Tag Archives: SNP

The Portonian Bakery & Tea Rooms

This is a bit of a nostalgia trip for us, or at least for me … and it’s only three miles from home! In spite of the short distance we hardly ever visit Grangemouth because it’s not the place it used to be … not that a town whose main feature is a petrochemical refinery was ever a must-see destination for anyone. Having said that, Grangemouth during the day unfortunately always looks like Grangemouth but at night, if you squidge your eyes a bit, with all its myriad of twinkly lights, it looks like Vegas. Back in the good old days, however, it did have a lot more going for it. I started my working life directly across from the Portonian Bakery and Tea Rooms in what was then Lumley Street. The architect Philip Cocker, in his offices next to the Bon Accord pub, was my lucky employer. I was head dogsbody … used and abused by all the staff but it was a great, I thoroughly enjoyed my time there. At lunchtime we could wander down to the refinery, then owned by BP, and use their excellent canteen facilities … not sure we were supposed to be there but, in those days, no one seemed to mind. After work, on the way home, you could take a wee detour through the docks gazing up at the ships, wondering where they had come from and where they were going to next. Today, everything is very different and none of it for the better. Cocker’s and the Bon Accord no longer exist. In fact Lumley Street itself has disappeared, replaced by the awful concrete edifice that is the La Porte Precinct shopping centre. The refinery, now Ineos, is still there but owned by one man and there is no way he is going to allow you anywhere near the place never mind let you in for lunch. The docks are fenced off … Bin Laden saw to that. As Trump so eloquently puts it … sad!Internal view of the Portonian Bakery and Tea Room in Grangemouth When I worked across the road, the 60s style building that now houses The Portonian Bakery & Tea Rooms was a Victorian tenement with shops on the ground floor and houses above accessed by open spiral stone stairs round the back. The tearoom gets its name from the fact that natives of Grangemouth are referred to as Portonians. Already depressed by the state of the shopping centre we came in here for a spot of lunch and, at first, it didn’t do much to lighten our mood. The multinational Costa coffee house across the road was strangely empty but this place was busy busy … what was going on? Eventually we worked out that it had to be down to price … we had a light lunch of sandwiches and a scone with coffee and a peppermint tea for the price of a couple of coffees in Costa. If it’s a price war that’s going on we know who is winning. That did lighten the mood considerably. A scone at the Portonian Bakery and Tea Room in GrangemouthWith it being a bakery we had relatively high hopes that the scones would be topnotch. They were good but with an overall softness which is not to our own particular taste. Now, answer this question … why are packs of frozen butter so often served with soft scones?? Unless you put them in your trouser pocket our down your cleavage for a couple of minutes it is nigh on impossible to achieve any kind of satisfactory outcome. In the end they were okay but probably not as good as their strawberry tarts. We didn’t have any strawberry tarts but we thought the picture might stimulate your salivary glands.Strawberry tarts at the Portonian Bakery and Tea Room in GrangemouthSince Westminster has been going about bullying other countries into agreeing with them about how utterly dastardly Russia is, there has been barely a mention of Brexit … as distraction politics goes it has worked perfectly … what next? In 2013, politics, or at least Labour politics, took a bit of a bashing here in Grangemouth in what became known in some quarters as the Battle of Grangemouth. It wasn’t a battle as such but more of an almighty industrial dispute but it did mark the moment when labour movement finally lost its way. It descended into factionalism and Jim Ratcliffe, the owner of Ineos, rode off into the sunset with a grin like the proverbial Cheshire cat. Even with Corbyn in charge, the Labour party still has not found its way … the other day they voted with the Conservatives to oust the popularly elected SNP administration in our own Falkirk Council … unbelievable … poor old Keir Hardie, would be spinning in his grave. Nice as this trip down memory lane was we probably won’t be back anytime soon … too many memories.

