Category Archives: island

Brian’s Café

Yesterday morning we were back at the Hippodrome in Bo’ness to see The Shape Of Water … an unexpectedly enjoyable film. It’s really a love fantasy but it also turns out to be surprisingly topical. The Americans had captured a unique South American water monster with peculiarly human characteristics … honestly, it’s better than it sounds! Rather than let the US acquire any  advantage by studying the beast and unearthing its secrets the Russians, in the form of KGB agents, plotted to kill it with a lethal injection. Have you heard of any similar stories recently? It is amusing to see the media in a frenzy wondering where the nerve agents directed against Sergei Skripal and his daughter could have come from without ever mentioning the world’s biggest stockpile of such chemical weapons at Porton Down … only eight miles from Salisbury where Skripal was found. Interior view of Brian's Café in BonessAll fingers seem to be pointing at Vladimir Putin however and probably with good reason. Have you noticed a rather worrying trend among world leaders recently? Putin, who unexpectedly came to power because Boris Yeltsin hadn’t enough blood in his vodka system, now finds himself drunk on power itself. He has manufactured a situation where he can remain in power indefinitely. Likewise with President Xi of China. Power is a great corrupter and both men now seem to think that they are omnipotent. Meanwhile, back in the USA, President Trump  knows he is omnipotent but, unlike Putin and Xi, hasn’t yet worked out a scam to keep the job for a life … watch this space. Theresa May on the other hand will be forced to keep her job for life whether she likes it or not simply because it’s such a mess no one else wants it. Interior view of Brian's Café in BonessEnough of all that. Just across the road from the Hippodrome is the imaginatively named Brian’s Cafe which, would you believe it, is owned by a chap called Brian, surname Curry. Its outward appearance is somewhat uninspiring and we did not have high hopes as we entered. A scone at Brian's Café in BonessThe interior is pleasant enough though and the staff were very friendly and helpful. We were soon settled down with some tea and sharing a fruit scone … okay, we sometimes indulge in reckless extravagance! There was no cream and the butter and jam were prepackaged but the scone itself was very good, not quite a topscone but pretty close.  The café has lots of what appeared to be family photographs hanging on the walls and when we asked about them we ended up being introduced to Brian himself who had been sitting at another table with some friends. He’s a lovely guy who proceeded to take us round and explain his family history. Turns out that he is part of the Serafini family who not only had a cafe in Bo’ness but operated the York Café in Falkirk, a place we know very well.

Serafini family group from Brian's Café in Bo'ness
The Serafini family from Barga in Italy with Brian’s aunt in the centre

What amazed us was that Brian’s aunt, a Bo’nessian born and bred, had married a Serafini and as a result was interned during WWII. It had never before occurred to us that Scots were also interned simply because of their association with Italians … unbelievable!

The Serafini's original café and their fish and chip van
The Serafini’s original café in Bo’ness  … and their fish and chip van c1950s

It was great listening to the many delightful childhood stories Brian had to tell … a far cry from today’s world of all-powerful autocrats and dastardly subterfuge.

EH51 0AA       tel: 01506 823815       Brian’s Café TA

p.s. News of an even bigger controversy came to us the other day courtesy of our correspondent, the Stenibrainfart. He reported that the National Trust in England had organised a cream tea at one of their venues in Cornwall and to publicise it they used a picture of a scone with a dollop of jam on top of the cream … arrgghh! National Trust picture of a cream tea sconeNow all self respecting sconeys worth their salt know that that is how they do it in Devon … and it’s just plain wrong! It is definitely not how they do it in Cornwall and Cornish folks have reportedly been resigning their NT membership in droves. A #JamFirst badgeThey felt so strongly they even produced #JamFirst badges to support the cause. Well done Cornwall, you tell ’em!

Judith Glue Café

It’s our last day on Orkney and although the wind is still blowing as hard as ever we are already feeling sad at the prospect of leaving this magical island.

