Cruickshank Botanic Garden and Walled Garden at Seaton Park, Aberdeen

Near Old Aberdeen and Aberdeen University, there are some interesting gardens to visit for free and they are in very close proximity of one another. They are definitely worth taking the time to visit and explore.

On the map below you can see that they are actually connected to one another by a very extensive pathway system within Seaton Park and the University. While you’re enjoying the beautiful floral and botanical specimens you can also get your exercise! In addition, the River Don meanders along its border making it even more picturesque and enjoyable. map

We will begin our explorations at Cruickshank Botanic Garden near the bottom of the map and work our way up to The Walled Garden on the other side of Seaton Park.botanic garden abdn

 

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cruickshank mapAs you can see on the sitemap, this garden offers a nice variety of little mini-gardens all woven into one. There’s the Old pond, a Labyrinth, the Birch Lawn, the Sunken garden, Rose Garden, Herbaceous bed, and the Rock and Water Garden to name a few. We started out at the Main Entrance working our way around in a clockwise fashion starting with the Old Pond.

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Although the crocus wasn’t in bloom when we visited in early June, I found this photo online to show you how pretty it looks when they are blooming during early spring.

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Nearby we came upon this old gnarly tree whose branches dust the ground around it. Underneath its canopy next to the trunk was a handy bench we could sit on and gaze upwards at its twisting and turning branches above us.

There were all kinds of intriguing pathways to follow in, around and under the giant Rhododendron bushes.

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Next, we arrived at the Rose Garden. It was still a bit early for most of the roses to be blooming except for the very earliest varieties but they should all be ablaze with color soon later in the month.

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We continued strolling along the pathways admiring the blossoms of many varieties of flowers as well as the bees that keep themselves very busy pollinating them all!

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The Sunken Gardens were particularly peaceful and very pretty!

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We walked along the herbaceous beds and although the bulk of the plants were not quite blooming yet there were enough that were in bloom to keep my attention like the national flower, the Thistle.IMG_5252

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I noticed in numerous places in each garden that there were ample benches set in some very prime locations for visitors to enjoy.  That’s a nice touch! I also noticed that a lot of people take advantage of them to enjoy these serene surroundings while reading a favorite book.

As we worked our way back to the main entrance to leave we passed another area rich with some very colorful (and pungent!) Azaleas.

(At this point I have to admit something to you. You see, we didn’t have a copy of the sitemap as we toured the garden.  I found the sitemap online while I edited this post and decided to include it for your benefit.  As I was looking at the map to list the various sections the garden contains, I noticed the ‘Rock and Water Garden’ on the map.

“What?!?” I exclaimed, “I didn’t see a whole other section of the garden to explore beyond the wall when we were there!”

It appears that we totally missed about 1/3 of the garden during our visit! Guess I’ll just have to return next year to visit Lindsay again so we can go back to the Botanic Garden again and check out the Rock & Water Garden! Oh doo!)

Next, we worked our way over to the Walled Garden near the River Don at the north end of Seaton park, stopping off at the center to look at the “Avenue walk” or main promenade where there is usually quite pretty displays of Dahlias, Begonias and the like.

However, when we got there all the flower beds had just been dug up and stripped of their early spring bulbs. Huge piles of compost and manure were being tilled in. Nothing had been planted yet for the summer blooming varieties, so we continued on to the Walled Garden at the top of the hill on the north side of the park.

It’s not really a very big garden but it was massive with Rhododendron & Azalea blooms of every color!

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There were also a lot of pretty flowering vines on the walls as well such as these Honeysuckle blossoms that smelled so sweet and the graceful Clematis below.

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There were a couple of plants I don’t know the name of but have seen in various gardens on our travels which I would love to incorporate into my own yard at home like this vine that has leaves that turn a splotchy white and pink here and there on the tips. So pretty!

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IMG_5288Like I said, it’s a small garden but it offers a lot for its size and it also serves as a nice quiet getaway place in the bustle of the city.

Hope you’ve enjoyed this stroll through a couple more of Aberdeen’s city parks.  Next time we’ll be visiting one of my absolute favorite gardens in Scotland, Kildrummy! Stay tuned for that!

