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Motoring news

Audi’s new Q cars

April 12 2017

Another week, another new Audi. Two new Audis, in fact. The German car maker has announced a couple more additions to its Q line up of SUVs. The Q4 is a coupe-SUV hybrid that will go up against the BMW X4 and Mercedes GLC Coupe. As its name suggests, it’ll be positioned between the compact Q3 and bigger Q5. At the other end of the scale is the Q8, which will go head to head against the Range Rover. It’s lower and sleeker than the Q7 Audi is also producing. In concept form, it sat only four people, although it seems likely the production version will be a five seater. There’s a 630 litre boot as well. Eagle eyed Audi followers will notice the only SUV slots left to fill are the Q1 and Q6. Watch this space...

Road tests

Audi Q2 puts quality over size

March 21 2018

Audi’s Q2 was one of the first premium compact SUVs on the market. It sits below the Q3, Q5 and the gigantic, seven seat Q7 in Audi’s ever growing range. Although it’s about the same size as the Nissan Juke or Volkswagen T-Roc, its price is comparable with the much larger Nissan X-Trail or Volkswagen Tiguan. Even a basic Q2 will set you back more than £21,000 and top whack is £38,000. Then there’s the options list which is extensive to say the least. My 2.0 automatic diesel Quattro S Line model had a base price of £30,745 but tipped the scales at just over £40,000 once a plethora of additions were totted up. Size isn’t everything, however. In recent years there’s been a trend of buyers wanting a car that’s of premium quality but compact enough to zip around town. It may be a step down in size but the Q2 doesn’t feel any less classy than the rest of Audi’s SUV range. The interior looks great and is user friendly in a way that more mainstream manufacturers have never been able to match. The simple rotary dial and shortcut buttons easily trounce touchscreen systems, making it a cinch to skim through the screen’s menus. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4eQ5p5Z7-Ek&list=PLUEXizskBf1nbeiD_LqfXXsKooLOsItB0 There’s a surprising amount of internal space too. I took three large adults from Dundee to Stirling and no one complained about feeling cramped. As long as you don’t have a tall passenger behind a tall driver you can easily fit four adults. At 405 litres the boot’s big too – that’s 50 litres more than a Nissan Juke can muster. Buyers can pick from 1.0 and 1.4 litre petrol engines or 1.6 and 2.0 litre TDIs. Most Q2s are front wheel drive but Audi’s Quattro system is standard on the 2.0 diesel, as is a seven-speed S Tronic gear box. On the road there’s a clear difference between this and SUVs by manufacturers like Nissan, Seat and Ford. Ride quality, while firm, is tremendously smooth. Refinement is excellent too, with road and tyre noise kept out of the cabin. It sits lower than the Q3 or Q5 and this improves handling, lending the Q2 an almost go-kart feel. On a trip out to Auchterhouse, with plenty of snow still on the ground, I was appreciative of the four-wheel drive as well. The Q2 is expensive – though there are some good finance deals out there – but you get what you pay for. Few cars this small feel as good as the Q2 does. Price: £30,745 0-62mph: 8.1 seconds Top speed: 131mph Economy: 58.9mpg CO2 emissions: 125g/km

