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Posts Tagged ‘Streets’

After taking tea in Cupar the other day, my delightful assistant and I stumbled upon an attractive and interesting little hamlet, tucked away off a main road.

I was driving through it, slowly taking in its charm but not particularly intending to stop (the weather wasn’t terribly pleasant), when I saw something that isn’t very common in Scotland – a house with a thatched roof:

Thatched roof in Collessie

They do pop up here and there, but I think of this style of roofing as more of an English thing.

First I spotted the one above, and then I saw another:

Another thatched roof in Collessie

I don’t know if Collessie has ever been used as a location for films or TV dramas but I think it definitely has potential.

Collessie

It even has a little stream running under the road:

Collessie burn

There are some interesting old buildings, including this one which has tiny high up windows and a collection of pots, sticks and ornaments outside. It also has a thatched roof:

Interesting building in Collessie

The delightful assistant thought that Collessie could be listed on this blog as an Intriguing Sight, and we were certainly intrigued by the white dome-shaped structure below, which had logs stored in the lower part. I wondered if it might be an oven of some sort:

Curious domed structure

I don’t know quite why I find this next point so satisfying, but it gladdens my heart when I see buildings that can be accessed at different levels front and back:

Different levels in Collessie

We were walking up a little hill through Collessie, at the top of which stood a fine looking church. The churchyard dates back to the 12th century, although the present church was constructed in 1838. Apparently, this building was built because the previous one had started to sink into the graveyard, causing a dampness that was disagreeable to the congregation.

Collessie Kirk

Rather curiously, the churchyard wall had a yellow building stuck into it:

Sir James Melville's tomb

A plaque on the wall next to it declared the yellow building to be the tomb of Sir James Melville (1535-1617) and described him as “a distinguished soldier, courtier and diplomat during the 16th century”. At the age of 14 he was sent to France to attend a young Mary Queen of Scots, later serving both her and her son, James VI, in Scotland.

Sir James Melville plaque

I did try to enter the tomb but the door was locked. I know you can’t generally get inside graves and coffins, but somehow the idea of him being locked inside that building seemed a bit sinister to me.

The locked tomb

We didn’t spend much time in the graveyard, because it was rather chilly, but I did notice one particular gravestone. The white lichen on some of the petals and the yellow on the stamens seemed fittingly positioned:

Lichen on gravestone

If you ever happen to be driving along the A91 between Cupar and Auchtermuchty, I recommend the slight detour that takes you through the delightful hamlet of Collessie.

The detour also takes you past another church, Monimail Parish, just along the road from Collessie. Although, as with Collessie, we couldn’t get into the building itself, we walked all round the church at Monimail and noted that it was very well cared for. Every door was painted in black gloss and all the handles and lock plates were neatly touched up in gold paint.

Monimail Parish Church painted nicely

Monimail Parish Church

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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:

DSCN0817

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.

DSCN0820

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:

DSCN0841

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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Mimi’s Bakehouse is a tearoom I’ve been wanting to visit for some time. It’s situated in the Leith area of Edinburgh, a part of the city I know reasonably well, having inhabited three different flats in the vicinity.

Edinburgh, and Leith in particular, has been on my mind quite a bit lately. In the past couple of weeks I’ve read two Ian Rankin books set in Edinburgh, and the main character in my own novel (still under construction, currently at 25,000 words) lives in Leith.

All of this, combined with my desire to meet up with a chum who lives in the great metropolis, led to me nipping down there last week.

The day was dreich (wet, damp, dull and – some might say – a bit miserable) but, arriving a bit early, I wandered round some of my old haunts.

One never knows, on revisiting a place, quite what one’s feelings will be. I was half expecting to be irritated by the noise and traffic, put off by the general busyness of the city, which has sometimes been the case when I’ve been back to Edinburgh after my quiet life in leafy Perthshire. However, I was surprised to find that I felt happy, exhuberant and delighted to be back. Quite a few of Leith’s streets are cobbled, rather than covered with tarmac (is this known in the US as asphalt? I’ve never been too sure): I was glad to see this old chap again, a fellow I often used to walk past and bid good day to: Although some of the shops, pubs, cafes, etc. have changed since I was last here, it was reassuring to see that some looked exactly as I’d left them. This wee pub has probably looked much the same for the past 200 years, dating back as it does to 1785: Inside, Mimi’s provided a bright and welcoming contrast to the weather. Indeed, far from feeling the chill outside, the ladies on the wallpaper appeared to be feeling the heat: We opted to sit in one of the sofa areas, which was decorated with some stylish cushions: The main point of interest to my mind, however, was the cake counter. I opted for the coffee and walnut: If I’d been in a chocolate mood I would have found this creation hard to resist: And if I’d been craving the malty crunchiness of Maltesers, this little gem would have been top of my list: To go with my cake, I ordered Teapigs Chai tea, which came in a little teapot with a slice of orange on the side: The cake was heavily iced (a bit too much for me on this occasion, although if I’d been desperate for a sugar rush I’d have scoofed it back readily enough), but the sponge itself was extremely light and fluffy:

