Moniaive, Dumfries and Galloway

Moniaive is in the official middle of nowhere, the prettiest middle of nowhere to ever exist, shimmering through the rain and accessed by a winding road through sparsely populated yet lush countryside unadorned by agricultural clutter and sprawl, just modest white crofts and the occasional imposing driveway leading no doubt to some utopian idyll buried slumbering in the woods. It is countryside that doesn’t reek of money, second homes, stiff new Barbour’s and people from Islington. It is country not countryside and a crow is strung by the neck on a gate in the old tradition of warning other crows of their fate should they try and encroach on what was formerly theirs.

An avenue of trees leads down to Moniaive: it seems almost a vast urban sprawl, this delicate smattering of houses along the road compared to the empty journey but we were driving past a McDonalds in Dumfries less than an hour ago watching big seagulls and people squawk and litter and search for the last salty chip in the red rectangular boxes.

Moniaive has apparently become a haven for the artists, artisans and bohemians of Scotland, a gushing piece about it in the Galloway News led me here and yes, here is the chocolatiers looking like the witches house in Hansel and Gretel, so alluring and pretty but I fear to step within, not because of witches but because I suspect the prices won’t be from a halcyon past. Here are the quiet modest bistros next to spotless simple houses with fake flowers in the window and The Georges Hotel with a beer garden that is simply a field, benches and nature. It also has an excitingly named Tramps Hole and is one of those quintessentially Scottish places that are so steeped in blood and history, it is taken as a modest given, not to be wrapped up in ribbon, glorified, sold to tourists and made into a paying attraction.

There are monuments to martyrs here, graves to the murdered religious dissenters known as covenanters but this is not a hewn from the rocks ‘authentic Scottish Experience’. Many of the voices heard are of the well-fed English variety and charming bistros with prices in the teens are not an integral aspect of every small Scottish town.

But a sign in the village store amongst the ads for folk festivals and art events  warns people that they will not be served alcohol until 10am.

We have heard good things about the Green Tea House cafe  but I am suspicious, as The Galloway News never seems to write anything actually negative about Scottish food establishments. It is however an exercise in how to make your tea room the best damn tea room in town. I did have a slight yearning towards the pub as tea rooms make me think of old ladies in an overheated florid room gorging on crumbling old cakes and talking with sweet venom about their relatives but this tea room is lofty, minimal yet cosy with a garden, a fireplace and big shuttered windows overlooking dark dark trees. The organic menu is a good blend of veggie and non-veggie and my aubergine and tomato bake, salad wedges and salad an immense thing of wonder for under six pounds. There is a slightly awkward moment when having tried the healthy herb salt on the table and declaring it like something used to cut cocaine with, I ask for real salt and am politely yet firmly refused. Not that it needed it to be fair. The cakes are of the sort that would be served at high tea to beaming mop haired children from Enid Blyton, groaning with cream, jam and chocolate and it is everything one could ask for but has spoilt me now as I use it to measure other places and they always come up substandard which fills me with a grim pleasure as I do not know how and if I shall ever be able to find my way back to this strange little oasis in the middle of nowhere.

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