Jedburgh holiday part 3

On the second full day of their holiday, the assistants kicked off proceedings with a visit to Cafe U in Kelso, the place they had found closed on their previous visit. They found a parking space nearby and walked along to the cafe, passing the magnificent Kelso North Parish Church building on the way.

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Kelso North Parish Church.
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Delightful assistants strolling past Kelso North Parish Church.

Cafe U was set up some years ago as a church project, incorporating a Fairtrade shop and cafe serving loose leaf teas and organic coffees. It originally went by the name ‘Under the sun’, but that name now only applies to the shop part of the business; the cafe has borrowed the shop’s initial letter, becoming Cafe U.

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Cafe U, Kelso, Scottish Borders.

It was busy inside and the only table free was adjacent to one occupied by an excitable toddler with an excellent pair of lungs. They sat down and attempted to study the menu.

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Delightful assistants at Cafe U, Kelso.

It was a pity they weren’t there for main meals, as the menu looked very enticing with lots of vegetarian and vegan options. Although the selection of teas was impressive, all three visitors went for organic coffees, delightful assistant no.1 having an Americano and her spouse and chauffeur decaf cappuccinos. They paired these with one cheese scone and one fruit scone, cut up into bits to share. They made a right mess of the table, but enjoyed their bite-sized portions.

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An impressive list of leaf teas at Cafe U.
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Coffees and scone bits at Cafe U.

When they had finished their repast and made use of the nice, clean facilities, they exited the building satisfyingly filled and relieved to step out into the relative peace of the outside world.

The sun was coming out after a misty start to the day, and they decided to have a little walk round Kelso’s cobbled central area, the largest market square in Scotland. In the sunshine under blue skies it had quite a continental feel to it.

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The cobbled town square of Kelso in the Scottish Borders.

On their way back to the car, the assistants stopped to admire the River Tweed.

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Delightful assistants admiring the River Tweed flowing through Kelso.

After looking at the Tweed they walked along the street on which their car was parked. Coming towards them on the same side of the road were two cheerful-looking men dressed in policemen’s uniforms. As the policemen walked along, one on the pavement and the other on the road, they grabbed the doors of every parked car they passed, attempting to open them. This was something the assistants had never seen before and they watched with interest as the men drew nearer to them and then went past, not missing out a single car as they strode along. It seemed likely that the men were indeed bona fide police officers, rather than criminals dressed up as policemen, since they seemed delighted to find every vehicle safely locked.

Pleased with themselves for having witnessed this lesser-spotted bit of police activity, the assistants hopped into the car and drove off towards the English border, just a few miles away. Entering Northumberland, they made their way to the conservation village of Etal, via the Heatherslaw information centre. At the information centre, they learned an interesting fact about the county they were in.

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As they went about during the day, they spotted several of these flags flying in various locations.

There was a tearoom at Heatherslaw, where they might have partaken of a spot of luncheon, but their chauffeur had other ideas. She was keen to try the Lavender Tearooms at Etal, which had a good reputation and glowing recommendations from tearoom lovers online.

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Lavender Tearooms at Etal, Northumberland.

Housed in the village shop and post office, the tearooms were doing good business, but thankfully there was a table free in the back room of the building, where the assistants gratefully sank into their seats to consider the menu options. Delightful assistant no.1 fancied a sandwich meal, and chose cheese and tomato on brown bread, while her spouse and their chauffeur succumbed to individual broccoli and red pepper quiches with salad. The quiches came with an unusual and delicious coleslaw which contained peppers, celery, sultanas and seeds alongside the expected carrot and cabbage.

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Cheese and tomato sandwiches at the Lavender Tearooms in Etal.
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Broccoli and red pepper quiche with interesting coleslaw at the Lavender Tearooms in Etal.
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Delightful assistants with their luncheons at the Lavender Tearooms in Etal.

While they’d been at the Heatherslaw information centre, delightful assistant no.2 had picked up a leaflet about a small narrow gauge railway running between Heatherslaw and Etal. For £7 (or £6.50 for concessions) visitors could take a return journey on this railway, pulled by a small steam train, admiring the countryside along the 6.4km route.

The train left Etal station every hour on the half hour, and when their lunches were finished the holidaymakers were in good time to catch the next train to Heatherslaw. They bought tickets from the guard and settled themselves into an open-air carriage to enjoy the journey. 

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Ticket for the train at Etal.
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Delightful assistants excited to be on the little train at Etal.

The train departed in a cloud of steam with a peep-peep from its whistle, and began its jolly little journey along the track between a river on one side and fields on the other.

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The river on one side of the little railway.
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Fields with cows on the other side of the railway.

Their spirits soared as they were whisked along in the train, delighted to be enjoying such a pleasant and unexpected experience.

When they reached Heatherslaw, quite a few people got off the train and there were plenty of empty carriages. To allow both assistants and their chauffeur to sit facing forwards they split up into two carriages, with the assistants in front.

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The train sitting at Heatherslaw staion.
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Delightful assistants on the return journey to Etal.

