Category Archives: Hidden Gems
If you want to sample the best that Scotland has to offer, you’ll find it just off a busy main road – the A84. Hence the name behind this cool establishment that is fast becoming a must-visit Scottish central belt hot spot. Think Route 66 but with glorious glens, mountains, mists and magical forests. And the location is perfect, it also services Cycle Route 7 and Rob Roy Way.
Stay overnight at the hotel or in one of the nearby cottages. Or simply take a drive out and visit. Driving from Glasgow will take you just over an hour and the nearest town is Callander.
What I loved about Mhor 84 is the relaxed vibe. All are welcome – take your dog, take the kids, even if you’ve been out cycling or hiking the hills, and looking a bit tatty – the doors are open. And there’s plenty walks and trails around this area, which is called Rob Roy Country (the grave of the famous Scottish outlaw Rob Roy MacGregor is only around two miles away located beside Balquhidder Kirk). See my other blog post Balquhidder, Rob Roy Country
Meanwhile at Mhor 84, there’s lots to enjoy – from the all day breakfast, to hearty soup, full blown lunches and dinners to hot chocolate, coffee and yummy cakes, then swill it all down with some fine wine, spirits, drams and beers. There’s no restrictions or stuffiness – choose whatever you fancy. You’ll easily sit, while away the day, and enjoy the beautiful views outside. There’s also a games room to keep kids and adults amused, which includes a pool table, TV, wi-fi, toys and board games.
Mhor 84 excels in its food. With a full menu offering lots of options and delivering some fine Scottish produce. It’s worth visiting for the food alone.
Also part of the Mhor brand is Mhor Fish – located in nearby Callander – around a 15-20 minute drive from Mhor 84. This is a top notch fish and chip shop restaurant with tasteful, contemporary decor. Serving up great quality fish encased in batter that is so light and crispy, it melts in your mouth. Delicious. And while you’re here – also check out Mhor Bread – a bakery/coffee shop, full of cakes, shortbread, varieties of bread and award-winning pies.
It’s also worth hanging around Mhor 84 on a Thursday night for “Thank Folk It’s Thursday”. The hotel becomes host to an array of musicians who pile through the doors with an assemble of instruments. Watching this scene unfold is like being part of a Marx Brothers movie. It becomes a jamming session for folk musicians – and extremely talented ones at that, featuring Ewan MacPherson of Shooglenifty. What adds to the charm is that there appears to be no set list/script or order. It’s wonderfully organic, free flowing, in the moment, and harmonious. And just when you think things can’t get any more surreal – in walks an elderly gentleman with a fascinatingly wizened face, dressed head to toe in swathes of plaid, drums on his back – and looking like he’s wandered off the set of Braveheart. When he’s not joining in on the music, he’s reciting old poetry and verse, retelling magical tales of Scottish folklore to an captivated audience. While all this is taking place, a lady sleeps in a chair, but still taps her feet to the music. A shaggy sheepdog settles for a snooze beside her, it’s not her dog, but he sees a good spot. Meanwhile all the staff, who incidentally are all charming and very friendly, never bat an eyelid. I don’t know if every Thursday night is like this, but the whole Mhor 84 package is bewitching. I can’t wait to go back.
For more information see Mhor 84 Motel Website
For more information on the surrounding area see Rob Roy Country Website
I love a hidden gem and the Inshriach Nursery and The Potting Shed is one such jewel. The Potting Shed made it onto Dan Lepard’s list of Britain’s Best Cake Shops, published in The Observer, and it turns out that Dan is a master baker, so he obviously knows a good sponge when he sees one. As a lover of a fine tearoom and not being adverse to a mouth-watering confection of cakes, it was something I had to check out.
Finding cake heaven proved a bit tricky, as there isn’t an address as such and is listed as “Aviemore” but in reality it is some 10 minutes or so outside the town. The drive is scenic but after a while you are tempted to think you are on a wild cake chase, but persevere, it’s a place you will return to again and again, which was quite apparent by the number of visitors. And if there is an award for “best-view-from-a-tearoom” surely this must be a contender? Where else can you sit with a huge slab of cake and watch over a Scottish Highland forest? This giant open air aviary with its array of constantly darting and swooping chaffinches, blue tits, great tits, and siskins who fed on giant swinging bird feeders was an ornithologist’s dream. But it’s not just for bird-watchers, the effect was mesmerising and relaxing. A quick cuppa can easily turn into two hours. Red squirrels are rare in certain parts of Scotland, but you can see them in some areas around the Highlands and some appeared and gnawed eagerly on the nut feeders. Undoubtedly, this is an amazing view for a sweet treat, but what of the actual cakes? Yes, they lived up to the hype. Thick and generous, light and fluffy, sweet and tasty. There’s also a large and unusual selection, with everything from lemon custard and raspberry, plum and apple to strawberry and redcurrant to chocolate cake with blueberry. On the menu also is an extensive list of wheat free cakes.
Apart from The Potting Shed tearoom, the Inshriach Nursery is a delight to potter around. Wander about the beautiful gardens, admire the quaint features, sit on a bench and watch the chickens as they strut and coo.