The Wee Blether

Not only is the title of this post a Scottish expression meaning ‘the small talkative one’, it’s also the name of a tearoom that sits in a little village along a dead end road on the north bank of Loch Ard near Aberfoyle in Scotland.

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A side wall of the Wee Blether tearoom and post office, Kinlochard.

The tearoom is a most interesting place, with plenty both outside and inside to draw the attention.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALots of teapots hang outside the tearoom, a situation that apparently came about by a happy mistake.

Hoping to make a sculpture from broken bits of pottery, the owner asked people for donations of their old teapots, but was given such a plethora of fine pots in good condition that she abandoned the idea of smashing them up, and instead slung them onto hooks around the building.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere’s seating inside and out, and on a warm sunny day you might imagine you were somewhere a little more exotic than bonnie Scotland.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAInside, the tearoom has a friendly, welcoming feel and, naturally enough, more teapots.

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After consuming jacket potatoes with very generous salads, my delightful assistant and I tottered out into the sunshine for a short walk to work up our appetites for sweet treats.

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Loch Ard, near Aberfoyle.

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Carved owls in a garden in the village of Kinlochard.

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Burgeoning foliage, Kinlochard.

Back in the Wee Blether, we turned to the ‘Ye Shouldnaes’ [things you shouldn’t indulge in] section of the menu:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy delightful assistant was particularly attracted by a three-layer Victoria sponge filled with raspberries and cream.

It was served freshly stabbed, giving the fork little chance of sliding off the plate onto the floor.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI was very taken with this arrangement, and can imagine how satisfying it must be for the waitress to plunge a fork into each slice of cake ordered. If I worked at the Wee Blether I would go out of my way to recommend sponge cakes to customers.

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Scones, on the other hand, don’t come with forks but at the Wee Blether they come in a very decent size (£10 note for scale):

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My scone was so large that I initially cut it in two intending to take half of it away in the napkin, but, what do you know, when it was time to leave the whole thing had mysteriously vamooshed.

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A large scone – now you see it, now you don’t.

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Bicycles in bloom

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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53 Years

Yesterday was the delightful assistants’ 53rd wedding anniversary.

Acting as chauffeur, I whisked them off into the county of Angus for a tasty luncheon, an invigorating walk and afternoon treats.

Here they are attempting to gaze lovingly at each other for the camera:

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They found this highly amusing.

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Delightful assitants in a more natural pose.

Delightful assistant no.1 chose to go to Peel Farm, near Kirriemuir, for lunch:

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A welcoming sign at the entrance to Peel Farm.

We arrived nice and early, a little before noon.

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The entrance to the coffee shop at Peel Farm, decked out with wreaths and other Christmas decorations.

Due to our fortunate timing the coffee shop was unusually empty, which allowed me to take a photograph of the inside.

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Inside the lovely Peel Farm coffee shop, unusually empty of hungry punters.

The delightful assistants wisely chose a table at the fireside end of the room, from where we all ordered a farmhouse special of soup with a roll and butter, followed by a scone and tea or coffee.

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Delightful assistants perfectly placed near the fire with bowls of hot soup.

Delightful assistant no.1 and I both chose carrot and parsnip soup, while delightful assistant no.2 had red pepper and tomato.

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Carrot and parsnip soup with a crusty roll.

Our soups warmed us up, and when they’d been polished off it was time for scones.

There were three options available: plain, fruit, and raspberry. After considerable deliberation I plumped for raspberry, while delightful assistant no.1 chose fruit and delightful assistant no.2 chose plain.

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My choice of a raspberry scone – I was not in any way disappointed.

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A fruit-studded scone for delightful assistant no.1.

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A beautiful plain scone for delightful assistant no.2.

A delicious jam was delivered with the scones and delightful assistant no.2 felt that his plain scone gave the perfect base for it.

The jam was a new creation by one of Peel Farm’s master jam makers and was a combination of plum and orange. It tasted a bit like marmalade because of the orange, and it had a wonderfully zingy sweet flavour. Delightful assistant no.1 christened it ‘jarmalade’. Here’s a blob of it on my raspberry scone:

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Raspberry scone with a blob of jarmalade on it.

I wasn’t too sure how my raspberry scone would fare as a platform for such a sprightly spread, but when I tasted them together I was immediately won over and slathered the rest of my scone with the stuff, enjoying each mouthful with gusto.

