Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Coffee’ Category

A couple of weeks ago the delightful assistants and I went off on an excursion to a foreign land.

Not all that different from Scotland, it must be said, the land in question being the first stop south over the border: England.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Our destination was the island of Lindisfarne (aka Holy Island), off the Northumberland coast.

One of the exciting things about going to Lindisfarne is that you have to drive through the sea to get there:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Having consulted the tide tables before setting off, I’m happy to report that we avoided the above predicament.

We drove along an exposed strip of tarmac that wound its way across the sand and mud flats to the island. It felt quite exciting, knowing that a few hours later the road would be under the sea.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It having been quite a long drive from sunny Perthshire, we were ready for a spot of luncheon and opted for al fresco paninis in the garden of the Pilgrim’s Coffee House:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The sign outside very helpfully informed canine patrons of the facilities:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

To digress for a moment, this reminds me of a sign that was stuck up outside my local Catholic church. It said something like ‘No dog fouling’ and had been attached to a railing, not at eye height for humans, but a few inches off the ground at a position I can only assume was aimed at the dog rather than the owner.

Back at the Pilgrim’s Coffee House a dog sat quietly, not checking his email but gratefully accepting pieces of scone laden with jam and cream. Sadly, I didn’t get a picture of the treats, but here he is sitting nicely:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The island measures 2.25 miles from east to west and 1.5 miles north to south.

We concentrated our wanderings on the village area, which has a surprising amount to offer visitors.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

One of the streets in Lindisfarne.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Entrance to the parish church of St Mary the Virgin.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Inside the church: six wooden monks carrying a coffin.

The sculpture above depicts St Cuthbert’s body being removed from the island during Viking raids in 793 AD.

St Cuthbert is the patron saint of the north of England and was at one time the Bishop of Lindisfarne. He’s a particularly interesting saint, one of the curious things about him being that when his sarcophagus was opened some years after his death, his body was found to be in tip-top condition.

Right next to the parish church are the remains of Lindisfarne Priory, seen below with the church on the left and Lindisfarne Castle in the distance on the right.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

From left to right: church, priory and castle.

We didn’t have time to visit the castle, but I would like to pop down and look round it on another occasion. It was built in the 16th century and sits on the highest point in the island.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Lindisfarne Castle seen from the churchyard of St Mary the Virgin.

The weather was lovely, with hazy sunshine all day.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Delightful assistants soaking up the sun in a public garden.

Once we had wearied ourselves of walking, and despite the temptations of staying on the island….

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

…we scooted back across the sea and, not far over the border into Scotland, happened upon a delightful refreshment stop in the small town of Coldstream.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Stanwins Coffee Lounge, on the High Street in Coldstream.

We were gasping for beverages and I was delighted to find that Stanwins offered Lady Grey leaf tea, something I don’t see as often as I’d like to.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Delightful assistants happily awaiting treats.

The cafe had a Scandinavian feel, with a Danish poster on the wall and fresh, neutral decor.  The lovely lady who served us said her husband was Danish and instead of the usual toasties for lunch, they offered open sandwiches and other Scandinavian-inspired fare.

I don’t think any of the things we had were particularly Scandinavian, but they were jolly tasty.

I had an enormous toasted teacake with Lady Grey tea, delightful assistant no.2 had shortbread and a cappuccino, and delightful assistant no.1 went for a slice of Swiss roll and a pot of breakfast tea. This was the Swiss roll, which was apparently delicious:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We all enjoyed our trip to Lindisfarne, and hope to go again one of these days.

Perhaps, if the next visit is post-referendum*, I might get an English stamp in my passport.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Grassy path, Lindisfarne, with water tower on the left.

*In less than four months, on 18 September, Scotland goes to the polls to vote on the issue of Scottish independence. The question we’re being asked is ‘should Scotland be an independent country?’ If the majority of voters tick the ‘yes’ box, Scotland will cease to be part of the UK and become an independent country within the European Union.

Read Full Post »

Yesterday, the sun was shining gloriously in my part of the world.

Being keen to make the most of the fine weather, delightful assistant no.1 and I zipped off Kinross-wards, to the Loch Leven Heritage Trail.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Loch Leven has quite a bit to offer the visitor.