On the way back, the cows they had passed on the outward journey had wandered close to the fence. Normally, when delightful assistant no.2 is close to cattle, such as during a countryside ramble, he stops to give them a lecture on some topic or other. There wasn’t time for that as the train sped along, but some of the beasts looked up as he passed, perhaps hopeful of catching a wise word or two on the breeze.

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An attentive beast eager for words of wisdom as the cow whisperer passes.

On arrival at Etal, the journeying party got off the train and walked back to the Lavender Tearooms, ready for a small snack after the excitements of the train ride.

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Sojourners entering the Lavender Tearooms for the second time that day.

None of them felt particularly hungry, but the temptation of a cream scone was too much for delightful no.1 to resist. Delightful assistant no.2 and their chauffeur opted for the local speciality, the singin’ hinnie, which was described on the menu as ‘a large griddle scone with currants’. The scone was a decent size, but the hinnies were enormous.

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Delightful assistants with large snacks at the Lavender Tearooms in Etal.

Just after their food and drinks had been brought over, a cheerful couple appeared at their table and greeted them effusively. Disorientated and still reeling from the size of their snacks, the assistants were momentarily baffled by the warm greetings they were receiving. Moments later, they realised these people were in fact known to them. They were the next-door neighbours of the delightful assistants’ other daughter, and happened to be holidaying that same week in a village close to Etal.

They all agreed it was a remarkable coincidence to have bumped into each other in this tiny village over the border. When they had gone, delightful assistant no.2 got busy penning a postcard to his daughter, asking her to guess who she thought they might have met in the Lavender Tearooms. He was going to leave it a mystery, but decided to add the answer before posting the card, in case the suspense was too unbearable.

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Postcards written and snacks consumed (as far as possible, with bits of hinnie being taken home wrapped in paper napkins for later consumption), the assistants left the tearoom and walked through the village in the late afternoon sunshine. Having had their appetites whetted by a most enjoyable and unexpected excursion on a little steam train, they were even more excited about the following day’s adventure that would see them fulfil their ambitions to travel on the Borders Railway.

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A well-kept house and garden in the village of Etal, Northumberland.
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Jedburgh holiday part 2

The second full day of the Jedburgh holiday dawned damp and misty. It seemed perfect weather for mooching around old books and munching on treats, and so it was that the delightful assistants set off mid-morning for Old Melrose Bookshop and Tearooms, a converted farm steading complex up a minor road a few miles north of Jedburgh.

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Inside the courtyard at Old Melrose. Books and antiques can be found through the green doorway on the left, with the tearooms in behind the window on the right. (The white things in the upper panes of that window are dangling teacups suspended on strings.)

There being no signage to assist the visitors, they made the mistake of going in through the door to the antiques and books centre first. After wandering around on the ground floor seeing no sign of a tearoom, they hauled themselves up a flight of open wooden stairs to the top floor, where they found more antiques and lots of books, but still no sign of teas being served.

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Books everywhere, but not a scone in sight.

After a few minutes, they discovered another staircase leading back down to the ground floor. Having thoroughly searched the upstairs area, they adventurously descended this second staircase, which was carpeted and seemed more like someone’s home than a public place. As they neared the bottom, savoury smells led them to believe they were close to the tearooms. They followed their noses and found that they had indeed reached their destination.

On questioning the waitress, they learned that if they had gone through a different door to begin with they wouldn’t have had to negotiate all the stairs and fight their way through ageing tomes to get to the tearooms. Their curious entrance had left them feeling bewildered and convinced they were having an adventure. They sat down and ordered large cups of coffee, and two treats to help the drinks down.

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Bewildered assistants trying to regain their sangfroid.

The only scones on offer were plain ones and they were so enormous that delightful assistant no.2 and their chauffeur agreed to share one, while delightful assistant no.1 plumped for a lightly toasted teacake.

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Enormous plain scone at Old Melrose.
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Teacake at Old Melrose.

The scone was unusual in that it was decidedly salty and not very sweet. It had a nice texture but an unexpected taste. Delightful assistant no.2 rated it at 6/10, while their chauffeur gave it 7/10. Delightful assistant no.1 rated her teacake at 7/10.

Refreshed and slightly less bemused than they had been prior to consumption of comestibles, they decided a health-giving walk was what they needed next. After a quick squiz at the books and antiques, they went back outside into the misty air and set off on a way-marked trail through soggy grass.

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Way-marked trail at Old Melrose.
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Assistants setting off in wet grass.

The grassy path led into a forest, which was drier and quite steep in places. The assistants marched on undeterred, making good use of their trusty walking poles.

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They came out of the forest onto another path, which was very wet and muddy in places. This path led alongside the River Tweed, quite high up above the water. The misty view created a dreamlike atmosphere that seemed somehow appropriate for the strangeness of the day.

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River Tweed seen through autumnal foliage near Old Melrose.
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Assistants in a dreamlike state, gazing at the River Tweed far below.