Perth & Kinross

Changes are planned for Perth fishing

February 27 2013

CHANGES TO Perth Town Waters fishing are to be discussed by councillors this week. The Perth and Kinross Council-administered fishery on the Tay runs from Quarrymill to an area downriver of Kinfauns. The alterations to be thrashed out at tomorrow’s meeting of Perth Common Good Fund include the removal of one section over safety fears, and stopping VisitScotland selling permits after it demanded a larger commission. Complaints about blocked access from riverside anglers will also be noted. A report to go before the common good fund committee states: “A number of complaints (approximately 10) have been made by anglers fishing from the bank about the increased use of boats for angling. “The main problem seems to be that one or two boats tend to put down an anchor and fish from the best fishing places for long periods of time. “This prevents larger numbers of anglers fishing from the bank. Anglers on boats also pay for permits to fish on council beats, but as their use of boats prevents other anglers from using the beat it is proposed to solve this by making the fishing permit bank fishing and by wading only. “This would also ensure that bailiffs can ensure anglers have permits and avoid the problem of boats fishing outwith the designated beats.” Turning to the VisitScotland issue, it continues: “VisitScotland have to date sold council fishing day permits for which they received a commission of 8.33%. “They have advised us that they have decided to increase the commission they require to 10%. “As only nine permits were sold last year by VisitScotland and the council sells fishing permits from Pullar House it is proposed to stop selling permits through VisitScotland. “Day permits have and will continue to be posted out to anglers wishing to fish the river at weekends prior to their visit. “This proposal will streamline permit sales and avoid paying additional commission.” One of the six separate beats on the stretch Incherrit, near Kinfauns Castle will also be removed from the permit. The report states: “Incherrit was accessed via a layby on the Dundee Road and informal crossing of the railway line. “Network Rail shut the access in 2010 by erecting a 2.5m high fence in response to their new safety policy for public access across railway lines and have confirmed this is a permanent closure. “Unfortunately there is no other access by foot to the beat and therefore it is proposed to remove this beat from the permit.” The right to fish the river running through the Fair City was first granted “to the people of Perth” by Robert II in 1375 and was subsequently embodied in Royal Charters. Such was the demand to dip their lines in the fish-rich waters that a permit system was set up in 1959 to bring an end to the free-for-all which had previously existed. Those attached to the Perth and District Angling Association were deemed to be “people of Perth” and could obtain permits at discounted rates. The Town Waters fishery is one of the first to open in the Tay catchment, beginning on January 15 and operating until October 15. Income in the last year from permits amounted to £2,113, all of which was passed on to the Common Good Fund. A total of 68 salmon, grilse and sea trout were recorded as caught during the last season. arichardson@thecourier.co.uk

From The Archives

How fisher women of North-East charmed press corps

November 30 2016

There was a time when Britain’s opinion formers viewed girls from Scotland’s fishing communities as the epitome of beauty and health. In the late Victorian period, many London journalists spent hours studying the girls go about their work before filing complimentary reports for their newspapers. I wrote once before of how one journalist decamped to Auchmithie to witness the girls with “legs and arms tanned brown and their short skirts above their knees and loose-fitting bodices flattering their muscular physiques”. They certainly seem to have won over Fleet Street, so when The Lancet described fish curing as a dangerous occupation practised by wizened sea hags in 1902, The Daily Telegraph went into war mode. Far from prune like harpies, blasted the Telegraph, these girls are “strong and healthy looking, their bare arms harmonising with their rosy cheeks”. The indignant reporter advised the Lancet writer to visit Montrose, Anstruther or Fraserburgh to see for himself. Such adulation was far from unusual, however. In 1872 a journalist from the London Globe seems to have lingered in Gourdon to watch the local girls. He observed that “the girls, inspite of constant exposure to the air, have delicately fair complexions and a few would madden a painter”. It looks like the journalist may have crossed verbal swords with one of the older local women during his time in the village. He noted the men seem to spend most of their time on their boats which “have the advantage of being short of the clacking, vigorous tongue of the shrewish-minded Scotch fish wife”. Our man from the Globe described Gourdon’s packed harbour as resembling a city as a bluish haze of stove smoke rose from the boats. He finished his article with the following summary of the village: “Gourdon is one of the early stations of the herring shoal on its mighty annual march north. “It is a charming place to live for a week if you can thrive on fish and dispense with civilization. French fishermen stationed off the coast say Gourdon has nine months of winter and three months of hard weather.”

Restaurant Reviews

The Bridgeview Station Restaurant, Dundee (36/50)

