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Posts Tagged ‘Architecture’

The pretty seaside town of Pittenweem sits on Scotland’s east coast, in the Kingdom of Fife.

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With its red-roofed, white-washed buildings and quiet streets, it’s a delightful place to take a stroll and relax on a sunny day.

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Last year, as part of Pittenweem in Bloom, a curious selection of old bicycles appeared throughout the town.

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Fisherman’s bike near the harbour.

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A cheery chap with a sack of potatoes outside the church.

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A bike selling eggs, although they’d all been snapped up when I walked past it.

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Little red bike that had apparently just come in from a swim.

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An artist’s bike with paintbrushes sticking out of paint pots attached to the frame.

Not all of the bikes were the right way up.

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Upside down bike harnessed to a tree in the main street.

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A question many bicycle owners consider at some point in their lives.

And at least one little bike had jumped up above street level.

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A surprisingly musical bicycle down a side street.

Pittenweem’s attractive ice cream shop had a bike secured outside the front door (you can only see the back wheel of it in the picture, I’m afraid).

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This next one had been fixed up with an unusual (if not terribly practical) set of square wheels:

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“The Flintstone Flyer”, a square wheeled oddity.

It was such a gloriously sunny day when I was snapping away at all these bikes that I felt I was somewhere considerably more exotic than the east coast of Scotland.

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A moment of disorientation – have I been transported to a Spanish island?

All of this bicycle business was pretty exhausting, but luckily revitalising victuals weren’t far away.

At the excellent Cocoa Tree Cafe, I fuelled up on an exquisite chocolate cake and a pot of cardamom tea:

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My treat came with a jug of single cream and I was very pleased with the little slug that formed when I poured the cream over the cake:

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My delightful assistant sated her hunger with a cream scone:

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If you’re ever mooching around in the Fife area wondering how to fill your time, I heartily recommend a trip to Pittenweem.

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A walk along the sea front makes for a pleasant bit of exercise, and while you’re dondering along be sure to keep an eye out for this appealing local resident.

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One of the things that repeatedly surprises me about Scotland is the number of fascinating little out of the way villages there are, sitting quietly waiting to be discovered.

The county of Fife is full of such places, and yesterday I took the delightful assistants out for a seaside adventure in search of one.

Anyone who knows the Fife coast well might already be familiar with the village of West Wemyss (pronounced Weems), but it’s the sort of place you could easily miss, being at the end of a road that leads to West Wemyss and nowhere else.

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The village of West Wemyss, nestling on the Fife coast at the end of the road.

We parked in a free car park by the harbour, overlooked by some commanding buildings complete with pantiled roofs very typical of Fife coastal villages.

The cream coloured building is called the Belvedere, and was built in 1927 to serve as a miner’s institute and reading room. I would have liked to have gone inside and had a look for the books, but alas it was all closed up.

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The village of West Wemyss was a planned community, built by the landed gentry of the Wemyss Estate to house their workers.

Despite still having a few grand buildings the current village has a popluation of around 240 and I don’t imagine that these days many of them have work within West Wemyss itself.

The Wemyss family have lived in this area since around the 12th Century and in 1421 Sir John Wemyss built Wemyss Castle, which is now in a state of some disrepair.

The castle lies a short distance along the bay from the main part of the village.

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Wemyss Castle hiding behind trees and a most curious wall which, viewed from afar, I thought was a long arched bridge.

I’m sure there’s a lot of interesting history attached to Wemyss Castle, far more than I’ve been able to find with a quick online search, but I did learn that much of the Wemyss family wealth was built on coal mining. I also discovered that in 1565 Mary Queen of Scots first met Lord Darnley (the chap who was to become her second husband) at Wemyss Castle.

As we walked past the castle we noticed that close to shore in the bay, stretched out on rocks, were a few fat seals.

I believe that both grey and common (or harbour) seals are found in the Firth of Forth and I really don’t know which these were, but they were satisfyingly plump and shiny.

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Fat seals.

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Is a shiny seal a healthy seal? I like to think so.

