Normally finding their caffeine hit in Manchester, they delighted at the snowy winterscape through the Coffee Bothy window: the Wallace Monument, Dumyat and the Ochil hills. As we left, cake-filled, for a dander up the hill, they cast a glance at a poster covering a bothy wall showing the same landscape with giant pylons positioned across it. Two hundred feet high, the pylons are part of the 400kV 137-mile Beauly-Denny power line, approved by the Scottish Government last week.
"Surely they (SSE and ScottishPower] won't get away with that?" my friends exclaimed.
Had they had visited two weeks previously I would have handed them an objection postcard and sent it off to the Scottish Parliament, adding to the 18,000 other objections. But, as demonstrated by the announcement made by energy minister Jim Mather to approve the line, it – as with all the rest – would have fallen on deaf ears. For, despite the biggest public inquiry in Scotland's parliamentary history, the line is going ahead much as originally proposed.
My family moved from southern England to Scotland six years ago, and found themselves right in the middle of a campaign to safeguard the environment. Like the owners of the farmshop, we live within 300 metres of the proposed power line and, together with our new neighbours, helped form Stirling Before Pylons, now nearly 1,000 members strong. I also joined Friends of the Ochils, to protect the hills and glens.
Both groups have worked tirelessly over the past six years to highlight the threat the line poses to tourism, health and the landscape. Like many others along the route, they've stood in all weathers to rally members; trawled through research papers to understand power-line technology; travelled to Brussels to put their concerns to the European Parliament; and attended hour after hour of public inquiry to propose alternative solutions and compromises. But all to no avail.
One can't help but feel that any mysteriously non-specific measures in Mr Mather's announcement to mitigate and protect the scenic impact of the line on Stirling, Plean and Crieff – and to identify a "community liaison scheme" so that the concerns are heard during the impending construction period – will be too little and too late. After all, have they listened to us to date?