FK3 8AW         no telephone          Portonian Bakery & Tea Rooms FB

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

Onich Tearoom

We were heading north for a few days but were caught up in some sort of cycling event for the first one hundred miles of our journey … a cyclist every two hundred yards with a queue of traffic waiting to overtake each one made for a very slow journey indeed. Having finally shaken them off at Ballachulish we thought a congratulatory scone was called for. Onich Hotel at the Corran Ferry was our destination of choice since neither of us had ever been there in spite of having passed it many many times in days gone by. It was sconeless, and the girl we spoke to, in her broken English,  only seemed to have the vaguest idea of what scones actually were … aarrgghh! In high dudgeon we set off for Fort William but no sooner had we started than we came on this place, Onich Tearoom … just the ticket! The eagle eyed amongst you will have immediately spotted a K6 red telephone box, currently used to store baby seats for the tearoom. We couldn’t get access to the manufacturer’s label but it would almost certainly have been made in Kirkintilloch.

K6 telephone box in Buenes Aires
K6 in Buenos Aires

We say “almost certainly” because our indomitable Trossachs correspondents, on return from their K6 experience in St Kitts & Nevis,  remembered a similar experience in Buenos Aires a couple of years back … what are they like? When they looked out the photos, however, they were surprised to see that it was made by the Carron Company in Falkirk and thought it might be a fake. Definitely not a fake … a few K6s were indeed made in Falkirk but the vast majority were made in Kirkintilloch … on the other hand all K4s (the ones incorporating a post box) were made in Falkirk … first to send a picture of one of these wins a prize!

Internal view of Onich tearoom with K2 souvenir telephone box
Onich tearoom with K2 souvenir telephone box

To confuse things even further they had K2s for sale inside the tearoom … but they were almost certainly all made in China. Sconey purists are probably thinking that we are getting carried away with telephone boxes rather than concentrating on the day job  … scones. Apologies but we do keep coming across them and they do raise a lot of comment. For the allaboutthescones definitive guide to telephone boxes click here. A scone at Onich TearoomAnyway, enough of that for the moment, back to the job in hand! We ordered two fruit scones to go with our tea. Our friendly helpful host brought them with a generous portion of jam and a pat of Irish butter but, although freshly baked that morning by his wife, we felt that there was just something missing in the taste department … couldn’t quite put our finger on it … enjoyable enough but no topscone! Onich, lies on the shores of Loch Linnhe just short of Fort William and its name in Gaelic means ‘frothy bay’. At one time it was considered to be one of the prettiest villages in Scotland, however, on our visit it was a wee bit dreich (raining) so we did not see it at its best. Old postcard of Onich village ... prettiest village in ScotlandNothing dreich about Scotland’s economy according to the latest figures. It is both bewildering and amusing to see the media’s treatment of the news that Scotland’s economy is doing four times better than the rest of the UK after ten years of SNP government. After years of delightedly reporting that Scotland’s economy was on its knees they are still trying to spin this into a bad news story. The government’s spokesman, Rupert Murdoch, eventually resorted to saying in The Times, that it was all down to the influence of London … we hope they remember that when Scotland’s economy is not doing so well because then, of course, it is all the Scottish government’s fault.

View from Onich Tearoom
View from Onich tearoom towards Ardgour and Ardnamurchan

PH33 6RY         tel: 01855 821230              Onich Tearoom TA

The Butterchurn

There are plenty of things that change as you get older but no one  ever mentioned to us that you start to run out of aunties. Between us we used to have loads of them but, sadly, now we only have two … and one of them lives here in Kirkintilloch and we are taking her out for lunch. Kirkie is a fair distance from our home town of Falkirk yet both towns are very much connected: a) the Forth & Clyde canal runs through both b) the Roman Antonine Wall runs through both and c) they both have an illustrious history in iron manufacturing. Aficianados of the world famous red telephone box know that almost all the K2 and K6 versions were made here in the Lion foundry and, of course, every single one of the limited edition K4s were made at Carron in Falkirk. For non-aficianados we have put together a handy guide which will hopefully help avoid any confusion. K2, K6 and K4 red telephone boxesAnyway, now that we have cleared that up, our aunt wanted to buy some plants for her garden so where better than Caulder’s Garden Centre right here in Kirkie which is also home to the Butterchurn Coffee House. Although we had been warned it was always busy we did not expect to be told that we would have to wait twenty minutes for a table .. and it’s not as if it is short of tables, it’s quite a big place. We were put on a waiting list.Internal view of the Butter Churn Coffee Shop, KirkintillochTrue to their word, however, we went back later and within a couple of minutes we had a table. The serving staff, although rushed off their feet, were very friendly and welcoming in that uniquely Glasgow kind of way … you find yourself talking about the weather, children and the price of tea in China in the act of giving your order. We had ordered a scone but decided, since we were having other things, to share it three ways. A scone at the Butter Churn Coffee Shop, KirkintillochUnfortunately it appeared with all the other food so we had to look at it all the way through lunch … and it did not look at all promising. Well, you would think, with our intensive studies in sconology, that we would be able to spot a good scone at some distance … you would be wrong, it was excellent, what do we know? We like our scones to be a little bit crunchy on the outside and soft in the middle but this one wasn’t, it was all soft but with a lovely texture … delicious! Nice jam and whipped cream as well. They also do lumpy bumpy cake … don’t ask!

