Gardenstown and Crovie

Following on from my last post, after luncheon at Duff House my delightful assistant and I tootled up to have a look at one or two of the small villages that are strung out along the Moray coast.

Our first stop was the attractively named Gardenstown, which was reached via a steep narrow road full of hairpin bends.

We parked in a quiet street just above the harbour and got out to amble through the village and gaze out to sea:



I didn’t realise at first that this smart little building at the harbour was a toilet block. We didn’t make use of the facilities but they looked very well kept from the outside.

Attached to the railing I was leaning on to take the above photos, and at various other points in the town, there were curious little signs:


For those not in the know, there is a department store chain in the UK called BHS, which stands for British Home Stores; I assume it inspired the name of this Gardenstown emporium.

The delightful assistant and I were keen to take a look, and found said shop lurking inside this green wooden building:


Inside, it had the feel of a thrift shop, being largely stocked with second-hand oddments such as handbags, puzzles, books, clothes, photo frames and ornaments.

There were also a few brand new items, some of which had presumably been made locally, and amongst them were what I can only assume were gnomes. They were unlike any gnomes I’ve ever seen before, however, and I wish I had a photograph to show you. Alas, I didn’t feel able to take pictures under the watchful eyes of the assistants, who sat silent and motionless behind an old wooden counter observing our every move (we were the only customers).

The thing that impressed me most about this peculiar little shop was the high prices. In this tiny out of the way place, haphazardly dangling from the walls and strewn about dusty shelves, everything seemed to be surprisingly expensive. I remember there were a few very small notebooks filled with cheap lined paper that I would expect to cost a maximum of 30p, but which were priced at ยฃ1 each. I don’t wish to criticise the owners of this store or to pass judgement on their efforts to run a retail business, but I find it hard to imagine them ever selling anything.

On the plus side, visiting it was certainly an experience.

Back outside the store, I was attracted by this somewhat unusual pair of bollards outside someone’s front door:


On closer inspection they reminded me of chess pieces:


I confess, their purpose wasn’t entirely clear to me but – thanks to the heads on top – I drew the conclusion that they must be for tying your horse up to.


By this time the afternoon was drawing on and I wanted to have a peek at the interesting village of Crovie, just along the coast, before we turned round and headed towards home, so we got back into the car and set off up the steep winding streets of Gardenstown to rejoin the main road.

Unfortunately, our departure coincided with the arrival of a convoy of funeral attendees coming down the hill and looking for places to park on the roadside. We were forced to sit with the handbrake pulled up as far as it would go, on a steep slope next to a sharp bend with another car right behind us, constantly attempting to pull away but being thwarted by ever more vehicles appearing round the bend.

In this country, there is an understanding (it may even be mentioned in the Highway Code, I can’t remember) that traffic coming downhill gives way to that going uphill, but there was none of that in Gardenstown. Mind you, due to hairpin bends and buildings obscuring the view, I expect the downhill drivers didn’t know that there were uphill drivers waiting round the bend, and by the time they swung into view there was no room for them to give way to anyone.

It was not the most comfortable part of our day out, but at least it was summer time and the roads were dry. I shuddered to think what it would be like on ice in the winter, and made a mental note never to relocate to Gardenstown.

A few miles along the main road we saw the sign we were looking for, next to an attractive bus shelter with a not so attractive bin in front of it. The little blue and white anchor on the signpost denotes that Crovie is on the scenic route along the Moray coast:

The single track road leading down to Crovie from the main road:


Crovie, like Gardenstown, lies by the sea at the end of a steep road with a few sharp bends in it.

We passed a sign at a car park by the roadside before the village suggesting that any non-locals might like to stop there rather than continue down, but after surviving Gardenstown I wasn’t too put off by that. We did in fact find another place to park a bit further down the road, which was possibly just as well because there wasn’t a lot of land to park on down in the village.

The cars in the distance on the left of this picture were the only ones I saw there:


The west end of Crovie village.

Looking in the other direction there didn’t seem to be enough space for cars, and according to the Undiscovered Scotland website this is in fact the case.


The east end of Crovie village: no room for cars.

It surprised me that people actually chose to live here with it being so close to the sea, although I’ve since found out that quite a few of the houses are now holiday lets occupied only in the summer. On a stormy day at high tide I imagine it could be quite invigorating to stick your head out of the window of one of these houses.


For a more professional photograph of Crovie, you might like to have a look at Scott Marshall’s blog, here.

When we’d finished gawping at Crovie, we buzzed off south again and stopped in a most curious place for cream teas.