When we’d finished our scones and downed our tea and coffee we had a quick look in the Peel Farm craft shop where I spotted the happiest little gingerbread men I think I’ve ever seen.

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Cheery wee chaps on a string.

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Utterly delighted to meet you.

We got back into the car and drove to nearby Loch of Lintrathen, which has a level road all round it, virtually devoid of traffic and very pleasant for strolling along.

It was grey and chilly but we walked briskly, enjoying the fresh air and the noise of wind in the trees and on the water.

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Loch of Lintrathen.

Quite a few branches and twigs lay scattered about after recent high winds; delightful assistant no.2 fashioned one such branch into a walking stick.

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Delightful assistant no.2 taking twigs off the fallen branch of a larch tree.

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The old chap making use of his newly acquired walking equipment.

On our walk we passed a well constructed bird hide, and I popped in to see what I could spot.

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Loch of Lintrathen bird hide – I had it all to myself.

I didn’t see anything particularly unusual, although someone had noted a white tailed sea eagle in the visitor’s book a couple of weeks before.

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Gateway to the bird hide at Loch of Lintrathen.

After my bit of birding I caught up with the delightful assistants and we scooted on to the nearby town of Kirriemuir to seek out an afternoon snack.

On past visits to Kirriemuir I’ve been unable to find interesting tearooms, so my hopes weren’t terribly high.

We parked in the free cark park and walked towards the town centre.

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Delightful assistants keeping each other upright.

Before we even reached the main street, to my astonishment and delight, we passed this promising looking establishment down a little alleyway:

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A side window at The Auld Surgery Tearooms in Kirriemuir.

Just around the corner we found the front door, and swiftly sailed in:

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Front entrance to The Auld Surgery Tearooms in Kirriemuir.

The interior had a charmingly rustic farmhouse feel with solid wooden furniture and gifty things dotted about. We perched ourselves at a table for three:

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Seated comfortably close to the wooden dresser where there was a selection of tasty looking treats.

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A dresser showing off its cakes and biscuits.

Delightful assistant no.2 was the first to make up his mind and went for a mug of hot chocolate and a mint chocolate traybake, which was enticingly decorated with broken bits of fondant-filled mint thins:

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Chocolate mints on top of a traybake – a stroke of genius.

Although very fond of mint chocolates, I thought this traybake might be too sweet for my tastes. However, having tasted a piece of the one in the photograph, I would gladly return to Kirriemuir just for a slice of this excellent confection.

As it was, I went for a slice of fruit loaf with butter, downed with a cafetiere of decaf coffee:

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Delightful assistant no.1 also had coffee, but in the solids department she made a traditionally festive selection:

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Delightful assistant no.1’s choice of a mince pie. Such a good girl, she didn’t make a fuss about the lack of cream.

After enjoying our treats we had a quick squiz at a few of the items for sale, some of which were displayed at the bottom of a gracefully curving banister:

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One item in particular took the fancy of delightful assistant no.1.

In her youth she remembers having a little wooden rocking horse that rocked very nicely, and when she saw something similar at The Auld Surgery Tearooms she didn’t want to go home without it:

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Small wooden rocking horse with teacup: a happy ending to a lovely day.

Loch Earn

One February morning, under a blue sky with winter sunshine, I whisked delightful assistant no.1 off to the lovely Loch Earn.

I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to post about it but, alas, I’m not as well organised as I would like to be.

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Lovely Loch Earn, Perthshire.

Loch Earn is one of many long, narrow, freshwater lakes dotted about the Scottish highlands, and is known as a centre for watersports.

If you’re interested in statistics, the loch is about 10.5 km long, just over 1 km wide and, at its deepest point, goes down for 87 metres. Loch Ness, by contrast, dips down to about 227 metres, which is perhaps why Nessie chose to make her home there rather than in Loch Earn or any of the other numerous smaller lochs.

We were very struck by how still the water was, and how magnificent the reflections. Here are a few shots to demonstrate:

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Mountains reflected in Loch Earn with stony shoreline.
I think the snowy peak in the background might be Ben Vorlich.

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Reflections of individual trees on the far side of Loch Earn.

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Uprooted tree with reflections.

It was remarkably warm for the time of year, no doubt thanks to the lack of wind, and we enjoyed ambling along the shore soaking up the old Vitamin D.

