Pilgrim Tearoom

Occasionally a tearoom grabs your attention from outside but inside it disappoints.

Sometimes it happens the other way round, and that was exactly my experience at the Pilgrim Tearoom in Whithorn.

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Whithorn’s Pilgrim Tearoom – not, to me at least, an attractive frontage

During a recent soujourn to Dumfries and Galloway, my delightful assistants persuaded me to take morning refreshments in the Pilgrim Tearoom, a place I’m afraid to say I had previously dismissed as lacking appeal.

I mention this merely to explain my thinking, but I suspect a large part of the problem lay in the grey painted window surrounds, which struck me as dull and drab. Also, the blue sign above the tearoom seemed to me to clash with the local stone.

The delightful assistants, however, had not been put off by any of this and had visited on a number of occasions. Having found it to be very good, they were keen for me to overcome my prejudices.

The Pilgrim Tearoom is attached to an archaeological exhibition called The Whithorn Story, which is all about early Christianity in Scotland. It’s a place I feel I should have visited by now, but I’m afraid other distractions are always too plentiful during my visits to Galloway.

When we arrived I was in fairly desperate need of a scone. There were two options available, one of them being treacle (I forget what the other one was but it was either plain or fruit).

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Treacle scone at the Pilgrim Tearoom, Whithorn

I eschewed my usual mid-morning beverage and dived into a hot chocolate. I took this option because it was described in the menu as Fairtrade, and every other time I’ve had Fairtrade hot chocolate it’s been very good.

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Fairtrade hot chocolate at the Pilgrim Tearoom, Whithorn.

The scone was wonderfully treacley and the hot chocolate was tip-top, not too sweet but chocolately and delicious.

The delightful assistants also had scones, with coffee to accompany them, and then we trotted off for a walk at nearby Monreith beach to work up our appetites for luncheon.

We hadn’t decided where to go for lunch, but after the success of morning snacks at the Pilgrim Tearoom we opted to tootle back there.

I was encouraged by the wording on the front of the menu:

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An encouraging menu at the Pilgrim Tearoom.

The menu included a surprisingly good choice for vegetarians and although there were several things I fancied, I plumped for the lentil soup, which delightful assistant no.1 had too:

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Lentil soup – the menu stated: “All of our soups and are homemade and suitable for vegetarians. If you really like the recipe ask the staff for a copy.”

The waitress was apologetic about the lack of brown bread and asked if white was acceptable. My delightful assistant said it was, but I asked if I might be allowed to have oatcakes instead (I had noticed that some items on the menu came with homemade oatcakes).

I was very pleased with my choice, the oatcakes were excellent:

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Delicious homemade oatcakes nestling alongside bread in a little basket.

Delightful assistant no.2 chose a dish unique to the Pilgrim Tearoom (at least, I haven’t seen anything quite like it elsewhere). It was a take on the classic Scottish dish, stovies.

I forget the details now but I seem to recall it included haggis, and the mashed potato on top had spring onions through it. He enjoyed it greatly:

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Stovies with accoutrements.

There were several puddingy choices that appealed to me but, being in the neighbourhood of a first rate ice cream producer (Cream o’ Galloway), we all went for a little pot of local ice cream.

Delightful assistant no.2 got the tearoom’s sole remaining pot of Honeycomb and Choc Chip:

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Delighful assistant no.1 and I went for the Real Raspberry, a flavour I’d had before and enjoyed. One of the things that often prevents me from choosing ice cream is that it’s so cold. Teaming it up with a nice hot cup of tea, however, makes it a far more appetising prospect in my book:

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Raspberry ice cream with a nice cup of tea.

On many previous visits to Galloway I’ve driven through Whithorn and not stopped at the Pilgrim Tearoom, because of my unfounded fears that it would be a disappointment.

I now know, having been forced to get beyond what I considered an uninviting exterior, that it is well worth a visit for snacks or a tasty luncheon.

I hope I’ve learned a lesson from this experience, not to judge a tearoom by its exterior, although I confess I’ve had a similar experience elsewhere and apparently didn’t learn the lesson. Still, one can be a slow learner but get there in the end.

