This place seems to have appeared out of thin air in an area south of Falkirk which was once well and truly off the beaten track. Now, however it appears that every one is beating a track to the Canada Wood Kitchen and Bar .. and no wonder, it’s great! Falkirk really has to be congratulated on creating imaginative and mega visitor attractions, The Wheel, The Kelpies, The Helix .. and a fantastic network of cycle and walking paths that crisscross the whole area and which this place is designed to fully exploit. The building is impressive both inside and out and great to see it being well used by walkers, cyclists and people coming by car just to enjoy the surroundings and the food. We had just been out for breakfast but could not resist going in just to see what it was like. Given our already fully sated state it was only one cherry scone between the two of us, but what a scone it was … giiiinormous, one half the size would still have been too much. Nevertheless I managed to get through my half but Pat was defeated by hers .. smaller scones would be much better. Coffee was fine and the whole place had a good, if slightly chaotic vibe. Given time we are sure it will all settle down and become one of our regular haunts. When I was a lad Canada Wood was where we did forestry work or beating up for the pheasant shoots on Callendar Estate and was definitely not frequented by coffee house aficionados. Wonderful to see such entrepreneurship so we really wish this place all the luck in the world. The website is still under construction but you can catch it on FaceBook.
FK1 3AZ tel: 01324 610026 Canada Wood
When the Royals have created such a stooshie over the Crown Estates in Scotland it is perhaps appropriate that we are visiting the Royal Ivy Hotel in Bridge of Allan for afternoon tea. Fortunately the Buckingham Palace spokesman who started all the fuss has retracted his statement saying it was a misunderstanding .. and presumably so that we can relax and enjoy our scones without being tormented by thoughts of HM being upset. The Royal Ivy is situated on the the Stirling side of town and we can only hope that since it is a ‘Royal’ establishment that the Queen might see fit to distribute some of the £150m refurb of her London pad in the direction of this place .. because it needs it. The dated and soulless decor is such that it kind of pervades everything and makes you feel .. well .. a bit depressed. It certainly makes you acutely aware of how much general ambience matters. A huge pity because the afternoon tea was really good. We were offered chocolate dipped strawberries and presecco to begin with .. a very nice touch, followed up with one of the most generous presentations of afternoon tea that we have come across. More chocolate dipped strawberries, strawberry tarts, assorted sandwiches, cakes and very presentable pancakes and scones. We were offered endless top ups of prosecco, tea and coffee. All in all it was very good value for money, the only thing letting it down was the surroundings. We hope they sort it out so that this Ivy becomes more akin to its more famous namesake .. maybe a note to the HM asking for 0.0000001 percent of her refurbishment budget .. that would cover the cost of a decent website as well!
FK9 4HH tel: 01786 834166 Royal Ivy Hotel
I think at one time this place used to be the RB Buffet, then the Drookit Duck, then the Edge public houses , before being transformed into Baristas coffee house in Falkirk. Like so many coffee houses it faces stiff competition from the plethora of other such places that seem to spring up suddenly .. and disappear just as suddenly. The multinationals have deep pockets and they have the art of baristaing (is that a word) down to a fine art so independents like this have to be good to survive. This place is certainly trying hard, a big airy space to the front and another large area to the rear so they can certainly accommodate a fair bit of business if they need to. Nice friendly service and easy WiFi access, so plenty to like. We were just after coffee and a scone and were slightly taken aback when confronted with one of the biggest scones we have seen in a long while, it was quite something to behold and, with its dusting of sugar, held out a lots of promise. Sadly it did not live up to expectations. It was pretty solid and seemed to be lacking in taste … disappointing. Pat did not get through much before deciding to leave the rest. Pity really because Barista generally gets good reviews on TripAdvisor and we would have liked to have done the same. So bigger is not always better! Surprisingly, to us at least, the American Presidential election has always, without exception, been won by the party with the biggest electoral budget .. so maybe in the US bigger is better, however, just look where it gets them. Here it seems to be more complex. Party spending on the GE in Scotland has just been revealed and shows that in spite of spending twice as much in almost every seat, Labour still got thumped .. except in the one seat they managed to hold onto where they spent three times more than their nearest rival. In Edinburgh SW the Conservatives spent the most of any party and still managed to come third. Make of it what you will but sometimes quality matters more than size and that applies to scones … and everything else.
