Once upon a time, you would hardly have dared to breathe in this room.
Priceless leather wallpaper, an imposing central chandelier and an intricate plasterwork ceiling decorated with gold leaf no less – all of these treasures were once kept under lock and key to preserve them from the likes of you and I.
But those in the know at Callendar House realised they were missing a trick and, working alongside a conservator, decided not only to throw open the doors of this very fine room, but also to invite visitors to sit down and have a cup of tea.
I was always rather fond of the old teashop in the former stable block – even if you couldn’t get a buggy into the tiny space, which was a major drawback for me. So I was intrigued to hear that in January they bolted the stable door for the last time and moved lock, stock and teacups into the house itself.
Where the old teashop was homely, its new venue has the wow factor, thanks largely to stunning, floor to ceiling windows which bathe the room in light and offer an entrancing view of the park.
I note with approval a buggy sitting unobtrusively in a corner of the spacious room and there is plenty of room for wheelchairs.
While the house has been open as a museum for many years now, I think it is in rooms such as this that visitors really get a glimpse of what life must have been like for the families that have lived there over the centuries.
The grandeur of the room is a visible symbol of the huge power and influence that was once wielded by the occupants of Callendar House.
It’s also a very nice place to have a cuppa.
While much of the menu has not changed since the stables days, one new introduction is a variety of leaf teas which are proving popular.
I resist the urge to try ‘Gunpowder’ and go for the Royal Scottish which proves rich enough to match these surroundings.
Coffee lovers too are well catered for with cafetieres of Kenya or Java. What you won’t see, however, is a coffee machine – the steam from making lattes and the like is a no-no in this room .
The food is traditional tea shop fare – sandwiches, toasties, paninis and homemade soup, all freshly made.
In a nod to the heritage of the great house, you’ll also find crappit tatties. My companion is suffering from a cold so she goes for one filled with a very tasty chilli, which is just what the doctor ordered, she assures me. A panini with bacon, cheese and red onion chutney is recommended and it is fresh, filling and very tasty.
Of course, we don’t need a cake to follow –but when homemade baking is on offer it would take a stronger woman than me to resist, so, after some deliberation I choose a beautifully light slice of lemon coconut cake, while my friend – still seeking comfort food – tucks into a fruit scone. Yum.
The cakes are all made on the premises, so what’s on offer changes every day.
I’m sure visitors to Falkirk and the House will be impressed by the stately room and wonderful setting. But while its a tourist draw, it’s far from a tourist trap and the tea shop is just as welcoming to locals enjoying the park. So pop in, relax ... and, go on, breathe ... you’re allowed to now.
Callendar House, Callendar Park, Falkirk