Just inland from the seals was a row of large concrete blocks: tank defences put there during the second world war to stop the Jerries from climbing aboard our shores.

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

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Swan mosaics stuck onto an old bit of wall by the coast.

There was a snazzy mosaic door, too, which didn’t seem to lead anywhere but looked very pretty.

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Lovely mosaic door stuck into an old wall.

A plaque informed us that this artwork had come about as a collaboration between three local artists and the nearby primary school at Coaltown of Wemyss (another village along the coast). The project was supported by Fife Council and included a little picnic area:

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A view that delightful assistant no.2 claims brings sorrow to his very soul – a picnic area with no picnic in sight.

Constructed in 1512, West Wemyss harbour lies at the west end of the village.

In the old days it was an important port for ships carrying coal and salt (and, somewhat unfortunately in 1590, the plague, which spread from here throughout Fife wiping out a good many of the inhabitants).

These days it provides shelter for a few fishing and pleasure craft:

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West Wemyss harbour.

Next to the harbour we spotted a beautifully weathered building with a few bricks set into the surrounding stonework. It looked to me like a work of art.

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Interesting textures created by wind and weather, nicely contrasting with a bit of brickwork.

Having enjoyed a bracing walk along the coast with a cold wind blowing rain into our faces, we were ready for sustenance and plunged into the West Wemyss Walk Inn Cafe.

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The West Wemyss Walk Inn – the cafe inside is run by a combination of paid staff and volunteers, and jolly good it is, too.

It was lovely to get inside out of the wind and rain, and settle down in the warm cafe to peruse the menu.

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Inside the West Wemyss Walk Inn Cafe – cosy and welcoming.

I opted for the soup of the day, which was cream of tomato and came with a roll and – delightfully – a cheese and chilli stick covered in sesame seeds:

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Outstandingly good soup with bready snacks on the side.

Not having been there before I wasn’t sure what to expect, but am delighted to report that it was exceptionally good soup and a very nice little stick and roll. The soup tasted of fresh tomatoes and cream, it was thick and delicious and, I’m quite sure, the best tomato soup I’ve ever tasted.

Delightful assistant no.1 went for fish and chips, which came with a side order of bread and butter.

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Battered fish with chips, peas, bread and butter. Carbohydrates covered.

Delightful assistant no.2 chose one of his favourite toasted sandwiches, a brie and cranberry panini, which came with a fresh side salad and a few crisps:

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Brie and cranberry panini with salad and crisps.

We all had tea to drink, and a free refill of the teapot. Everything we had was just the job to warm us up and make us feel contented.

The cakes on offer were freshly baked in the kitchen upstairs and looked very tempting, but we all felt too full to have anything straight after our savouries, so we’ll save that treat for another occasion.

On the windowsill next to where I was sitting there was a small Christmas tree made from driftwood and decorated with fairy lights.

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Driftwood tree at West Wemyss Walk Inn Cafe.

Behind the tree there was a framed certificate that made me happy; it declared that in 2013 West Wemyss had won a Silver award in Beautiful Scotland’s ‘Wee Village’ category.

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An award in the Wee Village category for the West Wemyss Bloomers, 2013.

I’m not surprised that West Wemyss has won such an award and I intend to revist later in the year when there are more blooms to be seen. Even on a dull, damp January day there were bright colours dotted about to cheer us up and make us glad we’d taken the little dead end road down to the coast.

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Bright colours to cheer a dull day in West Wemyss.

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Following on from my previous post, my delightful assistant and I escaped the claustrophobic atmosphere of the tapestry viewing area and legged it upstairs to the relative calm of the Scottish Parliament’s Debating Chamber.

As we made our way through the building we were struck by the very angular architecture, which made me think of those mindboggling drawings by Dutch artist, M C Escher:

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Had we been visiting on a different day of the week, the Debating Chamber might have been full of MSPs (Members of the Scottish Parliament), but we were there on a Monday, which is one of the days when the Parliament doesn’t sit. On the down side, it meant we couldn’t attend a debate, but on the up side it meant we could wander around freely.

