Sunday, June 20, 2010

And Now for Something Entirely Different

One of the top Team Vegan members (and donors), Catherine Berlot, shares her experience of her recent trip to to the UK:

It’s not hard at all to find great places to eat and stay in the UK that can cater to vegans.  On this trip we stayed in the Highlands of Scotland, Edinburgh, and the Lake District in England.

In the West Highlands, we stayed in Cuildorag House, a vegetarian Bed and Breakfast in Onich,  This is a great area for hiking.  We enjoyed hiking on Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in the UK, and in the Glencoe area. Cuildorag House is run by Lisa and Iain Glaze, who are friendly and made us feel at home.  In addition to a vegan breakfast, which was basically a vegan version of the traditional British cooked breakfast with tomatoes, mushrooms, baked beans, and vegan sausage, they offered a vegan dinner, which was great, because there aren’t many if any vegan options in the area.  The dinners were delicious, with lots of the vegetables coming from their garden.  I was particularly impressed with the pea and nettle soup.  We also had a salad with some greens I’d never seen before, a wonderful vegetable stew, and a rhubarb tart for dessert.  Another night we had a root vegetable soup, another great salad, a lentil tart, and a fried banana with a caramel and marmalade sauce.       

In the Lake District, which is also great for hiking, we stayed at the Lancrigg Vegetarian Country House Hotel, in Grasmere,  This is a larger establishment than the Cuildorag House and offers lots of amenties, such as Swedish massage, shiatsu, and reiki (non of which we took advantage of), but isn’t as homey because of its size.  The food was great and they also served dinner, which again was very welcome after a long day of hiking, since there aren’t lots of vegan options in this area either.  The vegan items on the dinner menu were clearly marked and there were additional choices that could be veganized.  They had quite a selection.  I especially liked their cashew nut loaf.  They also had several vegan options for dessert, including apple and pear crumble and a decadent chocolate sundae.  The breakfast menu wasn’t as clearly marked and initially it was difficult getting information about what was vegan from the wait staff, primarily college age students from France and other European countries with somewhat limited English. But with some perseverance, we got the information we needed and everything was delicious.  There were lots of choices, including fresh fruit, fruit smoothies, tofu, lettuce, and tomato sandwiches, vegan burgers, and a vegan version of the traditional English breakfast.     

Edinburgh is a very magical Scottish city that we love to visit for its sense of history, architecture, art galleries, and bookstores. This time we stayed at the Claymore Vegetarian Guest House on 68 Pilrig Street. Email:  They are working on a web site.  The Claymore is run by Cathy Meek and John McCafferty.  Cathy is a wonderful warm person.  We didn’t meet John, but he cooked great breakfasts, probably the best we had on this trip, which included polenta, potato scones, tomatoes, onions, and mushroom fricassee.  This guest house is a bit away from the center of town, but there is a bus stop right in front of it, so it’s easy to get around.  It pays to get an all day bus pass for 3 pounds.  Another place we enjoyed staying in on a previous visit was the more centrally located Six Mary’s Place Guest House in Stockbridge, They also have nice vegan options for breakfast. Six Mary’s Place is bigger than the Claymore. I preferred the personal friendly treatment we got at the Claymore, but the location of Six Mary’s Place is more convenient. There are quite a few vegan friendly restaurants in Edinburgh, more than we could go to on one visit.  

We had two dinners at the David Bann restaurant,, partly because they are open all day, which was convenient for when we went to the theatre. They have some vegan options and many more items that can be veganized. The food was delicious and the wait staff were extraordinarily helpful.  I was particularly impressed with a watercress, beetroot, and pomegranate salad and with their homemade smokey tofu with udon noodles. We also had dinner at the wonderful Kalpna Vegetarian restaurant,  We went to this Indian restaurant many years ago before we were even vegetarians let alone vegans, and it was here that I first learned what vegan meant.  At that time and on this visit, I had the vegan thaali, which is a wonderful sampling of many different dishes.  We also stopped by the Forest Café on our first morning in the UK for a cup of tea and some flapjacks, sweet bars made with oats,  It looks like this place is really hopping at night, but we didn’t see for ourselves on this visit.   

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