This is a reasonably impromptu visit to Scotland! We were offered a 5 day stay b&b in Callander as an extra on our timeshare ownership for the princely price of £95 for the two of us… and it seemed almost rude not to accept. Bob had wanted to go back for a while and although on this trip we would not make it to the western coastline we love so much, it would be a nice chance to explore Perthshire and the lochs.
It’s a long way from south east Kent though so we decided to stage our visit, setting off a few days early and visiting friends along the way. Our first stop was south of Leicester to stay with our friends Fiona and Stuart. A journey that should have taken 2.5 hours somehow took nearly 7, caught in massive motorway traffic jams. It made us start to wonder about setting off home early at the end of the week rather than our original plan which was to drive back in one very long day. Anyway…. had a lovely couple of days exploring Leicestershire and the weather was quite kind and the company was very good.
Set off north again on Sunday morning, stopping in Harrogate to visit two more friends who have been unwell and then continuing up the A1 as far as Scots Corner and crossing to the west over the moors on the A66 to Penrith. It’s a spectacular drive which we always enjoy. Great vistas in either direction of a rather cruelly bleak landscape probably unchanged since it struck shuddering gloom into the hearts of the Romans as they progressed north to where they would build a big wall!!
We had booked to spend the night at the Premier Inn in Penrith, primarily for its location and the fact it had air conditioning, It has been such a hot summer. In the end I don’t think we needed it, temperatures definitely having fallen. Still, very nice, very new, very comfortable and at about £60, well priced and central. We walked out in the evening into Penrith centre, which was within 5 minutes. A very picturesque little market town, built around squares, well populated with pubs.
We ate at a wine bar bistro, Grants of Castlegate, and it was one of the best meals we’ve had in years. The bistro is a real throw back to the sort of place I loved to eat at regularly in the 1980s. French influenced modern British cooking, delicious and amazingly low priced for the quality and the value. The wine list was very impressive as might be expected. Carefully chosen, individual wines. We had a bottle of South African red, Inkspot, that was so delicious, we immediately started to Google where we could buy it. Just an amazing mouthful of flavour that buzzed on the tongue.
We passed on a starter. My main course was lamb loin, perfectly roasted served with a rich deep sauce and with a great selection of imaginative vegetables: parsnip puree, green beans with bacon and onion, tomatoes with basil. We saw the chef go out into the garden to pick them. Bob had duck breast, equally delicious. Mine came with a bowl of potatoes Lyonnaise and Bob had new potatoes. Both were priced at around £15 and were faultless. Then, we shared a cheese plate which was very generous, followed by affogato and a liquor of choice. I had cognac, Bob had Grand Marnier. The whole delicious meal including the bottle of wine was a tad over £70. It could easily have cost us that each in many restaurants.
I would actually choose to stay in Penrith again, just to eat there and for heavens sake if you are passing through, go in. They are open for lunch as well. Nice people, no wonder they are so popular.
Good nights sleep and on to Callander tomorrow.