Trying to keep little ones entertained at the weekend can be a full time job, so I make it my aim to find new places to try and a few weeks ago we hit the jackpot when we visited The Restoration Yard and Fort George adventure playground at Dalkeith Country Park.
Just off the city bypass heading towards Dalkeith you can access the estate and drive through the grounds of the country park to what used to be the old stable yards. The Duke of Buccleuch and his team have done an impressive job of rejuvenating this space into a wonderful oasis of calm for adults, combined with a fantastic woodland adventure playground for the children.
Our first stop was The Restoration Yard restaurant for some lunch, it is an exceptionally bright and airy space with full length windows overlooking Fort George and the Orangery. However, it is not a viewing point from which you can watch the kids play, you definitely need to be in the playground with the wee ones, no sneaking off for a coffee in the Restoration Yard!
There is a good selection of dishes on the menu, as well as some dishes of the day. I normally gravitate towards fish and seafood, but was tempted by the venison ragu with chestnut mushrooms, parpadelle and parsley pesto and have to say it was absolutely delicious. The flavour of the venison was lovely and rich and combined with the fresh pasta, it was the perfect stop gap to mark the start of autumn.
The rest of the group swarmed towards the fishcakes, the portions were extremely generous with two large fishcakes accompanied by yummy skinny fries and homemade tartare sauce. Master C opted for a safe cheese toastie, despite my efforts to develop his palate, we’re still on the basics!
Everybody’s eyes lit up when we looked at the desserts, the selection was good and the proof in the taste of the puddings did not disappoint small or large visitors to the café. Master C jumped at the chance of eating the salted caramel brownie, it was rich gooey, chocolatey and very more-ish, perfect with a coffee on the side, though difficult to get more than a couple of teaspoons off its little owner.
Another hit was the cranachan, which initially I had been sceptical about, but this was also scrumptious. It was refreshing with the raspberries, while the tart contrast was softened with the honey oaty topping. And with some delicious homemade shortbread rounds on the side this was definitely one I would make a return trip to have again.
After a good fill over lunch we went across the bridge into Fort George to explore the many climbing zones and tunnels in the adventure playground. Master C then challenged me to a Zorb duel and we both went head to head in these giant rubber balls. It’s not the cheapest activity at £5 for five minutes, but it is lots of fun and certainly gives you a workout as you try and power this ball round a field like a hamster on a wheel.
The playground did take me back to my own childhood when we often popped to Dalkeith Country Park for an afternoon. It’s certainly a far cry from the slides and swings back then. They have done an incredible job to create a woodland paradise for kids and it’s very reasonably priced at £5 entry for kids and accompanying adults go free.
A spot of retail therapy was the last element of the afternoon. The rest of the stable yards have been converted into an incredible retail experience thanks to the founder of Avoca, who has helped curate all the wonderful fashion, home and food brands across the store. It really is a haven to browse and find some unusual gifts. I’m already looking forward to a return trip when their Christmas decorations and gifts are out, did I mention the C word already?!