If you’re ever in the vicinity of Whithorn looking for a nice place to park yourself for refreshments, I would wholeheartedly recommend the Pilgrim Tearoom. In addition to the food and drink being of a high standard, they seem remarkably considerate and keen to make your visit enjoyable, as shown by the wording on the back of their menu:

“We wish to make your stay in Whithorn as pleasant as possible. Should you have any requests or requirements please ask a member of staff, i.e. baby food warming, colouring sheets for children, information about the area.”

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Broughton

Following on from Top Temperatures the other day, the delightful assistants and I made our way back northwards, heading in the first instance for a purveyor of treats and beverages.

We got slightly sidetracked en route, however, by this:

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You may well wonder what on earth there is in the above picture to warrant keeping one back from one’s snackerels, and if it weren’t for what’s over the road from this field you might never know. Here’s a delightful assistant having a look at it:

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It’s a sort of sculpture, put there to mark the start of the River Tweed, which is what you can’t see in the field across the road due to it being just a trickle hidden amongst foliage.

The sculpture is made from a lump of sandstone, with various information plaques like the one above stuck onto it, and little scenes from the river’s history carved into it:

Little rowers, one of many interesting carvings on the River Tweed sculpture.

What fascinated the assistants most of all, however, was a small carved bridge through which they were determined to poke things. First up was a paper tissue, the choice of delightful assistant no.2:

Delightful assistant no.2 with his hankie trick: “Watch closely as I take a paper hankie, crumple it up at one end, and manoeuvre it effortlessly through the little bridge arch. Ta-da!”

Delightful assistant no.1 was very keen to get a stick through it, which she did with some success:

See – it comes right through nicely!

Delightful assistant no.1 chuffed beyond words with her stick-through-a-tiny-bridge demonstration

When I managed to drag them away from this most diverting of entertainments, we set off again for the quiet little village of Broughton in the Scottish Borders.

Some of the attractive stone cottages lining the main street through Broughton.

Although Broughton is very small, with a population of apparently around 300, it contains a brewery and an excellent tearoom.

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Assistants toddling into the tearoom

Since I was still a bit full of lunch, I decided on a hot chocolate as a sort of compromise between a drink and a cake.

With something this sweet and filling a cake wasn’t absolutely necessary.

But when I went to look at the cake counter ‘just to see’ I was drawn in by a flat jammy almond affair:

Flat and utterly delicious: a very jammy almond slice.

Delightful assistant no.1 declared herself interested only in coffee, but when I told here there were small and enticing bits of tiffin on offer she caved in:

Tiffin, when made well (as this one was), is arguably the king of traybakes.

Delightful assistant no.2 left it up to me to choose his cake for him, and I plumped for a lemon and coconut slice, because he has a penchant for them:

If you’re stuck for what to choose in a tearoom and you fancy a sweet treat with coconut in it, my advice would be it’s always worth trying the lemon and coconut slice.

I’m delighted to say that I tasted all of the cakes and each of them had its own special charms. Often, when I’m in company and trying a variety of cakey options, there are some I like better than others, but this was an occasion when I would happily have chosen any one of the three because they were all equally tip top.

One thing I noticed about the Laurel Bank Tearoom this time that I haven’t been aware of on previous visits was the unusually good selection of veggie options. There was a specials menu with 5 main courses on it, and 3 of them were vegetarian; a couple of them may even have been vegan for all I know. Good job, Laurel Bank!

Back on the road through the Scottish Borders yellow heads nodded to us as we passed, and we nodded back contentedly.

Thank you for visiting….thank you for having us.

Dull and Boring

This time last year there was an interesting piece in the Scottish news about the small village of Dull in Perthshire.

The story concerned the village of Dull forging a link with the equally uninspiringly named town of Boring in Oregon, USA.

Along with everyone else, I thought this a splendid idea. When I heard that signs had been erected outside Dull to highlight this pairing I was keen to see them.

It took me a while to get round to doing this, but a few days ago I bundled the delightful assistants into my car and we sped off towards Dull, which lies in a quiet and pretty part of rural Perthshire.

