My Old Uncle and New Deer Abbey

When my great Uncle Jim died, approxiamately 12 years ago, my mum and her sisters were left with the task of clearing the house that he had shared with his brother, Tom, in Old Deer, Aberdeenshire. As they slowly emptied the house into black bin liners my mum came across a book she had heard Tom talking about with her mum many, many years before. It turns out Uncle Tom was the Custodian of New Deer Abbey and it was being closed to the public. What she had overheard was Tom telling his sister he had taken a book for safekeeping as, like the Abbey, it would go to rack and ruin if left unattended. The book he had been talking about was a 1st Edition of A Book of The Parish of Deir dated 1896.

My mum, obviously, spared the book from the bin bag and it’s been on her bookshelf and her IMAG0001conscience ever since. Inside the book was a newspaper cutting with a story, “He looks after historic ruins”, and a photo of Uncle Tom  tending to the grounds of the Abbey. The newspaper was dated 1962.

This weekend, OH (other half) and I were intending to head west for a weekend of camping but as Sean Batty was forecasting a very wet Tayvallich we decided instead, to head north to a hotel, The Saplinbrae Hotel in Mintlaw. The hotel is very close to New Deer Abbey so I mentioned this and the book to my mum who jumped at the chance of finding a new home for the book.

When we arrived at the hotel I explained about our dilemma and was told that although the Abbey was once more open to the public, no-one actually ‘manned’ it. I was also advised to go to the farming museum in Aden Country Park and if I couldn’t find someone to talk to about the book there, the chap who does the pat tests for the hotel was a historian and they could contact him for me if needs be. I think they were just as eager as my mum was to find a new home for the book.

OH and I went first to the Abbey and had a IMG_20180811_163530_231look round. It was easy to work out where my great uncle had stood in the newspaper photograph since nothing had changed since 1962 but not so easy to picture the Cistercian monks as they wandered around what would have been an amazing abbey in 1219.

As no-one else was around we headed off to Aden Country Park and the farming museum. In there we looked at old pieces of farming equipment and black and white photographs of people who used to live in the area. Disappointingly, I saw none that could have been relatives of mine. In the Horseman’s House, where you could see how people used to live in the 1830s, one of the museum curators chatted to us about the difficulties of living in a house with no electricity, running water or indoor toilet (I was immediately reminded, and thankful, I wasn’t camping) and whilst chatting I decided to share the book with her. She was in awe. She told me she should be wearing gloves but this did not stop her fanning the book open and gasping at the photos inside it. She then radioed her Supervisor, Pam, and asked her to come and see the book. Pam was entranced by the book and said she could sit and read it all day. She asked if my mum would want to donate it to the museum and then went onto explain that we would need to go through the proper channels and take the book to HQ and get a receipt for it. With no other plans I said that would be fine. We then went back to reception and she phoned HQ.  It turned out it was only admin on site and the woman who would normally deal with donations doesn’t work Saturdays.  Pam then wrote down all the woman’s details and asked me to phone her on Monday. Basically this meant taking the book back home, making a phone call and then having to post the book back up. Due to red tape I could not simply leave the book at the museum.  IMAG9988

Pam then asked if she could photocopy the newspaper cutting of my great uncle and the front of the book. She explained she wanted to have something to share the story with the public as the book would possibly sit in HQ and her and her staff would have to make appointments to go and see it in HQ after I had posted it up.

She then took me into the back room where the photocopier was stored. As we waited on it heating up she told me she was just back from Colonsay where her and her husband had been on holiday. Her husband was a minister so he had taken the sermon and she had written the address for the children. She said although the walk up to the church had been covered in sheep poo she was surprised to find 30 people in the congregation as well as 2 dogs plus her own. She said the atmoshpere was amazing.

As she looked through the book, picking things to photocopy, she showed me a picture of her house in the book and told me other interesting anecdotes. I could tell she loved it.

Copies made, we said our goodbyes and I walked away with the book under my arm. As I spoke to OH I told him about my conversation. How she had completely appreciated the book and how much hassle taking the book back home was going to be. We both knew what we were going to do. We turned round.

I went back in to reception and said, “I’ve been thinking. My mum would want this book to go to a good home, to someone who appreciates it so I want to gift this book personally to you Pam.”

Pam looked stunned but really happy. “Do you want to donate it to the farming museum?”

“No, personally to you and then you can do whatever you like with it. If you then want to donate it to the museum that is up to you but I am giving it to you.”

