Tag Archives: 1707

The Larder

Just when you think you have done all the tearooms and coffee shops in your home town, lo and behold, another one pops up. Mind you the Larder has been open quite a few months now … we just hadn’t noticed it. Getting noticed is crucially important for all new businesses yet unbelievably this place has neither wifi or a contact telephone number … and, to make matters even worse, it has a big glossy Costa directly across the road. The Larder, therefore, has the dubious distinction of being the only establishment we have ever reviewed for which we cannot find a phone number.  It also ‘borrows’ its wifi from another business nearby and it doesn’t have a website. We fear for the Larder’s future … no matter how good the scones are.  Internal view of the Larder, Falkirk It’s a shame that we were the only customers because the two young girls who appeared to be running the place were trying hard. Maybe some home baking would set us on the right track? No, they simply buy their scones from Costco, a huge wholesale warehouse in Glasgow.  However, any preconceptions we may have harboured about warehouse scones were quickly dashed when they actually turned out to be quite good .. on the large side but quite light and fluffy on the inside.  A scone at the Larder, FalkirkNo hope of a topscone here but service, tea and coffee were all good … we wish the Larder well and hope they get themselves sorted out before long. This week it was hard to miss stories about suffragettes and the amazing things they had to do to get noticed. It was, of course, the  centenary of women getting the vote in 1918.  Strictly speaking only 40% of women got the vote then  as opposed to 58 % of men – the rest had to wait another ten years. Nowadays most people find it totally incredible that all this was happening only 100 years ago. It’s a bit like the internet – young people think it has always been there … they think the ‘right to vote’ has always been there too and are surprised to learn that it is in fact a relatively recent innovation. Back in 1707, at the Treaty of Union between Scotland and England, ‘the people’ would have loved a vote. According to accounts at the time, 99 out of 100 ordinary people were against the Union but of the 175 eligible voters 106 voted in favour and the rest, as they say, is history. We would like to think that, when Scotland becomes an independent country again, people will look back 100 years from now with the same incredulity afforded to the suffragettes at the fact that we were once ruled by another country. We will let you know how the Larder gets on.

FK1 1LZ            The Larder TA

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

Legends Coffee House

Our island hopping adventures have sadly come to an end and we are now back in the real world … at Legends Coffee House in Stirling to be precise. The legend referred to in the name is, of course, William Wallace, Scottish hero, general all round good guy and star of the movie Braveheart. This facility serves visitors to the Wallace Monument … it is where you start and finish your visit. Internal view of Legends Coffee House at the Wallace Monument, StirlingYou should drop in … especially if you have just completed the climb to the top of the monument. We had friends from Arizona with us and we had already forced them up the Abbey Craig (the hill on which the monument stands) and the 246 steps to the top of the monument with the bribe of a scone when they got back down …  we were having to pay up. Memorabilia at the Legends Coffee House at the Wallace Monument, StirlingMost of this place is  new since we were last here and thankfully takes up the site previously occupied by a diabolical statue of Wallace. The shop is full of the usual stuff that we suspect tourists must get really fed up with after they have been round some of Scotland’s main attractions because it always seems much the same  tartan or saltire emblazoned memorabilia everywhere you go. That said, Legends Coffee House, in spite of being quite busy, was clean, tidy and appeared well run. But, dear oh dear, our scones felt really heavy! So heavy, in fact, we thought we might have to brandish Wallace’s mighty double handed claymore to cut them in half … hopes of impressing our American friends with a good Scottish scone were fading fast. A scone at the Legends Coffee House at the Wallace Monument, StirlingAs it turned out, however, they tasted quite good and our friends were fascinated by the butter, jam and cream rituals which we don’t even think about … and at least it was all Scottish produce. All in all, it evolved into quite a good experience for everyone … but not good enough for a topscone unfortunately. This monument to William Wallace is here because of his famous victory over the much larger English army at the Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297 which helped establish Scotland as a free and independent nation. Goodness knows what he would have thought of the ‘parcel of rogues’ that, almost 400 years after his death, forced Scotland into a union with England and, even worse, that Scotland is still in it. He was hung, drawn and quartered in London and his head and body parts distributed throughout the land as a warning to any other uppity Scots … so no grave to spin in, but if he had one, he would would just be a blur. His statue looks down from its stance high on the monument at Scotland’s present day subordination and it must be thinking “what a right feckless bunch I gave my life for”!  Our friends are back on the other side of the pond now, having survived Scotland … and the scones.

Evening view of the Wallace Monument, Stirling
The Wallace Monument stands on the Abbey Craig in the evening light.

FK9 5LF    tel: 01786 472140     Legends Coffee House

BREAKING NEWS Our Middle East correspondent has just filed a report on a post box he came across in Jaffa, Tel Aviv. Readers may know Jaffa from the biblical stories about Jonah, Solomon and St Peter but more probably through cakes. The post box in question was manufactured by McDowall Steven & Co who, in 1912 took over the Laurieston Ironworks in Falkirk and made post boxes until 1958 when it closed. Jaffa was occupied in 1947 so presumably these post boxes date from then. There’s nothing quite like scones to broaden the mind.Letter box in Jaffa, made in Falkirk


The Pier Tearoom

The writing was on the wall from the start. When James Graham, Marquess of Montrose was promoted to Duke as reward for his support in bringing about the Act of Union in 1707, he was never going to be best buddies with Scotland’s Robin Hood, Rob Roy MacGregor. When the Duke, no doubt flushed with his new found importance, confiscated the MacGregor lands, that really put the tin lid on their relationship.