January 27 2018

At times, meeting in Dundee for lunch can be a bit of a palaver, especially with a small child. The parking, the lunch hour crowds and the temptation of just popping into a couple of shops can sometimes make it a bit of an outing. It is great, therefore, to have options of independent eateries near town to meet during the week and the Bridgeview Station is one of those places. And that's without even mentioning the cracking view. The building itself is quirky and attractive and has been nominated for two architectural awards. The addition of an actual train carriage transformed into the take-away venture just adds to the character of the place. The outlook from inside the cafe is pretty hard to beat. Sitting gazing at the Tay bridges is a lovely way to spend time and no doubt many seals have been spotted over the years. The convenience of the adjacent car park makes this a really attractive place to meet for lunch and the family-friendly attitude was the icing on the cake. During our time at the restaurant, we saw many people approach the carriage out the front and walk away with armfuls of take-away boxes of delights. Clearly this place is as convenient for a drive-by pit stop as it is to go in and eat. The interiors are simple and practical yet stylish with some lovely additions of old photographs and rail images. There are no bad tables as the Tay can be seen from all of them, so we settled in at ours to peruse the menu. The website describes the food as unpretentious and the lunch menu is certainly that. There is a lovely selection of bloomers on offer, such as Thai chicken with roasted pea, but all in all I did find the menu to be fairly carb-heavy.  There were three platters on offer - Ploughman's, fish or veggie for those still sticking to their New Year's resolutions. We decided to order a few things for the table and the first was the fishcake. It is clear from the price tag of just £5 that this is a small portion, but when positioned as it is between the pasta dish and and the venison casserole on the menu itself, customers would be forgiven for expecting a larger size. The patty itself was crunchy-crumbed and tasty, especially when accompanied by the red onion jam, and was a lovely dish. I would actually like to order this again with perhaps a salad on the side to make it more substantial. I have no doubt we could have requested this be made a main course size portion as the staff were helpful and friendly but actually, we had ordered enough food on this occasion and the price tag was very reasonable for a home-made fishcake of this calibre. I wasn't in the mood for fish and chips despite its great reputation at the Bridgeview. Instead I ordered the spaghetti with kale and walnut pesto as I was intrigued by it. Basil pesto usually packs a real punch so I was really looking forward to the taste of this variety. Actually, although there was a hint of nuttiness, I found it to be fairly bland. The rocket and ricotta added a much needed bite and creaminess to an otherwise disappointing dish. Our other larger dish was the venison casserole which was deep in colour and flavour, attractively presented with a dainty puff pastry circle and mash and containing plenty of tender meat. This was a real comfort food dish and suited the atmosphere outside as we gazed out at the turbulent water. As we weren't overly stuffed, we pushed the January boat out and also ordered dessert. The delicate rectangle of treacle sponge cake was delightfully treacly but definitely needed the subtly flavoured marmalade ice cream for moisture. The caramelised satsuma was certainly an adult flavour as my one year old made the funniest faces when she tried it - which obviously only encouraged us to give her more. The dish was really nicely presented and I got a hint of the styling of the evening menu. Our other dessert was the sticky toffee pudding. With accompaniments such as caramel ice cream and butterscotch sauce, we didn't expect this to be anything other than sticky, very sweet and rich and it didn't disappoint. I really liked the Bridgeview Station Restaurant. I loved the actual structure of the place and the fact that it is independent and family owned. The lunchtime menu is great for a gourmet sarnie or some fish and chips but I get the feeling the real flair comes out in the evening. Items such as squid ink risotto and Dundee gin creme fraîche (not part of the same dish) feature in the evening and this is when the chef can really spread his wings. I can also imagine the setting to be pretty romantic with the juxtaposition of the dark stormy seas and a warm, glass-fronted restaurant with cosy diners gazing out into the night. I intend to stop imagining these things though and actually take Mr Kerry there on a good old-fashioned date.   Info Price: Lunch: sandwiches: £5.50 - £7.95; other: £5.00 - £10.50; dinner: 2 courses for £18, 3 courses for £23 Value: 8/10 Menu:  6/10 Atmosphere: 8/10 Service: 7/10 Food: 7/10 Total: 36/50 Info: The Bridgeview Station Restaurant Address: Riverside Drive, Dundee Tel: 01382 660066 Web: www.bridgeviewstation.com    