She made me sign a piece of paper saying I was gifting it to her and got her colleagues to witness it to ensure everything was above board. She said she was going to share the book with her staff and the woman who was in charge of The Book of Deer Project and she could not have looked happier.

I left feeling like I had done the right thing, it felt great.

My mum now also feels really good, knowing the book is now going to be appreciated and not hidden from view but most of all because her conscience is now clear.

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Fairy Walk, Doon Hill, Aberfoyle

There is a mystical walk you can do if you ever find yourself in Aberfoyle on a clear day.IMAG8296 Doon Hill is on the outskirts of Aberfoyle and said to be home to the fairies. It’s a easy route (I know because I managed it and I hate going up hills) and has some stunning views from the top. It’s not for buggies or wheelchairs but I think most children aged 4 and over could manage it.

When we did the walk we parked in the Woollen Mill car park (at the opposite end from it). We then walked over the stone bridge and along past houses on our right and a couple of snorting pigs on our left. Next on the left is an auld kirk where there is a gravestone for IMAG8301Pastor Kirk who was fascinated by fairies and folklore. So much so he wrote a book giving away the fairies secrets, which annoyed the fairies so much they kidnapped him and imprisoned his soul in a pine tree on top of Doon Hill.

After the kirk we followed the road round and into the start of the woods. There is a sign that says there is a fairy trail but to be honest it isn’t that well sign posted although further up there are marker posts. We followed our noses and at the bottom of the hill went left and followed a path up. Thankfully I had on my wellies as it was pretty muddy. 20171111_135932-COLLAGEAlthough you have to watch where you put your feet you should also look out for signs of fairies – there is evidence everywhere.

The climb is steep in bits but nothing too demanding.

On top of the hill you will find the fairy treeIMAG8312.jpg covered in ribbons. In the past it was said if you wrote your ailment on to a cloutie (rag) and tied it to the tree as the words faded so did the ailment. Unfortunately, nowadays though it looks more like just ribbons without writing and plastic tat  on display, which will take forever to fade. IMAG8315

If you wander around the top of the hill you are rewarded with some amazing views.

Next to the path you came up, just to the left, there is alternative route down. This takes you down far quicker and past some more fairy houses. You will know you are on thIMAG8319e right path if you see this handsome Green Man smiling at you.

At the bottom of hill we retraced our steps back to the car park. However, there is another route you can you take if you turn left, which circles back in to Aberfoyle following the old railway line and which ends up behind the Woollen Mill. However, we didn’t do that and instead headed straight for a bar lunch in town.

 

 

 

A week in Gran Canaria

Looking for some winter sunshine I looked at Gran Canaria to book a week long getaway. OH and I are not ones for lying on a beach so after much searching decided on an AirBnB apartment in Agaete – a small fishing village on the North West of the island. A long drive away from where the majority of tourists lie starfished in the sand.

imag5840We hired a car from the airport and drove anti-clockwise around the round island. We were not disappointed when we were shown around our new home for the week. The view of the mountains and Atlantic was amazing (the wine and beer left in the kitchen for us were also great). After stocking up on some essentials we chilled for the rest of the evening enjoying the first of many amazing sunsets whilst sipping wine and nibbling cheese.

The following day (Sunday) we drove in to the capital of the Gran Canaria, Las Palmas. It was the day of their annual marathon so the city was buzzing. Groups of drummers lined the route, helicopters and motorbikes followed the runners and the locals cheered and clapped as the sweaty athletes sprinted (or limped) past. There is also an old town aspect to the capital, which was definitely prettier on the eye than the new builds and chic shopping centre.

The weather on Monday was perfect for a drive, this time clockwise, down to Maspolomas where we found miles of sand dunes. Imagine the Sahara Desert but with a coast. img_20170124_180703_063

There’s a main road, which runs from Agaete round the majority of the island and is the sensible route to take if you’re going anywhere. Additionally, there is also a spiders web of roads, which wander through the middle of the island clinging to the sides of the mountains. These roads are seriously narrow, have sheer drops, crazy hairpin bends and don’t offer the chance to get into 3rd gear too often. However, as well as the near death experiences they offer, they also give you breath taking views. So after a wander over the dunes we drove back to Agaete through the mountains. img_20170124_180233_758imag5685Stopping off at Roque Nublo, a precariously perched volcanic rock and the second highest point in the island.

