Last week, on my Wednesday afternoon escape from the racing of the rats (hooray for flexible working patterns) we did what we often do, and headed to East Lothian.
We frequently leave a grey skied Edinburgh behind, and are greeted by clear, blue skies when we visit East Lothian. Last week was no exception. It was a gorgeous day when we arrived at Archerfield Walled Garden near Dirleton. It was also bracingly windy, but living in Edinburgh we’re no strangers to the phrase ‘blowing a hoolie’ (Scots for frightfully windy) so a spot of wind wasn’t going to deter us.
Before lunch we explored some of the lovely walking trails at Archerfield. I used to love Enid Blyton’s Magic Faraway Tree stories, so I made a beeline for the woodland Fairy Trail first.
As far as I’m concerned you’re never too old to go in search of a little magic. What’s not to love about finding tiny, fairy dust sprinkled houses hidden in the trees and peeping inside their dinky wee windows and doors.
Laughter is timeless. Imagination has no age. And dreams are forever.
Sadly we were too big to enter Old Archerfield Wood via the little people door but the wee dug was a comfortable fit.
We picked the perfect day to visit too as the low winter sun was casting a warm, dreamy light on the trail.
As we wound our way along woodland paths, we found one cute fairy house after another. Each was as unique as the little people who lived inside them – there was friendly fairy Bella, lazy lump Puck and busy bee Fi to name but a few.
It was nice to find ourselves in a pleasant fairy wood too, as out last encounter with the little people in Aberfoyle, was with some quite malevolent old-world Scottish faeries.
We checked out the willow walk next, despite our stomachs telling us it was lunch o’clock. The willow walk is a short trail of sculptures made using willow – there’s a kirk, complete with pointy steeple, a teepee, a den and a twisty willow maze. My favourite was Willow Yurt with its fluttering prayer flags.
I love prayer flags and dream of seeing them in Nepal some day, after a rewarding trek to Everest Basecamp. In reality I’m known to curse my way up the most modest of inclines, so the likelihood of me trekking through thin air in Nepal is as probable as hell freezing over.
Thanks to the bracing East Lothian breeze the Archerfield prayer flags were dancing beautifully in the wind. The contrast of bright colours against a clear blue sky was lovely – standing inside Willow Yurt, head in the clouds it felt like summer.
I loved the Wishing Tree too. We stopped to admire hundreds of brightly coloured wishes tied to the tree, all straining to escape and soar off into the sky.
It was nice to see a cheery interpretation of an old Scots tradition, where a cloot (scots for cloth) was tied to a tree for a sick loved one. As the cloot rots away in the elements, the belief was that the illness would also disappear and the loved one recover.
We had a table booked for lunch at Archerfield’s dog friendly bar. The bar has a real chilled vibe and the ambient lighting makes you want to settle in for an afternoon of crisp, chilled wine and chat.
The menu has a tempting array of options. After much humming and hawing we both settled on the tomato & smoked paprika soup to start. Oh quelle surprise I hear you cry – she’s blogging about soup again, and what can I say but ‘guilty’!
For our second course Mr G went for the Belhaven smoked Salmon, caper and dill crème fraiche on a fennel bloomer. It came with a side salad and some vegetables crisps.
After eating his body weight in Pringles over the Christmas holidays, Mr G set himself a crisp avoidance challenge until our late March Orkney trip. He’s hugely proud of his achievement so far, and there’s even been talk of extending the crisp embargo until our New York trip in June. He regularly recites his days crisp free to me, and I respond with as much enthusiasm as I can muster up for a conversation about crisps.
Anyway, back to lunch. I chose the Garden crudite platter with pitta, falafel, olives, hummus and a sun blushed tomato dip – it was fresh and delicious. Mr G was delighted with his choice too, but resisted the beetroot and parsnip faux crisps just to be on the safe side.
The wee dug was bowled over with gratitude when one of the lovely waiting staff brought him a sausage for his lunch. He watched like a hawk as I cut it up into small pieces for him.
The second his plate touched the floor his sausage was gone. I’m pretty sure he set a new World record for sausage speed eating that afternoon.
Lunch got a big thumbs/paws up from all three of us.
For visitors not so interested in fairy trails and shopping there’s a microbrewery on-site which offers tours where you can learn about the brewing process and sample some Archerfield Ales.
There’s also the more grown up Walled Garden to walk around with its row, upon row of vegetables and pretty flowers. It was a hive of activity during our visit with gardeners busy working in the vegetable patches.
The lovely, old red brick wall surrounding the garden reminded me of ‘Tom’s Midnight Garden’ – a book I loved as a child. It’s the story of a time travelling 20th century boy called Tom who creeps out of bed when the clock strikes 13, to play in a magical Victorian garden with a little girl called Hatty.
Archerfield Walled Garden also host regular events. If you’re local, or visiting the area soon look out for the arrival of Canteen on 25 March. It’s East Lothian’s first street food market and it sounds like it’s going to be a fantastic day out for all the family.
We headed to Gullane Beach nearby to give the boy some off-lead, fast running time. He bombed around like crazy, so there was no fear of lunch going straight to his hips.
The sandy dunes behind the beach are covered with Sea Buckthorn – instantly recognisable from its bright orange berries. These bitter tasting berries are becoming fashionable in recipes, but I’ve yet to be convinced to eat them.
My favourite visits to Gullane Beach are on blue sky days – enveloped by the dunes, and with sand, evergreen shrubs and orange berries everywhere it’s hard to imagine you’re still in Scotland.
East Lothian’s team of Countryside Rangers look after the beach and a number of other stunning sites in the region. I’ve just written a new blog for Visit East Lothian about their Countryside Rangers and the fascinating Traprain Law which they also look after. If you fancy reading two blogs for the price of one today then please check it out.
Despite the persistent wind we were undeterred as it was sunny and really mild for February. We had a lovely time at the beach chasing the boy, writing in the sand and exploring rock pools – simple pleasures.
And so ended another wonderful, blue sky visit to East Lothian. Two days later we were crunching through deep snow, under broody skies in the Cairngorns – but that’s another story which I’ll share soon.
Although our lunch at Archerfield Walled Garden was kindly provided on a complimentary basis all opinions, musings and information contained within this blog are accurate and entirely my own.