I’ve often seen pictures of the Chamber on TV but I wasn’t quite prepared for the scale of it. It was vast and airy, and delightfully free of milling bodies, in contrast to the downstairs lobby:

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Small assistant in a large Chamber.

One of the remarkable things about the Chamber is the absence of supporting columns for the enormous ceiling. Instead, there are reinforced steel and laminated oak beams spanning the area. The beams are held in place by 112 steel joints, each one made to fit the unique angles at its point in the structure.

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There are 131 seats and desks, laid out in a semi-circular arrangement to avoid the sort of confrontational style of debate that can be seen, for example, in the Chamber of the House of Commons in London.

The desks are made of oak and sycamore and over 60 of the MSPs’ seats are wheelchair accessible. My dad thought the desks looked as if each one had a pair of trousers laid over the back of it (the Presiding Officer and her clerks sit at the big desk at the front):

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Can you spot the ‘trousers’ adorning the desks?

While we were strolling around a tour came in and I overheard some of what the tour guide was saying (you can book to go on a tour of the building for free but there were no spaces available while we were there).

She pointed out the clocks that are placed at strategic points throughout the Chamber, explaining that some of them show the time and others show how long the current speaker has been talking for.

Speaking time for individual MSPs is limited, and each desk is fitted up with a microphone. The microphone is turned on when it’s a speaker’s time to talk, and abruptly turned off when their time has run out. I imagine that speaking for the exact amount of allotted time is quite a skill, and once honed could prove useful for radio interviews:

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Above the MSPs, a semi-circular gallery seats 225 members of the public, 18 invited guests and 34 members of the media. The tour guide mentioned that this constitutes a larger public gallery than you will find in any other parliamentary building in Europe.

We rested our weary bones by trying out the seats and I thought they were remarkably comfortable. I could well imagine attending a debate here and nodding off in the sunshine flooding through the huge windows:

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Talking of windows, there’s a lot of natural light in the Chamber. There were no artificial lights on when we visited and it was a dull day, but the room was very bright.

Fine views were to be had out to the old Palace of Holyrood across the road, and up to the local hill, Arthur’s Seat, and the Queen’s Park:

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View out to Arthur’s Seat, with turf roofed area of the Parliament Building in the foreground. The white building you can see at the back on the right of this picture is part of the Our Dynamic Earth exhibition, well worth a visit if you’re loafing around Edinburgh mulling over the amazing processes involved in the creation of this planet and wondering where you might learn more.

The vision of the building’s architect, Enric Miralles (who sadly died before it was inaugurated), included landscaping around the building to make it look as if it was part of the natural environment. This included laying turf on the roofs and planting Scottish wild flowers around the grounds.

He also chose to plant the same sorts of trees as are found in the grounds of Holyrood Palace across the road, in addition to planting rowan trees, because they’re traditionally regarded as a symbol of good fortune.

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View from the Debating Chamber across to the Palace of Holyrood, the Queen’s official residence in Scotland.

When we’d had our fill of sitting around in the Chamber, we got up to leave and both reported feeling somewhat dizzy.  Whether this was due to sitting up in the gallery looking down or, as I think more likely, having our brains confused by all the hard lines and angles in the building, I don’t know but we were both relieved to get back outside into the fresh air.

Outside, there were giant twiglets stuck to some of the walls. Perhaps noticing these on our way in explains the curious yearning I had for salty snacks during the visit:

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Giant twiglets at the Scottish Parliament.

Embedded into part of the outside wall we found a number of large panels filled with quotations. Some of these were from poets or writers, and others were from the Bible or anonymous sayings. They seemed to me to be rather a strange collection, including Scots and Gaelic as well as English:

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If you fancy visiting the Parliament yourself, it’s open from Monday to Saturday, and if you want to go on a tour I would recommend booking in advance.

There’s a cafe (which we didn’t patronise, on this occasion) and a shop, and perhaps most surprising of all, a free creche. You can deposit your offspring there for up to four hours while you visit the Parliament. It’s apparenty the only facility of its kind in Europe, and sounds like a good idea to me.

