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Archive for the ‘Gardens’ Category

A couple of days ago, delightful assistant no.1 and I found ourselves in Perth needing a leg stretch before luncheon.

It was a lovely day and we popped into Branklyn Garden, which is down a little lane off this street in Perth:

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Autumn colours in Fairmount Terrace, Perth.

The garden closes to visitors at the end of October, but at this time of year the shop is already closed and there’s no-one to take your money or check your membership card (if you’re a member of the National Trust for Scotland you can get in for free).

A sign on the closed shop asked visitors to put the admission fee into a box, but since we had membership cards we just looked at these, waved them about a bit and carried on into the garden.

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The entrance to Branklyn Garden, Perth.

There weren’t many flowers out but there were some beautifully coloured leaves:

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One of the many Japanese maples in Branklyn Garden.

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View from the top of the garden over the canopy.

The Japanese maples were the most immediately striking plants in the garden, and some of them looked as if they were aflame:

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Tree on fire: a Japanese maple glowing in the sunshine.

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This one reminded me of Cousin Itt from The Adams Family. Just stick a hat and a pair of glasses on it and – bingo!

I crawled inside one of the maples and was very taken with the twisted trunk and branches:

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A maze of contorted branches.

There were a few flowers in the rock garden and an impressive array of greens:

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A splendid selection of plantlife in Branklyn Garden’s rockery.

When we’d had our fill of foliage we tootled off to the Macmillan Coffee Shop at Quarrymill (last day of business for the year tomorrow) for lunch.

The trees outside the coffee shop were looking lovely in their autumn leaves:

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Lovely colours at Quarrymill.

We both chose cheese and tomato toasties on brown bread, and tea to drink:

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Once the savouries had been satisfactorily devoured we turned our attention to the sweet menu.

This is a blackboard I will miss for the next six months, until the coffee shop reopens for business in April:

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Whoever designed this blackboard was a person after my own heart – half of it given over to Scones.

As is often the case when I’m at this particular establishment, I was unable to pass up the opportunity of a date and cinnamon scone:

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Six months till I get another one of these, I wonder how I’ll manage till April.

Nice, isn’t it? Would you like to see it closer up?

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Flecks of cinnamon tempting me to break into this bakery delight.

Inside it was soft and fluffy:

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Soft, fluffy, datey, cinnamony…mmm

Although delicious on its own I was eager to slap on some of the coffee shop’s excellent jam:

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Jammy delight.

My delightful assistant, although inordinately fond of a scone herself, is drawn like a magnet to large sponge cakes, particularly when they come with a bit of strawberry and cream:

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Strawberry sponge – a temptation too great for my delightful assistant to resist.

On our way home we took a detour past Cargill Cemetery, a place I’d been wanting to wander round for some time. I might do a post about it on another occasion but in the meantime here’s a bit of autumn beauty from the graveyard:

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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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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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After my last post, I was thinking it was high time I did a post dedicated my two most delightful assistants.

Then, I thought, they really should be a more permanent fixture on my blog and so instead I’ve written a separate page about them. You can find it as a tab at the top of the blog, or by clicking here.

The picture below was taken last May and is a little corridor in their garden, between a fence and a wall, that they’ve left to grow wild.

It reminds me of the house and garden I was brought up in, where they did a similar thing. There was a section at the bottom of the garden that remained unmown and unplanted, and it was chock-full of long grasses, wild poppies and the like. There was a tree in the middle of it, from which my mum hung a wooden plank on two ropes to make a swing. I remember taking an old pan and a wooden spoon down there and mixing up recipes with soil and grass in, lost in my own little outdoor kitchen. Happy days.

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The autumn colours in Perthshire are particularly good this year and, thinking that the Scottish Borders would be putting on a similarly spectacular show, I took the delightful assistants down there for a gawp at the weekend.

We were most surprised to find that, despite being further south, it felt like winter rather than autumn in the Borders. Many of the trees were completely bare and most of the leaves that were left on the trees were well past their flame-grilled best.

However, I’m happy to say that at our destination of Dawyck Botanic Gardens, nature’s loveliness was abounding:

A couple of beech trees had curious wrappings round their trunks:

There was a poem, entitled The Bandaged Trees, attached to one of the trunks, but I found it a tad depressing so I won’t burden you with it.

Looking up into the trees was beautiful with the sunlight on the leaves:

Dawyck (more or less pronounced Daw-ik) is a beautiful place to walk around, and even though there were a lot of cars in the car park, we met very few people as we strolled through the gardens.

Here are a couple of tiny assistants perched atop a lovely bridge:

The air smelled very fresh and I took lots of deep breaths. The amount of lichen on the trees was perhaps a good indicator of just how pollution-free the atmosphere was. Some of the birches looked as if they were dressed in furs and feather boas:

Bits of the garden were in the shade and quite frosty, an ideal hiding place for ice nymphs and frost elves. Apparently, if you run backwards making chirpy little whistling noises they sometimes pop out. I tried this, but I didn’t see any. Mind you, I find that trying to stay upright while running backwards takes up most of my concentration.

