I have a sightseeing tip for all those folk who have flown half way around the world for COP26, and who are in Scotland for a limited period of time.
My suggestion for a must see location they could easily visit is the Great Polish Map of Scotland.
It is a giant physical relief map which has the entire country sculpted in concrete. It measures 40m by 50m. So in a few minutes you could truthfully say that you have walked around Scotland from the Borders to Sutherland.
Your eco credentials will remain intact, apart from the concrete, that is, and the journey here. However the advantage is that you wouldn’t need to do any wild camping or drive around the NC500 in a electric car, vainly searching for charging points.
This hidden gem is in the grounds of the remains of a 16th-century tower house, built in 1536 which has been added to and was extended in the 18th century and is now a hotel.
On the way you will be rewarded with stunning views of the Borders countryside and beside the driveway, there are alpacas and donkeys.
The impressive frontage has a friendly message carved above the doorway; which says “prepare to meet thy God” – good old fashioned Scottish hospitality at its best.
Entering nervously we found a calm tartan-floored reception area, and thankfully not a sword wielding man at arms.
As we had prebooked we were directed to the bar area and told to wait to be seated by the staff.
There were a few other tables occupied by a mix of families and couples.
One side of the dining area was reserved for a wedding party, so from our table we got a cracking view of the frocks and fascinators at the reception.
Evening meals are available in 1536 Restaurant from 6pm and that menu looks far more interesting than the offerings at the Blue Dug Bar. However that was where I had booked a table for myself and my daughter for Sunday lunch.
No matter, we are here and hungry, and ready to experience exactly what Scotland has to offer us for a culinary treat. It would seem, just the classic staple dishes, although sadly the pizza and sharing platters were not available.
So lentil and bacon soup, a selection of sandwiches, fish and chips, steak and ale pie, macaroni and cheese it was.
They also do an Afternoon Tea which sadly we are too early to try. Instead while we took our time to peruse what’s on offer on the bar menu, the youth with me ordered a Coke.
I decided that it had to be nachos, £5.75. To be fair a substantial portion arrived, smothered in jalapeno slices and melted mozzarella cheese with pots of dips of salsa and sour cream. You could add either chilli beef or BBQ pulled pork for an extra £1.50.
But here was my etiquette dilemma: the waiter brought me a specific fork and knife to eat my starter, I was confused; I’ve always assumed nachos to be essentially a finger food. It appears that’s all wrong, as hidden underneath the mountain of tortilla crisps was a spoonful of cheese sauce from the other vegetarian dish on the menu mac n cheese.
I guess… result. I got to sample two dishes for the price of one.
Anyway my dining companion opted for haggis bon bons served with salad and whisky sauce, £6.50. They were at the perfect temperature, crunchy crust exterior and super soft and yielding innards, however the bland sauce did not impress. Neither did the basic salad, baby leaves and red onion, it seems chef has a spiraliser and he is not afraid to use it.
For the next course, my daughter opted for good old traditional steak pie. It arrived a square pillow of plump pastry on top of a bowl with steak pie in gravy, £12.95. Accompaniments were a mini wire basket of frozen chips, a portion of salad and a pot of peas.
The peas arrived in a tiny ramekin, and were a bit overdone and dry with one sad specimen deciding to end it all by leaping across the carpet before it reached the plate.
My vegetarian fajitas arrived on an enormous wooden board, £11.25. What was this? Something looked distinctly familiar, as there on the chopping board were my old friends, the salsa sauce and sour cream from my starter accompanied by another pot of purple coleslaw.
There were also chips in a wire basket, but it felt wrong to douse the serving platter with vinegar.
As we know recycling is good but with common ingredients from dish to dish being reshuffled it was all a tad disappointing.
As solitary dishes each was absolutely fine. But we couldn’t face the prospect of the dessert options; duo of chocolate cheesecake, lemon meringue pie or Bakewell tart mainly because I feared a small pot of sour cream was bound to make an appearance.
Haste ye back here, no thanks, but we might be tempted to try the 1536 restaurant another day.