Factor's island, Stronachlachar
Factor’s island, Stronachlachar

In an act of retaliation, Rob Roy imprisoned Montrose’s factor (rent collector) on an island on Loch Katrine and to this day it is still known as Factor’s island. Rob Roy was born at Glengyle, just a short distance away.

View from the pier
View from Stronachlachar

As if to punish the Factor further, the island is less than a 100 meters from this great wee tearoom with a glass conservatory, so he would have had to sit alone and hungry on his island watching folk tucking into cakes, scones and all sorts of other goodies … absolutely no mercy! Stronachlachar 08We were here to meet with our intrepid Trossachs correspondents who, readers will remember, were recently reporting from Gibraltar. What better place for a debriefing session than here at Stronachlachar, one of the most beautiful spots on the planet. The steamship Sir Walter Scott usually docks here but on this occasion the much smaller Lady of The Lake came into the pier and disgorged her cargo of happy walkers and cyclists. The tearoom has everything you would want; free wifi; fine coffee; fine wine; home made cakes … and scones, but not homemade?? Stronachlachar 11Why, when they make their own cakes, they don’t make their own scones, we have no idea. In the middle of an intense discussion on modern trends in sconology, we received our scones, nicely presented with lots of jam and cream. They were enjoyable enough though the overall feeling was that the bicarbonate had been overdone, leaving a slight aftertaste. Stronachlachar 07No topscone unfortunately but this is still a great tearoom in a great setting and, if you go, you will enjoy it, though hopefully the use of this old phone box will not be necessary! Loch Katrine, of course, has been the water supply for the city of Glasgow since the 1850s, a phenomenal feat of engineering and far-sightedness with the water flowing 35 miles into the city and only dropping 10 inches in every mile. Do we have similarly far-sighted politicians today? We fear not. Modern day neo-liberalism means that the ones in power cannot see much further than the end of their noses! Musn’t speak too ill of them however, as the debacle over the EU referendum has been interrupted by the tragic murder of Labour’s Jo Cox … it’s very much a time for sympathy and solidarity.

FK8 3TY          tel: 01877 386 374          The Pier Tearoom

ps On our journey home we unexpectedly stumbled upon this .. the Trossachs distillery … fantastic. Only opened two weeks previously, we thought we should at least give it a mention. Brainchild of the affable Dale McQueen, it produces gin in a variety of flavours using a unique distillation method … and even puts it in nice, dark blue ceramic bottles. The gin market is ‘busy busy’ at the moment so we hope Dale gets a favourable wind for his venture. Online shop at the link below … we chose the ‘sweet citrus’ and the ‘mocha’ and the … noooo we didn’t buy them all … but we might go back for the others!Trossachs distillery 03bFK17 8LR        tel:07968 063125            Trossachs Distillery

Howies Bistro

Our first venture out into the big bad world of 2016 was to the Fair City where we like to shop occasionally in McEwens of Perth department store.

a poster in McEwens
a poster in McEwens

It is a long established shop and this poster made us think that it might be interesting (just to get the brain cells operating after all the indulgences of the festive season) to see how many of you can convert these prices into modern day currency, e.g how much is a pure silk tie? Answers please in the comments box but beware, you may be giving your age away! Today we had breakfast in their Upstairs restaurant and discovered that they actually have another restaurant that we were totally unaware of .. it’s that kind of shop, you discover another part of it every time you go. We did visit this new discovery later on in the afternoon but since the same bakery serves both restaurants and we had already reviewed Upstairs, we decided, in the interests of variety and sconology to brave the elements and find somewhere new. Howies 05Voila .. Howies Bistro, a mere stone’s throw from McEwans, just outside St John’s Kirk. This is a nice wee cozy restaurant which seems to do everything and be very popular with the locals. Most folk were having lunch but, as ever, we just wanted to try the scones with a coffee so we ensconced ourselves in a nice area with big comfy sofas, set aside for just that. Our fruit scones were great, served with plenty jam and cream, but there was a problem with the coffee .. it looked strong but tasted weak. It was such that we thought we should at least mention it to the management .. probably Mr Howie himself who was buzzing about making sure everything was in order. Howies 07He responded initially by offering another coffee, which of course we did not want. Later, however, he came and thanked us .. he had tested the coffee and realised that the machine needed to be recalibrated and was mortified to find that he had, unknowingly, been  serving such inferior coffee. In fact, he was so grateful that he refused to take any money at all from us .. this is good management; taking on feedback and acting on it immediately! stjohnskirk-450The nearby St John’s Kirk is dedicated to John the Baptist and dates back to 1126. Perth was the capital of Scotland for over 600 years and as a result King Alexander III’s heart was buried here after his premature death (fell off a cliff) in 1286, an event which left Scotland without a king and propelled it into two long Wars of Independence with England. Although Scotland prevailed in both wars it threw it all away in 1707 with the Union of the Crowns which most Scots were against at the time and goodness sake, 308 years later nothing has changed! For those with a footballing interest and who have wondered why Perth’s local football team (currently 4th in the Scottish Premiership) is called St Johnstone .. it’s because of this church … it became so important that for much of the 16th century Perth was called ‘St Johnstoun’ .. might be a good trivia question. Another trivia question – when was the last date that an Irn Bru bottle could be returned for a deposit .. Dec 31st 2015 … end of an era. What is not in question is Howies Bistro, definitely worth a visit, if only to retest the coffee.

PH1 5SZ       tel: 01738 440777      Howies Bistro