Food, drink, bike and hike in Perthshire
Perthshire never fails to surprise and during a few (working) days away from home in Fern the Campervan I discovered many foodie #hiddengems (also see @eat_scottish), a fabulous new cycling route and a Munro that can be hiked in only a few hours.
Did you know, for example, that there are two brothers running a mobile sushi company in Perthshire? The Lov Sushi enterprise is the brainchild of Fraser and Ross Potter who make sushi using Scottish produce.
One was a professional polo player and the other is a keen surfer, yet together they have created a fun, simple and healthy cooking business. Lov Sushi offers catering at events, such as festivals, conferences and weddings, and also sushi-making classes.
Making sushi in Perthshire
During a two-hour sushi master class I was amazed to discover how easy it is to make sushi, yet how tricky it is to get sushi to look good enough for sale! The sushi ingredients were simple, including cucumber, peppers, carrot and beetroot, as well as fabulously delicious Scottish smoked salmon.
The result was a divine mix of sticky, tasty rice, crunchy fresh veg and the smoked loveliness of salmon.
See Lov Sushi, based in Bankfoot, for more details. You may have spotted the Lov Sushi food stall on Glasgow Green at the recent Commonwealth Games?
Drinking wine made in Perthshire
Nearby is another foodie gem, Cairn o’ Mohr winery and ciderhouse. The company is approaching three decades in business based at East Inchmichael, Errol, Perthshire, and during that time it has grown to an impressive size.
I had a vague memory of drinking Cairn o’ Mhor elderberry wine in my late teens (yes I am truly that old!) at a festival but until last week I had never thought to try another bottle. I’ve no idea why, because the fruit wines are gorgeously delicious.
The appropriately bubbly Linzey Cairns, sales manager of the family-run winery, offered an entertaining history of Cairn o’ Mhor and several wines to taste, including the gooseberry (medium, 13.3%), strawberry (medium sweet 13.3%) and bramble (dry and spicy and a tendency towards lots of alcohol!).
Cairn o’ Mhor use only the best local ingredients in their wines – the fab tasting wines certainly vouch for this – and still use recipes created and refined in the home kitchen of the founders Rob and Judith Gillies.
Today their business sells wines worldwide and they boast a tourist attraction for all the family in Errol. See Cairn o’ Mhor. The wine that I will be buying – and tasting next – is the attractive sounding Oak and Elder Sparkling Wine.
Fine dining in Perthshire
As if sushi and wine were not enough for one day for an outdoors journalist, the #hiddengems foodie extravaganza continued at Ballathie House Hotel, near Stanley, with a fantastic five-course dinner.
One of the aims of the #hiddengems trip is to highlight the many incredible places to eat, drink and discover Scotland’s unique foodie larder during next year’s VisitScotland Year of Food and Drink 2015.
Ballathie House Hotel is a great find with its stunning location, set amid some many thousands of acres of estate and on the banks of the River Tay. The estate boasts its own herds of pedigree Aberdeen-Angus and Charolais cattle, along with a commercial suckler beef enterprise.
Accommodation, food and drink at Ballathie are overseen by the engaging and entertaining general manager Jody Marshall. He is from South Africa originally where he studied ornithology before switching carers to hospitality. His love of Scottish produce and hand-picked wines from around the world has seen the hotel winning numerous awards.
Dinner cooked by chef Tom Lewis
Tom Lewis is 2014 Food & Drink ambassador in Scotland. The 2014 Food & Drink campaign celebrates and promotes food and drink to visitors throughout the year at major events being held in Scotland such as the Commonwealth Games, Ryder Cup and Homecoming.
He is also the enthusiastic and innovative chef at his boutique hotel, Monachyle Mhor, Balquhidder, Lochearnhead, Perthshire.
The treat for the evening was his five-course meal including such stunning courses as Hunthill Estate grouse, runner beans, Arran mustard and anchovy dressing; Balquhidder chanterelles and Monachyle hen’s eggs; smoked Inverawe eel, Tamworth pork with apple, nettle puree and watercress. I could go on but I will only make you jealous.
Each of the courses was accompanied by a wine perfectly chosen by Jody. If you add in the cava with the sushi, the wine tasting, a delicious Strathearn heather and rose gin and ginger ale before dinner and the wines with five course you can imagine how big my grin was by the end of the day!
Other food gems to discover
Did you also know that the is a chilli farm in neighbouring region, Fife? Find out more at Chillilicious, Briery Hall, Ceres. Or an artisan seaweed company in Edinburgh, Mara Seaweeds?
Cracking cycling in Perthshire
The hangover didn’t bode well for a planned cycle trip the following day in Perthshire but I’d had my eye on a new route for a few weeks so I took the opportunity to ride it while I was in Perthshire.
The area of Breadalbane is the focus of several new walking, road cycling and mountain biking trails called the Rings of Breadalbane. There is also a handy Breadalbane Explorer bus that operates in the summer and offers walkers and cyclists easier access between various start and finish points on the new walking and cycling rings.
The Road Cycling Ring is 100 miles, including a total of 1300m of ascent, and could be completed in one day if you are hangover-less and have strong leg muscles. Instead, I chose to ride a section starting and finishing at the wonderful Comrie Croft mountain biking and camping centre, near Crieff.
The 65-mile route took in the beautiful heather covered glens of Sma and Quaich (boy is the climb out of Sma and up to Quaich a muscle grinder!) before reaching the town of Kenmore. From here I rode along the southern bank of Loch Tay to Killin (the route proper takes in another glen, Lyon, and more fabulous high-rise mountain scenery) to rejoin the Ring route through Glen Ogle and along Loch Earn to Comrie.
One day soon, when I’m feeling a little fitter, I’ll take on the full 100-mile route in one day.
Magnificent Munro walking in Perthshire
Since I was in the area – and I now have a goal of ticking off all of Scotland’s 282 Munros – I decided to walk a Munro. The G-Force met me the next day at Killin on a threateningly wet and windy morning for what turned out to be a quick ascent of Meall Ghaordaidh. It should be pronounced with a “t” sound in the middle but we have called the Munro Meall Gordie (after the G-Force!).
The weather was very wet and windy higher up the 1039m mountain but the entire walk took us only a few hours and there was little to challenge us in terms of steepness or route finding. This is a good Munro to walk if you are new to bagging and on a fine day. One tip, though, is to wear waterproof boots because the ground is very boggy in many places.
I have no idea what the view is like from the top because we were surrounded by thick clouds but from lower down the slopes we were treated to fine vistas over a green and heathery glen when the clouds briefly cleared.
All in all Perthshire proved to be the prefect destination for a few days of work, eating, drinking, cycling and walking.