cafes for dogs, Dog Friendly, Dog Friendly Accommodation, Scotland, the dog blog

Lakes and Lochs – part 2

So was it to be a wasted trip? I’d promised Hannah and Grenson stunning scenery and breathtaking views, but hadn’t we already had all of that during our stay in the Lakes? Had my memories of the Highlands become over exaggerated in the intervening years since my last visit? Most importantly could we have just stayed in our little hut and done without this extra drive?

Luckily my anxiety evaporated as soon as we hit Loch Lomond (Is it pronounced ‘Lowmund’ or ‘Lumond’? I’ve no idea so I just flit between the two and hope that I’m right at least half the time). On the morning that we drove by it was shrouded in mist and emanating the mystical beauty that only a Loch can. Lakes are beautiful, of course, but only a Loch can truly give off that magical vibe that leads you to half expect a rowing boat to slowly drift from the gloom carrying a druid with a magic sword!

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Afterwards we hit Glencoe and that was it, the deal was sealed. We were all head over heels in love with the Highlands. It truly is like no where else in Britain. ‘Stunning’ really is the only word for it.

 

 

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Our accommodation was to be a Bothy (a little shed) on the banks of my favourite named Loch – Loch Lochy (I’m imagining it was a pretty uninspiring afternoon in the ‘Department for the Naming of Lochs’ that day).

When I had walked the Great Glen Way I must have walked right past it. I imagine that by then my tender feet were giving me hell and as a result I didn’t look up from the path as I trudged on by. If I had have I would have spotted the most amazing little abodes and probably would have been very disappointed with my choice of B & B.  We were all very thankful this time around that we’d found this little beauty – our home for the next few days.

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Walking was the name of the game during our visit. I was keen for Hannah and Grenson to experience a piece of ‘The Way’. I had loved my time walking it, there is nothing like the satisfaction of completing a walk that has ‘Glen’ and ‘Great’ in its title. It’s also incredibly satisfying to walk from one coast to the other. The Great Glen Way goes from Fort William in the west to Inverness in the east. Basically, anything above the Way is essentially an island. Thomas Telford cut it adrift by creating the Caledonian Canal that links together Loch Lochy, Loch Oich and Loch Ness, allowing boats to sail right through rather than go around the top. Unfortunately, by the time it had been finished, vessels had moved on from wooden sailing boats to steam powered iron hulled ships and were too big to use it. So it was all a bit of a waste of time really, but then, it was the Victorian age; they did extravagant constructions that were a waste of time like no one else did.

The section we decided to do consisted of a beautiful old railway track all along the southern shore of Loch Oich. This area is perfect for walking and cycling and the path is a particular highlight for those not looking for gruelling climbs. Having said that, it’s by no means easy. When we’d finished we calculated that we’d done approx 15 miles, which must make it Grenson’s longest ever walk. By the end of it he even seemed slightly tired! Luckily, along the way there are many bench sitting and view appreciating opportunities. If someone has been kind enough to place a bench then it is your duty to have a sit and a bit of a look.

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After a well earned nights sleep we awoke with a plan to venture up to take a peak at Loch Ness. You simply can’t come here without a little bit of Nessie hunting. But be warned, it could easily become an obsession. At the far end of Loch Ness we passed the camp of Steve Feltham, a guy who gave up his life in Dorset 25 years ago to come and live in a van on the banks of the Loch, and dedicate his life to hunting the elusive beastie.

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Now some of you may feel that is a little extreme, but I can think of far less pictureque places to live. You may also say Nessie hunting is no way to spend a lifetime, but I imagine he would say that sitting in traffic jams on the way to work everyday is an even worse way to spend your lifetime. Each to their own I suppose? Before I could start fantasising too much about this radical life path Hannah dragged me away. Apparently she’d spotted Nessie a couple of times already, unfortunately I always seemed to be looking the wrong way and by the time I looked it had disappeared. Clearly I wasn’t cut out for the hunting life.

We were about to make our own equally exceptional discovery anyway. Halfway along the southern shore of the Loch we stumbled across The Camerons Tea Room & Farm Shop – an absolute oasis of delights.

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Forget Nessie. If you’re ever up in this region this place and their delicious teas and cakes are what you should be hunting out!

And why wouldn’t you be up in this region? Yes it’s a long drive. But it’s only really like driving to the South of France, except you don’t have a channel to cross and you don’t need a passport (or a doggy passport).

