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Archive for the ‘Galloway’ Category

Last week I tootled off to Scotland’s peaceful south-west with the delightful assistants for a little holiday.

Purely for scientific reasons (although what they were I couldn’t say), I gave myself the challenge of having a scone in a different tearoom every day. What follows is the photographic evidence of my work.

On our way south, we stopped at Le Jardin Cafe near Kinross. There was an excellent choice of scones, and I plumped for a plain one.

The scone was delightful, but the jam was outstanding. We were brought two different jams: mixed berry and apple, and apple and plum, and both were extremely good. This is not the best photograph of a scone, but I’ve included it because there’s a little pot of jam in the background.

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Saturday at Le Jardin Cafe – a plain scone with excellent jam

The next day, settled in nicely at our holiday cottage, we went to the beautiful Logan Botanic Gardens, where we had both morning tea and luncheon in the Potting Shed Bistro.

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Sunday at Logan Botanic Gardens – a fruit scone

The following day we visited Wigtown, known as Scotland’s Book Town for all the bookshops it contains, and called in at Cafe Rendezvous for our morning snacks.

It’s very nice when your expectations are exceeded, and such was the case with my scone at Cafe Rendezvous.

The scone was not only somewhat on the small side, but looked to me as if it might be lacking any great taste sensation. How wrong I was, it was a triumph!

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Monday at Cafe Rendezvous, Wigtown – a fruit scone

Tuesday’s scone was provided by the Pilgrim Tearoom in Whithorn. There were two scone choices, I think one was plain (it might have been fruit) and the other was treacle. I chose the treacle.

When you’ve had a particularly good scone experience one day, it  does make you wonder what the next one might be like. Again, my expectations were low, and again they were exceeded. What a happy set of circumstances.

The scones were so good that we returned to the same place for lunch, and I daresay I’ll be doing a separate post about that anon.

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Tuesday at the Pilgrim Tearoom – a treacle scone

Wednesday, the middle of the week, was a red letter day. We went to one of my very favourite tearooms anywhere in the world, Kitty’s in New Galloway (a post will follow about that too, no doubt).

We went there for the first part of our lunch and, after a walk to work up our appetites between courses, returned for sweet treats.

The many exquisite cakes on offer at Kitty’s made choosing what to have very difficult, but I was lured in by the prospect of a cream scone. It was served with an excellent full-bodied English Breakfast leaf tea.

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Wednesday at Kitty’s Tearoom – a plain scone with cream and jam

Topping Kitty’s would be very difficult and indeed it didn’t happen. Thursday’s scone was taken at the Seasons Tearoom in Dunskey Gardens, where we met up with various other family members. The company on this occasion was what mattered more than the comestibles.

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Thursday at the Seasons Tearoom – a fruit scone

The joy of Friday was that we went to a tearoom we’d never been to before, Granny’s Kitchen in Newton Stewart, where there were several flavours of scone on offer.

I delighted in choosing the unusual coconut scone, one that I’ve rarely seen in tearooms. It was a top class confection.

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Friday at Granny’s Kitchen – a coconut scone

Last year when I was in Galloway, I had a truly magnificent scone at the Woodlea Tearoom in Sandhead and I had been dreaming about having another one there.

On the last day of my holiday my dream came true. Just look at the stretch on this beauty:

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Saturday at Woodlea Tearoom – a fruit scone

Thank you to all of the wonderful Galloway tearooms that provided me with opportunities to conduct my work, it was a most enjoyable task.

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“Nature, like a kind and smiling mother, lends herself to our dreams and cherishes our fancies.”

Victor Hugo

The above quote comes as Robin’s most recent challenge on Bringing Europe Home (thank you Robin!).

I really like this quote and it could apply to so many of my photographs of nature, particularly those that remind me of a strong connection with my environment.

I’ve chosen to interpret it with a photograph taken 2 years ago while I was camping in Galloway, south-west Scotland. Galloway is an area I spent many childhood holidays in, camping and having adventures, and it has furnished me with many happy memories.

I was working in Dubai in 2010, 5 weeks away at a time, with 5 week break periods between each work stint, and this was taken during one of my breaks.