My camera battery died just past this bench,

which was a pity as I had been hoping to take photos of the lunch we had after our walk.

However, I wouldn’t like to sign off without a small morsel to share with you, so here’s a Christmas pudding scone* I made yesterday instead:

*so called because it was inspired by Christmas pudding, and contains sultanas, mixed peel, slivered almonds, cherries, dates, mixed spice, cinnamon, nutmeg and treacle, as well as the standard scone ingredients

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During my little holiday in Galloway last week I visited a number of beautiful gardens.

Things grow very well in Scotland’s south-west, thanks to a fair bit of rain, warm air from the Gulf Stream and a lack of hard frosts. For these reasons exotic plant varieties are more prevalent in Galloway than in much of the rest of Scotland, and local green-fingered souls make the most of it.

One of the fine horticultural havens you can pay to go round is Logan House Gardens, right next-door to the more well-known Logan Botanic Gardens. At one point a gate allows you to gaze from one garden into the other (they used to be part of the same estate):

The Logan House Gardens side of the gate, looking through to Logan Botanic Gardens

Despite having visited Logan Botanic Gardens many times, I had been snubbing Logan House Gardens since I was a tot (when I’m reassured I visited, although I have no memory of it). Sticking the camera through the gate, here’s what you can see of Logan Botanics from Logan House:

The main thing that put me off venturing into Logan House Gardens before was the lack of a tearoom. To my mind, a garden is all very well, but a garden with a tearoom is a far more attractive prospect. Since Logan Botanics has an excellent tearoom, it always won out, leaving poor old Logan House without my contribution to its upkeep.

Last week, after stopping at an exellent tearoom en route (the scones were so good that we went back the very next day for more):

An oustandingly good fruit scone near Logan House Gardens

my delightful assistants and I headed off to Logan House Gardens.

The gardens surround a large pink house, which is privately owned and not open to the public:

Logan House: a vision in pink

The grounds are quite substantial and contain a variety of habitats. In early September there was a dominance of foliage over flowers, and one of the things that struck me was the amount of green abounding.

At one corner of the garden there was a grassy avenue planted with palm trees on one side and monkey puzzles on the other. After a destructive storm on Boxing Day 1998, part of the avenue was destroyed. The small monkey puzzles in the foreground were post-storm additions, planted to replace the damaged specimens:

Avenue of palms and monkey puzzles

In addition to the above, Logan House contains prize specimens of over 20 different tree species, 14 of which are Scottish champions and 7 of which are UK champions. I forget now if this one is a champion or not, but in any case it’s a pretty spectacular fellow – the octopus tree, Pinus radiata:

Two small assistants scurrying away from the enormous tentacles of the octopus tree

An attempt to get the whole of the octopus tree into the picture (I didn’t quite manage it, but you get the idea, it’s large)

One of the areas I found particularly interesting was the Tunnel Walk, which was criss-crossed with interestingly twisted tree trunks and branches:

Twisting trees in the Tunnel Walk at Logan House Gardens

The light as I walked through this area had a magical quality. I felt that wood nymphs ought to be playing in the spotlight, and perhaps they were, I just didn’t see them:

Playground of wood nymphs

The website for Logan House Gardens claims that they have ’40 shades of green’, to which I would respond ‘at least’.

A few of the 40 shades of green

More greens

Before I started writing it, I entitled this post ‘Peace and contentment’ because when I thought of Logan House Gardens, that was what sprang to mind.

It’s a shame it’s taken me so long to appreciate its splendour, but I will certainly be visiting it again when I get the chance.

I’m looking forward to its welcoming driveway luring me in next time to surprise me with more treasures.

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A few weeks ago I took my delightful assistant to the pretty village of Culross (pronounced Coo-ross) in Fife.

To my mind, there is such a thing as taking too many photographs, and it’s something I suffer from quite a bit. The problem for me is that when I get home and download them, if I’ve taken too many I feel overwhelmed, and if I want to write a post I just don’t know where to begin and which pictures to choose.

Since the visit to Culross my camera has given up the ghost and I can’t say I blame it. The place is so ridiculously picturesque that it’s impossible not to snap a new view with every step. Since we spent several hours there, I came home with literally hundreds of pictures. You’ll be relieved to hear that I’m not going to post them all, and will attempt to limit myself to a reasonable number.

One of the big attractions of the village is Culross Palace, which dates from 1597. It’s in the care of the National Trust for Scotland, which means that the delightful assistant and I got in for free (we’re both members). This is the entrance to the palace:

It’s one of these attractions where you just wander around at your own pace, reading information sheets about each area, and there are guides in several of the rooms who can answer any questions you might have. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately for me, in this instance) you’re not allowed to take photos inside. Most of it was quite dark with small windows letting in little light even on a sunny day.