When they got back to the car, it was high time to be thinking about a spot of luncheon. They knew of several options in the vicinity, but decided on Ochiltree’s restaurant, at Abbotsford near Melrose.

Abbotsford was the house of Sir Walter Scott, built by him in the 19th Century, and is a superb place to visit if you happen to be in the Scottish Borders looking for something interesting to do. The picture below was taken on a previous visit.

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Abbotsford, home of Sir Walter Scott, near Melrose in the Scottish Borders.

The assistants had visited the house before, and on this occasion decided a tasty luncheon would suffice. They were pleased to find the restaurant quiet and ready to receive their patronage.

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Ochiltree’s restaurant at Abbotsford, near Melrose in the Scottish Borders.

The enticing menu catered well for different dietary requirements, with meals for vegetarians, vegans and those requiring gluten-free meals. When delightful assistant no.1 asked their waiter about a certain dish and discovered it contained garlic, he summoned a knowledgeable waitress to go through the menu explaining which dishes were definitely garlic-free. The staff were courteous and helpful and their assistance led to delightful assistant no.1 choosing a sandwich with honey roast ham, baby gem lettuce and tomato.

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Delicious soft fresh bread with honey roast ham, baby gem and tomato filling.

Delightful assistant no.2 and their chauffeur both went for the same vegetarian option: butternut, pea and feta frittatas, pea mousse, butternut puree and pumpkin seeds. The meal was a work of art, and delicious to boot.

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Butternut, pea and feta frittatas with pea mousse, butternut puree and pumpkin seeds at Ochiltree’s.

It was so pleasant sitting in Ochiltree’s that two of the lunching threesome managed to find room for pudding. Delightful assistant no.1 settled for a cup of coffee, but her spouse wisely commandeered a warm toffee apple crumble tart with chantilly cream, while their chauffeur fell back on the old fruit scone favourite. She recalled from a previous visit that when this particular choice was made it came as a pair of scones, something that seemed too good to resist. She opted for the jam and cream version, since she was on her holidays.

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Warm toffee apple crumble tart with chantilly cream, a small and delightful dessert and a bargain at only £2.30.
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A duo of fruit scones with clotted cream and strawberry preserve.

Although the scones were good value at £2.95, they were rather solid and it was quite an effort to munch through both of them with their accompanying condiments. They were nicely helped down with a pot of rooibos leaf tea, but the scoring was quite low at 5/10. Perhaps if they hadn’t come hot on the heels of a delicious main course they might have scored slightly higher.

When they had finished their meals, the two assistants spent some time enjoying an informative exhibition about Sir Walter Scott while their chauffeur worked off some of the clotted cream on a short trot along the Borders Abbey Way, a footpath running for over 100 miles through the Scottish Borders (she didn’t complete the entire route).

It was late afternoon when they left Abbotsford, and on their way home they took a short diversion into Tweedbank railway station. Back in the 1960s, the Scottish Borders suffered from the Beeching railway cuts, which saw hundreds of railway lines closed throughout Britain. The trains were sorely missed from this largely rural part of the country and there was a long-running campaign to get them reinstated. After years of planning and engineering works, some of the original track was reopened in September 2015, and ever since then the assistants had been keen to take a ride on the newly opened Borders Railway.

Having familiarised themselves with the set-up at Tweedbank, they whisked off home, excited by the prospect of a railway adventure to come.

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The garden of the holiday home, stretching out to fields of cows beyond.

Jedburgh holiday: Part 1

Last week the delightful assistants tootled off to the Scottish Borders for a holiday in a self-catering house near the small town of Jedburgh.

On the way down, they called in at House of Soutra Coffee Shop (out in the countryside, about 15 miles south-east of Edinburgh) for a spot of luncheon.

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Assistants arriving at Soutra Coffee Shop.
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The view from Soutra Coffee Shop.

Inside there was plenty of appetising food to choose from. They each chose sandwiches of one sort or another.

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An egg mayonnaise baguette for delightful assistant no.1.
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Tuna mayonnaise sandwiches for delightful assistant no.2.
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Toasted flatbread with cream cheese and roasted vegetables for their chauffeur.

Nicely filled up, they decided not to add cakes to their meal and instead sloped back into the car to continue their journey.

When they arrived in Jedburgh they were a bit too early to check in at the holiday house, so they drove into the town and took advantage of the free parking to have a leg stretch and some hot beverages.

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Delightful assistants passing the magnificent ruins of Jedburgh Abbey.
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Abbey View Cafe and Bookshop, near Jedburgh Abbey.

The Abbey View Cafe, into which they went for their refreshments, was very small and quite busy, but there was a table free and they sat down to consider the hot beverages. Neither of the assistants felt like having anything to eat and simply settled for coffees, but their chauffeur fancied a slice of banana bread, which she paired with a decaf latte.

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An excellent latte and an unassuming piece of banana bread that was utterly delicious.

While they sat in the cafe they noted the books, arranged on shelves at the back of the room. The selection was, like the cafe itself, small but interesting. There appeared to be only one copy of each book and 75 different titles, mostly adult fiction with a few non-fiction and a handful of children’s books.

