Tuesday, 1 December 2015

and enjoys being a tourist at home

PapaStarke came to stay for a few days recently so I had the chance to be a tourist at home again. His first full day promised the best weather so we planned a small expedition.
We wrapped up well and set off for the ferry from Cuan to Luing. Dad's not too good on boats but this was ok as it's just a few minutes across the sound, although it is a pretty fast flowing channel.
Safely across, our destination was Cullipool and the Atlantic Islands Centre where we could enjoy a spot of lunch. I  think an expedition without food is like..........Something that is no fun at all!

I've done the trip before, the first time along the coast and it appeared in DogStarke's blog back in June, and on another occasion MrS., DogS and I took the path over the hill crossing the highest point on Luing, but that was pretty muddy even after a dry spell,  so Dad and I kept to the road. It's still a nice walk with lovely views across Torsa to Loch Melfort and plenty of sniffs for DogS.  We passed the drinking cup but decided to hold out for something a bit more warming from the cafe.

to quench your thirst on dryer days!

At Cullipool Dad tried his hand at some stone skimming while  I distracted DogStarke, though she still managed  to swim out after some of Dad's skims! Then after all that activity it was time for a spot of lunch.

Luing scallops with black pudding

We walked back at a faster pace because the rain had come on, with Dad thinking the earth's axis had tilted because ".....surely it was mostly uphill on the way?".

The next day didn't even pretend to dryness so we had to look for an inside activity and Dad decided on a visit to  Oban Distillery . We had a lovely lunch first at The Waterfront Fishhouse then walked along to the Distillery, tucked in on Stafford street. What a good choice Dad had made,  I've been on other tours but thought that this one was just right, not too long, informative, entertaining and you get generous samples and a tasting glass to take away.

Next day we were joined by MasterS and GGGF so we celebrated with a meal out at another one of Oban's great restaurants Piazza at the North Pier, it shares a site with another lovely fish restaurant Ee-usk  but we all fancied some Italian comfort food on a wild night. We had a great time catching up and all pitched in to help Dad with his pud!

Scrumptious! And enormous

The weekend heralded the start of Oban's Winter Festival and on Saturday we explored the markets, bought lots of candles,  enjoyed scallop kebabs, a first for MasterS and watched the reindeer parade and Christmas light switch on.

waiting for Santa

  Then  back home for a celebratory meal and the first exchange of presents, I hope MasterS enjoys his Advent hamper.

just a regular calendar for me
Best wishes for the holiday season

Marina x

Sunday, 15 November 2015

and sneaks a night away with friends

Six months. It's really been six months since the move.  Time then for a catch up with old friends from work.  We met up somewhere which is actually fairly in the centre of mainland Scotland, though far from the "Central Belt", so we all had an equal distance to travel.

Kinloch Rannoch is in the middle- honest

We got a good deal at the Macdonald Loch Rannoch Hotel at Kinloch Rannoch in the heart of Perthshire. Our trip coincided with the arrival of storm Abigail bringing with her the first snows of winter, though luckily mostly confined to the hills. I'd wondered what the hotel would be like as Trip Advisor had some mixed reviews, and when I arrived,  the notice on the front door warning of reduced winter hours gave my over eager imagination thoughts of The Overlook Hotel.

What a silly!  Inside it was warm and bright, and other guests were finishing off their lunch.  I was early, the first of our party to arrive, which is  not like me, but was welcomed and checked into my room by the very friendly receptionist.

Schiehallion, the view when it's not sleeting

 I'd been allocated a loch view room, in fact we all had, which was lovely even if the glorious view was being temporarily obscure by sleet. We were tempted by the swimming pool but the lure of comfy chairs, tea and chat kept us in the lounge until it was time to change for dinner.

 Duly glammed up we  enjoyed  some  bubbly and  made our way to the restaurant. Our deal included a three course dinner, this excluded a couple of menu items unless we paid a supplement but that didn't bother us as there was a good choice and we each chose a different main course. It was good to see that the restaurant was busy, perhaps because of the deal, and the young staff coped very well. We moved back to the lounge after dinner and even though we'd discussed coffee seem to have ordered more drinks. You know, as a night cap to round off a lovely day

And off to bed.

I switched on the television to catch the end of Children in Need. ...............

Mrs Marina Starke likes Paris

                                                           Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite

Friday, 6 November 2015

and DogStarke comes too

I received my Dog Friendly Newsletter the other day, and it raises a good question. What does dog friendly mean? I've often been disappointed when my carefully filtered search throws up a "dog friendly" hotel which restricts dogs to their rooms and then only with their owner present. So not terribly friendly at all. Sometimes we've had to choose this option and popped her in the car at meal times but would usually choose somewhere which allowed DogS to stay with us in the bar area while we ate.

