The Watermill: Best Little Bookshop in Scotland

The Watermill Aberfeldy Perthshire

Back in 2003, Kevin and Jayne Ramage discovered a derelict mill in Aberfeldy in the Scottish Highlands.  So enchanted were they by this listed building that they went on to open The Watermill, a bookshop, art gallery and coffee shop.  The Watermill won the prize for the Bertrams Independent Bookshop of the Year in 2008.

Independent Bookshop of the Year

We’d had a wonderful time exploring Aberfeldy, but our primary reason for visiting the town was to visit this famous bookshop and we certainly weren’t disappointed.  It is said to have the largest range of titles in the Scottish Highlands and it is the perfect place to spend the afternoon browsing. 

The Watermill Bookshop Aberfeldy Perthshire

It is hard to pinpoint what is so special about this bookshop but perhaps it is the attention to detail. There is but one copy of each book which no doubt contributes to their ability to house a vast collection.  The assistants were really friendly too and were quite happy to assist you in finding books. 

The cafe is located on the lower level floor and opens up onto a veranda next to the old mill stream.  I loved that you could still spot old bits of mill machinery about the building.  It gives a lovely authentic feel to the whole bookshop.

Art at The Watermill

There is an art gallery on the upper level of the building which is home to regular exhibitions.  Being a fan of modern and urban art, I especially appreciated the pieces by Banksy and Blek le Rat.

As with most towns in the Highlands, you just need to peek down any side street to see breathtaking scenery.  This is the view that you would enjoy if you sat beside the mill stream on the veranda and enjoyed a cup of coffee.


The Watermill
Mill Street
PH15 2BG

The Highland Town of Aberfeldy

Aberfeldy town square

It has been such an exciting couple of months in London that I haven’t dedicated much time to my other travels lately.  I thought it would be the perfect day to visit the town of Aberfeldy in Perthshire in the Scottish Highlands.  Aberfeldy is a small market town located close to Crieff and Pitlochry.  It is not as geared to tourists as other towns in the area but it is certainly worth a visit.

The Birks in Aberfeldy

Above you can see the town square and the derelict Birks cinema built in 1939 in the Art Deco style.  This building is such a gem, it would be amazing if it was refurbished and used as a cinema or theatre once again.  Oh! It looks like such a project is indeed underway by “The Friends of the Birks” and the patron of the project is the superb actor Alan Cumming who was born in Aberfeldy.  This is great news!

Scottish Baronial Architecture Aberfeldy

During our visit to Aberfeldy, I was thrilled to see more examples of Scots Baronial Style architecture that we saw throughout our visit to Perthshire. This gothic revival style really inspired my imagination and I imagined creepy rain storms, mystery and intrigue in the Scottish Highlands.

Aberfeldy High Street

Were it not for the sight of modern cars, you could easily imagine that you had stepped back to Victorian times when visiting Aberfeldy.  Many of the shops had closed when we were there but I think this is a town that will see great growth and rejuvenation in the years to come, especially when the cinema reopens.

Rogues Shoes Aberfeldy

We had lunch in the Fountain restaurant behind the old Victorian water fountain.  Of course, after a long walk through the town, we were enjoying lunch far too much to worry about taking photos!

The Fountain Bar and Victorian Water Fountain Aberfeldy

If you look into the distance in the photo below, you can just make out the hills of the Scottish Highlands.  Aberfeldy is known for its beautiful, scenic walks.  Perhaps that is why JK Rowling recently bought a house nearby?

Victorian Drinking Fountain Aberfeldy

Our primary reason for visiting Aberfeldy had been to visit The Watermill, a famous bookshop, art gallery and coffee shop located at the edge of the town.  The Watermill was so exciting that it deserves its very own post!

I will leave you at our approach to the bookshop and another view of the gorgeous scenery in the distance.

Scenery at The Watermill

Situated in Perthshire, Aberfeldy is located at the intersection of the A826 to Crieff and the A827, which branches off the A9 to Pitlochry. 

Photowalk: Highgate Wood to Alexandra Palace

Crow in Highgate Wood

On Sunday morning I was up bright and early to meet up with friends Melizza, Greg, Sara and Chris for a walk around Highgate, Muswell Hill and Alexandra Palace.  We all met up at Highgate tube station at noon and headed into Highgate Wood. 

