From The Beast From The East to our record-breaking summer, this year has certainly gifted us with some weather. And it is a gift, both because the Scottish economy runs on weather-based small talk, and because I thrill at a clearly-delineated change in the seasons. It’s not something we traditionally experience here in Glasgow, where a dreich, drizzly grey doesn’t come as a surprise whatever the season, so I’m refusing to let the fact that it’s now dark when I leave work get me down.
We’ve been blessed with a fair few days of my absolute favourite Scottish weather recently: those crisp, clear days where the sun is bright enough to show off the gorgeous colours of autumn at their best but there’s a proper chill in the air, and – if the timing’s right – the smell of fireworks. Throw in a cosy hat and scarf, and a cup of something hot, and it’s the perfect conditions in which to explore.
And luckily, that was exactly the sort of day that dawned last weekend for the second CCW Blogger Roadtrip, this time to St Andrews and the East Neuk of Fife. CCW, who you’ll remember from our trip to their Callander headquarters in the spring, are one of Scotland’s last truly independent retailers: a family-run business with a focus on high quality, functional, yet stylish gear. Nowadays you’re just as likely to find Joules or Seasalt on the shelves as the Barbour wellies and Ordnance Survey maps that have kept the Geddes family in business since their humble beginnings as a travelling show-based business back in 1986.
Our day again began bright and early at the newest CCW shop, on Glasgow’s Byres Road, where we met Emily Geddes – daughter of founders Bill and Liz – and tucked into some specially-made doughnuts from Nic’s NYC Deli over the road. We also got kitted out for the day’s adventures in coats from Swedish brand Didriksons*, sturdy Columbia walking trainers* and snuggly hats from Bart’s Accessories*.
Okay, I know it looks as though we all picked the same coat again (aside from Ellis in the bottle green!) but I promise that’s not… quite… the case. Charlotte and Gillian opted for the leather-look parka, while myself and Lindsey (whose rebranded blog is blimmin’ fantastic, by the way) chose a soft-shell design.
Didriksons started out in 1913 producing workwear for fishermen in Sweden, and while this focus has now given way to functional fashion that emphasis on weather-ready performance and timeless design remains. The breathable, insulated lining feels like wearing a duvet – seriously – and I’ll be glad of the detachable faux fur trim, chin guard and inside cuffs should the Beast From The East make a repeat appearance this winter.
Luke from Ecotour Scotland was once again our tourguide for the day. Ecotour Scotland provides bespoke door-to-door trips in a spacious guide-driven minibus, which runs on Glasgow-produced biodiesel and is wheelchair-accessible. Luke’s USP is an ability to get properly off the beaten track, to places that a traditional coach tour just can’t reach, as well as an extensive knowledge of Scotland’s hidden treasures.
“This isn’t St Andrews,” he said as we pulled into our first stop. The Lady’s Tower at Elie Ness was built in 1760 for Lady Janet Anstruther, to be used as a changing room before her morning bathing routine. I say “changing room”, but by all accounts the noble Lady – who was a bit of a flirt – was actually a fan of skinny-dipping. The story goes that local residents were warned to stay away while she bathed, either by a servant who ran down to the village beforehand or by a bell rung from the tower – it all depends on which Google result you prefer.
The circular stone tower is open on all sides, which makes for some incredible and dramatic views across the Forth. It’s also, unsurprisingly, a bit nippy at this time of year, so I was glad of my new Barts bobble hat to pull down over my ears. The eponymous Bart actually started out selling hand-made shorts on the beaches of Saint Tropez, would you believe, but it was when he used the proceeds to travel the world and ended up in the snowy Rocky Mountains that the brand really took off.
Now based in Amsterdam, Barts make hats, scarves, gloves, bags and yes, beach accessories for adults, kids and babies, incorporating quality design and an eye for clever details. Like the soft, fleecy lining on the inside of this hat, keeping your ears and forehead nice and warm while avoiding any itches if woven fabrics irritate you.