View from the Butter Churn Coffee Shop, Kirkintilloch
View with the Campsie Fells in the distance

There have been other surprises recently! For us the biggest was how far the main stream media, including the ‘impartial’ BBC, went in distorting the facts about the local council elections. They managed to turn it, with just 20% of the vote, into a triumph for the Tories … apparently the SNP are going to have to rethink their entire strategy and drop all thoughts of independence … eh, the clue is in the name? What actually happened was that the SNP, after 10 years in power, increased their vote and took control of all the major cities whereas the unionist vote decreased … it takes real skill to twist that into a disaster for independence but par for the course really. The Tories did increase their vote but only because Labour voters could not bring themselves to vote Labour and switched, unbelievably in Scotland, to Tory. Table decoration at the Butter Churn Coffee Shop, KirkintillochIn France, Emmanuel Macron has become President! Perhaps not that surprising, but surprising in that no one seemed to like either candidate, they just voted for what they saw as the lesser of two evils. What has happened to world politics … everything is anti: anti-immigration, anti-EU, anti-globilisation, anti-this, anti-that? Our Kirkintilloch aunty is a wee treasure however … we had a great lunch and a surprise topscone. Apologies for the homophonics.Graphic for the Butter Churn Coffee Shop, Kirkintilloch

G66 1QF        tel: 0141 776 2304          Butterchurn Coffee Shop

Callendar House (revisited)

A billboard at Callendar House tearoom, FalkirkIn our original post, almost two years ago, we gave Callendar House a bit of a hard time and appealed to Falkirk Community Council to pull their socks up and provide something a little better. Well … we got a tip off in the form of this photo from our Trossachs correspondents, remember them? They are mostly dormant in winter but the fresh spring air has obviously stirred them and they sent this picture from a recent visit … they also reported an improvement in the scones! Philosophically the blackboard message gets right to the heart of everything … perhaps another visit was required.  As a slight aside, because my dad worked for Callendar Estate, when the contents of the house were been auctioned off in 1963, I, as a mere youth, was given the task of patrolling one of the floors, which included Mary Queen of Scots bedroom, to ensure that nothing was stolen. Didn’t someone pinch a full set of crystal decanters and glasses from her room … arrgghh! As far as I can remember I still got paid! The marriage agreement between Mary and the French Dauphin, Francis, which provided that Scotland and France should eventually be united as one kingdom, was signed here. Mary was fifteen and Francis fourteen when they were married in the cathedral of Notre Dame, Paris … the rest, as they say, is history. Interesting to speculate though on what things would be like now if Scotland had united with France rather than England.Internal view of Callendar House tearoom, FalkirkThe tearoom is housed in a beautiful old wood paneled room with ornate gilded cornicing. The publicity says “the newly refurbished Callendar House Tearoom offers a bright and airy café experience” … and it does, with nice views from the tall windows onto the expansive lawns and gardens.  The refurbishment however has involved replacing all the tables and chairs we complained about last time with equally modern featureless items which although better are still slightly incongruous. For such a grand setting, more appropriate Victoriana could easily have been purchase from auctions at a fraction of the cost … a lost opportunity! We have got to hand it to the staff however who have to work one of the most inefficient systems known to man … the kitchen is miles away, the cakes and pastries are at the furthest away point from the kitchen and the till is half way in between … they have to walk many unnecessary miles every day … but they seem to do so happily, well done them! A scone at Callendar House tearoom, FalkirkWhat’s with all this moaning we hear you say? Exactly, let’s get on to the scones. Our correspondents turned out to be absolutely correct,  they were much improved, very good even … not quite topscone but close. Again no local produce, the jam was the ubiquitous Tiptree variety and the butter was completely anonymous but heyho the overall experience was much better than last time … small steps. Thanks to our Trossachs correspondents for the heads-up! Just started getting our Council Election bumf through the door. Our sitting Tory counciller has a large fancy pamphlet completely devoid of policies except ” SNP bad” … probably all you can say if you can’t think of anything good to say about your own party! Logo of Callendar House tearoom, FalkirkFK1 1YR         tel: 01324 503770          Callendar House

