For those of you who like to picnic in style but don’t particularly enjoy the setting up or cleaning parts, the Picnic Butler may be just the answer you’ve been waiting for. If this is starting to sound like the perfect picnic scenario already – whole load of fun and none of the hassle – we’ve caught up with Jack Black – who offers his butler services – to find out more. In a nutshell – it requires short notice and menu consultation from you, and voile! Read on.
Q1: Tell us a bit about yourself…
I’m easy going and outgoing, and knowledgeable about the outdoors. I’ve travelled the world extensively with the British Army and as a UN Blue Helmet for peacekeeping.
Q2: What’s a typical picnic day with you like? Take us through the day.
It all starts with the dressing up… being presentable. Putting on my kilt, socks and feathers. Meeting and greeting the picnickers at the retreat, getting to know them, getting the hamper ready and the rugs and off we go. En route, we speak about our surroundings, trees, plants, water, and a lot about the culture and traditions of the Scottish hills (the clan system). We reach our picnic spot, in the forest or next to the loch… we lay everything out and serve the sparkling wine or Champagne, and it’s time for me to retire for the picnic to be enjoyed.
Q3: How does preparing for a Picnic Butler day differ from what you usually do?
It is very exciting, it is out of the routine…
Q4: Ardgartan in Argyll and Strathyre in Perthshire are stunning locations. What’s so unique about each of them?
Ardgartan is wonderful, right under the mountains but also on the seaside. The Arrochar Alps are stunning and the wildlife is very different. The scenery with the train from the West Highland Line breaking the silence is extraordinary. Strathyre is close to my heart…this is my land. I know every trail like the back of my hand and the Trossachs mountains are just breathtaking.
Photo by Alasdair via Flickr | Creative Commons Photo by Marc Aubin via Flickr | Creative Commons
Q5: And the picnic hamper? What can one expect to find inside?
Scottish Smoked salmon and Scottish Caboc cream cheese, Arran cheese and Arran oatie biscuits, plenty of locally produced and sourced goods, including sweets, snacks and seasonal fruits, and Prosecco or Champagne (as per client’s preference).
Q6: It’s a feast of local flavours, wow. Can the menu be customised?
Sure, why not!
Q7: This all sounds delicious. And what do you get up to while your guests are tucking into their picnic goodies?
I give them time for themselves and then come back about 30 to 40 minutes later.
Q8: Do you have a favourite part of the day?
Laying the picnic and seeing their face lit up when serving the bubbly, in the middle of nowhere.
Q9: What’s the most unexpected thing that’s happened to you while on the job?
Three weeks ago, I retired for the guests to enjoy their picnic, and when I returned… they had got engaged! Amazing!
Q10: As we all know, Scottish summer weather is not to be trusted. What’s your contingency plan in the event of rain?
If it is likely to rain in the morning, I will go and put a shelter in the forest just in case. But so far, we have been lucky and its stayed dry all along.
Q11: What do you find most rewarding about this experience?
What I love the most is to pass on my knowledge to people and to know that I have given them a good time.
Q12: What do you hope people take away from a day with you?
A truly genuine Scottish experience.
Q13: You are an experienced forest ranger too so you’re very familiar with these areas, which are teeming with wildlife. What creatures can one expect to spot?
We have Golden eagles, ospreys, deers, pine martins, foxes, otters, red squirrels, and if you are lucky – the very elusive wild cat. There are plenty of great birdwatching and wildlife spotting opportunities to be had here.
Q14: And what about wild food? There’s a ‘real food’ renaissance happening right now, with more and more people interested in foraging. What’s available locally in each season?
Loads of wild aromatic plants, mint, sage, nettle – which is great for your tea. As the season progresses, plenty of red fruits, blueberries, brambles, raspberries and strawberries…gorgeous. And also wood sorrow.
Q15: You’ve certainly had a fascinating career – climbing Mt Everest and a narrow escape from a bear in Canada. Wow. Can you share some guidance on outdoor survival skills and techniques with us?
The first thing to do is to build a shelter, especially here in Scotland with the rain and weather. Finding your bearings without GPS… look at the sun, and use your watch for navigation purposes. I have plenty more to explain, but it’s best to join me on a survival adventure.
Q16: And last… sum up the experience of being the Picnic Butler in five words.
EDUCATIVE. UNIQUE. FUN. FULFILLING. And above all VERY ENJOYABLE.
I really appreciate you taking the time out of your busy schedule to answer some questions for us.
Already feeling inspired? Get in touch with Forest Holidays or book directly through their website.
And find more inspirational ideas on picnics in Scotland, to start planning your #picnic escapade in #Scotland today.