Tag Archives: Donald Trump

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!

Fenwicks of Linlithgow

The car had to go for a service at our garage in Bo’ness and when we dropped it off they kindly gave us a lift the mile or so into Linlithgow so that we could go for a walk round the loch. Although the loch was partially frozen it was a nice day … ideal for a wee walk.

View across Linlithgow loch to the Palace
Looking towards Linlithgow Palace and the spire of St Michael’s church

The path, of course, is circular so it wasn’t too long before we found ourselves back in the town and feeling more than a little peckish. We’ve had several scones in Linlithgow in the past however this one, Fenwicks of Linlithgow was new to us … it had to be done. As soon as we walked in we were aware of a lively bustling atmosphere .. always a good sign!Internal view of Fenwicks of LinlithgowWe weren’t disappointed, everything was excellent. After a delicious light lunch we decided to share one of the fairly large home made fruit scones.  A scone at Fenwicks of LinlithgowIt came with lots of butter, and jam  … and cream with a fresh raspberry on top .. totally unnecessary but a nice touch. Suffice to say that we liked everything about this place and we would not hesitate to go back next time we are in town … probably the next time our car needs some attention. All too soon however it was time to venture out into the cold once more. If Donald Trump needs any further proof of global warming he need look no further than Linlithgow … this polar bear has obviously been left stranded by the receding ice cap … obviously! Polar bear stuck up a tree in LinlithgowEven more evidence was provided in the form of a painting in the Black Bitch pub where we were waiting to be picked up again.  In 1848 the loch must have been seriously frozen to allow so many people onto the ice for this bonspeil. It was obviously much colder back then … obviously! What more proof do you need Donald?? Do you think he reads ‘the scones’?

The Grand Match at Linlithgow Loch 1849 by Charles Lees
The Grand Match at Linlithgow Loch 1848 by Charles Lees

The garage duly picked us up from the Black Bitch and we were reunited with our car which they had restored to peak condition … an all round good day.

EH49 7EJ     tel: 01506 238580      Fenwicks of Linlithgow FB

Riverhill Coffee Bar

When we got the call to say that a tiny flower made of plaster (don’t ask), ordered well before Christmas, had arrived at the Wm Boyle shop in Glasgow we decided to pick it up rather than risk it in the post. We got the train to Pollockshields East and, lo and behold, right beside the station is this place …. the Glasgow Gurdwara … impressive or what?External view of the Gurdwara Sikh temple in Pollockshields Religious we are not but we are curious about things we don’t understand and just the building alone looked worthy of investigation. We knew that Sikhs wore turbans but that was about that in terms of our knowledge of Sikhism … enlightenment beckoned.

The alter at the Gurdwara Sikh temple in Pollockshields
The alter with the covered book of scriptures (Guru Granth Sahib) on top

We were welcomed with open arms and once we had given up our shoes, washed our hands and donned some headgear we were ushered in and given a complete tour of the entire building … even though there was only the two of us! It was fascinating. We are not going to attempt to explain Sikhism here but suffice to say we now have a much better understanding. Our lasting impression though was of the warmth shown to us by everyone we met, we even received a wonderful lunch … chapatis but no scones! Internal view of Riverhill Coffee Shop, GlasgowHaving collected the little flower and bade a fond farewell to our new Sikh friends we found ourselves back at Glasgow Central station and, just around the corner, is this place, the Riverhill Coffee House. We thought that it too might be worthy of investigation. At first we thought we were continuing our eastern theme because their signature dish is shawarma wraps, which we thought sounded rather Indian but turns out to be Arabic … our ignorance really knows no bounds! We quickly reverted to type though and opted to put the only scone they had left out of its miserable loneliness. Riverhill classes itself as “exotically Scottish” … an oxymoron if ever there was one but after our recent experience at Kilmahog, this place restored our sagging faith … lots of helpful smiling youngsters, eager to help and all Scottish, hurragh! A scone at Riverhill Coffee Shop, GlasgowIt used to be a jewellery shop until the owners decided to forsake diamonds for coffee, cakes and scones – a bold but totally understandable decision. They make everything fresh daily so our scone was good and although they didn’t have cream there was certainly plenty of butter and jam. Not quite a topscone but good effort and great to see a place like this seriously taking on the multinationals at their own game. With Donald Trump cancelling his visit to London to open the new American embassy for fear of ugly protests we think he should come and visit the Glasgow Gurdwara instead. Sikhs believe that the way to lead a good life is to a) keep God in heart and mind at all times b) live honestly and work hard c) treat everyone equally d) be generous to the less fortunate e) serve others … turban for Mr Trump! On the way home on the train we had a fascinating conversation with ‘Colin’ who hailed from the Isle of Kerrera and was on his way to Germany to visit family. The little plaster flower eventually arrived back home, safe and sound, after an interesting day.