It was about an hour’s drive away, which would have been achieveable in a oner if it weren’t for the fact that it was late morning before we left. In need of sustenance, we stopped en route at one of my favourite tearooms, Legends of Grandtully:

I’ve written about this place before (here) and have already gone on about the exquisite hot chocolate available, but I can’t resist giving it another mention.

As you might have noticed from the sign, Legends is attached to a chocolate centre. If you are remotely interested in chocolate, this is a most appealing prospect.

When we visited the other day I ordered one of their chocolate beverages – the very potent espresso sized hot chocolate ganache, which came topped with a sprinkling of unsweetened cocoa that I found to be a highly satisfactory addition:

If you read my previous post about Mallorca you might recall that it featured another rather spectacular hot chocolate. This one at Legends was similar, and Legends is the only place I’ve found in Scotland that serves up this style of hot chocolate.

I know I mustn’t bang on about it too much because this post is supposed to be about Dull and Boring, but before I leave the subject here’s a close-up of the chocolate’s surface, wrinkled by a teaspoon to demonstrate how thick and glossy it was:

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Delightful assistant no.1 had coffee, delightful assistant no.2 had peppermint tea (the first time he had ever ordered such a herbal beverage in a tearoom), and we all shared a large fruit scone. That might sound a bit feeble, sharing a fruit scone between three, but it was very substantial and to be honest I was rather preoccupied with my hot chocolate; I ate a bit just to be sociable.

From Legends, we drove on, feeling replete and excited about Dull.

When we reached the outer limits of the village, lo and behold, there was the promised sign:

The village of Dull is bypassed by the main road, but if you turn off at the next right after this sign, you can drive along the narrow crescent-shaped loop that takes you through the village itself.

Despite having driven along the main road plenty of times before, to our knowledge none of us had ever taken the little detour through the village, so it was a new experience.

It was very quiet and I thought it had a pleasant atmosphere.

There was an old stone church that I fancied having a closer look at, so we parked next to it and delightful assistant no.2 and myself took a wander through the graveyard. Delightful assistant no.1 has been having a bit of bother with her hip and so she stayed in the car, enjoying the warmth of the sun coming in through the windows.

As with most little churches I try to get into on weekdays, this one was locked, and I’ve since discovered that it hasn’t been used as a church since the 1970s.

It was built on the site of an early Christian monastery and slabs dating back to the 7th and 8th centuries were found in the graveyard during grave-digging in the 19th century. One particularly fine example displaying horsemen is now on display in the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh.

I don’t know if this particular bit of stone (below) has any significance, but someone has gone to a bit of trouble to secure it to the bottom of an outside wall of the building:

There was also a large font sitting next to the front door, which I neglected to photograph, but it’s also thought to be a relic from Pictish times. If that’s the case, it could be 1200 (or more) years old and it’s just sitting there full of water in a disused churchyard, slowly being weathered away by the elements.

Not far from the churchyard, sitting unobtrusively next to a holly tree just outside someone’s garden, there was a big stone cross penned in by a metal fence.

Having read a bit about Dull since visiting it, I wonder if this is one of the Pictish relics that was found in the churchyard. Strangely, although it’s been deliberately protected by the fence, there’s no indication of what it is or why it’s sitting there. I can’t help thinking a sign should be put up to explain its presence.

Another curious sight in Dull was a brightly painted church building just up the hill a bit from the old stone church. I walked up to have a look at it and felt very much as if I were in Iceland or Norway.

Far from being used for public worship, it appeared to be a private residence with a locked gate at the end of its driveway:

The rain was coming on by the time I took the above photo, and our third-of-a-scone each had worn off, so we hot-footed it to nearby eatery, the House of Menzies, which is housed in a refurbished mid-19th century farm building:

I’m worried that this post is going to become ferociously long, because I still have some other places to add to our day out, so I’ll call a brief halt here and take up the tale in my next post.

Tune in next time for a tasty luncheon!