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Books for sale in Abbey View Cafe, Jedburgh.

After enjoying their coffees and resisting the temptation to purchase books, they drove the short distance to their holiday home, a converted cow shed off a single-track road just outside Jedburgh.

Thankfully, the cows had all moved out and an attractive living space had been created from their old home.

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Sitting room of old cow shed.
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View from the house towards Jedburgh.

After their first night in the new house they set off the next day to visit the nearby Teviot Smokery and Water Gardens, an attraction importantly containing a cafe. Mid-morning refreshments were the top priority, and they were delighted to find that the cafe had a special deal on, with a scone and a cup of filter coffee for the bargain price of £2.75.

This would be the second batch of scones of the holiday, the first having been taken on the morning of their journey at a cafe in Perth. During that refreshment break, a decision had been made to record and rate each scone of the holiday out of 10. Unfortunately, no photographic record was made of those first scones, but they were rated between 7/10 and 9/10 by the travelling threesome.

At the Teviot Water Gardens cafe, delightful assistant no.1 and their chauffeur chose fruit scones, while delightful assistant no.2 opted for an exotic chocolate and espresso variety.

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Chocolate and espresso scone in the cafe at Teviot Water Gardens, near Jedburgh.
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Fruit scone in the cafe at Teviot Water Gardens, near Jedburgh.

The scones were of the slightly dry, biscuity sort, a type not particularly enjoyed by delightful assistant no.1 who, in her own words, is ‘not a biscuit hand’. She therefore rated her fruit scone 6.5/10 (it would have got only 6, but the half mark was added because she enjoyed the coffee), while their chauffeur gave it a slightly more generous 7/10. Delightful assistant no.2 very much enjoyed his biscuity scone and rated it a commendable 8/10.

Sconed up and ready for some exercise, the assistants trotted out into the water gardens, to see what they could find. Entry was free, with a donation box available for anyone wishing to contribute to the upkeep.

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The entrance to Teviot Water Gardens, near Jedburgh, Scottish Borders.
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Delightful assistants carefully navigating the steps leading into the water gardens.

For many years now – and particularly since her knee operation in January – delightful assistant no.1 has been wary of stairs. She is capable of going up and down them, as long as she’s allowed to take her time and put both feet on each step before negotiating the next one.

The water gardens were built on a fairly steep slope, and steps were very much the order of the day. Handrails had been helpfully provided, and with her trusty walking stick delightful assistant no.1 managed the whole business admirably.

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Negotiating steps in Teviot Water Gardens.
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Steps at Teviot Water Gardens.

At the bottom of the slope the gardens petered out onto the grassy banks of the River Teviot where, unbeknownst to them, a holiday highlight was awaiting the delightful assistants.

All along the river bank, great swathes of Friar’s Balsam were growing. It was pointed out to them, by fellow visitors to the gardens who had just discovered this for themselves, that if you squeezed the seed pods of the plant, they sometimes exploded in your hand, releasing their seeds with incredible force.

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Delightful assistants in amongst the Friar’s Balsam.

Once they had experienced this for themselves, the assistants and their chauffeur couldn’t get enough of the Friar’s Balsam.

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Delightful assistant no.2 squeezing Friar’s Balsam seed pods.
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Utter delight when the seeds pop out in his hand.
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Delightful assistant no.1 squeezing Friar’s Balsam seed pods.
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Friar’s Balsam seeds bringing great joy.

They amused themselves with this activity for some considerable time, and as they wound their way back up the steps through the water gardens they all agreed it had been an excellent source of free entertainment.

By this time, lunch was at the forefront of their minds. Rather than have it at the Water Gardens cafe they decided to move on elsewhere for a change of scene. Their chauffeur had a cafe in mind, located in the town of Kelso, but upon arrival they found it was closed. Reverting to Plan B, they scooted off to nearby Floors Castle, where they had enjoyed a good lunch in the Terrace Cafe a couple of years before. The cafe was agreeably quiet and they settled themselves in to peruse the menu.

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The Terrace Cafe at Floors Castle, near Kelso in the Scottish Borders.

Delightful assistant no.2 had spotted a nice-looking vegetable tart, and quickly decided on that for his meal, while his spouse opted for a ham salad and their chauffeur went for carrot and coriander soup, which came with a loaf of bread baked in a flowerpot. She had had one of these flowerpot loaves on their previous visit and was keen to revisit the experience. (Apologies for the lack of a photo of the vegetable tart, for some reason it wasn’t photographed although it was said to be delicious.)

After enjoying their savouries, they hopped back into the car and drove off to the village of Morebattle, a few miles south of Kelso and a place delightful assistant no.1 had some connections with. It was about 70 years since she had last been there (on holiday with her mother and her younger brother) and she was interested to see it again.

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Delightful assistants walking through the quiet village of Morebattle in the Scottish Borders.

Delightful assistant no.1’s grandfather, Donald Craig, had been headmaster of Morebattle school and his daughters (delightful assistant no.1’s mother and aunts) had grown up in the village.

