I’m all about a good cafe. Throw in the fact that I am always on the look out for nice walks and places to explore on our family days, and it is quite baffling as to how Balmakewan has stayed off my radar this past year. The family-run farm and mansion house, with its wonderful tea room, farm shop and beautiful gardens, has been sitting right under my nose and it is only when we asked a friend where she’d go for a birthday lunch in the local area that I realised what I’ve been missing (thank you, Emily).
As soon as I walked in I knew it was somewhere I would love. The first things I noticed were the smiles of the staff (isn’t it lovely to be greeted by a row of friendly faces?); the home bakes; the books and crockery for sale; and the large oblong table where people were drinking coffee and reading the papers (I’m sure it will be a long time before I can rejoin that leisurely Sunday morning club).
Don’t be fooled by the fact it calls itself a tea room; there is a lot more on offer than tea and cakes. I swithered between the Deli Platter and the Sunday Roast but chose the roast in the end (so glad I did, it was the best roast I’ve had in a long time). They don’t have a kids menu but will do half portions, which is an idea I love – I’ve often wondered why restaurants don’t just do smaller portions from the main menu instead of always offering the standard fish and chips, sausages and beans etc to kids.
I finished off my meal with a slice of raspberry cheesecake (yum! Highly recommend) and I then wandered (ok, chased Isaac) around the farm shop, tempted to buy everything from candles to cheese from the deli.
We then decided to walk off our lunch in the gardens, without realising how stunning they actually are. (I didn’t have my camera with me at the weekend so we returned yesterday to take a few photos). I wish we’d discovered it a few weeks ago, in the peak of the spring colour, but it is still absolutely gorgeous, with carpets of bluebells, blossom, rhododendrons and azaleas.
Isaac was in his element running up and down the hill, and playing hide and seek. It is just a lovely place for wee ones to explore. I was equally happy, taking photographs and enjoying the dazzling display of colour against the blue sky. I also loved the white blossom trees set against the vibrant yellow of the rapeseed.
My mother-in-law and husband chatted to the owner, Peter, who was busy in the garden, and learned from him that the grassy area in front of his lovely house had previously been home to cattle. Peter also came over to talk to us when we revisited the gardens yesterday to suggest walking a bit further on round the corner for even lovelier rhododendrons (a backdrop for my photos of the wee ones). A lovely man, who clearly takes great joy in sharing his beautiful garden with the public.
We followed the ‘Footpath’ signs down to the River North Esk and back, which was a lovely short walk (I just love this time of year when the countryside is lit by the bright yellow of the rapeseed).
I don’t know how it has taken me quite so long to discover this lovely local gem but I know that there will be many more coffees and walks here. And next spring, when the blossom, bluebells and rhododendrons are at their finest, you’ll know where to find me.