The location was a castle and apparently photography was forbidden indoors ‘for insurance reasons’ and so, despite having taken a lot of pictures before I was aware of this rule, I’ve decided not to publish them here. This is a pity, particularly as many of them were taken in the tearoom where we enjoyed truly excellent cream teas. I even went to the trouble of conducting an experiment involving a cherry scone, some raspberry jam and a large pot of whipped cream.

The ‘cream tea’ (i.e. a pot of tea served with a scone, jam and cream – traditionally clotted cream, but often whipped double cream is used instead, as it was on this occasion), is said to have originated in the English county of Devon in the 11th Century, but the county nextdoor, Cornwall, also claims the cream tea as its own. I’ve only ever had a cream tea in Cornwall, not having spent any time in Devon, but I have heard that the difference between a Devonshire cream tea and a Cornish cream tea is in the ordering of the jam and cream on the scone.

In Devon they put the cream on first (butter isn’t usually part of a cream tea, unless my delightful assistants happen to be in charge) with the jam on top, and in Cornwall it’s the other way round: jam first, then cream. Here’s an example of what I’m on about (admittedly, this is one of the forbidden pictures, but you’d never know the location from this photo), with Devon on the right and Cornwall on the left:


I’ve observed that in Scotland people tend to follow the Cornish method, with jam first and cream on top, and I think I understand the reason for this.

Whenever I’ve tried it the other way round, with the cream on first, I’ve found it difficult to apply the jam on top of the cream in such a way as to make it look appetising. Usually what happens is the heavier jam sinks into the cream and when an attempt is made to spread the jam, it combines with the cream to create a bit of a delicious mess. Applying the jam first means you lay a good solid foundation for the lighter cream, which when spread atop the jam layer manages to hold its own without mixing in with the jam too much.

When I take a cream tea (which I fear I do far too frequently for the good of my health), I tend to use the Cornish method, simply for neatness. What is a little unfortunate is that when I tested it on the occasion pictured above, I discovered (as I had already known, deep down) that I slightly preferred the taste sensation of the Devonshire method, with the cream underneath the jam.

I say it’s unfortunate but that’s like saying that a good solid 10 hour sleep is better than a sleep of 9 hours 55 minutes, i.e. there’s not much in it and I really can’t complain about the minimal difference in the end result.


36 thoughts on “Gardenstown and Crovie

  1. Lorna
    As usual, your post was delightful and educational. I always learn something about your part of the world that makes me want to visit. I will, eventually, I mean it. This post reminded me of the little village in Doc Martin. Loved that series.
    As for the vulture-like shop keepers and their high prices, I’ve run into that as well. I worked in retail for a long time, then in marketing, and one of the worst things you can do is stare openly at customers in an otherwise empty store! Clerks should at least appear to be busy, offering a warm welcome and offer of help, but otherwise let you wander in relative privacy. Sometimes this is tricky, because clerks must also watch for customers with sticky fingers. As for the prices-perhaps the villagers pay more to avoid going “into town” which may be quite a distance away. Or, those prices are for tourists. This little village didn’t seem a touristy spot-was it?

    Also, thank you for clarifying cream teas. Wonderful post!

    • Kathleen, you’re too kind, thank you for your comment. I also love Doc Martin and I see what you mean. It’s filmed in a small village in Cornwall where I daresay you can obtain a cream tea or two.

      Like you, I’ve worked in shops and I know you do sometimes have to keep an eye on the punters, but there are ways of doing that which are quite acceptable – a smile and a ‘hello’ for example, rather than stony silence and a hard stare. I’m not sure why the prices were so high, as I can’t imagine locals shopping there much and if the place was aimed at tourists then you’d expect there to be more attractive items for sale. I may be wrong about all this, perhaps it does a good trade and has its loyal customers who keep it going, but it’s hard to imagine. I think tourists do make it to Gardenstown but it’s not the easiest place to get to, and it was extremely quiet when we went on a beautifully sunny day in July, when you might expect it to have been a bit busy. Crovie was busier, and it’s a much smaller place, but then it has the attraction of the wee houses right by the sea.

      Delighted to clarify the cream tea, it’s a topic close to my heart.

  2. Hello Lorna, I’ve eaten a cream trea or two in both Devon and Cornwall but I was unaware of the jam/cream, cream/jam etiqutte. The Devonians must have looked askance at my Cornish methods! (BTW I guess the jam would sink much slower on proper clotted cream which has a much thicker consistency than whipped cream)

    But either way, there’s nothing quite like a cream tea eaten outside in the summer sun shine. Happy days!

