Scones and autumn colours

This morning, after meeting my sister in northern Perthshire to lend her delightful assistant no.1 for the day, delightful assistant no.2 and I made our way southwards in a leisurely manner.

As we drove along admiring the scenery our thoughts turned to snacks. We pulled in at the Watermill Tearoom in Blair Atholl, pleased to find that it was still open for the season (it closes for the year at the end of October).

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Dating back to the 16th Century, Blair Atholl Watermill is one of the few remaining working watermills in Scotland. A notice in the tearoom explained that the wheel wasn’t turning today due to low water levels in the mill lade that feeds it.

The bread and cakes sold in the tearoom are baked using the mill’s own wholemeal stoneground flour, and the fare on display always looks deliciously wholesome.

My delightful assistant fancied something savoury rather than sweet and opted for a rectangular cheese scone.

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I went for a fruit scone with raspberry jam and we both had cappuccinos. The scones were fresh and tasty, and revived us for the next leg of the journey.

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Hopping back into the car, we headed south towards Pitlochry. After reading Jo’s post about Killiecrankie on The Hazel Tree blog yesterday, I felt inspired to have a look at the colours lining the River Garry.

The Garry cuts through a deep gorge called the Pass of Killiecrankie and, as Jo noted in her post, the valley is often partly in shade, particularly at this time of year when the sun is low in the sky.

It was an unusually windy day and there was a haziness in the air, no doubt produced by dust particles being blown about all over the place. Despite these inconveniences there were a number of visitors happily snapping away with their cameras from the Garry Bridge, which gives an excellent view both north and south along the river’s course. Adding a nice bit of drama and lighting to the scene, a rainbow appeared above the trees to the north.

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Looking north from the Garry Bridge towards Killiecrankie.

From the other side of the bridge, looking south, it was evident that the river level was quite low. This reminded us of the notice we’d seen in the Watermill explaining why the mill wheel wasn’t turning.

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There was more shingle bank than river just below the Garry Bridge.

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River Garry with a big white bank of shingle and not much water.

The weather forecasters have been warning that high winds will be stripping some of the autumn leaves from the trees this week. There certainly have been a lot of leaves blowing about today, but since many of the trees have yet to swap their green for fiery hues I’m hoping for more magnificent colours in the weeks ahead.

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A few twigs and leaves on the road but plenty of greenery still around near Blairgowrie in sunny Perthshire.

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October glory

We’ve had a smashing couple of days, weather-wise, in Perthshire.

Afternoon sunshine at Over Forneth, near Blairgowrie, Perthshire.

Afternoon sunshine at Over Forneth, near Blairgowrie, Perthshire on 13 October 2015.

Yesterday, after a bit of blackberrying with Delightful Assistant no.1 (the freezer is slowly filling up with frozen berries and plums – roll on winter crumbles), we called in at Loch of Clunie, a few miles to the west of Blairgowrie.

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The loch was blissfully still and the sunshine was gloriously warm for the time of year. The clouds were beautifully reflected in the water.

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The road runs slightly above the level of the loch, so we parked up and slithered down to the lochside where we stood on a small beach and gazed out across the water. It was very peaceful, and quite delightful to soak in the rays and admire the view.

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Although there’s still a lovely lot of green around, some autumn colours are starting to come out.

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Here’s hoping for more days like this throughout the autumn. When the weather’s like this I find Scotland hard to beat.

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Having said that, I’ve recently returned from a holiday in the north-west of England, which was pretty good in the scenery department. I hope to post about it before too long but in the meantime here’s a photo of Matterdale, near Keswick in the Lake District to whet your appetite.

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Intriguing sights no.9

There are many uses for old British telephone boxes that no longer house public telephones.

One of my earlier intriguing sights (no.3) was a phonebox that had been turned into a lending library.

Today, as I was driving through the village of Spittalfield in Perthshire, I saw another box being used in quite a different way.

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As you can perhaps make out, it contained foliage of some sort.

When I opened the door I was greeted with the pleasing sight of burgeoning tomato plants in pots sitting on the floor of the phonebox.

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An old phonebox turned into a greenhouse.

The world’s biggest hedge

About 5 miles along the main road south from where I live there stands a colossus of the botanical world.

The Meikleour (pronounced M’kloor) beech hedge is believed to be the tallest and longest hedge in the world.

Planted in 1745, this year it celebrates its 270th birthday.

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A bit of foliage, but not just any old bit of foliage.

The hedge is about a third of a mile long and has an average height of 100ft (varying from 80ft at one end to over 120ft at the other).

