As part of the Gazette’s search for the Tearoom of the Year, Louise Kerr visited Glenwhan Gardens Tearoom near Dunragit:
On a day like last Tuesday, the one and only word that sums up Glenwhan Gardens is ‘idyllic’. On a detour off the busy A75 to review the tearoom, I discovered not only and excellent pit-stop for tea and cake but also one of the most beautifully situated gardens in the country.
Owner and creator, Tessa Knott, met me in the cosy tearoom with its gingham tablecloths and range of tempting cakes to say that her business has suffered recently from the opening of the Dunragit by-pass. She said the lack of clear signs on the new road have meant that many visitors are not only by-passing Dunragit but the multiple delights of Glenwhan as well!
I settled down to enjoy a cup of tea and a glorious slice of coconut and lime sponge cake that is also suitable for those on a gluten-free diet. Also in the line-up of home baking treats from Glenwhan’s answer to Mary Berry, Carol Cuthbertson, were chocolate, coffee and walnut, apple and walnut and carrot cakes, cappuccino slice, huge fluffy scones (fruit or plain) and various fruit loaves. For those looking for something more substantial, the daily specials were freshly made soup and a roll or soup and a sandwich, luxury fish pie, seafood chowder, tuna bake, broccoli and cheese bake and, for pud, gooseberry and apple crumble with cream or custard.
Fresh ingredients in season are always used and Carol’s creative talents mean there is always something a little bit different. The tearoom will happily cater for large parties and evening meals if booked in advance. You can even have your wedding in the gardens!
Before my walk round the gardens, Tessa told me that she arrived in Dunragit with her family over 30 years ago. Faced with a herd of cattle and a flock of pigeons occupying the derelict farmhouse, and an untamed wilderness of rock, bracken and gorse, she rolled up her sleeves and started digging and planting.
Sheer grit and year upon year of hard work has resulted in an oasis of calm with breathtaking views over Luce Bay to the Mull of Galloway on one side and, on the other, down from a rocky outcrop to the two lochans, framed by a stunning variety of trees, plants, shrubs and flowers. The 12-acre main garden is complimented by a 17-acre moorland walk where 120 species of wild flowers and grasses thrive.
For keen horticulturists there are propagation courses with lunch and coffee breaks that are proving very popular. The RSPB are also arranging walks round the gardens to enjoy viewing and listening to the wide variety of birds.
The tearoom is open from April 1 to the end of September and the gardens are open all year round. Dogs are always welcome if on a lead and disabled facilities are provided and wheelchair users go free.
The garden is quite stunning at the moment, so I would encourage you to by-pass the by-pass this weekend and visit somewhere that’s both very special and on your doorstep - glorious Glenwhan.