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Magnificent Meals In Sunset Song Country
Castleton Farm Shop & Cafe (Aberdeenshire)
Member Name: eilidhcatriona
Castleton Farm Shop & Cafe (Aberdeenshire)
Advantages: Excellent food and drinks, local produce, well stocked shop
Disadvantages: Not a one!
I absolutely love farm cafes and shops, places that sell you meals made from produce they've grown or sourced locally, and there seem to be a growing number of them in Scotland. Not so many in London where I live, but when I go back north to visit the parents, we usually manage to visit one. So you can imagine my delight when Castleton Farm Shop & Cafe opened up just down the road from them...
First of all, some important points on location. I'm hoping that you will get to the end of this and all go and jump in your cars to go and visit Castleton, and I want to make sure you can find it! Castleton Farm Shop is located between Laurencekirk and Stonehaven, just north of Fordoun on the northbound side of the A90. You reach it by taking the turn which is signposted Auchenblae and Fettercairn - it is very close to the dual carriageway, so if you go past it you will see and be able to turn back.
Castleton Farm Shop in its current form opened in 2008. It is housed in a new building, with a good sized car park. The building contains both the cafe and the shop. The cafe has large windows overlooking the Howe O' The Mearns - this is my home area, so I'm a little biased, but it really is beautiful. This area was made famous by Lewis Grassic Gibbon in his beautifully lyrical work Sunset Song (followed by Cloud Howe and Grey Granite to form A Scots Quair). On sunny days you can also sit outside. But bear in mind, sun in the north of Scotland doesn't necessarily mean warmth!!
The cafe has around 10 tables, sitting 2 or 4 each. I've visited a number of times at lunchtime, and although business always seems to be steady, we've never had trouble finding a table. The cafe has full waitress service, so once you are seated the staff will come and attend to you.
The menu is...well, wonderful. Almost everything is made from Mearns produce. There is a huge variety of food on offer. As well as the standard sandwiches, toasties and paninis, there are soups, baked tatties (that's jacket potatoes to non locals!), hot meals such as macaroni cheese, ploughmans lunch...the list goes on. Between myself and my parents (who seem to have acquired a habit of popping down to Castleton for "a cup of tea and a sticky bun") we've sampled quite a lot from the menu. The sandwiches, toasties and paninis offer a wide variety of fillings, including a few vegetarian options, and all come with a side salad and crisps. The helpings are very generous, and we've found that sharing one between two of us is quite enough. The soup is different every day, and unlike a lot of cafes, there are usually two on offer. We've tried a few different ones, and all of them are delicious.
All this food sounds wonderful, but for me there is only one choice when really hungry...a Castleton baked tattie. I usually opt for cheddar, cream cheese and red onion, and it is out of this world. Firstly, the size. I've never seen such gigantic tatties in all my life - and you can be assured there is no nasty genetic modification nonsense going on here. Not only is the tattie massive, but it's piled high with the filling, which spills over onto half the plate. And of course, you also get a very generous side salad. One word of warning...take care when sticking your fork in, I have had a tattie explode a little from the sheer volume of filling in it!
The drinks on offer are also excellent. There's tea and coffee...but there are different varieties. It was at Castleton that I discovered what I now think of as my "house" earl grey - Organic Earl Grey Blue Flower. There are plenty of other teas, organic soft drinks and organic alcohol - the cider in particular is lovely.
And once you've stuffed yourself silly with a baked tattie, you can have a sticky bun. There are some ridiculously creamy and unhealthy looking gateaux on offer, along with a wide selection of home baking, including scones and traybakes. We always have something sweet after our lunch, and we've never been disappointed yet.
The service in the cafe is very good. I sometimes think it is overstaffed, but you never feel harassed or pressured by the staff. They are very attentive, and food never takes long to arrive.
The shop is also well worth a visit. It has a fridge stocking a number of items from local farms, including meat and dairy products, as well as handmade pies. There is a large fruit selection, as this is actually Castleton Farm's main business. Each fruit has a taster punnet for you to try, and I would recommend trying some, it is wonderful fruit, and picked fresh every day. The shop also has a lot of jams and preserves, most of which are Scottish sourced, and also a nice little selection of interesting alcohol. I say interesting because it is all from small brewers and manufacturers...the Cairn O'Mhor wines are particularly interesting, make sure you read the tasting notes!!!
There are also some gifts available at the shop, including china and ornaments, all of which is very tasteful - no tat here! I bought the best teapot in the world at Castleton...a small pot, enough for two cups so ideal for just me, with a build in filter for loose leaf tea. Ah joy, no more messing about with tea strainers! Actually, these are the teapots which they use in the cafe, and I was so taken by it I asked the waitress where to get one, and she pointed me towards their own shop!
To sum up, I cannot recommend Castleton Farm Shop & Cafe highly enough. Not only is a local business run by a local family, it serves delicious food and has a wonderful shop stocking produce you won't see in your local supermarket. If you are in the area, then search it out, or if you are passing on the Aberdeen-Dundee road, then plan to be in the Fordoun area around lunchtime and stop for something to eat, I guarantee you won't be disappointed!
Open 7 days a week all year round (last food orders 4.30pm).
Summary: Go out of your way to pay a visit to Castleton