An end and a new beginning

As regular readers will know, I have a penchant for starting new blogs. Much to my astonishment, Lorna’s Tearoom Delights is nearing its fourth anniversary and it feels to me like the right time to let it retire gracefully.

When I started this blog I had no idea how big a part the delightful assistants would play in its evolution, nor did I imagine that four years down the line I would be fully occupied in the role of cook-housekeeper, chauffeur, carer and small tyrant to my aging parents.

In light of the fact that the delightful assistants are such a big part of my life, and that tearooms have taken something of a back seat, I have created a proper platform for the stars of the show and they now have a blog devoted to their shenanigans. If you’d like to keep abreast of their toings and froings you can follow them on this blog from now on:

www.delightfulassistants.wordpress.com

Who knows what they’ll get up to on those pages but there will, undoubtedly, be the odd tearoom visit and perhaps a few tastings of various sorts.

Thank you to everyone who has followed or popped into this blog over the years. I’ve met lots of truly smashing people through blogging and I hope to continue those friendships for many years to come.

small ones in Grange-over-Sands

Intrepid assistants bravely striding out into the unknown (actually, on their way to a cafe in the genteel Cumbrian town of Grange-over-Sands).

Delightful assistants venture into the Trossachs

The delightful assistants have both had birthdays in the past week.

To celebrate their continued survival I took them to the Trossachs, a popular picturesque area north of Glasgow.

Our ultimate destination was Stronachlachar on the shores of Loch Katrine, but we stopped en route for a bit of fresh air at the smaller Loch Arklet. It was incredibly quiet.

Loch Arklet, the TrossachsThe road between the village of Aberfoyle and the small settlement of Stronachlachar is less than 12 miles long. If it had been smoothly finished and reasonably straight it would have made for a very pleasant drive. However, it was neither smooth nor straight. Parts of it constituted the worst bits of road I’ve ever driven along.

The up side of this was that it made arriving at Stronachlachar in one piece feel like quite an achievement.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs the signs in the above photograph suggest, the building on the left of the picture contained a tearoom. I won’t go into details about it because I had a dodgy stomach after my lunch there (I can’t say for sure that it was a result of what I ate, but you know how it is, connotations and whatnot). One thing I will say in its favour is that it served up very nice Lady Grey tea in a stylish little teapot .

Lady Gray at the Pier, StronachlacharBefore lunch I took the assistants on an obstacle-course-for-old-people.

We started off on the level, nice and easy.

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The first obstacle was a muddy grass slope. Sticks in hand, they negotiated it without incident.

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After trotting around on some bouncy grass they made their way up another slope, much steeper this time and littered with trip hazards.

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Delightful assistant no.1 surged ahead, while her spouse took the dangerous decision to rest against a pine tree. (Anyone who remembers reading about their visit to Loch Garten might be able to guess at my anxiety on seeing the pose below.)

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Thankfully, both tree and intrepid assistants remained upright.

Back on the flat, delightful assistant no.2 went into the lead and marched off to investigate two poles in the distance.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe poles were in fact tree trunks, complete with curious inhabitants (and, somewhat out of keeping with the otherwise rustic look, a satellite dish).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe obstacle course being at an end, we tottered back to the tearoom for lunch.

Although it was a cold day for May and we were bombarded with heavy hail showers on the way home, we were fortunate to get a bit of sunshine.

Now 86 and 79, the delightful assistants aren’t doing too badly, I’d say.

The Delightfully Dynamic DuoIncidentally, on an administrative note, if you happen to have this blog bookmarked as lornastearoomdelights.com, that address won’t work in a few days’ time because I’m not renewing the upgrade required to get rid of ‘wordpress’ in the URL. The blog will, however, continue to function in its freebie state at lornastearoomdelights.wordpress.com.

Delightful assistants disappear

One sunny spring afternoon delightful assistants no.1 and 2 arrived at Abernethy Forest for a health-giving walk in the fresh air. They set off to explore the area around beautiful Loch Garten.

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A strange thing started happening as they walked through the forest.

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Slowly but surely they began taking on the appearance of their surroundings, camouflaging themselves like flounders on a sandy seabed,

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until, eventually, they became entirely invisible.

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As they moved out of the trees they spotted a rock on a little beach. Maintaining invisibility had been exhausting work and they needed to rest and get their strength back. They sat on the rock and gazed out across the loch in the sunshine,

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and revived themselves for the next leg of their adventure.

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Back in the forest, delightful assistant no.2 went to take a closer look at the bark on one of the trees. Despite his advancing years, he often doesn’t know his own strength and he had barely laid his hand on it when there was a terrific crash. Delightful assistant no.1, who hadn’t been paying much attention to his movements, was horrified to see the cause of the disturbance.

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‘Oops!’ A contrite delightful assistant no.2 owns up to his misdemeanour.

Thinking they’d better leg it pretty sharpish, they moved swiftly away from the scene of the crime.

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After a while they became tired and needed to stop for a rest. Just at the right moment an attractive looking seat appeared.

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After the tree incident they were slightly nervous about sitting on the seat. Would it stand up to their combined strength?

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They decided to risk it, and sat down rather gingerly.