Here’s the delightful assistant getting her daily dose:

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Coat- and hat-less in February at Loch Earn.

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Stony northern shore of Loch Earn bathed in warm February sunshine.

We had been hoping to have lunch at a nice hotel on the lochside but unfortunately it was closed, so we scooted off to the nearby small town of Comrie instead.

The delightful assistant recommended The Royal Hotel, an establishment in which she had enjoyed one or two satisfactory luncheons with her dear spouse.

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Reception area of The Royal Hotel, Comrie.

She opted for chicken chasseur, which came with mashed potatoes and green beans:

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I had a bowl of very interesting hummus which was packed with all sorts of things, including black olives, coriander and red peppers. It was served with thick slices of grilled toast and a side salad:

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Very interesting hummus at the Royal Hotel in Comrie.

Nicely filled with savouries, we moved on to the town of Crieff about 12 miles along the road and called in at a cafe and furniture shop called The Loft, for coffee.

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A deliciously foamy cappuccino at The Loft in Crieff.

The delightful assistant was too full for pudding but I managed to put away a slice of moist carrot cake:

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Carrot cake at The Loft.

Content with our lot, we tripped off home full of happy memories of our glorious day out in sunny Perthshire.

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Winter sunshine at Loch Earn.

Autumn colours and tasty treats

A couple of days ago, delightful assistant no.1 and I found ourselves in Perth needing a leg stretch before luncheon.

It was a lovely day and we popped into Branklyn Garden, which is down a little lane off this street in Perth:

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Autumn colours in Fairmount Terrace, Perth.

The garden closes to visitors at the end of October, but at this time of year the shop is already closed and there’s no-one to take your money or check your membership card (if you’re a member of the National Trust for Scotland you can get in for free).

A sign on the closed shop asked visitors to put the admission fee into a box, but since we had membership cards we just looked at these, waved them about a bit and carried on into the garden.

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The entrance to Branklyn Garden, Perth.

There weren’t many flowers out but there were some beautifully coloured leaves:

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One of the many Japanese maples in Branklyn Garden.

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View from the top of the garden over the canopy.

The Japanese maples were the most immediately striking plants in the garden, and some of them looked as if they were aflame:

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Tree on fire: a Japanese maple glowing in the sunshine.

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This one reminded me of Cousin Itt from The Adams Family. Just stick a hat and a pair of glasses on it and – bingo!

I crawled inside one of the maples and was very taken with the twisted trunk and branches:

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A maze of contorted branches.

There were a few flowers in the rock garden and an impressive array of greens:

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A splendid selection of plantlife in Branklyn Garden’s rockery.

When we’d had our fill of foliage we tootled off to the Macmillan Coffee Shop at Quarrymill (last day of business for the year tomorrow) for lunch.

The trees outside the coffee shop were looking lovely in their autumn leaves:

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Lovely colours at Quarrymill.

We both chose cheese and tomato toasties on brown bread, and tea to drink:

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Once the savouries had been satisfactorily devoured we turned our attention to the sweet menu.

This is a blackboard I will miss for the next six months, until the coffee shop reopens for business in April:

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Whoever designed this blackboard was a person after my own heart – half of it given over to Scones.

As is often the case when I’m at this particular establishment, I was unable to pass up the opportunity of a date and cinnamon scone:

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Six months till I get another one of these, I wonder how I’ll manage till April.

Nice, isn’t it? Would you like to see it closer up?

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Flecks of cinnamon tempting me to break into this bakery delight.

Inside it was soft and fluffy:

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Soft, fluffy, datey, cinnamony…mmm

Although delicious on its own I was eager to slap on some of the coffee shop’s excellent jam:

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Jammy delight.

My delightful assistant, although inordinately fond of a scone herself, is drawn like a magnet to large sponge cakes, particularly when they come with a bit of strawberry and cream:

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Strawberry sponge – a temptation too great for my delightful assistant to resist.

On our way home we took a detour past Cargill Cemetery, a place I’d been wanting to wander round for some time. I might do a post about it on another occasion but in the meantime here’s a bit of autumn beauty from the graveyard:

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Blair Atholl Watermill

Nestling quietly down a back street in the small town of Blair Atholl in Perthshire there sits an interesting old stone building.

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Blair Atholl Watermill: a building housing unexpected delights.