The Gloup, Orkney
The Gloup

We haven’t managed to get onto any of the smaller islands like Hoy or Papa Westray, partly because there is just so much to do and see on Mainland and partly because of time constraints. Also the weather has done absolutely nothing to encourage us to board a small boat and head out across the sea! Perhaps another visit with more time is called for? The Brough of Deerness, another prehistoric settlement, was to be our target destination today but when we reached the beginning of the path it became pretty obvious that the clifftop route in such strong winds would just be too tricky. Instead we contented ourselves with a visit to The Gloup, a long sea cave where the roof has collapsed … if you would like to visit just click here. Close by is the Covenanter’s Memorial where, in 1679, more than 200 Scottish Covenanter prisoners were drowned when their ship ‘The Crown of London’ was dashed on the rocks as they were being transported to Jamaica to become slaves. All the crew escaped but the prisoners were battened down in the hold with no hope of escape … there was no compensation for escaped prisoners. Cruel, we know, but do you think the captain might have been a Tory? Scone time meant we had to go back to Kirkwall and this time to Judith Glue’s Real Food Café. It is directly opposite St Magnus Cathedral, founded in 1135 and known as ‘The Light in the North’ … truly magnificent! Interior of St Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall,OrkneyJudith Glue comes from a very entrepreneurial family that has stuck together (sorry) to run lots of businesses around Orkney and further afield. This is actually quite a large shop selling everything – clothes, art, jewellery, antiques, and complements another shop she runs in Inverness. At the back of the shop you come to the café/retaurant area which is quite big in itself. They pride themselves on supporting the local community and 60% of everything they sell is from the island and that includes the clothing, the jewellery and the food. Would we find Rhodda’s Cornish Cream here, no! We decide to have what they call a ‘Peedie Cream Tea’. In this part of the world you see the word ‘peedie’ everywhere and applied to all sorts of things … transpires that it simply means ‘small’. A scone at Judith Glue, Kirkwall, OrkneyOur Peedie Cream Tea cost about £8 and for that we got two sandwiches of our choice as well as a scone of our choice together with jam and cream and tea or coffee. It was all perfectly delicious and would you believe it, another topscone! That makes a clean sweep of topscones for Orkney … testament, we think, to their old fashioned believes in good friendly service and self reliance. The toilets here have interesting signs for the ‘ladies’ and ‘gents’ … we think both look particularly attractive.Viking man and woman at Judith Glue, Kirkwall, OrkneyAlso a great advert for Old Orkney whisky.

Stromness whisky advertisment at Judith Glue, Kirkwall, OrkneyPat ended up with her bird list totaling a very healthy forty nine … excellent considering we didn’t see any of the usual culprits – blue tits, chaffinches, sparrows etc. Perhaps our biggest surprise was the number of swallows still flying around at this time of year, they have a much longer journey than us ahead of them!

This really is a wonderful island which has been full of surprises … not least of which was the following morning at 7am when we drove from Stromness to St Margaret’s Hope to catch our ferry … in a flat calm! C’est la vie!

KW15 1DH         tel: 01856 874225     Judith Glue Real Food Café

The Strynd Tearoom

The wind is still blowing with wicked enthusiasm however, in spite of that, our plan for today is to visit the west of Mainland … Skara Brae and all that, and end up in Kirkwall, the capital. Most sconeys will know something of the rich archaeology of Orkney.

Skara Brae and Skaill House at Sandwick on Orkney
5000 year old Skara Brae neolithic village with Skaill House in the distance

Up here they were building houses and having a high old time of it long before things like the Pyramids and Stonehenge had even been thought of. However, our abiding memory of Skara Brae will be of getting sandblasted by the wind coming off the beach … certainly gives you a rosy complexion. Road sign to the village of Twatt, Orkney

Stormy weather at Skara Brae at Sandwick on Orkney
Orkney weather is dramatic and changes every five minutes

