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Archive for the ‘Angus’ Category

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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At the end of June 2012 I self-published my first book, “Tearoom Delights”.

Since then I have come into possession of two more self-published books which I’d like to mention.

The first was spawned, like my own, from a blog.

The blog, which ran for a year, was written by fellow blogger, Noemi, and was entitled Desayunos Veganos 365 (365 days of vegan breakfasts). It documented Noemi’s breakfast every day, 365 different breakfasts for the whole of 2012, with beautiful photographs of her delicious looking food and drink.

As someone who rarely deviates from her pint of Darjeeling, toasted bagel and bit of fruit, I was utterly astonished by this feat.

At the end of the year a book was produced, and having enjoyed the blog so much I felt I had to have a copy to drool over. Here it is:

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The cover of a beautiful book full of inspiring breakfasts by Noemi Iza

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The back cover is as beautiful as the front.

A selection of pages from inside reveal some of Noemi’s wonderful fare:

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One of the photos even features my wee book (thank you, Noemi!), very fittingly sitting next to cinnamon spiced tea and cranberry scones:

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Noemi’s delightful book can be purchased, here, in both hardback and paperback format.

The second book comes from closer to home and was written by John Palfreyman, a cycling enthusiast who lives a few miles away from me in the town of Coupar Angus.

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John’s admirable little book with a lovely view of the Sidlaw Hills on the cover.

In a way, his book is similar to mine, in that he’s written about cycle routes in the same areas as I wrote about tearooms.

He’s passionate about cycling, and about the area in which he lives, and his book is a little treasure for cyclists and non-cyclists alike. I like the cartoons he uses to symbolise how hard each route is:

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I feel exhausted just looking at that chap on the far right.

The book is packed with lovely photographs, details 25 different routes of varying lengths and levels of difficulty, and includes a list of cafes, restaurants and inns in the areas covered (as well as mentioning my book for further reading – thank you, John!).

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You get lots of great little photographs along with the text, all beautifully reproduced throughout the book.

It also has an excellent map tucked into the back:

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The map is folded up and slotted into a plastic tab at the bottom right hand corner of the inside back cover and is double-sided showing two different scales.

At £5.99 for the book and map, I think “Adventures on Two Wheels” is an absolute bargain.

It can be purchased from Waterstones in Perth and Dundee, Stewart Tower Dairy, the Post Office in Stanley, the Joinery Coffee Shop in Meigle and the Beatrix Potter Centre in Birnham, as well as various places in Coupar Angus. It will also soon be available from Tourist Information Centres in Perth, Blairgowrie, Pitlochry and Dunkeld.

Considering the book was only published last month, I think John has done an amazing job getting it into retail establishments and I wish him all the very best with future sales.

As for me, I don’t have any plans to self-publish another tearoom book any time soon, but I have written my first novel and am currently working on the second.

All I need now is a nice agent or publisher to take me on, but if that doesn’t happen then I might consider self-publishing the first novel as an e-book.

To everyone out there who’s already self-published (and I know there are one or two amongst my regular readers), I take my hat off to you. I know how much work it is and it’s great when you have something at the end to show for it.

To anyone thinking about self-publishing, I doff my hat to you, too, and encourage you to do it. It may not make you much money (initially, it might actually lose you money) but it is a satisfying thing to do, and can bring you a nice sense of achievement.

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As promised in my last post, I am about to present you with several skulls and a host of cherubs.

They were found in Glamis churchyard, a most interesting and slightly spooky place, even in broad daylight.

Before any of that, however, I would like to make up for not including any edible treats in my last post and am starting off here with a pavlova I made for pudding not so long ago.

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Pavlova made with brown sugar meringue, whipped cream, strawberries and blueberries.

Back to the graveyard, and several skulls:

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This skull was skulking at the foot of a headstone.

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This one, complete with crossbones beneath, has been embedded into the wall outside the graveyard. I don’t know what it’s doing there or where it came from.

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The skull projects quite spectacularly from the wall.

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I found gazing into the emtpy stone eye sockets slightly disconcerting.

Another skull at the foot of a most elaborately decorated headstone:

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A skull at the bottom and a cheery cherub up the top, with Masonic symbols in the middle and Corinthian pillars either side = a headstone and a half.

There seems to be something of a skull theme going on in Glamis.

In the nearby Glamis Castle, childhood home of the Queen Mother and well worth a visit if you’re ever in the area, there is said to be a Room of Skulls.