There are several unusual features of Culross Palace, but I think chief amongst these are the tiered garden at the back of the buildings, and the fact that both palace and garden are situated in a village that seems to be frozen in time.

The garden slopes upwards at quite a steep angle and is laid out on a number of terraces. Here are some of the steps leading between terraces:

Part of the garden is occupied by chickens, which delighted me. In fact, afterwards when we were discussing our favourite things about the day I chose the chickens as one of my highlights. I don’t know why it is, but I’m always very taken with chickens on a day out.

We spent a long time in the garden, enjoying the chickens and some beautifully scented stripy roses:

Of course, before all this we had to bolster our energies with refreshments. I’m doing this the wrong way round (you see, I’m all confused by the number of pictures, and too distracted to do anything about it in this post), but here’s where we took them:

I think it was the first time I’d ever seen teacups hanging in windows on strings. I think it was also the first time I’d seen Iron Goddess of Mercy tea on the menu.

The tea was an oolong from Taiwan, and with a name like that I felt unable to resist. The glamorous assistant opted for coffee and we both had fruit scones with jam and butter. My tea came in one of those nice heavy black Japanese teapots:

Those sheets of paper at the left of the teacup comprise the impressive tea menu. There were some exotic varieties with interesting information about each one and it was tricky to choose. I will obviously need to return and try some of the others in due course.

Nextdoor to the tearoom was a pottery and gift shop with some interesting tea things:

Beyond the confines of the tearoom, pottery and palace, Culross has much to offer the visitor. Just wandering through the little streets, some of them cobbled, offers a variety of beautiful buildings and a sense of the history of the place.

So many householders seemed to be taking pride in the appearance of their houses, with flowers galore, in baskets, tubs and gardens:

Even those with apparently nowhere to display flowers had tied flowerpots to the walls:

In addition to all these privately owned flowers, there was botanical abundance to be found in the Culross Old School Yard Community Garden which, with considerable dedication and hard work, had gone from being a wasteland to this:

With a wildflower meadow and a seat to enjoy it from:

On our way back to the car, via more delightful little winding streets:

we passed this 17th century house that had been made into an electricity substation, with a vintage motor parked outside it to please the tourists. This was a shot I considered entering as my ‘white’ photo in the recent Capture the Colour competition:

Two last photos, if you haven’t already wandered off (my apologies for the length of this post and the number of photos in it), the first showing a series of crow-stepped gables with pantiled roofs (pantiles were imported into Scotland from the Netherlands centuries ago as ballast in ships and traded for other goods):

and one last flowery picture of a yellow foxglove from the Culross Palace garden. Flowers were a big part of our visit, and I’d like my next visit to be at a different time of year, to discover what other treats Culross has up its sleeve and along its winding streets:

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Yesterday I felt the need of an adventure involving tea, cakes, and a bit of Scottish heritage (I have to do this for my next book, it’s all work, work, work…) so I whisked my delightful assistant off to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of New Lanark, in South Lanarkshire (roughly central southern Scotland).

New Lanark is one of 5 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Scotland (the only other one I’ve seen is Edinburgh’s old and new towns, so I think I should make the effort to visit the rest). It consists of a small village and series of cotton mills that were built in 1786 by a Scottish businessman called David Dale.  It sits low in a valley of the River Clyde, and was built there because of its situation next to the only waterfalls on the Clyde (water power being needed for running the mills).

The reason it’s now a World Heritage Site is due to the innovation and industry of David Dale’s son-in-law, Robert Owen. Owen was a social reformer ahead of his time, and came into partnership with Dale at New Lanark when he married Dale’s daughter.

This is the first glimpse you get of New Lanark if you park at the upper car park and walk down towards the village:

I don’t know if the bunting had been put up for the Jubilee, the Olympics, some other celebration, or if it’s always there, but in any case there were lots of brightly coloured little flags fluttering in the breeze:

Having travelled for more than 2.5 hours to get here, the cafe was calling our names loud and clear (I admit, we had stopped for refreshments en route, but it felt like a long time beforehand).  The cafe was the sort you find in a large visitor centre, not terribly inspiring but providing much-needed refreshments to weary visitors. Having had previous refreshments (hot chocolate and biscotti for me, coffee and croissant for delightful assistant), we decided to share a sandwich and then have a cake each.

The sandwich selection was very carnivore-orientated, but we found a cream cheese and cucumber option that suited us both. I was absolutely desperate for tea by this time and was delighted to find that the tea was just the way I like it – strong, flavourful and Fairtrade:

My only complaint about the tea was that there was only enough for one cup each in the pot for two. However, that was remedied by ordering another pot, along with a coconut tart, a piece of Mars Bar slice and a small pot of grapes:

The cafe had been almost empty when we arrived:

But was very busy when we left, it being the lunchtime rush, and we were glad to get away from all the noise.  It also meant that the exhibitions were nice and quiet for us while our fellow visitors noshed in the cafe.