This drive messed with my hands and nerves giving me white knuckles, sweaty palms and muscle cramps as I tensed at each and every corner (and I wasn’t even driving!) but they also give some amazing views – img_20170125_170331_759the kind of scenes you wouldn’t normally see unless you’re the type that actually enjoys leaving the car behind and trekking up a mountain for hours. Incidentally, the roads were also full of cyclists. Lycra clad mentalists pedalling along the extreme roads, cycling just as fast as the cars could drive.

imag5734When I booked the break in Gran Canaria the last thing I was expecting to hear was that I could visit a coffee plantation. Yes! They grow coffee in the Agaete Valley at Finca Los Castaños. This was only a short drive for us but it was still another scenic trip into the valley where we loved the relaxed tasting of their own red, rosé and white wines accompanied with cheese made from cow and goats milk and some pork pate on chunky bread. This was then followed with a lovely cup of the only coffee grown and produced in Europe and some delicious home made cake. This was all enjoyed whilst being surrounded by orange trees, grape vines, coffee plants and lush green mountains. The word you’re looking for right now is bliss.

Our apartment looked over Puerto De Las Nieves making it only a short walk down through a cactus garden and along the coast. The working port boasts a string of fabulous fish restaurants. We could easily have dined in a different place each night and not been disappointed. As the area isn’t full of tourists there were very few menus with photos or waiters trying to coerce us to a table so it was great to wander and choose at will without pressure. imag5707Additionally, the lack of beach seekers meant the meals were reasonably priced and didn’t break the bank at all.

As well as the amazing fish dishes we also managed to eat like cavemen when we dined in a restaurant, which had been carved out of the mountains. Restaurante El Centro Guayadeque The menu was fascinating. Eventually OH decided on a Steer Steak, which, when it arrived, covered the whole plate and looked like at least half of the beast. I had chicken skewers, which I couldn’t finish but wanted to. Both dishes were beautifully flame grilled. Like Fred and Wilma, we ate our meals sitting at a stone table in a cave, which was surprisingly cosy.

I could go on and on and tell you about everything else we did and every meal we ate but I’m already way over my usual word count so will stop now.

So, in summary, a lot of people have preconceived ideas about Gran Canaria. Perhaps thinking it’s just a place to go and lie on the beach. This certainly isn’t the case. Gran Canaria is an absolutely beautiful island, which has something for everyone and even more if you venture off the beaten path. I, for one, wouldn’t hesitate to go back.imag5675

The Roxburghe Hotel, Edinburgh

OH and I decided to pop through to Edinburgh and enjoy an afternoon tea at the Roxburghe Hotel. I know what you’re thinking – you wait ages for a blog about afternoon tea and then suddenly two come along. Personally, I think OH was just a tiny bit jealous of Lusa and I’s fabulous afternoon at the Roman Camp so was more than happy to sip tea of an afternoon rather than our usual cocktail crawl along George Street.

When we first arrived at the Charlotte Square hotel we were ushered along to the Samovar Lounge by the efficient door man. The room was lovely and decorated to a high standard. Unfortunately, there were no window seats available so we were seated next to a thoroughfare. imag5129Yes, you read that right. It turned out that the lounge sits between the entrance and the rest of the hotel so people that were staying in the hotel walked through the lounge to get to their rooms or to go out…and it was a busy hotel.   Although it gave us something to talk about I would much have rather had a more private dining experience.  You’ll notice from the pic that the fire wasn’t lit either.

The first thing to arrive was the amuse-bouche or mouth amuser, which isn’t on the menu but a freebie from the chef to give a hint to his style. It turned out to be home made lemonade served in little screw top jars with handles. Cute. We were also asked what kind of tea we would like. I opted for traditional black breakfast tea and OH, who isn’t a fan of strong tea, decided on rosy white fig tea. There was also a little timer on the table to ensure that you don’t let your tea stew for too long.   imag5131

Then the little plates of nibbly things arrived. On the savoury plate there was a smoked salmon and cream cheese blini; coronation chicken tart; smoked ham, dill pickle and piccalilli Provençale roll and an egg mayo and cucumber brioche roll.  Another plate had plain and fruit scones with clotted cream and strawberries with little jars of strawberry jam. The middle plate held fresh strawberry tart; baklava; chocolate opera cake and mini meringue with lemon cream.

