Travel

Walkers Shortbread | A Visit

A few weeks back, I flew to Aberdeen at the invitation of Walkers Shortbread.

I knew a factory tour was a big part of our visit as well as a visit to the town of Aberlour and aside from knowing (and consuming) many a tartan box full of shortbread, I really didn’t know much else. I came away pretty much a Walkers Devotee, no other Shortbread will make it into our pantry and I can talk endlessly about the company like I’ve worked there for many a year, not just spent 48 hours in Walkers company.

I’ll try my best to explain, initially I jumped at the chance at going because I love the behind the scenes, I love knowing how things are made and I love getting to see what others generally don’t. I also love a biscuit. But this was much more than that, what I got to see was the process and the behind the scenes but also the story of Walkers.

We met Jim Walker, 3rd generation Walker, who had just 16 employees when he took over and grew that to 1600. The company is still entirely family owned 121 years later and sells into over 100 countries. His son Alastair who like Jim, were the most generous hosts and so gracious with their time and knowledge, flies around the world (amongst other things) ensuring Walkers is stocked in the most exciting of places from Australia to Mauritius.

There is a real sense of community, family and friendship between those who work for Walkers, I also saw deep loyalty to the company. We met employees who have worked for Walkers for 10, 20, even 30 years, not only did they work there but their nieces, nephews, parents, children and spouses were all working or had worked for Walkers. The factory, we visited Shortbread 2, could be far more automated, but Walkers have made the decision to keep things hands on, employing people rather than robots. The shortbread and the chocolate rounds we saw were being boxed by hand (sealed by machines) which also means any ‘rejects’ can be manually removed. I thought this was so commendable, isn’t it better to buy from a brand that consciously chooses to support it’s local community rather than chase profit?

After our tour, we headed back to HQ for a tasting session! Jim lead us through the various different shortbread, the shapes plus those with additions, like the Salted Caramel, Ginger, Chocolate or Vanilla! My favourites, just in case you were wondering, were the Highlanders (a round shortbread with sugar crust a little rough and ready in texture but perfection in taste), the Vanilla which was so buttery and light with just the right amount of vanilla and of course Salted Caramel as I would eat anything that is Salted Caramel.

Now those ‘rejects’… in Aberlour, the original bakery still exists, they no longer bake bread but they do sell bags and bags of the rejected or broken biscuits. Same buttery shortbread just a little misshappen for just a £1 or two. If I had a spare suitcase I would have filled it up!

Another incredible fact about Walkers is their shortbread recipe, it’s the same one from 121 years ago and consists of just 4 ingredients; incredible butter, flour, sugar and salt. No preservatives, no margarine or lard or E- numbers. In fact when we visited an article was released that putting a stick of shortbread in your childs lunch box was a far healthier option compared to a chocolate bar or the Penguin I used to have. I know what I’ll be putting in my children’s box when they eventually switch to packed lunches.

On our second day in Aberlour, after our visit to the original shop and a drive up and down the high st, we searched for Highland Cows and spotted one from a little distance away, I really wanted to get up close but it wasn’t meant to be. We stopped for a Walkers pitstop, Alastair had filled the boot with a selection of Walkers products from traditional shortbread, to dark chocolate and ginger and had somehow memorised our drinks order (I was particularly impressed as I’m so awkward, decaf coffee with oat milk!)

We had a little photoshoot and even made a nonsense stop motion of the highland cow shaped shortbread (posted at the end of this!) it was raining and I didn’t have a tripod so forgive me!

Unfortunately it was then time to head back South but what a great adventure and so honoured to have had a glimpse inside such a long standing brand! Thanks Walkers for having me.

Walkers Shortbread Scotland
Walkers Shortbread
Jim Walker

Jim Walker

The original Walkers Bakery

The original Walkers Bakery

Walkers Shortbread
Walkers Shortbread
Walkers Shortbread
Walkers Shortbread
Walkers Shortbread
Walkers HQ

Walkers HQ

The Queens View

The Queens View

Dinner at Craigellachie Hotel where we stayed

Dinner at Craigellachie Hotel where we stayed

Walkers Shortbread
Walkers Shortbread
Vali who lives on the Walkers grounds

Vali who lives on the Walkers grounds

I was invited as a guest of Walkers, I really enjoyed the experience and learning about the company and I’m really happy to share this with you but as always I am not paid to say this, all views are my own.

Kingshill Farmhouse | Elmley Nature Reserve

Kingshill Farmhouse Elmley Nature Reserve

Last year, I had my first visit to Elmley Nature Reserve a very special place on the Isle of Sheppey, about an hour from London. You can read about that first visit here

As that event was focusing on something else, I didn’t mention too much about the Farmhouse. At the time, accommodation at Elmley was predominately the huts and a house you could rent out, however plans were underway to renovate the dilapidated plot into something spectacular.

These images are from last year when we had a little look inside the farmhouse…

The transformation was complete when we visited in early June, and I’ll let Georgina & Gareth (who run Elmley) tell you a little about it…

“The 18th Century Farmhouse sits at the heart of the 3,300 Elmley National Nature Reserve, in 1688 King James II was locked up here and subsequently the site had falling into a state of disrepair.