G1 3PU     tel: 0141 204 4762      Riverhill Coffee Bar

Kilmahog Woollen Mill

Firstly, let us wish you all a good new year, may it be a great one … in spite of all the dodgy politics.

Now, what you have all been waiting for … the first scone of 2018! It wasn’t the balmy -1°C temperature that drove us in here in search of woolly underpants, but simply that we were out and about on a beautiful sunny day enjoying the scenery and this is where we ended up … quite by accident. It was a bit nippy though! For those unfamiliar with Kilmahog (quite a few we suspect) it is just outside Callander at the junction of the Trossachs and Lochearnhead roads. It’s a tiny hamlet of just a few houses yet manages to sport two woollen mills … the Trossachs Woollen Mill and the Kilmahog Woollen Mill as well as a pub (The Lade Inn) with its own microbrewery. At one time the Oban railway ran through here but it is now a cycle track and popular as part of the Rob Roy Way. Still standing at the road junction is the 19th-century toll-house where Queen Victoria once had to cough up some money in order to continue her journey.

Samson's putting stone near Kilmahog
Samson’s putting stone on Bochastle hill

Best of all though, on the small hill opposite Kilmahog there is a massive rock, known locally as Samson’s Putting Stone. Legend has it that, Samson, one of the Fingalian giants threw it  three miles, from his home on Ben Ledi during a competition with rival giants. Some say he actually threw it from Ben Lawers … a phenomenal twenty three miles.  Yet others say it is a glacial erratic left by a receding glacier … but, to us, this explanation seems slightly far fetched. One thing is clear … these giants did not tidy up after their games! The woollen mill itself is pretty big and, of course, stuffed full of everything tartan you could imagine … yes, underpants! Internal view of Kilmahog Woollen MillThe café part is quite big as well and obviously is set up to deal with bus parties in the summer. When it’s busy you probably would not notice the rather utilitarian nature of the place but when it’s quiet it becomes rather obvious. The service was what we would normally describe as ‘surly‘ and far too Scottish for our liking. With Brexit on the horizon we had better get used to it … no more of our eastern european friends eager to work and giving excellent happy service … what an idiotic world we live in! A scone at Kilmahog Woollen MillOn the upside, our somewhat low scone expectations were confounded when it turned out to be surprisingly good …. fresh and slightly crunchy on the outside. They charged a fortune for the jam but the cream was plentiful and good. On its own, this could have maybe squeezed into the topscone category but the overall experience let it down badly … shame! Expectations were further confused by a warning sign in the toilets. It seemed to suggest that you would only get hot water if the wind was blowing from a certain direction, or the moon was aligned with Mars … Warning notice at Kilmahog Woollen Millor, maybe it was simply down to Samson being in a good mood … who knows? It certainly heightened anticipation when using the cold tap. So our first scone adventure of the year had mixed outcomes … good to be on the hunt once more on such a lovely day but a frustratingly disappointing scone experience over all …. things can only get better! Or maybe not … as Theresa May gets on with rearranging the deckchairs we hope that at least she, unlike the local giants, will at least tidy up after herself because it is bound to end up in a mess no matter how much she shuffles them. In the USA, Oprah Winfrey is thinking of running against Donald Trump. We have no wish to take anything away from Ms Winfrey but how on earth did it get to this?