As ever, my favourites were the little rolls. I could eat several plates of them without coming up for air. OH loved the scones with clotted cream and managed to eat both of his. Incidentally, the clotted cream had grapes and strawberries in it and came in a little flower pot with a pansy on the top. Cute too. OH also rated his pot of tea highly. The baklava was quite greasy and I could feel the calories coat my lips. The strawberry tart was yum and although I left my 2nd scone I cleared up the rest quite easily. Although also quite messily. Why don’t you get tongs and little dessert forks for afternoon tea? I left my napkin in a disgusting state.

Overall, the food was great, the service good and if I hadn’t of had an exceptional afternoon tea experience a couple of weeks ago it would get a high rating. However, a visit to the toilet brought the afternoon tea to a disappointing end. The 4 star hotel had 1 star loos. First of all it was a trek to get to them, down stairs along a corridor and then into another one. Then the smell hit me. When I went in I found there was only two toilets and one was out of the order (hence the smell?). The other had no lock on it and it was a busy place. One lady was already waiting and having to stand guard for her mum. The décor wasn’t great either and considering how lovely the rest of the hotel is I was surprised at the lack of the attention there was to the Ladies.

Afternoon tea for 2 – £38.

 

The Tolbooth Seafood Restaurant, Stonehaven

OH and I haven’t had a planned lunch out for a while so with an empty weekend on the horizon we decided to plan a trip to Stonehaven so we could visit The Tolbooth Seafood Restaurant and pop in to see our niece and her new fiancé who live in the area.

We set off up the A90 and then prior to heading into the coastal village we stopped off at 2016-08-27 12.05.11.jpgDunottar Castle for a wee daunder around the picturesque, cliff top fortress to work up an appetite.

It was just a short drive from there down to Stonehaven and to the harbour the restaurant looks over. 2016-08-27 12.26.09.jpgUp some stone stairs the restaurant sits on top of the Tolbooth Museum and is the oldest building in Stonehaven dating back to the 16th century.

Soon we were sitting down with menus in hand. There was a blackboard of daily specials, a set lunch menu (3 courses for £20) and a short à la carte menu.

Fresh langoustines, mussels and oysters were also all on offer However. the set menu was perfect for me as I easily chose the Cullen Skink followed by the sea bream. OH also went for the set menu choosing mackerel and then Thai prawn curry.

The Cullen Skink was served with chopped chives, croutons and herb oil and came in a IMAG4472beautiful bowl that I would have loved to take home with me.  The yellow smoked haddock was dominant within it as it should be but for me there was a lack of lumps of potato in it and the consistency was verging on splitting. Nevertheless it was a tasty starter.  IMAG4470

OH’s hot smoked local mackerel fillets, baby green salad, pickled red onions and orange dressing didn’t last long. He had been intrigued by the orange dressing and was perhaps a little disappointed that it was spotted around the dish rather than over the fish and salad but this was a very minor thing.

IMAG4475My grilled fillet of sea bream with crushed ratte potato, chargrilled courgette and spicy tomato sauce  was beautiful. The skin was crispy and the fish fell away from it in nice tasty chunks. I’m a big fan of courgettes and these were perfect. I also loved the potatoes having never knowingly tasted ratte ones before.

Surprisingly, OH had went for the Thai prawn curry, crunchy greens, IMAG4473black onion seed & coriander rice as his main. He isn’t a big fan of prawns so my eyebrows raised at his choice. However, I then realised that the other option left on the set menu was rib eye steak and he’d had one a couple of nights earlier so didn’t fancy another so soon. Plus when we go out we try (we don’t always succeed) to get different dishes. Therefore, he had decided to leave his comfort zone on this occasion.  I asked him how it was and he said just like mine when I cook Thai so maybe he wasn’t too far out his zone. His plate was wiped clean before mine so I’m guessing he enjoyed it – the prawns certainly looked like big, meaty ones.  IMAG4476

For desserts we had also chosen different dishes. He had dark chocolate mousse, honeycomb and salted peanut brittle. He IMAG4477loved his and liked the crunch of the brittle alongside the thick, rich mousse.  I had went for local Castleton Strawberries, vanilla meringue, chantilly cream and strawberry coulis.  This hit the spot and wasn’t too heavy or too much after the previous 2 courses – just a great ending to a great meal.

For me the set menu was really well thought out offering something for everyone. However, the waiter did say you could mix between the set and the à la carte and they would change the price accordingly, which is a good thing.