Not being able to take your dog to a hotel might be seen to be a "luxury worry" but not all trips are for leisure. We had to make one recently. There aren't boarding kennels  nearby, MasterS lives in Edinburgh and can't always oblige,  and being new to the area we can't call on friends to dog sit. So DogS had to come too. But the hotel has changed its dog policy. Which meant she had to spend the night in her crate in the car. And I spent part of the early morning in the car with her.* You know just in case......

Luckily we could use the  hotel bar and the reason for our trip kept us out most of the day but the change in policy means we are unlikely to return to a place which has a strong pull for MrS. We've heard varying explanations for the change in policy, one citing irresponsible dog owners. So we must all make sure that our dogs behave in the places where they are welcome.

Many people are confused about the regulations concerning access to pets. Dugs'nPubs have good advice on their site and this article covers the legal aspect. I don't get back to Edinburgh very often but when I do, tend to plan my visits around dog friendly shops and cafes. There are lots of websites listing dog friendly venues, DugsnPubs is particularly good, but for what it's worth here are my top tips, for Edinburgh and further afield.

Whistles, Edinburgh branch, George Street

Ooh! Ruby shoes, independent shoe store. on Bruntsfield Place.

SpaceNK Edinburgh branch also on George Street

Nancy Blacks, Argyll Square Oban for all your clothing and chandlery needs

Hamilton and Inches fine jewellery and silver on George Street, Edinburgh. (Silversmiths to you know who)

The Bear'sPaw, Warmingham, Cheshire friendly pub with good food and rooms.

Falko, Konditormeister scrumptious bakery, Bruntsfield Place, Edinburgh and branches in Gullane and Cockenzie (not been to this one)

The Traddock, Austwick, near Settle a lovely place with great food,comfy rooms and a very warm welcome.

Rocksalt Cafe/Deli, Leith, Edinburgh great breakfast or lunch spot.

Cafe Tartine great all day dining on  Leith's Commercial Quay.

The Finnieston and its sister and neighbour Porter and Rye, fish and steaks and cocktails on Argyle Street, Glasgow.

The Pelican Cafe further along Argyle street near Kelvingrove museum.

The Real Food Cafe, Tyndrum, When you need a sit down chippy.

and not forgetting

The Tigh an Truish our friendly local, food at weekends and often music.

The hotels below only allow dogs in rooms but do genuinely welcome them.

Tiroran House, country house hotel on Mull

Blythswood Square, smart hotel with spa, Glasgow.

Airds Hotel a Relais et Chateaux hotel in beautiful Port Appin

Text heavy today. But here's  DogStarke enjoying her hols.

enjoying Calgary beach on our trip to Mull

Happy Travels,

Marina x

*it was actually surprisingly comfy

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

and enjoyed a celebration

It was  our tenth wedding anniversary last week and we celebrated with a short break on Mull. We've been a few times before but just for the day and it's a pretty big island so there's been a limit to how far we've been able to explore. Our recent run of good weather had broken and we'd had a fairly blusterous night so there was a tiny worry that that the ferry might not run but MV Isle of Mull departed on time.

 After breakfast on board we arrived on Mull nice and early with plenty of time for sightseeing.

just what you need to give you sea legs 

Back in the summer  I wrote about our last trip there, and this time we headed back to Bunessan where  the Heritage Centre was open. It's a great wee place, MrS had a long chat with one of the  (volunteer) staff and I was really taken with the display telling the stories behind the names on the War Memorial

we were glad to see this sign on the door

Next stop was just over the hill at Ardalanish Weavers.  I'd spotted signs to this the last time but we hadn't had time to visit. We were lucky, it was a weaving day and so could see the loom in action, we were glad of the ear defenders though, and that was from just one loom. I can't imagine the din in a huge industrial mill. They produce non woven products too and I treated myself to a cosy new jumper. We  also picked up some samples for fabrics for our new rooms. One of them is very appropriately named!

the other one is called Hebridean woad

My advance planning wasn't a complete success ....We we got hungry and I remembered reading about a fab seafood restaurant at Fionnphort, mmm anticipating prawns or seafood soup  off we set.....

Hmmm. Double fail. Not only does  the Ninth Wave only open for dinner and gets booked weeks if not months in advance, it had also closed for the season two weeks earlier.  Then there's The Creel Seafood Bar at the Harbour?  Closed. Until April.  Still we didn't go hungry The Keel Row was open and dog friendly too.  Mull Cheddar panini and coffee hit the spot.