In 1931 a new school building was completed, and in 1933 Donald Craig retired as headmaster. As she stood outside the front door of the building, delightful assistant no.1 pondered on his legacy. As a retirement gift from the school, Donald Craig received an oak writing desk and chair. The desk has, for many years, been used by delightful assistant no.2 and the chair has been passed on to Donald Craig’s namesake and great-grandson.

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Delightful assistant no.2 standing where her grandfather no doubt stood from time to time over 80 years ago.

After walking round the school playground, the assistants made their way back towards the car, passing on the way an enticing-sounding street.

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It being late afternoon by this time, their chauffeur ran along Teapot Street in the hope of finding a tearoom open and offering refreshments. Alas, despite the promising name, no such business was in evidence. Very much ready for a nice cup of tea and a sit down, the gasping trio jumped into the car and sped back to their holiday home to put the kettle on.

Doors Open Day

Every September across Scotland hundreds of buildings not normally open to the public open their doors to visitors for free as part of Doors Open Days.

On Saturday 9 September a number of churches in Perthshire were taking part in the festival. The delightful assistants took advantage of the occasion to have a day out in their local area peeking inside a few of these interesting buildings. First on the list was Abbey Church in Coupar Angus, which they had often passed by in the car but never been inside.

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Abbey Church, viewed from Queen Street in Coupar Angus.

The present church building was built in 1865, long after a previous church on the same site had been destroyed in the 1600s. The original church was an abbey, established in 1150, run by Cistercian monks. The monks were talented farmers, turning the surrounding fields into farmland. Their hard work many centuries ago laid the foundations for the agricultural community that thrives in the area today.

Only a small portion of the original abbey remains in one corner of the graveyard, sealed off with wire fencing and supported with wooden struts to prevent it from crumbling completely.

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The only remaining portion of Coupar Angus Abbey ruins.

The assistants strolled into the church to see what was what, and were met by the minister, who proceeded to relate interesting facts about the building.

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Delightful assistants entering Coupar Angus Abbey Church.

The room was dominated by enormous organ pipes at one end and a magnificent hammerbeam roof above, constructed by a Dundee shipyard and designed to look like the hull of a sailing ship.

The organ was being played by an unlikely looking chap with long dark hair and tattoos. The assistants sat down, on very comfortable chairs, and listened to the splendid sounds being belted out into the cavernous space. According to the minister, the pipes on show were purely decorative (the real pipes being hidden behind them and protected from dust by a cover).

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Coupar Angus Abbey Church with organ pipes and nautical-style hammerbeam roof.

Through the back of the church, accessed via the doorway on the left in the picture above, the assistants were shown a new kitchen and a curious set of gravestones set into the wall of another room. In recent years, when a new extension was designed, building permission was granted on the understanding that these gravestones would form part of the inside wall.  The assistants declared they had never seen anything like it, and everyone agreed it was a most unusual feature.

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Gravestones set into the wall at Coupar Angus Abbey Church.

Back inside the main body of the church, the assistants admired some of the stained glass windows, which ran along both side walls, before wandering outside to take a look at the graveyard.

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Stained glass windows in Coupar Angus Abbey Church.

The graveyard was remarkably extensive and contained some headstones considerably older than the present church building. The delightful assistants struggled to read some of the words and dates but enjoyed the carvings of skeletons, cherubs and other adornments.

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Abbey church gravestone

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Delightful assistants trying to decipher old carvings in Coupar Angus Abbey Church graveyard.

When they’d had their fill of gravestones, it was time to think about their stomachs. They had been offered tea and coffee in the church, but declined it in order to keep their appetites keen for a spot of luncheon.

There was another church they were interested in visiting at the village of Invergowrie, about 12 miles from Coupar Angus. By the time they got there it would be bang on lunchtime, and with the promise of an enticing-sounding cafe they’d heard about, they wasted no time considering other options. They left Abbey Church with gladness, having enjoyed their first church of the day.

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Delightful assistants in Coupar Angus Abbey Church graveyard.

When they reached Invergowrie, they were pleased to see two churches with ‘Doors Open Days’ signs and balloons on their entrances, but dismayed to find that their promised cafe was full with no seats available. Not wishing to hang around waiting for a table to become free, they dashed down the road to the nearby Glendoick Garden Centre, which offered a good cafe and plenty of free parking. Both assistants chose cheese and tomato croissants while their chauffeur sank into a bowl of thick vegetable broth with a delicious herb scone.

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Freshly baked croissant stuffed with cheese and tomato at Glendoick Garden Centre.
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Tasty vegetable broth with a delicious herb scone at Glendoick Garden Centre.

Rather than having puddings at Glendoick, they went straight to the next church viewing, with the idea of finding another eatery for sweet treats afterwards. They sped back to Invergowrie, and drove into the car park of All Souls Episcopal Church. As they arrived the rain came on. It was bouncing off the windscreen so heavily that they stayed in the car for a while until it eased off. By that time, delightful assistant no.2 was feeling pleasantly weary and opted to stay in the car for a small sleep while his spouse and their chauffeur enjoyed the ecclesiastical architecture.