2 large glasses of Sauvignon Blanc, a Gran Marnier, a soda water and lime and 2 x 3 course set menu came to £58.85.

 

 

 

 

 

Venice – top tips

  1. Get a water taxi from the airport to your hotel. 2016-07-12 18.52.11
    Yes, it’s expensive but you will arrive at your hotel (or as near as the canals allow) feeling like James Bond.
    The alternative is the airport waterbus which takes ages, can be overcrowded and doesn’t offer you the wow experience of seeing Venice when you first arrive. Obviously the waterbus is a heck of a lot cheaper.
  2. Book a Free Walking Tour. 2016-07-15 17.40.23.jpgThis is a great way to get to know the city as it takes you off the normal tourist routes, gives you loads of information about Venice and at the end they give you a brilliant map of Venice, which advertises great shops and restaurants to visit.
  3. Learn how to stand. If you can stand at a counter to drink  and eat you will save a fortune in Venice. Venetians will pop into a cafe or bar stand at the counter and drink their coffee or a small glass of house wine called an ombra, pay a euro and walk out again. If you sit you pay more.
  4. Eat like a local. Don’t eat in restaurants that show photos of food. If you want to avoid the tourist traps look out for osterie and bàcari that sell Cicchetti (also sometimes spelled “cichetti” or called “cicheti”) These are small cheap snacks that you can stand and eat with your ombra. Or if you want something a bit bigger look out for the restaurants that don’t usher you in but have small menus with only a few options.
  5. Learn how to sit on anything that isn’t a chair. As I’ve said if you sit you pay. Therefore, fountains, steps leading up to bridges, the side of a canal all make great places to take the weight off. We found a great spot close to our hotel next to the canal where we would drink like a local (see no. 6) and eat pizza (see no. 9).
  6. Drink like a local. There are little shops that sell you wine straight from the barrel into a plastic bottle for just a few euros. This means you can grab a couple of plastic glasses from your hotel room, find a spot with a view and relax for a couple of hours watching the gondolas go by. 2016-07-14 15.46.39
  7. Don’t get a gondola until you’ve done no.6.

    Whilst sitting ‘drinking like a local’ we witnessed nose to tail gondolas slowly going past, the passengers engrossed in their phones or looking completely bored. It looked like the most unromantic thing EVER. If you have to tick the gondola box go off the tourist route to avoid the traffic jams and make sure you get a gondola with a steel end looking like the ones in the pic. 2016-07-12 17.44.04If it doesn’t have a steel it’s not a registered gondola.

  8. Shop with locals.  Venice is full of tourist shops full of imported masks, fake Murano glass and leather that has been sprayed with a ‘real leather’ scent. Look out for authentic Italian artisan’s shops to spend your money in. You’ll find these off the tourist routes in back streets usually with unassuming signage.
  9. Eat in the streets2016-07-16 16.41.06Sandwiches, paninis, rolls, slices of pizza can all be bought hot from shops and enjoyed next to a canal – couple it with no. 6 and you’ve got the best picnic ever.
  10. Get lost.  The best way to explore Venice is by wandering the streets without a map. Get up early and see Piazza San Marco when it’s empty. Cross the Rialto bridge when it’s deserted and best of all watch the locals getting ready for work. If you can, walk until your feet hurt and then get the vaporetto back at sunset.

Gleddoch – Hotel, Spa & Golf

So last weekend, for the want of anything better to do, OH and I headed to the west coast. We booked a night in the Gleddoch Golf and Spa Hotel, a dog friendly hotel not far from Greenock.

On parking we could see from outside what had been an old, secluded, country house had now been extended up the hill with a new build. Not that you could see the modern extension in any of the hotel’s online pics, of course.

We wandered into reception, which was full of Chesterfield couches and club chairs. Obviously, I looked just like the kind of customer they would roll out the red carpet for carrying a bulging, well used, Asda bag full of dog food, chews, a water bowl and blanket. Classy. However, the receptionist was warm and friendly as she booked us in. She gave us our key and advised us that although we were more than welcome to go up to the room via the inside of the hotel it was recommended to take the car up to the car park as it was a bit of a trek and there were a lot of stairs.

So OH, the dog and me humphing my Asda bag, all went back out to the car and drove up to the first car park and looked around for an entrance. Nope. We drove up to the next car park. There were no signs but there was an open fire door so I checked it out and right enough found No.5. The room was fantastic. Concealed lighting, huge comfy bed, all the bits and bobs you could ask for (my favourites – free bottled water and biscuits) and a large walk in shower with multiple settings.  2016-07-02 18.28.21Not long after we took the dog out for a walk around the side of the golf course and explored the hotel grounds. The view from the hotel was stunning – right over the Clyde to Dumbarton.

