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:
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:
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.
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.
Duff House is a rather magnificent Georgian building designed by William Adam in the 1730s:
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.
I thought the building had many lovely features, but the curving staircases at the front were a particular favourite:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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):
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):
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:
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.