After lunch we took  leisurely drive around to the Tiroran House Hotel, our home for the night, followed by good a walk along the shore in front of the hotel.  This was probably DogS's favourite part of the trip, the grounds are enclosed so she was able to have good safe run. And a paddle.  She was rather less keen on her wash and rub down later......

After our walk we were greeted with  tea and brownies and enjoyed that almost mythic time, warm enough to sit outside, too cold for midges.

We knew the weather was due to break  but luckily didn't have to use Tiroran's umbrella to keep us dry on the short walk to the main house for  dinner. Mmm, I was glad we'd been sparing with the brownies. Pigeon, local lamb and burnt sugar tart were just  parts of our scrumptious meal.

We were sad to leave next morning but had plans to explore new bits of the island. And I was already hatching a plan to return next time GlamourPuss and Profski come to stay, taking them too of course!

Overnight the wind had picked up again and it was fairly fresh on Calgary beach, but our luck was in and the rain held off until we were back in the car.

Calgary beach

After that there was time for a quick visit to Tobermory for  Mull museum and the  shops before we headed to Craignure for the ferry ride home.

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

and enjoys some Autumn sunshine

I've been on the other side of the holiday divide recently, we've been busy at home. So I'm glad that we've had a bit of an Indian summer because I feel guilty if the weather is bad. I know that's silly, because there are some things beyond control and it's  Glamour Puss who claims the magical powers, but it's true.
one of the glorious sunsets we've enjoyed this month

I think Autumn could be my favourite season, the colours are gorgeous and the low sun casts fabulous shadows.  Autumn still feels like the start of the year too,  even though it's years since it actually was.  And it's a time for celebration;  three Starke birthdays, our wedding anniversary and that of  DogStarke joining the family.

Autumn flowers

It's the season for walking, and that's what we've been doing on our days off.  When we moved here I bought a great little  book of walks which we're working our way through.

We're still on the easier ones, graded C or B,  and wouldn't be thinking about moving up a grade until the summer comes;  A and A+ are serious hill walks. One walk has become a regular outing, it's close by and has a beach at each end so heaps of fun for DogS;  others call for a bit more organisation.

get it right or it's a long walk back

Of course all this wholesome outdoor activity does tend to work up an appetite....sometimes we take a picnic.....

but mostly  we call in  for "a little something".  Fast becoming a favourite is  the Ben Lora cafe and bookshop at Benderloch, we've also enjoyed the Bridge of Orchy hotel and the Atlantic Islands Centre on Luing.

Because every good walk deserves cake.....

at the Ben Lora cafe

And anniversaries deserve a celebration, so I've  booked a little stay somewhere. But that's a secret for now.

october 2005

Marina x

Monday, 5 October 2015

and travelled on the Hogwarts Express

Well a little bit of it....

September is a busy birthday month, at the start there's mine,  I wrote about our stay in Glasgow to celebrate that last time a tale of two houses;  MrS's day comes along a few weeks later and we had a little trip to toast that too.

In contrast to my urban break we travelled north and west and for part of the time at least by a much slower means of transport.

First we boarded the West Highland service to Mallaig and enjoyed a  picnic lunch.

Happy Birthday MrS

Smoked trout, oatcakes and champagne

and for once DogS WAS ALLOWED

We had a quick turn around at Mallaig and then boarded The Jacobite Express (aka The Hogwarts Express) for the return journey to our overnight stop in Glenfinnan. We dropped off our bags at our hotel,  Glenfinnan House, and set off to view the two famous local monuments.

The Jacobite (or Hogwart's) Express at Glenfinnan station

We didn't climb the 1745 memorial because we would have had to go up separately, dogs aren't allowed inside the walls;  instead we had a little play on the beach and then headed up to the viewpoint behind the visitor centre. From there you also get a great view of the other famous structure.

Glenfinnan monument

not the Hogwart's Express

DogStarke at LochShiel

The Glenfinnan House Hotel

The Glenfinnan Station museum has developed a path which passes underneath the viaduct and then back to the station, after our time in the train it was lovely to stretch our legs in the glorious early autumn sunshine, DogStarke had a great time with all the new sniffs.

There were candles and a lovely fire to welcome us on our  return,  and up in our room as well as our bags there was a card and present for MrS. We ate dinner in the bar because DogS was allowed in and she wasn't alone.  I think I counted about five other dogs with their owners. If you're not a dog owner/lover don't let it put you off though, they were all well controlled and the main dining room is a dog free zone, the same menu is available in both. After dinner we sat in one of the lounges and read some of the great old books there, a Winnie the Pooh contemporary for MrS* and historic household management tips for me.