Sunny Mallorca by the sea

Recently, with the very slow start of spring in Scotland (when I began typing this it was pouring with rain and about 10ºC), my thoughts have been straying towards happy memories of warm sunshine.

I used to have a terrible problem with itchy feet (I refer to wanderlust, as opposed to athlete’s foot-type afflictions which I have thankfully never suffered from).

All through my 20s and early 30s, I had daily dreams about dashing off hither and thither. Every now and then my dreams translated into reality, but before long I’d be back home again cogitating where to go next. I got so used to this state of affairs that I doubted I would ever grow out of it.

Then, when I started working offshore and was miraculously paid to go abroad, I thought my itchy feet problem had been cured. When I was at work I was usually on a boat bobbing about at sea, which satisfied my need for adventure, and when I wasn’t at work I was relaxing at home and perfectly happy not to be popping off anywhere else.

However, it’s now about 18 months since I more or less decided to stop working offshore, and just lately I’ve been aware of an irritation in the soles of my feet. It’s very slight, barely perceptible most of the time, but it’s on the edge of my consciousness.

And so, to the point of this post, which is to relive sunny days of travels past.

Mallorca (aka Majorca) is one of the places I have some sunny pictures of and I’ve been fortunate enough to visit the small Spanish island twice, first with my friend Sheila, and then with my dear mama.

On both visits I stayed in the lovely seaside resort of Puerto Pollensa:

Pier at Puerto Pollensa

Me at the end of the pier looking into the lovely, clear (and surprisingly cold) water at Puerto Pollensa

Lorna at Port de Pollensa

Finding shade is my usual habit when faced with glorious sunshine, even when I’ve gone somewhere deliberately to soak up the rays.

I stayed in the same hotel both times, too; it was pleasantly situated close to the beach with a quiet road and some hills at the back.

View from Mum's room

As always, food was of the utmost importance, and I ate well in Mallorca. The salads were particularly welcome in the hot weather.

A big tomato salad

My delightful assistant with a massive plate of tomato and mozzarella salad with olives

Even in the heat, however, one doesn’t want to forego the option of sweet treats.

Mum's chocolate cake at Sispins

My delightful assistant’s highly understandable choice of chocolate cake for pudding

I couldn’t get enough of the hot chocolate that was on offer at a cafe near the hotel; it was thick, silky and intensely chocolatey:

The chocolate was so thick!

If I was able to leave it for long enough (extremely difficult), a little skin formed on top, which pleased me more than I can say.

Just look at the way it coated this little biscuit:

Thick chocolate coating a biscuit at Gran Cafe in Port de Pollensa

This chocolate was so good that a version of it appears in my novel. I wanted to let my main character experience it, because I know how much she likes her little treats.

In addition to delicious food there were some beautiful buildings, particularly in the old town of Pollensa, a short bus journey inland from the port.

Interesting architecture at Pollensa

Lovely wooden shutters in Pollensa old town

Attractive house in Pollensa

A hot slog up a long flight of steps in the old town was worth it for the view from the top.

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Only 365 steps till you reach the top…

View from hilltop at Pollensa

Why isn’t there a tearoom up here?

There were houses all the way up the sides of the steps, many of which had nicely tiled roofs and flourishing pot plants:

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One of the things that makes Puerto Pollensa such an attractive spot is the line of pine trees bowing out over the water:

Mum looking out to sea at Port de Pollensa

My delightful assistant alone with her thoughts, gazing out over the blue sea.

In Scotland, evenings on which one can stroll outside without a jacket or cardigan are few and far between. In fact, even on the warmest of summer evenings in this fair country I can’t imagine ever leaving the house to go for a walk without a sleeved covering of some sort.

Balmy summer evenings are one of the things we Brits prize when holidaying abroad in warmer climes.

Port de Pollensa sunset_2

As the sun sets over Puerto Pollensa the warmth of the air is sufficient to allow pleasant cardigan-less wandering along the beach. A treat for all the Brits on their hols.

As I finish this post,  I am delighted to report that not only is the sun shining but the forecast for the weekend isn’t too bad at all.

Perhaps this is indeed the proper start of spring, from which we will move seamlessly into summer.

