Tag Archives: Theresa May

Buttercup Cafe

Can’t actually remember the last time we were in North Berwick but it was certainly some years ago. On this visit, if it wasn’t for the fact that we know better, we would say that everyone in town was more than a little devious, Machiavellian even … you know who you are! But that’s another story. Sign for the Buttercup Cafe in North BerwickNorth Berwick itself is a lovely little seaside town with lots of art galleries, craft shops, restaurants and cafes. It consists almost entirely of rather grand Victorian houses and is surrounded by golf courses … and, to top it all off, not content with one beach, North Berwick has two. It was called North Berwick to distinguish it from South Berwick (now Berwick-on-Tweed) which, at one time was in Scotland rather than England. In the 16th century the town was a hotbed of witchcraft with many more witches being tried here  than anywhere else. One Agnes Sampson was accused of making a potion which made the seas rough for King James VI and his new wife, Anne of Denmark on their return voyage to Scotland. In 1591 she was tortured until a confession was obtained then burned at the stake. Thankfully there’s not so much of that sort of thing going on these days, or at least we did not see anything like that on our visit.Internal view of the Buttercup Cafe in North BerwickThe tiny Buttercup Cafe is in the centre of town and has just a four tables and a serving counter. The predominant decor is surf boards. Now although the waves just a few meters from the door were definitely big enough for surfing the temperature, at a smidgen above freezing, definitely was not … brrrr! A scone at the Buttercup Cafe in North BerwickThe welcome here though was very warm and we were soon kitted out with a fruit and a plain scone and offered a wide range of jams to go with them. They were nicely presented and each scone came with a generous pot of clotted cream .. what’s not to like? Nothing as it happens but we eventually decided that, wonderful as they were, the scones were not quite topscones … shame. Isn’t it wonderful how, with no proof whatsoever, Putin has been branded public enemy number one because of the Sergei Skripal affair. We are not taking Putin’s side, far from it, but we do think he has good reason to more than a little disgruntled at the actions of the West recently and May’s refusal to provide him with a sample of the deadly toxin is impolite if not Machiavellian. In fact, knickers have become so twisted that Brexit has barely got a mention recently … gosh, who would have thought it!

West beach, North Berwick
Stormy day on west beach, North Berwick

EH39 4HE    tel: 01620 894985     Buttercup Cafe FB

p.s. This K6, constructed in the Lion Foundry, Kirkintilloch was found at the west end of the High Street in North Berwick. It had been converted for use as a cash machine but retained an outside telephone … for very small people??A K6 converted to a cash machine in North Berwick

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!

The Beast from the East

This is not a proper scone post. It is simply an attempt to reassure all those kind sconeys (particularly those in the southern hemisphere) who have enquired after our well-being in the face of the Beast from the East, Putin’s gift to the west. We are fine though things in general are pretty bad e.g. we have just heard that pastries from Greggs have been declared legal tender! The title picture is of our car which hasn’t moved for almost a week. We can hear readers in Canada and Norway screaming “they call that snow”? Okay, okay, don’t mock! Unlike you, when we get snow, we  just wait for it to go away the next day … but this time it has been here for days! Nothing in Britain has moved much in the last week … very few cars on the roads, no trains, no flights … but you know all that! Let us give you an instance about how Britain is coping. Yesterday, late afternoon, we decided to venture out as far as our local pub just to get out and have a walk if nothing else. We walked along the middle of the road, standing aside every time a car came along … only two passed. There was no one else out, the whole place was eerily quiet. We fully expected the pub to be  deserted, just a few hardy regulars, but no, it was ramjammed, we could hardly get in! We asked the harassed looking barmaid why it was so busy “cos nobody’s at their efing work” was the reply. That’s how Britain copes … just go to the pub! We don’t have any pictures of scones to share but we are sending you this one of a partial scone. It was sent by one of our correspondents who has a home office at the bottom of his garden. His wife had baked some scones and braved the snow and the icy wind to bring some, complete with apricot jam, to her beloved. He thought that he would send us a picture but, in his heightened state of ecstasy, promptly forgot until there was barely anything left.What's left of a scone and apricot jamWe can only apologise dear readers, but good competent scone correspondents are difficult to come by these days ..  a bit like politicians. We had to admire Theresa May saying that the EU would have to compromise  … is there a thinly veiled threat in there “if you don’t compromise we won’t leave”? Once again, thanks for all your concern but hopefully we will be out and about very soon and normal sconology will be resumed.

