Tag Archives: Queensferry Crossing

Sundial Café

Kidnapped by Robert Louis StevensonWhen Robert Louis Stevenson was writing Kidnapped he chose Limekilns as the final point of escape for David Balfour and Alan Breck as they fled the redcoats in 1752 . An odd choice when you look at the sleepy little village today, however, it wasn’t always like this. Its sheltered natural harbour meant that it once had a thriving fishing industry and, as its name suggests, burning lime was another. However, in the 18th century, the harbour also served as the northern terminus for a ferry service from Bo’ness on the opposite shore … maybe that’s why Stevenson chose this place? Anyway, Alison Hastie, the local innkeeper’s daughter rowed them across and the two young fugitives successfully escaped … hurrah! Nowadays, of course, they could just have walked across the river using any one of three bridges … okay, you are not supposed to walk on the rail bridge but if you were fleeing for your life?? We got here by using the new Queensferry Crossing … without expansion joints it is a very smooth drive … but how have they done that, where does the expansion go? Having arrived in Fife we decided to take the more more indirect but more picturesque coastal route back home on the north side of the Forth and Limekilns is one of the first villages you come across. It is home to the Sundial Café.

The sundial at the Sundial Cafe in Limekilns
Sundial dated 1689

Unsurprisingly it gets its name from the sundial high up on the corner of the building. In Scotland, these things are only of use on the rare occasions when the sun actually shines but presumably when this one was installed there were not that many alternatives. Inside, on the ground floor, it is small and cosy with a large log burning stove but there is also a fairly large seating area upstairs. It has only been open a few years but it is pretty obvious that the renovation of the 400 year old building has been done very sympathetically. When we arrived mid afternoon they only had two scones left, one fruit and the other cheese and bacon. We decide to have them both and share, half each … what are we like?

Internal view of the Sundial Café in Limekilns
Upstairs and downstairs in the Sundial

They were very good – the fruit one came with plenty of jam but they didn’t have any cream … boo! No topscone but a lovely place with friendly people … highly recommended. A scone at the Sundial Café in LimekilnsIn 1362 King David II, as kings do, gave Limekilns harbour to the monks of Dunfermline Abbey  to encourage trade with europe … oh, with the shambles that is Brexit, for that sort of initiative these days!  Shock horror,  as we sit gazing out towards the North Sea, BP has announced that it is to double its North Sea oil production and keep extracting for the next forty years. In 2014 it was explained, in no uncertain terms, what a liability the dribble of oil that was left was for Scotland … so now the liability has just got a whole lot bigger … thanks Westminster, what would we do without you? If Scotland ever gets its independence the maritime border with England, surreptitiously redrawn in 1999 to run just off Aberdeen will have to be extended yet again to take in all the oilfields around Shetland … what fun!

KY11 3HN     tel: 01383 873370      Sundial Café TA

ps something for all our telephone box enthusiasts, not a K2 or a K6 or even made of iron. A wooden Post Office telephone box from the 1930sOne of our wonderful correspondents has just sent this picture of a wooden telephone box taken at the National Museum of Scotland. According to the information it is dated 1930s and is from the Hope Street Post Office in Edinburgh. Apparently a lot of post offices provided these payphones for customers when few people had telephones at home. Things have changed since then. Thank goodness for social media, otherwise how else would we know that Scotland’s thirteen Tory MPs had voted to remove powers from the Scottish Parliament?

The Orangery – Hopetoun

A pineapple wall decoration Orangery tearoom at New Hopetoun Garden CentreThis 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. A sign at New Hopetoun Garden CentreOn 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. Internal view of the Orangery tearoom at New Hopetoun Garden CentreIt 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. A scone at the Orangery tearoom at New Hopetoun Garden CentreThey 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.

The old Forth Road Bridge over the river Forth with the Forth Railway Bridge in the background
The Forth Road Bridge from Port Edgar with the Rail Bridge in the distance

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.

The Queensferry Crossing over the river Forth
The Queensferry Crossing from Port Edgar

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!

EH52 6QZ    tel: 01506 834433         New Hopetoun Gardens

p.s. our Trossachs correspondents sent this picture. We thought they had been quiet recently but maybe they just can’t get out .. or are just too busy building snowmen!A snowman at Kinlochard

Rankin’s Café

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. Forth Rail BridgeThe 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.

Exterior view of Rankine's Café, North Queensferry
The Rail Bridge on the left and Rankin’s on the right.

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. A scone at Rankine's Café, North QueensferryNow, 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. A scone at Rankine's Café, North QueensferryThe 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.Interior view of Rankine's Café, North QueensferryLastly, 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: Millennium Resolution plaque at North Queensferry

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?

KY11 1JG     tel: 01383 616313     Rankin’s Café

The Loft

Perhaps you are aware that we have a fondness for shops that, by today’s standards, could be termed “a wee bit old-fashioned”. Maybe it’s because of the pace of modern life, maybe it’s because of standards of service … maybe it’s just us? We don’t think of ourselves as “not keeping up” nor do we think of ourselves as particularly old but when you come across the likes of the much missed McEwens of Perth and the still current, Valentines of Crieff you do feel as if you are stepping back into a more comfortable, less frenetic world … and it’s nice.

Picture of frosted plant at Bennybeg near Crieff
Frosted hemlock at Bennybeg

Our Stenhousemuir correspondent (oft referred to as the Steni Brain Fart) once had the temerity to suggest that the sad demise of McEwens of Perth had been caused by, what he felt, was a rather caustic scone review … okay it wasn’t great but it was entirely coincidental to the downfall of our favourite shop  … the nerve! Valentines of Crieff, on the other hand, is much smaller by comparison but still alive and well and kitting out the good folk of Crieff as it has done for years. It is one of these places where, if your dress or trousers don’t fit exactly, they alter them until they do … for free. So it was that, after an hour long walk at Bennybeg Nature Trail (we saw a robin … yes, just a robin), we were back in Crieff picking up some alterations to purchases made a couple of weeks back when we were visiting an aunt (see Royal Hotel). Picture of the interior at The Loft, CrieffUnlike McEwens, Valentines does not have a café but next door is The Loft, a shop spread over three floors, selling furniture and lots of beautiful novelty items … and scones in the café at the back of the shop. Picture of a scone at The Loft, CrieffAgain we decided to have lunch then share a scone between us. In spite of it being very busy the service was great … holding back our tea and scone until we had finished lunch. Served with nice little pots of butter, jam and cream our scone was really good but just a gnat’s whisker off topscone material – good try though and we thoroughly enjoyed looking round the rest of the shop … worth a visit if you find yourself in this neck of the woods. What with the final section of the Queensferry Crossing being placed as we write, ‘bridges’ seem to be the talking point of the day. Just down the road from where we are in Crieff, Dollerie House has a crooked bridge within its grounds specifically designed to stop witches crossing. And continuing with the bridge/witch theme, Theresa May’s offer to become a bridge between Donald Trump’s USA and the EU, has been roundly rejected by the EU. Best laid plans and all that, maybe she will try holding Putin’s hand next? With Trump’s travel ban on Islamic immigrants now in place it is also interesting to look at the official US fatality figures for the past year where exactly 2 Americans were killed by Islamic immigrants compared to 21 killed by armed toddlers and 11,737 killed by other Americans … you have to think seriously about whether or not we want a bridge at all? Seems like a different world to the one at The Loft and Valentines of Crieff … long may they prosper.

PH7 4DL        tel: 01764 650008        The Loft