Seriously, if you live on this island and have never seen the Highlands then you need to sort yourself out. Put down that foreign travel magazine, the world will be there to explore later, first off take a second to appreciate the view from your doorstep.

It’s stunning!

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The Man and the Dog.

 

 

 

 

 

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Lakes and Lochs – part 1

A few years ago I decided that I needed to go for a walk. Somehow, this resulted in me finding myself alone and trekking across the Great Glen Way in the Highlands of Scotland. In hindsight a stroll to the shops would have been easier, but back then I had a strong need to get out and see a part of my own country that I’d never seen before. Again, admittedly I could have conceivably done that by walking to a new shop rather than my local, but instead I chose to go to a region that was about as far away from home as possible, whilst still being home. Scotland really is a long way away. After 12 hours on the sleeper train by rights I should have been disembarking on another continent, and yet here I was, still in the same country, (or maybe not depending on your point of view, but let’s not get all political here!). Despite having to endure the long journey there and back, and despite the very tender feet after my trek, once home again I vowed that one day I would return, but this time with Hannah (aka En Brogue, aka the wife) so that she too could witness the splendour and beauty that I had experienced.

Of course, with the addition of Grenson to the family, trips abroad have become a little more difficult these days. So when we recently began planning our latest UK jaunt, the Lochs that had become my friends during that week in The Highlands were once again calling on me to make good on my promise.

This time the sleeper train didn’t seem like the best option, as Grenson, bless him, isn’t much of a commuter. He’s far more comfortable in the back seat of the car, so long as there are plenty  of stop offs for ‘wee wees’. So out came the UK road map and a plan was quickly devised.

We’d make this a number of trips combined into one big one. First off, we’d explore another region which I’m ashamed to admit that up to that point in my life I was ignorant of  – the Lake District. We’d then motor on up and spend a few nights in the Highlands, before finally heading back south for a night or two in Yorkshire moors.

So with the car bursting at the seams, off we set on a little adventure.

Unfortunately, by the time we’d completed our drive up to the Lakes we managed to arrive in darkness. This was not a good idea for the accommodation we had booked. After our successful experiment with glamping during our Devon and Dorset trip last year (see link here) we had revisited the Canopy and Stars website and plumped for similar abodes for the Lakes and Highlands legs of our trip. Our accommodation was set in a place called the Scales Plantation which was basically a clearing on the outskirts of the middle of nowhere. Being early midweek, and with it also being early March, our shepherd’s hut was, unsurprisingly, the only one in use out of five. This meant that we arrived in pitch black darkness. After clambering around and slipping in the mud more than a few times, we eventually found our home for the next four nights. We knew it was ours as thankfully our pre-ordered shopping was waiting in the kitchen area. After a celebratory beer and an aborted attempt at lighting the fire (more on that later) we snuggled on down in the little bed and entered the kind of satisfying sleep you only enjoy after a full day of travelling.

I don’t know if you know this but birds don’t have lie ins. The raucous first bars of the dawn chorus acted as our alarm clock. Excitedly, we all stumbled outside, eager to check out our surroundings. And what a beautiful shock it was. Stunning. Grenson immediately loved it and set about exploring and sniffing every  square inch.

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Meanwhile, I attempted again to ignite a roaring fire in the wood burner and yet again it quickly reduced itself to nothing more than embers and a thin trail of smoke. Then Hannah stepped in. Man may not be able to make fire in this partnership, but woman sure as hell can. Within seconds the kitchen was toasty warm. She was so proficient I nicknamed her The Firestarter, which I then changed to The Prodigy, which I narrowed down to Keith Flint, before finally settling on just ‘The Keith’. (Oh yes, I’m such fun on holiday, I really am). ‘The Keith’ was a master at fires; glorious rolling flames would arise just from the logs being given a stern look. I was even able to cook a steak on one of her fires! God bless ‘The Keith’. With the kitchen nice and warm we were able to indulge in the most important part of any camping/glamping holiday. A cooked breakfast. Bacon never smells so good as when it’s being fried on a campsite.

With bellies full it was time to explore. Our first stop was Aira Force, a spectacular set of water falls and a walk taking in the views over Ullswater.

