Friday 7 December 2012

Preserved Ginger Cake

Preserved Ginger Cake

This cake has gone down well at recent village hall and basketmaking events and with our vistors to the holiday cottages. It's a cut above the usual gingerbread and very easy to make.

Makes 3 loaf cakes (1lb size)

450 gm Self Raising Flour
50 gm Ground Almonds (optional - you can substitute with flour)
6 large Eggs
325 gm Sugar - white or soft brown
325 gm Butter or Soft Margarine
2 tablespoons Golden Syrup (or syrup from jar of preserved ginger)
4 teaspoons Ground Ginger

175 gm Preserved or Crystallized Ginger, chopped

Icing (Optional)
250 gm icing sugar
lemon juice

Put flour, ground almonds (or flour), eggs, sugar, butter/margarine, syrup, ground ginger into the mixing bowl. Beat all together until well mixed. Add milk if required to make a soft dropping consistency. Add chopped ginger, keeping some aside for decoration. Divide mixture between 3 loaf tins or 2 x 23 cm round tins. Greaseproof cake tin liners make tin lining easy.

Bake in fan oven 160C for 45 - 50 minutes. Adjust temperature if you have a different type of oven.

Make icing and coat the top of the cakes when cool. Add ginger for decoration.

Monday 18 June 2012

Seafield Farmhouse - Available for Holidays

A year ago while on holiday in our campervan on a storm bound Hebridean island we thought about how little space we needed and decided to spend the winter preparing to move out of our house so that we could let it during the summer months. With all the children having flown the nest, it is a large space for two of us and we are rarely indoors during the summer. We arrived home to the discovery that we had a double booking and so some very understanding visitors were the first to sample staying in Seafield Farmhouse after our rather hasty preparations.

A year on and the house is almost prepared for public consumption. We were nearly ready when our visitors in Byre Cottage needed to extend their stay for a fortnight and it is amazing what you can achieve with two day's notice. Needless to say, the winter had been spent on the sofa, close to the woodburner rather than performing admirable feats of de-cluttering. Letting Seafield Farmhouse is not a new concept. Granny and Grandpa Livingston sent the children to relatives in the summer so that the house could be let to families who came up for six weeks at a time. We have a copy of a delightful diary kept by the daughter of one such family who stayed here in 1928 for whom Granny cooked 'monstrously good suppers'. In the 21st century, the accommodation will be strictly self catering!

We are not sure of the exact age of the house. It has been described as 150 years old for at least the last 40 years. It was built as part of the Poltalloch Estate and sold to the Forestry Commission in the 1930's. Grandpa Neil Livingston arrived from the Isle of Luing at the beginning of the last century when Seafield was a sheep farm. The Forestry Commission planted the hill with sitka spruce and Seafield became a sixty acre smallholding comprising mainly of rock and bog. His son Jimmy Livingston took over the farm and also worked full time for the Forestry, operating a winch. In time, his son, my husband, James Livingston came home to look after the place and was also employed by the Forestry Commission. As a tenant, James was able to buy Seafield in the late 1980's and could then diversify into holiday lets, sawmilling and firewood processing. He has recently taken early retirement and so we hope to be able to continue to improve the facilties we provide so that many more people can share the stunning place we are fortunate to be able to live in. That's when James isn't fishing of course.

On the ground floor, the house has a large, 30 ft long conservatory which we added in 1997. This is the main living and dining area and has a woodburning stove. Off the conservatory is a large kitchen with units made by a local craftsman with reclaimed timbers from redundant Crinan Canal lock gates. It has a dishwasher and dual fuel cooker with gas hob and electric oven. There is a combination microwave and large fridge plus the usual small appliances.

Off the kitchen is a utility room with washer and freezer which is accessible from the kitchen but also has a separate exterior door. We need access to this space from time to time as it houses our freezer and a large oven which I need to use occasionally - but we will be as unobtrusive as possible.

The hallway which has a small cloakroom, leads to a family suite of double bedroom with adjacent twin bedroom and ensuite facilities.

Upstairs, there is a large double bedroom with king sized bed and a bathroom with bath and shower. The second bedroom is not available for letting as it is in need of complete refurbishment and will be used for storage of all the things we don't know what to do with.

Central Heating and hot water are from the log fired boiler and there is a woodburner in the conservatory. During warmer weather, the boiler is off and heating and hot water are provided by electricity - mostly generated by the photo voltaic panels.

Seafield Farmhouse is available for holidays during June, July and August. We may extend into September if all goes well. Sorry, no pets and no smoking. Children are welcome. With Byre and Stable Cottages just next door, there is plenty of scope for larger family groups who want to spend time together while enjoying their own space.

To check availability, please go to and check the search availability button, email or phone 01546 850274

Tuesday 28 February 2012

Twittering and Beavering Away at Seafield

On my recent travels through Twitter, I came across freetobook, a free application which can be added to blogs, tweets, facebook posts and web sites to mention but a few. I have avoided such things in the past partly because of a fear of the double booking and loss of control but mainly because it all seemed too mind boggling for a simple country woman but after a couple of late nights and head scratching, I think I have it up and running. See the green search button at the bottom of this page.