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Thankfully, all was well. The seat was made of solid stuff and the assistants were able to relax nicely.

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Having had a good rest they got up and made their way back to where they’d left the car.

As they walked along a capercaillie popped up out of the woods. Next to the capercaillie was a small perch upon which a visitor might rest awhile. Very gently, being careful not to knock the poor bird over, delightful assistant no.2 sat down.

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He spoke softly to the bird, assuring it that he meant it no harm.

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The capercaillie seemed to welcome the attention and the two of them became firm friends.

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The delightful assistants arrived home that evening having thoroughly enjoyed their visit to Abernethy Forest, but I think I’m going to cut back on the amount of spinach I give them from now on, just to be on the safe side.

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Chocolate biscuit tasting challenge

After writing a recent review about the Polish chocolate biscuit sensation, Prince Polo, I felt inclined to set myself the challenge of tasting several wafer biscuits at once. In my review I mentioned the similarity between Prince Polo and the British Blue Riband biscuit. I also mentioned Kit-Kat, the king of wafer biscuits in the UK.

There are lots of chocolate covered wafer biscuits on the market, many of which contain layers of toffee or other flavours. If I were to attempt to include all of them in a tasting I would quickly feel a) overwhelmed and b) sick.

For this tasting, I decided to stick to basic wafer/chocolate combinations and chose the following five biscuits as my tasting treats:

Prince Polo   *   Blue Riband   *   Blue Riband Dark   *   Kit-Kat   *   Kit-Kat Dark

I hunted high and low for the Blue Riband Dark, which proved an elusive beast. After failing to find any, my original five biscuit list was reduced to four. Here are the biscuits, resplendent in their packaging.

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A quick description of each biscuit seems prudent.

Prince Polo4 wafer layers interspersed with chocolate cream, all covered in a thin layer of dark chocolate.

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Blue Riband 4 wafer layers interspersed with chocolate cream, all covered in milk chocolate.

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Kit-Kat Dark3 wafer layers interspersed with chocolate cream, all covered in a thick layer of dark chocolate.

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Kit-Kat3 wafer layers interspersed with chocolate cream, all covered in a thick layer of milk chocolate.

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To assist me with this challenge I roped in my trusty associates, the delightful assistants. Delightful assistant no.2 has a great passion for biscuits of all sorts and was enthusiastic about participating. Delightful assistant no.1, while less keen on biscuits is decidedly keen on chocolate and particularly partial to a Kit-Kat. Coffee was prepared and the biscuits laid out on a tasting plate.

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We all sampled the biscuits in the same order: Prince Polo, Blue Riband, Kit-Kat Dark and Kit-Kat Original.

As we did this, we sipped at our coffees and made tasting notes.

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Delightful assistants assiduously making notes on chocolate covered wafer biscuits.

After munching through the biscuits, we read out our notes and were surprised by each other’s comments. For example, we all mentioned the sweetness of our first biscuit, the Prince Polo, but our opinions differed significantly:

Delightful assistant no.1 – “rather sweet”

Delightful assistant no.2 – “not too sweet”

Me – “not sweet enough”

And so it went on, with disagreements aplenty and definite variations in preference.

We each ranked the biscuits from 1-4, with 1 being our favourite and 4 our least favourite. Here are the final results in order of preference:

Delightful assistant no.1: Kit-KatKit-Kat DarkBlue RibandPrince Polo

Delightful assistant no.2: Blue Riband, Prince Polo, Kit-Kat, Kit-Kat Dark

Lorna: Kit-Kat Dark, Blue Riband, Kit-Kat, Prince Polo

One of the few things we did agree on was that the chocolate coating on Kit-Kats was noticeably thicker than that on Blue Riband or Prince Polo. As delightful assistant no.1 put it, the Kit-Kats were more like a sweet than a biscuit, whereas Blue Riband and Prince Polo were distinctly more biscuity.

I don’t suppose all this is of much use to anyone, but if it achieves anything it at least confirms that one really ought to try every possible biscuit for oneself rather than relying on the reviews of others.

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New year, different perspective

I pinched the title of this post from Annie of An Unrefined Vegan, because the post she wrote on this subject rang true with me.

When I started this blog, in January 2012, I was intent on writing about tearooms and little else. For that reason the blog name I chose, Lorna’s Tearoom Delights, seemed fitting. I started the blog in tandem with a book I was writing about tearooms, and my vision for the future was a series of books about tearooms and endless blog articles on the same subject.

Recently, however, I’ve felt rather restricted by this title and that’s probably why I’ve branched out and started new blogs dedicated to different subjects. I currently have eight WordPress blogs on the go, some of which I haven’t made public, but it seems ridiculous and unnecessary to have so many.

Thanks to Annie’s post, I’ve decided it’s high time I stopped feeling restricted by Lorna’s Tearoom Delights. A number of my loyal readers have assured me in the past that they don’t mind what I write about, but I’ve always felt guilty about new people following me and expecting this blog to do what it says on the tin, so to speak.

I don’t want to lose all my followers by closing the door on Lorna’s Tearoom Delights, so I’m hoping a change in perspective won’t put too many people off.