The first bit we went to was an audio-visual display and we were taken round in little pods seating two people in each one. The pods were suspended from a track in the ceiling that took us slowly round the exhibition, with the voice of ghost child Annie McLeod telling us her story along the way. At the end of the ride I had my picture taken with Annie McLeod and two faceless ghosts:

At the moment, New Lanark is forming Chapter 2 of my book, and I intend to visit it again and see the bits we didn’t manage to get round (there’s a lot to see – too much for one visit, but thankfully the ticket allows you to revisit and see the things you missed before).

Since I haven’t seen it all yet I can’t be sure of my favourite bit of it, but certainly from my first visit the part I liked best was the roof garden on top of one of the mill buildings:

We spent a long time up in the roof garden, having it to ourselves for a while, and it was a welcome relief from the exhibitions. Unfortunately, I had quite a headache all day, and being up there at the treetops with the breeze and the sunshine coming out a little now and then, was blissful.

One of the features of New Lanark, at least that we found, was that it had a claustrophobic feel, due to its situation down in the valley. There is no doubt that it’s a fascinating and amazing place, and I’m looking forward to visiting again, but it was nice to get out of it after spending 3 hours there.

When we left the village and were walking back up to the car park, we saw a grassy path leading off entincingly above the valley, and felt an overwhelming urge to investigate:

It was beautiful, with very fresh air, an earthy smell and lots of wild foxgloves:

Looking down on New Lanark, I felt free up there amongst the trees:

Next time perhaps we’ll visit in a different season and see what else is growing along the enticing path.

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One of life’s little pleasures, and something I find very rewarding, is finding hidden gems in my own neck of the woods.

I used to enjoy voyages of discovery of this sort when I lived in Edinburgh, wandering through the streets and taking turnings that I hadn’t taken before, just to see what lay beyond my usual route. I was often delighted by surprising details – a nice architectural feature here, a beautiful garden there.

This afternoon, since we were both in need of a bit of fresh air and exercise, I whisked my delightful assistant off towards Kirriemuir and took a turn off the road that I had seen many times before but never investigated.

The road was marked ‘Silvie’, although I didn’t see any further signs of anywhere with that name. It was a very pleasant discovery; here are a few photos of what we saw:

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Having published my first tearoom guidebook a couple of weeks ago, I’ve been feeling a bit lost.

It was great to get the book published after writing it, but there was a feeling of deflation once it had rolled off the presses. I’ve spent the past two weeks distributing and selling it (which I don’t find easy, or particularly pleasant) and now I want to get back to writing again.

I fully intend to continue my series of Tearoom Delights, but after spending 6 months on the first one, I feel I’d like to do something a bit different before the next one.

I’d been puzzling over this, wondering what to write next, when I had the idea of writing a travel book.

The book, as it’s shaping up so far (I’ve only written the introduction and the first chapter) is a bit about tearooms and a bit about other things that interest me on my little outings hither and thither. It’s rather like this blog I suppose, but without the supporting photographs, so I’ll be relying on descriptive text more than I do with my blog.

I’m a big fan of armchair travelling, letting someone else go and see places and report back through the pages of a book, although admittedly such books are usually full of thrills and spills, hardship and endurance, and a dearth of reliable cups of tea.

The sort of travel book I’m writing is slightly different from that, considerably less alarming and eventful, and quite possibly more dull.

Is there a market for this sort of book? I have no idea, but then I had no idea if there was much of a market for a guidebook to tearooms and I wrote it anyway. Sometimes, when something grabs you, you feel compelled to run with it, whether or not it looks like a good idea to anyone else. This has, admittedly, been my downfall on many occasions, but my thinking is that if you don’t try, you’ll never know.

Chapter 1 is all about Aberdour, a village in the Kingdom of Fife that boasts many interesting attractions, including one of the oldest castles in Scotland, one of the oldest churches in Scotland, and a prize-winning railway station. Here are a few pictures to give a taste of the place.

St Fillan’s Church, dating back to 1123:

Inside the church:

The lovely lane leading to the church from the street:

An exquisite bit of stone carving on one of the many interesting headstones in St Fillan’s graveyard:

An impessive beehive-shaped dovecot in the garden of Aberdour Castle:

What’s left of Aberdour Castle, the oldest parts dating back to the 12th Century. The big chunk in the foreground fell off at some point:

The most complete part of the castle:

One of the beautifully kept platforms at Aberdour railway station:

A street leading down to the beach:

Stormy clouds over the Black Sands of Aberdour (the more well-known Silver Sands are just around the coast from here):

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