Highgate Wood

It was a lovely warm day (which is pretty lucky as I had ventured out without a coat!) but as you can see from these photos, spring has no intention of making an appearance until we get some rain!

Waiting for Spring

After spending all of half an hour in Highgate Wood, we rushed off to The Quarters Cafe on Archway Road for some much needed refreshments and food.  We then walked up to Highgate Village and caught a bus to Muswell Hill where we visited Alexandra Palace.

Alexandra Palace

Known locally as Ally Pally, Alexandra Palace is a stunning example of Victorian architecture and it sits right at the top of a hill overlooking north and central London.

Palm Court Entrance

Blessed with beautiful blue skies and sunshine, we approached the famous Palm Court Entrance of the palace from the south.

The Shard from Alexandra Palace

The views from Alexandra Palace are amazing.  Above, you can see the view to the south and if you click on the photo, you will be able to make out the Shard just left of centre. 

View to south east from Alexandra Palace

This is the view to the south-east.  I think these three girls had the right idea to sit in the sun and gaze into the distance!

Rose Window and Antenna

This is the renowned rose window on the south east front of the palace and the world famous Marconi antenna to the right.  Alexandra Palace was never really a palace, it was built as a place of recreation and entertainment in 1873.  It rose to worldwide prominence in 1936 when it became the home of the BBC and the world’s first regular TV service was broadcast from here.  Wikipedia says that the iconic radio antenna is still in use today.

The Rose Window Alexandra Palace

No visit to Ally Pally is complete without view the splendid Palm Court.  This is a domed conservatory and is maintained at a rather humid temperature to benefit the collection of palms and exotic plants.

Inside the Palm Court Alexandra Palace

You can get a feel for the scale of this magnificent area if you contrast it with the tiny little boy in the photo above. 

Victorian Detail Palm Court Alexandra Palace

You can read all about the colourful history of palace and the shenanigans surrounding its construction over at Alexandra Palace London: a peoples' palace.  Hels, I couldn’t help thinking of you when I visited the Palm Court and I knew you’d appreciate these photos!

Highgate Wood
1 Shepherds Cottages/Muswell Hill Rd
N10 3JN
Alexandra Palace
Alexandra Palace Way
N22 7AY

An Icy Morning at Borough Market

February was such a busy month with so much to blog about that I hope you won’t mind if I take you back to an icy Saturday morning four weeks ago.  It was the day before the snow finally came to London and we had agreed to meet up at Borough Market at 10am.  Did I mention it was cold? And icy?  Well, it really was!

It seems strange to me now that I didn’t like Borough Market the first time I visited.  Well, it was at 1pm on a particularly hot and busy summer Friday afternoon, when the market was absolutely heaving with customers.  Now I love Borough Market and I’m going to share a couple of my favourite stalls.  You will find all of these stalls in the Green Market which is just in front of Southwark Cathedral.  It seems I accidentally sneaked in a couple of photos of the cathedral when I was going around the market.

Borough Market - raclette stall

This is Kappacasein, otherwise known as the raclette stall.  If you have never tried the Swiss dish raclette (made from serving raclette cheese with any number of vegetables or potatoes) then you are really missing out.  Do yourself a favour and rush off to Borough Market and try them out.  The stall is easily recognisable from its traditionally long queue!

Borough Market - Kentish Pickled Mushrooms and other foods

Fitz Fine Foods sells the most interesting products like Kentish Pickled Walnuts, Kentish Cobnut Oil and various Gallic pates and terrines.  I tend to steer clear of foie gras for ethical reasons but am quite happy to sample the Kentish products.

Borough Market - cheese heaven

As a child, I was relatively convinced that I had mouse blood in me and I’m known to sit down with a paring knife and a block of cheese and polish the whole thing off. I don’t really think I need to explain why Mons Cheesemongers is one of my favourite stalls.

Southwark Cathedral

First accidental photo of Southwark Cathedral. Here the cathedral appears to be basking in the sun but it really wasn’t.

Borough Market - hot milky chai

In my opinion, no visit to Borough Market is complete without a cup of delicious organic hot milky chai.  I am already particularly partial to chai (a spicy, cinnamon-infused tea) but it is particularly good from this stall.

Borough Market - merchandise

The chaps at the Borough Market merchandise were on fine form the morning I visited and as friendly as ever. Hint: nothing says “I’ve been to London” better than a swish Borough Market bag or apron!