If this jolly weather keeps up, I can possibly even shelve any thoughts of absconding and content myself with the delights of living in this lovely country.

76

Following on from 83, which was the grand old age delightful assistant no.2 (my dad) reached on 29 April this year, today it’s delightful assistant no.1 (my mum)’s turn. She’s not quite an octogenarian yet but she’s more than halfway through her septuagenarian years.

The birthday girl wanted to pop into our local metropolis, Perth, to do a bit of shopping today, and so that’s what we did this morning. Having been very successful in the clothing department of Marks and Spencer, we toddled off to one of our favourite tearooms in Perth for luncheon.

The last time we were in this tearoom, along with delightful assistant no.2, it was very busy and we were asked if we minded sharing a table with someone else. We didn’t mind at all, especially when the someone else turned out to be a most interesting and entertaining fellow called Geoff.

Geoff introduced me to a website called blipfoto, which is a social networking photography site on which you can post one photo every day, taken on that day, and people can leave comments, much as they do on WordPress blogs. I joined up with blipfoto after speaking to Geoff, and if you’re at all interested you can find me there as ‘Weedoon‘.

Well, as I say, we went back to this tearoom today and who do you suppose we should bump into, but the very same Geoff! (This may seem like a great coincidence, but since he is an avid fan of the place and visits just about every day, I suppose it’s not all that surprising).

I had vegetable soup, and delightful assistant no.1 had egg and cress sandwiches (I took a photo of the soup but it’s not very good so I’ll just include the sandwiches or, as our waitress called them, “sangwidges” – very Scottish pronunciation, ‘sang’ being pronounced in the same way as the past tense of ‘sing’):

Geoff also chose the sandwiches, but he very wisely added a slice of coffee and walnut cake. I was extremely tempted to order a piece myself but I knew we were heading home for birthday cake afterwards so I nobly resisted. Very kindly, Geoff offered me his cake to photograph (being the fine fellow he is, he understands the importance of such things):

Back in sunny Blairgowrie (I like to call it “sunny Blairgowrie by the sea”, perversely because it’s nowhere near the sea) the birthday candles were lit and the four family members who were available gathered to sample it. My sister baked it and I decorated it:

Some stalactites formed on the edges (and a few spare chocolate buttons were wedged into the middle of the cake):

The cake was light and delicious and slipped down nicely with a cup of tea, served on my bargain tea and toast sets:

All of this was very nice, but it wasn’t the only exciting thing that happened today.

I think 76 is an age at which you might think about things you haven’t done but would like to do. Having survived for more than three quarters of a century, you might feel it’s high time you fulfilled some long-held ambitions.

Today, 76 years from when she first breathed air on planet Earth, delightful assistant no.1 fulfilled such an ambition. Her grandmother did this very thing at a much younger age, apparently to improve her eyesight, because she was trying to stave off the inevitable glasses (a common rhyme of the day didn’t help her to feel comfortable about the impending situation: “men don’t make passes at girls who wear glasses”). As far as I know, what she did made no impression at all upon her eyesight, although perhaps it helped her to feel a bit more glamorous.

I took my dear assistant to a jewellery shop in Perth, where she bravely sat in a chair while a be-gloved lady shot at her twice and this was the result (the ears are where the action was):

The earrings are tiny gold ones with small diamond-like sparkly stones in the middle, they’re very pretty when they catch the light. I was so proud of her doing this at her age, and I think she looks great with them in.

When I got my ears pierced (I think I was about 16 or 17) I was intending to have two piercings in one ear and none in the other. However, after getting the first one done I was so distressed that I couldn’t take a second hit. My sister accompanied me to the jeweller, sat on me, and let me squeeze her hand until it went white while I had it done. It was quite a bit later that I plucked up the courage to have the other ear done. Then, in 2004 while I was wandering aimlessly around New Zealand on my own, I took the fancy for another piercing up at the top of my left ear. I went to a piercing parlour and had it done sitting in a chair, but then I fainted and had to lie down on a couch in the shop. Various kind-hearted customers, displaying all manner of painful looking piercings, came in and talked to me for the next half hour, while I lay there with the room spinning and a wet cloth on my brow. You will gather from this that I am a champion woose and quite incredibly feeble when it comes to needles, pain, or anything remotely medical.

