With the school holidays well underway, keeping the kids amused and entertained for several weeks can become a frustrating and exhausting challenge for any parent. I know when my two were younger, keeping up the momentum of interesting daily activities that would help them burn off some energy was sometimes difficult.
Earlier this year I was invited along to Craigie’s Farm Deli and Cafe on the outskirts of Edinburgh and if my two were still young, this is a place I would be heading for during school breaks. Situated in beautiful countryside between South Queensferry and Edinburgh, owners John and Kirsteen Sinclair have transformed the family’s former 260 acre dairy farm into a family friendly arable farm complete with cafe, deli and butchery. It’s a place that really has something for everyone with lot’s of outdoor space and activities that will be sure to keep the kids happy and entertained. Although an arable farm, there are some animals, pigs, lambs and chickens, all close at hand for the kids to visit. The day I visited there was a litter of newborn piglets, and the chickens were doing what chickens love, free ranging, pecking and scratching around the farm. Outside the cafe you’ll find a play area and a classic tractor and a selection of tractor tyres that seem to be a great attraction for kids.
As well as the animals, the main part of the farm at Craigie’s is given over to growing fruit and vegetables with the big seasonal activity of the moment being ‘Pick you Own‘. At this time of year there’s a plentiful range of fruit, including strawberries, raspberries, gooseberries and blackcurrants. This is an excellent way to get kids involved, learning about, growing food, local produce and where their food comes from. It’s also worth checking Craigie’s website for regular updates as new fruit ripens for picking. And if you’re stuck for ideas for using the fruit, then you might want to sign up to the jam making classes that are organised throughout July. Choose from a masterclass for adults and a kids fun class.
Around the farm, a number of trails and paths have been developed and kids can put their investigative skills to good use on the ‘Nature Detective Trail’. And for parents whose nature skills are a bit on the rusty side, there’s plenty of clues to help on the interpretation boards. For kids aged 5-9 with an interest in food, farming and getting outside there’s a Farm Club on the last Sunday of every month. The club is affiliated with the Royal Highland Education Trust, (RHET), and is sure to provide a good understanding of issues such as farming and food production.
Once you’ve exhausted the kids outside, you can move inside to the cafe and enjoy some some of the outstanding freshly cooked food. There’s a super tasty menu offering a great selection, from breakfast to lunch and afternoon tea, including some gluten free options. The ‘Laird’s Breakfast‘, daily hot specials made using seasonal ingredients from the farm and the onsite butcher. You’ll also find a variety of salads, quiche, frittata and cold cuts, just some of the delicious food on offer. The cafe, like the rest of Craigie’s is exceptionally child friendly with smaller portions available for kids. As a special treat, you won’t want to leave without trying some of the wonderful homebaking, all made on the premises by Craigie’s in house baker. During my visit I was lucky enough to spend some time in the bakery and watch while the most delicious rhubarb crumble cake was being baked. We’re talking real homemade cakes here, all handmade daily, using fruit and jams from the farm. Definitely worth burning some calories outside to enjoy a treat with a relaxing cup of coffee.
With large part of the farm given over to growing fruit and vegetables, it was no surprise to learn that Craigie’s have a jam making kitchen where they produce their own brand of products. Under the watchful eye of owner John’s mother Anne, they produce over 40 varieties of jams, and chutney’s in the onsite jam kitchen. It was great to see the kitchen and again, like the baking, everything is done in the traditional way, just as you would make jam at home.
Any visit would not be complete without a visit to the deli and butchery counter which stocks an impressive array of Scottish and local produce. During my visit I was able to meet some of the suppliers and had the chance to taste their products. Scottish cheese specialist, Tanny Gill shared his knowledge on a range of Scottish cheeses, including ‘Paddy’s Milestone‘ from Ayrshire’s Dunlop Dairy, along with ‘Jezebel ‘ and ‘Fearn Abbey Ewe’s’ Brie’ from Highland Fine cheese. Scottish wine was also on offer and it was extremely interesting to speak to Perthshire wine producer Cairn O’Mohr and taste a selection of their wines all of which had distinctive Scottish flavours and links with the area’s soft fruit industry. Their berry flavoured wines and cider made from soft fruit and apples grown in and around Perthshire were incredibly refreshing and delicious. Scottish Rapeseed oil is a real favourite of mine for cooking with and it was great to find more about Supernature Cold Pressed Rapeseed oil from nearby Carrington Barns Farm in Midlothian. Owner Lynn had brought a range of the oils for tasting and in addition to the original rapeseed oil, there was a selection of the company’s infused oils such as garlic, basil and corriander. These are superb oils, healthy delicious and great for cooking with.
The deli at Craigie’s is packed with Scottish produce, a real testimony to John and Kirsteen’s commitment to supporting local and seasonal producers. The butchery counter has a fantastic selection of local meat and poultry and the skilled butcher is on hand with advice on different cuts and to answer any questions.
Craigie’s Farm, Cafe and Deli is open 7 days a week from 9am until 5pm. The kids will love it and there’s a guarantee that parents will too.