by Anna Mitchell
This is our 18th year of throwing open the doors to our farm shop and café welcoming visitors who share our belief that local food tastes miles better.
And we never tire of seeking out the latest new local food businesses, creating new recipes for our menus or dreaming up tasty combinations for our preserves.
We know our visitors appreciate the farm shop shelves groaning with top quality local produce, the home-cooked hearty meals served in the café, and not to mention the smiling welcome from the friendly team.
I have to admit that I didn’t predict all this when we first opened our doors back in 2004.
That was in our local village of Fordoun and we started it so we could sell fruit directly to the public. We also stocked local meat, cheese and vegetables. And it proved there was a real appetite – excuse the pun – for local quality food products.
In fact, it was so popular, it gave us the confidence to build a specially designed farm shop and café at the end of the farm road. And that is where you will still find us.
Okay, so it’s grown over the years. In 2013, we extended to offer more seats and make the farm shop bigger.
Before that, we only had seating for 50 people in the café, and in the farm shop, we were beginning to sell lots of different types of local produce.
A second kitchen was added as we began to make the jam range with our own fruit, and our branded ready-made meals, which have been massively popular.
And then last year, we added a conservatory to the café. It’s spacious and airy and now even more people can enjoy the Castleton experience. With a new farm-themed playpark, there is something for the whole family, and we’re dog-friendly too.
All this is grounded in our knowledge that here at Castleton Farm, we produce and sell the best Scottish food.
Supporting local traditional food and drink producers is so important – and we know that because we are one ourselves.
And we are proud of the breadth and quality of what the North-east of Scotland has to offer, as well as the remarkable choice.
We want to showcase the finest produce from local suppliers throughout the region, all bearing the #supportlocal banner.
And when we add our friendly welcome into the mix, I know we’re really showing the taste and quality of Scotland at its best.
Castleton Farm is a family business because the Castleton team is our family.
By working together, and looking after each other, we know we will achieve more.
We believe in doing things properly, and not cutting corners. And it is in taking care and paying attention to detail that the quality of Scottish food can shine through.
It has to be said that we have learned a lot in the 18 years we’ve been open.
Our original menu was very much geared to “ladies who lunch”, with the likes of a savoury scone topped with cream cheese and salmon.
However, our customers seem to enjoy traditional favourites like fish and chips, macaroni, stovies and our peppered steak baguette more than anything.
Would you believe that one of the most popular items we sell in the farm shop is our raw frozen scones? The strawberry tarts have become a real favourite too, with many a detour made to pick up a wee treat.
There was a Tripadvisor review from a few years ago that said “there are more strawberries in the cake cabinet at Castleton than at Wimbledon”.
We’re presuming that is a good thing.
Customers often come up to the till with a basket full of a variety of goods. It can be anything from half a dozen eggs to a scarf for granny’s birthday, and they say they only popped in for a punnet of berries.
But there have been bumps in the road. Sometimes the disappearance of an entire road, when the direct route to the shop and café from the A90 was removed with the Abbeyton bridge demolition.
We have evolved and learned but one thing has remained constant and that is my belief in the choice and quality of what we offer. And combining that with really good customer service.
When I read the reviews talking about the delicious food and the fantastic welcome, it really makes me feel like we’re sharing that experience.
And looking back to the very first time we opened our doors all those years ago, I never once imagined what we would be able to build here at Castleton Farm.
Would I do it all again?
In a heartbeat. It has been an amazing experience that is certainly never dull. And I am very lucky to have had a fantastic team alongside me who share the vision for Castleton Farm and its future.