Outdoors, they said.
Do something outdoorsy for this edition of the magazine. Um, I thought. I am not walking up any bloody hills, or fording any peat bogs pretending the relentlessly boggy scenery is anything but relentlessly bogging, or pushing any pushbikes up any mountains. Or even falling off any. Something easy. Let's go water-skiing, I said to the family. Silence. Utter silence.
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Well, Luca was up for it, but that would be over his mum's dead body on account of him being only eight. And it being wet – the water, that is, and therefore potentially deadly. My other son, Cal, was seriously considering it the way teenagers seriously consider everything – ie, thinking up a very good reason not to do it. So I called Joe.
We set off for Loch Ken near Castle Douglas at dawn. Well, 10am. But as it turns out you can't just pitch up in the countryside and get astride a set of water-skis. You have to book. Amazing.
Astonishing, actually, I say to Joe as we sit in the blazing sun a good 20 miles from any water-skiers eating our way through some fresh Dime bar cakes and my personal favourite, the full-fat Malteser bar. This is outdoors, isn't it, I insist, waving my hands towards the families hiding under parasols on the restaurant's patio.
There has been considerable exercise already. We had to carry our tray overloaded with food served in country-sized portions all the way from the buffet back there in that piney – as in tables, not woods – bit. And then there has been the eating. Lots of it.
Kilnford Barns, as you may or may not know, is the full food deal. A farm shop, a smart, clean and very appetising butchers, even a fish stall most days. All set around a pretty courtyard and providing what we outdoors types like to call properly sourced local food.
The staff are enthusiastic, even a bit evangelical in a nice way. You simply have to ask and they will tell. At one point, while we lingered at the serving counter, there was a very long and informative discussion about which farm the cow that provided the beef came from. I have totally forgotten where that was now – I can't even remember the poor animal's name – but you get the gist.
With its chefs and servers, the kitchen is on open display, giving that hustle, bustle and food theatre that whets the appetite, and the whole thing is bordered by a prodigious display of home baking.
We had the lamb before we had the baking, since you ask. Lovely, served not pink as is the fashion but in large, tender, plentiful slices with giant carrot batons that could do stand-in caber duty at a Highland games, cauliflower trees in melted cheese and a pile of roasties. Not perhaps hot-weather food, but I am happy to take a bullet for The Herald Magazine. Or Joe certainly was when I plonked it down in front of him.
Wafer-thin slices of seared beef on a rocket and red onion salad with balsamic dressing followed. Lighter, yet still a crunchy, full-flavoured dish. That macaroni cheese? All melted cheddar and large pipes of what seemed to be rigatoni, looked good, tasted good. More robust, outdoorsy food.
If there's a disappointment then it's the burger. At first we couldn't help wondering why the bun was the size of a frisbee and the burger, er, wasn't. Acres of white space surrounded its seared and griddled brownness. Not a good look. Yet, when the bun was tossed aside and the meat eaten it turned out to be delicious, moist and perfectly seasoned. An urgent bread rethink is needed here.
We then head to Loch Ken, which is beautiful in the sunshine. And after being told to move the car to the correct section of parking and not to dare pass the barrier into the marina, we greatly enjoy the water-skiing. From the shore. Next time I'll call first.
The Glen, Dumfries (www.kilnford.co.uk, 01387 253087)
MENU Hearty farm food – lamb, steaks, burgers and more backed up with home baking and modern flair. 4/5
ATMOSPHERE Courtyard setting, butcher shop and fishmonger to whet the appetite. A bit heavy on the pine, but there's a nice feel to it all. 4/5
SERVICE It's a buffet but the staff are bend-over-backwards helpful and seem proud of what they do. 5/5
PRICE Main courses from £5-8 during the day. Excellent value. 5/5
FOOD Full-flavoured and full-portioned dishes with a good emphasis on where it all came from. 6/10