It’s looked after by the Meikleour Trust and, according to the information board nearby, “it is cut and remeasured every ten years utilizing a hydraulic platform and hand-held equipment, a complex operation which takes 4 men approximately 6 weeks”.

In the autumn the hedge can look spectacular, with leaves of red, orange and yellow. I’ve yet to get photos of that but at the end of May 2014, while it was all green and leafy, I toddled along there early one morning before there was much traffic about.

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Meikleour beech hedge looking south along the A93, Perthshire, Scotland.

 

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Meikleour beech hedge looking north.

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Meikleour beech hedge with a car for scale.

Close to the hedge is the small village of Meikleour where, as it happens, the delightful assistants once lived. I had parked there, and as I was walking back to the car several deer leapt out at me. After legging it across the road they ended up in a field. They were such delightful creatures that despite the poor quality of these photographs, I thought I’d pop them in anyway.

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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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Signs of spring and a surprising scone

Yesterday, the sun was shining gloriously in my part of the world.

Being keen to make the most of the fine weather, delightful assistant no.1 and I zipped off Kinross-wards, to the Loch Leven Heritage Trail.

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Loch Leven has quite a bit to offer the visitor.

Not only is it a nature reserve of particular interest to birders, but there’s a castle in the middle of the loch where Mary Queen of Scots was once held captive. You can visit the castle via a small boat trip.

There are over 12 miles of level paths round the loch which are ideal for walkers, cyclists, wheelchairs and motorised scooters.

Perhaps best of all, to my way of thinking, Loch Leven’s Larder – a tip top food stop – sits near the banks of the loch and provides the ideal place for a tasty luncheon.

In order to make the most of the facilities, we parked in the Larder’s car park and went for a brisk walk to work up our appetites.

Tall reeds were growing in the marshy land beside the loch:

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Their golden colour made me dream of summer.

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The delightful assistant spotted some silkily soft pussy willow catkins. We stopped and stroked them, in time honoured fashion.

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There were also some magnificent Scots pine trees, with their beautiful bark lit up by the sunlight:

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Our walk did the trick, giving us the appetites we needed. I was close to desperate for a bite of something by the time we were sitting in the cafe perusing the menu.

I opted for one of the soups of the day, kale and potato, which came with not one, but two, pieces of deliciously fluffy freshly baked bread:

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It was tasty, filling and no doubt very nutritious, and I enjoyed it immensely.

Delightful assistant no.1 also enjoyed her choice of toasted ciabatta with brie and chicken, which came with an interesting looking coleslaw and root vegetable crisps:

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Loch Leven’s Larder is one of those places that has rather a mindboggling selection of sweet treats, and on this occasion the desserts included a special pudding of plum and apple crumble with custard.

Despite the temptation of that, and many other delicious looking items, I couldn’t – as I rarely can – get past the idea of a scone.

The scone options were as follows: fruit, plain, cheese and….chocolate and marshmallow.

I’m pretty sure that before yesterday I had never seen a chocolate and marshmallow scone. Although I did waver for a moment between that and the fruit scone, I grasped the nettle and plunged into new territory.

I teamed it up with a decaf cappuccino, while the delightful assistant settled for a lovely pot of tea and a ‘little taste’ of my scone.

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I wasn’t at all sure how the marshmallow would manifest itself, but it appeared to be a sort of shiny hardened area that I’m afraid I haven’t photographed very well (it’s the slightly shiny bit beneath the pale bit to the left of the photo below):

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Was it a success, this teaming of chocolate and marshmallow in a scone?

Decidedly, yes.

I don’t know how many excellent dining experiences I’ve chalked up now at this fine establishment, but I can assure anyone looking for a decent scone near Kinross that they’re sure to find something highly satisfactory at Loch Leven’s Larder.

Scones of the week

The past week has been a very good one for scones.

(I confess, most weeks are good for scones, the scone being pretty much a daily occurrence in my life.)

The first one I have a picture of was devoured in the wonderful Loch Leven’s Larder, after this delicious chickpea salad:

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Following the chickpeas was a truly first class, decent sized blueberry and vanilla taste sensation:

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The chum I was having lunch with also had a scone, opting for the dried fruit sort, served not only with jam and butter, but cream to boot (all of which disappeared very swiftly):

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A couple of days later I had another decent sized, tip-top scone while working in the A K Bell Library cafe. It was of the treacle variety:

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Yesterday I had a golden raisin scone (home produced):

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And today, in honour of my sister coming for lunch, a batch of cheese and poppy seed scones appeared:

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This is not the full complement of scones devoured in the past week, but unfortunately I don’t have a photograph of the pear and walnut or the sultana scones. They are, nonetheless, happy memories.