The project has been in the planning for over 7 years and has been a project of passion for the Fulton/Merricks families along with the design team, which includes Dunn Architects and Francesca Rowan-Plowden Interior Designer (Battle Hall at Leeds Castle and Goodnestone Park, Kent)

The aim was to restore the house to an incredibly comfortable and special house, but keeping unique character of the house and its surroundings. As with all at Elmley the views are the priority with reinstatement of large Georgian sash windows and even windows in the showers! The house has been designed to have a comfortable, homely yet eclectic feel with vintage finds and bespoke pieces.

Along with large gardens which flow onto the Reserve, it has a large hi spec kitchen, dining room, 3 separate reception rooms, 4 ensuite bedrooms on the first floor and the second floor features a family suite of two bedrooms with a shared bathroom.

The house can be hired as a whole or taken with the other accommodation on site for private events and for limited nights a year it is available on a B&B basis.”

Elmley Kingshill Farmhouse Bedroom
Elmley Kingshill Farmhouse Bedroom

One of the beautiful bedrooms in the farmhouse, possibly my favourite one!

Elmley Kingshill Farmhouse Reception Room

One of the reception rooms

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Details from the Whiskey Room (reception room 3)

Elmley Kingshill Farmhouse Kitchen
Elmley Kingshill Farmhouse Kitchen
Elmley Kingshill Farmhouse Kitchen

The kitchen is stunning, full of light, all the storage you could want, I loved everything about it especially the tiles used behind the stove.

The Cottage

Elmley’s cottage has been renovated into a beautifully light, open plan space with uninterrupted views of the reserve. It’s a peaceful, tranquil space with a real sense of seclusion.

Elmley Kingshill Farmhouse The Cottage
Elmley The Cottage
Elmley The Cottage
Elmley The Cottage

The Barn

My favourite space at Elmley is the barn, the light here is beautiful, it’s somehow vast and intimate at the same time and we were lucky enough to be treated to dinner.

Elmley The Barn
Elmley The Barn
Elmley The Barn
Elmley The Barn
Elmley The Barn
Elmley The Barn
Elmley The Barn

A Nights Stay

We were very lucky to be offered a stay in the Farmhouse, waking up here was beautiful! Of course the Shepherd huts are also available if you want to really immerse yourself in the natural surroundings.

Elmley Kingshill Farmhouse Bedroom
Elmley Kingshill Farmhouse Bedroom
Elmley Shepherds Huts
Elmley Shepherds Huts
Elmley Shepherds Huts

I can’t recommend a stay at Elmley enough, it’s not often you get to be off grid, within a nature reserve, with hens and hares scuttling past you whenever you venture outside and it’s just an hour from London!

Elmley Nature Reserve website

My stay was gifted but all thoughts my own.

Amsterdam | 48 Hours

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Amsterdam in April, there was still blossom in the trees and tulips starting to fill bicycles and flower beds and boxes. We were celebrating both our wedding anniversary and 48 hours child free, we clocked up 60,000 steps, ate pancakes, the best ever apple pie, walked up and down nearly every canal, crossed all the bridges, visited the Botanical Gardens, peered into various hotels, found the plant and globe house and sat watching sunrise by the pool atop of Soho House Amsterdam. Here are our favourite images from our trip and our recommendations….

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WINKEL 43   I’d read about the apple pie being epic and we weren’t disappointed. It’s huge, with generous chunks of apple, layered high with copious amounts of cinnamon. The crust is brick thick and delicious. If you are going to eat a slab of pie this big you might as well accept the offer of cream too.

WINKEL 43

I’d read about the apple pie being epic and we weren’t disappointed. It’s huge, with generous chunks of apple, layered high with copious amounts of cinnamon. The crust is brick thick and delicious. If you are going to eat a slab of pie this big you might as well accept the offer of cream too.

DE WELDAAD   Just a few doors down from Winkel 43 is De Weldaad a stunning interiors shop which is just prop heaven. I found some lovely little ceramics that just fit in my carry on. Loved this find.

DE WELDAAD

Just a few doors down from Winkel 43 is De Weldaad a stunning interiors shop which is just prop heaven. I found some lovely little ceramics that just fit in my carry on. Loved this find.

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WILDERNIS   Plants, coffee and cake… what’s not to love. The interiors of Wildernis, is far more lovely than I’ve seen on Instagram. It’s filled with beautiful ceramics, plant books, gift ideas and of course plants - I wish there had been some way to transport most of this shop home.

WILDERNIS

Plants, coffee and cake… what’s not to love. The interiors of Wildernis, is far more lovely than I’ve seen on Instagram. It’s filled with beautiful ceramics, plant books, gift ideas and of course plants - I wish there had been some way to transport most of this shop home.

