Where: Pitlochry, Perthshire, Scotland
Plate of Food: This is a place that has a “salmon ladder” so it is no surprise that fresh Scottish salmon features on many menus here. I had some truly wonderful salmon in Pitlochry (including at a restaurant where we turned up an hour early for our reservation because we didn’t change the time on our watches – oops), but when in Scotland I am always partial to a full Scottish breakfast. This is a plate of eggs, bacon, sausages, beans, mushrooms, tomatoes, and black pudding. So, just a light meal. In my defence, we were doing some rather long walks through the countryside…and I didn’t have the tomatoes. Very restrained.
I ate my breakfast of (ahem) champions in the cramped dining room of the bed and breakfast in which we were staying. There were many guests staying that weekend and our small tables were nestled very close to one another. So close that it was difficult to have a private conversation without overhearing everyone else’s conversations next to you. So close it was difficult to cut your bacon without elbowing someone in the ear. As the room filled each morning, silence would descend. People became very interested in their own plates and we all ate to the awkward tune of cutlery clinking against plates and tea being quietly slurped.
We became aware of a curious middle-aged couple who were very prim and proper and unfailingly courteous to each other as if they had only just met (“Please, do sit so you can see out the window.” “Oh no, please, you sit there!” “No, no, I insist!”).
The gentleman always ordered a cooked breakfast, but his lady friend demurely chose the tinned fruit and cold cereal. In the eery silence and under his watchful eye, she delicately poured milk in her bowl, then raised her spoon to her mouth, and crunched mouthful after mouthful of the NOISIEST cornflakes in Scotland. The sound filled the room. Being a well-mannered woman, she was embarrassed by the volume of her breakfast cereal, so she held one fine-boned hand up in front of her mouth as she chewed. Huh? Amazingly I can still hear you even if I can’t see your mouth.
She steadily worked her way through the bowl until eventually the spoon was laid to rest and the entire room let out our collective breath. Top o’ the morning to you!
The best: Through some weather phenomenon, we have always experienced sunny weather when in Scotland (except for that ill-fated climb of Arthur’s Seat) causing us to wax lyrical about the beauty and delights of this nation. Your Scottish experience may well have been wet, grey, and haunted by deep-fried Mars bars (yes, that is a real thing), but mine was not.
The sun shone brightly on our time in Pitlochry. There were bright daffodils growing in cheerful bunches on the roadsides, and the river was flowing fast with the run-off from the hills. The village itself was exactly what you imagine a rural Scottish village to be: quaint, quiet, friendly, and charming. There were sweet little tea shops offering fruit scones and ginger cake, there were ancient-looking pubs offering dark corners in which to sip your dram of local whisky, there were castles straight out of story books, and there were beautiful walks in the surrounding area to help you work off your ample breakfast.
We walked along a beautiful path to the smallest whisky distillery in Scotland – Edradour. The walk was peaceful and gentle. Our route was flanked by mossy stone walls and we looked out over low hills, just beginning to show the green of Spring. There were babbling brooks, more daffodils, and (in case we are getting too pastoral) a fantastic whisky tasting at the end.
Story that needs to be told: We stayed in a cozy, family-run bed and breakfast just off of the main street in Pitlochry. The wallpaper was floral. The stairs creaked. The rooms smelled like rose scented soap. We were 50 years too young for this place, but it was great.
When we arrived in the late afternoon, having driven from Aberdeen, there was no one at the front desk. We rang the bell and waited. We could hear footsteps upstairs and the occasional distant voice. We rang again. Finally, a man came bustling through the door and into the reception area. He cheerfully greeted us while smoothing down his fly-away hair, then walked right past us and through another door.
We looked at each other and waited.
Suddenly he appeared behind the desk and started looking for something under all of the papers. All the while he chatted animatedly, but distractedly to us. Before we could properly check in, he dashed off to find his wife. He returned (without his wife) and continued his flustered work. He glanced at the hall clock and remembered that he was supposed to be picking up his daughter from the train station. He shouted up the stairs at someone and searched for his keys before striding in and out of various doors in the reception area.
This was getting ridiculous. Basil Fawlty, is that you?
Eventually our host left and his wife completed our check in. She spoke to a young girl who came down the stairs and asked her to “call Dad and tell him you’re not at the train station because you arrived this morning”.
“Whisky may not cure the common cold, but it fails more agreeably than most other things.” Scottish Proverb