Two country towns….and a brewery

Coming north to the West of Scotland involves, after crossing the Border, simply changing from the M6 onto the M74. You would not even know you had crossed a Rubicon if it were not for the road signs. As you travel about 80 miles, from the Border, you start to drive through the County of Lanarkshire. It is a county of two halves…..the northern, industrial part (now mostly decimated by the changes in the steel economy), and the rural Southern farming community.

Lady of the House  headed out for the day towards a little town called Strathaven (pronounced Strave-in), which we know quite well. Over 50 years ago, I would get two buses on a Sunday to play the organ at Rankin Parish Church, and my wife-to be, and I, would have ‘tea’ in a local cafe, and had walks. But we didn’t get to know it well, as many of the shops were shut. We have passed through many times and had coffee etc, but this was to be an exploratory day. It was not a brilliantly-sunny day, but reasonable for photos.

As in many of our town/villages, the car takes a lot of space, but the good Burghers have provided ample parking in a large car park adjacent to the shops. So first, to the Strathaven Gift Shop in the Common Green (the town centre) for some items to go with us to the Netherlands (success accomplished), and the items were beautifully wrapped by the lovely lady who served us.P1050784

 

A few yards’ walk took us for lunch at the Tudor Coffee House. This is a lovely little eatery with only six or seven tables, so best to go outwith the busy times. YOU CAN’T ACTUALLY MISS IT!

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They offered a Senior’s lunch, which was excellent. A large glass of fruit juice, followed by steak pie, chips (I do like chips!) and peas, with a massive pot of tea (in china cups) satiated my hunger, whilst Lady of the House had chicken goujons, chips (she also likes chips!) and salad.

I went down into the kitchen, and was able to have a chat with the lady doing the cooking, to give her some compliments on the meal. She noted that we had been there before, with our Dutch friends last May! We must have made some impression! It is well recognised as one of the best local restaurants.

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We were also on the hunt for a local speciality….Strathaven Toffee. The little place where it had been made had disappeared from the main street, but we were told it was available up a side street, in a small sweetie shop, quaintly named Vintage Violet. It was a treasure trove of old sweeties, and was run by an enthusiastic lady, who was happy to pose for me.

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I asked about Jap Desserts, but she confirmed that the company who made it had discontinued them. …..Is there an business opportunity for someone here? It has a lovely view over a park and little burn  (for non-scots, this is a very small stream, sometimes only a trickle of water).

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The water in the burn was low, (although locally-placed sandbags were evident that there had been a spate.) A pleasant row of trees guarded it nicely, with lights for the evenings, and clumps of crocuses.

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An interesting piece of architecture can be seen from the park looking at the back of some of the houses. i would love o know which room is built in the rounded bit….or maybe it is a spiral staircase.

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A 5 minute walk took us past the Rankin Parish Church where I started playing the organ in 1963 when just 18, and then into the local park, for our daily perambulation. There were plenty of snowdrops and other flowers in evidence, and it is an extremely well-cared-for. The only jarring aspect was the ruined house which had been a Museum gifted at the same time as the park was gifted to the town. Seemingly it was being sold off and builders were doing unsafe removal of walls and the work was stopped. It now sits as a mess marring the lovely environment. Very sad!

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But the afternoon was moving on and we set off for Lanark by a spectacular rural B road. Suddenly Lady and I spied a notice announcing  something interesting, and which we did not know existed…..

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We drove into what looked like a farmyard, but had been a mill, with its wheel powered by the local river. As the notice said, we were made very welcome. It is a three-generation family business producing six speciality beers, presentation packs, and beer-flavoured fudge in conjunction with a local farm. You can also see some of their products on Aldi shelves. You will also find them on social media, including Trip Advisor, so they are moving with the times. We took away some of said products, and tasted them with the experience of my next-door neighbour…… lovely!

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We could not stay there for ever, so onward to the Burgh of Lanark, which is a busy county town, including the farmers’ market. It is also the birthplace of Lady of the House, so she feels attached to it. It would be a lovely place to retire to, were it not for the steep Main Street, and the possibility of being cut off in Winter with the approcah roads all being easily iced-up.

The most well-known building in the centre of the town is the  wonderful St Nicholas Parish Church at the lower end of the main street……..P1050788

…….and tucked- in to one side is the kind of marvellous hardware shop, which used to adorn every High Street, and is a dream for many a house-maker. And more interestingly for me, and something  which attaracts us for a day out……a little cafe……..

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So we had come to the end of our day out and this always has to be noted with a little bit of local baking……can life get any better? I will leave this for you to drool over…….