Later we then tried to find the hotel bar, which OH had spotted next to reception. Remember we were now 2 carparks up from there? First off we walked along the first corridor. Nope. Dead end. Next we found the restaurant. Looked around there. Nope no sign of the way to reception. Back tracked. Started again. Another dead end. Back to the restaurant and through it to the pre-dinner sitting area where we were stared at. We persevered and walked through the on-lookers. We found another corridor and walked slowly along it looking for signs. There were none for reception but we did find the pool. We then met a waiter who pointed us in the right direction down stairs, then more stairs and another corridor. We eventually emerged into the reception area. It was only at this point I thought about leaving breadcrumbs…

…too much wine later and high heels in hand it was like a scene from the Crystal Maze as we tried to retrace our steps. Giggling and using stage whispers we found our way along corridors containing wheelbarrows, found numerous dead ends and eventually, and thankfully, found our room again.

It felt like no sooner had our heads hit the pillow than the fire alarm was going off. Oh yeah, suddenly I was wide awake. Good Morning Dumbarrrrrton! To be honest, it was after 9 but that’s not really the point.  I gingerly made my way out to  the car park wearing sunglasses even though it was dreich. The only one delighted with the rapid exit was the dog who darted off to the golf course to help with watering the fairway. It turned out the alarm was down to an electrical fault and the ongoing building work. I was just glad the alarm stopped when I nipped back to the room to take my phone off of charge. 2016-07-03 09.14.16.jpg

Not long later, showered and dressed in clean clothes this time, we left our room and went for breakfast. It was chaotic. I’m hoping it was due to the fire alarm and this was not the norm. Dirty plates were on the cold buffet table – probably dumped when the alarm went off and forgotten. Serving dishes were empty, juice jugs were lacking and there were tables needing re-set with people waiting.  One waiter – actually the one that showed us how to get to reception the night before – was sprinting between tables trying to meet everyone’s needs. White sugar here, more butter there, here a jam, there a  knife, everywhere some toast toast.

One chap who had been helping himself from the hot buffet returned and sat at the wrong table, which was completely cluttered. Surprised that he had no clean cutlery he asked for some without questioning it. His wife joined him and looked around confused as he wolfed down his bacon and sausage. She lifted a cup that was in her way and asked if it was his. With bean juice running down his chin he shook his head. She struggled to find a clear place to put the cup down again. She then asked if he had seen her phone. More head shaking. It was only when the wife spotted her phone on the other table that she realised they were at the wrong table. Oh the hilarity as they got up and moved. The man quipped, “I wondered why I could no longer see the Clyde”  as he returned to his own table not worrying about his faux pas. Other diners laughed along with him. I’d have been mortified and would have had to leave my breakfast as I allowed the ground to swallow me up.

To be fair we enjoyed our stay. I found the scene at breakfast hilarious – even when my toast turned up only toasted on one side. The trek from room to reception was a highlight and the surrounding scenery and room were brilliant. The staff were friendly and helpful and if it weren’t for the fire alarm turning breakfast into a comedy sketch it would have received high marks. Well, apart from the fact that there was no tv in the bar so we couldn’t watch the footy and had to speak to one another.
To recap – bits were so bad it was great 🙂 

Isle of Mull

OH has been at me to go to the Isle of Mull for eons. To be honest it’s not really my thing. Usually when OH wants to do something outdoorsy I will volunteer to sit in the car and read my book or sit in the hotel lobby and write. The promise of scenery doesn’t hold me as much as a good atmosphere in a pub does. So, on the promise of wine and much merriment, I eventually relented and looked up dog friendly hotels and ferry times.

2016-06-17 12.37.27The dog appeared to love the ferry – sticking her muzzle between the bars and sniffing the sea air as we made our way from Oban to Craignure. OH had planned a route beforehand that would take us down the island to Fionnphort – the very edge of the island where you can catch another ferry over to Iona – a small and beautiful island with a population of only 120 people. Our trip down made me realise the difficulties of travelling lengthy distances on a one-track road. Passing places became friendly places to stop and wave to other drivers. However, the novelty soon wears off and quickly you learn to drive as if some idiot is going to speed round the next corner at you. I’ve decided I’m going to invent a plastic hand that attaches to your car and waves for you whenever your car comes to a passing place. I’d soon be a millionaire. Well, maybe I’d make a few quid at least.

