You know what? It’s a great feeling to be able to finally write about this place without feeling like I’m biased! Having worked at Ardardan Estate for the past six years, I was one of the longest-serving weekend cashiers. And last Sunday, I said goodbye to my favourite customers, my lovely bosses and one of the local community’s most cherished businesses (because I’m moving east next month!)
But do you know what? I won’t be able to stay away for long. I’m really not biased; there are so many reasons why Ardardan is special! From the staff, to the managers, to the home baking and beautiful gardens, I challenge you to come down here and not feel part of the Ardardan family. When I worked here, I took huge pride in making sure I was polite and engaged with all my customers, and this is an ethos which the owners truly encourage. I made friendships with regular faces; I became used to seeing the same people and hearing the same stories every weekend. And honestly? I totally loved it.
So now you know why I’ll miss it so much, I want to give you a few quick reasons to visit the serene farm shop and tearooms on the edge of the River Clyde. Who knows, I might see you there one weekend in the future!
1. The gardens
As we’re now in the throes of September, we only have a few weeks left to make the most of the mild weather. Ardardan provides the perfect setting to sit outside, surrounded by blooms and bees, watching the leaves slowly turn golden brown. Grab a takeaway coffee in the shop plus a two-pack of malteser slice, anchor your bottom on the garden bench and just enjoy the fresh air. You can even get a Stewart Towers ice cream if you’re feeling brave (why not?!)
2. The people
Family and friends really are the lifeblood of Ardardan. The business is managed by the Montgomery family: May runs the farm shop, Grant’s in the garden, multi-skilled daughters Sara and Sue head up the tearoom and deli… And new recruit Hannah has a host of exciting ideas up her sleeve! Qualified as a primary teacher, Hannah’s forte is kids’ activities. The Little Diggers gardening club is already a huge success, and she’s brewing up a Scarecrow Festival at the end of September (26th & 27th). It’s similar to a Christmas tree festival: design your straw-stuffed object any way you like, be it inspired by your favourite hobby or what your company do. An ideal event to fill the downtime between the end of summer and Halloween.
3. The cheese
You’d be hard-pressed to find a better selection of Scottish and continental cheeses outside Glasgow‘s West End. Ardardan’s resident cheese lover Sue has worked with suppliers to procure a wide selection of artisan and organic choices from around Europe. Some of my favourites are the gorgeous mature cheddars from Wales, the traditional peppered Gruth Dhu, the fruity grape-soaked Ubriaco Rosso and the strong nutty Mull Cheddar. The staff are happy to help you put together a cheese board (it’s recommended to choose a smoked, hard, soft and blue cheese to start off, plus some chutneys and handmade oatcakes). And if you ever want a wee taste of anything, you only have to ask!
4. The greetings cards
Sometimes I don’t have the time — or the money — to rush into Glasgow city centre and spend hours trawling through the cards at Paperchase. Well, at Ardardan you can find a totally unique selection of cards and little letters… and they won’t break the bank! There are some really beautiful floral and foil designs — all on thick embossed paper — and the shop also stocks a good selection of well-priced Scotland’s Artists cards, which are ideal for sending abroad to those ex-pat relatives to let them know what glorious weather they’re missing…
5. The setting
One thing that makes Ardardan truly special is its surroundings. Sitting right on the banks of the River Clyde, it’s only about 40 minutes’ drive from Glasgow city centre and within easy reach of Loch Lomond. If you’re into walking and the outdoors, you can take a short wander through the woodland walk (ideal for kids with a ‘wishing tree’ and mini maze!) or you can go further across the fields to Ardmore Point (image above). There’s a looped walk that follows the headland past woods and shingle where you may spot nesting birds and other wildlife. Return to Ardardan after your hike and refuel with hot lentil soup and a coffee. Bliss!