Another problem with the wind is holding your binoculars steady enough to identify birds … we had no problem though with a brilliant view of a female hen harrier not far from Skara Brae. It is a thrill to see these relatively rare birds because they rather stupidly nest on the ground and, as a result, their young usually fall foul of predators before they can fledge. Pat’s list is now over forty which she is thrilled about but her joy was such that it was all I could do to stop her stealing a road sign to one of the local villages. Completely cobweb free, we eventually made it to Kirkwall and the Strynd Tearoom. Interior view of the Strynd Tearoom, Kirkwall, OrkneyLike Stromness, Kirkwall also has lots of wee lanes and this tearoom takes its name from the lane where its located. When we asked how to pronounce ‘Strynd’, it seemed to be “Strand’ but with the strangulated pronunciation that maybe a South African would use. It is a tiny place but lovely and everything is home made. Once again we were made very welcome and once again our scones were excellent. A scone at the Strynd Tearoom, Kirkwall, OrkneyWe are developing a theory that the further north you go the better the scones are because we have had nothing but topscones recently. The Strynd scone was warm and served with nice pots of jam and cream. The scone itself looked as if it would be crunchy but wasn’t, it was gloriously soft and absolutely delicious … another topscone! Now, while most of you will have heard of the Ring of Brodgar and other Orcadian archaeological gems, how many of you have heard of The Big Tree? Or how many have heard of the Heimskringla? Thought so … let us explain.  The Big Tree in Broad Street, Kirkwall, Orkney Heimskringla is a book of Old Norse sagas written in Iceland  in the 12th century … you’ve probably read it. The Big Tree is the only one left of three that were planted by Robert Laing, father of the Heimskringla’s translator, in his garden over 200 years ago. When they widened the main street by demolishing Laing’s walled garden this tree was left standing in the street. When you look at it you might wonder why its called The Big Tree? Well, in Orkney terms, it is … and it is obviously much loved because it still supports a luxurious head of leaves although largely hollow and supported by steel girders inserted in its trunk to keep it upright. What else has been happening in the big bad world while we have been enjoying ourselves on this island where you quickly feel kind of snugly insulated from everywhere else? The media is still largely ignoring the biggest political conference in the UK … the SNP one, and are concentrating instead on the sexual indiscretions of a Hollywood director that few have heard of and no one could care less about. Theresa May is still clinging on like a barnacle while Britain skillfully negotiates a “no deal‘, Brexit deal. Catalonia seems to have rather skillfully blindsided the Spanish government … for the moment! Trump’s big golf courses in Scotland seem to be loosing a fortune … bad! Scotland’s football team is no longer eligible for another pointless World Cup competition because of our DNA according to the manager … good! Well, well, well … the Big Tree has seen it all before.

Scapa distillery, Scapa, Orknay
Scapa distillery in the distance on the shores of Scapa Flow

KW15 1HG       tel: 01856 871552     The Strynd Tearoom

Julia’s Café & Bistro

When you leave South Ronaldsay you have to cross several causeways to get to the Mainland … confusing for simple folks like us because, as far as we were concerned we had left the mainland far behind at John O’ Groats. On Orkney, however, an archipelago of over 70 islands (the 20,000 population is spread over 20 of them) the largest island is called Mainland. When you become aware of the intricate system of small ferries and flights going to and fro between these islands it is easier to understand why, in this very self contained and independent community, they would think of their biggest and most populated island as “the mainland”. To get there, all we had to do was drive across four causeways from South Ronaldsay to the island of Burray, then the island of Glimps Holm, then the island of Lamb Holm and we were there … simple. Simple yes, exciting .. very! The storm meant that waves were crashing right over all the causeways … we just closed our eyes and hoped for the best. The Italian Chapel, OrkneyOn Lamb Holm we came to the Italian Chapel. Amazing to think that this entire church was created by Italian prisoners of war, from a Nissen hut and nothing other than scrap materials e.g. the lanterns were made from corned beef tins. The Orkney Wine Company is right beside the Chapel … we had to buy some of their ‘Tattie Wine’, hand crafted from three varieties of Orkney potatoes and matured in whisky barrels. “Discover more with every sip” it says … we’ll let you know.

A view of Stromness, Orkney
Stromness with a Northlink ferry in the middle distance

Eventually we reached Mainland and Stromness where we were lodging for the duration of our stay. Driving in Stromness is almost as exciting as driving the causeways. High Street Stromness, OrkneyThe main street, which bears seven different names, appeared more like a lane and we were not sure if we were supposed to drive along it since it was only about the width of a car … no problem. It is actually two way and no one here seems to have the slightest difficulty with it … never even heard a horn being honked!

