Monday, July 19, 2010

Glenkindie Arms Hotel

I don't normally highlight particular hotels or inns in this blog. We have about 700 on our database and they all have their particular strengths. But last weekend I stayed at a most remarkable place in Upper Donside, Aberdeenshire. Two years ago the four hundred year old Glenkindie Inn was a rundown pub, probably destined to become a private house or worse, a second home, but certainly nothing that would draw people into the area.

Enter Ian Simpson, an entrepreneurial chef from England, looking to start his old business. The bar is now a smart little restaurant, the rooms up above are comfortable if not luxurious.

The menu options are on the blackboard and my three course dinner was delicious, beautifully served, fully justifying the inn's newly acquired two AA rosettes.

For breakfast I went for honeyed apricots and yoghurt followed by scrambled eggs, mushrooms and bacon.  I was invited to choose my own local free range eggs, the mushrooms were actually locally gathered chanterelles and the toast came with home made jam.  Dinner bed and breakfast cost less than GBP 65.

We need more Ian Simpsons. Good luck to him.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

If The Queen is to be present in your building, please contact the Protocol Team,

People sometimes ask what is the difference between the Saltire (blue and white cross) and the Royal Banner (red lion rampant) and don't seem to believe it when I say that the Royal Banner should only be flown when The King (or Queen) of Scots is present!

Well, here is the official protocol, taken from the Scottish Government website:

The Royal Banner is The Queen’s official banner in Scotland. Flags showing the Banner of the Royal Arms of Scotland (the ‘Lion Rampant’) or the Royal Arms as used in Scotland (the Quartered Arms) are Ensigns of Public Authority, and are therefore only used by The Sovereign or Her Great Officers, such as Lord Lieutenants, when acting in that capacity.

The Royal Banner is usually only hoisted above a Scottish Government building during the period The Queen is present in the building. It is not hoisted when The Queen is only passing in procession. If The Queen is to be present in your building, please contact the Protocol Team, Constitution Directorate, DG Constitution and Corporate Change to make the necessary arrangements.

The flying of the Royal Banner from a non-Government property or garden is not permissible, as it implies that the flag flyer is claiming the Royal Arms as his or her own.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

The Munros of Novar

On a hill overlooking the Cromarty Firth is a striking, most un-highland monument. I guess that travellers must have been wondering what on earth it is ever since its erection in 1782. In fact it is a replica of the gates of Negapatam in South East India - originally a Dutch colony, won by the British in 1781.

Responsible for this success was Sir Hector Munro, 8th of Novar (1726 - 1805) who won fame and fortune as a British Army Officer in India. When he retired to Scotland the following year he found that in the midst of the Highland Clearances many Munros and others in the area were unemployed and hungry, so he paid them all to carry stones to the top of Cnoc Fyrish where the monument to celebrate his triumph was erected.

Tragically, Sir Hector's two sons were both killed in India, one by a tiger and one by a shark in the Bay of Bengal and the estate passed to his daughter whose descendants still own it.

And, until yesterday, that was all I knew of the Munros of Novar.

I now learn that Sir Hector's nephew, Hugh Anderson Johnstone Munro of Novar was one of the most notable art collectors of his day and a close friend of the English artist J. M. W. Turner. Munro eventually owned fifteen oil paintings by Turner and one hundred and nine of his water colours. One of his favourites, 'Modern Rome - Campo Vaccino' was sold by Munro's heirs in 1878 to the Earl of Roseberry for the astonishing price (at that time) of 4,450 guineas. It comes under the hammer for the second time tomorrow in a Sotheby's sale in London with an estimate of £12-18 million.

A blow, though, for the National Gallery of Scotland, to whom it has been on loan since 1978.