Posts Tagged ‘Holiday’

Of Ice Cream In Dumfries and Galloway

Saturday, July 31st, 2010

My blog posts about Dumfries and Galloway would not be complete without talking about Cream O’Galloway, an ice cream producer between Gatehouse of Fleet and Kirkcudbright.  We seem to spend much of our family holiday centred around their farm at Rainton, where they have developed a tasteful and sustainable attraction around the Cream O’Galloway ice cream factory experience.

Cream O'Galloway Visitor Centre

Cream O'Galloway Visitor Centre

There are indoor wooden play areas for under 6s and older children, as well as outdoor climbing areas in the woods pitched at varying degrees of skill, athleticism, ranging from the simple to the hard work – I am no longer as agile as I once was so Level 4 is too much bending down, twisting and turning and scrabbling through tunnels for me; I actually do think it is easier for people below 4 foot in height as that’s the level of the holes and obstacles have been built for.  Then there are tracks for mountain biking past the wind turbine, zip wires, chutes, and a race track for go-carts, as well as nature trails and gentle ambles. 

Cream O’Galloway also have farm tours, pond dipping, ice cream making sessions (my third year in a row and this year we made vanilla, honeycomb and chocolate chip flavour ice cream) and ice cream tasting sessions as well as other nature tours later in the year when the tourists and holiday-makers become less evident.  In 2009, we bought a year’s pass and this year (2010) we got a week pass for the second week, which are both really good value and are worth it if you will be visiting more than about 4 and 2 times, respectively. 

Karting At Cream O'Galloway

Karting At Cream O'Galloway

The kids love it so we love it.  The tea could be better and after one week an alternative to burgers would be great, but we did discover the veggie burger this year which was a welcome break for meat, meat and meat.  My favourite burger is the double Mexican burger; most of their burgers I think are better as singles, but with the Mexican you can put a dollop of spicy guacamole, tomato salsa and soured cream in the middle, which is totally fabulous.  As I have already said, it is worth a trip out of your way to track down their organic, 21 day matured steaks that you can get in the cafe area before going into the main attraction.

Then, their ice cream is, also, worth a special detour to taste and savour.  Oh and everything is organic and some is also Fairtrade.

Cream O’Galloway is a really successful farmer’s diversification scheme.  The farm, Rainton Farm, is a dairy farm with a smallish herd of Ayrshire kine.  The farm went organic with the Soil Association many years ago and is at the forefront of ethical, organic dairy farming, so for example they are currently building a new milking parlour and anearobic digester, while they are the only commercial dairy herd that keeps the mother and calf together for the first 6+ months and milks the mother only once a day rather than twice a day.  The milk is delicious as it comes from a grass fed cows and an ocean air pasture, so the milk is the dairy equivalent of salt marsh lamb.  Most of the milk gets sold into one of the dairy groups, so finding its way into the major supermarkets, mixed in with other milks.

Rainton Farm Herd At Cream O'Galloway

Rainton Farm Herd At Cream O'Galloway

Dairy At Rainton For Cream O'Galloway

Dairy At Rainton For Cream O'Galloway

Some of the fresh, unpasteurised milk is taken every morning after the morning milking to the ice cream factory which is just in a small converted threshing barn.  In fact, it is remarkably small and compact, full of gleaming stainless steel machines and vats; the milk is pasteurised before it goes into the vats and ice cream machines as part of the manufacturing process.

The ice cream is tasty and there is a great range of flavours, with all of it using their organic milk (but not all certified as organic) and some of it Fairtrade as well.  Our family’s favourite flavours are:

You can get quite a lot of their flavours in some of the supermarkets in Scotland, such as Morrisons and Tesco and then loads of independent stores – use their stockist finder to locate your nearest one.

We still rank the Cream O’Galloway centre in our family top ice cream parlours as in an earlier blog.

Of Fish In Dumfries And Galloway

Friday, July 23rd, 2010
Cairnsmore Of Fleet

Cairnsmore Of Fleet

(17/7/2010) We are on our annual family holiday, which as for the last three years has been in Dumfries & Galloway near Gatehouse of Fleet; no overseas travel or glamorous trips for us – in fact, the Steenberg family has been holidaying around here for many, many years with my childhood spent around Gatehouse of Fleet and at Rockcliffe while my father would stay around Castramon Wood (see note i below) around the second world war.  It is a part of the world that time, and the scourges of modernity, have passed by with its untouched and beautiful valleys and hills, full of ancient woods and gushing, roiling streams with brown, peaty water.  It is part of the world that has hardly changed since it was immortalised in John Buchan’s “The Thirty-Nine Steps”.

There are red squirrels feeding off the bird feeders outside the kitchen window, as well as a family of six baby jays – I do not think I have ever seen so many jays in one place ever before as they are usually the bossy, but pretty, crow that spoils the feeding party around a bird table.  Oh and there are loads of sheep; black faced sheep in the hills and others on the salt marshes near Creetown, with magnificent, one-and-a-half foot long twisted horns on the tups.  But it is quiet and there is no light pollution and still very few people; it’s a bit like North Northumberland, a place where people drive through on the way somewhere else, so leaving it unspoiled.  Real, ancient Britain.  Here, people drive on to Stranraer and to Northern Ireland or the Isle Of Man or on to the Highlands and Islands, while in Northumberland it’s a journey through to Edinburgh.