The Tufted Duck Tearoom

Sometimes we go to the Scottish Antique & Arts Centre, either at Doune or Abernyte. Within a mile or so of Abernyte is the Rait Antiques Centre which we had not visited in a long time … and it’s all changed. It used to have a tiny café area at one end of the old cart shed but now the café seems to have taken over the entire place. There are still loads of antiques in this and the other studios but now you can sit anywhere and  the ambience is much more in keeping. It is no doubt down to the hard work and energy of Tim Hardie who has run the café since 2009. It was a nice surprise to see how it had developed … but how would the scones stack up? Tufted Duck 01Shock, horror, the people who were served before us had taken all but the last scone and we were fearful that the last specimen would also go before we had been served. No worries, Tim had reserved it specially for us … what a guy! The coffee was great and the scone was very good too. It wasn’t home baked but it was very light and somewhat cake-like in taste and texture. When we asked the somewhat frazzled Tim why he did not bake his own scones he just gave us a withering look and flew past at a hundred miles and hour. Tufted Duck 04Actually, even though he was extremely busy, he still manged to have a bit of friendly banter with everyone so well done him. Earlier in the day we had been in Perth and had had an interesting and lively encounter with a lovely lady who just happened to be a Tory. Now you might think that meeting a Tory in Perthshire is hardly something to write home about but this lady was especially lovely and especially lively. She, of course, declared that our Nicola was the devil incarnate and that everything to do with her and her party was indeed BAD … just as the media would have you believe. Now you would think, when the media never publish or broadcast anything about the SNP unless it is ‘SNPbad‘, that this is hardly surprising, however it is surprising that this attitude can prevail, even amongst ‘died in the wool’ unionists, when all the actual evidence points the other way. If they look at the facts, even hard nosed unionists should be prepared to admit that the SNP’s record in office is one of which they can be rightly proud. While Scotland’s democratic deficit starts to resemble the Grand Canyon, unionists seem to find it quite acceptable that  Scotland has absolutely no say whatsoever in what happens to it. The UK is clearly no longer fit for purpose, unionists, especially lovely lady ones, should be preparing for an amicable divorce rather than simply casting aspersions.

PH2 7RT       tel: 01821 670760      The Tufted Duck Tearoom TA

London Wetlands

Most of you will know by now that we are not just one-trick ponies … simply obsessed with scones to the exclusion of everything else. No, no, no we have many other wide ranging interests which might be considered more ‘normal’ … photographing sheds for instance! By comparison, bird-watching may seem fairly mainstream but that is another interest and it is perhaps more than a little ironic that most of our bird-watching, these days, occurs in the centre of London, here at the London Wetlands Centre, just a few minutes from Hammersmith. Opened in 2000 it provides an oasis for wildlife and a place of tranquility for people in the heart of London’s suburbs. It is a follow-on from Sir Peter Scott’s (son of Antartic explorer Captain Scott) original wildfowl centre at Slimbridge which opened in 1946. Considering the immense pressure on city centre land it is nothing short of miraculous that this huge area has survived intact and is preserved for all to enjoy its wildlife. It has many bird-hides but, with everything being bigger and better in the capital, of course, it has a three story hide .. with a lift!! It is also the closest we will probably ever get to a bittern, an elusive wading bird with a strange booming mating call, without actually seeing one … they are there, just very secretive. Of the people we speak to, most have never seen one either .. or they saw one yesterday … arrrgghh!! Wetlands 01Wetlands 05Anyway the Wetland scone is not nearly so difficult to find. With it having so many attractions for youngsters this is a favourite spot for many families trying to amuse and educate their children … so a large cafe facility is an absolute must. Wetlands 04It’s a no-frills, self-service kind of place and as is often the way when there is nowhere else to go, relatively expensive for what you get. Wetlands 07Actually the scones are quite good. No cream but a little jar of jam and a decent scone for £2.35 is not too bad.

