Eating Locally

I can’t speak for other small seaside towns on the West Coast of Scotland but Helensburgh has no less than 6 award winning restaurants which isn’t bad for a town of 18,000 north of Glasgow. We are truly spoiled for choice here – below are our recommendations.  There’s the number for Pat’s taxi in the house.

Special mention for being one of the best examples of Scottish hospitality in the area coupled with beautiful food and gorgeous surroundings

The Knockderry House Hotel Website

Best for breakfast:
The Perch Cafe in Garelochhead  – The Perch Cafe, Facebook

Best for lunch:
The Harvest Moon Deli in Clynder – The Harvest Moon Deli, Facebook
The Riverhill Cafe Bar and Restaurant in Helensburgh for a casual sit down meal – Riverhill, Facebook
The Sugar Boat for a treat – great set menus that are value for money given the quality of the meal – The Sugar Boat, Facebook
Inver, Cairndow for an out of this world meal – Inver, Faceboook

Best for lunch on the go:
Loulou’s Deli in Garelochhead for a takeaway or to put together a picnic – Loulou’s Deli website 

Best for supper:
Inver Resturant, Cairndow – Inver website
The Sugar Boat, Helensburgh – Sugar Boat website

Best Wine Bar:
La Jupe, Helensburgh – La Jupe, Facebook
Best for Private Catering
GBM Catering – GBM Catering, Facebook
Best Butcher
Kevin Walker in Kilcreggan – K. Walker, Facebook
Best Fish & Chips
Wee Kelpie in Helensburgh – Wee Kelpie, Facebook
Best Curry
Annaya’s in Helensburgh – Annaya’s website
Best Chinese takeaway
The Golden Valley in Garelochhead – The menu and phone number is on the board in the kitchen.

Balquidder – pronounced BalWHidder apparently

As I stood on the steps of Balquidder with my hand raised to ring the bell after a 7 hour mad dash north to see the property before closing date, I turned and looked across the Gareloch and knew that we were going to buy the house.

Balquidder, Garelochead View down the Gareloch

We had hoped to move in and do the work slowly but a change in posting prospects for J meant we needed to let the house out and speed up the work Balquidder needed doing.  Have prioritised the work and found a reliable builder – he started on the roof and worked his way down …..

Balquidder, Garelochead work on the roof

David the builder found the hand made original nails were still in use and most of the tiles were original too.  There was beautiful (if totally rotten) hand made fretwork around the roof edge but sadly we had to go for a simpler finish.  As David said, 160 years ago materials were expensive and labour cheap, these days it’s the other way round.

Balquidder work being done on the roof

The drive was so narrow that you couldn’t turn a car around (I may have got stuck and had to be towed out of our own front garden) so J turned to and dug out a turning area and a parking section.  He shifted a total 30 tons of grass, hardcore and gravel mostly by himself with a little “help” from E.

Balquidder view towards the road
Balquidder work on the drive
Balquidder work on the drive
Balquidder's little helper on the drive

One of the big jobs J had to tackle was the rear garden, it was very overgrown with not much light being allowed into it so he took down the off shoots and saplings and we’re going to see what comes up over the next few years.

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Balquidder after the trees came down

Someone many years ago loved the garden, we keep finding all sorts of things like brick built flower beds, a bench set in a sheltered spot that once upon a time had a fantastic view over the loch

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A labour of love and we’ve barely scratched the surface.

Ardkinglas Estate and the Gruffalo Trail

Arkinglas Estate
First stop on the Gruffalo Trail at the Ardkinglas Estate

With so much on this weekend I had to resort to rock, paper, scissors with my daughter to decide where to go to on Saturday. Having lost (she always starts with a rock and I never remember), we made our way to Ardkinglas Estate, via the vomit road that runs along the side of Loch Long. It’s about 50 minutes’ drive, probably less if your child isn’t threatening to throw up if you drive faster than 30 mph……

The car park is perfectly formed but small and busy so I was glad to be directed to park on the side and, after pushing our donation into the cairn with twigs, we made our way up to the starting point via what E thought was the Gruffalo’s cave and some very cool looking Skunk Cabbage plants

Stewart Ennis was our storyteller for the trail and my initial concerns about not appreciating the story told in Scots were unfounded. Stewart was brilliant and because the story is so well known, in Scots it takes on another dimension.