Not only is it a nature reserve of particular interest to birders, but there’s a castle in the middle of the loch where Mary Queen of Scots was once held captive. You can visit the castle via a small boat trip.

There are over 12 miles of level paths round the loch which are ideal for walkers, cyclists, wheelchairs and motorised scooters.

Perhaps best of all, to my way of thinking, Loch Leven’s Larder – a tip top food stop – sits near the banks of the loch and provides the ideal place for a tasty luncheon.

In order to make the most of the facilities, we parked in the Larder’s car park and went for a brisk walk to work up our appetites.

Tall reeds were growing in the marshy land beside the loch:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Their golden colour made me dream of summer.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
The delightful assistant spotted some silkily soft pussy willow catkins. We stopped and stroked them, in time honoured fashion.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

There were also some magnificent Scots pine trees, with their beautiful bark lit up by the sunlight:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Our walk did the trick, giving us the appetites we needed. I was close to desperate for a bite of something by the time we were sitting in the cafe perusing the menu.

I opted for one of the soups of the day, kale and potato, which came with not one, but two, pieces of deliciously fluffy freshly baked bread:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It was tasty, filling and no doubt very nutritious, and I enjoyed it immensely.

Delightful assistant no.1 also enjoyed her choice of toasted ciabatta with brie and chicken, which came with an interesting looking coleslaw and root vegetable crisps:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Loch Leven’s Larder is one of those places that has rather a mindboggling selection of sweet treats, and on this occasion the desserts included a special pudding of plum and apple crumble with custard.

Despite the temptation of that, and many other delicious looking items, I couldn’t – as I rarely can – get past the idea of a scone.

The scone options were as follows: fruit, plain, cheese and….chocolate and marshmallow.

I’m pretty sure that before yesterday I had never seen a chocolate and marshmallow scone. Although I did waver for a moment between that and the fruit scone, I grasped the nettle and plunged into new territory.

I teamed it up with a decaf cappuccino, while the delightful assistant settled for a lovely pot of tea and a ‘little taste’ of my scone.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I wasn’t at all sure how the marshmallow would manifest itself, but it appeared to be a sort of shiny hardened area that I’m afraid I haven’t photographed very well (it’s the slightly shiny bit beneath the pale bit to the left of the photo below):

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Was it a success, this teaming of chocolate and marshmallow in a scone?

Decidedly, yes.

I don’t know how many excellent dining experiences I’ve chalked up now at this fine establishment, but I can assure anyone looking for a decent scone near Kinross that they’re sure to find something highly satisfactory at Loch Leven’s Larder.

Read Full Post »

Yesterday was the delightful assistants’ 53rd wedding anniversary.

Acting as chauffeur, I whisked them off into the county of Angus for a tasty luncheon, an invigorating walk and afternoon treats.

Here they are attempting to gaze lovingly at each other for the camera:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

They found this highly amusing.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Delightful assitants in a more natural pose.

Delightful assistant no.1 chose to go to Peel Farm, near Kirriemuir, for lunch:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A welcoming sign at the entrance to Peel Farm.

We arrived nice and early, a little before noon.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The entrance to the coffee shop at Peel Farm, decked out with wreaths and other Christmas decorations.

Due to our fortunate timing the coffee shop was unusually empty, which allowed me to take a photograph of the inside.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Inside the lovely Peel Farm coffee shop, unusually empty of hungry punters.

The delightful assistants wisely chose a table at the fireside end of the room, from where we all ordered a farmhouse special of soup with a roll and butter, followed by a scone and tea or coffee.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Delightful assistants perfectly placed near the fire with bowls of hot soup.

Delightful assistant no.1 and I both chose carrot and parsnip soup, while delightful assistant no.2 had red pepper and tomato.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Carrot and parsnip soup with a crusty roll.

Our soups warmed us up, and when they’d been polished off it was time for scones.