Although it was built at around the same time as Coupar Angus Abbey Church, All Souls was a very different affair. It immediately struck both visitors as having the feel of a Roman Catholic church, with a high altar and carved stations of the cross around the walls.

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All Souls Episcopal Church, Invergowrie.

Two enthusiastic ladies from the church thrust laminated information sheets into the visitors’ hands and pointed out various features. The minister appeared and told them a little about the building, and the visitors took themselves off to the Lady Chapel: a small chamber where Wednesday morning services were conducted and attended by only 3 or 4 people each week. The space contained some attractive mosaic work.

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Lady Chapel in All Souls Episcopal Church, Invergowrie.

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Mosaic work in Lady Chapel

The visitors learned that even on a Sunday the congregation of All Souls was small, and no doubt the upkeep of such a large and elaborate building was a challenge. Many church buildings across Scotland, having fallen into disuse in recent years, have been sold and renovated to become private houses or given alternative uses. This particular building would certainly make for an interesting home, but deep pockets would be required to make it habitable for everyday use.

After politely refusing the offer of hot beverages and home baking at All Souls, the visitors went back outside, where the rain had stopped and the sun was coming out. Delightful assistant no.2 was sound asleep, but woke up when the car doors were opened. He had enjoyed a lovely restful half hour’s doze and confirmed that he felt up to joining his companions for one last church of the day. A short distance along the road they drove into the grounds of Invergowrire Parish Church, constructed not long after All Souls but in a very different style.

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Invergowrie Parish Church.
Invergowrie churchs
Invergowrie Churches, close in age and geographical location but very different in style. Invergowrie Parish Church on the left with square castellated tower and All Souls Episcopal Church with tall pointed spire.

As with the outside, the inside of the Church of Scotland building was very different from All Souls Episcopal. An airy sense of light and space was created by lots of large windows and a beautiful open timber roof.

Invergowrie Parish Church inside
Light, airy space inside Invergowrie Parish Church.
Invergowrie Parish Church roof
Open timber roof inside Invergowrie Parish Church.

A lady was playing the organ and the delightful assistants sat down in a pew to listen, and to admire the magnificent stained glass window above the altar.

Invergowrie church listening to organ

The stained glass window was installed in 2009 and had many points of interest. An information sheet had been given to the assistants, explaining the symbolism of the design. As Delightful Assistant no.2 noted, the sheet was almost more complex than the window itself.

Invergowrie stained glass window

One of the features that particularly stood out to the assistants was the praying hands on the outer edges that morphed into doves.

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By the time they had taken in as much as they could, they felt ready for a change of scene and a little refreshment. Being close to the Scottish Antiques and Arts Centre at Abernyte, which contained the splendid Cafe Circa, they hopped into the car and hot-footed it cake-wards.

Cafe circa
Cafe Circa in the Scottish Antiques and Arts Centre, Abernyte.

After examining the cake counter they settled into sofas and cogitated the hot beverage options from the menu. Delightful assistant no.1 opted for one of her favourite cakes, Victoria sponge, slooshed down with an Americano with cold milk, while her spouse chose his usual coffee option, a cappuccino, and paired it with an orange, apricot and almond cake. Their chauffeur was enticed by the carrot cake and selected a layered latte to go with it. While they waited for their treats to arrive, some of them took the opportunity for a bit of shut-eye.

Dozing DA
Dozing octogenarian, making the most of Cafe Circa’s sofas and cushions.
Cafe Circa Victoria sponge
Victoria sponge at Cafe Circa.
Cafe Circa carrot cake
Carrot cake at Cafe Circa.
Cafe Circa orange, apricot and almond cake
Orange, apricot and almond cake at Cafe Circa.

They all enjoyed their cakes and coffees, and by the time they left the antiques centre it had turned into a beautiful afternoon with golden autumn sunshine. It had been a most interesting day and they drifted home happily, well satisfied in soul and stomach.

Queensferry crossing

Scotland has a new bridge over the Firth of Forth, the stretch of water between Edinburgh and Fife.

Over the past few years the delightful assistants have watched the construction with interest. They were among the many people who voted on a name for it (now called the Queensferry Crossing), and were two of the 50,000 winners of a public ballot to walk across it shortly after it opened.

The Queensferry Crossing is part of the M90 motorway and not normally open to pedestrians, but on 2 and 3 September the 50,000 ballot winners were given the chance to walk across it, in what was billed as a ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity.  The delightful assistants’ tickets assigned them a walking start time of 12:15 on Sunday 3 September.

To make sure their energy levels were sufficient to sustain them along the 1.7 mile route, they called in at Le Jardin Cafe near Kinross on their way south to fill up on calorie-laden snacks. Delightful assistant no.1 opted for a filter coffee, while her spouse and their chauffeur had cappuccinos. To accompany their drinks, delightful assistant no.2 chose a moist and well-filled fruit slice, while his spouse and their chauffeur plunged into freshly baked fluffy fruit scones with butter and jam.