Having become soft and desirous of home comforts in my adulthood, I don’t go camping much nowadays, but I had a real desire to get away on my own in an tent on this occasion and I remember lying there looking out at the view with the warm breeze gently flapping at the tent, the smell of freshly cut grass, and the wonderful peace and tranquility of the setting. I did, indeed, feel that nature was lending herself to my dreams and cherishing my fancies.

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On holiday in Galloway last month, my delightful assistants and I visited Logan Botanic Gardens:

This is a pilgrimage each of us makes, usually at least once a year. Being members of the Royal Botanic Gardens (which comprises a set of four lovely gardens in Scotland, including Logan), like true Scots, we want to get our money’s worth.

The big bonus for me is that Logan also happens to contain one of my favourite tearooms in Galloway.

At first sight the striplights and tiled floor might seem a little stark and utilitarian, but I find this place warm and welcoming and I like the bright cleanliness of it. As soon as I step through the door I get a sense of having come home.

On this occasion, we had come here not only to enjoy the tearoom and look round the garden, but also to attend the Annual General Meeting. Despite all having been members for some time, none of us had ever attended any of the AGMs, and since this one happened to be on while we were in the area, we took the opportunity to pop in.

The meeting wasn’t being held until 2pm, so we rolled up in time for morning snacks, intending to munch those, mooch round the garden, have lunch and then drop into the meeting.

I noticed behind the counter that scones were being cut out of dough, and knowing that scones only take about 10 minutes to cook, I wondered if we might partake of these when they were ready. The lovely lady who was making them said that if we didn’t mind waiting she’d bring some over to our table when they were cooked, and in the meantime fetch us beverages to be getting on with.

So, we sat down with our drinks, and a few minutes later delicious piping hot scones appeared:

They were quite small and dainty, but perfectly formed and absolutely delicious. When the bill came I was surprised at how little we were being charged, and when we queried it we discovered that they’d cut the price of the scones as they were smaller than usual.

Thus refreshed, out we trotted for some fresh air and greenery.

I could do a whole post on this garden, but I will instead limit myself to showing you a hotel complex for minibeasts:

These hotels are at the top end of the market, the minibeast equivalent of a right royal residence:

I wondered if it was Prince Charles who came up with the hotel name. I saw him at Logan Botanics a few years ago when he had turned up to open something, although I can’t now remember what. I remember it was a lovely sunny day, and he was very tanned and wearing a sandy coloured suit that made him look like a pukka sahib abroad. (He was sort of abroad I suppose, having come from England).

After our garden stroll we strode back into the tearoom for a spot of luncheon prior to the meeting. We all opted for soup, the two delightful assistants taking lentil, while I chose minestrone.

Lentil soup:

Minestrone (it was probably the best minestrone soup I’ve ever had, I can still remember how good it was a month later):

The bread was also surprisingly good. I usually prefer brown bread, but this was very tasty, really crusty and crunchy on the outside and soft and fluffy on the inside.

We did wonder if there might be biscuits at the AGM, but in case not we had a little sweet thing after our soup. We got two pieces of Malteser slice to share between us:

I find it endlessly satsifying to break through the middle of a Malteser:

Nicely filled and not requiring the AGM’s biscuits, we filed into the meeting along with 20-odd other punters.

The sight that met my eyes caused me to gasp. Spread out inside the room was a magnificent buffet consisting of trays of sandwiches, scones, biscuits and cakes, and there were several pots of tea and coffee next to a stack of teacups. We looked at each other in a distressed way and wondered what to do about this situation.

Despite having no room for more food at this juncture, I simply could not pass up this veritable feast. I chose a small fruit scone (this was what the lady in the tearoom had evidently been making them for) with butter and jam, helped myself to a cup of tea and sat down in the back row next to delightful assistant no.1 (who was so full of lunch she couldn’t even manage a cup of tea).

After a bit of toing and froing with people finding seats and selecting goodies to nibble on, the chap in charge offered us another chance to take some treats before the meeting began. I really hadn’t room but I just couldn’t leave all that food there uneaten and looking deliciously at me. I thought perhaps that as the meeting went on I might develop an appetite, and so I topped my teacup up and helped myself to a coconuty cakey pink thing, which I laid on the windowsill beside me. Needless to say, it had gone by the close of the meeting:

After the meeting, which included a most interesting talk on ferns by a very enthusiastic fellow, we bid a fond adieu to Logan and its inhabitants, and are already looking forward to our next visit.