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It was meant to be a warm up for the ten mile walk around Derwentwater that we had planned for later in the trip. The map said that this walk was 4.5 miles. On closer inspection we would have seen that most of that was vertical! It was far more strenuous than we’d imagined, but I have to admit the views were definitely worth it.

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Back at camp we quickly clicked into the camping and great outdoors time groove, which is basically: when the big light in the sky goes out, go to sleep, when it comes back on again, wake up. There was to be no late night raving for us on this holiday. Which was a good thing as there was too much to see and do. The following day we visited Grasmere and Windermere, and again the scenery was simply stunning. We found a few excellent local shops and stocked up on pies for our forthcoming walks. Always important to have pie.

The main walk that we had planned in The Lakes, as already mentioned, was to circumnavigate Derwentwater. Little did we know that this walk would be so eventful. It started off so peaceful, but before it was over Grenson had brushed with disaster on three separate occasions.

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The problem was that he was just too flipping excited. He scampered off ahead as soon as we let him off the lead, eager to get on the trail. Pretty soon into the walk we watched as he encountered a cattle grid. Grenson is not a fan of cattle grids. Grenson doesn’t even like drains in the road. Clearly he would stop and wait for us to catch up then allow us to lead him safely through the gate at the side. However, on this occasion the excitement was too much, we helplessly watched on as he careered forward, struggling over the grid with his legs falling down every gap. We watched in horror expecting him to break at least one leg, but somehow he clambered over to the other side and carried on as if nothing had happened. That was the first shock.

The second was even worse. We had entered a wooded area next to a road. The kind of country road that doesn’t have much traffic, but when it does, it whizzes past at top speed. We thought we were safe as a stone wall separated us from the road. Unfortunately we hadn’t counted on the regular gaps that had been made, presumably to let flood water drain away. As I was distracted looking at the map, Hannah’s heart fell as Grenson sniffed around the wall and then casually jumped through a gap, out onto the open road. She screamed his name in terror, and for what seemed like hours he was out of view, presumably wandering around in the road. Finally he calmly hopped back through the gap looking at us as if to say ‘hey guys what’s all the fuss about?’. He quickly went back on the lead until we were certain it was safe, and Hannah had stopped hyperventilating. BE CAREFUL IF YOU DO THIS WALK!

His third little mishap was thankfully at lot more light hearted. Half way around the lake a section requires you to cross a series of boardwalks across boggy land. Grenson kept sniffing either side and looking very much like he was about to leap in, but he had resisted, and had almost made it all the way across without any incident. I was so proud of him that as I walked alongside him I reached down to pat his head. I still don’t know how it happened (I swear I didn’t push him), but as I passed him I became aware of a sudden commotion and turned to see him struggling to keep his balance on the edge of the boardwalk. Panic suddenly shot into his eyes as he slowly slipped over the side and ended up face planting straight into the bog. Luckily he quickly managed to clamber back onto dry land, this time with a face full of mud and no way of playing it cool.

Crazy little fool.

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Despite these near death experiences, The Lakes had given us a wonderful start to our holiday. How had it taken me so long to visit? The beauty on offer is astounding. In fact it was beginning to make me worry. Looking around at the snow capped mountains and shimmering water I was beginning to wonder whether or not the extra journey up to the Highlands was strictly necessary. My memories of The Highlands was sketchy. I was certain that it was awe inspiring, but then so were The Lakes. Could it really be worth dragging Hannah and Grenson all that way? Would they find it as beautiful as I did?

Tune in next time to find out….

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The Man and the Dog

 

 

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The Portland Inn – Isle of Wight

Weekends are great. Of course weekends are great. Everyone loves weekends. And what part of the weekend does everyone love the most? Yes that’s right. You’ve got it. Sundays. Lovely long lazy Sundays. And the single most important thing that makes Sundays so great? Why of course it’s the holy, venerable, magnificent… Sunday roast. Where would the world be without the Sunday roast?

I love a Sunday roast.

When first introduced to my in-laws, many, many moons ago, the number one culinary shock for this boy from the Black Country has to have been Taramasalata:

‘Ar, they gid me some pink stuff called tarasatomata, I think it wuz fish eggs! It wuz bostin tho, fair play.’

But a close second was the revelation that they didn’t ALWAYS have a roast on a Sunday. Sometimes they just had a normal dinner! I mean, how crazy is that? Surely that way madness lies? How is anyone supposed to know what day it is? When does one week end and the next begin?