Snacks
Delightful assistants with their large coffees.
Fruit slice at Le Jardin Cafe
Fruit slice.
Fruit scone at Le Jardin Cafe
Freshly baked, fluffy fruit scone.

Thus refreshed, they continued on their way south towards Dunfermline, where they had been assigned a parking location in the grounds of Pitreavie Sports and Soccer Centre. After parking up alongside the cars of fellow bridge walkers, they set off armed with trusty walking poles to catch one of the courtesy buses that would drop them at the north end of the Queensferry Crossing.

setting off

They made use of the surprisingly luxurious temporary toilet facilities on site before getting on the bus to begin their bridge adventure.

On arrival at their drop-off point, they disembarked with the other passengers and began their march over the bridge.

The weather forecast had suggested cloud and a chance of rain, but in fact it stayed dry and bright during their walk.

Participants were encouraged to complete the crossing in an hour, no doubt to prevent people from lingering too long and causing hold-ups with the buses. By striding out and not stopping too often, the assistants managed to get themselves over the course in an hour and five minutes.

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Delightful assistants striding out over the Queensferry Crossing.

Most of the walkers were considerably younger than the delightful assistants and no doubt managed the distance inside the recommended hour, but this was the longest continuous walk delightful assistant no.1 had undertaken since her knee replacement operation in January. Usually, when they trot out for a stroll, the assistants take things at a very leisurely pace, but they made a concerted effort on this occasion to keep their speed up as best they could.

Racing along

At several points along the bridge large signs had been erected giving fascinating facts relating to the bridge and Scotland, e.g. the Queensferry Crossing holds the world record for the continuous pouring of concrete (15 days) and is the longest three-towered, cable-stayed bridge in the world.

sign on bridge
Sign on the Queensferry Crossing filled with fascinating facts.

As they walked along, they were able to view the other two bridges over the Firth: the Forth Road Bridge and the Forth Rail Bridge. The three bridges were each built in different centuries (the Forth Rail Bridge was opened in 1890, the Road Bridge in 1964 and the Queensferry Crossing in 2017).

view of other bridges
The Forth Road Bridge and red-painted Rail Bridge viewed from the Queensferry Crossing. Barriers on the sides of the Queensferry Crossing were incorporated into the design to prevent closure of the bridge during high winds, something that has plagued the Forth Road Bridge.

It was interesting to view the other, very familiar, bridges from a new perspective. There was a flag flying on top of each of the two towers of the Forth Road Bridge, something the assistants had never noticed before.

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Scottish flag atop the north tower of the Forth Road Bridge.
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British flag atop the south tower of the Forth Road Bridge.

Walking over the Queensferry Crossing, it was awe-inspiring to be up close to the massive cables the assistants had watched being slowly added to the bridge during its construction.

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Queensferry Crossing cables looking south.
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Delightful assistants walking past massive cables on the Queensferry Crossing.
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Queensferry Crossing cables looking north.

As they neared the end of the crossing they stopped to have a last look at the other bridges, the only time they’d ever get quite this view of things.

Assistants looking at bridges
Assistants viewing other bridges.
Assistants and bridges
Assistants on the Queensferry Crossing with other bridges in the background.

By the time a courtesy bus had delivered them back to their car it was well past their usual lunchtime. Their chauffeur, always concerned for her stomach, had located a cafe a few minutes’ drive away in the village of Limekilns, and they sped off there post haste.

Unfortunately, by the time they got there the cafe had stopped serving anything other than drinks and cakes, as had the other eateries in the village. Feeling pretty desperate, they motored on into the next-door village of Charlestown, where a sign on the Elgin Hotel was advertising lunches served from 12:00-16:00. Spirits raised, they zipped into the hotel and settled themselves at a table ready to pack in the comestibles.

elgin hotel
Late lunch saviour, the Elgin Hotel in Charlestown.

Being too hungry to think of photographs, their chauffeur failed to take pictures of the first course (which was a veggie pasta dish for delightful assistant no.2 and herself, and a chicken, ham and leek pie with chips and vegetables for delightful assistant no.1), but she did manage to snap the puddings.

Delightful assistant no.1 didn’t have room for dessert, but her spouse was lured by a mango and passionfruit cheesecake with ice cream, while their chauffeur fell into a hot apple pie with ice cream.

Mango and passionfruit cheesecake with ice cream at the Elgin Hotel, Charlestown.
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Hot apple pie with ice cream at the Elgin Hotel, Charlestown.

Replete with their tasty, if shockingly late, lunches, the delightful assistants climbed back into the car for the journey home. The gentle rhythm of the car rocked them both into snippets of slumber, as they dreamed of the adventures of the day.

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A foraging taste test

Earlier this month the delightful assistants enjoyed an afternoon stroll along the peaceful roads of Snaigow, a few miles west of Blairgowrie. There had been a fair bit of rain and the foliage was lush and healthy-looking. Fine crops of moss were growing on stone walls by the roadside.

