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Preparations for autumn courses on the Isle of Bute

Isle of ButeIn early June Cassia and Katrina visited The Isle Bute to develop the plans for Root Camp’s courses there in October. Cassia picks up the story of their visit:

We arrived at Rothsay, Bute Island’s main town, on a glorious afternoon of blue skies and heat – with residents looking tanned after a two-week heat wave. 

Andy and Joan Walters our hosts at Munro’s which is a b&b and also a bread school. Judging by our breakfast loaf, the standards are high here.  Andy shows groups how to make basic dough.  He says that once that process is understood, one can play – add seeds, mix the flours up whatever!

Andy will be making bread with us at Root Camp.

Mount StuartThe Mount Stuart Estate will be our home this October.  It is just 90 minutes from Glasgow, has undulating hills, wonderfully landscaped gardens, wild areas and the promise of the sea everywhere.  The Bute beaches are alive with colour and movement – seaweeds and shellfish, porous rocks and, looking out to sea, you can spot seals and otters. Liz Adams – one of the Mount Stuart team and our anchor-woman,  showed us the Root Camp kitchen and its adjoining large Victorian dining room and the courtyard, which will be our outdoor eating space.

We met Iain McKeller, who will be taking us foraging for seaweed on the beach. Iain is the Google no.1 supplier of seaweed.  Once mainly used for medicinal and restorative purposes, now all Iain’s customers want to cook with it.  He will be sharing our foraging sessions with the wonderful Morven Gregor, who will show us how to make a fire on the beach, and how to make salt.  We will then wander in the woods and collect berries, wild herbs, and hopefully Chanterelle mushrooms.
The Growing team at Mount Stuart is led by Don Murray (previously the head horticulturalist at the Eden Project).  In the few months since I last visited Mount Stuart, he, Dot Gullinane and Beki Merriot (and others!) have transformed the kitchen garden.  This is where we will work –we will plan for winter crops; prepare the soil and harvest autumn produce for our dishes – and for the Mount Stuart café.  It is there, in a glorious meadow within the walled garden, that our luxurious tents will be pitched.

Loch Fad, Isle of ButeLoch Fad is where we met Jimmy Poole who manages the loch and who will teach us various methods of casting from both land and boats.  He will also show how to gut and fillet our catch and then we will take it to the barbeque and/or to Jessica Herriot and Gordon who run craft workshops on the estate, and who will teach us to carve spurtles*, and to smoke salt and nuts.

Isle of Bute 3The wild meat sessions will be run by Billy Shields, the ….. at Mount Stuart.  He will talk about different trapping methods, and teach us to skin and prepare rabbits for the pot. 

In addition, we will cook inside and outside, tell stories by the fire, and watch foodie films – if we are not too tired.

Bute Island is at an exciting point in its evolution – plugging the flow of its diminishing population, welcoming the small influx of Syrian refugees and igniting a period of regeneration – including the refurbishment of the 1930’s Pavilion, which will be a multi-purpose cultural space.  There are plans for a 6* spa hotel and the new arts and community projects at Mount Stuart.  Foodie programmes like Root Camp are part of an energetic determination to rejuvenate, encourage, bring together the farmers, producers and artisan food makers on the island and make Bute Island ever more attractive to visitors.

There is a determination to reinstate links with Glasgow, and get it back into the minds of the city’s inhabitants.  Adam Ellis Jones, the Mount Stuart CEO, is driving this movement and change with his dynamic team.Root Camp is proud and excited to be part of it.

For details of our cookery courses on the Isle of Bute visit our Courses page >