On a cold day there is nothing better than a steaming-hot plate of soup. Even better if you can have the said winter warmer in the stunning surroundings of an 11th-century stately home.
Delgatie Castle offers soup, stately home and a whole lot more.
With clear skies and a little frost on the ground, my boyfriend and I bundled into the car and headed off on the road to Turriff.
The drive from Aberdeen takes in some lovely scenery and wildlife if you look hard enough.
About an hour from the city, a small winding road leads you up to the castle and Delgatie wood – the perfect place to take a wander after sampling the delights of the estate tearoom, the aptly-named Laird’s Kitchen.
We were too hungry to tour the beautiful building first, and headed straight for the food.
The cafe – recently named the top tearoom in Britain by a tourism specialist – is set in what was the castle kitchen.
With its white-washed walls and polished brass cooking utensils, it’s easy to imagine a busy castle staff hunched over pots, cooking up a feast for the castle’s residents. These days it’s the visitors who benefit from the good old-fashioned home cooking.
The staff are extremely friendly so you feel like you’re eating in someone’s home rather than a cafe.
There are specials every day along with some classic staples. And a vintage afternoon tea is also on offer if booked in advance.
On the Sunday we visited, one chap had organised this as a surprise for his girlfriend. It looked fabulous with little sandwiches and cakes served on pretty antique crockery.
The specials offered on the day were also attractive, including a delicioussounding dish of pancakes with black pudding and mushrooms in a creamy sauce.
But I could not resist my winter lunch favourite of Cullen skink followed by a cheese and ham toastie. The creamy, smoked fish soup was delicious – if lacking a touch of salt – and was perfect to warm the cockles. And the toastie, on brown bread with plenty of melted cheese, was fantastic, served with a crisp and tasty salad.
My other half went for the soup of the day, lentil, and, although it wasn’t as good as his mum’s – it never could be – he was pretty pleased with the choice. He was also delighted with his roast beef open sandwich – perfectly cooked slices of tender meat served on fresh crusty bread with a crisp salad.
We were extremely tempted by the home-bakes on offer – coffee cake and gingerbread loaf were crying out to us from the display in the castle kitchen – but we’d overdone it with savouries and had to, disappointingly, leave the sweet eats behind.
With a pot of tea, our lunch came to less than £20 – a very reasonable price for the quality of food and atmosphere.
And we walked off some of our meal with a tour of the castle – which is steeped in history and tales of ghosts – heading up the winding staircase into a labyrinth of preserved rooms.
Delgatie Castle is just off the A947, Turriff to Banff road. Phone 01888 563479 or visit www.delgatie castle.com