FK17 8HD    Tel: 01877 330268    Kilmahog Woollen Mill TA

2017 scones

Because we have been badly neglecting our sconological duties of late we thought we should at least do something for the festive season to remind readers that we are still alive and that we wish them all the best for Christmas and 2018. This post is simply to do that rather than bring you a new exciting scone …. sorry! We certainly haven’t eaten 2017 scones though by the time we get through the festive season we may feel as if we have. Some of our correspondents, however, have been much more diligent. The title picture was sent by our London correspondents. Since it is almost two years since we reported from Claridge’s they thought that they should check that standards had not slipped in our absence. They are posh-place specialists and elected to take  our latest granddaughter, aged 5 days, along as an adjudicator in the event of a split decision. Thankfully, everything was hunkydory and the new arrival did not have to be pressed into service … phew!! A K2 sandwich serverOur old friend, the Pedant, found a website that bemoans the use of weird objects to serve food on rather than plates. It is aptly named www.wewantplates.com and he pointed out, given our interest in such things, what he thought might be a good way to serve scones … a miniature telephone box (K2) used to bring little sandwiches to the table. Thanks for the suggestion but we want plates as well! During the past year we have had the great pleasure of visiting many lovely parts of the UK and discovering lots of wonderful scones … and, of course, some not so wonderful. Have we learned anything in our travels? Notably, we came to the conclusion that scones improve the further north you go. We realise that sconeys in Devon and Cornwall might find this contentious however it has to be said that in the far north, including our visit to Orkney, we found nothing but topscones. We were also pleased that readers took such an interest in what became a something of a hot-topic … telephone boxes and, in particular, where they were manufactured, Falkirk, Glasgow or Kirkintilloch. We received pictures of K6s from as far afield as Buenos Aires and Tel Aviv.

A K6 telephone box on South Ronaldsay
A Kirkintilloch K6 telephone box in splendid isolation near Quoyeden on South Ronaldsay

On our own travels we came on many K6s reinvented as libraries, defibrillator stations and greenhouses … a sign of the times perhaps that even in the most remote locations they no longer serve their original purpose. It’s called progress but that is not something that abounds these days. Quite the opposite in fact, at times the whole world seems to be going backwards. The only constant seems to be that the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. As Theresa May loses yet more of her cabinet colleagues you might be forgiven for thinking that our Brexit negotiations might as well be conducted by headless chickens. Even though they claim to be making progress you cannot help but ask yourself what progress turkeys voting for Christmas can actually make? Forgive all the poultry analogies, it’s that time of year. Elsewhere, after all the kerfuffle over Catalonia, it looks like ending up back exactly where it started with a cessationist government … Spain has headless chickens as well. On the other side of the pond, Donald Trump impersonators continue to do better impressions of The Donald than he does of himself … and you might be better off taking them more seriously. Perhaps the world would be better governed by headless chickens … or is it already, is that what we are not understanding?

On that cheery note we will bid you a fond farewell for this year. Thanks to to all our readers and a special thanks to all our correspondents  who venture fearlessly into the world’s nether regions on your behalf.  And for 2018, may all your scones be top ones.

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


It was way back in January that we got a tip-off about the scones at Dobbies Garden Centre just outside Stirling.

January, afternoon tea with two Dobbies scones

Our ever diligent Trossachs correspondents had bought some to take home only to find that they had been given some extra ones free. This was more than they could handle on their own, so they passed on a couple to us and we ate them as part of an afternoon tea we were having with some neighbours. At the time we thought they were rather good, if a little bit oversized … we had to split them up to make them more manageable for our guests. Since then, we have been promising ourselves that we would visit Dobbies and do a proper review … seven months later, today is the day.

Internal view of the restaurant at Dobbies Garden Centre, Stirling
Just part of Dobbies’ restaurant

The garden centre is big and they have a restaurant to match. It is a little bit surprising to come in and find so many people out shopping and then to find a large restaurant which is equally busy. The servery area is also big and, rather than wait in a long queue we opted to go to the automated self service part. There is normally some sort of problem with these vending machines … and so it was, however the problem was not so much with the machine as with the operators.

Automatic coffee vending equipment at Dobbies Garden Centre, Stirling
Coffee machine about half way through delivering and it cannot be stopped

Basically, from the large array of cups, all of which looked identical to us, we selected what turned out to be a tea cup and of course it was far too small for the quantity of coffee being delivered … a kind of Niagara situation ensued. We were a bit bemused by this until we noticed that there were similar but slightly larger ‘coffee’ cups … trauma over. We had opted to share a cherry and coconut scone because they were all so large and also we hadn’t actually tasted that particular combination before. Perhaps we should have stuck to what we know because we found this combo somewhat insipid … the tiny pieces of cherry were relatively few and far between and the coconut, although there, did not feature strongly enough. The scone itself was fine though, still too big for our taste … no topscone here but maybe the prize for the biggest.

