Secrets of Scotland – Mhorfest
This weekend, we travelled up to the Highlands of Scotland to Mhor Hotel, and their annual MhorFest. We’d intended arriving in time for the Raft Race on Saturday morning, but underestimated the travelling time on the wee roads, and missed it. All was not lost, as the festival was just getting underway. With free entry for kids under 14 years, it was clear that this was going to be a popular event with families, and already there were a fair number of people milling about.
There was a rather high proportion of hipster beards and floaty skirts, but it was a varied crowd, of all ages. Stripy deckchairs fluttered in the light breeze, and we nabbed a couple, setting them on the slope beside the main pathway, so that my parents could sit and people-watch. The kids turned cartwheels and played with the hula hoops that were scattered over the lawn.
Jazz music was playing under the large canopy, while tantalising scents vied for our attention. Freshly ground coffee, popcorn, herbs and spices … we took a walk around the shopping area to explore the produce on offer.
When I was a child, ‘Scottish’ products were Edinburgh Rock, and those weird souvenir dollies, with the tartan pipes. Remember them? We’ve come a long way since those days, and Tom Lewis of Mhor Hotel went out of his way to find some of the best of Scottish companies to present their wares. There was everything a foodie could hope for, from coffee roaster to venison charcuterie, from artisan honey to cheese. I bought salt from the Salt Pig Sea Salt company, and used it for the first time yesterday, when cooking vegetables, which my daughter described as the ‘most delicious broccoli I’ve ever tasted!’.
We had lunch, of perfectly cooked roast beef, and burgers, cooked over a BBQ that we realised was an bucket from an old digger. Talk about upcycling!
I’d spotted a van selling my favourite dessert, crème brûlée. The Crema Caravan is an old Renault, lovingly restored by the owners, in which they travel around the country selling their yummy desserts.
There were activities for the kids, including a demonstration by the countryside rangers on ‘Highland Cooking’, which included how to make oatcakes – that was a new one for me, because I don’t know anyone who makes their own!
The sun struggled to break out from behind the clouds, as we toddled down to the campsite to have a look around. Mhor Hotel is situated on a hill, overlooking Loch Voil and Loch Doune, and the organisers couldn’t have found a better spot for the campsite, than the narrow piece of land between the lochs. The site was well-prepared, with ample toilets and shower wagons, space for camper vans and tents. Children roamed around, BBQs and camp stoves were lit, there was a happy vibe in the air.
We wandered up past the hotel, along the road by the side of Loch Doune, where we watched a helicopter circle. They waved, then came into land in a field behind us, which was certainly quicker and easier, than the single track road with passing places we’d arrived on!
The sun finally broke free, and shone down on the festival, as the music picked up pace. We tapped our feet, as we sat in the sunshine, watching more and more people arrive. Kids in wellies and tutus, women in striped t-shirts and Converse, babies in buggies and slings. It was a pleasing mixture of generations, and I mentioned to my husband that it had the feeling of an old fashioned fete, or a Sunday School picnic. The Pimms Bar was tempting, but we weren’t staying the night, so we had another coffee and relaxed.
MhorFest isn’t Glastonbury, and it isn’t trying to be. There is an obvious issues of access, that would make scaling MhorFest up to a larger festival size highly problematic, as we found on our way home when we got stuck in traffic on the single track roads. I can understand they wish to stage the event at the hotel, as the setting is perfect, but I think it will have to stay ‘klein und fein’. Which would be absolutely fine by me. It is truly a wonderful Secret of Scotland, that I’m almost hesitant to recommend! Don’t all go there next year, right?