Perth & Kinross

A rare opportunity: Bidding war expected for stunning fishing beat on river Tay

December 6 2016

The river Tay retains a worldwide reputation as one of Scotland’s finest salmon rivers, attracting angling enthusiasts from around the globe. The chance to cast a line along its 119 mile length and enjoy the stunning Perthshire scenery is a dream for many. Owning a piece of the river is an opportunity even rarer, but one that has been made available to investors should they have a spare £875,000 or so. Two miles of the renowned salmon river are being offered for sale, with businesspeople from around the world expected to bid to secure the beat. Dunkeld House Fishings offers double bank fishing in stunning surroundings and is known to be a productive stretch. It offers a total of 14 pools, which fish in a variety of water heights, and salmon are generally caught every month of the season, with a five-year average of 182 salmon. “Salmon beats on the stately waters of the middle River Tay rarely come to the market,” said Emma Chalmers, who is a partner at selling-agent CKD Galbraith. “This river remains one of the most pre-eminent salmon fishing rivers in the world and we expect to receive a lot of interest both locally and from abroad. “We believe this sale offers a great opportunity for private parties as well as corporate organisations for entertaining clients.” The river Tay is Scotland’s longest and arguably best-known river and is internationally renowned for its consistent fishing. It delivers an average annual catch to enthusiasts in excess of 6,000 fish during the season, which runs from January 15 to October 15 each year. Mungo Ingleby of Sporting Lets, CKD Galbraith’s sporting agency, said: “The River Tay and, in particular, the middle river continues to offer consistent fishing through the season. “The number of fish in the river in recent years across late spring and summer has been very encouraging and the Tay board continues to do a huge amount of positive work. “The sale is a very exciting and rare opportunity to purchase a double banked middle Tay beat.” Dunkeld House Fishings is suitable for both boat and bank fishing and is currently fished by two boats each fishing two rods and an additional four bank rods. The sale of the beat also brings with it an opportunity for prospective owners to build a new fishing hut on the site.

Motoring news

Join the queue for littlest Audi Q

November 9 2016

Audi’s relentless release of new models continues with the launch of its smallest SUV. The Q2 goes on sale in the UK next week with prices starting at £22,380. There’s an extensive selection of petrol and diesel power trains as well as the option of front or Quattro four-wheel drive. More models will be added to the range later on, including powerful SQ2 and RSQ2 versions. Aimed squarely at a younger audience, the Q2 has bolder, sharper lines and a different shape to Audi’s bigger SUVs, the Q3, Q5 and Q7. Although it’s clearly meant more for buzzing around cities than growling across farmland, cladding and skid plates lend it an aura of ruggedness. Audi is also offering a range of vibrant colours to deepen the Q2’s appeal to youthful buyers. The interior is as plush as you’d expect from Audi, justifying its price hike over similarly sized SUVs like the Nissan Juke and Honda HR-V. The materials are high quality – softtouch plastics, leather on higher spec cars and brushed aluminium trim elements all blended into a smart-looking package. As standard, drivers get a seven-inch infotainment screen on top of the dashboard. It’s operated through Audi’s rotary dial system that’s far more intuitive and easier to use when on the move than rivals’ touchscreen systems. Among the many options is Audi’s excellent Virtual Cockpit - a 12.3in screen that replaces the manual instruments behind the steering wheel. Overall, the Q2 is 4.7in shorter than the A3 hatchback, but Audi says there’s enough leg and headroom for two adult passengers in the back. Boot space comes in at 405 litres – 50 more than you’ll find in the A3 hatchback and rival Nissan Juke, although it trails the Mini Countryman by the same amount. To begin with, the only diesel option is a 1.6 litre with 114bhp, although a more powerful 184bhp 2.0 litre unit will be added to the range soon. Similarly, the petrol engine range is limited for now but will be expanded by the end of the year. The 1.4 litre, 148bhp unit offered now will be joined by 1.0 litre, 114bhp three cylinder turbo and 2.0 litre, 187bhp options – the latter coming with an S-Tronic automatic gearbox. When it arrives the 1.0 litre petrol version will be the cheapest model in the range with a price tag of £20,230. Courier Motoring has yet to get its hands on the car but early reviews have been very positive and Audi looks to have yet another winner on its hands. jmckeown@thecourier.co.uk