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Keep right on to the end of the road…….

I don’t know about you, but I have a fascination with dead-end roads, especially in the countryside. In some ways the sign we use can be a bit disappointing, or even intimidating….’Not worth going down this road’…’There’s nothing to see’…….. ……’Better to turn round while you 7559_signs[1]have the chance’……you know what I mean.

However there usually is something to see…a beach, a loch, a little pier, a house, an old church, and often they have a lovely view. Someone obviously thought that it was worthwhile building and maintaining a road for good reason.

And so it was that yesterday, along with two of the ladies in my life, we set off for one of the loveliest dead-end roads in the west of Scotland. Skirting the historic City of P1010551Stirling, you take the A84 and A873 through Thornhill. There you will find the excellent restaurant ‘The Lion and the Unicorn’ where you could stop for excellent refreshment. Continuing to head west and joining the A81, you pass  (or stop to admire), the only lake in Scotland, the Lake of Menteith. It is tiny, but the village is called  Port of Menteith, and it feels quite proud of its watery neighbour, and the Inchmahome Priory.

Just as you come to Aberfoyle, you enter the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park, and head on the B829, which has the afore-mentioned ‘dead-end’ sign . The B designation is a good indication that this road is not for the faint-hearted driver, as it is single-track with passing places. P1040845But we managed to stop and pick some blackberries on the way, on the side of Loch Ard.

I should say here that it was not me driving, as medical advice was that I should not get behind a wheel for a little time yet. So it was the Lady of the House, who was in control. (She is, of course often in control when I am driving!) Daughter was in the front passenger seat helping with the negotiation of this nasty but lovely road.

Wonderful country houses abound along here with the sweeping drives, and gardens which would have engaged a number of full-time gardeners at one time. Lovely it must be to live in such locations, but what about the winter? 4WD vehicles would be more suitable than a flash car when the snow comes, or trees fall over the roads, or accidents block roads.

When you are able to stop to admire the vistas, Ben Venue, Ben P1040838Vrackie, and Ben Lomond all offer great views, so a camera, and binoculars are advised on this trip.

Water is not normally in short supply here, and so several lochs have been dammed and channelled to provide water for Glasgow and the Central Belt of Scotland. Besides Loch Ard, where got the berries, Loch Chon also is beside the road, and both offer boat fishing. The water here and ultimately fed to Glasgow is very pure and no lime-scale is produced in kettles or washing machines…….and it is lovely to drink, especially in a glass of amber liquid!

As we move northwest, we are travelling between two large lochs….Katrine (Glasgow’s main water supply) and Lomond (known the world over for the Bonnie banks). At a T junction you can turn right to Stronachlachar (an awkward-sounding word for non-Scots), with a Pier-head Tearoom.

P1040851However we were turning westward past the lovely Loch Arklet heading to the village, or more-correctly, the clachan of Inversnaid.

This is probably the most awkward part of the road as it drops sharply to the northern tip of Loch Lomond, and indeed the Banks are Bonnie as promised in the song. Suddenly, from a narrow country road we descend into a large car park, beside the massive Inversnaid Hotel, and situated beside the pier for boats cruising Loch Lomond.

So, you may ask, why has this large Hotel beenOld Photograph Inversnaid Scotland[1] built here in a remote area, and is obviously popular, with high-occupancy rates? The old photo shows how long it has been operational.

It was built in 1790 by the Duke of Montrose as a quiet hunting lodge. It achieved exposure to the world, when Queen Victoria visited there several times, for privacy. Whether the impropriety involved with John Brown, her ghillie, occurred here I do not know. It has obviously been extended over the years.

We had a very tasty meal in the hotel, chosing the Inversnaid Burger, which consisted of P1040865chicken, bacon and cheese. Afterwards, we went to examine the waterfall just beside the hotel. There has been no appreciable rain recently, so no  great torrent of water, which was a bit disappointing. There are lots of little walks in the area, which we could not explore due to time restraints.

The pier is a place of constant activity during the day, and P1040858no doubt, there is a fair bit of freight brought in by boat. Looking across the Loch, you can see the village of Inveruglas, and the large pipes of the Loch Sloy Hydro-electric Power Station on the hillside. They have a Visitor Centre about the area, so is well-worth visiting.

Two other facts about the area…….

Firstly……The local primary school was, in 2010, the most expensive/pupil in education costs, in the UK. It is said it was £54,000 per pupil! Presumably some may have been accommodation costs for those who could not commute each day, in the scattered community.