Just as coffee and walnut is one of the cakes I frequently like to try, my chum is very partial to a caramel, or millionaire, shortbread. Mimi’s had large slabs of the stuff on offer, and he jumped at the opportunity, pairing it with a cappuccino: I wasn’t too fussed about trying it, since it looked a bit heavy and solid to me, but when I tasted a little corner I was astonished by its melt-in-the-mouth texture. The biscuit, toffee and chocolate disappeared together in a most pleasant manner. It was, surely, one of the best of its kind.

Mimi’s is, altogether, rather a stylish establishment. The ladies toilet can be located by this attractive notice on the door: The black and white theme evident throughout the tearoom itself, is continued in the bathrooms: After our delicious repast, my comrade had to get back to work and I thought I’d get a little exercise by way of trotting round the Botanic Gardens, which were on my route out of the city. The colours were beautiful but it was raining quite heavily. One good thing about going to the Botanics on such a wet day was that I virtually had the place to myself, including the magnificent hot houses: While I was pounding the pavements in Leith and driving through the city, I noticed that there are lots of new tearooms that weren’t there in my day.

The trouble, if you can call it that, is that there are far more tearooms to sample than I have the capacity for. Just as I don’t expect to die with an empty in-tray, neither do I anticipate managing to consume all the cakes I would like to gorge on in this one short lifetime. If ever there were a reason for reincarnation, that must be it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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A couple of days ago Perth (the Scottish one) was reinstated as a city. The Queen bestowed this status on Perth as part of her Diamond Jubilee Celebrations this year.

In the late 1990s a list of UK cities was produced which didn’t include Perth, due to the definition of what a city actually was, and quite a lot of people were none too pleased about this. However, now that it is a city again, all those previously unhappy people can be seen dancing up and down Perth’s city streets with kilts a-swaying, playing the bagpipes like there’s no tomorrow. (Some artistic licence may have been used here.)

To celebrate this great event, my delightful assistant and I visited Perth Museum and Art Gallery:

But I’m jumping ahead, because in order to provide ourselves with sufficient energy for the museum, we stopped on the way into Perth at one of our local tearooms. I had a treacle scone, which would have been much better not warmed in the microwave (I think I might need to start a campaign against this dreadful behaviour) while my assistant opted for a pancake (which turned out, as she’d hoped it would, to be two per portion rather than just one – how she knew this might happen I have no idea, to get two instead of one seems remarkably generous to me). The butter was very hard and I was highly amused by her attempts to get it onto a pancake:

Having complained about the scone, I will now rave about the tea. I got a pot of Yorkshire tea which was so flavoursome that if I hadn’t seen the teabag with my own eyes I would have sworn it was leaf tea. I was offered hot water to weaken the brew, but I declined it, because it was perfect as it was.

And so, on to the museum. When we entered through the front doors (in the distance in the photo below), we were met by a large scary dinosaur, and a beautiful cupola:

The museum has all sorts of interesting things in it, as is generally the case with museums, and I took photos of some of my favourite pieces.

A sheep made, by Carrie Fertig, out of blown glass. This sort of glass is more commonly used for making scientifc instruments:

A beautifully constructed nest, made by wasps chewing and pulping dead timber to make a pretty multi-storey paper structure:

A silver bullet teapot (I really would like to have one of these):

And the building itself, with its arches and pillars:

This was my lovely assistant’s favourite item – a glass dragonfly paperweight. You can’t see it very well in this photograph but the dragonfly was suspended in the glass, as if hovering in space:

Across the road from the museum there is a shop that interests me greatly:

When you walk through the door of this shop the smell is amazing. They roast their own coffee beans and sell a wonderful selection of leaf tea and coffee beans, not to mention some nice Moomin china:

Walking along George Street there were some pretty things inside and outside shop windows. A bead shop:

Beautiful blooms:

We had lunch at a nice cafe we’d never been to before as well, but I’ll save that for another post.

For the meantime, congratulations Perth, and happy new city status!

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