Keep calm and eat scones
We leave the carpark after visiting the Mull of Kintyre lighthouse, and start retracing our way down the narrow one-lane road. I'm surprised that we don't encounter any vehicles coming up the mountain. This morning, we had had to pull over into the little passing places (as the Scottish call them) several times to allow cars to pass. It had been rather busy. When we left the Mull of Kintyre carpark at the end of the road, only one car had remained and after a short time, it appears on our tail.
Pulling over to take some photos of the stunning scenery below, we allow the car to pass.
We want to absorb the environment and enjoy the scenery as much as possible, and on the badly maintained road, we descend very slowly. The tiny thread of a road winds up into the purple hills, returning to the coast, before twisting again into the heather. We see where neat squares had been cut out of the bog generations ago, the scars remaining, and easily seen from the road.
Despite the popularity of the Mull of Kintyre road this morning, there is no longer a soul on the road.
I'm struck by the number of huge mansions that had been built out here in these hills. When they were built, one or two hundred years ago, they would have been a long distance from the nearest amenities, and very remote. Now farmhouses, many of them appear to be tired and well-worn. Perhaps they are too expensive to repair. Some are freshly painted and obviously well-maintained.
We come to a T-intersection, and instead of returning on the road we used this morning, turn right and continue along the narrow road.
Our B&B host had imparted a little secret this morning, and we are now going to investigate.
We leave the wild hills of heather and bracken as the road cuts between farms. Cows and sheep graze on the bright green grass and for the casual observer, it is an idyllic pastoral scene.
The grumbling sound of a tractor draws my attention to a steep hill beyond the paddocks. A tractor with an attached mower slowly ascends the hill, straight lines left after him. He reaches the top of the hill. Expecting him to turn, I am surprised instead to see him reverse the tractor down the hill, the cutting lines in front of the machine as it descends. Reaching the bottom, he drives up the hill, reverses down until the cleared land is a series of straight lines. For someone who has trouble reversing down our driveway, I am impressed with the ease in which he performs this task.
We pass a headland and the road bends toward the left. High red cliffs are one one side and the rocky shore is to our right. A few permanent caravans are facing the ocean, and at this time of the year, it is a perfect location.
I see a sign and stop. St Columba's Footprints are a short walk away. There is evidence that St. Columba arrived in Scotland from Northern Ireland in around 563. He probably made the fifteen kilometre journey across the Northern Channel. We climb a set of stairs set into the hill; exposed wildflowers are struggling to display the last of their colour. At the top is a flat grey rock, bearing two footprints. The whole idea of a saint leaving their footprints in solid rock seems to be like a fairytale, but John Cowan, the owner of our B&B has a perfectly valid explanation for the footprints.
Whilst one of the footprints is really ancient, the other one was carved by a local stonemason in 1856. The ancient footprint was said to have been used in inauguration ceremonies.
Soil from an area or estate would be placed in the chiselled footprint, for the king to stand on. The owner of the soil, upon which the king had standing, could thus pledge his loyalty to the king. Perhaps the saying, 'stamp of approval' stems from this practice. Carved stone footprints have been found in Britain from the Iron Age onwards and their use in inauguration ceremonies is recorded in Ireland and Scotland as recently as the late medieval period.
We then had a quick look at St. Columba's well, which is a naturally-occurring spring. According to local legend has healing properties. Although attributed to St. Columba, it is unlikely linked to him.
We return to the car and continue our journey. The 'secret' destination is close by, so we slowly enjoy the unique scenery on this rugged coast line. Along a headland are many caravans, both permanent and holidaymakers. At first, I think the beach is deserted, but suddenly catch sight of a group of people, coat clad and huddled together. Although the sun is out, it is not hot, and barely warm enough for beach. We Aussies can afford to giggle at the sight.
We arrive in the little village of Southend. It is really the southernmost town of the Kintyre peninsula, as opposed to the Mull, which is the southernmost point. There is a group of houses on one side of the road, and farmland on the other. We find the place we are looking for; the general store and tea room. Lesley, our B&B host, encouraged us to try out the tea room, not that we need any encouragement.
We enter the general store, and a lady greets almost immediately. We are seated. The place is so crowded it is hard to believe that we are in a little hick town at the bottom of the world.
There are no menus.
There is no espresso.
We order scones and a slice of sponge cake.
We wonder whether how they will compare to the absolutely ordinary scones we have tasted throughout our journeying in Ireland, London, and Scotland. We have, since arriving in the UK, become amateur scone-snobs.
Very soon they arrive, then our filtered coffee, then a slice of sponge cake, then the scones. Real scones.
The scones your grandmother used to make....
lashings of fresh butter, jam, and freshly-whipped cream.
I cut mine in half, add the jam, then a dollop of 'real' whipped cream.
I sink my fangs into the side, leaving my teeth-marks in the freshly-baked soft, fluffy scone.
There are no crumbs; no crumbly bits scattered all over the table.
This is a scone, the likes of which I haven't eaten in years....
Did I mention sponge cake?
Now, my Aunty Edith makes the best ever sponge in the world. I think she may have snuck into this cafe in Scotland, because nowhere else, apart from Bendigo, have I tasted a sponge such as this.
We savour the fresh, fluffy, baked goods as we watch the constant stream of people coming and going. Afternoon tea is not a unique experience, but having afternoon tea that would rival that served by the grandest hotels in London or Paris or Melbourne, here at the bottom end of Scotland, is one that I'll never forget.
As we leave, Frances, the owner pops out of the kitchen to say goodbye. Wiping floury hands on her apron, she shakes our hands and wishes us 'safe travels'.
'How do you make the scones?' Tom asks.
'With a bone-handled knife,' she says. 'And no fat. I use egg yolks instead of butter.'
I'm not sure whether to try them out when I return.
...hold the memory for the next time we return.
Title Quote: A parody on the original 'Keep Calm'
motivational poster dating from 1939.
Accommodation: Oatfield Country House B&B, PA28 6PH,
Scones: Muneroy Tearooms and store,
Southend, Campbeltown PA28 6RW, United Kingdom.
© 2018 Janette E Frawley - All Rights Reserved