Next morning we ate breakfast in the grand dining room with gorgeous views of Loch Shiel. The weather had changed but the loch still locked beautiful through the mist.

breakfast is served...to me!

We had just enough time for a visit to the station museum before catching our train, the regular diesel service this time,  back down to Tyndrum where we'd left the car.

sadly the Callander Oban line doesn't exist anymore

So now it's October, anniversary month.......

*Katawampas by Edward Abbot Parry 1895

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

A tale of two houses

It was my birthday recently and I celebrated with a trip to Glasgow.  It was lovely because most of my favourite people (and DogS) were able to join me there too.  MrS and I stayed at our Glasgow favourite, Blythswood Square Hotel . This was I think our fourth visit,  so what is it that keeps us going back? Well reason number one is that they are dog friendly, (there is a charge for dogs but they also supply beds and bowls)  DogS was welcomed even more warmly than us.  That brings me to reason number two, the staff;  everyone we've encountered throughout our visits has been friendly and helpful.  I think it makes a real difference. And no, I'm  not being paid to say that.

The last time we stayed,  just before Christmas I was feeling poorly and couldn't face a night out, this time I enjoyed two great nights, my birthday at The Finnieston and the following night a more bijou gathering at  The Pelican. Both were very good with a special mention to the The Pelican's Glasgow dish,  a slow roast pork delight, I didn't have it but MrS and the GlamourPuss did and it looked delicious.

We didn't just spend all our time eating, we had time for a bit of culture too. On Saturday we drove out to Helensburgh to visit The Hill House.  Mr S and I had been before but it was a first for Glamour Puss and  The Prof. so it was nice to share it with them.  Some extra rooms were open too with enhanced displays explaining the design features and conservation challenges ahead.  It was gorgeous enjoying the bright light filled rooms on a sunny day.

The next day MrS and I made a visit to a very different home the Tenement House another National Trust for Scotland property. This was a first for us both,  though I've wanted to visit for a  long time. Much smaller than the Hill House it still made for a fascinating visit;  the last owner Miss Toward not only kept the same furniture over the years and resisted electricity into the1960's, she also stored bills, letters and recipes which are displayed and give a wonderful insight into her life and times. There was also for MrS the memory of a similar flat and being tucked up in the box bed in the kitchen when he was unwell.

But that, as they say is another story. For another day perhaps.......

Monday, 24 August 2015

I'm not from here.........

So where am I from?

              And where is home?

 I was born and raised in Wales but moved to Edinburgh to study and stayed for thirty years;  now I've relocated to the West Coast of Scotland to start my own business.

My first memory of Edinburgh was not the castle but the wet, grey tenement buildings looming outside  the windows as my train drew into Waverley;  it seemed a forbidding place.  I grew to love it as I came to know it better; regular Saturday afternoon walks taking me to the neighbourhoods of Bruntsfield, Morningside and Stockbridge with their shops and cafes.

Bruntsfield tenement, in the sun

 I learned about its past too,  discovering where there used to be factories and before them farms.  I moved many times,  lived in a basement and up in the eaves, in the footwear department of a converted store  and a house built for shoemakers, above a doctor's  surgery and  in a former hospital, and next door to an ice cream cone manufacturer.
I developed favourites among those shops and cafes, knew which were the nicest  playgrounds and the best places to walk a dog.

picnicking on the Links



at HN again !



Edinburgh was home......though I went home for the holidays

                                 Edinburgh was home.........I'd lived there nearly all of my adult life

                                                     I was from Edinburgh..... I'd lived there longer than anywhere else.

                                                          And then I didn't.....

                          Now I live here......

We came here on a rainy day, not expecting to like the house.....

We've been busy, there's a new area to explore and many skills to be learned. I'm particularly seeking the dual grails of the perfect poached egg and the ability to launch and steer the  boat. We've researched  the development of our house as it's grown from a croft, become a  tearoom for a while and is now due to undergo our  changes (watch this space), and learned about the history of the island   MrS has been doing some work with our local museum, helping with their archives. In fact that what he was doing when I started to think about this post.

old postcard view

So where was I? Well the sun was shining and it was a day off so I was out having lunch. I've started developing new favourite places,

ok it was August not April, but this is Scotland



because as the French say..


But for every move there are the things you take with you and things you leave behind.

And so I make Welsh cakes to welcome our guests.