Category Archives: weird

Storehouse of Foulis

The trip back from John O’ Groats to home is a good six hour drive so sustenance of some kind is called for along the way. We have passed this place, just off the A9 on the banks of the Cromarty Firth many times but, until now, have never managed an actual visit. Exterior view of Storehouse of FoulisThis is Munro country … not hills over 3000 feet, but actual Clan Munro country and, at one time, this was the centre of their empire. The first chief of Clan Munro was Donald O’Caan, Prince of Fermanagh, who came with his followers, from the River Roe in N. Ireland, to help King Malcolm drive out Viking Invaders. In thanks, the King granted Donald all the land between Dingwall and the River Alness and even today, one thousand years later, it’s still known as ‘Donald’s Land’ and it’s still home to many Munros. It is rich agricultural land and this storehouse was built in 1740 as a central collection point for tenants of the estate to bring their oats and barley. These were then distributed to farm workers as wages or sent off to markets further south by boat together with things like timber and salmon … boats could land on the gently sloping beach, load up, and then take off at the next high tide. Today, the horses,  carts and sloops of yesteryear no longer come, now it is a large farm shop/restaurant with lots of car parking … it is busy, busy! Interior view of Storehouse of FoulisAlthough it goes like the proverbial fair it runs like a well oiled machine … lots of people serving and lots just clearing tables and making sure everyone is looked after. We decided to have a spot of lunch and then just share a scone. Normally we would have had a plain or a fruit scone but, just because they had them and in the interests of sconology, we plumped for the chocolate and banana scone??? … life on the edge! A scone at Storehouse of FoulisLunch was fantastic … and the scone? Perhaps it is a little unfair because we think, if we had chosen one of their more common place scones, it would have got a topscone award however the chocolate and banana just didn’t do it for us … near the top in the weird scone category, though! When we look out across the water from the big bay window we can see Nigg and its associated oil platforms parked just offshore.  We don’t believe that Scottish independence should be predicated on oil … far from it, it should be based solely on the right to self determination that all other countries, except Scotland, enjoy. Nevertheless it is annoying that, during the independence referendum of 2014, oil was depicted as “running out within a few years” and as a “real problem” for the Scottish economy. In fact, production since 2014 has increased by 16% and within the last few weeks a new field (the biggest ever) has been discovered and will come on stream in 2019 delivering billions more barrels … but we barely hear about it. We wonder why? Could it be that it falls into the banned “good news for Scotland” category? The Prince of Fermanagh would have had something to say and he wasn’t even from Scotland! The Storehouse is great, highly recommend!

IV16 9UX    tel: 01349 830038      Storehouse of Foulis

Edinburgh Castle

Although we have lived in or near to Edinburgh for most of our lives up until now we have never been inside the Castle. We have done the Military Tattoo in the past and been up at the castle many times but not actually inside … a bit strange really but we just didn’t feel the need.  Also, of course, in the summer it’s extremely busy with tourists and, as it turns out, it’s extremely busy in the winter as well. Had we not already had tickets for a book reading we would have had to wait in a queue for about 30 minutes to get a ticket – hundreds of Japanese, Chinese, French, Americans, Germans … amazing, all in temperatures no higher than 2ºC! Our book reading was by Sara Sheridan to publicise her latest novel On Starlit Seas and it just so happened that there was an afternoon tea thrown in as well as a tour of the castle … how could we refuse?

External view of tearoom at Edinburgh Castle
The Queen Anne tearoom

There are a two tearooms but ours  was the Queen Anne Tearoom up at the top of the castle so we were able to explore everything on the way up. We stood waiting for the one o’clock gun to go off – watching our watches and watching the gun … and got the fright of our lives when it did go off … bang on one o’clock! Lots of exhibits about Scotland’s history culminating in the room housing the Scottish Crown Jewels and the Stone of Destiny.

The tearoom for afternoon tea at Edinburgh Castle
part of the tearoom

Here you are warned within an inch of your life that you must not take photographs or make any sort of recording … people answering  their phones were pounced on and told to put them away … what on earth is that all about? Anyway we looked dutifully at everything and although there was a lot about the 1707 Act of Union, we could not see much mention of the fact that it was forced on the people of Scotland against their will and that the Scottish aristocrats (the only people allowed to influence proceedings) had to be bribed with £20,000 each in order to get it passed. Maybe we missed that bit? Afternoon tea menu at Edinburgh CastleThe afternoon tea was very imaginative. The whole menu was based around ‘Book Week Scotland’ and book titles – Outlander sandwiches, Alice in Wonderland “Eat Me” sponge cakes and Mrs Weasley’s chocolate fudge tart. The afternoon tea at Edinburgh CastleYou will see from the menu that there were ‘mandarin’ scones inspired by Sara’s book The Secret Mandarin. Although this was all very nice, for dedicated sconeys, this was taking things a bit too far. They were very tangy and sweet, more like cakes, and covered in an orange drizzle that made them even sweeter … with strawberry jam?? At the end of the day they weren’t toooo bad – just ‘weird’. Don’t let our experience put you off visiting, we don’t think the scones are normally like this.