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 Gallery Café

Gosh, it’s been a while. We have both been so caught up with other things that scones have had to take a back seat … disgraceful, we know. Yesterday, however, we managed to tear ourselves away from building works to attend a St Andrews Day book launch at the Stirling Smith Art Gallery and Museum and it just so happened that, in the Gallery Café, they had scones … back in harness.Cover of the An Eagle In A Henhouse book by Lachlan Munro The launch was for a new book by Lachlan Munro on the political speeches of Robert Bontine Cunninghame Graham. Regular readers will know that we have a bit of a soft spot for Graham. He is a national hero in Argentina, where he was a gaucho for many years, yet remains a relatively obscure character at home in Scotland and the UK. He was a landowning aristocrat who lived only a short distance from Stirling and during his flamboyant and adventurous life became friends with George Bernard Shaw, Oscar Wilde, Keir Hardy and the likes. He tried to get justice for oppressed people wherever they were, be they crofters, miners, women or even Sioux Indians. He hated politicians but became one and managed to get himself thrown out of Westminster on three occasions for disrespecting the House … an mighty achievement in itself. He even spent time in jail for taking part in a Trafalgar Square march in support of Irish home rule. His ability to ruffled feathers gave rise to the book’s name “An Eagle In A Hen-House”. Although a founder of both the Scottish Labour Party and the Scottish National Party the launch had politicians from all parties reading extracts from the book. There must have been a couple of hundred people at the launch so when formal proceedings came to a close they all descended on the Gallery Café at the same time … chaos! A scone at the Stirling Smith Art Gallery and MuseumEventually we managed to get a scone … the first we had had in ages. It was nowhere near a topscone but given the time since our last one, we thoroughly enjoyed it. No cream but plenty jam and butter … and the coffee was excellent. The Stirling Smith was founded in 1874 from money given by local artist Thomas Stuart Smith and has continued as a public-private partnership to this day for the benefit of the citizens of Stirling, Dunblane and Kinbuck … long may it continue! Floor sign for the Stirling Smith Art Gallery and MuseumAs we were leaving to go home we were alarmed to come across what we initially thought was the disembodied head of our prime minister … turned out to be nothing more than a left-over from halloween  … phew!Pumpkin outside the Stirling Smith Art Gallery and MuseumFK8 2RQ       tel: 01786 471917    The Gallery Cafe FB

The Carnegie Courthouse

Dornoch is a beautiful little town and, over the past few years, we have already reported on two other scones here, Gordon House and Dornoch Castle, so it was a something of a surprise when our Trossachs correspondents gave us a heads up on yet another … at the Carnegie Courthouse. Many people come here for the town’s history, or the beach or just to wander among the cafés and antique shops … so it’s quite busy even at this time of year. This scone like the other two are in a cluster around the Cathedral. Although the courthouse was built in 1849 it only began life as a tearoom/shop in 2013. It was named after Andrew Carnegie who was not only the richest man in the world at one time but lived locally in Skibo Castle and was a great benefactor for the town. Name plaque at the Carnegie Courthouse, DornochThe tearoom features a mural depicting the courtroom as it would have been when in use and portraying some of the local faces. It is great that as well as the likes of Carnegie, the Duke of Sutherland, Madonna (she got married in the Cathedral) and Tom Watson the golfer, there is also Janet Horn (the last witch burned in Dornoch), Bill Wright the local milkman and, most importantly, Carol MacKay the proprietor of the tearoom

A mural at the Carnegie Courthouse, DornochSo what was our third Dornoch scone like? Very good actually so there was not too much difficulty making a topscone award. Pat had cheese and I had fruit but they were both deliciously crunchy on the outside and wonderfully soft and light inside. A scone at the Carnegie Courthouse, DornochThe whole place has a good atmosphere and we were very well looked after by the staff. As you can probably gather we are fond of this town so who knows when we might find ourselves returning … yet another Dornoch gem not to be missed. But what would these good folks in the above courtroom have made of the current state of the UK government? Just after the last General Election we asked you to guess how many scone blogs there would be before Theresa May had to resign. There have been quite a lot more than we had imagined and, wonder of wonders, she is still hanging on, albeit by the skin of her teeth. It begs the question though … just how bad does her administration have to get before she is sufficiently ashamed and does the decent thing? There are two problems a) she doesn’t seem to have any shame and b) who would replace her? Chances are, unimaginable as it is, it could be worse. In the courtroom, you can almost see the perplexed looks on their faces

IV25 3SD    tel: 01862 811632     The Carnegie Courthouse

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

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

Kinloch Castle

Another beautiful day and this time we are on the Isle of Rùm. From where we are staying on Eigg, Rùm dominates the view from almost everywhere. Before we go further, perhaps a little background info on Rùm is called for. Many moons ago the island had a population of around 450 but in 1826, the owner loaded 300 on to the ships, Highland Lad and the Dove of Harmony, and sent them to Canada. The following year the rest of the population were sent on their way on the St Lawrence along with 150 from the Isle of Muck which he owned as well. A local shepherd related “The people of the island were carried off in one mass, for ever, from the sea-girt spot where they were born and bred… The wild outcries of the men and heart-breaking wails of the women and children filled all the air between the mountainous shore of the bay“. The people were replaced with what was seen to be more profitable sheep but the whole enterprise failed when the owner declared bankruptcy about twenty years later and ended up in a worse state than his previous tenants … just deserts, maybe?