The problem with Westminster and Holyrood being on holiday is that there is nothing much to report – witness the BBC’s interminable coverage of athletics. But wait a minute, apparently the end of the world has just got a whole lot nigher … we should report that in case any sconeys get caught unaware. With the great big ‘Goliath’ madman in Washington threatening unimaginable fire and brimstone against the wee ‘David’ madman in Pyongyang who likes dressing up like Ruth Davidson, there may not be much time left. The big question, of course, is … will Scotland manage to become an ordinary self respecting  country before armageddon? The man in the know, Alex Salmond is predicting 4 years for independence but that may be too late. However, with HMRC admitting that Scotland’s economy is actually £15b bigger than they had reported … oops, and the latest figures showing that England ran a massive trade deficit in 2014 and 2015 whereas Scotland had an even greater surplus in those years, perhaps we can just squeeze in a wee bit of self respect before we are all blown to smithereens. How to avoid complete annihilation? We think that Trump and Kim Jong should sit down together over afternoon tea … the civilising influence of a good scone cannot be overestimated and the size of the Dobbies’ scones should almost match their egos!

FK9 4UF     tel: 01786 458860     Dobbies Garden Centre

BREAKING NEWS: Our Tyrolean correspondents have lodged a report on what could possibly be the first ever scones to be baked in Austria … you heard it here first! They were in Scotland for a few days and became so obsessed with scones that when they returned home they baked some of their own ‘Austrian scones’. First scones to be baked in AustriaThey look good and by all accounts were good. No information on whether Austrians go jam or cream first but together, dear readers, we are taking scones to the world … and the world will be a better place! Many thanks C and M.

Café du Jardin

Drumclog Monument
Monument to the Battle of Drumclog

Visiting an artist friend is interesting, not only for the range of beautiful pottery and calligraphy items she produces and sells at home and online, but for the fact that her house is on the site of the Battle of Drumclog. “The battle of what” we hear you say! This battle, on June 1st 1679, is one of the few victories the Covenanters were to have over the government forces of Charles I. Like almost every battle since the beginning of time it was fought between two forces, both of which had God on their side … and it was fought on a Sunday for goodness sake!! During this contratemps, the government commander, John Graham of Claverhouse‘s horse was killed and he fled the field on foot but eventually took his trumpeter’s horse to make good his escape. The now defenceless trumpeter, a fourteen year old boy, was caught by the Covenanters, killed, and his body thrown down a well which is still known as Trumpeters Well. We tell you all of this simply to illustrate the point that the behaviour of our ruling classes has not changed very much in the intervening centuries … the Mays , Goves, Johnstons and Trumps of this world would not think twice about dislodging a young boy from his mount if it meant to saving their own skins … or are we being unfair? When we left Drumclog we decided to stop off at the Garrion Bridges Garden & Antique Centre in the Clyde valley. It used to be good for antiques but we found that a recent revamp of its facilities has not done it any favours in that respect … now, it is much more into gardens and gaudy knickknacks. Café du Jardin however is tucked away in a corner and specialises almost exclusively in afternoon teas – an oasis of calm. There is another much bigger café which caters to ordinary people. Not being particularly hungry we asked if they could just do a couple of scones … no problem! Cream tea at Café du Jardin at the Garrion Bridges Garden & Antique CentreWhen they arrived, however, they obviously could not break the afternoon tea habit because “just a scone” turned out to be more akin to a mini afternoon tea … and all for the price of a couple of scones! Scones at Café du Jardin at the Garrion Bridges Garden & Antique CentreThe problem with this sort of thing is, of course, when people as weak willed as ourselves are presented with all these extras, whatever self discipline we might have had goes completely out the window. There was a plain and a fruit scone each, plus meringues, muffins, eclairs and macaroons … aaarggghh! Interior of Café du Jardin at the Garrion Bridges Garden & Antique CentreOne of the noticeable things about this place is a wall which acted like an interference pattern, playing havoc with your eyes and inducing a state of confusion which meant we ended up eating almost everything … that’s our excuse and we are sticking to it! Although decorated to a high standard, in our opinion, it would be much nicer with more subtle lighting that would relieve the ‘fluorescent’ effect that is never particularly appealing. Interior of Café du Jardin at the Garrion Bridges Garden & Antique CentreBesides all that, this was a nice quiet place with very attentive staff that provided welcome respite from the shopping frenzy going on just outside the door … topscone!