There were three options available: plain, fruit, and raspberry. After considerable deliberation I plumped for raspberry, while delightful assistant no.1 chose fruit and delightful assistant no.2 chose plain.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

My choice of a raspberry scone – I was not in any way disappointed.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A fruit-studded scone for delightful assistant no.1.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A beautiful plain scone for delightful assistant no.2.

A delicious jam was delivered with the scones and delightful assistant no.2 felt that his plain scone gave the perfect base for it.

The jam was a new creation by one of Peel Farm’s master jam makers and was a combination of plum and orange. It tasted a bit like marmalade because of the orange, and it had a wonderfully zingy sweet flavour. Delightful assistant no.1 christened it ‘jarmalade’. Here’s a blob of it on my raspberry scone:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Raspberry scone with a blob of jarmalade on it.

I wasn’t too sure how my raspberry scone would fare as a platform for such a sprightly spread, but when I tasted them together I was immediately won over and slathered the rest of my scone with the stuff, enjoying each mouthful with gusto.

When we’d finished our scones and downed our tea and coffee we had a quick look in the Peel Farm craft shop where I spotted the happiest little gingerbread men I think I’ve ever seen.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Cheery wee chaps on a string.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Utterly delighted to meet you.

We got back into the car and drove to nearby Loch of Lintrathen, which has a level road all round it, virtually devoid of traffic and very pleasant for strolling along.

It was grey and chilly but we walked briskly, enjoying the fresh air and the noise of wind in the trees and on the water.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Loch of Lintrathen.

Quite a few branches and twigs lay scattered about after recent high winds; delightful assistant no.2 fashioned one such branch into a walking stick.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Delightful assistant no.2 taking twigs off the fallen branch of a larch tree.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The old chap making use of his newly acquired walking equipment.

On our walk we passed a well constructed bird hide, and I popped in to see what I could spot.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Loch of Lintrathen bird hide – I had it all to myself.

I didn’t see anything particularly unusual, although someone had noted a white tailed sea eagle in the visitor’s book a couple of weeks before.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Gateway to the bird hide at Loch of Lintrathen.

After my bit of birding I caught up with the delightful assistants and we scooted on to the nearby town of Kirriemuir to seek out an afternoon snack.

On past visits to Kirriemuir I’ve been unable to find interesting tearooms, so my hopes weren’t terribly high.

We parked in the free cark park and walked towards the town centre.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Delightful assistants keeping each other upright.

Before we even reached the main street, to my astonishment and delight, we passed this promising looking establishment down a little alleyway:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A side window at The Auld Surgery Tearooms in Kirriemuir.

Just around the corner we found the front door, and swiftly sailed in:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Front entrance to The Auld Surgery Tearooms in Kirriemuir.

The interior had a charmingly rustic farmhouse feel with solid wooden furniture and gifty things dotted about. We perched ourselves at a table for three:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Seated comfortably close to the wooden dresser where there was a selection of tasty looking treats.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A dresser showing off its cakes and biscuits.

Delightful assistant no.2 was the first to make up his mind and went for a mug of hot chocolate and a mint chocolate traybake, which was enticingly decorated with broken bits of fondant-filled mint thins:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Chocolate mints on top of a traybake – a stroke of genius.

Although very fond of mint chocolates, I thought this traybake might be too sweet for my tastes. However, having tasted a piece of the one in the photograph, I would gladly return to Kirriemuir just for a slice of this excellent confection.

As it was, I went for a slice of fruit loaf with butter, downed with a cafetiere of decaf coffee:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Delightful assistant no.1 also had coffee, but in the solids department she made a traditionally festive selection:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Delightful assistant no.1’s choice of a mince pie. Such a good girl, she didn’t make a fuss about the lack of cream.

After enjoying our treats we had a quick squiz at a few of the items for sale, some of which were displayed at the bottom of a gracefully curving banister:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

One item in particular took the fancy of delightful assistant no.1.

In her youth she remembers having a little wooden rocking horse that rocked very nicely, and when she saw something similar at The Auld Surgery Tearooms she didn’t want to go home without it:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Small wooden rocking horse with teacup: a happy ending to a lovely day.

Read Full Post »

One February morning, under a blue sky with winter sunshine, I whisked delightful assistant no.1 off to the lovely Loch Earn.

