Loch Leven, on the borders of Fife and Perthshire, in Scotland, is a delight. It’s pretty, it’s interesting and it’s close to my mother’s house. Its biggest claim to fame, besides being our go-to-place for strawberry picking as children, is that Mary Queen of Scots was imprisoned in its castle by her jealous cousin Queen Elizabeth I prior to giving up her throne to her son, James VI of Scotland. The castle has always had royal connections though, which date back as far as Robert the Bruce, who maintained his Royal Exchequer on the site in 1329.*
Its other claim to fame is a little more recent and primarily relates to my Pop, (my maternal grandfather), who was a wonderful raconteur and storyteller. His fanciful tales of times gone by, including his own (in his mind anyway) rather exotic past, mostly centred around Loch Leven as this was the site where his spaceship was located. Our Pop, you see, was a Martian but we were sworn never to reveal such important and fascinating details of his life and origins. Nor our own, for that matter.
His spaceship was actually parked (if indeed one parks a spaceship), close to the Milky Bar that we often visited. This was probably cleverly planned to allow us (my numerous cousins, siblings and myself), to indulge our sweet cravings, while at the same time permitting Pop to check that all was fine with the spaceship. This, I imagine, was in case of his need for an unplanned and fast getaway in the event his origins were publicly revealed.
These days however, a wonderful farm shop called Loch Leven’s Larder (a larder is a type of pantry for those non-Scottish readers), graces its shores. This newer place of treasures offers a huge variety of local foodstuffs, both fresh and preserved, as well as a range of local craft gins and tonics, a particularly special reason for visiting, and a large restaurant. This was our intended destination for a leisurely Sunday lunch on the shores of the loch.
One of the best things for me about visiting the UK, and Scotland in particular, is the wonderful and abundant fish offered in restaurants, pubs, and shops around the country. This venue is no different. From a great menu offering locally grown food and delicacies, I selected the roast Scottish smoked haddock, served beautifully atop creamed kale with crispy fried onions and a salsa verde… it was mouthwateringly superlative!
The place was positively bursting at the seams with families dressed for the outdoors, many with dogs, and clearly enjoying the multiple walks, bike rides and other activities on offer in the spectacular setting. It’s a great place to visit if you’re in the area.**
My Pop’s spaceship is unfortunately no longer parked at the Milk Bar, but has been moved to a secret location for safety and far from prying eyes. The memories however, are still vivid and reminiscent of a childhood wondrously enlivened by his fertile imagination.
Please note: These opinions are mine and were not influenced by any of the destinations mentioned. As a result, your experience should be no different from my own.
*Lochleven Castle is managed by Historic Scotland and is open from April to October. For more information: www.historic-scotland.gov.uk