ve picked up in life, I learned this from my dear parents.

We were on holiday in Galloway, driving along a small country road next to a green field full of grazing sheep, when we noticed that one of them was the wrong way up.

Some time before this, my parents had found a similar sheep elsewhere and had alerted a farmer to the situation. The farmer had gone along with them to see the poor animal and had shown them how best to get it on its feet again.

Having taken this very short sheep-righting course, the parents were ready to tackle their first sheep alone.

All three of us jumped out of the car and hot-footed it to the sheep, whereupon we assessed the situation.

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I watched carefully as the delightful assistants took up positions behind the sheep’s head and each took one of the sheep’s shoulders.

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What happened next was that the sheep was hauled up onto its posterior, so that it was sitting up. It was then allowed a few seconds of calm meditation, time to reorientate itself and reflect on its folly, before being given a gentle push from the back to tip it forward onto its little feet so that it could trot off.

I watched all this happen on the above occasion and tried to memorise it in case I should ever be called upon to do the same thing myself.

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Just a few weeks ago, I was out for a quiet country walk with delightful assistant no.1 when we spotted a sheep lying a field with all four legs sticking up into the air. Delightful assistant no.1 was afraid that it might already be dead, but on watching it for a short while, we saw a leg move.

The sheep was some way off across a squelchy muddy field, but we got to it as quickly as we could and, after a little nervousness from me, grabbed a shoulder each and hauled the poor thing up onto its bottom. It looked a little puzzled for a few seconds, but when we thought it was getting the hang of life again, we tipped it forwards, and off it trotted to join its fellows further up the field.

One thing I would say to anyone wanting to turn a sheep the right way up is that you might like to be prepared for the weight of the beast. The one we righted was an astonishingly large and solid animal, and required our joint strength to get it up from the ground. Only time will tell if I am able to right a sheep on my own, but perhaps it’s a bit like those situations where mothers lift cars to save their children, superhuman strength miraculously appearing when urgently required.

I’m sorry I don’t have a more detailed series of photos to explain the whole procedure, but I hope that anyone reading this and wondering if they ought to rescue upside down sheep when they see them might be able to make use of this post to assist them in their endeavours.

Just to be sure of what you’re aiming for, here’s a picture of a sheep the right way up:

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If you live in the northern hemisphere, as I do, you might be longing for a bit of summer sunshine round about now.

The UK has been exceptionally wet in recent days, with numerous flood warnings and TV pictures of dramatic rescues by the Fire Brigade of people in cars stranded in deep water. It’s also been very dark, with constant heavy cloud, and all of this has made my thoughts wander back to happy summer days of sunshine and warmth.

Scotland is prone to a lot of cloud, but that doesn’t always mean it’s wet and cold to boot. One particular day in early August was quite cloudy, but it was one of those still, jacket-free days where the sun, when it does break through the cloud, feels gloriously warm on the skin.

My dear mama had told me about a tearoom in the little town of Thornhill, in Dumfries and Galloway, in which she and the pater had taken a very pleasant luncheon while on holiday in those parts.

Thornhill is a fair distance from where I live, and a bit further than I would normally venture on a day out, but since the weather was fine and we got an early start, I whisked the small assistant (said maternal parent) off south-westwards towards the Dumfriesshire hills.

This picture was taken on a different occasion, but as it happens to be en route to Thornhill, I’m bunging it in to give an idea of some of the scenery we passed through:

The Borders hills

We arrived there around lunchtime, but since we’d stopped for a snack on the way we took a stroll around the town to work up our appetites. I don’t appear to have taken any photographs of the main street in Thornhill and so I’ve borrowed this one from the excellent website, Undiscovered Scotland:

The main street, Thornhill

We ambled along the backstreets, which were quiet and had lovely views of distant hills, as well as some strange-looking trees:

Thornhill

Along one little street I was surprised to see a fairly impressive memorial, remembering one Joseph Thomson (Explorer):

Joseph Thomson, Explorer, Memorial

According to Wikipedia, this Thomson  (1858-1895) was “a Scottish geologist and explorer”, who not only has an African beast named after him (Thomson’s Gazelle) but avoided confrontations among his porters or with indigenous peoples, neither killing any native nor losing any of his men to violence.”

The same article claims that he is the originator of this apparently oft-quoted motto: “He who goes gently, goes safely; he who goes safely, goes far.”

I can’t say I’m familiar with the quote, but at least now if I ever come across it I’ll know who said it.

Thomson was born in the village of Penpont, a couple of miles from Thornhill, and some time I would like to have a mosey round there to see if there are any references to him. I seem to remember that Penpont, despite its small size, also hosts an interesting looking tearoom, which gives me an added reason to investigate it.

The memorial has rather a nice bas-relief (if that’s the term I want) on one side, showing a lady holding an unfurled scroll displaying a map of Africa:

Bas-relief on Joseph Thomson memorial

Just beyond this memorial a sign caught our attention:

Coo Lane sign

The lane in question enticed us to walk down it:

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I’m assuming that the lane was named after the Scottish word for ‘cow’ because at the end of this lane there was a field, and perhaps in days gone by this was a busy highway for travelling cattle. There were no coos there when we visited, but there were some sheep, many of which were flopped out on the grass soaking up the rays:

Relaxing sheep

The delightful assistant and I were both very warm by this time, after plodding all over the place in the unusually balmy weather, and luncheon was calling.

The tearoom we were bound for was called “Thomas Tosh”, which I think has a splendid ring to it. I particularly like the idea of using the shortened version of Thomas and ending up with the name “Thos Tosh”. Unfortunately, I don’t know who Mr Tosh is, or was, but he’s given his name to rather a nice eatery.

