Blown away in Scotland - #TasteYeBack Part Two
Dear Scotland, I’m not quite done with you yet. Welcome to Part
Two of the tale of the #TasteYeBack tour. After finding delicious food in Fife in Part One,
it was now time to be blown away before delving back into another castle for more foodie fun and a spot of foraging.
St Andrews might be best known for golf and its university but for thrill seekers there is something much more enticing to be found. Guy and Jamie McKenzie, identical twins and Scottish surf dude extraordinaires started Blown Away Experiences, a land yachting company at the tender young age of 20. The West Sands at St Andrews is their playground, the perfect setting for a variety of wind and water sports and six years later their business is thriving. They are the perfect example of a small local business venture done good.
So yeah, land yachting. As an accident prone, scared of heights and extreme speed wimp, I was slightly uneasy about this. To be good at land yachting it helps if you have sailed before. That’s a big no from me. After a fair amount of fumbling around I did finally start to get the hang of it – just in time for one of my contact lenses to be gone with the wind.
I'll let you in on a secret: I'm really short sighted. So speeding along towards the surf half blind was an interesting experience, one that ended up with a wheel spin turn in said surf. The result: A spectacular shower of water and sand, just for me. Yay. At least I wasn’t hurt and after a somewhat slapstick session of putting in another contact lens, I was back in my “yacht”.
A lot of fun and just one capsize later it was time to call it a day. Windswept and happy we devoured coffee and shortbread - funny how good something so simple can taste after a bit of outdoor activity. (Note to self: Must get out more).
Back in Edinburgh it was time to check out another self-catering flat: Silvermills Apartments in Stockbridge. Not a castle this time, but a well laid out, comfortable flat in a central area. I was especially impressed with the folder provided by the owner with information on how to be green during your visit. I wish more places would follow this example!
It seems however that no day is complete in Scotland without a castle, so off we went to Melville Castle just south of town. About to reopen as a family-run hotel with a restaurant focusing on local produce, Melville is definitely worth considering if you fancy a bit of Scottish castle action close to Edinburgh.
The plan was to go head to head in a cook-off, but in the spirit of collaboration it was all hands on deck to cook up a storm of Scottish favourites for our hosts and guests that evening. I was secretly pleased as some of the competition was a little intimidating!
Smoked haddock chowder, vegetarian haggis and cranachan (an oaty, berry and boozy dessert) was joined by, yes you guessed it, deep fried mars bars and various other finger foods. We cooked, we ate, we drank, we talked - a great way to experience the castle before it’s official reopening.
Having already foraged in the Botanical Gardens of Glasgow, it seemed only right that I should do the same in Edinburgh before leaving. And so it was that I found myself in the forest area of the Royal Botanical Gardens of Edinburgh under moody Scottish skies the next morning. Of the things we saw, Few Flowered Leek stood out for me as an excellent alternative to wild garlic, a favourite of urban foragers. Luckily for us, the two plants can usually be found in the same areas. The season starts in spring so don’t rush out there looking just yet. Also beware that both plants are invasive species so you shouldn’t replant them anywhere as they are likely to completely take over.
The botanical gardens themselves are beautiful and well worth a stroll around, regardless of the weather. The Victorian era greenhouses are glorious and there are little cafes dotted around for a pit stop if needed.
We also learnt a little about the weird and wonderful happenings that make up the Edinburgh International Science Festival. In 2012 they helped prove that hormones influence your dancing style and at this years festival they were the first to feed a whole room of people poisonous and psychoactive fly agaric mushrooms with no harm done. They're also working on experiments to help cities become more sustainable. The next festival is in April 2014 - the geek in me definitely wants to return to Edinburgh to check this out!
And just like that it was the end of the trip with most of us headed to the airport, Dublin bound for the largest travel blogger conference in the world, Travel Bloggers Exchange.
This trip was made possible by EmbraceScotland and Trip Organiser in conjunction with a variety of partners as mentioned in this post. Thank you also to Momondo for providing my flight to Dublin. If you haven't heard of Momondo, do check them out - they're a Danish company that uses innovative search engines to get you the best travel deal possible, allowing you to book directly with the supplier which is great for local business. As always, opinions expressed are mine and mine alone.
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