This year, bookings are noticeably slower than in previous years and with the financial situation in the country, it is hardly surprising that holidays are not top of everyone's priorities in 2012. It also has to be said that summer of 2011 was less than glorious - we know - we spent a week in our campervan in a howling gale and torrential rain at the beginning of June.

Midsummer is usually the best time to visit the west coast with long, light days and less than average rain. A fortnight, rain bound in a cottage (no matter how comfortable) would not encourage me to return to this part of the world and I would probably be poring over brochures and websites promising sunshine and heat. My personal recommendation would be for April - statistically our driest month, the evenings are getting longer and the midges haven't arrived.

I can't promise the weather will be any better this year but if hoping would do it, we would be in for a glorious summer. All I can promise is a comfortable cottage with all mod cons and lots of traditional charm in a beautiful spot at the head of Loch Sween. There will be home baked cake to welcome you and lots of glossy magazines and interesting books to while away an hour or two. Kirkland has joined our other cottages in having free wi-fi - and in a small wooden building there is no problem with the signal! Don't worry if you are desperate to get away from the tyranny of the internet and 24/7 connectivity - I can easily remove the hub so you won't be tempted.

Let us not be pessimistic and remember that this part of the world is astonishingly beautiful with stunning land and seascapes, an abundance of wildlife, fantastic walks and trails through the forest and a wonderful historical and archaeological heritage.

Give it a try. If all else fails, Archie at Fyne Tackle has an excellent range of wet weather gear! And of course there are always the beavers . . . .

Sunday 29 January 2012

Walking in Knapdale Forest

Many of our visitors enjoy walking and here in Knapdale there are several routes on forest roads where you can walk for miles without seeing another person.  Some routes are waymarked but many of the forest roads are part of the forest harvesting operation and care should be taken if machines are working.  Some forest roads are quite featureless and it can be easy to get lost - I have taken a wrong turning more than once - usually when walking with a friend and being more intent on conversation than the route.  Keep an eye out for deer, badgers, foxes, osprey (summer only), buzzards, jays and all manner of small finches and tits - and of course the newly resident beavers which are mainly spotted in the early morning and late evening.

This walk starts at Seafield Forest gate,  approximately 150 metres north of Seafield Farm, Achnamara.  There is room to park at the entrance but obviously if you are staying with us, you won't need to drive.  If you choose to do the walk anti-clockwise, you should park at Achnamara Village Hall, half a mile south of Seafield Farm and reverse the instructions.

Follow the forest road straight up the hill.  There is a burn (stream) on your left hand side.  Pass a side road on your left and keep on up the hill.  Soon you will come to a right turn.  If you wish to take a little diversion, it is only a short distance to the Lily Loch where there is walkway and a bench.  This is an idyllic spot to sit and enjoy the sounds of birds and small brown trout breaking the surface of the loch.  There is a good display of waterlilies in the summer and it's a good place to see dragonflies and damselflies.

Retrace your steps to the junction and turn left.  You will be able to see Seafield Loch on your left hand side.  A few yards along, there is a small jetty for Lochgilphead Angling Club.  Directly opposite the jetty is a lodge built by a pair of beavers introduced to the area by the Scottish Beaver Trial.  Being built of sticks and mud and being quite a flat construction, it would be easy to miss it. 

As you continue along the side of the loch, you may notice some beaver gnawed trees although most of the activity is on the far side of the loch.  At the end of the loch, there is another walkway on the left hand side leading to another bench at the north end of the loch with more lovely views to sit and enjoy.

Continuing along the forest road, you will pass a turning to the left.  This side road is permanently blocked by flooding.  Keep on up the hill until you reach a junction.  Take the right turn and continue through the Sitka Spruce plantation.  About an hour into the walk, you come to an open area which is fenced off on the left hand side - this was once a granite quarry for construction of the forest roads.
Keep on following the road past a marshy area to the left which is a favourite spot for deer to wallow in the mud.  Keep following the main forest road around the bends, through an area of cleared forest and downhill until you reach a crossroads.

Take the right turn and keep going ignoring the next turn to the left.  The track takes you downhill, passing a waterfall on the left.  Continue through the plantation of old trees on the right, across a concrete bridge to a forest gate.  Turn right at the gate which takes you to the Village Hall where you turn right.   As you cross the stone bridge in the village look up to the right where you will see Achnamara House.  For many years this was an outdoor centre, visited by hundreds of children and adults from other parts of Scotland.  Sadly, the once fine Dower House and Shooting Lodge of Poltalloch Estate, is currently in a poor state of repair after many years of neglect since being sold by Glasgow City Council.

It is about half a mile from here, through Achnamara back along the single track road with Loch Sween on your left hand side, back to Seafield gate where you started.

This walk is approximately five miles long and takes about one and a half to two hours depending on how fast you walk.

To check availability of our cottages, click on the green search button below.