We had been keeping this little ear-piercing business a secret from delightful assistant no.2, and wondered how long it would take him to notice. On arrival at the house, he chatted a bit to his dear wife and then I suddenly heard him exclaim, in the manner of somone profoundly shocked, “What have you done to your ears?!” I ran through from the next-door room and asked him what he thought of it. Once he’d got over the initial shock he admitted that he thought they suited her and she looked rather lovely. I agree, and hope he feels the same about the tattoo she’s planning to celebrate with next year.

Tearoom of the Week (8) Part Two – Sweet

Following on from my previous post, after our bracing coastal walk, we wound our way back through the village of Pittenweem to get to the chocolaterie cafe for sweet treats.

There are several narrow streets running uphill from the harbour to the centre of the village, and I liked the look of Cove Wynd* and the lure of St Fillan’s Cave. The name ‘Pittenweem’ means ‘The Place of the Caves’, and St Fillan lived here in the 8th Century.

St Fillan had a very handy gift that must have made him a popular choice of companion for night-time jaunts. Apparently he could make his left arm give off a luminous glow, which he used for reading and writing sacred scriptures in the dark.

Near the harbour in Pittenweem

As soon as I turned into the narrow Cove Wynd I spied the cave further up the hill:

Narrow streets in Pittenweem

The cave goes down into the rock behind a locked metal gate. I managed to peer through the gate to get a look at the cave entrance:

Deep into the ground goes St Fillan

There was a notice saying the gate key could be obtained from the cafe we’d had lunch at, so one day soon I must go back, ask for the key and have a look inside. On this occasion, however, I contented myself with admiring it from the outside. There was a mosaic made of stones stuck onto the side of the little porch at the cave’s entrance:

Lovely sandstone cave on a steep street in Pittenweem

And I made friends with the cheerful sentry standing guard outside the cave, who smiled nicely for the camera:

Sentry at St Fillan's Cave

At the top of the wynd was St Fillan’s Parish Church. It was originally built in the 12th Century, although most of what remains today dates back only to the 16th Century.  The church is connected to the Tolbooth Tower which once housed the council chambers. Witches were kept here awaiting trial, the last trial having been held in 1704.

16th Century buildings in Pittenweem

I believe the location of the pillar on the wall marks the separation between the tolbooth on the left and the church on the right. I liked the old door and window of the tolbooth:

Old door, window and pillar

I also liked the beautiful round stained glass window further up the building, which glinted prettily in the sunlight. This photo doesn’t do it justice, but it really was very shiny and sparkly:

Pittenweem parish church

After admiring all these architectural wonders it was time to go back to the cafe and indulge in some delights.

With some difficulty this is what we chose. Beautiful assitant no.1 had the speciality chocolate cake and a chai latte. I tasted both and they were excellent. The chai latte was perfect and the cake was very chocolatey and surprisingly light:

rich cocoa filled dessert in Pittenweem

Lovely assistant no.2 went for warm ginger sponge cake with fresh cream and a mug of Belgian white hot chocolate:

ginger dessert in Pittenweem

And, after much deliberation, I chose Oolong tea with a mini bar of dark chocolate. The teacup was very pretty, as was the little bar of chocolate:

The chocolate chunks were so small that I couldn’t resist popping some on my teaspoon and dunking them in my tea. They held their shape and didn’t seem to be melting but when I sooked them off the spoon they just disappeared.

When I was paying at the till in the chocolate shop, I enjoyed looking at some of the chocolates on display and bought some Belgian seashells to take away.

I can’t resist one more picture of my pretty teacup and chocolate bar. It really was a very nice bar of chocolate, very dark, smooth and tangy. Next time I’d like to try one of their dark hot chocolates, but this time I was very glad I’d had the Oolong tea in such beautiful china.