The Covenanters were dedicated to preserving God’s rights on earth and were described at the time thus: “They were terribly in earnest. The passion that was in them , like all great passions, refused to be divided. Their idea possessed them with a force and a fulness to which we find few parallels in history. It haunted their sleep , it awoke with them in the morning – it walked , like their shadow, with them to business or to pleasure – it became the breath of their nostrils and the soul of their soul.” Today, when you read of a terrorist plot foiled in Australia it is perhaps worth remembering that religious extremism is far from a new phenomenon … just ask any young trumpeter.

ML2 0RR       tel: 01698 372288      Café du Jardin

The Bothy

We sailed into Port Mòr, the capital of the Isle of Muck, in great anticipation. For some reason this was the culmination of a long held ambition to actually visit Muck rather than just viewing it from a distance. Maybe it has something to do with the name? We were not to be disappointed … it is a great island … not in size, only 2 by 0.75 miles, but it just has a lovely feel to it. It’s fertile and the land seems well tended giving it a softer look than its neighbours Rùm and Eigg.

On the Isle of Muck looking towards Skye
Looking towards Skye in the distance with Rùm to the left

We walked the only road on the island, about 1.6 miles long, and the same Land Rover passed us five times … it was the only thing that passed.

On the main road on the Isle of Muck
Looking the other way towards Port Mòr … waiting for a corncrake to appear

We stopped at one point because a corncrake was calling in one of the fields but in spite of a lengthy wait, as usual, this shyest of birds, did not reveal itself. Muck has been owned since 1896 by the family of Lawrence and Ewen McEwen and currently has a population of about 38.

Internal view of the Bothy tearoom on the Isle of Muck
Everyone is outside

The island is famous for its succulent ‘Muck Meat’ derived from lambs that thrive on the rich grassland in this stress free environment. They also breed Highland ponies using a stallion that goes by the rather impressive name of ‘Strathmashie Seumas Mhor’. You can probably tell by now that we really like Muck … and to top it all off, they had scones in Port Mòr’s, Bothy tearoom. Sometimes you can just tell as soon as you walk into a place that there is a high probability of the scones being good … so it was  with the Bothy. We were served by Jenny McEwen who had made the scones earlier in the day. They were delicious and accompanied by a generous portion of homemade apricot jam and a knob of butter. Great coffee and sitting outside in the sunshine with chickens under the table waiting for crumbs didn’t do anything to lessen our enjoyment … easy topscone, well done Jenny and all the ladies who were providing great service in this tearoom. We only had three hours so before long it was time to make our way back to the ferry. Guess what we came across, you got it … a K6 standing high above the village … they really are everywhere, though this one was looking a wee bit sorry for itself. Unusually for such items in these parts it did not seem to have acquired an alternative use.

K6 telephone box on the Isle of Muck
Another Lion foundry, Kirkintilloch K6

When you are on places like this, you definitely get the feeling that no matter how disastrous things get in the outside world, life on Muck will just go on regardless. The same could be said for all the islands we visited … they are indeed another world … a quieter more peaceful world. What possible interest could Putin or Trump have here? Not a lot, and we think that the islanders themselves are very happy for it to stay that way.  On the other hand, EU investment has been good for this part of the world so lets hope that the same level of interest is maintained, in a year or so,  when such decisions are left entirely to Westminster … don’t hold your breath though. All too soon the hooter sounds on the ferry signaling that we must return to some semblance of reality … boo!