As a result, whenever I get a chance I try to remedy this lunacy by suggesting that we incorporate a pub roast into our Sundays when I’m hanging with the in-laws on the Island of Love, a.k.a the Isle of Wight.

A few weeks back, after a lovely walk in Parkhurst Forest, we settled on the Portland Inn in Gurnard for my Sunday roast fix.

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We chose this pub because we’d driven past it recently and spotted that it had been given a bit of a makeover. Obviously someone had decided to show it a bit of love, and it’s always good to support that kind of thing.  The other reason, (blatant ‘shout out’ alert!), was that we’d heard that they were displaying and selling art work on the walls by En Brogue‘s cousin The Wight Pencil. If they’re supporting ‘da family’ then we can at least eat their roast.

Inside, the place was buzzing. Clearly in a short space of time they’d already begun to generate a good rep. We were shown to our table and Grenson made himself comfortable.

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The mother-in-law was impressed straight off the bat by the fact that they offered a smaller plate for £9. She has a very small appetite, which generally sees her ordering starters instead of mains…then of course, hovering over everyone else’s main for a little taster once her starter is devoured.

She once ordered a child’s Sunday roast and confidently proclaimed ‘If I’m still hungry I could always try a little bit from all of yours’; as she said this and looked around the table for signs of acquiescence to the deal, she locked eyes with me. I steadily and calmly informed her that ‘If you try to take anything from my plate I will stab you in the hand with my fork’. I was very ‘hangry’ at the time, and as I have made clear, I do like my Sunday roast…our relationship has never been the same since, sorry Mother-in-law you’re the best…just don’t try to touch my food!

Anyway, for me it was obviously going to be the full size £12 version, and when it arrived at the table, holy flip, it was a work of pure genius!

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Now, I’m pretty good at cooking a pork dinner, even if I do say so myself. But you don’t have to just take my word for it. My dad claims that the pork roast I once made for him was ‘really good, the best he’s ever had’. To put this praise into context my dad’s usual level of critique for any meal ranges from ‘it was alright’ to ‘it was alright’. If you listen carefully there is a slight difference.

So I know a good pork dinner when I see one and this was a good pork dinner. Generous servings of pork with a very agreeable amount of crunchy crackling, parsnips (which I’m not that keen on usually but these were good), fantastic fluffy potatoes and lashings of gravy ( I do like a lot of gravy, fill the boat up, don’t be stingy). Then on the side, red and green cabbage, cauliflower cheese and those lovely little carrots you only really get with a pub lunch. There was no way anyone was going to be leaving this table anything less than full to the brim.

Oh, and just take a look at those Yorkshires! Take a second or two to really appreciate their beauty. That is pleasure on a plate right there! That, my friends, IS Sunday! If only there really were such a thing as a month of Sundays. What a dream scenario? I could have this for lunch every day for a month!!

But do not fear. Whatever day you’re reading this you can be sure that you’re not far away from a Sunday. That’s the beauty of them: you get one every week. So no excuses. Gather the family, put your walking boots on and loosen your belts, then head to the Portland for ‘the best pub Sunday roast ever’ – En Brogue’s verdict – and you may even feel like picking up some art whilst you’re there.

Just remember, if you see me there tucking into a roast…don’t try to take any of my food!

 

The Man and the Dog.

 

 

 

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Wyatt & Jones – Broadstairs

Right, we’re back. I left you last time promising to return with tales of Wyatt & Jones. I just couldn’t bring myself to squeeze in simply a quick review during the Margate post, as this place deserved so much more.

We’d happened upon this establishment via a quick internet trawl before leaving for our mini break. All we knew was that the restaurant wasn’t too far away from our accommodation (The Botany Bay Hotel, see Margate link above), and the number of food awards on their website indicated that the food was likely to be good. The fact that they were dog friendly sealed the deal (best to call beforehand though in order to let them know that you’re bringing your pooch. Dogs are only allowed in part of the restaurant).

So basically we arrived not really knowing too much about this place, or what to expect.

Wyatt & Jones can be found down a sleepy looking little road leading to the beach. Stepping out of the cold coastal air and into the twinkling candle light of this beautiful little restaurant, we knew almost immediately this was going to be a good night. In fact, you know those rare evenings when everything is just perfect? Well our evening at Wyatt & Jones would prove to be one of these rare events.