I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to post about it but, alas, I’m not as well organised as I would like to be.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Lovely Loch Earn, Perthshire.

Loch Earn is one of many long, narrow, freshwater lakes dotted about the Scottish highlands, and is known as a centre for watersports.

If you’re interested in statistics, the loch is about 10.5 km long, just over 1 km wide and, at its deepest point, goes down for 87 metres. Loch Ness, by contrast, dips down to about 227 metres, which is perhaps why Nessie chose to make her home there rather than in Loch Earn or any of the other numerous smaller lochs.

We were very struck by how still the water was, and how magnificent the reflections. Here are a few shots to demonstrate:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Mountains reflected in Loch Earn with stony shoreline.
I think the snowy peak in the background might be Ben Vorlich.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Reflections of individual trees on the far side of Loch Earn.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Uprooted tree with reflections.

It was remarkably warm for the time of year, no doubt thanks to the lack of wind, and we enjoyed ambling along the shore soaking up the old Vitamin D.

Here’s the delightful assistant getting her daily dose:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Coat- and hat-less in February at Loch Earn.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Stony northern shore of Loch Earn bathed in warm February sunshine.

We had been hoping to have lunch at a nice hotel on the lochside but unfortunately it was closed, so we scooted off to the nearby small town of Comrie instead.

The delightful assistant recommended The Royal Hotel, an establishment in which she had enjoyed one or two satisfactory luncheons with her dear spouse.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Reception area of The Royal Hotel, Comrie.

She opted for chicken chasseur, which came with mashed potatoes and green beans:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I had a bowl of very interesting hummus which was packed with all sorts of things, including black olives, coriander and red peppers. It was served with thick slices of grilled toast and a side salad:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Very interesting hummus at the Royal Hotel in Comrie.

Nicely filled with savouries, we moved on to the town of Crieff about 12 miles along the road and called in at a cafe and furniture shop called The Loft, for coffee.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A deliciously foamy cappuccino at The Loft in Crieff.

The delightful assistant was too full for pudding but I managed to put away a slice of moist carrot cake:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Carrot cake at The Loft.

Content with our lot, we tripped off home full of happy memories of our glorious day out in sunny Perthshire.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Winter sunshine at Loch Earn.

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 »

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 »

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

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 »

After a trip into the local metropolis of Perth for a bit of shopping the other morning, delightful assistant no.1 and I popped into the estimable Loch Leven’s Larder for a little luncheon.

There were two soups on offer: cream of celery and courgette, and curried green lentil. The delightful assistant went for the former, while I chose the latter.

I didn’t have my camera on me but I did snap my soup with my phone. It was all jolly tasty:

2013-03-12 12.57.43

Following the soup, we both fancied a bit of fresh air and exercise, and took ourselves off to the Lomond Hills in Fife.

The air was bracing and we trotted along swiftly under a lowering sky:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We stuck to walking along the road, and were surprised by the amount of snow on the hill tracks:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The biting wind was so cold that we imagined ourselves in the Antarctic, and paused to think of poor Ranulph Fiennes, whose recent trip there was cut short due to a horrible case of frostbite.

He had been hoping to be the first man to ski across the continent in winter, while some chums accompanied him in vehicles. The chums are now completing their expedition sans Ranulph, while he sits frustrated at home supporting the expedition from the UK. As he remarks rather wryly in this press conference, now that he’s had to pull out of the challenge, the Norwegians will no doubt step in and do the job.

I don’t know what the temperature was when we were in the Lomond Hills, but puddles by the road showed that it was above freezing. It did feel considerably colder then 0ºC due to wind chill, but nothing like it must feel right now in the depths of the Antarctic winter.

Feeling virtuous after our stretch in the open air, we sped off to the Pillars of Hercules, a wonderful organic farm shop and cafe, about which I have written on previous occasions.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

One of the many things I like about Pillars of Hercules is the seat cushions:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I had forgotten that this place was the first cafe in Scotland to be certified 100% organic, but was reminded when reading the menu:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We ordered our drinks and cakes at the counter and were given a number on a stick to take to the table.