Login's Well, high Street Stromness, Orkney
Login’s Well on main street where Capt Cook watered the Resolution and Discovery in 1780 and Sir John Franklin watered his ships Erebus and Terror in 1845 … names to fire the imagination

By this time a scone was definitely called for and it was Julia’s Café Bistro that rode to the rescue. It is situated at the harbour where the big NorthLink Ferries leave for Scrabster on the mainland .. that’s the mainland mainland! Again the service was very friendly and helpful and yet again the scones were fab. A scone at Julias café, Stromness, OrkneyOur second Orkney scone was served with little disposable pots of jam and cream and although not too crunchy on the outside they were delicious .. another topscone. Apparently there is another café in Stromness but we couldn’t find it … it is doubtless tucked away in the plethora of tiny back lanes. We did find the An art exhibit at Stromness Art Centre, OrkneyPier Art Centre however which is a state of the art building with a wide variety of exhibits, one of which you can see here. All a bit beyond us but great to find such a modern and dynamic facility in Stromness. We spent quite a long time perusing and it was great to be out of the wind which was still blowing a hooley … will it ever calm down? When you speak to Orkney folk about things like Hurricane Maria you usually just get a raised eyebrow … hardy, no nonsense folk!Interior view of Julias café, Stromness, OrkneyKW16 3AE        tel: 01856 850904             Julia’s Café Bistro

Again on main street we found a functioning K6 hiding in a corner next to the museum … made in Falkirk.A Falkirk K6 in Stromness main street, OrkneyPat, by the way, is now at thirty two with her bird list and still a few days to go.


Robertson’s Coffeehoose

As we headed out from the shelter of Gills Bay near John O’ Groats on the Pentalina ferry we could think of no better description of what lay ahead of us than that of Neil Gunn “beyond the mainland the blue of the sea was more intense than the blue of the sky, and the Islands of The Orcades lay at anchor like fabled ships: long shapes, with clean prows to the west, with sheer sides, not riding the sea but crouching to it with that odd menace which, like tenderness, is for ever at the heart of strength”. Gunn also says that “all adventuring races have been drawn to these islands”, so, after the Romans and Vikings, now it was to be the turn of sconologists! In the name of ornithology (Pat has started a new list) and sconology, we were enduring the remains of Hurricane Maria … boy, it was windy. So it was that, somewhat relieved, we sailed into St Margaret’s Hope on South Ronaldsay and our first ever encounter with an Orkney scone at Robertson’s Coffeehoose … just the spelling announced that we were somewhere  a little bit different. Interior view of Robertson's Coffeehoose, St Margaret's Hope, OrkneyThe interior reminded us of Ireland.  When we lived there you would go into a grocery store and find a few beer pumps gracing the end of the counter … it was the same here. Turns out that it used to be the general store but has recently been converted into a café/bar and now plays a significant role in the local night life. We were served by a young girl who not only made us feel very welcome but also regaled us with stories of the history of Robertson’s and The Hope, as the town is known locally. The town may have got its name from Margaret, Maid of Norway and uncrowned Queen of Scotland, who died here from the effects of seasickness in 1290 on her way to her coronation. Luckily, we had no ill effects on the crossing but we deeply sympathise. A scone at Robertson's Coffeehoose, St Margaret's Hope, OrkneyIt may have had been the warmth of the greetings or maybe it was to do with the ‘hard to stand up in’ weather outside, but our scones were particularly welcome and tasted delicious. They were warm and served with butter and a generous pot of jam … no cream but hey, we were out of the storm so who cares? All things considered we thought that this scone just slipped into the topscone category … well done Robertson’s.  After the Maid of Norway’s demise the disputed succession sparked the Wars of Scottish Independence. When we read of the extraordinary goings on in Catalonia, you realise that it should be so much easier for Scotland to become a self respecting independent country. After all, that is what most people under sixty  want and, as stated in the Treaty of Union, the UK is a union between two equal countries, Scotland and England, so Scotland is already a country in its own right.  However, in 1707, when the Speaker of the House of Commons  said “we have won Scotland … and we will bind her fast” he wasn’t joking … the democratic deficit, designed to subjugate Scotland, has worked well in ensuring just that. Of course, in Catalonia there’s also a lot of unionist sentiment but we can’t help feeling that, like Scotland, the problem will not be resolved with anything less than independence. A K6 from the Saracen Foundry on South RonaldsayIn our previous post from Hotel Montefiore in Israel we reported on a K6 made in the Saracen Foundry. Lo and behold, on our way to the Tomb of the Eagles at the southernmost tip of South Ronaldsay what should we come across but another. This one was being used as an exchange library for books, CDs and DVDs.

