Scones I have known – no.9

I had quite a few scones on holiday in Cumbria last month, but the best was saved till last.

After leaving our holiday home at Red Hall Farm, on our way back north we took a detour to Lanercost Priory, about half a mile from Hadrian’s Wall.

We didn’t have time to visit the priory itself, but we did visit the award winning tearoom next to it.

Lanercost Priory tearoom

Lanercost Priory Tearoom, gift shop and information centre.

The delightful assistants opted for coffee and a slice of lemon cake between them.

lemon cake

Pleased to find there was leaf tea on offer, I chose a pot of Darjeeling accompanied by a fruit scone.

fruit scone with jam

The scone hadn’t been long out of the oven and was still slightly warm. With a little butter, it was absolute bliss. The poor old jam that came with it didn’t have a look in.

Lanercost scone


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.


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:


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.


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:


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


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:


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.


One of the streets in Lindisfarne.


Entrance to the parish church of St Mary the Virgin.


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.


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.


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

The weather was lovely, with hazy sunshine all day.


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….


…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.


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.


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:


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.


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.

Intriguing Sights No.5

The other day I was a few miles outside the small town of Doune, when I was faced with a ‘road closed’ sign.

There was no diversion marked, but when I got my map out I saw that I could take a detour through the nearby hamlet of Argaty.

Although tiny in terms of human population, Argaty lays claim to being central Scotland’s only red kite feeding station, and has quite a number of visitors as a result.

The feeding station is open all year round so that you can pop along to watch red kites from a hide, and they have a website here if you’d like more information.

As interesting as all of that is, the red kites were not what particularly intrigued me in Argaty. This was what stopped me in my tracks:


A rather substantial bus shelter, but one with a bit of a story to tell.

At the front of the shelter, above and between two pillars, was a date – 1937 – and two sets of initials: GRVI and ER:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAInside there was an explanation:

The inscription above the window at the back of the shelter reads: “To commemorate the Coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth May 1937” and has the words “Fealty” and “Homage” on either side.

Commemorative plaques and other architectural paraphernalia to mark coronations are not uncommon, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a bus shelter built for the purpose. Mind you, I say it was built for the coronation but perhaps that’s not true; it might already have been there and just been inscribed to mark the event.

I searched online a bit and wasn’t able to find any mention of this bus shelter anywhere.

I did, however, find information about a completely different bus shelter in the village of Stokenchurch in the south of England, which was erected not for the 1937 coronation but for the present Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012.

stokenchurch bus shelter

Malcolm Penny and Jennie Ferrigno (name of dog unknown), representatives of Stokenchurch Parish Council and Red Kite Community Housing Association, who jointly erected the bus shelter.

As can be seen above, the Stokenchurch Diamond Jubilee bus shelter is a very different design from the Argaty one and has a metal plaque attached to it commemorating the Diamond Jubilee.

There are several other bus shelters throughout the UK that were erected for the Diamond Jubilee, but I chose to highlight this one because of its very tenuous link with the one at Argaty.

It’s barely worth mentioning perhaps, but the fact that the Stokenchurch one was partly funded by a company called Red Kite caught my attention. Could there be other links between red kites and bus shelters that I’ve yet to uncover? Life is full of curious coincidences.

Intriguing Sights No.3

A bit beyond the graveyard at Bendochy in Perthshire, there’s an Intriguing Sight parked up on grass just off the road.

At first sight it might not seem all that intriguing. If you’re familiar with the British landscape you might think it was just one of those old – probably defunct – red phoneboxes:

In my youth we didn’t have mobile phones. In order to make calls when out and about, we relied on the Post Office to provide red phoneboxes with public phones in them. You could shove a 10p piece into a slot to make a call, and when the money was running out the ‘pips’ would alert you to the fact that you were about to be cut off. This was all part of normal life.

In this day and age, with virtually everyone having a mobile phone, I don’t know how many red phoneboxes still contain working phones, but it seems to me to be not very many.

Britain’s red phoneboxes, or kiosks as they were first known, came into being in 1921, and were painted red to make them stand out. There have been a variety of designs over the years, all of which are illustrated and described on the impressively detailed website, The Telephone Box.

When you get closer to the phonebox at Bendochy, you find that where it used to say ‘TELEPHONE’ in the white space at the top, it now says ‘Bendochy’ and there’s a little ‘i’ after it, signifying ‘information’.

As you approach the door of the phonebox, you might think you’re seeing shelves of books inside:

And you’d be quite right:

The sides of the phonebox that are not supporting books or acting as the door, are mounted with pinboards, one of which has maps of the area stuck to it, and an explanation of what’s going on inside the phonebox:

The pinboard on the other side has been left for advertisements:

I keep meaning to pin up a little flyer about my book on the pinboard, and stick a copy of the book on a bookshelf.

Bendochy’s phonebox is just one of over 1,500 such boxes to have been adopted by local communities and put to good use now that they no longer contain phones.

The decomissioned boxes have found all sorts of new leases of life. Quite a few contain defibrillators purchased by local villagers and installed in case of medical emergencies. There are also phoneboxes that have turned into art galleries and grocery shops.

If you fancy adopting your local phonebox, you can do it for the bargain price of £1.00 by applying to British Telecom.

They have a website all about it here, and they’re very keen to hear from people with interesting suggestions.