“But hooziss big bauchle wi the mingin claws,
An the bowfin big nashers in iz big jowly jaws?
Eez goat big bowly legs an pure hen toes,
An a durty big plook oan the end ae iz nose.
Eez goat huge orange peepers an iz tongue is aw black,
An erz giant purple jaggies aw owner iz back”

Arkinglas Estate
Stewart Ennis, the Storyteller

The Gruffalo trail is the perfect length for very young legs but you can carry on and explore the rest of the Woodland Walk which is clearly marked with arrows. I’m not going to wax lyrical about trees, I’m not an arborealist, but they’ve got some very tall ones, a very rare one and some very fat ones and they are interesting enough to get a 5 year to stop running away from you for 10 seconds

Arkinglas Estate
A tree big enough to capture a 5 year olds’s imagination
Arkinglas Estate
Disappearing down the the woodland walk

When we got back to the car park Alison Sykora had her pop up kitchen ready to go. A Swedish candle was the fire and popcorn maker. Alison was making the damper bread from scratch and griddling it. It smelt, looked and tasted delicious. The Loch Fyne mussels were sweet with the right amount of garlicky liquor and with the damper bread to soak it up, just perfect.

Ardkinglas Estate is a tranquil place, it’s not commercial, it’s not somewhere to go if you want to be surrounded by bright lights and noise. It is somewhere to go that’s within an hour’s drive of Helensburgh that’s outdoors, peaceful, beautiful and you don’t need hiking boots to enjoy it.

Munro Bagging in Arrochar

I must confess that I am not built for climbing mountains, looking at them incredulously yes but much more than that, very definitely not!  My husband on the other hand is part mountain goat and likes nothing more than climbing so he read the National Trust for Scotland Munro Bagging article with interest periodically murmuring “climbed that one”.

Arrochar Alps from Balquidder
Route from Balquidder to Arrochar

Balquidder is just 20 minutes away from the Arrochar Alps and some great climbing, we’d recommend the Village Inn for supper on your way home.  For an easier climb, Ben Lomond is 35 miles away (roughly an hour) so a day trip but there’s plenty to do on the way there or back which I’ll cover in another post.

Peaton Hill Conservation Reserve

Peaton Hill Nature Reserve

This is a brilliant walk for toddlers and young children, it’s about a mile in length on dirt track, gravel and duck boards.  All terrain buggies cope well,  I had a Nipper Out n’ About which required no effort to push round. If it’s raining, the gravel path and boardwalk are sheltered but the dirt track gets muddy. 

I first discovered Peaton Hill Community Nature Reserve back in 2012 just after we’d moved up.  J was away a lot and, with a fractious 4 month old, much time was spent driving around and pushing the buggy to try and get her to sleep.  I’m not sure how the collaboration started but my understanding is that a group of friends, some of whom are ex MOD policemen, got together and decided to create something the community could enjoy from a patch of wilderness owned by the MOD.  They have created a wildlife haven with gravel paths, ponds, small animal habitats, bird feeding stations, boardwalk over marsh, picnicking space with stunning views and tranquil areas where you can just sit, watch and listen to nature as it carries on around you.

The carpark is your starting point, there are two exits and for this walk you need to head for the wooden height restriction and in front you’ll see a dirt track. This is a circular walk and about 25 meters along on the right you’ll see two yellow arrows.  You can turn right and do the walk that way (backwards! – long standing family argument about which is the correct way to go around.  I maintain that since I discovered the walk first, my way is the correct way) or carry on.  The road joining the Coulport Road and Peaton Road runs to your left.  The track ends in a clearing with benches and poles with what I think are Scout related carvings at the top, on the right is a gravel path entering the woods.  As you walk along the gravel path you pass numerous ponds and small animal habitats and come to an area with a bench opposite a bird feeding station.

Peaton Hill Nature Reserve
Peaton Hill Nature Reserve

From here the walk opens out from the woods to stunning views, along the path are picnic tables and it’s a lovely place just to sit and think about nothing in particular

Peaton Hill Nature Reserve
Peaton Hill Nature Reserve

At the end of the track is the start of the boardwalk which weaves its way through the woods past little ponds, in and out of the trees.  As the boardwalk finishes is a bench opposite the largest pond, here you can sit and if lucky, you’ll see a heron fishing amidst the bull rushes. Off the boardwalk and at the end of the path turn left back towards the carpark.  In the car park is a hut which is open to the public, inside is a wealth of information about the animals you may have seen on your walk and where you can record what you observed.

This probably one of my favourite walks and one that I never get tired of.  The work the group of friends have put in is amazing and they really have created something special.  No matter the time of year, there’s always something different to look at regardless of your age

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