*‘wynd’ is a Scottish word describing an open passageway between buildings. As stated on Wikipedia: “In many places wynds link streets at different heights and thus are mostly thought of as being ways up or down hills. It is possible the term derives from lanes winding their way up hills to provide easier passage, but wynds can be dead straight.”

Beetroot, sphagnum moss and carrot chutney

Yesterday morning I felt rebellious.

Over the past few weeks I’ve been limiting my tearoom visits to the areas round where I live, because of the guide book I’m writing (luckily for me, this area has a wide variety of interesting tearooms). Yesterday, I don’t know what it was, maybe the sunshine and the hope of spring in the air, but the urge to venture beyond the confines of Perthshire, Angus and Dundee was too strong to resist.

Thanks to a staunch puritanical upbringing, however, morning refreshments were taken in Perthshire, so that I could at least compromise with my inner dissident (it doesn’t do for one to become entirely nonconformist, after all).

I had a yearning, as I often do, for chocolate, and so my glamorous assistant and I stopped in the small town of Auchterarder at a chocolaterie and cafe. Last time I was here I had a decadent hot chocolate in a little earthenware cup (see Chocolate post) but this time I fancied biting into some chocolate rather than drinking it. There were many tempting foodstuffs, but in order to get the right mix of chocolate and cakiness I was craving, I opted for this rather delicious looking morsel:

You may be surprised to learn that this is a chocolate and beetroot cake. Being both intrigued and delighted by such a combination, but not wishing to fill up too much, we ordered one slice between us. It was moist, dense and, oddly enough, tasted more of ginger than anything else. It was, altogether, quite a surprise of a cake, but being partial to gingery things I found it very pleasant and decidedly edible.

I wanted to sloosh it down with a cappuccino but at the last minute ordered a decaf latte. I don’t know why I keep doing this, but although I often like the idea of a cappuccino, I somehow feel more secure with a latte. I think it’s all that milk, it makes me feel loved and protected. Perhaps I was a cow in a previous life.

The weather forecast promised better weather towards the west of Scotland, so we drove off in a westerly direction and ended up in Stirlingshire at the lovely Flanders Moss, a Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) wildlife reserve. In the words of SNH: “Flanders Moss is a vast expanse of all things damp and wonderful”. Quite true, it is damp, and it is wonderful. Near the entrance to the reserve is a very solidly built viewing platform (tiny mother in pink for scale):

There are  a lot of steps to get up to the top (I counted them, and then promptly forgot how many there were):

The reserve is largely peat bog and is apparently the largest raised bog in the UK to remain in a predominantly near-natural state. A series of boardwalks enables visitors to get out on the bog:

The area is a haven for sphagnum moss. It’s everywhere, loads of it, and yesterday quite a bit of it was under ice:

There aren’t many trees here because SNH are trying to preserve the boggy habitat. Trees take up a lot of moisture, drying out the bog, but this birch had somehow survived the cull:

Wandering round the bog worked up an appetite for lunch, and after a short drive (not having a clue where we were going to eat but hoping for something magical to pop up out of the heather) we stumbled across this promising looking place:

It was a bit nippy for dining al fresco, but I would imagine on a sunny summer’s day it would be lovely to sit outside:

We had to wait for a table inside because it was very busy, but after a few minutes we were seated in the conservatory and both went for soup of the day, which was carrot and coriander, and came with either crusty brown bread or sandwiches. My delightful assistant stuck with the bread, while I opted for the sandwiches, choosing egg and cress on granary bread, with their special carrot chutney as an added extra. I must say, I was jolly glad I’d added the carrot chutney because it transformed the egg and cress sandwiches into something spectacular!

Having filled up on sandwiches, I didn’t have room for a sweet treat, but my assistant had a slice of coffee cake, which I’m assured was very good:

Replete and happy we wended our way back north and east, but on the journey I felt very thirsty and extremely keen for a cup of tea, so we stopped in a road-side cafe not far from Auchterarder. By this time a small space had appeared in my stomach, just about the size of a melting moment:

All in all, a grand day out, and a nice change of scenery and location. I’m looking forward to more food forays in Stirlingshire, and I have the excellent carrot chutney cafe at the top of my list.