Foreign Tearoom Delights No.1: Dubai

Browsing through computer files today, I was reminded of taking tea in some rather nice places outwith Scotland. After Scotland, England is the place I’ve taken tea most, but I’ve also had some more far flung tearoom delights.

I’ve changed laptops three times in recent years, and during all these changes appear to have mislaid quite a lot of photos. I daresay they’re somewhere on SD cards or discs, but from amongst those readily available I found a batch from Dubai.

I worked in a Dubai shipyard for a few months in 2010, in the middle of summer, which was almost unbearably hot. We didn’t get much time off, but on one occasion I went into town with a friend and discovered a marvellous tearoom called Shakespeare & Co.

We hopped out of a taxi in the city under burning skies, in desperate need of some refreshment, and saw a place that looked like it might meet our requirements. From the outside I had no expectation of what we’d find inside. When I walked in and saw the cakes on display, I was quite astonished.

Next to the cakes there was an equally overwhelming display of sweets and biscuits:

The whole place was very beautiful, and if I were writing a guide to taking tea in Dubai, this place would certainly be in it.

In the next picture, note the Arab gentleman seated on the sofa wearing the traditional headdress. The design of this headdress is centuries old, unlike the mobile phone he’s checking.

They had the most beautiful paper placemats on the tables:

And the chairs had delightful tassels hanging down from the seats:

It was late morning when we got there and I opted for a mini cheesecake, while my friend had a cooked breakfast. We both had Darjeeling tea.

My cheesecake was soft and fluffy and topped with raspberry jam, a fresh raspberry dusted with icing sugar, a slice of strawberry and two thin sticks of dark chocolate:

The cooked breakfast came with a basket of toast, and butter pressed into a ceramic dish covered with a shiny domed lid:

There was also a selection of preserves. I took the honey back to my apartment and enjoyed it for a few days afterwards:

There was a very smiley chef visible through a hatch next to the dining area and he looked so happy that I asked if I could take his photo. He cheerfully said yes and then promptly put on a serious face for the camera. I tried to cajole him into beaming his lovely smile again for the shot, but he was having none of it. I expect he wanted to look like an earnest fellow sincere about his work.

On our way out I noticed a freezer full of lemon sorbets and other frozen desserts:

A beautiful gift shop:

And a very impressive cellophaned cone of macaroons:

Elephants and golden cake

After our delicious salads at the wonderful Fife cafe that featured as last week’s Tearoom of the Week, my delectable assistant and I took afternoon refreshments in another Fife eatery.

It was a very cold, overcast day but before going into tearoom number 2 we took a health-giving walk up a small road that took us past some buildings featuring lovely crow-stepped gabling:

The crow-stepped gable is a very useful form of architecture for people who need to climb up onto a roof, giving secure stone steps up from standard ladder height to the top of a building.

If you fancy climbing up a few crow-stepped gables, but find you’re a bit nervous about the height and steepness, you’d be well advised to pop across the border into England for a bit of practise first. Apparently roofs like these tend to be steeper in Scotland, so that snow can slide off more easily.

Although the idea of stepping up them does entice me (and has done, ever since I first saw Mary Poppins climb up a crow-stepped gable made of smoke in the Disney movie) my fear of heights prevents me from actually trying it out. I prefer to enjoy them safely from ground level.

The tearoom we proposed to take afternoon snacks in is next-door to a shop full of wooden items shipped in from Asia, and fancying a little look around the goods on display, we popped in.

There were a lot of elephants. Here are some carved into a table-top:

There were two almost life size elephants in one part of the shop. I thought it might be nice to buy one, put it into a trailer attached to the back of my car and tour around the country with it.

These ones were sitting at the door ready to welcome people into the shop. Those two small things at the front on either side of the little elephant are, believe it or not, carvings of elephant rumps, for sale at £1 a go. I did consider buying one, I must admit.

Before leaving, my delightful assistant purchased a very well-priced magazine rack made from teak:

Only a few steps from the shop full of wooden elephants was the tearoom we were headed for. The building is a wooden structure that doesn’t give anything away from the outside.

The sun had come out a bit, which was very nice, but it was still too cold to sit out on the balcony (and a bit noisy, due to the proximity of the road):

The first time I visited this place, I had no idea from the outside how nice it was going to be inside:

And I certainly wasn’t expecting such impressive facilities:

Most of the tables in this tearoom have marble tops, and there are fresh flowers in vases. When I ordered a slice of cake, a very nice fork was brought with the napkin:

There was a tempting selection of cakes and biscuits on display. I opted for the chocolate cake while my assistant asked for a slice of coffee walnut cake. We both had decaf coffees, mine a latte and hers an Americano:

My chocolate cake was attractively decorated with milk and white chocolate shavings, and nicely finished on the edge:

My assistant’s coffee cake was beautiful, and reminded me of a lump of rock with sparkly bits in it (alas, despite doing a year of geology at university I cannot for the life of me think which rock it reminded me of). The top was decorated with chopped up walnuts and glittery edible gold flakes:

As with my slice, attention had been paid to the edge:

My latte, as seen in a previous picture, was served in a tall glass. My assistant’s Americano, on the other hand, came in a stylish cup and saucer with a spoon to match the fancy fork:

Since there’s a bit of an elephant theme to this post, I’m going to sneak in one more. I bought this one for a friend a few years ago, and he’s been named George. He’s quite big and is meant as a doorstop (although I believe my friend keeps him on the bed). He’s filled with sand and his outer material is silk.

He really is a most charming and delightful little fellow.