After a short stroll along the Fife Coastal Path, we all piled back into Luke’s minibus for the 20 minute drive to St Andrews. I’ve been to university town twice before, both on a bank holiday day trip with Stringer and, um, to debate Beyoncé’s place in the feminist movement with the students of the university debating society, but with one being years ago and the other more of a flying visit I was looking forward to properly exploring one of Scotland’s most picturesque places.
Plus, when your town is built on a beachfront you can guarantee that there will be dogs! The dogs we met were, you’ll remember, a particular highlight of the last CCW Blogger Roadtrip, and that was without my wee pal and chief dog-spotter Charlotte on hand to point out every single one (seriously, you should see our WhatsApp chats). There may not be pictures this time, but trust me when I tell you there were plenty.
It was here that the Columbia shoes really came into their own, too. Oh sure, they’d been really comfortable as we clambered over the rocks and grass of the coastal path – but I knew they were far more special than their humble looks made them appear when, as I was mucking about trying to get some photos by the water, the tide came in and UP… right over my feet. But did my feet get wet? Not even a little.
With some time to explore before our next scheduled stop, Luke took us for a walk along the shore – past students in their red academic gowns on their Sunday “pier walk”, and plenty of dogs – to the ruined cathedral. Once Scotland’s largest cathedral, and the centre of the Catholic church in medieval Scotland, the building was ransacked and fell into ruin during the Reformation with large parts used as building material by the town. It also once held the relics of the town’s namesake saint.
Our next stop was Rogue, a gorgeous bar and restaurant on the corner of South Street and City Road. While my classier friends swooned over the interiors, I was busy having my head turned by the mention in the menu of their in-house gin: Felons. So I was delighted when Ben took us through to the tiny back room where their still is kept, and gave us a sample of the clean, citrussy gin to try for ourselves.
With a name that harks back to Fife’s hidden history of illicit distilling, not least due to its hidden home at the back of the restaurant, Felons is best enjoyed with a premium tonic and a lemon wheel – as we got the chance to try for ourselves, back at our table. Here we were also served with some canapes: an incredible dry-aged steak, miniature fish and chips and delicious tomato tart. Made from locally-sourced produce, the food was so tasty I was devastated we didn’t get to stay for a proper meal.
Because we had a very important second-to-last stop: CCW’s TARDIS of a St Andrews store, which stretches back from its unassuming exterior (currently half-hidden behind scaffolding) in proportions almost as ridiculous as the sight of us all trooping in in the same jackets they had displayed at the front of the shop. A bright Scottish winter day is perfect CCW weather, as the shop’s wall displays of brightly-coloured Kanken backpacks and Barts hats just beg to be picked up and brought home.
Plus, there was on very important addition since our last visit to CCW: the launch of Finnieston Clothing, a luxury lifestyle brand founded by CCW’s Ross Geddes. Finding its inspiration in the culture and heritage of Glasgow, Finnieston sources fabric and manufacturing from local suppliers and craftspeople to produce beautiful quality, premium products including cashmere and lambswool knitwear, jackets and accessories.
Almost time to head home, but we had time for one last stop before we piled back into the minibus and it was the one everybody I had told I was going to St Andrews had recommended in the most breathless of terms: Jannettas. A St Andrews institution for over 100 years, Jannettas now produce over 100 flavours of gelato and sorbet and were queued out the door even with the temperature in single digits. Not for the first time, I sighed and wondered how different my life would have been had I been descended from one of those Italian immigrant families who set up ice cream parlours and fish and chip shops…
Exhausted and content, we headed into the sunset – quite literally, as anyone who’s ever headed west in Scottish low winter sun will tell you. Thanks to CCW, Ecotour Scotland and the clothing brands for yet another fantastic day – I’ll think of you warmly this winter, protected from the elements in my magnificent duvet coat!
This post contains PR samples, but all views are my own and unbiased.