Tay salmon anglers accused of harassing canoeists

December 18 2012

TAY SALMON anglers drove fishing boats at canoes and cast lines at children according to complaints made in the wake of this year’s Tay Descent. The harassment allegedly took place in October as more than 400 paddle sports enthusiasts of all ages took part in the mass participation outing between Dunkeld and Perth. Significant efforts were made by the Scottish Canoe Association (SCA) to avoid conflict with other river users, but it appears that failed to placate a minority of anglers. The allegations led the Tay District Salmon Fisheries Board to ask some Tay salmon anglers to apologise for their behaviour. Chairman Bill Jack made the call during the board’s annual meeting, at which he revealed the Perth and Kinross Access Forum had written a letter of complaint. He condemned the actions of a few beat anglers who, the forum claimed, had harassed canoeists by casting lines and lures at and over canoes, some containing children. It was also alleged that in one case a fishing boat was driven at canoes by Tay anglers. The SCA had arranged for the 2012 Descent to take place after the end of the salmon season. Since its launch it has become one of the sport’s biggest participation events and contributes a significant amount to the local economy. However, an experimental two-week extension to the angling season agreed with the Scottish Government after the canoe event had been organised moved the goalposts. And despite the SCA’s efforts to publicise the change and ensure that angling interests, landowners and its members were aware of their responsibilities, it appears there was conflict between the two groups. With the trial extension set to continue in 2013, Mr Jack suggested riparian owners should consider curtailing fishing on their beats on the day of the Tay Descent next year. In turn, it was proposed by some anglers that canoeists consider switching the day of their event to a Sunday, when there is no salmon fishing. One Tay ghillie said some canoeists had “failed to take guidance” to avoid going through pools on their beats. A report on the trial extension will be prepared for next year’s meeting and could lead to a long-term extension of the season past October 15. The trial extension applies only to the main Tay system from the Dalguise beat between Ballinluig and Dunkeld to Perth. During the meeting the importance of catch and release on the system was underlined by Mr Jack, who said he did not want to see mandatory rules brought in. He noted there had been a drop in figures last season with 89% of spring fish released, compared to 93% the previous year. Some board members were strongly critical of anglers who felt the catch and release rules did not apply to them. In particular, they mentioned results from Loch Tay where only 30-33% of the spring salmon caught are released. mmackay@thecourier.co.uk

Perth & Kinross

Perth anglers fishing for a decision

March 1 2013

Councillors have agreed to defer action on a series of controversial proposals affecting fishing on the River Tay, including the suggestion to remove one of its beats. It had also been recommended that the council could stop VisitScotland selling fishing permits, and consideration was also given to complaints from some anglers about blocked access. Following a meeting earlier this week, members of Perth and Kinross Council’s common good fund committee will now revisit planned changes to the Perth Town Waters Fishing Beats at a future date. At the meeting, councillors considered a report focusing on the Perth Town Waters, which runs from Quarrymill to an area downriver of Kinfauns. The right to fish within this area was granted to the people of Perth by Robert II in 1375 and was subsequently embodied in royal charters. This was alluded to by Councillor Bob Band, who told the committee he was “somewhat concerned” at the potential loss of beat five known as Incherrit and located near Kinfauns Castle. Access was gained via a layby on the Dundee Road and the “informal” crossing of the railway line there. However, Network Rail closed the access in 2010 by building a 2.5 metre fence and there is no other access by foot to the beat. As a result, the council was proposing to remove the beat from the fishing permit. Mr Band told members that beat five had been there “for centuries”. “I see no reason why beat five can’t be accessed by boat,” he said. “There is the possibility of not necessarily fishing there by boat, but access could be gained by boat.” Andy Clegg, the council’s community green space team leader, told councillors that if boats were allowed on the river this would “create problems” for anglers. “If you allow boats in one part of the river, you would have to do so on all of them,” he said. Councillor John Flynn asked what sanctions were available and also who would “police” the river. “It seems silly if we can’t enforce matters,” he said. Mr Clegg said ghillies were responsible but agreed it would be a “conflict of use” to allow that to happen. Councillor Archie MacLellan suggested that, by allowing access by boat, the council may be in danger of “infringing” health and safety rules. Councillor Dave Doogan said a compromise should be found on the matter. “Removal of boats seems to be pretty heavy-handed,” he commented. “This could be a very severe action from a couple of complaints. I’m not happy about what we are being asked here.” Mr Clegg proposed to solve the problem by making the permit bank fishing and by wading only. His report stated: “This would also ensure that bailiffs can ensure anglers have permits and avoid the problem of boats fishing outwith the designated beats.” Meanwhile, committee convener Jack Coburn told members that he felt the council should hand out fishing permits themselves, rather than it also being done by VisitScotland, who receive a commission of 8.33%. The committee agreed to defer action on all the issues until a later date.