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The area designated for doggies is the smaller room next to the bar. When a bar is this beautiful and well stocked that is no bad thing. You can also easily see the rest of the room leading down to the open kitchen, so you don’t feel like you’ve been banished to a separate room.

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On this cold Thursday night in January we basically had the bar to ourselves, but there were enough other diners to ensure that a quiet relaxed atmosphere was maintained. Even if we had have been alone, any awkward ‘eating in a library’ vibe would have been dispelled by the excellent music that they were playing in the background. So often, music in a restaurant can spoil things. Generally it is too loud and/or too rubbish. In this case they had the perfect balance so that the only time you noticed it was when you thought ‘ooh this is such a nice song, I wonder who it is by? I must make enquiries’ (clearly I didn’t make enquires – far too shy). Just sitting in the bar with a glass of wine and enjoying the music would have been great. But then of course I would have missed out on sampling the food!

Having already established that this place was a winner we decided to kick start our appetites with 2 rock oysters (for me) and anchovy toast (for her). I was also pleased to see that they had Curious Brew IPA on tap. Oysters and Curious Brew, what better way to kick off a meal?

Meanwhile, Grenson had been presented with a bowl of water and his own bowl of biscuits, so he was approving of his surroundings almost as much as I was.

En Brogue reckons the anchovy toast was ‘Oh. My. God. Fantastic’. My oysters came with a bottle of red wine vinegar and tabasco for me to dress them myself. Unfortunately, I was a little heavy handed with the tabasco and had sizzling lips for the next ten minutes. (The only bad thing that happened that night and it was all my own fault).

Then we moved on to the main events. Now normally I’m not too keen on photographing food, (far too shy). This can be a problem for someone who blogs about places to eat. On this occasion though, any self consciousness had to go out the window. It was just too good not to save for prosperity.

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En Brogue went for -‘Chilli glazed mackerel,celeriac remoulade, pickled shallots and almond puree’, followed by another starter (small appetite), ‘Spiced scallops, marinated chickpea, chermoula, shallots, coriander’. She then finished with ‘Granny Smith mousse, hazelnut crumble, blueberries & brown bread ice cream’. Yes, that’s what I said, brown bread ice cream. Amazing!

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I went for – ‘Oak smoked salmon, crispy crab, dill aioli, soused fennel & salmon caviar’ to start. My main was not a starter (big appetite), ‘Sussex beef loin, braised ox cheek, bone marrow butter mash & autumn brassica’. Then for dessert, ‘Valrhona dark chocolate souffle’.

If all of that hasn’t got your mouth watering then let me give you more details.

En Brogue basically was only able to say ‘Oh. My. God. Fantastic’ about everything!

My starter was so fresh and light it may have to go into my top five starters…ever! The Ox cheek was deliciously glutinous to the point that it virtually melted in my mouth. And that souffle?! Jeez! Once the outer crust was broken I found myself inside a fluffy cloud of pure chocolate joy!

After all of this I could only possibly complete my meal by sitting back with a 10 year-old Somerset cider brandy. If I am ending my night with a brandy then it is a sure sign that I have had a most relaxing and enjoyable evening.

Absolutely brilliant. And I forgot to mention the wine! This place really knows its wine. I suggest you ask for a recommendation, the one they served up to us was simply perfect.

Finally we made our way back to our hotel room and fell face first onto the the bed, immediately drifting off into a deep sleep whilst I mumbled a proclamation that the whole night had been one of the best dining experiences I’d ever had!

The next day, following breakfast and check out, we decided to head back to Broadstairs to assess it in the daylight.

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The beach at the bottom of the road turned out to be incredibly pretty, as was the rest of the small town. I even found a butchers that served an award winning sausage. If nothing else, this warranted a return visit all on its own.

Eventually though we were drawn back towards Wyatt & Jones, mainly because I needed a picture of the outside for this blog post.

As we arrived, it just so happened that they were open and serving coffee. Clearly we had to go back in and take up our seats at the table that we had vacated merely a few hours earlier.

The coffee, of course, was Oh. My. God. Fantastic. It was all I could do to decline the pastry deal that came with the coffee but I had recently consumed a full English (which was mighty fine, congratulations on that Botany Bay Hotel).

To sum up:

1. Broadstairs is great.

2.We will return as soon as possible.