2016-06-17 15.01.44

Fionnphort

When we arrived a Fionnphort we (me really) decided not to catch another ferry but to allow the dog to have a walk and perhaps leave Iona Abbey for another visit. I have to admit the scenery was amazing. With the colour of the sand and sea you could have been anywhere in the world.

From Fionnphort we headed north towards Tobermory, where we were staying that night. O2016-06-17 16.59.43n the way back up we just had to stop for a Kodak moment outside Salen where 2 boats sat looking completely abandoned and unloved but extremely picturesque.

After taking a multitude of snaps we took to the road again until we reached Tobermory, where we were staying for the night. Our hotel turned out to be quite fabulous.

2016-06-17 17.47.39

Room with a view

Well the view from The Western Isles Hotel certainly was. The hotel itself was a little tired but it was dog friendly, had great staff/service, tasty food in the restaurant/breakfast room and everything you could need in a hotel room – not to mention again the view, which was phenomenal.

During our stay we literally travelled the length and breadth of the island. To my surprise I was impressed with the scenery, this was helped with the fantastic weather we had, which unfortunately you can’t rely on. Well, it is Scotland afterall. During our visit we didn’t see any otters but we did see some red deer, a Golden Eagle in the distance and I’m sure I saw the red feathers of a crossbill. There were also numerous ravens, grey backed crows and hunners of Highland Coos too amongst the other more regular wildlife on the island.

OH stuck to his promise and we enjoyed ourselves in the few pubs there are in Tobermory. The atmosphere was lively and we had a laugh with both locals and visitors alike. I managed to beat a Canadian at pool but was then thrashed by a local (boo). We met a couple from Motherwell who got us totally trashed and unable to make breakfast on Sunday morning – so that was definitely a good news – bad news moment.

All in all it was a top weekend and I won’t bore you with anymore details but I will leave you with just a few of the many pics I took and a recommendation you should go too.

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Tobermory

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View from Art in Nature, Calgary

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Beach at Calgary

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Tobermory

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Western Isles Hotel

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Anchors at the harbour in Tobermory

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Traffic jam in Mull

I’m on my way

I wrote this blog after being at Hampden in March for the Hibernian v Ross County League Cup Final when Hibs got beat 2-1 😦 

 
I used to go see Hibs home and away as a teenager. Then I met a man who wasn’t interested in football and he got me pregnant. Therefore, Easter Road was forgotten about until my son was at an age I could take him. We then started going to all the home games. Then he met a woman who wasn’t interested in football and got her pregnant. Now my son and I are just ‘allowed’ to go to the big games. It’s our day out together and we both look forward to them. Him because Hibs have a chance of lifting a cup. Me? Because I get to spend time with my son, drink Guinness and forget I’m a feckin’ Gran now.

So Scottish League cup final weekend and we had tickets for Hampden. *excited face*

Although the old Famous Fife supporters bus no longer runs, 2 big Hibs fan had taken on the thankless task of running a minibus. Imagine the widest assortment of Hibs fans you can – that was our bus load! The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, the 3 Musketeers, long suffering partners, lone wolves, well meaning parents, the guy that has been drinking for 3 days solid and the loveable rogue.

We were picked up outside Wetherspoons at 10.30am all resplendent in different shades of green. Apparently the carryout de jour was bottles of rose wine and Mad Dog 20/20. Of course, as a grandmother, I was a lot more sophisticated and had a floral design hipflask full of Jack Daniels secreted about my person.

As we made our way towards Glasgow the CD player, at full blast, played every Hibs song imaginable and then when they ran out Bobby Nicholson came on singing Go and See the Pandas (honestly You Tube it).

3 toilet stops later (lay-bys) and all bottles disposed of pre Harthill (to avoid the police) we were almost at the rugby club in Giffnock we had booked into for some (more) pre match drinks. It was at this point in the journey it came to everyone’s attention that there was an almost overflowing cardboard pisspot on board the bus. Yes – the ones you get in hospital – someone had come prepared! However, they hadn’t thought through the emptying of it. Every corner the minibus took became dicey as it sloshed about. The singing then restarted, ‘Your pissssss is stinking’ to the Proclaimers tune Sunshine On Leith. I deliberately looked away at the next red traffic light.