Restaurant Reviews

The Birnam Brasserie at Gleneagles (40/50)

July 1 2017

Gleneagles' place on the global map of fine hotels has long been assured.  Whether you are lucky enough to be staying in one of the grand bedrooms, using the spa or strolling around 18 of the most scenic holes in Scottish golf, it's an establishment which prides itself on offering something special.  There are a variety of levels to the luxury though and the newest string to the dining bow, the Birnam Brasserie, is a more casual, all-day dining affair.  I went along to find out if it's destined to be a relaxed alternative to fine dining when staying at the hotel  - or whether this French Bistro is likely to become a destination in itself. The grandeur and refinement are evident even on the approach to Gleneagles and as we were led past the super luxury designer clothes and jewellery outlets to reach the brasserie, the standards were raised with every step. We stopped in at another recent addition, the American Bar, for a cocktail en-route and enjoyed service and an ambience that would make Jay Gatsby feel right at home. The decor of the Birnam is simply stunning.  The mosaic floor seems to stretch endlessly and the impressive photos on the website really don't do it justice. There are stools set up around an elegant seafood bar, as well as tables in the brasserie room and a large conservatory styled area called the Winter Garden, where we chose to be seated among the light and airy greenery.  The tables are simple yet elegant and it felt worlds away from the formality of the other restaurants within the hotel. We started with oysters - because this was Gleneagles and why not? - and they were divine. Creamy, cool and delicious. The remainder of the menu was simple, yet refined, with a distinct French accent and deciding wasn't easy. I would have liked to try the starter of fresh crab from the seafood bar menu but regular readers will know of my intense dislike of mayonnaise and when I asked if I could have it without I was told it was already mixed in. For a place which prides itself on service I was a little surprised but my second choicer starter of fish soup was oh so good. The consistency was thin and it didn't have that grainy texture that afflicts some fish soups. The colour could best be described as pink-tinged mud but the flavours were deep and intense and the base ingredients had clearly gone through a long and complex process to produce such perfection. My friend's starter, shrimp linguine, was equally impressive. The swirl of pasta with spicy arrabbiata sauce was studded with very large king prawns - and plenty of them - and although a pasta starter can be heavy in the wrong hands, the freshness of the sauce and the juiciness of the shrimps here made it just right. Hopes were high for the main course then but unfortunately my blackened snapper with cotton onions was pretty much inedible. I realise snapper is a denser, meatier fish than most but even with fierce sawing motions, the rubbery flesh refused to yield to my knife and I was incredibly disappointed. The flavour was good and the onions thin and crispy but the star of the show did not deserve its billing. Happily, my friend fared better with the other main course, a monkfish tail from the "grill" section of the menu. The fish itself was simple but the dish was lifted by the sauce Choron (a tomato-spiked bernaise to you and I). Both of our plates were accompanied by a side of sweet potato fries, which packed just the right crunch. This being Gleneagles it would have been rude not to push the boat out so desserts were definitely called and we decided to unashamedly take ourselves back to the 1970s with a rum baba and a sundae. The baba is a heavy dessert but a lovely one and this version managed to combine a pleasingly sticky, syrupy centre with a light and spongy exterior.  I chose the Birnam sundae, hoping for something special, and although it arrived in the traditional glass, it was a fairly standard chocolate and vanilla affair with various textures of chocolate among the ice cream. No cherry on the top, either actual or metaphorical, with this one. If you're staying at the hotel, I can imagine it would be a bit much to dine at the more formal options all the time so the Birnam Brasserie provides a lighter, more simple alternative - and of course it's a tad easier on the wallet.  I keep returning to the phrase "relaxed elegance" and that's exactly what it is.  The setting was exquisite and the menu and food were uncomplicated yet refined.  I did have a couple of issues with the food but for the most part we enjoyed our experience immensely. If I am ever lucky enough to be staying at Gleneagles, I would certainly return here, maybe to sit at the bar and soak up the atmosphere while we graze on the seafood bar dishes. If I'm making a special journey just for dinner though, Andrew Fairlie and The Strathearn would still be well ahead on my wish list.   Info Price: Starters £9 - £15; main courses: £14 - £50; desserts: £9 Value: 8/10 Menu:  8/10 Atmosphere: 9/10 Service: 7/10 Food: 7/10 Total: 40/50 Info: The Birnam Brasserie Address: The Gleneagles Hotel, Auchterarder, Perthshire, PH3 1NF Tel: 01764 662231 Web: www.gleneagles.com/dine-drink/birnam-brasserie