AS Andy Williams reminds us, it’s the most wonderful time of the year.
From the tinsel-laden trees and the popping of Prosecco corks to marvellous mince pies and the sounds of Slade on the radio, Christmas makes you feel warm inside.
And a heat is exactly what I need right now.
It’s a wintery day and I’m in need of a comfy seat and a lovely latte, not to mention the all-important festive staple – a mince pie.
I’m in East Kilbride and a short drive from the hustle and bustle of the busy shopping centre, I stumble upon Calderglen Country Park.
Nestled in the midst of nature trails and ornamental gardens is the Courtyard Café.
It’s a cosy wee place. The painted stone walls and sash windows give it character, and open up the small space to make it seem bigger.
It’s busy, but we manage to find a free table tucked away in the corner.
The menu is nice and varied. As well as soup and sandwiches, there’s toasties and a few hot dishes.
We plump for the macaroni cheese and cheese and ham toastie.
The mac cheese was lovely and creamy.
The toastie, however, a tad disappointing, largely due to the use of one of those plasticky cheese slices rather than actual cheddar.
But the desserts more than made up for it.
The caramel shortcake, topped with chocolate sprinkles – just like you used to get in the school canteen – got the thumbs up from across the table.
And the mince pie? Well, the fact that it came in a wee foil tray suggested it wasn’t home-baked like the cabinet full of other cakes and bakes, but it was superb nonetheless.
The pastry was lovely and crumbly, and the mincemeat inside nice and fruity.
The dusting of icing sugar on the top was a nice touch and just made it feel even more “Christmassy”.
We also share a cherry and raisin scone…well, given that’s my vocation, it would be rude not to.
It’s firm on the outside and soft and fluffy on the inside, just as a good scone should be. The absence of jam, however, is always a tough one to take!
When we can eventually roll ourselves back out of the café, we take a wander round the park.
It’s huge and there’s loads going on – perfect if you have little ones in tow.
As well as a couple of playparks, there’s a conservatory which hosts a mini-zoo, with everything from meerkats to monkeys, guinea pigs to iguanas.
I leave with that good old Andy Williams song playing through my head on repeat, thinking a day out at Calderglen could be one of the most wonderful times any time of the year, but especially at Christmas.
WARM WELCOME 7/10
LOCATION, LOCATION 7/10
SCONE SCORE 8/10