And,

3. Upon our return we will be spending all day at our table in Wyatt & Jones.

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(And no I do not have a handle bar moustache, although it very much looks like I do in this picture!).

Anyway, just to avoid any confusion and to be completely clear about this:

WE LOVE THIS PLACE!

 

The Man and the Dog.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Margate & the Botany Bay Hotel

Margate! Margate! Margate! I am of the firm opinion that when saying the name of this little seaside town it is the law that you must say it as Danny Dyer would say it. Margate! Try it – it’s fun!

Anyway, Margate (did you do a Danny in your head there? I hope you did) seems to be the latest ‘in’ place if you spend a little time scanning Instagram. Everyone seems to have been going there just recently.

Well, clearly En Brogue, Grenson and I needed to go and see what all the fuss was about (baaaa!).

We arrived and parked up next to the Dreamland theme park.

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It’s basically this place that has brought the onslaught of Instagrammers. Dreamland is a retro, kitsch, seaside theme park for hipsters to create great ‘content’ in. They even have an event called ‘Hipster Seaside A-Go-Go’ happening later this year. In all honesty it does look well cool (as I believe literally none of the kids say anymore). As I myself have a beard I’m virtually a hipster too so I’m totally down with this place…unfortunately dogs aren’t allowed. So we quickly moved on, vindictively hoping that all those hipsters get candy floss tangled in their beards.

Strolling along the sea front, Morrissey entered my head and wouldn’t get out. Specifically a certain line from one of his most cheerful songs found itself on repeat in my head:

‘This is the coastal town, that they forgot to close down’

To be fair, I don’t imagine that there are many coastal towns that are looking their best in the first week of January, but I had been led to believe that Margate would offer more than just boarded up shops, tired amusement arcades and ‘caffs’ that probably haven’t had a new menu printed since Del Boy came on his jolly boys’ outing in 1989.

Luckily it didn’t take us long to find our first planned stop, a sweet little coffee shop called The Proper Coffee House (you can’t go wrong with a name like that!).

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At last things started to look up, not only does a ‘proper’ coffee always help, but we found this sign very welcoming.

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Take note Dreamland!!

Our next stop was the Old Kent Market and the slight uplift in morale nosedived again. There is no doubt that this is a cool little place and I’m sure that it is a brilliant, vibrant, hang out in the summer months. However, on a Thursday afternoon in January it’s somewhat lacking its spark.

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As we began to think that we had caught Margate at a time when it really should have been in hibernation, we wandered down a side street away from the sea front and the attraction of the place revealed itself. Suddenly we were surrounded by the most beautiful shops.

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Not for the first time we came across antique shops that welcomed Grenson inside with open arms. I have to admit that this does surprise me. At times I’m not sure whether or not even I should be allowed inside antique shops. I fear that at any moment I may spontaneously fall over, dragging a cabinet of priceless glassware down on top of me. They make me nervous. And yet, very much like when we visited Rye (click on the link for a read), all the shops seemed to be totally relaxed about Grenson having a peruse around inside.

TAKE NOTE DREAMLAND!!

En Brogue now went into retail mode.

Morale then went through the roof when she spotted Doggie Apparel. O…M…flippin G!

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In this amazing little doggie nirvana you can watch the collars and leads being handmade at the back of the shop. And beautiful they are too. Needless to say, Grenson got utterly spoiled in there. But it’s virtually impossible for any dog person not to pick up something, from doggie bottle stops, to felt doggies. Personally I’m surprised we left without the woolly schnauzer in the window display.

Thankfully, when we did eventually leave it was with merely a small fortune spent rather than a flipping massive fortune. Heaven help the bank balance when their online shop is up and running!

Suddenly, Margate had come up trumps. We decided to end our visit the only true way that any self respecting traveller can. A visit to the pub.

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The Lifeboat Ale and Cider House (what a great name) was a perfect venue. A fine selection of ales, craft beers and ciders (as you’d expect from that name I suppose), and a hearty menu on offer. The only downside was the sawdust on the floor. It played havoc with Grenson’s beard!

It was now time to head to our accommodation for the night. The Botany Bay Hotel situated just along the coast, on the way to Broadstairs.

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This, my friends, is where the madness of going away on a damp Thursday at the beginning of January suddenly makes sense. We got a double room here with breakfast included for £64 (+ extra £5 supplement for Grenson). You cannot argue with that.