Port Mòr on the Isle of Muck looking towards the mainland
Our ferry waits at the Port Mòr jetty

PH41 2RP         tel: 01687 460057/462990         The Bothy

ps: For those interested in Pat’s bird count from Arisaig, Eigg, Rùm and Muck here, in rough order of observation, it is: robin, starling, swallow, blackbird, dunnock, house sparrow, hooded crow, oyster catcher, greenfinch, song thrush, grey heron, black guillimot, cormorant, eider duck, guillimot, manx shearwater, chaffinch, great black backed gull, herring gull, collered dove, golden eagle, feral pigeon, sea eagle, buzzard, whitethroat, rock pipit, artic tern, wood pigeon, pied wagtail, lesser black backed gull, raven, kittiwake, pintail duck, gannet, skylark, rook, kestrel, wheatear, lapwing, greylag goose, goldfinch, pheasant, corn bunting, mistle thrush, corncrake (heard). That’s 44 in total. I would give her 45 for that corncrake but I know our very strict birding mentor, RD, would not allow it. Oddly we did not see any swans or mallards and we just missed a storm petrel and some puffins … there were also quite a few warblers and such like that we could not positively identify. Pat was pleased with her total so that’s all that matters.

Pier House in Port Mòr on the Isle of Muck
Pier House in Port Mòr

Galmisdale Bay Café

Galmisdale Bay Café is, of course on the Isle of Eigg, an island we know well through having looked at it from all sorts of places on the mainland. View of the Isle of Eigg from ferry arriving at GalmisdaleOften you look out and can be confused by the jumble of small islands off the west coast but because of the unique volcanic Sgurr of Eigg this island is unmistakable. Until today though we had never set foot on it but the little ferry from Arisaig changed all that … exciting … what would it be like, would they have scones? Well, in 1858, Hugh Miller described the locals as “an active, middle-sized race, with well-developed heads, acute intellects, and singularly warm feelings” … no mention of scones but had anything else changed since then? Quite a lot actually! Having gone from a population of around 500 in the 19th century to around 50 in 1997, it has since been  rejuvenated by a community buy-out from the previous private landlord. The population now stands at 105 … split 50/50 Scottish /English with a smattering of French and Spanish.

Old tractor on the Isle of Eigg with Rum in the distance
From Cleadale looking towards Rum

We were here for a few days and can happily report that nothing has changed in the “singularly warm feelings” department, we were greeted with open arms everywhere we went. You will have to forgive us if we post more pictures than usual … the scenery, the island, the weather, the people were all fantastic … we may even be able to persuade you to go there yourselves though sometimes it is not as straight forward as you might think.

Washing drying at Cleadale on the Isle of Eigg
Our washing drying in Cleadale

The biggest problem is getting accomodation because everything is fully booked and transport can also be a problem because you are not allowed to take a car. Hopefully, the extra pictures will also give you a sense of the rigors we have to endure in order to bring you scone news from such remote places … war correspondents like Orla Guerin don’t know the half of it! To get a small taste of the difficulties we have to overcome, click here. Sometimes we even had to sit staring out the window, glass in hand.

Sunset on the Isle of Eigg looking towards Rum
View from our window at 11pm

Did they have scones, we hear you cry! Yes, of course they did and they were so fresh that the cook had to make us wait until they had cooled down a bit. Even when we eventually got them he said it was pointless giving us cream because it would just melt .. yet more rigors – creamless scones. We didn’t get a picture of the café interior (nothing special) because we sat out the back all the time in the sunshine watching the shipping go by … everything from massive cruise liners to kayaks. External view of Galmisdale Café & Bar on the Isle of Eigg with a sconeThe scones themselves, although undeniably fresh, just didn’t quite do it for us …  good, but not good enough for a topscone … but who cares when you can sit in such splendid surroundings. We were staying at Cleadale, about five miles from this café, at the other end of the island and there, just off Laig beach, there is a little remote church of St Donnan’s. Inside the church, there is a wishing tree where you can write your wish on a paper dove and hang it from a branch.With Trump currently at the G20 Hamburg summit that wish has been slightly overtaken by events but don’t lose heart, if you ever visit you should still make a wish … in fact with Trump now running the world, the more wishes the better!

The singing sands on the Isle of Eigg
Singing Sands at Cleadale – quartz sand makes a peculiar noise when you walk on it

Pat was making a bird list for our days away and by day two she had collected over twenty different species, including Manx Shearwaters and a Golden Eagle … happy girl! I had also managed to get a few Eigg sheds for my forthcoming coffee table companion “Sheds of Scotland” … happy boy! Next stop the Isle of Rum, hopefully more birds, more sheds … and more scones!

PH42 4RL        tel: 01687 482487        Galmisdale Bay Café Bar