The rugby club was great – how/why they put up with us all (we weren’t the only bus load in town) gawd only knows – yes I know money over the bar BUT…(that was a big but btw)

Then it was time for Hampden *excited face* We got off the bus near the ground and was told Purple Zone carpark for pick up. Whatever. *runs off with excited face*

So then there was some football stuff. The guy who had the seat next to us (who I’ve met before) appeared at half time. Turns out his flight from London had been cancelled and he’d had to fly from Gatwick/Heathrow instead (I forget which one because JD and Guinness) and his flight didn’t get in until 2.30pm. He had managed to share a taxi with other Hibees he’d met on the flight and had just caught the equaliser at the top of the stairs. Unfortunately, he had to change his flight home too because of course his car was now parked at Heathrow/Gatwick. Therefore, he had to head straight back to the airport after the match. I don’t need to spell it out to you what this means but incase I do

D E D I C A T I O N!

Full-time whistle blows. Bugger.

So dejectedly we head back to the bus. Purple zone?? Excuse me Mr Policeman…. He directed us to Aitkenhead Road. What’s that word that rhymes with tanker? Long story short we got to the bus 40 mins later – it was parked right next to the stadium and I was the colour purple!

The best bit though (apart from the fact the bus had waited!) was one of the long suffering partners had made everyone on the bus a ham salad roll – yippee!!

GGTTH

Kelso, Dryburgh and Ancrum

As I’m a bit of a twat and didn’t realise it was a Bank Holiday weekend I only booked one night away this weekend as I honestly didn’t know I had Monday off.  Anyway, OH and I had already decided to get away for the night and instead of heading north or west as we often do, this time we headed south towards the Borders.

We wanted a dog friendly hotel so my search led me to the Dryburgh Abbey Hotel, a country house hotel just north of Kelso. As we arrived in the area too early to check in we took the dog for a walk to see the nearby Wallace Statue. 2016-04-30 12.47.22.jpg
Having never heard of the statue before I had no expectations, therefore when I saw the massive stone structure (ha you thought I was going to say erection – stop being so childish.) I was gobsmacked. It was humongous. You could even see up his kilt! 2016-04-30 12.45.04.jpg(btw I will know if you click on that pic to enlarge it ;))

After the dog had stretched her legs we drove on to Kelso and had a wander around the historic town situated on the Tweed. We also had a  lovely lunch in the The Cobbles, where the service and the menu were great.

With full bellies we headed back to check in to our hotel. The hotel was fabulous. A proper country feel to it with comfy old couches and arm chairs. Our room was large and had everything we needed. OH had brought his rod with him and, as we knew the hotel had fishing rights on the stretch of the Tweed in front of it, we went out to investigate. It wasn’t long before OH had donned his wellies and was out casting and I was in the warm hotel with a glass of wine in hand. Yeah, I’m not daft. As if I’m going to be outside on a Saturday evening trying to work out what kind of flies are dancing on the water. 2016-05-01 10.57.41-1.jpgOH didn’t catch anything but him and Amber seemed to have a great time. We finished the evening in the hotel bar where dogs were made very welcome and thankfully Amber (who is trained as a gundog) didn’t retrieve any of the stuffed birds scattered around the hotel.

The hotel breakfast was great. As you do, I ate far more than normal as there was so much on offer. After my apple juice, fruit, muesli and toast, I had to chose from the hot menu so every dish was cooked to order. I had a 3 egg bacon omelette, which was lush. OH had smoked haddock and poached egg. He was just a little disappointed that his egg wasn’t runny. (I say a little he was devastated).

I have to say  The Dryburgh Abbey Hotel has been one of the best hotels I have stayed in for along time. The receptionist couldn’t have been more helpful. The waiting staff were friendly and the hotel facilities spot on.

Before driving home we headed to Ancrum as, thanks to lots of little photocopied flyers scattered around Kelso, I knew there was an art thing happening. Turns out it was Art At Ancrum where the village had opened itself up to over 30 artists who were exhibiting their wares. We were welcomed into peoples homes, offered coffee by a stone mason  and spoke to a number of interesting artists more than happy to discuss their techniques. I came away with a cute little green pottery jug and almost bought an expensive green suede handbag that had my name all over it but the wrong price tag.

Of course, the best bit is I’ve been away for what has felt like a long weekend and I still have Monday to go 🙂