London, like Scotland, voted to remain in the EU and now faces being hauled out against it’s will … there is much consternation and gnashing of teeth! A couple of weeks have now elapsed since the vote and we seem no closer to having any idea of where the UK is heading. Scotland will almost certainly go for another referendum on independence and here, it seems, many wish they could join us. Next time will be different for Indyref2 because almost everyone has now had experience of what Scotland was subjected to in 2014 when the entire political establishment (except the SNP and the Greens), the entire print and broadcast media as well as the Civil Service all joined together to peddle anti-independence lies and deceptions (one cracker was that the only way for Scotland to remain in the EU was to vote NO) .. and still only managed to win a narrow majority. Voters, not just in Scotland, have witnessed just how low politicians and the media can stoop. Convincing the elderly, however, who rely on newspapers and TV for information and who lost the independence vote last time, may still be an uphill task.

After the EU vote, Ratty sets off to destinations unknown on HMS Great Britain
After the EU vote, Ratty sets off to destinations unknown on HMS Great Britain

If you get the chance take a stroll through the London Wetlands, you will not believe that you are anywhere near the heart of the city. The only giveaway is the overhead jetliners every 90 seconds but even they don’t detract from the overall sense of peace and quiet.

SW13 9WT          tel: 020 8409 4400         London Wetlands

The Douglas Hotel

We arrived a day early for our Scottish Wildlife Trust outing on Arran and stayed the first night at one of our favourite places, the Kilmichael Country House in Glen Cloy. There were peacocks all over the place and we thought that they would give us a sneaky head start over everyone else with our bird list, but they are a pernickety lot in the SWT and we were left in no doubt that peacocks were not allowed on the list .. verboten! The rest of our stay was to be here at the Douglas in Brodick, just a stone’s throw from the ferry terminal. Built from locally quarried red sandstone in 1782 it spent some time as the doctor’s house until eventually becoming a hotel in 1852.

the MacNab
the MacNab

A couple of years ago it underwent complete modernisation and now terms itself ’boutique’. If ’boutique’ means having vast beds then it definitely qualifies for that sobriquet … if there’s anyone in bed with you, you certainly had to go searching in order to find them! Not sure why they have a large portrait of ‘The MacNab’ in reception but maybe he liked the beds as well … he never married but had 35 illegitimate children. Anyway, there was no way we were going to be able to stay here for the best part of a week without sampling their scones so we thought we might as well get it over and done with. Douglas 01We decided to sit out on the patio area overlooking Brodick Bay while a young cheery chap from Kilmarnock buzzed to and fro bringing us tea, coffee, scones etc. The scones were good, full of fruit but hot, almost too hot to handle. Pat had a cheese scone but it had to be left to cool down as well. Not topscones but who cares when you get great service and all you have to do is sit and watch the ferries coming and going … if there is one in you wonder when it will leave and if there isn’t one in you wonder when one will arrive .. exciting!

View from our table
View from our table

The dust has now settled on the elections and, in Scotland, the media have hailed the results in rather peculiar ways. They have made much of Labour’s continuing failure to recognise that Scotland has changed. They have also trumpeted the Tory’s supposed rejuvenation?? When the Scottish Tory vote collapsed to 24% in 1987 under the much hated Margaret Thatcher, who would have thought that a trifling 30 years later it would have rebounded to 22% .. what are they on about? One thing the media has not made much of is the SNP success. Their achievement – increasing seats and votes after almost 10 years in power is truly astounding yet gets only grudging acknowledgment, if it gets any at all. Anyway, who cares when all you have to do is sit in the sunshine eating scones, watching ferries come and go … oh, and the red breasted mergansers swimming in the bay … lots of them, and they’re allowed!