FK1 1HS tel: 01324 671222 Baristas FB
Today, the Secretary of State has ‘misstated his awareness of the truth’ and refused the further powers previously promised to Scotland by Gordon Brown in the Vow. Today, Parliament voted against making the Holyrood Parliament ‘permanent’ because apparently it is a gift from Westminster that can be withdrawn at any time. Today, given that all of this is flagrantly against the will of the Scottish people you could be forgiven for feeling the need for a scone .. or two, to hopefully reintroduce some sense of reality. Hence we find ourselves in the Orchard Hotel/Bar/Bistro, an old and well respected Falkirk establishment. When I first moved to Falkirk from Glen Isla at 9 years of age this is where me and my family spent the first three weeks in the big city! It has changed a lot over the years and such is its recent success it has now spread round the corner with a new Bistro facility. Big and airy the bistro has a good vibe though when we were there it was quiet .. more than could be said for the music which was a wee bit on the loud side.
The bar also has an alfresco seating area which is great when the weather permits. The scones arrived with plenty of butter and jam and accompanied by some excellent Kimbo coffee. Scones were light and tasted exactly like homebaked scones should. Service was efficient and friendly. Well done Orchard Hotel, your management seems to be very forward thinking, may you continue to go from strength to strength. That’s more than can be said for our UK government which seems hell bent on treating democracy with utter contempt and ending the Union it purports to support .. whilst celebrating Magna Carta at the same time, give us strength!
FK1 1RF tel: 01324 624567 Orchard Hotel
Mannerstons had only been open about two months when we popped in on our way to Hopetoun House and perhaps because of that it looked a bit new and uninspiring from the outside .. but inside it was buzzing. It has a shop with all the usual ‘country store’ stuff, eggs, jam, vegetables, wine and beer .. and they do their own ice cream. Already it has a achieved a 4.5 overall score from TripAdvisor. The café area is large and it has an outside sitting area for when the weather is suitable. We ordered a cream tea for two but we could have had any amount of other things. If they have a section of different teas we certainly were not offered any, but as it happens the tea we got was good. The scones were homebaked and very good .. sort of crunchy on the outside and soft and light in the middle and with lots of jam and cream to go with them. There may be one or two minor teething problems (no website to speak of) but if Mannerstons continues in this vain it will be it will be very popular. Not so popular is this ideologically driven government that only 37% voted for imposing massive cuts on the poor and selling off the family silver (Royal Mail, RBS) to their buddies in the City .. because they can! Who actually voted for this?
EH49 7LY tel: 01506 834949 Mannerstons
Tyndrum is probably most famous for gold mining and the Green Welly Stop. At a fork in the road, it is always busy with traffic either heading to Oban or Fort William and The West Highland Way provides a steady stream of walkers all year round. The Tyndrum Inn sits along side the Green Welly and provides accommodation as well as all the usual things you would expect from a small hotel. We found it a little odd from many points of view. It did not look like a self-service kind of place .. but it was. You ordered your scone at the bar and then took your seat wherever that happened to be. As things, like your scone, appeared on the bar you had to go and collect it, the same for your tea or coffee. The order did not appear in one go so several trips were involved just to get a scone and some coffee .. odd. We are sure it would have been just as quick to bring it to the table as dump it on the end of the bar. That said our home-baked scone was actually quite good however the Inn in general looked as if was in need of some serious investment and until that happens we will not be rushing back. Serious investment is also needed in the Scotland Bill which gets its second reading today at Westminster. The Smith Commission proposals are way too little and if they try to force it through they might as well give up on the Union because Scotland voted for something else completely. Would they be that stupid? Think they might be, Fluffy Mundell has just announced a £170m cut in the previously agreed Scottish budget .. Tories in Scotland seem to be on some sort of suicide mission.
FK20 8RY tel:01838 400219 Tyndrum Inn
We took the car ferry from Oban to Achnacroish in order to right a wrong .. we had never before visited Lismore. We had looked at it many times from Mull and Appin and various other places but had never actually set foot on it so this was to be our first time .. exciting. We were guests at Bachuil Country House but before we arrived there we came on the Liosbeag Café at the local Gaelic Heritage Centre and thought that it was just about scone time. As it turns out there is one Kiki McColl who is manager and responsible for all the baking here .. and she does not scrimp! The cakes and scones all came in what might be termed ‘man-sized’ portions. Kiki’s raspberry scones looked huge to begin with but when they appeared complete with jam and cream they were indeed, something to behold. All we can say is if you are ever on Lismore you must have one of these Kiki masterpieces, you won’t need much else for the rest of the day. If you fancied something else however there is a whole range of other food on offer, a shop, and a history centre, so well worth a visit. Considering it is the only café on the island it is just as well that it is good one .. well done to Kiki and the girls for the friendly welcome and excellent food, we would love to come back!
tel: 01631 760020 www.facebook.com/liosbeagcafe