This is becoming a habit … eating scones in orangeries that is! It’s not that long ago since we were at an orangery at Ham House in London and here we are at it again … life can be hard. Today we were actually trying to track down Shapes auction house which had notified us of a move to Port Edgar from Edinburgh, when we came on this place. It’s in an excellent garden centre which we have known for many years. It started life in the walled garden of nearby Hopetoun House but twenty years ago moved a mile or so to its present site and became known as the ‘New’ Hopetoun Garden Centre. On the way in you are greeted with this sign which makes you wish you had been here on Sept 5 1792, it must have been quite a day … it was a Wednesday! Not to be confused with Sept 5 forty years earlier in 1752 … not only did nothing happen, it didn’t even exist. That year, in order for Britain to catch up with the rest of the world which used the Gregorian calendar (we know, it is hard to imagine Britain being out of step .. but just try), it was decreed that the day following Sept 2 would be Sept 14 … just like that, eleven days just vanished! You thought time travel was just a figment of the imagination but the entire population of Britain was actually doing it centuries ago! We digress. The Orangery is everything you would expect from a garden centre tearoom … spacious, bright and with a good range of food and drink on offer. It is self service but, even though it was busy, we were quickly attended to by some very friendly staff. Pat decided on our traditional choice of a fruit scone but I opted for cherry … hey, why not? Both scones came with loads of jam, butter and cream. They had really crunchy exteriors with soft middles which made them delicious but a bit difficult to manage … they tended to crumble very easily. We thoroughly enjoyed them though … topscone. Because service is usually a factor we don’t normally give topscone awards to self service establishments but the self service here was great, the sun was shining and we were in a good mood … well done The Orangery! A little bit further along the road we came to Port Edgar near South Queensferry. The ‘Edgar’ bit comes from Edgar Aetheling, the brother of Queen Margaret of Scotland who set up the ferry crossing in the 11th century to help pilgrims on their way to St Andrews. It operated until 1964 when the road bridge was built.
Originally a naval base it is now a leisure marina. Visitors to Port Edgar are now treated to an excellent view of the new Queensferry Crossing … opened only a few months ago.
It is a magnificent feat of engineering and now, with Boris Johnston talking of a bridge across the English Channel, it is perhaps worth explaining some facts about this one. It was built by the SNP government on time and under budget … obviously Carillion was not involved. It was opposed by all other political parties who promptly fell over themselves to take credit when it was completed. There was no funding from Westminster … something to remember if the Channel Bridge ever gets the go ahead. Scotland, like the HS2 and Crossrail projects, will undoubtedly be saddled with 10% of the costs for little or no benefit. Anyway, we did find the new premises of the auction house which was massive but shut, not opening until the end of the month apparently … heyho, we had thoroughly enjoyed our day!
Today we are in North Queensferry gazing up at the world famous Forth Rail Bridge. We don’t usually start with a quiz however this is an exception. The bridge was opened in 1890 but how many rivets do you think were used in its construction a) 6.5 million b) the same number as the number of grains in a handful of sand c) the same number as the number of currants in a Rankin’s fruit scone. The answer of course is (a) but if you said (c) then you would not have been too far out either … but more of that later! In 1068, King Malcolm III of Scotland’s wife Margaret, decreed that a crossing should be established here for the benefit of pilgrims traveling to St Andrews. She used it herself for the last time when her body was carried from Edinburgh to Dunfermline, Scotland’s capital at the time, for burial … thenceforth it became known as the Queen’s Ferry. The last ferry landing here was in 1964 when the Forth Road Bridge was opened. Today North Queensferry is very much the poor relation of its more glamorous sister, South Queensferry, on the other side of the river. Architecturally it is a peculiar mix of quite pretty historic buildings from the 17th and 18th centuries and incredible monstrosities from the 1960s … town planners have much to answer for here. This is the first time we have ever visited and the only reason we are here at all is to see the progress on the new Queensferry Crossing which should be completed later this year. There’s not a lot in the town apart from a Deep Sea World which we were keen to avoid. We never found a shop of any kind though there must be one somewhere, and Rankin’s seems to be the only café … Hobson’s choice for the weary traveler … not a bad wee place though.
The owner, Derek Rankin, prides himself on his coffee and even produces barista classes for the uninitiated … but what about his scones? Well, rivets come to mind again because he puts a lot of fruit in his fruit scones. Now, call us old fusspots if you like but we think that the fruit should be mixed into the scone mixture so that it is evenly distributed and held in suspension throughout the scone. Presumably Derek doesn’t bother with all that stirring business because there is so much fruit it is literally falling out of the scone onto the plate. The scones themselves were just the right size and actually pretty good …. just too much fruit … it kind of got in the way of the scone. The coffee was great though and all in all we enjoyed our visit. This town is also home to the former labour Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, or Big Gordie as he is often referred to. Since hardly anyone in Scotland believes anything the Tories say, Big Gordie is usually wheeled out on their behalf as the believable side of unionism … a kind of glove puppet. With the threat of another Scottish independence referendum looming, we can reasonably expect him to stir again from his North Queensferry lair and go lumbering round the country delivering all sorts of impossible inducements to preserve the Union. Considering that everything he promised in 2014 independence referendum has been shown to have had no substance whatsoever it will be interesting to see if people will be taken in again by whatever he dreams up this time.Lastly, in what we thought was a great idea, the town in 2000, made a Millenium Resolution preserved for posterity in the form of a bronze plaque looking out onto the river. It reads:
Let there be respect for the earth
Peace for its people
Love in our lives
Delight in the good
Forgiveness for past wrongs
And from now on, a new start
Nice one North Queensferry … but what are the chances?