Back in the day, Joe Public wouldn’t dream of venturing on to a farm unless they were strawberry picking or indulging in some tractor spotting (or is that just me?).
Today’s farms, though, offer much more than manure, mud and milk sheds.
Ardardan is a prime example. This family-run estate on the banks of the River Clyde was in a state of disrepair when the Montgomerys took over in 1996. As well as a working farm, it’s now a bustling day-tripper attraction with year-round events, from Easter egg hunts in spring to a Scarecrow Festival in autumn to magical Christmas storytelling in winter.
I heard through the grapevine that it’s also home to a very popular tearoom where, a friend tells me, the scones are “to die for”, though I’ll be the judge of that, thank you very much!
When I arrived at Saturday lunchtime, I had to wait 30 minutes for a table. I popped my name on the (very efficient) waitress’s clipboard and went for a wander around the walled garden which houses a pretty nursery.
I spent a relaxing half hour pottering in the watery sunshine among the rows of plants, and throwing wish money into the dolphin fountain, before my name was called. I was escorted into the bustling café and seated by the window overlooking a terrace where people were braving the chill to eat al fresco.
The menu was extensive. From cooked breakfasts to lunchtime favourites, it includes seasonal salads, homemade soups and a selection of inventive sandwiches – brie and banana, anyone?
Sticking with the theme, I ordered the Farmer’s Lunch which came with a generous slab of Scottish cheddar, a pile of honey roast ham, chutney, balsamic onions and fresh crusty bread. It was absolutely delicious washed down with a Bundaberg Ginger Beer.
And then it was time for something sweet. I had spied the substantial cake counter on the way in. It was groaning with mint chocolate traybakes, an impressive gateaux and tempting sponges but I’m saving myself for the main event…
Ardardan’s scone offering is traditional – just how I like it – with butter and Scottish jam or clotted cream with jam.
Fruit or plain? I ordered both. Freshly baked, they were well risen with golden, slightly crunchy, tops, and a fluffy, light texture inside. The raisins in the fruit variety were juicy and plentiful. Top marks all round!
Stuffed to the gunnels, I settled my very reasonable bill and headed back ouside. Ardardan has a very nice woodland walk behind the main building to I decided to indulge in a spot of leaf-peeping.
It’s an enchanting trail that winds through dense rhododendron trees and ancient oaks. The walk ends on the other side of the estate where I could see a tractor turning the earth in a nearby field. It was a lovely moment to end my day down on the farm.
Ardardan Tearoom, Ardardan Estate, Cardross, Argyll and Bute
Warm and friendly with very on-the-ball waiting staff. 9/10
Nestles in a beautiful walled garden. The woodland walk offers a delightful way to work off your lunch. 10/10
Freshly baked on the premises. Perfectly risen and seasoned. 10/10