The kids hardly seem to have been back at school after the summer and all too soon the October half term "tattie holidays" were looming large. We've got family in Dumfries and Galloway so have visited regularly but never really had an opportunity to explore the area properly. Now would be our chance with a week long break. We stayed at Cruggleton Lodge in Galloway which looked idyllic on the website but was perhaps a little less so in real life. Somewhat remote down a mile long rough track, solar panels and generator to provide electricity and a wood fired hot tub that took a seriously long time to get warm.
Thankfully I know how to cook on an Aga as there was no instructions provided. It did give a fantastic cosiness to the kitchen and we enjoyed making Aga Toast and cooking Pancakes and Nutella in Pancakes on the hotplates. Spotting plenty of brambles in the surrounding woods and apples on the tree outside the cottage I threw together a rustic foraged jam to last us through the week. We even managed breakfast outside one morning. Not bad for Scotland in October.
Our first day trip was into Ayrshire to visit a couple of National Trust for Scotland properties. We've had family membership for a number of years but still lots of places we haven't yet visited. I love visiting the kitchens in castles and Culzean Castle didn't disappoint. All those shiny copper pans and jelly moulds gave it a real touch of Downton Abbey! We could have spent the whole day in the woodlands and landscape gardens of the country park but the next destination beckoned. Time for some serious Burns.
Both boy and girl have participated in Burns recital competitions so we are all very familiar with the work of the Bard. The Robert Burns Birthplace Museum was a fantastically interactive experience which combined with a visit to Burns Cottage, Poets Path, Brig o’ Doon, the Burns Monument Gardens and Alloway's Auld Haunted Kirk made for a truly fascinating afternoon.
We'd been recommended to make a day trip to Belfast as part of our time in Galloway. There's a regular ferry sailing from Cairnryan to Belfast. It was an early start to make the 7.30am sailing but it meant we had pretty much a full day to explore. First stop was The Titanic Experience. I would have been happy to have spent the whole day there. Absolutely fascinating and I would highly recommend a visit. I hadn't made any plans for lunch so tweeted the night before to ask for recommendations. Laura at Day Dreaming Foodie suggested Mourne Seafood which sounded very much up my street so that's where we headed. They don't take reservations at lunchtime so you just have to take your chance. We had a short wait as a table of 8 arrived just before us but it was very worthwhile. Between us we enjoyed seafood chowder, mussels with korma sauce, pan fried crabs claws, salt and chilli squid, seafood casserole, beer battered fish and chips, seared queen scallop risotto and what my daughter described as the best fish fingers ever! After our late lunch we jumped on an open top bus for a tour of the city sights. I must admit that I was very ignorant about how much segregation still exist in the city and had no idea that peace lines and gates still divided catholic and protestants.
Unfortunately my partner in crime for foraging events Mark Williams of Galloway Wild Foods was away gallivanting at the time of our visit so I didn't get to catch up with him on his home turf. However we did visit Galloway Smokehouse where he purchases goodies to eek out the wild food at our events. We stocked up on smoked eggs, smoked chicken, smoked nuts, smoked mussels and smoked venison before lunching in their recently opened The Galloway Fisherman restaurant. It was really busy and we thoroughly enjoyed our meal. No room for desert. We'd be making that at our next stop.
We couldn't fail to notice an abundance of dairy cows in the field of Galloway during our stay and milk tankers on the roads. A visit to Cream o' Galloway showed us how one family dairy farm has developed into an ice cream and cheese producer with in door and out door play areas, nature trails, tea room and restaurant. We had booked in for their Ready Steady Freeze event where we made our own ice cream and learned how they make theirs. My limited edition Foodie Quine magnificent flavour creation was "Cinnamon Spice and all things Nice" containing vanilla, cinnamon, ginger pieces, honeycomb and raisins. Lots of fun and I've promised myself, and my kids, that I'll dig out our seldom used ice cream maker.
Our final day in Galloway was also my birthday. When I'd asked for recommendations of where to eat on Twitter, Sheena at Galloway Chilli's gave me lots of suggestions including StrEatery 82 (now Craft in Wigtown) As soon as I saw it I knew this was where I was having my birthday lunch. International streetfood in a portakabin on a beach.
The reality didn't disappoint. It was a fantastically sunny if cold autumnal day which showed off the location to its full advantage, right on the beach at Sands of Luce. There are only 10 seats inside, all reclaimed school desks, but there's seating outside by way of picnic benches and a giant cable reel table. The menu changes on a weekly basis and is local and sustainable. A fab range of drinks too. I thoroughly enjoyed my bottle of Rhubarb Fritz Spritz.
To eat we oped for
Bulgogi ssäm: Marinated Highland beef strips, Gochujang paste, sticky rice, picco de gallo, gem lettuce leaf
Chefsteps burger: Highland beef burger, melted gouda cheese, BBQ sauce, Japanese mayonnaise, blue cheese spread, diced red onions, brioche bun
Banh Mi: Homemade pork pate, pickled carrots, coriander, pickled cucumber, lettuce, Japanese mayo, sriracha, mini baguette
Kids Highland beef burger in brioche bun
Plus sides of fries and coleslaw with peanut dressing.
All the food was amazing, wonderful flavour combinations and great homemade sauces and rubs. The burger was truly awesome. I'm definitely going to have to attempt to recreate my own version of the spicy peanut coleslaw. If you're tempted to visit, StrEatery will close for the winter from the 2nd of November 2015 until the beginning of March 2016 so you'll either need to be very quick, wait until the spring or keep an eye out for pop up winter events. Owners Kati and Ben left me a message on my Facebook page to say that I should have told them it was my birthday and that they would have put a candle on my burger. I only wish I'd known that they did BYOB. I bet Prosecco tastes great mixed with Rhubarb Fritz Spritz. I'll know for next time.