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Posts Tagged ‘Walk’

After a trip into the local metropolis of Perth for a bit of shopping the other morning, delightful assistant no.1 and I popped into the estimable Loch Leven’s Larder for a little luncheon.

There were two soups on offer: cream of celery and courgette, and curried green lentil. The delightful assistant went for the former, while I chose the latter.

I didn’t have my camera on me but I did snap my soup with my phone. It was all jolly tasty:

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Following the soup, we both fancied a bit of fresh air and exercise, and took ourselves off to the Lomond Hills in Fife.

The air was bracing and we trotted along swiftly under a lowering sky:

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We stuck to walking along the road, and were surprised by the amount of snow on the hill tracks:

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The biting wind was so cold that we imagined ourselves in the Antarctic, and paused to think of poor Ranulph Fiennes, whose recent trip there was cut short due to a horrible case of frostbite.

He had been hoping to be the first man to ski across the continent in winter, while some chums accompanied him in vehicles. The chums are now completing their expedition sans Ranulph, while he sits frustrated at home supporting the expedition from the UK. As he remarks rather wryly in this press conference, now that he’s had to pull out of the challenge, the Norwegians will no doubt step in and do the job.

I don’t know what the temperature was when we were in the Lomond Hills, but puddles by the road showed that it was above freezing. It did feel considerably colder then 0ÂșC due to wind chill, but nothing like it must feel right now in the depths of the Antarctic winter.

Feeling virtuous after our stretch in the open air, we sped off to the Pillars of Hercules, a wonderful organic farm shop and cafe, about which I have written on previous occasions.

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One of the many things I like about Pillars of Hercules is the seat cushions:

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I had forgotten that this place was the first cafe in Scotland to be certified 100% organic, but was reminded when reading the menu:

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We ordered our drinks and cakes at the counter and were given a number on a stick to take to the table.

It used to be the case here that when you ordered, you got a little wooden block with a number on it, and it wasn’t until I was searching around on the table for some way of making the stick stand up, that I noticed a hole in the tabletop.

Lo and behold, when I tried putting the stick in the hole, it fitted perfectly. An excellent idea, I thought (sorry for the darkness of the second picture, I don’t know what happened there):

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The delightful assistant had ordered a black coffee with cold milk and a slice of lemon cake. My photo is poor but I can assure you that the comestibles were anything but. I’m reliably informed that the coffee was lovely and I know that the lemon cake was because I tasted it – very lemony.

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I opted for a chai tea and a vegan apricot slice:

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The apricot slice exceeded my expectations. It was made with a wholewheat pastry base smothered in thick apricot jam and liberally sprinkled with seeds: sunflower, pumpkin and hemp, to be precise. I was very pleased with it.

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These little trips out that I take very regularly, often in the company of a delightful assistant or two, are a nice break from sitting staring at a computer screen and, I feel, a vital part of a healthy balanced life.

To update anyone who’s interested, this is Day 73 of the year 2013 and, in keeping with my resolution to get rid of 365 items by the end of December, I have so far managed to release 69. This means I’m four items behind in my schedule, but I have high hopes for getting rid of more stuff with a spot of spring cleaning.

I have also now completed the second draft of my novel and am putting it aside to gestate for a bit.

Any agents/publishers with a gap in their lists and looking for an average length of novel of the general fiction variety, please enquire within.

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Two days ago, hoping for a spot of sunshine, I checked the BBC weather website and discovered that the town of Callander was going to be bathed in sunshine all afternoon.

The forecast promised me a high of 5 degrees C, soaring above the 3s and 4s of further north.

Somehow I got it into my head that this equated to a fine summer’s day, and I scooped up delightful assistant no.1 and sped off towards the Trossachs*.

On the way we stopped at the splendid Gloagburn Farm Shop and Cafe for a little sustenance.

Gloagburn is home to some of the finest scones to be found anywhere on Earth (I admit I haven’t tested this terribly extensively in global terms, but all the same I feel quite confident about my assertion).

We both chose fruit scones (the delightful assistant requesting one with a ‘shiny top’), I had tea and the delightful assistant had coffee:

I could not have been more pleased with my scone’s stretch marks:

Or, indeed, the frolicsome crockery:

Refreshed and completely satisfied by our repast we tootled off Trossachswards, arriving in Callander in time for a health giving stroll before luncheon.

The sun, which had shone for a while on the journey just before Callander, had retreated behind cloud when we arrived, but nonetheless there were plenty of people out and about taking the air and enjoying riverside walks:

My glamorous assistant and I wrapped up in our woolly hats and scarves, and loped off in a westerly direction along the banks of the River Teith.

A short way along the path, a signpost indicated that if we were considering taking a dip, this would be the ideal spot in which to do it:

Despite the encouragement, there were no bathers present.

