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Archive for the ‘Soup’ Category

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Fat seals.

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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.

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

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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.

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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:

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Bright colours to cheer a dull day in West Wemyss.

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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:

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They found this highly amusing.

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Delightful assitants in a more natural pose.

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

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A welcoming sign at the entrance to Peel Farm.

We arrived nice and early, a little before noon.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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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:

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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.

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Cheery wee chaps on a string.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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:

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A side window at The Auld Surgery Tearooms in Kirriemuir.

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

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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:

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

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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:

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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:

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

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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:

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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:

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

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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 started writing this post weeks ago, got waylaid with other things and forgot to complete it; today I found it again and thought it was high time I finished it off.

I began tapping it out just after I’d lunched with a chum near Kinross, in the delightful Loch Leven’s Larder.

On that occasion I didn’t take photographs of the main course, but I had a large bowl of minestrone soup (spelt ministrone on the menu, although there was nothing miniature about it), which was very tasty, and my chum had a Ploughman’s sandwich.

Loch Leven’s Larder is one of the many eateries in Perthshire that provides truly excellent scones. We each opted for a fruit scone, which was served with butter and raspberry jam.

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They also do very nice Teapigs tea, and we swished our scones down with several cupfuls.

After our repast, when we had gone our separate ways, I scooted off towards the Lomond Hills, with the intention of clocking up a bit of healthy exercise

The Lomond Hills, I can tell you (courtesy of my lunch chum, who’s a geologist by trade), were “formed by a series of igneous sills made of dolerite. Sills are igneous intrusions formed when magma forces its way between layers of sedimentary rock. Dolerite is an intrusive form of basalt and is hard and resistant to erosion, which is why it forms hills”.

Off I trotted up a marked path towards East Lomond.

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All the way up I met not a single soul, but plenty of birds of the lbj (little brown job) variety, as well as a few sheep that were grazing on the hill’s slope.

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I tried to engage the sheep in conversation, but they were having none of it. I could understand their concentration on their task, having not long surfaced from the nosebag myself.

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As is the way of things at the tops of hills, there was a bit of a view from the summit.

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There was also a direction indicator (a concrete block about 4ft high with a circular plate on top indicating the names of the hills in the distance). I approached it at the same time as two other people, who had come up from a path on the other side of the hill.

This was unfortunate timing, as we all wanted to lean on the concrete block after our climb up. I gave way to them as they were somewhat longer in the tooth than me and perhaps more in need of a leaning post. Instead, I walked around admiring the views in all directions, and appreciated the strong cooling gusts of wind that buffeted me.

Getting down was a much quicker affair than climbing up, partly because I ran most of the way, which was a most exhilarating business.

At the bottom of the slope I saw something I’d glanced at on my way up, and decided to take a closer look:

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The limekiln trail occupied a somewhat boggy area with an old limekiln and a pond in it, and a number of information boards dotted about:

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From the boards I learned some interesting things, including the fact that the high content of lime in the soil and water had led to great ecological diversity. Contained in this small area there was a surprising variety of plants and animals, including orchids, butterflies, dragonflies and birds.

One of the boards explained that the ecological value of this place was a product of its industrial history, which pleased me and reminded me of the machair, grassy plains that explode with wildflowers in the summer and support a lot of wildlife. The machair is typical of the Outer Hebrides and its success is apparently due to the way the land is managed by crofters, who farm on a small scale in an environmentally beneficial manner. This is a bit different from the limekilns situation, but another example of how man and nature can work well together.

When I’d been round all the boards, I went back out of the gate and ran along the grassy path towards the car park.  The hill in the distance is West Lomond, the other prominent peak in the Lomond Hills.

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After all that running around, climbing hills and whatnot, you might imagine I was in need of some refreshment, and you’d be quite right.

I made for a favourite tearoom of mine, Pillars of Hercules, just outside Falkland in Fife and only a few miles from the Lomond Hills.

