Monday, June 17, 2013

One year on

It's nearly 12 months since we welcomed our first guests to Curlew Cottage and The Old Dairy. It's been great fun and we've met lots of really lovely people from all over the world. We started working on the designs for the cottages around the time we finished building our house (5 years ago) but for lots of reasons, time, money, family and business, we didn't commence the renovation of the dairy and byre until May 2011. When you're heavily involved in the project management and specification of any project it takes a while to step back and appreciate 'the job' is finished but in reality for us the end of the renovation project marked the start of the holiday cottage business. Aside from fitting out the cottages, there was a website to create, advertising to organise and endless amounts of bed linen to change. We've learned a lot in the past year and a half but we are also hugely pleased that the cottages have been so well received by our guests. Thankfully we've had glowing reviews and many pleasant comments. We've been excited to meet people from so many different places, family groups of 3 generations, we've had a stag party and a hen weekend, 2 groups taking part in a huge charity challenge, couples escaping from the rat race and new born babes on their first holiday.
In December last year we were pleasantly reminded of the renovations when the Glasgow Institute of Architects awarded the cottages their prestigious award for Sustainable Design. It was a terrific achievement and great recognition for Thomas Robinson Architects and for ourselves. Most importantly though the sustainable design has worked in practice, our guests are comfortable, even in the depths of winter the cottages are warm 24/7 so when people have hiked the hills they know they have a warm place to return to. Everyone loves the wood burning stoves and the fact we offer free top ups of the log basket!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Festivals in and around Loch Lomond

Coming up in May we have Booked which, as you might guess, is a literature festival. Organised by West Dunbartonshire Council library service this festival is just a few years old but already has a loyal local following and has an interesting programme with a great variety of authors speaking. Events are held (mainly at libraries) throughout the area and there is the opportunity for Q & As and signing sessions at the end of each talk. Over recent years I have thoroughly enjoyed listening to a tremendous range of interesting people; some first novelists, some seasoned household names, poetry and music, factual social history, biographies, shadow writers, world adventurers and local colour. Whether you're resident in the area or a visitor you are sure to find something of interest. We've left copies of the programme in both cottages, tickets for the events are free and can be collected from West Dunbartonshire libraries.

Food and drink festivals are also a very welcome feature in the area and we have enjoyed visits to the Loch Lomond Food & Drink Festival sampling the goodies from great local producers. This year the festival is being held on 14th and 15th September at Loch Lomond Shores in Balloch. As well as food tasting we're always keen to see our favourite local Loch Lomond Brewery there too. Earlier in the year, 17th and 18th May, there's more craft beers to be enjoyed at the Helensburgh & Lomond Real Ale Festival which is a charitable event offering over 40 ales.

Lomond Folk Festival is being held from 26th-28th July this year. Held in Balloch Country Park (just 4 miles from East Cambusmoon) this is a family friendly folk festival on the banks of Loch Lomond. Day time and evening sessions featuring traditional and folk music are held with some drop-in free events as well as ticketed gigs. The bands and musicians are currently being announced with Shooglenifty (creators of techno ceilidh!) being one of the better known acts gracing this year's festival.

For more music and heritage we love Piping Live! which is being held at various venues in Glasgow from 11th - 18th August. This is a truly international event, the World Pipe Band Championships also take place on 17th and 18th August, so you can hear bands and musicians from all over the world as well as take part in classes, watch highland dancing and learn about the huge variety of piping and traditional music.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Thoughts for the garden

Not the day for sitting outside but not so bad a day for planning what to be growing in the garden this year. My main focus is always vegetables and fruit, we are not self sufficient but make a fair contribution from our own patch to the kitchen and thoroughly enjoy the prospect of harvesting some of the food we eat. As a parent one of my favourite times is when the children get home from school on a sunny day, fling their bags towards the door and dash into the veggie garden to eat peas and mange touts from the plants followed by a helping of raspberries from the canes. I dream of this as I look out of the window at the falling snow!
At the moment in the garden we have leeks, artichokes and spinach, so not a lot to feed the family on but still a contribution directly from our own soil.
I do grow flowers, always calendula which is one of my favourites, and nasturtium - both of which you can add the petals to brighten up a dish. Last year I grew a bed of flowers and plants directly to attract more bees and insects to the veggie garden, one of the most spectacular plants was teasel which grew wonderfully tall, looked stunning and provided a great hub for lots of bees. It was referred to as our 'dinosaur plant' because of its spikes and we've cut and dried the flower heads for arrangements, another one to grow this year for flowering next year as its a perennial.

This year I'm going to extend my flower growing so we can have more cut flowers for the holiday cottages. I've ordered various delights from Higgledy Garden for the cutting garden and have been inspired by the brilliant and exciting photos on their website. Watch this space!!