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The building housed not only a tearoom, but an art gallery and a shop selling gifts, crafts and food.  I believe it used to be some sort of church hall:

Thos Tosh indoors

Each table had a little stack of blue serviettes packed into a rack made from two sets of crossed teaspooons. From a distance they looked quite like the Scottish flag. You can see them at the nearest table in the picture above, and close-up below:

Teaspoon racks

We both chose to have salads, which were large and packed with interesting ingredients. The delightful assistant had a chicken salad:

Chicken salad at Thos ToshAnd I had a tuna salad:

Tuna salad at Thos Tosh

We were so full after our salads that we didn’t have room for pudding (a tragedy, since there were delicious looking cakes and hot puddings on offer), and so we tootled off back to the car and headed north for home.

About half an hour after leaving Thornhill we felt the need of a cup of tea, and ventured into Starbucks, which is handily just off the road in a service station at Abington. I don’t often admit to going to places like Starbucks, but I must say they do a very lovely chai tea.

Not being a very frequent visitor to Starbucks, I forget each time that I need to lie to the baristas. When I ask for a chai tea, they ask if I take milk. Being a reasonably honest sort of cove, I say ‘yes’, which results in them giving me what I consider to be a measly half cup. The problem with this is that a) I love their chai tea enough to drink a large quantity of it, and b) I only take a dash of milk.

My delightful assistant prefers the chai tea latte, which comes sweetened and puffed up with hot fluffy milk and the cup filled, as a good beverage should be, absolutely to the brim.

Here, for comparison is the difference between our two drinks, my black chai tea with a dash of milk on the right, and her chai tea latte on the left. I hadn’t drunk any of mine when this was taken:

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I’m hoping that by reminding myself of this recurring misdemeanour, I will have imprinted the nightmare of it on my brain, so that the next time I visit Starbucks I go in fully prepared for their misleading and devious questions.

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A week ago I published a post entitled How to write a novel, which wasn’t so much a set of instructions as an update on my progress with writing one. I was pleased with myself for having hit my first 10,000 words. In the week since then I have added absolutely nothing to it.

This morning I began re-reading the first page of what I’ve written, and discovered that it’s so mindbogglingly tedious that I can’t even reach the bottom of the page without yawning my head off and wishing I was watching paint dry. Is this because I’ve read it so often, or is it because it genuinely is mind-bogglingly tedious?

I’m not sure, but it puts me in the sticky situation of not knowing what to do next. I could put the first 10,000 words to the back of my mind, pick up where I left off and keep writing regardless, or I could completely start again, rehashing the whole thing from scratch, or I could give up on it altogether, and accept that I will never write a novel.

Just at this moment, giving up seems a) the most sensible, and b) impossible. Even if every word I write is utter drivel, I don’t think I can stop myself from having a go at bashing out chapters of the stuff. Although I do think most of what I’ve written so far is excruciatingly dull, something inside me can’t seem to give it up on it.

Given this sorry state of affairs, having a bit of a whinge on my blog seemed like a refreshing balm for the soul. In fact, I feel better already, and would like to now make up for my moaning with pictures of a nice lunch I had last month in the utterly splendid bookshop and cafe, ReadingLasses (it specialises in books by women writers – rather a clever name, don’t you think?), in the small town of Wigtown.

I’ve written before about this place (here), and my most recent visit – while on holiday in Galloway with the delightful assistants – was as pleasing as ever.

It was exceptionally busy the day we popped in for luncheon, there being a busload of about 30 American tourists just having shipped in, shortly to be followed by a second busload. Each of them wanted to pay for their own meal, which led to a great deal of queueing and till-side confusion when it came to settling the bills. The way the shop is laid out, there’s not much space at the till area, indeed if you have more than one punter standing there it feels a tad cramped. We were seated near the till and the spectacle of politely shuffling tourists, peering at their strange currency and trying to remember what they’d eaten and therefore wanted to pay for, afforded us great entertainment. A small dog, that I think lives in the shop, added to the hullabaloo by getting in amongst the feet of punters and waitresses, and was clearly much excited by the sociable atmosphere.

I had been hoping for the shepherdess pie I had on my last visit here, but it wasn’t on the menu, so I plumped for a delicious sounding three bean chilli (vegan, to boot) instead. It came with crisp French bread, tortilla chips and some lettuce. The chilli was extremely hot, but the side items and a lovely glass of cool tap water helped to cool down my burning mouth. It was tasty and satisfying:

Thanks to it being, although quite substantial, also fairly light, I had room for a pudding. The puddings here are as good as the main courses, and I was tempted by the rice pud I had enjoyed previously, but then I remembered the chocolate brownie.

On the whole, I’m not much of a one for brownies, being suspicious of the sort of uncooked texture of the middle, but I had tasted one here before and recalled how exquisite it was. I took the plunge. It was served hot with ice cream, and I paired it rather decadently with an excellent decaf cappuccino:

I don’t know if that appeals to you or not, but I wish I could let you taste it. It exceeded my expectations, and even now I can lapse into a state of bliss just thinking of how the chocolate melted on the tongue and how the texture and warmth seemed to nourish my blood and make me fitter, stronger, and almost invincible. (This might be stretching things a bit, but it did make me feel magnificent, despite its artery-clogging potential.)

I can’t resist another picture of it, to emphasise the pleasure:

Delightful assistant no.1 also indulged in a dessert, and the rice pudding called to her. It was, to be truthful, more a plate of cream with some rice in it, which exactly suited her tastes:

And so, when I feel useless and unable to achieve what I’ve set out to do in the novel-writing department, at least I know I still have the ability to consume and enjoy delicious fare. Not perhaps the world’s greatest ever achievement, but eminently satisfying for me all the same.

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