Tuesday, November 10, 2015

South-west Scotland

Before our recent trip, I had been to Scotland twice, but both times only to Edinburgh and both times only briefly (a day trip and an overnight trip). I am sure it goes without saying that there is a lot more to Scotland than its capital city, but I will note it anyway, because the rest of the country was so very different. It blew me away and if you haven't visited Scotland, I urge you to go, and go west and north in particular!

Culzean Castle, Scotland

I'll get to the north of the country in a future post, but am starting where we started - in the south-west corner. We based ourselves in Dumfries, which is a small town 30 miles north of the English border and 75 miles south of Glasgow. We chose it as a base for the south-west and because it was one of the closest Scottish towns we could drive to. However, as we only had 1.5 days in the region we didn't spend much time in Dumfries itself, and even less there in daylight. What we did see was pleasant enough but I can't pretend to have a good grasp of the town.

Dumfries' 15th century bridge


What we did see in the area were two magnificent castles. Culzean Castle, pictured top and below, is the flagship property of the Scottish National Trust. As English National Trust members we could visit for free, and got in just before the property shut for winter (it shut in November and we visited on the 30th October!).

Culzean Castle

Culzean is more of a stately home than a castle, but it is impressive and we were blessed with gorgeous weather - not at all what I expected in Scotland. It is perched on the very western edge of Scotland and overlooks the sea. The castle passed through various lines of the Kennedy family from the 16th century, but the current structure dates primarily from the 1770s. It also sits within a large country park, which we also enjoyed exploring.

Culzean country park estate

Our second castle in the area was very different, being more castle like and less intact. Caerlaverock Castle is only a few miles south of Dumfries and is a ruined medieval castle that you can wander and climb on at leisure. We like those sorts of castles, and on the day we visited, the sunshine was swapped for grey skies that were less scenic but seemed appropriate to the setting.

Caerlaverock Castle

There are actually two Caerlaverock Castles, with the remains of the original castle positioned a short walk from the remaining one. The original fort on that site dates back to Roman times and there is British input from 950 - amazingly old. The current (semi-ruined) castle was built around 1270, which is still amazingly old. It is understandable it isn't fully intact.

Caerlaverock Castle
Caerlaverock is run by Historic Environment Scotland (previously just Historic Scotland), which is a counterpart to English Heritage. We're not members of either, so paid the £5.50 entrance fee.


Caerlaverock Castle
When we weren't exploring castles or walking outdoors, the south-west also provided some good eating options. Dumfries in particular deserves note for Hullabaloo, a well-reviewed restaurant set in a converted 18th century mill on the banks of the River Nith. They have a vegan menu to complement their standard menu (although you have to ask for it) and offer a diverse range of carefully considered dishes.




Hullabaloo

I was excited to try the vegan haggis, which came in a stack with "maple braised red cabbage, apple & cranberry, roasted parsnip and potato" as well as a creamy spinach sauce (£10.50). Regular haggis is not something I like to think about very much (I won't share details, but look it up if you are curious and don't know of the dish!) and I was interested to see what a vegan version would be like. In effect, it was nut roast but made slightly softer and in this dish, exquisitely seasoned. I picked up lentils, onions and an array of spices but couldn't guess beyond that. The other vegetables in the stack were also delicious and whilst I didn't much like the sauce, I was grateful it was provided on the side so it didn't detract from my meal.

Vegan haggis stack


Mr Bite also ordered from the vegan menu, selecting the "ultimate vegan burger" with a spicy chickpea pattie, grilled vegan cheese, beetroot hummus and a crispy fried onion ring, served on toasted ciabatta with potato wedges and garlic and chilli vegan mayonnaise (£10.50). He liked it, but wasn't very enamored with the onion ring, and found that when he removed it he lost a lot of the beetroot hummus.

Vegan burger

The restaurant itself is set above a theatre and caters to theatre attendees with early dinner options. It is a small space but nicely set out, and we were pleased to be positioned by a window overlooking the river.


We only had 2 nights in the south-west corner but it felt like longer by virtue of what we were able to see. It was a nice entree to Scotland!

Culzean Castle is run by National Trust for Scotland and details are available at  http://www.nts.org.uk/Property/Culzean-Castle-and-Country-Park . It is shut over the winter months.

Caerlaverock Castle is run by Historic Scotland and details are available at http://www.historic-scotland.gov.uk/index/places/propertyresults/propertyoverview.htm?PropID=PL_047&PropName=Caerlaverock%20Castle . It is open most of the year.

Hullabaloo Restaurant is located on Mill Road in Dumfries and is open for lunch Monday to Saturday and dinner Tuesday to Saturday. Details are at http://www.hullabaloorestaurant.co.uk/.

Do you have favourite local attractions?

15 comments:

  1. I've never been to Scotland, but would definitely love to visit. It looks beautiful!

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    1. I hope you can get there one day :-)

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  2. I've never been to Scotland but it's certainly on the agenda. I wish we had that kind of history here, where I could just up and go and check out medieval castles!

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  3. I love the look of those castles - when we have been in November we often miss the opening period of such castles so I keep hoping we get to visit when it is more in the tourist period. I haven't been to dumfries and galloway area of Scotland but would like to esp since I found I had an ancestor from that area. Your haggis stack looks very impressive. Was the sauce too creamy for your tastes or was the flavour not great?

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    1. The Dumfries and Galloway region is less dramatic than further north but still very scenic - and handily accessible. You'll have to try and come back :-)

      As for the sauce, I suspect it was just too creamy for my tastes, but consequently I didn't really like the flavour either. I don't think I'm a fair judge of creamy sauces though.

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  4. I have never been to Scotland before, but your pictures are making me jealous. I would love to go on a walking holiday there and just explore.

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    1. It's the sort of place for walking and exploring, that is for sure :-)

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  5. Those are beautiful pictures! We're thinking about doing a trip to Scotland in a couple years, I can't believe it's still so green there even at this time of year.

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    1. Thanks Allysia! It is amazingly green - exciting to hear you're planning your own trip there.

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  6. What vegan haggis?. What a exciting trip, I haven't bee to that part of Scotland either.

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  7. Gorgeous castles! Wow =)
    Vegan haggis? I never would have guessed. I suppose someone somewhere is always trying to veganize something ;p
    The burger looks so good!

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  8. Kari, can you tell me why you liked Glasgow more than Edinburgh? We live in Ireland and our American friends are taking a cruise this summer..,, they will stop in both places and we will meet them for a couple of days.. we WERE going to meet up in Edinburgh but after reading your latest post, now, I'm wondering.. personally, I like "quaint" and "cozy" - you know, the tiny, cobblestone, winding streets such as Paris has. So,.. if you don't mind, what did you like most about Glasgow? Can you recommend any good Plant Based Restaurants in Edinburgh as you did in Glasgow (just in case)... and, many thanks!

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    1. If you are after Paris charm then Edinburgh is probably the place to go :-) I struggle to say exactly why I preferred Glasgow it to Edinburgh - I think some cities just appeal to me more than others. Glasgow has a very relaxed feel to it and lots of beautiful outdoor spaces as well as a central river. Edinburgh is more refined and reserved and the buildings are grander but seem less friendly (if that makes any senes). If it helps, I love London but am lukewarm about Paris so it may be that you and I have different city tastes!

      I will share our time in Edinburgh eventually but for a winning plant-based option you can't go wrong with Hendersons (which has a restaurant, deli and salad bar - http://www.hendersonsofedinburgh.co.uk/) and David Bann (http://www.davidbann.co.uk/). We didn't eat at the latter but the menu online is very appealing.

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