Be warned, we are on Orkney for a few days so there may be more Orcadian scones to follow. By the way, the Tomb of the Eagles was closed so not even a dead eagle for Pat’s list!

KW17 2SR      tel: 01856 831 889        Robertson’s Coffeehoose FB

The Wineport

This is a lovely spot, in Cladach on the outskirts of Brodick.  Cladach actually used to be the main village before modern Brodick was built on the south side of the bay but now most of the former houses are used for small businesses, the Wineport is just one example. It probably derives its name from a small harbour area, now disused, a short way along the coast which at one time would have been used by all ferries and imports to the island. Last year it came under new management and now provides a fantastic family friendly relaxed atmosphere with all the facilities you could think of. Unlike Brodick Castle they use lots of local food and drink suppliers such as; Arran Dairies, The Arran Butcher, Island Cheese Company, Creelers, Arran Brewery, Taste of Arran, Arran Ceramics, and Arran Aromatics .. that’s more like it, this place can show the NTS how to do it! Outside the front door is a large beer garden, perfect for our kind of birdwatching … right at the start of the path up Goatfell, maybe we would catch sight of an eagle? Wineport 03We sampled some of the local beer and then, because we had seen some scones on the bar, we thought we should give one a try. It came with lots of jam and the coffee came with a little piece of millionaires shortbread … nice touch. The scone was fine, lots of fruit but just a tad on the heavy side. So, by way of a recap … as we sadly prepare to leave Arran after a great trip, all the scones have been enjoyable enough but we are left with a total of one topscone – Machrie Bay Tearoom, well done them. Wineport 02Today, of course, is football day with the English and Scottish Cup Finals both being played. Arguably of more interest, however, is the Copa Del Ray cup final in Madrid between Barcelona and Sevilla. The Catalans are just as uppity as the Scots so the Spanish government, in their infinite wisdom, banned the use of the Estelada  (Catalan flag) at the game. The Barcelona supporters, however, said they would use the Scottish Saltire instead … and that was enough for the government to revoke it’s ban … the power of the Saltire!  Grey wagtail might be the last to be added to the list, but we still have a little time left on Arran, so our final bird count won’t be revealed until the next post. Will there be an eagle on it?

KA27 8DE      tel: 01770 302101         The Wineport

Brodick Castle

On the opposite side of Brodick Bay from our hotel stands the imposing Brodick Castle. We have been here before but having looked across the water at it for the past few days we thought another visit might be worthwhile. But first, so that you can get this scone in context, a little history. Some sort of fortification has been on this site since at least the fifth century. Brodick Castle 03By the tenth century Norse influence had grown, and Arran was controlled by King Hakon of Norway, but when some Scottish upstarts began to question his authority, he sent a large fighting fleet to sort things out, resulting in the Battle of Largs in 1263 … which he lost. He retreated to Brodick and then to Orkney where he died the following year. The ensuing Treaty of Perth in 1266 ceded Arran and other islands to the Kingdom of Scotland. Oliver Cromwell occupied the castle for a while and then it fell to the Hamilton family who occupied it for several centuries until 1957 when it was gifted to the nation by the Duchess of Montrose to avoid death duties. The National Trust for Scotland eventually took it over.. and now we are here! Brodick Castle 05The grounds are immaculately kept and there is a tearoom for visitors but of course today we’re sitting outside in the spring sunshine. Like most NTS places, it is self-service so we duly selected a mixture of cheese and fruit scones – sometimes, if we are feeling particularly daring, we mix things up and have half each. Everything was fine though we can sometimes get a little irritated by the presence of the ubiquitous tubs of Rodda’s cornish cream. Brodick Castle 07The Arran Creamery is just down the road, do we really have to bring it all the way from Cornwall? The jam was from Manchester … c’mon NTS, do you know what the ‘S’ in your name stands for … what must tourists think? The scones were very nice but not quite nice enough for a topscone. We got plenty exercise chasing fly away napkins but, all in all, it was a lovely scone-break in a beautiful setting. We have probably traveled on a couple of dozen ferries over the past year or so and, as a consequence, have become quite familiar with Caledonian MacBrayne. It was once said that “God gave us the earth and CalMac the Western Isles” .. a slight, inferring that the ferry company held the islands to ransom. There may have been an element of truth in that at one time but, with the introduction of RET (Road Equivalent Tariff), not any more. Our trip to Arran, involving four ferries, cost a grand total of just over £50 for a car and four passengers … not too bad. So, we are delighted with the news that the Scottish government, in the face of all the EU regulations, have managed to award the ongoing £900m contract to publicly owned CalMac over privately owned Serco .. and build their ships on the Clyde .. even King Hakon would have been proud.Brodick Castle 02