Kings of Scotland display at Edinburgh Castle
Kings of Scotland

It was a really enjoyable day. The castle was interesting though the information was a bit sanitised for our taste. The reading from On Starlit Seas was really interesting … Sara is a lovely lady who managed to spend time with everyone individually and we wish her well with the book. The afternoon tea was great as well in spite of our reservations about the scones.

Looking east from Edinburgh Castle
Looking east from the Castle towards dusk

EH1 2NG     tel: 0131 225 9846     Edinburgh Castle

Living Water Satisfies Café

You are all aware of the Bermuda Triangle – that mysterious area of ocean on the other side of the Atlantic where things simply disappear without trace. Today we are in the Crystal Palace Triangle, a relatively small area enclosed by three streets and famous for an eclectic range of vintage furniture and clothing stores, in south London. Like it’s Caribbean namesake things go missing here as well … scones, for example! It is not as if there are no cafés, there are loads of them … Venezuelan cafés, Nepalese cafés, Polish cafés, Sudanese cafés  … would any of those have scones?

View from Crystal Palace towards central London
Crystal Palace, on Sydenham Hill, is one of the highest points in London.

Just as we were about to declare the Triangle a ‘scone desert’ we came across the Living Water Satisfies or LWS Café. No idea where it gets it’s name but it is situated on the outer extremity of the Triangle where the influence is obviously weaker … and lo and behold … scones. Admittedly there was only three left and they were all the same … gruyère and chive! LWS turns out to be a charity dedicated to helping those who suffer domestic abuse so all the proceeds from the café and bookshop go towards providing shelter and comfort to abuse victims … well done them! The café itself is pretty basic but is obviously well used for functions and meetings as well as folk just dropping in for something to eat. They also make everything, including the scones, on the premises.Interior picture of LWS cafe As you know we occasionally like to live life on the edge, adrenalin  and all that … and besides, this place was worthy of our tiny little bit of support … and you readers obviously need to know about such things, so gruyère and chives it was! What a surprise, what a pleasure … really cheesy and the chives just gave them a certain je ne sais quoi. Picture of a scone at LWS cafeFor sure, they fell into the ‘weird scone’ category but definitely one of our top weird scones! Coffee was good as well. In the short time since our previous post there have been other disappearances. We think that David Cameron may have moved too close to the epicentre of the Crystal Palace Triangle because, having laid waste to the UK, the EU, Libya and even brought perfectly honourable pigs into disrepute, he has now vanished completely. He told us himself that he is “no quitter”, so the Triangle seems the most likely explanation. He will be remembered fondly  … in much the same way as Tony Blair.

SE19 3AF          tel: 020 8653 4011            LWS Café

The Walled Garden

You know how you can drive past something on a regular basis without giving it a second thought, you see the signs but never venture. So it was with Devilla Forest, just a ten minute drive from where we live. Turns out that within the bounds of this relatively small piece of pine forest all sorts have happened. There is the ‘Standard Stone’, its carved square holes are said to have held the standards of King Duncan and his lieutenants, Macbeth and Banquo in a battle with the Danes at Bordie Moor in 1038. There is ‘Maggie Duncan’s stone’. Maggie was a 17th century witch who tried to carry the boulder in her apron to the top of a nearby hill but it slipped and her apron strings cut strange deep grooves into the stone. You can also find the graves of children who died of plaque over three hundred years ago. There’s the remains of a WW II explosives research establishment .. oh, and lots of sightings of big black cats!! Goodness, we didn’t know the half of it … and virtually on our doorstep. As well as all that, and on a slightly lighter note, you can find red squirrels, otters … and scones. Walled Garden 09The scones can be located at The Walled Garden, brainchild of the farmers at Righead Farm … who just wanted their own walled garden … so they built one about four years ago.

Inside the Walled Garden
Inside the Walled Garden

They started selling teas and coffees in the Potting Shed but it proved so popular that they have now built a large purpose built café and the Potting Shed is now a well stocked shop selling plants and knick-knacks.  Walled Garden 05We were offered plain, fruit or date and apricot scones. Pat opted for the fruit, while I, living on the edge as usual, went for the date and apricot, a new and and untried sconological combination! Sitting out in the sunshine it did not take long before they arrived, nicely presented with little pots of jam and whipped cream. The scones themselves were delicious and we didn’t have too much trouble giving them a topscone award. By the way, the date and apricot combo works a treat!Walled Garden 07If you view tales of large black cats with a slightly raised eyebrow, then both eyebrows will go into to some sort of earth orbit looking at the current machinations of the Labour party. Unbelievable … when will they realise that Corbyn is not only their best bet at gaining power but probably their only one? Meanwhile, in Scotland, the Scottish Labour party continues its policy of self harming, abandoning everything … Corbyn, a chance at autonomy, and no doubt, all hope, if they side with the Tories again on Indyref2.

View to the north from the Walled Garden
View to the north from the Walled Garden

Besides all that, hats off to people who build walled gardens these days … it is open Wednesday to Sunday but, perplexingly in these modern times, does not take cards – cash only.