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One day last week the weather forecast showed the whole of Scotland under cloud apart from one little triangle in the Aberdeenshire/Banffshire area on the east coast.

Chasing forecasts often proves a futile business in this country, but as it happens on this occasion the forecasters got it bang on.

Delightful assistant no.1 and I hopped into the motor and sped off in the right direction, stopping en route at the splendid Balmakewan, where we partook of light refreshments.

A flat white with coffee and walnut cake for my delightful assistant:

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Imagine sinking your teeth into an extremely light, soft and delicious coffee sponge cake with unbelievably fluffy icing that melts as soon as it hits the tongue, and you’re part of the way to having the Balmakewan coffee walnut cake experience.

I had a very hard time choosing what to have, as Balmakewan always has a painfully extensive selection of delectable goodies on offer, but in the end I plumped for this coconut affair with blueberries and raspberries through it, accompanied by a first class decaf flat white:

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We decided to share these two items and while the coconut cakey thing was certainly very palatable, we agreed that the coffee walnut cake was outstandingly good.  I’m sure I’ve never had fluffier butter icing in any cake.

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A delicious duo with first class flat whites to wash them down with.

We left Balmakewan feeling that our day had got off to an excellent start. The weather was not particularly good but we had high hopes for our destination.

Around about lunchtime we reached the twin towns of Banff and Macduff, which lie on the Moray coast, and headed for Duff House.

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Duff House is a rather magnificent Georgian building designed by William Adam in the 1730s:

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Today it’s used by the National Galleries of Scotland to house some of their artworks, with the building being maintained by Historic Scotland and Aberdeenshire Council, but it was originally built by a chap called William Duff (aka Lord Braco, later 1st Earl of Fife).

William Duff had a large family, and even though the side wings Adam designed were never built, I expect the 50 rooms they ended up with were quite sufficient.

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Room for a small one?

I thought the building had many lovely features, but the curving staircases at the front were a particular favourite:

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Due to a broken pelvis that continues to heal slowly, going round the inside of the house with all its floors and stairs wasn’t really possible for my delightful assistant, but there was one area of the building she was very capabale of reaching.

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A sign to gladden the heart – tasty morsels this way!

Inside, the tearoom had the same sort of feel I’ve noticed in other National Gallery tearooms, being light, airy and tastefully decorated. The history of Duff House was written up on the wall in a timeline with photographs, which made for interesting reading.

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The menu was not extensive, nor did it cater particularly well for vegetarians, but there were various sandwiches to be had and I opted for egg while my delightful assistant went for tuna. I’m pleased to say that the sandwich far exceeded my expectations, being freshly made on very tasty brown bread and served with a delightful little carrot salad.

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One very nice surprise was that there was ‘proper’ tea, by way of leaf tea popped into long teabags of the sort that appear to be getting more popular in Scotland’s tearooms.

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We ordered a pot of Assam and a pot of Darjeeling and they were both tip-top. I often find I’m squeezing out the last cup from a teapot when I take tea, but in this case I had to leave some as there was so much to begin with (I managed three cupfuls):

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I don’t take sugar, but I liked the way it was served at Duff House, in a little kilner jar with lid (no flies landing on these lumps) and tongs on the side (hygenically encouraging people not to dive in with their dirty great mitts):

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The facilities at Duff House were another fine feature of the building, being nicely tiled in green and white with pull chain cisterns above the loos:

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After lunch we waved goodbye to Duff House and made our way along the coast to have a look at the two little villages of Gardenstown and Crovie, but I’ll save those for another post.

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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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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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Continuing on from my previous post, we arrived at the House of Menzies and tootled indoors out of the rain in search of a little luncheon.

From the outside of the building, which was constructed in the 1840s, the inside is perhaps something of a surprise.

Straight ahead was an open log fire, with jewellery and other gifts for sale beyond.