Approaching the Isle of Rum
Approaching Rum on the Sheerwater ferry

More recently the island was owned by the Bullough family who made their fortune in Accrington from manufacturing machinery for the cotton industry. They wanted to turn the island into their own private playground and sporting estate. George Bullough built Kinloch Castle in 1900 using stone brought from the Isle of Arran. He didn’t scrimp. Fourteen under-gardeners, who were paid extra to wear kilts, worked on the extensive grounds that included a nine-hole golf course, tennis and squash courts, heated turtle and alligator ponds and an aviary including birds of paradise and humming birds. 230,000 tons of soil for the grounds was imported from Ayrshire and figs, peaches, grapes and nectarines were grown in greenhouses.

Internal view of Kinloch Castle on the Isle of Rum
the entrance hall to the castle

The interior boasted an orchestrion that could simulate the sounds of brass, drum and woodwind, an air-conditioned billiards room, and a jacuzzi. It even had electricity and flushing toilets when these things were almost unheard of on the mainland. Kinloch became party central for the aristocracy and the shenanigans that occurred there became the stuff of legend and drove a massive rumour mill into a state of near hysteria. They renamed the island “Rhum” because Bullough did not like being called the “Laird of Rum”. The island was eventualy bought by Scottish Natural Heritage and currently has a population of around 30. In the last couple of years SNH have arranged for land and assets around the village of Kinloch to be transferred to the community giving individuals control over their own destinies … lets hope it is as successful as the similar venture on Eigg. The tearoom on Rùm is in the village hall just next to the castle. We asked for a scone but they said they only had cherry cake. Faced with Hobson’s Choice we agreed to have a piece of cake with our coffee. When we made our way outside to sit in the sunshine we were regaled with the news that they didn’t actually have any cherry cake … would we like a packet of crisps?? The lady, seeing our disappointment, said that she could have given us a piece of chocolate cake but she hadn’t had time to put the icing on it. Eventually she agreed to let us have a piece of plain chocolate cake … and it was very nice. Apologies, we would have loved to have brought you a Rum scone. They do know when the ferries come in (there must have been at least 60 people on ours) so it is not as if a sudden influx  comes as a surprise … difficult to explain such a situation … hey ho, chocolate cake it had to be! Just to ease your disappointment, however, we can provide some pictures of a lovely K6 telephone box we came across … made in the Lion Foundry, Kirkintilloch and used for growing geraniums. It is in a stunning location and has a lifebelt and an anchor decorating its exterior … could be in line for the prettiest K6 award … unless you know better, of course? After the rigors of Eigg we don’t want to labour the point further but while we were having our plain piece of chocolate cake we met a lovely couple from Yorkshire. We met them again on the ferry going back to Eigg and when we asked them why they had nettles sticking out of their bag they said they were making a ‘holiday cord’ with nettles from all the places they had visited … and you thought we were mad! In another attempt to make up for the derth of scones we offer you a pictorial guide to nettle chordage.

Demonstration of nettle cording
A demonstration of nettle cording on the ferry back to Eigg

First you remove the leaves (unless you are some sort of masochist, use gloves) then split the stem with your nail or other similar implement, throw away the internal woody bit then let the outer fibrous sheathes dry for a wee while before twisting as pictured. Your cord can end up as long as you like by carefully pleating all the stems together. It ends up very strong. By the way, Pat got a Sea Eagle and some kittiwakes to add to her bird list … very happy girl again.

Skye from the Isle of Rum
Skye across the Sea of the Hebrides,  black Cuillin in the middle, red Cuillin to the right

Theresa May is still hanging on! This is our seventh scone post since the election and she is still there … almost admiring her tenacity … or is it just sheer stupidity? Don’t let the dire scone situation put you off visiting Rùm, it is quite simply spectacular and maybe by the time you get there they will have got themselves sorted out … don’t forget your nettles. Hopefully we will have better luck on the romantically named Isle of Muck.

PH43 4RR      tel: 01687 462037      Kinloch Castle