KA27 8AW     tel: 01770 302968      Douglas Hotel

Café Aroma

The A9, between Perth and Inverness, is a Marmite kind of road … you either love or hate it .. most people hate it and we are with them. Having only short stretches of dual-carriageway it can be extremely frustrating when you can only go as fast as the slowest thing on the road. On our way north, the road was so busy we barely got above 45mph for most of the way … arrrgghh! On the way south however, because we had do a drop-off at Inverness airport, we were already off the A9, so we decided to carry on to Nairn then down the A939 through Granton-on-Spey, Aviemore and Newtonmore. Our scone-stop this time was the Aroma Café in KingussieKingussie 02aIn gaelic, the name ‘Kingussie’, means ‘head of the pine forest’ and its main claims to fame are a) the ruins of the nearby infantry barracks at Ruthven which was destroyed by Bonnie Prince Charlie’s forces in 1746, after Culloden b) Guinness Book of Record’s claim that the Kingussie shinty team is the most successful sporting team of all time c) the town’s part in the film Slumdog Millionaire. The question was, would the Aroma Café add to this list by getting a much coveted topscone award? Inside, it is a wee bit tired looking and initially we had problems getting any of the staff to notice that we had come in but, once they did, we were looked after very well. Kingussie 04The scones, when they came, had been warmed to within an inch of their lives … quite hot. Maybe no bad thing in itself, however, too much fruit and a heavy base to the scone meant that there were not going to be any award ceremonies going on here any time soon. On the plus side they did have a wide range of jams (all pre-packaged) and there was also a tub of clotted cream .. from Cornwall?? It’s difficult to say how the A9 has affected places like the Aroma Café. We can remember when all traffic came thundering through the High Street but now it is much quieter … hardly any cars. On the other hand, hardly any of that thundering traffic ever stopped here so maybe it does not make that much difference … whatever .. the Aroma will have to up its game if it wants us to stop off here in future. Kingussie 01Now that we are heading south again we are beginning to see election posters for parties other than the SNP. Further north it was glaringly obvious that the lampposts etc only carried SNP posters .. we went coast to coast and never saw a single poster for any other party .. very strange, have they thrown in the towel already?

PH21 1HZ    tel: 01540 661020    Cafe Aroma FB

Acoustic Café

“Sounds like great coffee” … that’s the strap line for this latest addition to the Falkirk café scene, the Acoustic Café. Not sure what great coffee sounds like, other than the deafening sound of their own coffee machine (it really is the loudest), but we feel it probably indicates a bit of confused thinking around the concept of selling coffee and guitars together in the one place. Acoustic 07So, is the Acoustic Cafe a coffee shop that sells guitars or a guitar shop that sells coffee, we’re not sure, it does not seem to do either particularly well, kind of falls between two stools, so to speak. As a guitar shop it has a good range of very nice guitars … all well and good you might think but we suspect that more attention has been paid to this aspect of the business than the cafe side … and if anything it should be the other way round. Some fundamentals are just not there; the coffee may sound great but what about the taste … it is not up to the standard of it’s near competitors, the staff are not trained to the same standard as it’s near competitors … the sole member of staff on two of our visits was unsure of just about everything. Worst of all, of course, the scones are decidedly average.Acoustic 06 Not home baked, a bit dry and powdery … nowhere near a topscone. On the up-side it has a nice funky interior which differentiates it from the rest and offers loads of potential. Also, it has only been in existence for a couple of months so maybe we should cut it some slack. If it can concentrate more on the cafe side of things we hope it goes on to make sweet music and  much better coffee and scones for many years to come. Music to the ears, that’s what we call the Scottish Government’s current stance in the negotiations with the U.K. government over settlement of the new fiscal framework for Scotland. Instead of giving the ‘sweeping new powers’ promised after the referendum, now it seems that any new powers will have to be paid for through reduced funding … not even vaguely in the spirit of the Smith Commission. Thank goodness for the SNP .. if it had been up to a Labour led administration they would have undoubtedly rolled over to their London masters long ago and Scotland would be much worse off as a result. To end on a high note, the Acoustic Café did manage to introduce a new word to our lexicon .. luthier; someone who makes or repairs stringed instruments, a service available through the cafe.Acoustic 04

FK2 7AS            tel: 01324 638297      Acoustic Cafe FB