There is, also, a lot of sea.  And so fish.  In Kirkcudbright Harbour, it is good to see a proper working fleet of fishing boats, as well as the Solway firth still full of traditional fixed fishing nets along the shoreline and a few fisherman still fishing with coble and nets.  Both of the latter are types of fishing stretching back to the Vikings and beyond.  On 14th July, even the Queen and Prince Philip came to see the fishermen in Kirkcudbright which is famed for its scallops, visiting on a rainy thundery afternoon between visiting Dumfries and onwards to Edinburgh (for the annual dinner of the Order of The Thistle and to award the Duke Of Edinburgh medals last week).

Fishing Boat In Kirkcudbright Harbour

Fishing Boat In Kirkcudbright Harbour

Traditional Fishing Nets In Solway Firth

Traditional Fishing Nets In Solway Firth

The Queen Visiting Kirkcudbright in 2010

The Queen Visiting Kirkcudbright Harbour Square

In the harbour square at Kirkcudbright, there is a fishmonger and grocery shop, attached to a traditional fish and chip shop called Polarbites.  The fishmonger side is good for vegetables (there are not actually that many decent places for veg around here), as well as selling great scallops, prawns, salmon and Loch Fyne kippers amongst other things.  On one day, we bought Loch Fyne kippers, prawns and some salmon steaks, which I poached in rosé wine and we all ate with new potatoes and freshly picked salad leaves from friends of ours who live in the middle of nowhere outside Dalbeattie. 

Traditional Fish And Chips At Polarbites In Kirkcudbright

Traditional Fish And Chips At Polarbites In Kirkcudbright

On 15th July, we supped on haddock, chips, mushy peas and a seafood platter (battered prawns, scallops, squid, cod and potato wedges) at Polarbites, and it was a feast of fresh fish tastes and good batter.  It was welcomly warming on the cold, damp first night of the Kirkcudbright Summer Festivities, where Scottish music and dances are performed every Thursday evening in the Harbour Square to the glorious backdrop of MacLellan Castle and the Harbour.  I love the sound of a proper marching pipe band and the Kirkcudbright & District Pipe Band is really good and is growing in popularity, now even boasting a full youth band this year for the first time.

Kirkcudbright Pipe Band

Kirkcudbright Pipe Band

Galloway Smokehouse Near Carsluith

Galloway Smokehouse At Carsluith In Dumfries & Galloway

But the best fish experiences are from two fantastic smokeries on the road between Gatehouse of Fleet and Creetown.  We went for a short trip to both – the first is the Galloway Smokehouse which operates a fantastic fishmonger as well as smoking fish, seafood and some meats on site, and the second is the Marrbury Smokehouse at Carsluith Castle, which is at such a romantic location beside this simple, small castle overlooking the sea across to Whithorn that it ranks as one of my favourite places for anything anywhere.  My daughter and I bought various things including smoked wild salmon from both, as well as kippers from Marrbury SmokehouseEn famille we did a taste test and, while both smoked salmons were of great quality, the Marrbury Smoked Salmon is a damn fine smoked salmon and won hands down, having a deep orangey-pink hue and a delicious, dry and rich meaty taste, made of fantastic chunky pieces of muscle giving a great texture and a delicate smoky, piney-junipery taste.  The smoked salmon from the Galloway Smokehouse was a bit sweeter, slimier and the colour pinker and less orange in colour, with much smaller muscle structure and so a soggier, softer texture, but still way better than your usual, mass-produced stuff that you find on most supermarket shelves.  We also did a taste test on the kippers and we think that the Loch Fyne Kippers and those of Marrbury Smokehouse are up there amongst the best I have ever tasted (those from Seahouses are still, for me, the epitome of smoked kippers).  Costs are £51/kg for the Marrbury Smokehouse Wild Smoked Salmon and £50.00/kg for the Galloway Smokehouse Wild Smoked Salmon, and that extra £1 is worth a million.

Marrbury Smokehouse At Carsluith Castle

Marrbury Smokehouse At Carsluith Castle

Scottish Smoked Salmon On Spelt Bread

Scottish Smoked Salmon On Spelt Bread

Scottish Kippers From Loch Fyne

Scottish Kippers From Loch Fyne

Also, I love the commitment and love that goes into the Marrbury Smokehouse.  Vincent Marr goes out in his coble and nets the wild salmon himself from pools between Newton Stewart and Wigtown, then he smokes the salmon and other things himself (allowing no-one else into the smoker, except his wife sometimes) to his own special recipe; the ingredients include salt, whisky and juniper smoke whereas the Galloway Smokehouse also uses some sugar syrup and an oak smoke rather than juniper.  This means that his smoked fish and seafood is only available in small quantities, with no corners cut, but on the downside there is no-one to pass his expertise on to.  He has a step daughter who lives in the Cayman Islands, which will not help us for the future.  It’s a hard life that few will really want to follow in the future.

If you can get hold of smoked salmon or other things from either of these smokeries it is well worth the effort, but go for the Marrbury Smokehouse out of preference as it’s worth going that extra mile.  I will retry the salmon poached in rosé wine again when back in Yorkshire, as I reckon that it would be great finished off with a pink peppercorn sauce, don’t you think?

(i)                  Castramom Wood is an ancient woodland on a steep slope on the east bank of the Water of Fleet.  We always imagine it full of tigers to urge the kids along through its dense bracken.  Castramom Wood is chock full of old, native trees like mighty oaks, birch, mystical alder and ash and there are charcoal burning stands at various points through the woods.  This is an old, spiritual wood with a great, life giving aura.