    • Hi Finn, you’re quite right about the sinking being worse with whipped cream, although I’ve noticed with clotted cream that when you’re trying to spread jam on top it smears quite badly and looks rather unattractive (but, of course, still tastes utterly delicious). Perhaps if the cream is very cold that wouldn’t be such a problem, but then you’d have the difficulty of spreading it. Mind you, that wouldn’t bother everyone, I’ve seen my delightful assistants ignore the idea of spreading completely when it comes to dairy produce – thick slabs seem to be their preference. I quite agree with you, a cream tea in the sunshine is perfect. I have very happy memories of devouring cream teas in sunny Cornish tearooms and feeling utterly content.

      • Actually, now that I ponder upon it. I do believe that when it comes to thick clotted cream, jam on top is the easier option, particularly if the cream is cold. I can recall trying to spread dense clotted cream onto runny jam and having a terrible job. It’s a good job I know how good cream teas taste or I might be a little put off by the dog’s breakfasts I’ve sometimes created.

  3. Lorna I have been chuckling, in the nices possible way, reading this post – excellent writing as usual. Do you suppose the shop assistants were the Gnomes in question? It all sounds a bit creepy!

    I’ve never been to Gardenstown or Crovie, but several times to Pennan (before the landslides a few years ago) and I can exactly imagine your perilous wait trying to get up and out. “Invigorating” is one way of describing what it must be like to be in those villages during a winter storm!

    And I had NO idea of the intricacies involved in Cornish vs. Devonish cream teas!

    • Thank you, Christine, that thought hadn’t occurred to me re: the gnomes, but you could be right. They sat so still behind the counter that they might well have been moulded into position.

      I was hoping to get along to Pennan but there wasn’t time, sadly. On another occasion I’d like to explore further along the coast. You can’t help wondering how long those little houses will survive with the sea reclaiming the land.

      As for the cream teas, I like the idea that the two counties have their own ways of doing it, it almost suggests to me that one ought to order double the amount to have it both ways.

    • Tragic, isn’t it? I hope to put that right one day, I can assure you it doesn’t sit well with my conscience that I’ve only tried the Cornish version. My life feels incomplete.

  4. I love Scott Marshall’s photography, Lorna, but you’re right- it doesn’t look an easy place to live! Those “horse posts” are rather lovely too. I do like that if we keep our eyes open we can find quirky stuff like this all over this crazy island of ours. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Me too, Jo, so many of Scott’s photographs have made an impression on me, I think he has a real gift with capturing atmosphere. I was very taken with the horse posts, I wouldn’t mind having a pair of those myself. You’re quite right, there’s a lot of quirky stuff to be spotted if you keep your eyes open.

  5. Your pictures are just lovely and the sky is so blue! I’m glad you explained the different methods of applying jam and cream – I’ll have to try both when I’m in Devon and Cornwall so I can decide… ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Thanks, Meg, I hope you get the chance to try out the cream teas in Devon and Cornwall, I feel I really must get to Devon one day, too. We’ve had remarkable weather in Scotland recently, lots of blue sky which is not the norm.

    • It was such a good cream tea, Alison, the tea was excellent, the scone first rate and the jam and cream (very plentifully supplied) a perfect accompaniment. The only down side was the photography prohibition.

  6. I was just going to say thank-you and that I now know something about scones with cream and jam that I didn’t before. But then I read in the comments some references to clotted cream, which I’ve only ever had once, but now I’m having a Homer Simpson moment – mmmmmmmm cloooootted creeeeeeam – and not a pot of it in sight! Thanks a bunch ๐Ÿ™‚ Crovie looks nice. I imagine somewhere like that would be a nice place to hole up and write a book.

    • A very apt response, cloooootted creeeeeam. Yes, quite right, it is well worth dragging the words out Homer Simpson style. Sorry to dangle that temptation in front of you. Good point about the book writing, I think Crovie might well be an ideal place to settle in and crack on with such a project

  7. I love seaside towns and these two look wonderful. I love the explanation of the difference between Cornish and Devon tea. No matter how it is assembled I just love it! My first time was in Cornwall actually with real Devon cream. It was heaven. That’s why I mention it in my Amanda in England book..

    • I remember it featuring in your book! Once you’ve tasted a good cream tea it’s hard to forget it, I still have very clear memories of the ones I had in Cornwall. Somehow it goes well with sitting by the sea on a sunny day, it’s a little piece of perfection.