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SOHO HOUSE AMSTERDAM   We stayed at Soho House Amsterdam. As with all their houses, it’s more than a home away from home, no need to pack toiletries or hair straightners, the bedroom was delightful, the sheets and pillows as always so luxurious and waiting for you is the nespresso coffee machine and House Cookies in the cookie tin.  This site opened last year in the 1930s Bungehuis building, a huge art deco site, that until Soho House took it over, was inhabited by squatters. (I was told they have moved next door) The art deco touches are evident throughout, the members area is relaxing and stylish. The roof has fantastic views plenty of seating areas and a pool if you fancy doing some lengths! Cecconis is on the ground floor, if you don’t want to venture too far, I can recommended the Aubergine parmigiana!  *Our stay here was gifted as part of some work I did for Soho House last year.

SOHO HOUSE AMSTERDAM

We stayed at Soho House Amsterdam. As with all their houses, it’s more than a home away from home, no need to pack toiletries or hair straightners, the bedroom was delightful, the sheets and pillows as always so luxurious and waiting for you is the nespresso coffee machine and House Cookies in the cookie tin.

This site opened last year in the 1930s Bungehuis building, a huge art deco site, that until Soho House took it over, was inhabited by squatters. (I was told they have moved next door) The art deco touches are evident throughout, the members area is relaxing and stylish. The roof has fantastic views plenty of seating areas and a pool if you fancy doing some lengths! Cecconis is on the ground floor, if you don’t want to venture too far, I can recommended the Aubergine parmigiana!

*Our stay here was gifted as part of some work I did for Soho House last year.

street scenes

street scenes

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PULITZER   25 Canal houses have been woven together to create this unique collection of guest rooms, inner courtyard gardens, meeting rooms, cafe, restaurant and event space. We had a little peek and look around it is indeed lovely, you can feel the history and the past lives the houses have had.

PULITZER

25 Canal houses have been woven together to create this unique collection of guest rooms, inner courtyard gardens, meeting rooms, cafe, restaurant and event space. We had a little peek and look around it is indeed lovely, you can feel the history and the past lives the houses have had.

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The Dutch House with Globes and Plants!  This one pops up on Instagram all the time. Apparently the plants and globes have been here for 20 years, I couldn’t find out why or who owns it but I’m so glad it’s here. If you are looking for it, it’s on the way to the Botanical Gardens near Cafe t’ Hooischip.

The Dutch House with Globes and Plants!

This one pops up on Instagram all the time. Apparently the plants and globes have been here for 20 years, I couldn’t find out why or who owns it but I’m so glad it’s here. If you are looking for it, it’s on the way to the Botanical Gardens near Cafe t’ Hooischip.

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street scenes

street scenes

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HORTUS BOTANICUS   About a 30 min walk from our hotel, we spent a couple of hours at the botanical gardens, it’s fairly small so it was easy to fit into our limited time in Amsterdam. The orangery style green house is gorgeous and the gardens were just coming into bloom when we visited. The more traditional style green house is the hot house, exceptionally hot and filled with tropical plants and flowers.  ENTRANCE 9.75 EURO  Other   THE PANCAKE BAKERY   Huge sweet and savoury pancakes served in an old converted warehouse, we were advised to get their at 9am (we got there at 915am and there was a queue already) when we left the queue was so long! The interiors is bare brick walls, and as many dark wood tables they could fit in, it’s very dark so unless you fancy squeezing through the queue of hungry people to get outside to find some light, I’d suggest you enjoy your pancake and take pictures of other things. Good quality ingredients, interesting, extensive menu, quite expensive.   PLUK   A cafe and interiors shop, there were some very pretty ceramics and gift ideas in this lovely curated shop, we couldn’t stay to eat as the little restaurant was completely full but worth popping in if you are passing.

HORTUS BOTANICUS

About a 30 min walk from our hotel, we spent a couple of hours at the botanical gardens, it’s fairly small so it was easy to fit into our limited time in Amsterdam. The orangery style green house is gorgeous and the gardens were just coming into bloom when we visited. The more traditional style green house is the hot house, exceptionally hot and filled with tropical plants and flowers.

ENTRANCE 9.75 EURO

Other

THE PANCAKE BAKERY

Huge sweet and savoury pancakes served in an old converted warehouse, we were advised to get their at 9am (we got there at 915am and there was a queue already) when we left the queue was so long! The interiors is bare brick walls, and as many dark wood tables they could fit in, it’s very dark so unless you fancy squeezing through the queue of hungry people to get outside to find some light, I’d suggest you enjoy your pancake and take pictures of other things. Good quality ingredients, interesting, extensive menu, quite expensive.

PLUK

A cafe and interiors shop, there were some very pretty ceramics and gift ideas in this lovely curated shop, we couldn’t stay to eat as the little restaurant was completely full but worth popping in if you are passing.

Venice | A Photo Essay

My recent visit to Venice was an incredible 48 hours out of reality just me, my good friend Julia and our cameras. We were up at 5am seeking the perfect Venetian sunrise, followed by coffee at my favourite coffee shop in Venice (Bar da Gino’s Cale Nova Sant Agnese) we explored, drank more coffee, visited the island of Burano and were in bed by 9pm! Photographing for pleasure was so, so good for the soul. These are my favourites from our trip.