We had walked along the beach to the Castle from our hotel but decided to get the bus back. Brodick Castle 08The bus stop on the main road opposite the castle entrance makes waiting for the bus a real pleasure. There were seals sunning themselves on a rock and an oystercatcher’s nest on the seaward side of the wall … you are almost annoyed when the bus comes. Amongst other things, today we saw siskins, sedge warblers, guillemots and red-legged partridges … alas, still no eagles.

KA27 8HY       tel: 0844 493 2152           Brodick Castle

Machrie Bay Tearoom

We are still on our quest to see how many different species of bird we can see on Arran. Today we are in the SW of the island but the only place that seemed to be open in Blackwaterfoot was the Kinloch Hotel and we had already reviewed that last year. However, just a hop, skip and a jump along the coast we came to the Machrie Bay Tearoom .. and it was well and truly open!Machrie 03 Apparently in the middle of nowhere, it is part of the Machrie Golf Club and has tennis courts, play area for kiddies and everything else you could wish for … including a good range of scones, all baked by Granny Rae. They obviously don’t take themselves too seriously when their advertising is “best buns on the beach” … would it have the best scones though, that was the burning question? It was scorchio once again so we sat out on their decked area looking towards the Mull of Kintyre surrounded by a party of Americans over here tracing their family roots. Machrie 01 We were not sufficiently famished to tackle the Machrie Bay afternoon tea but one arrived at the next table so we asked the two lovely Shiskine ladies who were sharing it if we could take a photograph. Turned out they had won it in a raffle! It looked very good, particularly the scones, but they didn’t offer to share any of them so we eventually had to resort to buying our own. There were fruit scones and cherry scones but we opted to try the cheese and the apple and cinnamon. Machrie 05They arrived on lovely heart shaped plates  with lots of jam and were soon followed by a large plate of whipping cream.  Whoever Granny Rae is, she certainly knows how to rustle up a scone, they were excellent, and definitely the best scones we have had so far on Arran … easy topscone … well done Machrie Bay Tearoom!  Machrie 04aAfter our recent quest to find a Scottish tea plantation it was great to get some fab Scottish coffee. Okay, okay it’s not exactly Scottish coffee but it is roasted in Scotland and on a day like today they could probably roast it on our table. From where we were sitting in the tearoom it was only a thirty minute hike to the site of the famous Machrie Stones, which consist of numerous ancient standing stones mysteriously arranged in circles, sort of Arran’s answer to Palmyra … but unless there was a golden eagle perched on top of each one, it simply was not going to happen. Instead we continued practising the, ‘shades on, face towards the sun‘, approach to birdwatching. Actually we did think we had seen a golden eagle earlier in the day at Shannochie but on reflection it was probably too far south so it was more likely to have been a buzzard .. or a swallow. Still no eagles on our list. You can measure the level of poverty in the UK by the number of people, especially young women, whose jeans are all worn and ripped. The delightful young woman who served us was a particular example … badly torn at the knees. We left a healthy tip for her to put towards new ones.