  8. As someone who doesn’t like cream I don’t have any problems with putting a double dose of jam on my scone. This avoids the Devon v. Cornwall decision which you illustrate above. You could solve it by having a double layer of the one you prefer with the less favoured one the sandwich in between. Have you ever sampled a Devon cream tea?

    • You dont like cream?! I had to read your comment twice to be sure I’d got the correct message. In that case, as you say, slather on the jam. I’m sorry to say that I haven’t yet sampled a Devon cream tea, but the Cornish ones I’ve had were excellent and I look forward to visiting Devon one day to compare experiences.

    • I hadn’t thought of that, but perhaps you’re right. Strange way to fill your days in that case, but it takes all sorts. Now I’m wondering if it’s a front for something else…

  9. What a great post… I was thinking the same thing as the Unrefined Vegan about the shop owners who were watchful of their pricey items…perhaps they just want to show them, not sell them. As for cream teas…I love them even since one I had in the Yorkshire Dales town of Grassington about 12 years ago…the teahouse was clean and elegant and served their fresh warm scone already loaded for you with clotted cream piled high…I remember thinking that there was no way I could consume that much clotted cream but delved in and thoroughly relished every single morsel…I don’t remember if there was jam on the bottom or not…I do prefer the cream on bottom too.

    • Thank you, Linda. I’m not aware of shops where they don’t want to sell anything but perhaps such places do exist. What a lovely Yorkshire memory, the tearoom sounds wonderful. It’s remarkable the way clotted cream can just slip down the gullet in an instant.

  10. Love the details as always Lorna. The bollards are truly spectacular, whether for horses or chess piece’s in an emergency.

    I’m definitely for the Cornish method, so traditional I know. It wos save me a lot of embarrassment (from my clothes being messied by jam,) if I just stuck with that method ๐Ÿ˜‰

    • Thank you, Alice, I like the idea of them being ’emergency’ chess pieces. I also appreciate the practicality of your choice of Cornish over Devonshire with the jam and cream. I think you’re quite right that the Cornish method is safer in terms of spillages.

  11. I love this post, Lorna! I really hope WordPress is going to allow me to comment on it! (!) So here goes…

    Firstly I take my hat off to you on the hairpin bend at Gardenstown – most drivers would have lost their nerve. It does look a lovely place, although I fear the owners of the Gnome Stores are in for a rather uneventful summer!

    I am intrigued by the horse-head bollards and I think you must be right about their purpose. If they were outside my front door I am sure I would walk into them every time!

    Iโ€™ve always wanted to see Crovie so this was very interesting. I did laugh about your idea of sticking your head outside one of those sea front houses in a storm. Natural exfoliation! When you see so many cases of coastal erosion happening elsewhere, it makes you wonder just what kind of life span those cottages have – but they look as if theyโ€™ve been there for a while. What an amazing place to live (or have a holiday!)

    I love your cream tea experiment too. I do wish I was more of a cream tea lover because they look so good! I think the Devonshire method looks more attractive but both versions look delicious.

    • Thanks very much, Jo. It looks as if your WP problems have been fixed, at least I hope so.

      Those horse heads are great, aren’t they? I suppose tying dogs up to them would be another use, although the rings are quite high up, more at the height for a pony than a dog.

      I do wonder how much longer those little houses will survive at Crovie, but as you say they’ve been there for a while and are still clinging on. It would be a nice place for a holiday, I was saying that to my mum because there was so much on that coast we didn’t have time to see.

      Is it the cream you’re not so fond of with the cream tea? Nothing wrong with a bit of butter and jam instead, or even just the jam, or indeed a completely unadulterated scone.

  12. That quaint and quiet coastline reminds me of so many places here in New England. Having been brought up near the ocean, I can’t imagine ever being very far from it. There’s nothing else like it. On another note…I’ve discovered I’m “Team Devon” when it comes to embellishing scones. Although, I’d bravely endure nibbling a scone that’s been slathered using the Cornish method…just to be polite. :0) xo

    • I completely understand and it’s very noble of you to put any prejudices aside regarding the Cornish method. I would expect nothing less from such a connoisseur of afternoon teas. I was also brought up near the sea and I miss it sometimes now that I live inland. I hope one day to live on the coast again, it’s very comforting somehow.

    • Thanks Scott, I think it’s amazing that people live in Crovie, what a place! Your blog inspired me to visit, so thank you for that, I love your photo of it. Gardenstown seemed to me to have an atmosphere all of its own, very peaceful but quite odd too, nestling down such steep streets beside the sea. Maybe it was just because it was unfamiliar to me, I don’t know.

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