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Taking time to appreciate their surroundings, and getting in a few neck exercises while they were about it, they gazed up at the tall trees overhead.

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In a gap between trees they admired a field populated with white and purple foxgloves.

Foxgloves

As always on their little walks, delightful assistant no.1 was keeping her eye out for foragable fare. She found exactly what she had been hoping for in the shape of wild raspberries, both red and yellow varieties.

Raspbs

Raspbs in the hand

Of the opinion that the two different colours had identifiable flavours, she conducted a taste test with her willing spouse. He was instructed to close his eyes while she popped a raspberry in his mouth. He was then asked to guess which colour he’d eaten, bearing in mind a helpful hint that the yellow ones were particularly sweet.

It all sounded simple enough, but getting a raspberry into the mouth of the taster proved more challenging than expected. Delightful assistant no.1, no doubt wishing to keep all her fingers intact, withdrew her hand too quickly after posting the berry into the slot. The taster, eyes tight shut and tantalised with a fleeting sensation of raspberry, all too soon discovered the fruity treat lying at his feet.

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When the same thing kept happening, delightful assistant no.1 explained she was struggling with the taster’s mouth being too high up. He quickly solved the problem by lowering the postbox to a more suitable height.

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This method proved successful for the next two tries. Onlookers waited agog to find out how accurate his guesses would be.

Raspberries taste test

Despite his wife’s tasting notes, he guessed wrongly on both colours. This did not detract from his enjoyment of the berries, both of which had struck him as sweet and tasty.

While his spouse had been concentrating on picking wild berries, delightful assistant no.2 had been amusing himself by waiting at a bus stop.

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Presumably public transport does occasionally go past this stop, but neither of the assistants nor their chauffeur had ever seen such a thing.

Waiting for a bus
Any sign of a bus?  No, thought not.

Following the taste test, their chauffeur noticed it was getting dangerously close to tea time. While she ran back to get the car, the tiny twosome took the opportunity to investigate another roadside diversion or two before being scooped up and whisked home for a nice cup of tea.

Poking about on the verges
Look, there’s something of interest over here.

Delights at the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh

On a recent trip to Edinburgh, after spending a little time mooching around other bits of the city, the delightful assistants called in at the Royal Botanic Garden for a spot of luncheon.

They settled themselves at a table in the Gateway restaurant and perused the menu.

Gateway restaurant
Inside the Gateway restaurant at the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh.

Both delightful assistant no.1 and their chauffeur opted for salads: classic chicken Caesar salad, and a broccoli, lentil and feta affair, respectively. Delightful assistant no.2 opted for a Rannoch smokehouse chicken sandwich.

Having enjoyed their savouries, they declined the temptation of puddings on account of wanting to get a bit of a walk in the garden before their parking ticket ran out.

The purpose of their trip to Edinburgh was to take photographs of old haunts from delightful assistant no.2’s youth, to form part of a blog post he was planning to write (his blog can be found here, although there’s no sign of the aforesaid post just yet).

One of the places he was wanting to revisit was the rock garden area of the Botanics, where he had played as a child. The route from the restaurant to the rock garden took the assistants along paths they had frequented during their many years living in the city, but hadn’t toddled along in years.

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Assistants toddling through the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh.

While enjoying the Chinese hillside, they stopped to pose for the camera on a little bridge next to tumbling water.

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Obediently saying ‘cheese’ for their chauffeur.

Although they were very keen to get to the rock garden, it was impossible not to be distracted by numerous interesting plants and signs along the way.

Paying attention in RBGE

Eventually, they arrived at the rock garden and were delighted to see it looking exceptionally lush.

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Rock garden at the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh.

Indeed, the entire garden seemed to have been transformed from the way all three visitors remembered it. Everywhere they looked diverse foliage was burgeoning and there seemed to be more plants than there could possibly be room for.

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Grassy path through the rock garden at the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh.

The rock garden proved an ideal obstacle course for old people. The assistants rose to the challenge of navigating uneven levels, with their trusty sticks and each other for support.

Assistants in rock garden

Relieved to have traversed the undulations successfully they hot-footed it to the car, and off out of the city to look for afternoon refreshments. Before crossing the Forth Road Bridge, they nipped up to Craigie’s Farm just outside South Queensferry.

The farm cafe had a special offer on, of a strawberry tart and a mug of coffee for £3.50. Rather fancying this deal, delightful assistant no.1 picked up a strawberry tart and ordered the drink. Not feeling so much in the mood for sticky strawberry goo with cream, both her spouse and their chauffeur chose Bakewell tarts, also with coffee. They took their snacks to the quiet section of the cafe, set aside for those wishing to avoid excitable squawking kiddies. It was very relaxing, sitting by a window looking out to the Firth of Forth, away from the hubbub of the city.

Snacks at Craigie's
Ready for their afternoon snacks, delightful assistants relax at Craigie’s Farm, near South Queensferry.

Satisfying refreshed, they headed for home, filled with happy memories of Edinburgh and delighted to have found their old friend, the Botanics, flourishing so beautifully.