Secondly……The famous Rob Roy was basically an outlaw involved in castle-rustling, and in the Jacobite rising. He hid in a cave, close to the Hotel, and which can be only approached by water, and was well-hidden. No doubt the locationis pointed-out to all those on the cruise boats.

……so there you are, a true end-of-the-road journey, which provided on a very-pleasant autumnal day, a lot of visual excitement with the gorgeous scenery,  a trip on narrow roads, a pleasant meal, and plenty of blethering!…….

And the day was complete on our way home, as we popped-into a tearoom in Aberfoyle………pleasure complete……

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Colzium etc….some photos….

Just a few random shots from the ‘Non-Driving Day Out’ Blog….sorry about the contrast in some of the shots….very-intense, rather-low sun to blame….Click on the link below to see some more of our lovely scenery…..You Lucky People!

Light and dark in the overgrown paths

Light and dark in the overgrown paths

Lots of cones about

Lots of cones about

A particularly-large cone

A particularly-large cone

Colour disappearing from the leaves....

Colour disappearing from the leaves….

Almost transparent....

Almost transparent….

Looking like an up-turned boat.....

Looking like an up-turned boat…..

Just imaging having to trim these trees!

Just imaging having to trim these trees!

Dated....

Dated….

Friendly dog with four tennis balls

Friendly dog with four tennis balls

The burn...

The burn…

Could not resist the colour of the water...

Could not resist the colour of the water…

Ripening for winter.....

Ripening for winter…..

A shady nook....

A shady nook….

Proudly standing....

Proudly standing….

Sun changed within a minute.....

Sun changed within a minute…..

Feeling rather uncomfortable.....

Feeling rather uncomfortable…..

Still uncomfortable!......

Still uncomfortable!……

Good lady beside our Quite-Quirky Juke.....

Good lady beside our Quite-Quirky Juke…..

From the summit of the Tak-Ma-Doon Road...in the heat-haze

From the summit of the Tak-Ma-Doon Road…in the heat-haze

A non-driving day out…….

I’m a guy………so I love driving. I always have, (since first driving a tractor on a farm at 11!), I go to the driver’s door automatically when we go out, and the seat and reversing mirrors are set for me.

However, I am somewhat hors de combat just now, with non-driving the medical order of the day for at least two or three weeks. Meanwhile I have plenty of good neighbours, family drivers, and a bus stop only 200 yards away….but it’s just not the same!

I like using the skill required to negotiate our quirky Nissan Juke through traffic, over the bumpy tracks (sometimes called roads) and the notorious bends in the nearby Campsie Fells. But this has had to be delayed.

So what to do on a lovely sunny afternoon yesterday?……..

Well, how about a trip to Colzium Park, in Kilsyth, and the Lady of the House would drive. In a magnificent setting, with a house by the Lennox’s (who created the town of Lennoxtown, surprisingly), it was a place we would take the children when small, (nearly 40 years ago!) to feed the ducks, kick a ball, and have adventures in the extensive woodlands. There were still dog-walkers, a man in his motorised scooter, people with grandchildren, stones being thrown into the pond, shrieks from children as swans flapped their wings….nothing every changes. A brief chat with each renewed our social-interaction. Now, less-used, it is somewhat dilapidated, but still handy for an hour’s entertainment in the fresh-air. A carton of juice, and a lovely biscuit beside the car, allowed us to proceed on the next bit of the journey.

There is a wonderfully-named road close by called the Tak-ma-doon Road. It is not an easy road to drive at the best of times and by the most-experienced of drivers, due to the bends, sudden gradient changes, single-track sections etc, but as I said, this is something I enjoy. Good Lady, less so! The way from the Park to this road is at a very nasty , badly-sighted T-junction, where clutch control, handbrake, eyes, and accelerator need to be all fully-functioning. She handled this with aplomb, and we proceeded as planned, upwards and onwards towards Carronbridge.

There is a viewpoint at the highest point, where we stopped to get some photos. A car (which had allowed us to pass them earlier) pulled-in behind us, and I thanked them for their kind deed. We chatted and they were from Alberta in Canada, so we had a good blether about a visit we had made to Canada, and also about a pending one next year. Lovely people!

On past the beautiful Carron Valley Reservoir, with relatively quiet traffic to the delightful Fintry. The Crow Road which is better than the Tak-ma-Doon Road but must still be handled with care, then took her attention, and we returned safely, to the bosom of our house after a simple drive out.

It would not have been possible without the courage, and skill of my Good Lady, so a public THANK YOU VERY MUCH, is very much in order.