Although in the hills it had been rather overcast, just a little lower down in Falkland it was gloriously sunny. It was so nice, in fact, that I opted to sit outside the toilet block, which was a much more pleasant arrangement than you might think from that description. The tables (and, rather luxuriously, footstools) were made out of bits of tree trunk:

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Given the surprisingly high temperature of the afternoon, I decided to forego my usual hot beverage and chose a deliciously sweet cloudy apple juice. The juice alone would probably have been quite sufficient, as I was more thirsty than hungry, but I accidentally ordered a seeded sort of granola type flapjack at the same time:

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It proved to be a happy accident, being very tasty and satisfying, and just the thing to sustain me on my drive home.

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In global terms, Scotland is a small country. (In terms of size, it’s apparently smaller than Austria, Tasmania and the US state of Maine.)

Although I’ve spent virtually all of my life in Scotland, there are still many parts I haven’t yet visited and a number of long-held ambitions as yet unfulfilled.

I did manage to tick one off recently though, when the delightful assistants and I buzzed up north towards the Moray Coast, to visit the Findhorn Community.

One of the many nice things about the area of Moray is that the council provide cheerfully coloured bins, and these were in evidence in the community’s streets:

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The Findhorn Community is rather an unusual place, and has grown considerably since it began in 1962.

Findhorn Community Centre near the entrance to the community.

In its early days, the founders created a bit of a stir by growing enormous vegetables, herbs and flowers, the girth of which they said had been achieved by communicating with the spirits of the plants.

For example, an average sort of cabbage weighs about 3lbs, but some of the cabbages grown in Findhorn weighed in at a whopping 40lb! That’s about 18kg, or nearly 3 stone (or the weight of an average 4 year old child).

I wish I had a picture of one of these enormous cabbages, but we searched the grounds of the community during our visit and found not one single outsize vegetable.

These days the community is more concerned with hosting environmental and spiritual workshops and promoting environmentally friendly practises in its ecovillage, so perhaps their days of growing gigantic vegetables is past, I don’t know.

As interested as we were in having a wander round the place, luncheon was calling so we headed straight for the community’s Blue Angel Cafe, tucked in amongst burgeoning foliage with seating outside as well as indoors:

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Soup of the Day was green split pea, and delightful assistant no.2 and I both went for that.

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He had his with cheese and onion sandwiches on the side, and I had rice cakes. The soups came dished up in bowls made in the community pottery:

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Delightful assistant no.1 had cheese and tomato sandwiches, which came with a lovely fresh salad, but unfortunately my photo of it is a bit blurred.

When we’d finished our savouries we went for a trot round The Park, the area of the community containing ecohouses, various small enterprises and gardens.

Beneath the signpost at the entrance to The Park there was an encouraging message:

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As we walked around, I must say I didn’t feel in the least bit worried. The sun was shining, the birds were singing and there were lots of interesting things to look at.

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The Findhorn Pottery Shop, a place to purchase a souvenir or two.

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The weaving studio, where you can perhaps buy woven things to take home with you. I didn’t go in, but I did see some colourful woven items hanging in the window.

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The Boutique – a small building with all sorts of things in it. I believe it’s a kind of swap shop where you can bring something you no longer want and swap it for something someone else has left.

In addition to the businesses there were many ecohouses of interesting design, some leading directly off the quiet paths through the village and others popping up from amongst clusters of trees.

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A curious roof emerging from the canopy.

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An unusual little house nestling beneath its curious roof.

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One of several ‘barrel’ houses, made from massive recycled whisky vats. Very fitting, since Moray is home to the world’s only Malt Whisky Trail.

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The Shire: currently for sale, at offers over £159,000. The outside wood is Scottish spruce and internal wall partitions are filled with sheep’s wool, which no doubt keeps it nice and cosy in the winter. If you want to see the full specification, you can find it here: http://www.lightbringers.info/eco-house-sale.asp

Perhaps my favourite building was this one, the Park Maintenance office:

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A smiley whale, brightening up the ecovillage.

In the middle of The Park there was a wooded garden, designed for contemplation.