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(This post follows on from the previous one, which is why I’m just diving in here expecting you to know what’s going on.)

Having worked up an appetite browsing round The Book Shop, my delightful assistants and I trotted across the road to find our lunch, in another of Wigtown’s bookshops.

Many of the town’s bookshops have specialised in certain genres, and this one is dedicated to the work of women’s literature (anything and everything written by, for, and about women, although they do also have a small section in one room labelled ‘male authors’, as a sort of token gesture to the gents). Apparently, it’s the only extant specialist women’s bookshop in the UK, and one of only 13 in the world (how they obtained this information, I have no idea, but it sounds impressive to me).

I failed to mention that prior to visiting The Book Shop, we did in fact call into the ladies’ bookshop (it has a clever name which I’m tempted to divulge, but that would break my vow of secrecy on the subject of tearoom names) for a snack first. In my last post I showed you a fruit scone, which was what I had by way of a morning nibble, along with a pot of tea. Delightful assistant no.1 also had a scone:

Delightful assistant no.2 had a coconut creation, which exceeded expectations on tasting. It was very moist and extremely coconuty:

The tea and coffee they serve here is Fairtrade, and the jams and chutneys are made by a local family-owned business.  As mentioned in my previous post, the jam was plum and was exceptionally good.

The tearoom is very much a part of the bookshop, having lots of books within easy reach of the seats. This corner was where we sat:

Or we could have sat more in the body of the shop:

Or, indeed, in this lounge-type area:

Which has a wood burning stove and an interesting ceiling:

The menu contained a good number of interesting vegetarian and vegan options and I chose the vegan shepherdess pie, which was made with puy lentils, courgette and onion in a spiced tomato sauce, topped with mashed potato. It was served with steamed carrots, turnip and cabbage, and was absolutely delicious (according to the waitress it was cumin that gave it the excellent flavour):

I washed this down with a bottle of fragrant Rose Lemonade, a drink I came across last year and have become quite fond of:

I was so deeply involved with my own meal that I seem to have failed to record what my delightful assistants had, but I think one of them had the same as me and the other had cottage pie, which was similar but with meat in it.

Thankfully, because the portions weren’t too large, we had room for dessert. There were a number of tempting choices but delightful assistant no.1 and myself opted for the rice pudding, which came as a magnificently stodgy block:

Delightful assistant no.2 went for a chocolate brownie, but unfortunately my picture of it is blurred. The brownie came with a jug of cream, which delighted both assistants, and when the attentive waitress noticed that the jug had been emptied, she swiftly brought along another jugful. I don’t think the cream was meant for the rice pud, but when there’s cream on the table and the assistants are in attendance, it tends to get sloshed onto whatever’s available:

Feeling very happily filled, we took ourselves off for a poke around ‘The Hut’. The bookshop itself contains around 8,000 books for sale, but you can find another 17,000 to browse through in the Hut, a sort of little warehouse of several rooms attached to the back of the shop. Some of them were interestingly cramped and full of makeshift shelving:

And one of them was bright and full of boxes that we were invited to rummage through. I don’t know what the significance of all the portrait photos is, I admit to being perplexed by them:

On the way out, I was tempted by a piece of coconut sponge on the counter, but I was still too full of rice pudding to do it justice. A fine reason for a return visit, I think:

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There’s a small, spooky little town in the south-west of Scotland, with rather an unfortunate history, that has become known as Scotland’s Book Town.

It’s called Wigtown and it’s home to more than 20 book-related businesses (quite impressive for a place with a population of only about 1000), many of which are second-hand bookshops. One of them claims to be the largest second-hand bookshop in Scotland:

Those twisting pillars on either side of the door are made of piled up books covered in wax:

I remember the first time I went to Wigtown I had an unnerving sense of unease. I had no idea why I felt the way I did, but I had a strong impression that something wasn’t quite right. I’ve since visited it with three different friends, on separate occasions, and to my astonishment each one of them, with no prompting from me, reported the same strange feeling. My parents went there before I did and they felt it too.