Borough Market - bratwurst and frankfurter

Sausages are second only to cheese in my list of favourite foods and German sausages are divine.  I would definitely recommend a Bratwurst from The German Deli with perhaps some sauerkraut and a side of German mustard.

Borough Market - thank you

Thank you for taking visiting Borough Market with me today!  And for being patient while I sneaked in a couple of photos of the cathedral.

Southwark Cathedral 2

Is there something in your world that you simply can’t walk past without photographing?  What about something you’ve always wanted to capture but never seem to be in the right place at the right time with the right camera?

Borough Market
8 Southwark Street
020 7407 1002

FINA Diving World Cup at the Aquatics Centre

The Olympics Aquatics Centre The Olympics Aquatics Centre

No list of “things to do in London this summer” will be complete this year without mentioning a trip to the Olympics.  Now I know most people are playing it cool, as they were a year ago with the Royal Wedding, but mark my words: London is about to go Olympics crazy.

Last week I was extremely fortunate to visit the Olympic Park when Thomas Cook invited a group of bloggers to experience the excitement of an Olympic test event.

Anish Kapoor's ArcelorMittal Orbit and the athletic stadium Anish Kapoor’s ArcelorMittal Orbit and the the Olympic Stadium

From Stratford underground station, we walked through the new Westfield Stratford shopping centre to arrive at the park.  Once we’d cleared the airport-style security, we took a moment to appreciate Anish Kapoor’s ArcelorMittal Orbit and the main Olympic Stadium where the Athletics and Paralympic Athletics events will take place.  The Orbit is actually an observation tower and is 115 metres high.  According to Wikipedia, the “steel sculpture is Britain's largest piece of public art, and is a permanent, lasting legacy of London's hosting of the 2012 Summer Olympics”.

Score board FINA Diving World Cup 2012

Well, as interesting as the park is, we were there to see the Women’s 10m Platform Final in the 18th FINA Diving World Cup.  Twelve women took part in the final and they came from China, Russia, Canada, Mexico, Germany, Japan, Italy, DPR Korea and Great Britain.  I’m sure you can guess who the crowd was cheering for!

In Motion FINA Diving World Cup 2012

I have to say that I felt really fortunate to have the chance to watch the top 12 women 10m divers in the world battle it out for the title of world champion.  I am just glad that I am not one of the judges.  All of the divers looked incredible to me and I was only able to detect slight differences in quality when watching the slow motion replays. 

In Motion 2 FINA Diving World Cup 2012

I did pick up that they are meant to hit the water at a perpendicular angle with the least splash.  The problem is that it looks so much more impressive when they hit the water with a big splash!!

Hand stand to dive FINA Diving World Cup

We were quite close to the scoreboard so I know that it is a case of spot-the-diver in the photos above! You can click on the photos to enlarge them.  I did like it when they began their dives from a handstand position, as in the photo above.  Some of them got into their handstand from a standing position and some did a small cartwheel from the side.

My favourite dive was when they start with their back facing the crowd, jump straight up and then fold their bodies over without twisting.  It always looks as if they narrowly miss hitting the board with the back of their heads and is certainly the most breath-taking dive!

Swimming Lanes Olympic Aquatics Centre

My favourite Olympic sport is actually the swimming and as Stephen works for one of the Olympics sponsors, he has applied for tickets for the swimming and field hockey test events.  I would love to see the crawl but any kind of swimming would be good.

Dive FINA Diving World Cup 2012

It was a really thrilling, fast paced event and was over after 90 minutes.  Yadan Hu from China dominated the first half of the event (there are five rounds in the final) but Ruolin Chen, also from China, was more consistent and she eventually gained the upper hand in the final two dives to win the event.  Both were outstanding divers.

Close up diving platforms Olympic Aquatics Centre

By the way, if you do go to an Olympic event, you need to know that you cannot use flash photography. I was not aware of that but apparently it can be quite dangerous for the athletes, especially for divers.

After the event, I went down to take some close up photos of the podium and the diving pool.  If I do go to more test events, I hope I get to sit closer to the action!

Diving Pool Olympic Aquatics Centre

There is a black and white photo set of the event over at the Emm in London Facebook page.  Do “like” the page if you prefer to receive your blog updates through Facebook.

By the way, what do you think of Blogger’s light box function (where you can click on a photo in a post and it will bring up the full set for you to peruse)?  Should I activate it on this blog?