I’ve been writing about chocolate bars on my newest blog, Any old excuse, but from now on I’m going to do my chocolate posts on this blog, along with anything else I feel like writing about.

If you follow this blog for tearooms alone, I apologise for the dearth of them lately. I can’t promise that tearooms will ever be such a feature of this blog as they were in the beginning, but since I do still enjoy visiting such places I’m sure the odd tearoom post will pop up from time to time.

Thank you to everyone who follows this blog, particularly those who’ve been dropping in for years and leaving comments. Getting to know people through blogging has been, and still is, a real pleasure. It’s something I wouldn’t want to give up now.

To finish off this post, here are the delightful assistants on a recent trip to Crieff. After a nice lunch at Crieff Hydro we took a stroll around the grounds. I led them along muddy paths and across a rocky field, made all the more interesting by low angle sunlight dazzling them as they walked. They appear to have enjoyed the element of uncertainty, which got me to thinking that perhaps there’s a gap in the market. If I were an entrepreneurial type I might start up a company running assault courses for geriatrics, but I think I’ll stick to providing the occasional treat for the assistants.

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The delightful assistants – shielding themselves from the glare, or not sure they want to see where this blog might be heading?

 

A foreign land

A couple of weeks ago the delightful assistants and I went off on an excursion to a foreign land.

Not all that different from Scotland, it must be said, the land in question being the first stop south over the border: England.

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Our destination was the island of Lindisfarne (aka Holy Island), off the Northumberland coast.

One of the exciting things about going to Lindisfarne is that you have to drive through the sea to get there:

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Having consulted the tide tables before setting off, I’m happy to report that we avoided the above predicament.

We drove along an exposed strip of tarmac that wound its way across the sand and mud flats to the island. It felt quite exciting, knowing that a few hours later the road would be under the sea.

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It having been quite a long drive from sunny Perthshire, we were ready for a spot of luncheon and opted for al fresco paninis in the garden of the Pilgrim’s Coffee House:

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The sign outside very helpfully informed canine patrons of the facilities:

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To digress for a moment, this reminds me of a sign that was stuck up outside my local Catholic church. It said something like ‘No dog fouling’ and had been attached to a railing, not at eye height for humans, but a few inches off the ground at a position I can only assume was aimed at the dog rather than the owner.

Back at the Pilgrim’s Coffee House a dog sat quietly, not checking his email but gratefully accepting pieces of scone laden with jam and cream. Sadly, I didn’t get a picture of the treats, but here he is sitting nicely:

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The island measures 2.25 miles from east to west and 1.5 miles north to south.

We concentrated our wanderings on the village area, which has a surprising amount to offer visitors.

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One of the streets in Lindisfarne.

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Entrance to the parish church of St Mary the Virgin.

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Inside the church: six wooden monks carrying a coffin.

The sculpture above depicts St Cuthbert’s body being removed from the island during Viking raids in 793 AD.

St Cuthbert is the patron saint of the north of England and was at one time the Bishop of Lindisfarne. He’s a particularly interesting saint, one of the curious things about him being that when his sarcophagus was opened some years after his death, his body was found to be in tip-top condition.

Right next to the parish church are the remains of Lindisfarne Priory, seen below with the church on the left and Lindisfarne Castle in the distance on the right.

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From left to right: church, priory and castle.

We didn’t have time to visit the castle, but I would like to pop down and look round it on another occasion. It was built in the 16th century and sits on the highest point in the island.

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Lindisfarne Castle seen from the churchyard of St Mary the Virgin.

The weather was lovely, with hazy sunshine all day.

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Delightful assistants soaking up the sun in a public garden.

Once we had wearied ourselves of walking, and despite the temptations of staying on the island….

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…we scooted back across the sea and, not far over the border into Scotland, happened upon a delightful refreshment stop in the small town of Coldstream.

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Stanwins Coffee Lounge, on the High Street in Coldstream.

We were gasping for beverages and I was delighted to find that Stanwins offered Lady Grey leaf tea, something I don’t see as often as I’d like to.

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Delightful assistants happily awaiting treats.

The cafe had a Scandinavian feel, with a Danish poster on the wall and fresh, neutral decor.  The lovely lady who served us said her husband was Danish and instead of the usual toasties for lunch, they offered open sandwiches and other Scandinavian-inspired fare.

I don’t think any of the things we had were particularly Scandinavian, but they were jolly tasty.

I had an enormous toasted teacake with Lady Grey tea, delightful assistant no.2 had shortbread and a cappuccino, and delightful assistant no.1 went for a slice of Swiss roll and a pot of breakfast tea. This was the Swiss roll, which was apparently delicious:

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We all enjoyed our trip to Lindisfarne, and hope to go again one of these days.

Perhaps, if the next visit is post-referendum*, I might get an English stamp in my passport.

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Grassy path, Lindisfarne, with water tower on the left.

*In less than four months, on 18 September, Scotland goes to the polls to vote on the issue of Scottish independence. The question we’re being asked is ‘should Scotland be an independent country?’ If the majority of voters tick the ‘yes’ box, Scotland will cease to be part of the UK and become an independent country within the European Union.

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.