Perhaps I shouldn’t be telling you this, in case you want to visit the place yourself and will now be predisposed to sensing something, but I feel I can’t write a post about Wigtown without mentioning it. If you’re curious, the explanation my parents gave me for it, and which seems quite convincing to me, relates to the story of the Wigtown Martyrs.

On to more cheerful matters – books galore! Despite the unsettling atmosphere of Wigtown, I do enjoy visiting it because of the marvellous range of bookshops on offer, and The Book Shop is definitely one of the highlights:

When I was there in April I noticed that a couple of the bookshops had closed down, perhaps due to lack of business (Galloway is a pretty quiet corner of the country and Wigtown is a very sleepy little backwater), but a fair number seem to be thriving and are still packed to the gunwhales with interesting tomes. The Book Shop has many different nooks and crannies, and books covering virtually every topic imaginable. If you like books, it is an absolute joy to wander round:

Amongst all the books, there are some curious ornaments, including a violin-playing skeleton suspended from the ceiling. I assume the poor fellow was hoisted up there after he’d passed on, and didn’t actually expire in situ, violin in hand:

Beneath the skeleton, in the bottom left hand corner of the above photo, you might make out a table with paper cups and things on it. This is a tea and coffee station, from where one is free to help oneself to hot beverages. There are a couple of comfy chairs next to it, upon which you may perch while you imbibe, and peruse a book or two. When I visited, the fire in the fireplace was blazing away and it was very cosy:

Knowing that I was bound for another bookshop that contained a more elaborate tearoom, I didn’t indulge here, but instead continued to wander round looking at books and reading messages in unlikely places:

As I say, I was saving my appetite for another bookshop that contained a tearoom. I’ll keep the details for another post because there’s quite a bit to say about it, but just to whet your appetite here’s a picture of the tasty fruit scone I had there. The jam in the background was astonishingly good. I wasn’t sure what the flavour was, but according to the waitress it was a locally made plum preserve. They had some jars of other jams on sale, but unfortunately none of the plum; if there had been any, I would have purchased one to take home:

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On Sunday 15th April, the first full day of our little holiday in Galloway, my two delightful assistants and I toddled off to one of Galloway’s many fine attractions: Dunskey Gardens.

Before looking round the gardens, however, we made a bee-line for the aptly named Seasons Tearoom, which was most splendidly adorned with paintings of the surrounding area as seen through the seasons. The paintings went all round the walls and strayed up to the ceiling:

In a previous life, this room had been a dairy, hence all the tiling on the lower walls. Although a most delightful place, it was rather cold, so we kept our outer clothing on:

Mind you, our comestibles were very warming. It was tea for me and a shared cafetiere of coffee for the delightful assistants, along with 3 different food items.

My choice was a coconut cake which was very generously topped with butter icing (I scraped some of it off and assistant no.2 helpfully wolfed it):

As an accompaniment to the butter icing from my cake, assistant no.2 had a fruit scone with butter and jam:

And assistant no.1 ordered ginger cake, and was delighted when the waitress brought it over, declaring ‘this is all there is left, so I’m giving you two slices':

Both of my parents have a great fondness for dairy produce, cream in particular where my dad’s concerned (he explains this by claiming to have been “born with a cream deficiency”) and butter on the part of my dear mama.

If you happen to have seen a previous post on here involving a pancake, you may recall that she wasn’t defeated by the solidity of butter served in a tearoom recently. The ginger cake episode was even more spectacular, to my mind. Really, I think the cake was only there to provide something for the butter to sit on:

Refreshed and warmed by our morning snacks, off we trotted into the bright sunlight. Dunskey Gardens has much to recommend it for a visit. Not only is it an interesting and lovely garden, but it also contains a maze (the pattern of which is based around the maze at Hampton Court), some splendid glasshouses and a woodland walk. We started our tour with the maze:

I have proof that we found our way to the centre of the maze:

I believe my eldest brother claimed the prize when he visited recently, and it was a lollipop  (‘children’ can be of any age, it seems; he’s 49, although he doesn’t look it).

After finding our way out (which was far easier than finding our way in, I’m relieved to say), we took a turn about the lovely gardens.

All over the place there were curious little plastic things hanging from trees and seats. We were initially quite perplexed by these, but once we’d worked out what they were we enjoyed looking for them (if you look closely underneath the bench towards the far end you can perhaps make out a little dangling blue thing):

Close-up, this was what they looked like:

They turned out to be hole punches and, thanks to delightful assistant no.2 being a fellow of infinte resource, we were each able to collect the different shapes on offer using pieces of paper torn from a notebook he had about his person:

I do like a nice glasshouse, and the glasshouses at Dunskey were jolly nice. They were built in the late 1800s by Mackenzie and Moncur, who were also responsible for the magnificent glasshouses at Kew Gardens in London and the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh.

Mackenzie and Moncur appear to have been an entrepreneurial bunch for, in addition to building glasshouses, they also ran iron foundries which produced – amongst other useful items – lamp posts, manhole covers, pipes and radiators. I can’t help feeling that making street furniture would be a very satisfying job. Whenever you walked past one of your creations you could smile with delight at having given something so useful to the world.

Beyond the glasshouses lay a woodland walk, which we enjoyed sauntering round. Along the route, visitors were encouraged to engage with their surroundings by guessing tree species which had been numbered, thus:

The answers were on the back of the numbered plates. I didn’t do very well as there weren’t many leaves out (that’s my excuse, although even with leaves I failed to get some of them), but assistant number 1 made a fine stab at it and got most of them right.

Part of the walk skirted a little loch (lake) where there were some boats tied up. I rather fancied nipping into one and rowing out on the water:

Dunskey is one of six gardens in Galloway that are part of a scheme encouraging tourism. When you visit any one of them you can collect a form that gives discounted entry to the others. We only managed three of the six on this trip, but hope to see the others on another occasion. I would like to return to Dunskey in another season, and of course I need to double-check the tearoom delights.

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If you’re ever thinking of having a little self-catering holiday in the south-west of Scotland, and fancy staying in a most comfortable and splendidly well equipped cottage, I can heartily recommend Culmore Bridge Cottages as a first class option.

The truly delightful Jim and Marilyn Sime have built four excellent self-catering bungalows next to their own cottage, in an area of grass and woodland near the sleepy village of Sandhead (about 8 miles south-east of Stranraer), and have taken great care to make them fully accessible with a range of thoughtful design ideas for disabled, as well as able-bodied, guests.

I spent last week there with my two most delightful assistants (as well as a special guest assistant), and we had a marvellous time. We’ve all stayed there before, never want to leave and are always looking forward to our next visit.

Here’s a picture of Rowan Cottage, the house we stayed in. The paintwork was being redone during our stay, which is why it looks a little fuzzy round the edges, but I’m sure that it will be looking tip-top by now with all the black paint round the windows touched up. This was taken halfway through the repainting, with the whitewashing already done and just the window surrounds to finish:

Inside, the house was spacious, well laid out, warm, cosy and comfortable.

The very well equipped kitchen:

With dining area next to it and light streaming in from the French doors that led onto a small decking area outside (outdoor chairs and a table provided for those al fresco moments):

The view from the decking area (there was a road beyond the trees but apart from that peace and tranquility reigned):

There were paths around the demesne, some of which led to ponds full of wildlife, including several species of newt. I’ve seen at least two different species here, including the great crested newt. They like to hide in murky water and lurk amongst foliage so this was the best shot I could get:

The cottage had three lovely relaxing bedrooms (2 doubles and a twin). This was my room, where I did a lot of happy snoozing:

Snoozing opportunities were to be had elsewhere in the house, too, as weary assistant no.2 discovered after breakfast in the lounge one day (well, he is nearly 83 after all, and if you can’t take a nap after breakfast at that age, when can you?):

The lounge led onto the dining area and kitchen, all open plan but very nicely designed so that they felt like separate areas:

While some of us were indulging in a doze, others were perusing improving literature on the subject:

Many delicious tearoom experiences were had on this holiday (of which more to come) but before I get onto that, I will leave you with a health-giving salad (the cucumber was pushed to one edge so as not to offend those who didn’t care for it):

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