FK10 4AT    tel: 07951 530571    The Walled Garden FB

Stuart’s of Buckhaven Café

Buckhaven, on the East Neuk of Fife, is a town that has had a hard life .. and it shows. It was involved with the weaving but then, in the 19th century, became Scotland’s second biggest fishing port  with about 200 boats operating from the harbour. The demise of the fishing industry was hastened by the advent of coal mining but now that too has gone and as a result the town looks a bit dilapidated and uncared for. We were here because we were trying to find a Polynesian princess … ‘eh?’, I hear you say. We had been reading a short story by R. B. Cunninghame Graham called ‘The Princess’, a story written c1920 and based around a granite slab set into a church wall overlooking the harbour in Buckhaven. On it was carved “Here lies Sinakalula, Princess of Raratonga, the beloved wife of Andrew Brodie, Mariner.” The story continues; “What were the circumstances of their meeting the stone did not declare, only that the deceased had been a princess in her native land, and had died in this obscure east-country haven, and had been “beloved.” Nothing — but all — at least all that life has to give”. We thought it would be good to find the church and photograph the slab for posterity since there was no sign of it on any internet searches. Oh, if only we had known! We scoured Buckhaven in the rain and could not even find the harbour .. how can you not find a harbour in a wee town like this? Buckhaven 01In need of sustenance we dropped into what appeared to be the only café in town, Stuart’s of Buckhaven .. and guess what, no scones .. talk about a bad day! In a previous post we reported on scones becoming extinct in Galashiels and here within a few days is another town with no scones .. what’s is happening?

a Buckhaven scone
a Buckhaven scone

We know that you would worry about us in such dire circumstance, so to ease your troubled minds we are showing you a picture of my apple tart, which was very good, as was Pat’s meringue .. but they were definitely not scones. Stuart’s of Buckhaven has been around since 1857 and must have witnessed a lot of changes. It’s a baker and butcher combined and all the produce looked excellent but the café area was pretty soulless .. could do better, and could certainly do some scones .. you’re a bakery for goodness sake! We asked a passerby if they could point us in the direction of the harbour .. “there’s nae harbour here son” .. but they did tell us where it used to be. How can a town just lose a harbour? What we found was just a large patch of grass with a vestige of harbour wall running down one side. Turns out, it had been filled in in the 1960s ..  but, worst of all, the entire old town had been demolished and used as infill .. church and all. Perhaps, as we gazed around at the council houses, we were standing on top of our princess’s granite headstone .. lost forever!

the harbour as Sinakalula would have known it
the harbour as Sinakalula would have known it

This was a miserable wet day in Buckhaven and it made you wonder what a young polynesian woman would have made of it. The story goes: “dressed in a coloured and diaphanous sacque, a wreath of red hibiscus round her head, her jet black hair loose on her shoulders, bare arms and feet, and redolent of oil of cocoa-nut, she must have seemed a being from another world to the rough mariner.” in 1857, was she disappointed by the lack of scones in Stuart’s of Buckhaven? The story speculates that ” the mariner brought home his island bride, perhaps to droop in the cold north, and he laid her in the drear churchyard to wait the time when they should be united again in some Elysian field, not unlike Polynesia, with the Tree of Life for palms, the self same opal-tinted sea, angels for tropic birds, and the same air of calm pervading all the air”. Let’s hope they are together again, just like that!

KY15 4BY    tel: 01592 260831      Stuart’s of Buckhaven FB


Habitat Café

You tend to think that every cafe/restaurant will have some sort of scone with which to provide the honest traveller a bit of sustenance … not so, or at least not in Aberfeldy. We tried the Watermill first to no avail, then the Croft and both just shook their heads. The Croft is more of a restaurant so may be it is excusable there but we found it very disappointing that the Watermill, which otherwise has a great café could not cater to this simple request. Not to worry, we headed to the Habitat Café in the Square and not only were we successful but were treated to a first time experience .. a cheese and bacon scone! Habitat03Now we have tasted a lot of scones but ‘cheese and bacon’ has never been one of them. As it turned out they do a different scone every day and it just so happened that today was the day for cheese and bacon. It has to be said that some trepidation was involved in our approach to this scone but were encouraged when it turned up with just some butter .. no jam and cream ..phew! Needless to say, as cheese and bacon scones go, this was definitely the best we had tasted but, more than that, it was one of the best scones we had tasted anywhere and easily gets our topscone award for its light fluffy texture and sheer ludicrous inventiveness. Bet the migrants waiting to cross the Channel have never tasted a cheese and bacon scone either .. do you think that is why they are trying so desperately? The media would have us believe that they all want to come to the UK because the UK is such a fantastic, wonderful, elysian paradise .. nothing could be further from the truth! Only a tiny minority thinks the UK is worth a try and usually because they already speak English or have family here. The vast majority want to settle elsewhere in Europe because they have never heard of Aberfeldy, The Habitat Café and its scones .. sad!

PH15 2DD     tel:01887 822944     Habitat TripAd