To the left there were more gifty things, and an area selling wines and whiskies:

To the right was the bit we were after, the cafe:

For our liquid refreshment, delightful assistant no.1 had orange and passionfruit juice, delightful assistant no.2 had Bundaberg ginger beer and I had my usual, a pot of tea.

Choosing from the tempting food menu was a little trickier but, after some deliberation, we settled on our options.

Delightful assistant no.1 had Caesar salad (with two different dressings very helpfully put into little dishes on the side, to allow her to choose which she wanted):

Delightful assistant no.2 went for a toasted panini with roasted vegetables:

And I had a curried lentil burger with spinach and tomato, which was jolly tasty:

After that we felt too full for puddings, but before we left delightful assistant no.2 reacquainted himself with one of House of Menzies’ prize attractions:

Having satisfied himself that all the little wooden trains were running nicely on their tracks, he joined us back in the car and we buzzed off in the direction of the scenic village of Kenmore, which sits at one end of Loch Tay.

As I was driving along a small road, a curious building by the roadside caught my eye. While the assistants stayed put in the warm car, I jumped out to take a closer look:

The house, which was uninhabited, appeared to have been abandoned some time ago.

Despite its somewhat neglected state, some interesting architectural details remained:

When I walked round to the back of the house, I found that part of the roof had caved in, and that the whole building was slowly becoming a part of the hillside.

This business of making a front porch out of tree trunks is something I associate with this part of Perthshire, and for some reason the trunks are usually painted red. I don’t think they’re always paired with such an interesting wooden roof structure though:

Dragging myself away from this fascinating little property, we drove on to Kenmore, where I left the delightful assistants dozing in the car while I nipped out to examine Kenmore Parish Church.

Unfortunately, the weather had turned rather grey. On a sunny day the war memorial in the foreground and the church with its lychgate and Loch Tay beyond makes for an attractive scene:

As I walked round the churchyard, I saw a small owl perched on a tree stump and thought it added a nice touch to the surroundings:

When I reached the doorway I was utterly delighted to find that the church was open for visitors.

The church building was built in 1760, although most of what you see inside today dates back to a renovation in 1870. The interior included some beautiful stained glass windows:

I can’t recall ever having seen anything quite like these in a church before, but in addition to the stained class there were two windows of etched glass:

One of the etched windows was dedicated to long-serving Elder of the Kirk, Duncan Miller, who was an engineer, farmer and fisherman, as well as being a member of the Royal Company of Archers (the Queen’s official bodyguard in Scotland). My favourite part of the window was a bit with some sheep (sheeeeeps!) on it:

Each church pew had its own unique pew cushion design, which I thought was a very pleasing situation:

Back out in the churchyard, as well as the owl mentioned previously, I found another bird. The headstone told a sad story, but somehow the little puffin warmed my heart:

When I finally joined the patient assistants back in the car (both of whom had apparently enjoyed a relaxing snooze in my absence), we agreed to head for home.

Our lunch having settled, we felt we might have room for a little something on the way, and so we called in at the Allium Garden Centre in Ballinluig for a pit stop.

Just as I was starting to photograph our afternoon tea treats my camera battery died. I took a few pictures with my phone camera, but they look very small on the screen and, not being a technical wizard or any sort, I have no idea how to enlarge them.

I wasn’t going to have any cake, since it was getting close to dinner time and all I really wanted was a drink (an extremely good decaf cappuccino, as it turned out), but the assistants both chose a sweet treat. Delightful assistant no.2 had a surprisingly tasty chocolate oaty nutty traybake composition and delightful assistant no.1 asked for a piece of the lemon drizzle cake.

When the waitress brought our orders over, she brought two plates with lemon drizzle cake on, one of which was a smaller slice. She explained that once she’d cut a portion from what remained of the large lemon drizzle cake for delightful assistant no.1, there was just this wee bit left which was too small to serve as a portion. In the circumstances, she generously decided to give it to us as a free extra.

I’m not saying it tasted better for being free, but it was an exceptionally good piece of cake, very lemony and a highly satisfactory end to the day’s outing.

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