A little further on there were no pipers either:

Although most of the trees along the riverside were deciduous, and therefore bare of leaves at this time of year, there was some nice fluffy lichen to be seen:
The delightful assistant likes to say that although lacking greenery in the winter, when trees are leafless it allows you to see their beautiful shapes:
There were signs of spring in the form of a few clumps of cheerful snowdrops:
Our walk took us over a metal bridge and along a level path with snowy Ben Ledi in the background:
Given the amount of time I’ve spent in Scotland, i.e. practically my whole life, you would think I’d have a handle on the weather by now. I even had it spelled out to me in black and white by the BBC, and yet I was surprised by the fact that it wasn’t a warm, balmy summer’s day in Callander. I confess I was fooled by the robust-looking number ’5′ on the weather chart and I allowed it to give me false hopes.

I must remind myself that unless the temperature gets into the double figures, and preferably above 20 degrees C, it is not going to feel like summer.

When we’d walked our appetites up, we returned to the town for lunch in a tearoom I’d never been to before. I’ll save the details for another post, but here’s a wee taster:
*The Trossachs is the name given to the area of countryside in which Callander nestles so prettily.

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The lion is one of those beasts that does an excellent job of brightening up a gatepost.

I don’t know if it’s a peculiarly Scottish or British thing, but certainly in my neck of the woods it’s reasonably common to find gateposts sporting lions on their summits.

Here’s an example of what I’m talking about. These lions sit atop a couple of gateposts in the village of Bankfoot in Perthshire. This was how they looked just before Christmas, with a bit of festive decoration:

Festive Lions at Bankfoot

The other day, delightful assistant no.1 and I went for a walk past these same lions. The decoration had changed from Christmas wreaths on the posts to hats of snow on the lions:

Snow-capped lionsLion with snow hat

A variety of poses and expressions can be seen in gatepost lions, and these particular ones seem to me to be unusually fierce.

It is perhaps a little uncharitable of me, but ever since seeing them with snow on I can’t stop thinking of them as ‘the disgruntled lions’. I think the expression popped into my head when I saw this one with his snow mohican:

Snow mohican

His teeth looked especially menacing, with an icicle having formed between his jaws:

Teeth of ice

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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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This week’s choice is one of those excellent farm shop-tearoom combinations, where locally grown produce and locally baked cakes stroll hand in hand along leafy country lanes (if I was a gifted cartoonist I would insert a little doodle of a carrot ambling along a grassy path with a sponge cake, but maybe you can imagine such an image).

It is located in a very beautiful area of rolling farmland, with a duck pond across the road from the tearoom (the first two photos were taken last summer, hence the leaves on the trees):

There’s a loch nearby which has a road going all the way round it and it’s a lovely peaceful place for an easy stroll:

The tearoom sits in a courtyard not far from the loch. The courtyard also contains a shop full of handcrafted items, some antiques, books and clothing, and a separate farm shop selling locally grown produce, preserves, etc. I really can’t account for this, but rather than take photos of the buildings to give an idea of the layout, all I have of the outside area is two tractors:

This one appears to have been made out of an oil drum and some leftovers:

The tearoom has been done up several times since I first started visiting it, and it’s more popular than ever these days. One of the reasons for that could be the size of the cake slices (although I must admit the entire menu is exellent, with several delicious hot meals available). Given the lack of scale, it’s hard to see how big this is, but the cake itself was a large one, cut into only eight pieces, making each slice a very substantial portion. This was a carrot cake:

Seeing how big the slices were, my beautiful assistant and I decided to share a piece and plumped, not unsually, for the coffee cake. We had both secretly wanted to go for the Victoria sponge, but each thinking that the other was more keen on the coffee cake, we remained silent in a very British manner, and ended up with our second choices. This was the Victoria sponge we were both secretly longing for:

The coffee cake that won the day:

It was served, as shown, on a very pretty tea plate, and turned out to be quite superb! I’m sure the Victoria sponge would have been equally good, but there were no complaints about the coffee cake, that’s for sure.

My other delightful assistant (my dad) had also joined us for this excursion, in order to take a little refreshment and get some exercise in the peaceful countryside nearby. He had a lemon slice:

The tearoom sells a few gifty things and also has a fine selection of tea packets for sale near the counter:

As I was leaving the tearoom, I managed to sneak a quick shot from the doorway while no-one was looking:

After our tea and cakes we took a leisurely stroll around the loch, passing a village school (I call it that becuase it’s so rural, but in fact there’s no village in sight, it’s just in the middle of nowhere, next to the farm and tearoom). The school catchment area must be fairly wide, because the community is quite spread out in this neck of the woods. It includes the area known as Glenisla, beautifully declared in mosaic form on a wall next to the school:

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