This room, now walled up, tells a particularly nasty tale. It contains the remains of the Ogilvie family, who came to Glamis in the 15th Century seeking protection from their enemies. Instead of being welcomed and well treated by the castle inmates, they were put into a chamber and left there to await their demise.

On a cheerier note, how about some cherubs?

There were lots of them in Glamis churchyard, each with its own character and expression.

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Last one (there were more but I realise I’m already pushing my luck):

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The day I visited this graveyard, and the one in the previous post, was a day on which I had very little appetite due to feeling a bit under the weather.

My delightful assistant and I did partake of a little luncheon between graveyards, but I wasn’t in the mood for photographing it and in any case the interior of the cafe we had it in wasn’t conducive to photography, being rather dark.

However, I’m pleased to say that I have since indulged in a number of small treats, including a piece of deliciously moist gingerbread at the excellent Caoldair Coffee Shop near Laggan:

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Delicious gingerbread with a mug of Darjeeling tea. The gingerbread had occasional nuggets of crystalised ginger in it, making it even more exciting.

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An arresting sign on the road just before Caoldair.

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Outdoor seating at Caoldair (there are tables inside, too).

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Part of the interior at Caoldair, with all manner of things for sale including clothing, pottery, toiletries, cards and toys.

By the way, if you liked the look of the pavlova at the top of this post you might be interested to know that it’s been made into a note card and is available for puchase on Etsy, here, along with several other teatime-related cards, including the photo from the front of my Tearoom Delights book:

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You might recall that I put four of my other cards for sale on ebay to see if they would sell in an auction. They didn’t sell there, but I have sold a few on Etsy, so thank you very much to my lovely customers.

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Needing a change of scene yesterday, I whisked delightful assistant no.1 off to the peaceful countryside of Angus.

It was a muggy sort of day, not cold, but not sunny; the sort of day when, if feeling slightly out of sorts or under the weather, refreshment could be gained from a slow amble around quiet places.

En route to a lunch stop, we were diverted by a nice little church with an interesting looking graveyard:

Carmyllie Parish Church, originally built in 1609 (various alterations and additions have been made since). Inside, there’s said to be a pew dating back to 1657 but the building was locked so we couldn’t get in to take a peek.

There were some splendid gravestones to be seen, several of which had an agricultural theme.

This one, as well as having the most impressive stone carved rope I think I’ve ever seen on a headstone, had the motto, “We plow in hope”:

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Over 200 years old and still very clear.

Not all of the headstones were in quite such good nick, but this one from 1799 possessed unusual shaping across the top:

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A headstone inspired by a bat? That’s what the little peaks at the top made me think of.

It also had an open pair of scissors  and what looked like an iron carved into one side. The burial spot of a tailor, perhaps?

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I couldn’t make out a date on this next one, but I would guess it was erected in the late 1700s. It had some notable features:

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Near the top there was a little sort of tableau featuring a lady in the centre with an angel or cherub on either side of her:

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The little chap on the right appears to be flying, while the little chap on the left appears to be affecting a teapot-like pose.

I thought she was wearing a crown, and there certainly was something above her head that seemed to be the right sort of shape, but beneath that and encircling her head there was what could have been a halo. She was cradling an infant, although whether or not said infant also had a halo was hard to tell. This wasn’t a Roman Catholic graveyard and so I think it unlikely that the lady pictured was the Blessed Virgin, but perhaps she was, or maybe the headstone marked the burial place of a mother who died along with her small child. Unfortunately, I was unable to decipher the inscription beneath the picture.

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In any case, she looked serene:

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Some of the stones featured fancy swirls and flourishes, like the one on the left of the picture below:

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And one was bedecked with magnificently carved foliage:

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Fabulous foliage on a carved stone cross at Carmyllie Parish Church.

As it turned out, this was only the first of two fascinating graveyards visited yesterday.

If you think you can stomach another post along the same lines, tune in next time for several skulls and a host of cherubs.

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Just out of curiosity, I’ve put four of my photographic greetings cards for sale on ebay (here).

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My sister’s having a stall at her local fayre in August and is kindly going to try flogging some of my creations (“Tearoom Delights” books, as well as cards).

When I was sticking a few cards together today (I make them from matt prints, sliced to size and glued to blank white square cards), I thought why not put a little pack of four different ones on ebay and see if anyone buys them?

These are the pictures I sliced up and stuck on:

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House with a thatched roof in Glamis, Angus (next to the excellent Strathmore Arms – well worth dropping in to for lunch if you happen to be in the area feeling peckish).

