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

Darjeeling – teabag or leaf?

For several years now my breakfast brew of choice has been Darjeeling tea. I take it black, brewed for three or four minutes.

I started out with Twinings leaf tea, before noticing that my local supermarket (Tesco) produced their own teabag version. After recently winning a packet of Whittard’s Darjeeling teabags on Twitter (courtesy of @hashtagteaclub – thank you kindly, chaps) my tea cupboard is now graced with all three brands. Here they are, side by side:

three Darjeelings

Left to right: Tesco teabags, Whittard teabags and Twinings leaf tea.

Yesterday, and again this morning, I had a bash at the newest arrival, the Whittard teabags.

Whittard box with teabags

One of the plus points about the packaging, to my mind, is this quote from a British entertainment legend on the back of the pack.

Noel Coward quote

I brewed the tea as usual, adding a little cold water so that I could drink it straight away.

mug with tea box

My first sip was very pleasant, but hardly distinguishable from the Tesco teabags. It was smooth, light and just the thing I want first thing in the morning. If I hadn’t known it was a different brand I don’t think I’d have guessed it was anything other than Tesco’s own.

On most mornings, my main objective is to get those all important first sips of tea down the parched gullet asap, and for that reason I usually fall back on a teabag. After this taste test, I would rate Whittard alongside Tesco for flavour, smoothness and ease of preparation. To my mind, there’s really nothing to choose between them, except that the Whittard tea is about four times the price of the Tesco version.

When it comes to overall flavour and full-bodiedness, however, the Twinings leaf tea leaves the teabags behind. Not being constrained within a bag, and possibly being of higher quality, the leaf tea seems to me to have a livelier and more rounded taste, is more satisfying on the palate and I suspect puts a slightly jauntier spring in my post-breakfast step.

By mid-morning I’m fully prepared to put in the extra effort required for leaf tea production, but I will happily use up the remainder of my Whittard Darjeeling teabags to wash down my breakfast bagel over the next couple of weeks.

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Linlithgow delights

A couple of days ago, after dropping delightful assistant no.1 off with chums in South Queensferry, delightful assistant no.2 and I took ourselves off to Linlithgow for tea and a wander.

Our first stop was Brodies tearoom on the main street in Linlithgow. Having seen photos online of their large and excellent looking scones I was keen to sample their wares.

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The exterior of Brodies tearoom. Words on the windows read ‘A feast for body and soul’.

Inside, the tearoom consisted of one room with seating for about 22 people. It was busy, but a table in the corner was being vacated when we arrived. We nabbed it post haste.

Inside Brodies

The chairs were unusual for a tearoom, being made of clear perspex. We found them very comfortable.

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There were a few seats outside, and from the cushions placed on the windowsill inside it looked as if perching there was another option.

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When I went to the counter to look at the edibles on offer I was unable to locate any scones. I asked the waitress about this and she said that some fruit scones were just coming out of the oven. Thrilled by this prospect, we ordered freshly baked scones and breakfast tea for two.

The scones came to the table on long plates with tubs of butter and raspberry jam.

scone on long plate

The generous size of the scones can be appreciated by comparing one with a standard teacup and saucer.

scone and teacup

Since it had come directly out of the oven, I pulled my scone apart and tasted it without putting anything on it. It was perfectly cooked, soft, fluffy and truly delicious.

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Delightful assistant no.2, however, is not one to waste butter when it’s put in front of him. He buttered and jammed first one half and then the other, carefully dotting the scone with butter before adding the jam.

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He raved about the jam so much that I tried it for myself, and it was indeed toothsome.

scone with butter and jam

There was a lot of tea in the large teapot that came with the scones (we drank 8 cups between us and left quite a bit untouched). Delightful assistant no.2 took the opportunity of so much tea drinking to work on his pinkie-sticking-out skills (and not only on the teacup-wielding hand, as can be seen in these pictures).

pinkie 2

pinkie 1

When we had finished our scones and drunk as much tea as we could, we got up and toddled at a leisurely pace towards nearby Linlithgow Loch.

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The loch sits at the foot of Linlithgow Palace, which is now a ruin, but a pretty spectacular one at that. Building on the palace began in 1424, and both James V and Mary Queen of Scots were born here in the 1500s.

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Next to the palace sits the impressive St Michael’s Parish church.

Linlithgow Palace on the right with St Michael's Church on the left and a fine set of steps leading up between the two.

Linlithgow Palace on the right with St Michael’s Church on the left and a fine set of steps leading up between the two.

We didn’t have much time, but since the church was open we popped in for a quick shufti.

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Much of the building dates to the mid 15th Century, and it was within these walls that Mary Queen of Scots was baptised in 1542.

The church has several splendid stained glass windows, including this one of modern design.

modern stained glass window

I thought it a beautiful building, both inside and out.

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One of the unusual things about it is the church spire. In 1821 the stone steeple was in such a poor state of repair that it had to be dismantled. It wasn’t replaced until 1964, when a controversial aluminium crown was put in its place. It’s certainly a distinctive feature, and although it looks a little at odds with the old stonework, I quite like it.

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Scones I have known – no.8

Yesterday afternoon, on our way home from Edinburgh, the delightful assistants and I called into Loch Leven’s Larder near Kinross for afternoon tea.

During the drive I had been considering the possible scone options that might greet us on arrival. They usually have four varieties to choose from: plain, fruit, cheese and a daily special. I nearly always go for the special, and I was curious to know what it might be.

We arrived a little before 15:00 to find that the fruit scones had sold out. That left plain, cheese and the special which, on this occasion, was billed as ‘plum drizzle’. Having had a ‘drizzle’ scone here before I knew that it came with icing on top. On the whole, I prefer my scones without icing, but I did like the sound of the plums.

When we put in our order (breakfast tea and slices of summer berry pie for the assistants; ginger chai tea for me along with the plum drizzle scone) I was informed by the waitress that the scone was, in fact, cherry and not plum. Delightful assistant no.2 had suggested as much when he’d gone up to the cake counter to investigate the options and seen the scones for himself.

Cherry scones tend to be sweeter than most other varieties and so I briefly wondered if the added icing was enough to put me off. ‘I’m not sure if it is cherry actually,’ said the waitress. ‘Not to worry,’ said I, boldly. ‘Whatever it is, I’ll have it.’

When the scone arrived at the table there was an extra element of excitement involved in the proceedings. Was it cherry, or was it in fact plum? Going by this picture, what would you think?

mystery scone

If you said plum, I can inform you that you’re 100% spot on. There wasn’t a single cherry in that scone, but there were plenty of pieces of moist fresh plum.

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The heaviest bit of the treat was the icing; the scone itself was light, fluffy and utterly delicious.

In case you’re interested in what the summer berry pie looked like, here it is without cream, as consumed by delightful assistant no.2 (who is very good about watching his cholesterol).

summer berry pie sans cream

And here’s the other piece, as consumed by delightful assistant no.1 (who, when it comes to cream, takes full advantage of her daily prescription of statins).

summer berry pie avec cream

Scones I have known – no.7

I consumed this scone only a few hours ago in the Pine Cone Cafe outside Dundee.

Although rather crumbly, the scone was soft inside and crisp outside, and absolutely packed with dried fruit.

It was very reasonably priced at £1.50 (served with butter and jam), and it slipped down a treat with four cups of tea (the teapot was a good size and came with a free refill; I gave it my best shot but didn’t quite manage to drink it all).

Excellent value for money and jolly tasty, to boot. Well done, the Pine Cone.

fruit scone

Scones I have known – no.7: fruit, Pine Cone Cafe outside Dundee, 22 July 2015.

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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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.