A watermill was first sited at this spot in the 1590s and more than 420 years later it’s being used for the same purpose -viz. the milling of cereals. The current building dates to around 1830:

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Blair Atholl Watermill: a robust construction looking tip-top at 180 years old.

Production stopped in the late 1920s, but after renovation work in the 1970s the mill was up and running again, and is now producing a range of flours and oatmeal, all stoneground in the traditional fashion.

Most wonderfully of all, Blair Atholl Watermill has a tearoom:

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The rustic interior of Blair Atholl Watermill’s tearoom, housed in what was once the kiln drying floor.

Yesterday afternoon I found myself there, along with various family members, for afternoon refreshments.

There were a number of tempting looking cakes on offer, and after some deliberation I dived headlong into a slice of chocolate cake:

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Chocolate cake with creamy looking icing.

I’m sometimes a bit wary of icing, since it can be very sweet and sickly, but to my utter delight, the icing on this cake was a sort of creamy fluffy chocolatey mousse, light and airy and almost like a pudding in itself.

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Two puddings rolled into one: cake with mousse on top.

Had I not gone for the chocolate cake, I would probably have plumped for a fruit scone, which was what my brother had:

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I have had a fruit scone here before, and what I particularly remember about it is the lustrous blackcurrant jam it came with.

Thankfully I have a visual record of it:

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Glossy blackcurrant jam glistening atop a fruit scone.

My mum had a slice of Victoria sponge, which appeared to have been made with some wholemeal flour or perhaps brown sugar, or both, and was devoid of decoration but pleasingly tall:

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Large and upright: a decent sized slice of Victoria sponge.

My dad chose the carrot cake which, like my chocolate cake, was topped with a creamy looking wodge of icing:

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Carrot cake topped with a thick layer of creamy icing.

My sister had a piece of tiffin (a chocolatey biscuity traybake) but I’m sorry to say the picture I took of it is rather out of focus. Instead, let me show you the magnificent latte with which I slooshed down my cake (the tiffin can be glimpsed peeking out in the background to the right, behind the latte):

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A fine latte filled beyond the brim.

One thing I like when it comes to a hot beverage is a decent full cup, and the Blair Atholl Watermill scored top marks in that department.

My latte had a noble bearing, knightly one might say. I imagined it having begun life on its knees, so to speak, when the coffee was put into the glass, and risen to stand proud when filled up with milk and capped with foam. The barista invested it with a flourish of chocolate sprinkles, the insignia of the Order of Coffee Toppings. I may be getting a bit carried away here, but it was a very fine beverage.

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Arise, Sir Latte.

Had the weather been different, it might have been nice to sit out in the tea garden, but alas it was a trifle dampish:

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The Tea Garden: a little too damp for al fresco dining.

A railway line runs through Blair Atholl, and to get to and from the Watermill you have to cross it. Although I always hope to see a train, I tend to be a bit nervous about driving across railway lines, in case there’s a fault with the lights and a train’s coming but you’re not alerted to the fact:

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Blair Atholl railway crossing.

Last time I was there, on the other side of the crossing, the lights came on and a train whizzed past.

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Barriers down and lights flashing at Blair Atholl railway crossing.

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A train whizzing through Blair Atholl, I was very glad the barriers had come down.

Yesterday, the nearby railway bridge was looking attractive with autumnal colours in the trees and mist rolling across the hillside:

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Autumn colours at Blair Atholl railway bridge.

If you’re thinking of visiting Blair Atholl this year, and hoping for tasty bites at the Watermill, you’ll need to be quick because it closes for the season at the end of this month.

Crocodile cake

One of my favourite tearooms, the Macmillan Coffee Shop in Perth, is soon to close for the season.

I’ve been popping along there as often as I can recently, to make the most of it while it’s still open. It’ll be a long wait between the end of this month and April 2014 when it reopens for business.

They always have interesting and delicious scones and cakes on offer, and on a recent visit I opted for a slice of chocolate and hazelnut cake.

I was astonished by its similarity to a crocodile:

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Crocodile chocolate and hazelnut cake

I don’t know if it’s easier to see what I mean slightly closer up:

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Can you see the crocodile in this cake?

The whole hazelnuts on top were such a tasty touch that it would have been nice to have had more of them decorating the cake. However, had that been the case, it wouldn’t have looked like a crocodile, which would have been a great pity.

A unique cake and a very happy memory.