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A window into Aberdour Castle, Fife, with pretty plants around it. The castle and gardens are next to a beautiful little church, all of which makes for a grand day out.

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A colourful scene in Anstruther, Fife, home of award winning fish and chips and the Scottish Fisheries Museum. This was taken on a truly glorious day with bright blue skies and lots of people out and about enjoying the sunshine (although I chopped the people out of this picture for the card). Fife is full of buildings like this one in the background with charming pantiled roofs.

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Elie, another of the Fife coast’s little treasures, and one of the places my dad used to be taken on holiday by train from Edinburgh as a small boy. Elie has a number of old and interesting buildings on quiet streets, and some of the street names have been rather unusually hand painted onto stone buildings.

At the fayre the cards will be selling for £1.50 each, so that would be £6.00 for a pack of four, but I’ve put the above four on ebay in an auction starting at £1.99 to see what sort of price they fetch, if indeed they sell at all.

There are postage prices for the UK, Europe, Australia and the USA, although I’d happily send them anywhere.

The auction ends in 7 days…

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Glamis, Aberdour Castle, Anstruther and Elie waiting patiently to see if anyone bids for them.

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Sale - Bags

To celebrate the coming of spring (and ignoring the hail battering at the window as I type this), my tearoom guidebook has gone on sale today at the new knockdown price of £6.30 (including p&p to a UK address; extra postage costs incurred for shipping overseas).

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Fluffy springtime brood watched over by mother in Logan Botanic Gardens

I wanted to sell the book on Amazon, and in order to compete with the low prices offered by other sellers (notably, Amazon itself), I had to cut my price.

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To be fair to anyone buying it on ebay, I’ve reduced the price there, too.

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It’s nearly 11 months since it was published and I’m still surrounded by boxes of these little red books. I remember a year ago how nice it was to see the fruits of my labours, but after a while the novelty of drowning in tearoom guidebooks wears off.

If you fancy purchasing a copy at the sale price, I’d be delighted to sell you it from Teacups Press on Amazon or ebay. You can get to those pages in a jiffy by clicking on Amazon and ebay or their logos above. Copies are also available from a few shops and tearooms in the Perthshire and Angus area. For a list of stockists, please see here.

Thank you to everyone who’s bought a copy already (including many of my fine blogging chums), your custom is much appreciated.

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Splendid illustration courtesy of the magnificent Quentin Blake

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If you happen to be in Scotland driving along the A90, the main road between Dundee and Aberdeen, you might be surprised by the dearth of good eateries along this busy route.

However, about halfway between the two cities, near the little town of Laurencekirk and about half a mile off the main road, there lurks a gem of a place called Balmakewan:

According to the website, Balmakewan is not only a farm shop and tearoom (housed in the old coach house building pictured above), but also a small family run mansion house, with holiday cottages to rent and a large selection of rhododendrons and azaleas for sale.

When you go through the doors of the old coach house, you find a very spacious and nicely laid out shop area:

Beyond this there is a big table surrounded by tins, jars, packets and bottles of food and drink for sale:

The big table is one of the places you can sit if you want to make use of the splendid tearoom facilities, but there are smaller options too:

Much of the seating appears to have been acquired from a church, many of the chairs having storage areas on their backs (see picture above) for a Bible/hymnbook. Old wooden church pews are also provided:

The tables are remarkably shiny, as can be seen in the picture below. The only other place I’ve seen wooden tables gleaming like this was in a small farm tearoom not far from Balmakewan. Perhaps it’s all the rage in rural Aberdeenshire.

The menu is more of a restauranty affair than you’d expect to find in the average tearoom, but helpfully they offer small portions as well as full size versions.

My delightful assistants and I all went for small portions in order to leave room for pudding.

Delightful assistant no.1 had smoked haddock with boiled new potatoes and spring greens:

Delightful assistant no.2 and I both opted for pea risotto, which came with creamy cheese fritters and was artistically finished with watercress and pea shoots. I thought it was one of the most beautiful meals I’d ever eaten:

I was particularly delighted by the curling pea shoots:

The main courses were very good, but what of the desserts?

Choosing a sweet was a fairly painful business. I’m often torn in situations where there’s a number of pleasing pudding options, and I had a sort of pleasurable nightmare at Balmakewan.

I almost plumped for St Clement’s Log, one of the day’s specials and the choice of delightful assistant no.1. I tasted a bit of hers and, although you might not get all this from the photograph, it was a creamy, moussey, extremely citrussy slab of near perfection:

Delightful assistant no.2 also went down the creamy pudding route, with Bailey’s and white chocolate cheesecake. Texturewise, it struck me as cheesecake perfection, melting in the mouth like a snowflake on the tongue:

Faced with such decadent delights, what do you suppose I went for?