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In the middle of this wooded glade was something quite magical, a low stone built house with a grass roof and a small garden, where I daresay the forest folk come of an evening to sit and tell stories.

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Little fairy house in a wooded glade.

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The doorway into a magical kingdom.

Just outside the Peace Garden there was another garden, which was fenced off and had a most unusual gateway:

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No outsize vegetables to be seen here.

This garden contained several minibeast hotels (the little wooden boxes attached to posts in the picture below):

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A Mecca for minibeasts

Having exhausted ourselves strolling around in the sunshine, we headed back to the Blue Angel Cafe for a little refreshment.

Most unusually, delightful assistant no.1 didn’t want anything, not even a nice cup of tea, but delightful assistant no.2 had spied a lemon roulade on our previous visit and had been dreaming of it ever since:

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It wasn’t quite as lemony as he’d been hoping for but it seemed to slip down quite well with a cappuccino.

As is often the case, I was lured in by walnuts; on this occasion they came embedded in a toffee walnut tart. It was sweet, sticky and highly acceptable. In company with a cinnamon chai latte it disappeared without any trouble at all:

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All the way round The Park we had noticed little wooden houses a couple of feet off the ground, which I initially thought were mail boxes and then realised were in fact lights. Each one was wired up and had holes at the front with a light bulb inside. I suppose they must double as hidey-holes for wee beasties.

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Unobtrusive street lighting in Findhorn ecovillage.

Before leaving the Findhorn Community we called in at The Phoenix community store:

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I was amazed by the range of goods for sale, particularly in the food area which had the most extensive range of nut butters I think I’ve ever seen, as well as many other interesting goodies of the sort you find in a wholefoods shop.

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They also had a good variety of wines and locally produced real ales, apothecary items, cards, books and gifts. I was prepared for the prices being higher than you’d find in towns and cities, but in fact in some cases the opposite was true. They were even competing with supermarket prices, which I thought very commendable.

Another surprising thing about the Findhorn Community is that it has its own currency, the Eko (1 Eko = £1), although the pound sterling is equally accepted.

Ekos

Various Eko notes (courtesy of http://e-info.org.tw/node/70731).

According to an article in The Scotsman last year, several pubs in the Moray area accept the Eko.

In 2012 the Findhorn Community celebrated its 50th anniversary, and I wonder what it’ll be like in another 50 years’ time. Perhaps this sort of community living will have grown in popularity by then and there will be other similar places dotted around the country. I suppose it’s possible that I might just live long enough to find out.

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Welcome, regular readers and potluckers alike, to the 3rd Virtual Vegan Potluck.

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I eat soup probably 4 or 5 times a week in the normal run of things, and I like making it because it’s easy, quick and nourishing.

Although all the soup I make is vegetarian, most of it is also vegan. One of the many wonderful things about soup is that if you stick to a few simple ingredients it’s very hard to mess it up.

I first made this soup without the coconut milk and it was nice and tangy, but quite acidic. The addition of coconut milk balances out the acidity and adds a wonderfully creamy dimension.

Ingredients:

1 can of coconut milk

1 small brown onion, peeled and chopped

1 tablespoon of grated root ginger

2 red peppers (capsicum), chopped

2 parsnips, peeled and chopped

3/4 of a pint (400 ml) of vegetable stock

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. Throw the vegetables into a pan with the grated ginger, can of coconut milk and vegetable stock.

2. Bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.

3. Liquidise with a stick blender or in a liquidiser.

4. Add black pepper to taste.

For lots more vegan deliciousness, be sure to check out some of the other participants (there are more than 170 this time round!).

A full list of bloggers with the category of dish they’ve brought to the potluck (you might be tempted to go straight to puddings, and who can blame you?) can be found here.

To visit Veganishy, the blog before mine in the potluck chain and the last in the list of side dishes, please click on the button below:

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To visit Sweetveg, the next soup in the line-up, please click on the button below:

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H a p p y   N o s h i n g !

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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:

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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:

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

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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.

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

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

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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):

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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