It used to be the case here that when you ordered, you got a little wooden block with a number on it, and it wasn’t until I was searching around on the table for some way of making the stick stand up, that I noticed a hole in the tabletop.

Lo and behold, when I tried putting the stick in the hole, it fitted perfectly. An excellent idea, I thought (sorry for the darkness of the second picture, I don’t know what happened there):

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The delightful assistant had ordered a black coffee with cold milk and a slice of lemon cake. My photo is poor but I can assure you that the comestibles were anything but. I’m reliably informed that the coffee was lovely and I know that the lemon cake was because I tasted it – very lemony.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I opted for a chai tea and a vegan apricot slice:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The apricot slice exceeded my expectations. It was made with a wholewheat pastry base smothered in thick apricot jam and liberally sprinkled with seeds: sunflower, pumpkin and hemp, to be precise. I was very pleased with it.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

These little trips out that I take very regularly, often in the company of a delightful assistant or two, are a nice break from sitting staring at a computer screen and, I feel, a vital part of a healthy balanced life.

To update anyone who’s interested, this is Day 73 of the year 2013 and, in keeping with my resolution to get rid of 365 items by the end of December, I have so far managed to release 69. This means I’m four items behind in my schedule, but I have high hopes for getting rid of more stuff with a spot of spring cleaning.

I have also now completed the second draft of my novel and am putting it aside to gestate for a bit.

Any agents/publishers with a gap in their lists and looking for an average length of novel of the general fiction variety, please enquire within.

Read Full Post »

Two days ago, hoping for a spot of sunshine, I checked the BBC weather website and discovered that the town of Callander was going to be bathed in sunshine all afternoon.

The forecast promised me a high of 5 degrees C, soaring above the 3s and 4s of further north.

Somehow I got it into my head that this equated to a fine summer’s day, and I scooped up delightful assistant no.1 and sped off towards the Trossachs*.

On the way we stopped at the splendid Gloagburn Farm Shop and Cafe for a little sustenance.

Gloagburn is home to some of the finest scones to be found anywhere on Earth (I admit I haven’t tested this terribly extensively in global terms, but all the same I feel quite confident about my assertion).

We both chose fruit scones (the delightful assistant requesting one with a ‘shiny top’), I had tea and the delightful assistant had coffee:

I could not have been more pleased with my scone’s stretch marks:

Or, indeed, the frolicsome crockery:

Refreshed and completely satisfied by our repast we tootled off Trossachswards, arriving in Callander in time for a health giving stroll before luncheon.

The sun, which had shone for a while on the journey just before Callander, had retreated behind cloud when we arrived, but nonetheless there were plenty of people out and about taking the air and enjoying riverside walks:

My glamorous assistant and I wrapped up in our woolly hats and scarves, and loped off in a westerly direction along the banks of the River Teith.

A short way along the path, a signpost indicated that if we were considering taking a dip, this would be the ideal spot in which to do it:

Despite the encouragement, there were no bathers present.

A little further on there were no pipers either:

Although most of the trees along the riverside were deciduous, and therefore bare of leaves at this time of year, there was some nice fluffy lichen to be seen:
The delightful assistant likes to say that although lacking greenery in the winter, when trees are leafless it allows you to see their beautiful shapes:
There were signs of spring in the form of a few clumps of cheerful snowdrops:
Our walk took us over a metal bridge and along a level path with snowy Ben Ledi in the background:
Given the amount of time I’ve spent in Scotland, i.e. practically my whole life, you would think I’d have a handle on the weather by now. I even had it spelled out to me in black and white by the BBC, and yet I was surprised by the fact that it wasn’t a warm, balmy summer’s day in Callander. I confess I was fooled by the robust-looking number ‘5’ on the weather chart and I allowed it to give me false hopes.

I must remind myself that unless the temperature gets into the double figures, and preferably above 20 degrees C, it is not going to feel like summer.

When we’d walked our appetites up, we returned to the town for lunch in a tearoom I’d never been to before. I’ll save the details for another post, but here’s a wee taster:
*The Trossachs is the name given to the area of countryside in which Callander nestles so prettily.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,726 other followers

%d bloggers like this: