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Archive for the ‘Scottish Borders’ Category

A few days ago the delightful assistants and I trooped off south for a little outing.

To make the most of the daylight hours, rather than call in at a tearoom en route we stopped at a service station to pick up takeaway coffees and biscotti to wolf on the journey.

Our refreshments kept us going until we reached the village of Broughton in the Scottish Borders, where there is a fine establishment called the Laurelbank Tearoom.

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Our table at Laurelbank: drinks delivered, food on its way, expectations high.

I ordered the soup of the day, which was carrot and courgette. It was accompanied by a soft, warm brown roll whose only down side was that it wasn’t twice the size. Still, it was very nice and slipped down a treat with the tasty hot soup.

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Lovely soup with a small but delicious roll.

Delightful assistant no.1 went for a ham salad which was delivered with another of the nice brown rolls.

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Ham salad complete with tasty brown roll.

Delightful assistant no.2 chose one of the hot specials: roasted peppers stuffed with vegetarian haggis and topped with cheese. A surprising combination, I thought, but he very much enjoyed it.

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One of the things that pleased me about this dish was that it came not with the more common green or red peppers but with yellow ones, which are (apart from the orange ones) my favourite. It wasn’t my meal, and I didn’t taste any of it, but if I’d ordered it I’d have been well chuffed.

We were all very happy with our savouries and, although the Laurelbank Tearoom offers excellent sweet treats, we decided to toddle on elsewhere for a bit of variety and to allow out appetites time to regain their previous vigour.

On our way out of the village we stopped to admire some lovely autumn trees in the local park:

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Beautiful autumn colours in Broughton.

This park is, in fact, the local school’s playing fields, and is named after a Royal personage of note.

There are two gateposts at the entrance to the playing fields, and the one on the right features a lion:

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King George’s Field right side gatepost lion, Broughton.

While the one on the left has a unicorn:

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King George’s Field left side gatepost with a unicorn.

This is one of 471 such parks throughout the British Isles dedicated to the memory of King George V, who died in 1936.

After the king’s death, in addition to a statue in London commemorating him, a foundation was set up with the intention of designating playing fields all over Britain carrying his name. It was agreed that a memorial of this sort was in line with the King’s thinking about the importance of exercise.

Of the 471 Fields set up in Britain, 85 were established in Scotland.

Heraldic panels were displayed at the gateway to each of these fields, and in England, Wales and Northern Ireland these were to be positioned with the lion on the left and the unicorn on the right, but in Scotland the positions were reversed, as in the Broughton playing fields above. Only the Scottish unicorns are depicted wear crowns.

I think these differences are to do with the royal coat of arms, which features a lion and a unicorn; on the Scottish version the unicorn is always on the left wearing a crown, whereas in the rest of the UK the unicorn is on the right and crownless (the lion always has a crown, wherever he is, the bold beast).

We drove out of Broughton along a beautifully autumnal road, passing a very well kept farm with elegantly sculpted deer at the entrance:

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Ratchill Farm entrance with sculpted deer (there were four altogether, two on either side of the driveway).

After a mooch round the John Buchan Museum in Peebles (well worth a visit if you’re a Buchan fan), we headed off to the Scots Pine Tearoom in Eddleston for afternoon tea and cakes.

The choice was very good and I was in a quandary but couldn’t resist a mincemeat pie with crumble topping:

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Mincemeat pie: stuffed with dried fruit and spiciness, topped with sugary crumbly topping.

Delightful assistant no.1 had that enduring staple, the fruit scone:

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Fruit scone for delightful assistant no.1; she specifically requested this ‘well fired’ one.

Delightful assistant no.2 chose something he has a weakness for, and was in the right part of the world to obtain – Border tart:

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Delightful assistant no.2’s cake heaven: the fruit-filled, icing-topped Scottish delight that is Border tart.

I enjoyed my mincemeat tart very much but, unusually, I was still hungry afterwards. Perhaps I ate it too quickly and didn’t give my stomach time to catch up, but in any case I’m afraid I made a second trip to the cake counter and came away with another treat in the form of a fruit scone.

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Treat no.2 for me: a fruit scone, washed down with tea. I struggled with the last few mouthfuls as I expect my stomach had begun to register recent consumption of mincemeat tart.

Rather full of treats and awash with tea, I rolled into the car with the delightful assistants and we headed home through lovely autumn countryside.

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A day or two ago I came across a photo competition on Restless Jo‘s blog.

The competition is sponsored by Rhino Carhire (clicking here will take you to the competition website) and features modes of transport.

In order to enter, you need to write a blog post including photographs of various modes of transport you’ve encountered. There are four categories: ROAD, AIR, RAIL and SEA and you can enter as many or as few categories as you wish, with as many photos for each category as you like.

I thought I’d struggle to find even one picture for each category, and that made me set myself the challenge.

These are not necessarily the best snaps I’ve ever taken but I quite enjoyed fishing around for one of each.

For the ROAD category, I thought of Iceland, where some of the roads are so rough and ready that not only are there no white lines or road markings of any kind, but you have to cross rivers to get from A to B.

My chum and I, who were on a field trip, had to drive across a number of rivers, and I was keen to photograph the experience.

On the occasion depicted below, I jumped out of the car and climbed over rocks till I found a place where I could cross on foot without getting too wet. My chum waited till I was ready to photograph him crossing, and then drove through the river while I snapped away.

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On the road in Iceland

For the AIR category the only photographs I could think of that I might use were shots taken from aeroplane windows. Many of these have bits of wing in them, but I took a few while flying over the Chilean capital of Santiago which were devoid of plane parts, and this is one of them. A mixture of fog and cloud produced this smoky scene:

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Flying across misty mountains into Santiago de Chile

The RAIL category was a bit trickier, because initially I was trying to remember if I had any pictures of beautiful old steam trains, but couldn’t remember taking any. I have a few views from modern train windows, but they didn’t seem quite sufficient. Then I remembered rather a nice railway viaduct in the Scottish Borders.

This is the Leaderfoot Viaduct and although no longer in use as a railway track, it has been very nicely renovated by Historic Scotland and is a charming piece of engineering history:

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The Leaderfoot Viaduct – an elegant way for trains to cross the River Tweed

I have quite a few pictures of boats, ships and life at sea, many of which were taken during my time working in the oil industry. I remember several rough trips in the North Sea, and thought I’d use one from such a trip for the SEA category.

This photograph was taken in the sort of weather in which, as the saying goes, you feel so seasick you worry you’re going to die, and then you worry you won’t.

During this storm I spent most of the time lying in my bunk feeling close to death, but for a brief moment I managed to leg it up to the bridge to take some pictures, before crawling back to my cabin and continuing to feel sorry for myself.

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Waves crashing over the bow during stormy weather in the North Sea

In order to enter the competition I need to nominate at least 5 fellow bloggers who might like to take part.

I feel bad about doing this so close to the deadline, which is 31 October 2013, but on the up side, if you can manage to squeeze an entry in you might just win yourself £1000.

I tried to choose bloggers I thought might be interested in entering at least one of the categories, but anyone can have a go, you don’t need to have been nominated in someone else’s post (I wasn’t!).

Dutch Goes Italian

Gippsland Granny

Rigmover

Meg Travels

Scott Marshall Photography

Even if you don’t win the overall winner’s prize of £1000 there’s always a chance you could win one of the category winners’ prizes of a Sony compact camera.

Best of luck to anyone who enters!

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Following on from Top Temperatures the other day, the delightful assistants and I made our way back northwards, heading in the first instance for a purveyor of treats and beverages.

We got slightly sidetracked en route, however, by this:

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You may well wonder what on earth there is in the above picture to warrant keeping one back from one’s snackerels, and if it weren’t for what’s over the road from this field you might never know. Here’s a delightful assistant having a look at it:

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It’s a sort of sculpture, put there to mark the start of the River Tweed, which is what you can’t see in the field across the road due to it being just a trickle hidden amongst foliage.

The sculpture is made from a lump of sandstone, with various information plaques like the one above stuck onto it, and little scenes from the river’s history carved into it:

Little rowers, one of many interesting carvings on the River Tweed sculpture.

What fascinated the assistants most of all, however, was a small carved bridge through which they were determined to poke things. First up was a paper tissue, the choice of delightful assistant no.2:

Delightful assistant no.2 with his hankie trick: “Watch closely as I take a paper hankie, crumple it up at one end, and manoeuvre it effortlessly through the little bridge arch. Ta-da!”

Delightful assistant no.1 was very keen to get a stick through it, which she did with some success:

See – it comes right through nicely!

Delightful assistant no.1 chuffed beyond words with her stick-through-a-tiny-bridge demonstration

When I managed to drag them away from this most diverting of entertainments, we set off again for the quiet little village of Broughton in the Scottish Borders.

Some of the attractive stone cottages lining the main street through Broughton.

Although Broughton is very small, with a population of apparently around 300, it contains a brewery and an excellent tearoom.

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Assistants toddling into the tearoom

Since I was still a bit full of lunch, I decided on a hot chocolate as a sort of compromise between a drink and a cake.

With something this sweet and filling a cake wasn’t absolutely necessary.

But when I went to look at the cake counter ‘just to see’ I was drawn in by a flat jammy almond affair:

Flat and utterly delicious: a very jammy almond slice.

Delightful assistant no.1 declared herself interested only in coffee, but when I told here there were small and enticing bits of tiffin on offer she caved in:

Tiffin, when made well (as this one was), is arguably the king of traybakes.

Delightful assistant no.2 left it up to me to choose his cake for him, and I plumped for a lemon and coconut slice, because he has a penchant for them:

If you’re stuck for what to choose in a tearoom and you fancy a sweet treat with coconut in it, my advice would be it’s always worth trying the lemon and coconut slice.

I’m delighted to say that I tasted all of the cakes and each of them had its own special charms. Often, when I’m in company and trying a variety of cakey options, there are some I like better than others, but this was an occasion when I would happily have chosen any one of the three because they were all equally tip top.

One thing I noticed about the Laurel Bank Tearoom this time that I haven’t been aware of on previous visits was the unusually good selection of veggie options. There was a specials menu with 5 main courses on it, and 3 of them were vegetarian; a couple of them may even have been vegan for all I know. Good job, Laurel Bank!

Back on the road through the Scottish Borders yellow heads nodded to us as we passed, and we nodded back contentedly.

Thank you for visiting….thank you for having us.

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If you live in the northern hemisphere, as I do, you might be longing for a bit of summer sunshine round about now.

The UK has been exceptionally wet in recent days, with numerous flood warnings and TV pictures of dramatic rescues by the Fire Brigade of people in cars stranded in deep water. It’s also been very dark, with constant heavy cloud, and all of this has made my thoughts wander back to happy summer days of sunshine and warmth.

Scotland is prone to a lot of cloud, but that doesn’t always mean it’s wet and cold to boot. One particular day in early August was quite cloudy, but it was one of those still, jacket-free days where the sun, when it does break through the cloud, feels gloriously warm on the skin.

My dear mama had told me about a tearoom in the little town of Thornhill, in Dumfries and Galloway, in which she and the pater had taken a very pleasant luncheon while on holiday in those parts.

Thornhill is a fair distance from where I live, and a bit further than I would normally venture on a day out, but since the weather was fine and we got an early start, I whisked the small assistant (said maternal parent) off south-westwards towards the Dumfriesshire hills.

This picture was taken on a different occasion, but as it happens to be en route to Thornhill, I’m bunging it in to give an idea of some of the scenery we passed through:

The Borders hills

We arrived there around lunchtime, but since we’d stopped for a snack on the way we took a stroll around the town to work up our appetites. I don’t appear to have taken any photographs of the main street in Thornhill and so I’ve borrowed this one from the excellent website, Undiscovered Scotland:

The main street, Thornhill

We ambled along the backstreets, which were quiet and had lovely views of distant hills, as well as some strange-looking trees:

Thornhill

Along one little street I was surprised to see a fairly impressive memorial, remembering one Joseph Thomson (Explorer):

Joseph Thomson, Explorer, Memorial

According to Wikipedia, this Thomson  (1858-1895) was “a Scottish geologist and explorer”, who not only has an African beast named after him (Thomson’s Gazelle) but avoided confrontations among his porters or with indigenous peoples, neither killing any native nor losing any of his men to violence.”

The same article claims that he is the originator of this apparently oft-quoted motto: “He who goes gently, goes safely; he who goes safely, goes far.”

I can’t say I’m familiar with the quote, but at least now if I ever come across it I’ll know who said it.

Thomson was born in the village of Penpont, a couple of miles from Thornhill, and some time I would like to have a mosey round there to see if there are any references to him. I seem to remember that Penpont, despite its small size, also hosts an interesting looking tearoom, which gives me an added reason to investigate it.

The memorial has rather a nice bas-relief (if that’s the term I want) on one side, showing a lady holding an unfurled scroll displaying a map of Africa:

Bas-relief on Joseph Thomson memorial

Just beyond this memorial a sign caught our attention:

Coo Lane sign

The lane in question enticed us to walk down it:

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I’m assuming that the lane was named after the Scottish word for ‘cow’ because at the end of this lane there was a field, and perhaps in days gone by this was a busy highway for travelling cattle. There were no coos there when we visited, but there were some sheep, many of which were flopped out on the grass soaking up the rays:

Relaxing sheep

The delightful assistant and I were both very warm by this time, after plodding all over the place in the unusually balmy weather, and luncheon was calling.

The tearoom we were bound for was called “Thomas Tosh”, which I think has a splendid ring to it. I particularly like the idea of using the shortened version of Thomas and ending up with the name “Thos Tosh”. Unfortunately, I don’t know who Mr Tosh is, or was, but he’s given his name to rather a nice eatery.

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The building housed not only a tearoom, but an art gallery and a shop selling gifts, crafts and food.  I believe it used to be some sort of church hall:

Thos Tosh indoors

Each table had a little stack of blue serviettes packed into a rack made from two sets of crossed teaspooons. From a distance they looked quite like the Scottish flag. You can see them at the nearest table in the picture above, and close-up below:

Teaspoon racks

We both chose to have salads, which were large and packed with interesting ingredients. The delightful assistant had a chicken salad:

Chicken salad at Thos ToshAnd I had a tuna salad:

Tuna salad at Thos Tosh

We were so full after our salads that we didn’t have room for pudding (a tragedy, since there were delicious looking cakes and hot puddings on offer), and so we tootled off back to the car and headed north for home.

About half an hour after leaving Thornhill we felt the need of a cup of tea, and ventured into Starbucks, which is handily just off the road in a service station at Abington. I don’t often admit to going to places like Starbucks, but I must say they do a very lovely chai tea.

Not being a very frequent visitor to Starbucks, I forget each time that I need to lie to the baristas. When I ask for a chai tea, they ask if I take milk. Being a reasonably honest sort of cove, I say ‘yes’, which results in them giving me what I consider to be a measly half cup. The problem with this is that a) I love their chai tea enough to drink a large quantity of it, and b) I only take a dash of milk.

My delightful assistant prefers the chai tea latte, which comes sweetened and puffed up with hot fluffy milk and the cup filled, as a good beverage should be, absolutely to the brim.

Here, for comparison is the difference between our two drinks, my black chai tea with a dash of milk on the right, and her chai tea latte on the left. I hadn’t drunk any of mine when this was taken:

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I’m hoping that by reminding myself of this recurring misdemeanour, I will have imprinted the nightmare of it on my brain, so that the next time I visit Starbucks I go in fully prepared for their misleading and devious questions.

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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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I live almost bang in the middle of Scotland, which is very handy for exploring different parts of the country. When considering a little foray beyond this area, I ask myself what I want to gain from an excursion.

I’m Edinburgh born and bred (Edinburgh is in southern Scotland, but north of the Borders region), and for me the north offers adventure, slight discomfort perhaps, and something a bit alien to my southern character. I often choose to drive north in order to experience this slightly unsettling feeling, but there are times when I feel in the mood to go somewhere more restful to me, where I feel more at home.

I felt like this a few days ago when I whisked my delightful assistant off to the Scottish Borders (she’s happy to go anywhere on any occasion, one really couldn’t ask for a more amenable or willing companion).

It was a 3 hour drive to the bit of the Borders I was interested in, and so sustenance en route was required. Luckily, one of my favourite pit-stops when travelling south was open and ready for business when we passed by.

I commonly choose a scone for my morning snackette, and excellent scones can be obtained at this place, but for some reason my thoughts were more on their fruit loaf that day, and so that’s what I had, while my assistant went for a scone.

Here is the tasty, moist and delicious fruit loaf I had, before and after the application of butter:

I suppose my buttering could be described as paltry. I like it thinly spread without great lumps clustering on the surface of the item beneath. The same could not be said for my delightful assistant’s buttering. Here is her apple and cinnamon scone (apparently excellent in taste and texture) before and after buttering:

Feeling adequately filled, we set off again on our journey, arriving in the Borders at lunchtime.

Lunch was taken in the village of St Boswells, near Jedburgh, in a splendid independent bookshop with cafe:

I had carrot, orange and ginger soup with some truly outstanding bread:

While my assistant opted for a roasted vegetables salad with feta cheese:

After lunch we had a scooch around the bookshop, where, in my postprandial state, I was very drawn to this aptly designed Penguin classic deck chair:

Resisting the urge to snooze, we instead drove on a short distance until we saw a signpost intimating a viewpoint off the road, next to an impressive viaduct (it took me a full 5 mintues to remember that word while writing this post, not an unusual occurrence these days, is this early-onset dementia?):

Thanks to Wikipedia, I find that this is the Leaderfoot railway viaduct (no longer used for trains, sadly), which was opened in 1863. It’s in excellent nick thanks to Historic Scotland, who renovated it in the early 1990s.

Parking near the viaduct, we walked along a pleasant road that is no longer used for vehicular traffic. It had luxuriant hedgerows on either side with lots of small birds flitting in and out:

At the viewpoint there was a bench seat supported by a couple of curious creatures. I thought at first they were sheep but then I decided they were winged lions.

Our little walk was refreshing in the afternoon sunshine, but we were still quite a way from home and so another snack stop was required.

We found what we needed in the Royal Burgh of Lauder, a bit southeast of Edinburgh. The cafe was just along the road from the town hall, which sits in the middle of the village:

To my delight there was Lady Grey tea on offer, which came in a strange teapot with a very Scottish mug (the wording roughly translates as ‘don’t worry, stay calm’):

My assistant had Assam tea and chose an excellent apple pie to go with it, which was accompanied by a small jug of cream:

I had been wondering about this myself, but it seemed a bit on the large side, so I went for a chocolate krispie cake instead:

To one side of the tearoom was an art gallery displaying the works of several local artists, and on another side was an enticing looking archway leading through to a gift shop. I narrowly avoided parting with cash for a little wooden boat with a moveable seagull attached to it.

After that it was back on the journey north, via Edinburgh to enjoy the rush hour traffic on the city bypass (the number of times I’ve hit this traffic recently and been surprised, despite previous experience and knowledge of the time, backs up my suspicion of mental deterioration).

That little visit to Border towns has fairly put me in the mood for another trip there soon. As far as I know, none of my ancestors hailed from that bit of the country, and yet I feel a definite pull towards the area, even the bits I’m not familiar with. My sister feels a similar pull to the northwest of Scotland, so perhaps it’s just to do with personal taste.

On a completely different topic, tomorrow sees the closing ceremony of the Olympic Games. I suspect I’ll miss watching all these inspiring athletes, but the inspirational performances will live on for some time to come, and I’m already looking forward to Rio in 2016.

I believe London 2012 will be going out on a musical note with a tribute to British music. In four years’ time, no doubt our present and future Olympians will be welcomed with the samba sounds of Brazil – I can’t wait!

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