On top of that bargain price you can add the fact that it’s a lovely hotel too. Very friendly and helpful staff, comfortable spacious bar, lovely clean rooms, top-notch breakfasts (unfortunately we were not allowed in the main breakfast area with Grenson, but our set up in the bar was probably a better view anyway), and some prime dog walking beaches literally on the doorstep.

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It really was a great visit, and I haven’t even told you about the meal we had at Wyatt & Jones in Broadstairs yet! Because that requires a whole blog post of its own.

Until then, despite a bit of a rocky start, our little trip had been a roaring success. And it’s at this point that I wanted to cleverly sum up our satisfaction by referring to a happy Morrissey lyric…unfortunately I couldn’t think of one.

So instead I’ll just use this picture of Grenson. Could there be a happier doggie?

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The Man and the Dog.

 

 

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Off the Rails – Yarmouth,Isle of Wight

Ok I’ll admit it. I have written about this place before. I apologise (but it is a good’un).

Way back at the beginning of summer a company called Wight Locations asked me to do a guest blog post for their website. Grenson and I compiled our top 6 cafe/restaurants on the Isle of Wight for dogs …. well not quite for dogs, more for hoomans that are with dogs, but you know what I mean.

If you look hard enough you may be able to still find it somewhere out there on the world wide web.

Anyway, as I was looking through old piccies I came across the ones that I had taken for that blog post and quite frankly it made me nostalgic for those heady days of summer. (Listen, Christmas is over, all I’ve got immediately ahead of me is never ending months of darkness. I need something to look forward to!)

One of the places we visited jumped out at me as we had recently been back there after a nice long Christmas walk (to the pub). On that occasion I had a delicious coffee and walnut cake with a top quality flat white to wash it down. (Which reminds me, I also have lots of trips to the gym to schedule in during this season of gloom).

However, I don’t want to talk about cosy winter walks and warming coffee and cake (not today anyway), I want to take us all back to the days of crickets in the long grass, of swallows dive bombing in the blue skies, and of ice cubes slowly melting in late evening drinks. Let’s all go back to summertime!

(Cue: wavy fade back to the past).

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I mean!! Look at us!! I’m wearing shorts and t-shirt and jauntily hanging shades around my neck. Grenson is panting from the heat. There is even a hint of colour on my face rather than my current deathly pallor.

Good times. Hot summer good times.

And where are we enjoying this glorious sunny afternoon?  Why, the wonderful ‘Off the Rails‘ cafe in Yarmouth, of course.

This place pretty much has everything.

Its location is a dream for dog walkers. Grenson and I are particularly fond of the trek along the old railway line from Yarmouth to Freshwater. Keep the river on your right and head away from Yarmouth car park, keeping an eye out for kingfishers along the way. This path eventually leads you to a bridge, at which point if you turn right you’ll come across the Red Lion pub. A perfect place for a refreshment stop (and another place I wrote about for Wight Locations that I may need to revisit in the future for this blog too).

If you then retrace your steps and take a right before the old mill building, you’ll end up back at Off the Rails for further refreshments. After all, it’s always important to stay refreshed when on a walk.

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Arriving at this cafe via the old railway path is most fitting, as this place is situated in the old Yarmouth railway station (Off the Rails, see what they did there? Clever).

From the outside it seems like the station has remained untouched since the steam trains were regularly pulling up outside. Indeed, you’ll still find the platform out front, but instead of commuters and tourists hurriedly disembarking, you’ll find diners leisurely munching on cakes and sandwiches.

Inside, the retro railway feel continues with seating booths styled like 1950s carriages complete with luggage racks overhead.

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The booths are great in the winter but as we’re time travelling back to summer in this post, take a look below at the seats on the platform. What an idyllic view to enjoy your lunch beside!

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Oh, and as if great walks, quirky historic surroundings, delicious coffee, cakes and lunches, all enjoyed beside beautiful countryside views weren’t enough to confirm my assertion that this place has everything, then take a look below. They even have a menu for your pooch!

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Of course, with this place open all year round (closed Mondays & Tuesdays except bank holidays) and even open until 10pm on a Friday and Saturday (bookings necessary) there is no reason not to enjoy this special little place any time of the year.

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So don’t wait around for the sun to shine (it may be on holiday for sometime yet); head there as soon as you can…you can always make another visit when it’s shorts and T-shirt weather again!

The Man and the Dog..

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