Regular readers might not be too surprised by my choice of a very decent sized (enormous) fruit scone:

It was served with a little dish of swirling butter and a small cup of excellent strawberry jam:

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Due to its great girth I struggled to finish it, but the accompaniment of a pot of Lady Grey tea helped it down nicely. The assistants both went for coffee.

Prior to hot beverages, with our main courses we had a carafe of water between us. In addition to that, delightful assistant no.2 had a bottle of Thistly Cross cider, an alcoholic beverage crafted in the Scottish seaside town of Dunbar.

He enjoyed it very much, but it left him ready for a nice nap, so when our luncheon was concluded he headed off to the car for a sleep while delightful assistant no.1 and I went for a little walk up a quiet road.

On the way we passed the garden of Balmakewan House, which had an unusual stone fence (or perhaps, being made of stone, it would be considered a wall):

There was also a curious old tower in a field that caught our attention. I have no idea what it was doing there, but I thought it looked rather nice sitting alongside some pylons (I like a nice pylon):

When we got back to the car, delightful assistant no.2 was awake and ready for a new experience, so we all whisked off to the nearby Steptoe’s Yard. I wrote about this amazing place on my Teacups Press blog last year but on that occasion it was only delightful assistant no.1 and I who visited.

As anticipated, delightful assistant no.2 was fascinated by the garden implements:

Despite the profusion of items on offer, we left empty handed.

It’s several days since we had this little outing, but while I’ve been writing this post the memory of that Balmakewan scone has been looming large in my mind. It exceeded expectations and days later I’m craving another. This, in my view, is an indication of scone greatness.

 

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To celebrate the new year, I thought I’d start a series on Intriguing Sights – things that, for some reason or other, have grabbed my attention when out and about.

Intriguing Sight No.1 is a postbox, and I expect other postboxes will pop up in due course because they often take my fancy.

Intriguing Postbox No.1

One of the strange things about this postbox is that it has a little door next to it. I opened the door to see if it led to the inside of the postbox, but no, behind the door lies a small enclosed cubby hole – dark, dank and littered with feathers, rubbish and the like. As you can see, it has a somewhat elaborate hinge and closing mechanism, but I couldn’t get it to shut tight.

I can only imagine that the cubby hole is there to accommodate parcels or letters too big for the postbox mouth, although the fact that the door doesn’t close properly makes me wonder if anyone would dare to leave a parcel in there. If parcels or large letters are seldom left in the cubby hole, does the postie collecting the mail from this box always check it? I think the only way to find out would be to conceal myself in nearby undergrowth around the time of collection and observe what goes on.

Another curious thing about this postbox is its location, down at ground level next to a quiet junction in the peaceful Angus countryside:

Junction next to Intriguing Postbox No.1

In the above picture a signpost points to Balintore.

If you go up that road you’ll find what could certainly be described as another Intriguing Sight, and which should probably have its own post. I feel sure I’ve taken photographs of it before but I can’t find them, so I’ve found a splendid one online instead (below).

This spooky pile is called Balintore Castle and it was built as a sporting lodge in the mid 1800s. It was abandoned by its then owners in the 1960s, with dry rot and a crumbling structure, and lay empty for about 40 years, until Angus Council bought it. It is currently under restoration by a chap called David, who’s doing it up in a long and no doubt exceptionally trying effort to get it back into use as a dwelling place. (If you click on his name you’ll be taken to the blog he’s writing about his progress.)

image by ClanUrbex on Flickr

image by ClanUrbex on Flickr

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“Happy is the man who has broken the chains which hurt the mind, and has given up worrying once and for all.”

Ovid

The above quote forms this week’s Quotes from the Masters challenge from Robin at Bringing Europe Home. Her photos of the sunny Californian coast are spectacular and make me want to go and drive along Highway 1.

Closer to home for me, there is a wonderful place where I like to go to clear the cobwebs. When I’m a bit tense or in need of revitalisation, a visit to Drumderg windfarm soothes me and gets me back on the right track with a clear mind.

I find the turning of these enormous turbines (each one is 107 metres tall) mesmerising and very relaxing. I visited them a few days ago on quite a windy day, and was so taken with them that I sat down in the road and just enjoyed their revolutions. The road is a very quiet one and there was no traffic at all while I was there.

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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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