KA27 8DZ       tel: 01770 840329      Machrie Bay Tearoom

Felicity’s at Eden Lodge

Kings Cross Point looking towards Brodick and Goatfell, Holy Isle on the right
Kings Cross Point looking towards Brodick and Goatfell, Holy Isle on the right

After a morning spent bird watching and exploring Viking forts at beautiful Kings Cross Point, just opposite the buddhist retreat of Holy Isle, we were well and truly in need of refreshment by the time we reached Whiting Bay. We have decided that all tourists to Arran should have to go on a course explaining when things are open on the island … some are closed on Mondays, some Tuesdays and others are closed on Wednesdays … confusing. Felicity's 01Having tried some places that were closed we ended up here at Felicity’s at Eden Lodge but, in a way, we were happy because this place was probably the nicest. The couple who run it have only had it a year and don’t have the hotel side of things operational yet but when they do it should be good, they did their training at Gleneagles. We were looked after by a young chap from Rockhampton in Northern Queensland who had been on Arran for about three months but was struggling with the heat!! We got ourselves a table beside the bowling green … and, away from the sea breeze, it was scorchio! Felicity's 04When our scones arrived, complete with jam and clotted cream, it was obvious we would have to scoff them pretty quickly before the cream melted. This we did, and they were very good, but once again not quite topscones … would we ever get an Arran topscone before we had to leave the island .. worrying! As dedicated bird watchers, we have discovered that when you are sitting there, replete with scones and coffee, the gentle sound of waves on the shore, shades on, faces pointing to the sun,  you can pretend you are earnestly looking for golden eagles .. though snoring does tend to give the game away. Cameron has also been caught out with his back-door dealings with big businesses, like Serco, to back his ‘Remain’ campaign. We are not backing ‘Leave’ or ‘Remain’ yet but we don’t like the tactics … just as we didn’t like them in the Scottish referendum. Oh, and joy of joys, the world’s largest oil field has been discovered off Shetland  … did you know that? Barely a word about it in the press or on TV. On the basis that nothing remotely good for Scotland can be reported it is hardly surprising .. it might make us more uppity than we already are. Anyway, besides all that .. is that a golden eagle or a swallow?

KA27 8QH     tel: 01770 700357      Felicity’s at Eden Lodge

The Douglas Hotel

We arrived a day early for our Scottish Wildlife Trust outing on Arran and stayed the first night at one of our favourite places, the Kilmichael Country House in Glen Cloy. There were peacocks all over the place and we thought that they would give us a sneaky head start over everyone else with our bird list, but they are a pernickety lot in the SWT and we were left in no doubt that peacocks were not allowed on the list .. verboten! The rest of our stay was to be here at the Douglas in Brodick, just a stone’s throw from the ferry terminal. Built from locally quarried red sandstone in 1782 it spent some time as the doctor’s house until eventually becoming a hotel in 1852.

the MacNab
the MacNab

A couple of years ago it underwent complete modernisation and now terms itself ’boutique’. If ’boutique’ means having vast beds then it definitely qualifies for that sobriquet … if there’s anyone in bed with you, you certainly had to go searching in order to find them! Not sure why they have a large portrait of ‘The MacNab’ in reception but maybe he liked the beds as well … he never married but had 35 illegitimate children. Anyway, there was no way we were going to be able to stay here for the best part of a week without sampling their scones so we thought we might as well get it over and done with. Douglas 01We decided to sit out on the patio area overlooking Brodick Bay while a young cheery chap from Kilmarnock buzzed to and fro bringing us tea, coffee, scones etc. The scones were good, full of fruit but hot, almost too hot to handle. Pat had a cheese scone but it had to be left to cool down as well. Not topscones but who cares when you get great service and all you have to do is sit and watch the ferries coming and going … if there is one in you wonder when it will leave and if there isn’t one in you wonder when one will arrive .. exciting!

View from our table
View from our table

The dust has now settled on the elections and, in Scotland, the media have hailed the results in rather peculiar ways. They have made much of Labour’s continuing failure to recognise that Scotland has changed. They have also trumpeted the Tory’s supposed rejuvenation?? When the Scottish Tory vote collapsed to 24% in 1987 under the much hated Margaret Thatcher, who would have thought that a trifling 30 years later it would have rebounded to 22% .. what are they on about? One thing the media has not made much of is the SNP success. Their achievement – increasing seats and votes after almost 10 years in power is truly astounding yet gets only grudging acknowledgment, if it gets any at all. Anyway, who cares when all you have to do is sit in the sunshine eating scones, watching ferries come and go … oh, and the red breasted mergansers swimming in the bay … lots of them, and they’re allowed!

KA27 8AW     tel: 01770 302968      Douglas Hotel