Attitude of Gratitude ~ I really appreciate (and am thankful for) the never-ending hard work of Gardeners everywhere. They are a quiet sort; working their magic amongst the colorful and abundant beds creating such beautiful havens for retreat, self-reflection, and contemplation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ballindalloch Castle & Gardens

After our 4-day adventure on the west coast, Lindsay and I stayed close to home for a few days. We did a little gardening in his yard, caught up with the laundry, and started planning our next adventure!

By Sunday, May 27th, we were itching to get out again to explore something new. We set our sights on another castle with ancestral ties, Ballindalloch. It is situated in Speyside near the Cooperage we had toured just a few days earlier.

It sits in a lovely setting near the convergence of the rivers Avon (pronounced Aan) & Spey. It is a private castle and has been in the MacPherson-Grant family since 1546. John Grant built it and he was one of my 12th great grandfathers.

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The drive into the castle was a long leisurely meander through the woods, and down to the rivers’ edge with the remnants of an obvious protrusion of spent daffodils, wood hyacinths, and tulips that had been in full bloom recently lining the road and filling every meadow. I bet this place is gorgeous in the early spring with all the bulbs!

Once we got parked and started making our way along the path to the castle we were blasted with a bright cacophony of colors from the newly opened Rhododendron blossoms. It was ablaze! If there was one there was a thousand rhododendron bushes here and it was the absolute peak of their bloom.

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The path led us under a long arched tunnel toward the back of the castle at the end of which it narrowed just before revealing what lies beyond…

IMG_4932The door off to the right near the turret leads into a lovely cafe with all sorts of goodies inside waiting to tempt your taste buds!

The center archway was off limits. I presume this is the entrance to the private quarters of the family that currently resides here. Off to the left in the square building was an audiovisual room where the tour began with a nicely prepared presentation about the heritage and history of the castle.

After the presentation, we continued making our way toward the front door on the east side of the castle. Immediately we noticed a barrage of antique cars arriving and strategically parking in front of the castle. We soon learned that they were holding a special car rally event that day for Mercedes Benz of every vintage, make and model!

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That was a fun treat to get to look at all those cars as an added bonus. Let’s head into the castle and see what its about…

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Like so many, Ballindalloch Castle was once a fortress. The original castle was formed in the shape of a ‘Z’, with living quarters, a 3-story square block of stone, flanked to north and south by two high circular towers to protect two sides of the rectangle. The Rivers Spey and Avon formed a natural moat to the north and west.

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Throughout the centuries many changes were made, wings were added and the place got a lot bigger to become what it is today!  Architectural historians are pleased that while baronial Scottish designs were added and updated the building in the 19th century, the original architecture is still there for all to see and enjoy.

We approached the front door to begin our tour.

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Unfortunately, when we entered we were informed photography was not allowed due to the fact that it is a private residence and their privacy must be respected, so I don’t have any pictures of it to share with you.

Also, as is often the case with privately-owned castles, we only got to tour a portion of the castle, but at least most of it was the oldest part. Its interior was beautifully decorated but rather modern and contemporary; the ceilings had been lowered, the walls drywalled, and it looked more like an expensive modern house of the rich and famous than a castle. Some essential modernization took place in the 1960s by the addition of several bathrooms and in the 1980s the interior underwent a lot of changes.

About the only room that was not changed much was the library and office of the Lord. Otherwise, it just reminded me of a house in Sunset Magazine; not at all what I’m looking for in a castle tour experience. They did not seem to have much nostalgia, nor interest in the ancestral heritage these walls hold.

In the upper reaches of the original tower at the top of the spiral staircase (one that I think is only climbed by visitors) there were a scant few old photographs and antiques of days gone by, but otherwise, it felt very devoid of history.

There were lots of pictures of the current residents’ family, but no old photographs or paintings of past Lords and their families. Kind of sad, I thought. I’m just glad they kept the integrity of the outside of the castle with its subtle melding of the original ‘Z’ plan, the turreted fortress with modern wings adorned with large dormer windows and gabled roofs and that, at least from the outside, it has the uncanny look of a ‘fairy-tale’ castle.

Once outside again, the beautiful blooms of the rhodies beckoned to me so I went to explore this hillside garden with fountains, rock pathways to climb and many, many bright colors to surround myself with.IMG_2409

 

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I worked my way to the top of the hill…

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…and then turned around to see the view below…

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Then I began the descent back down enjoying the bright colors all the way down. Although rhododendrons don’t generally produce any discernable scent, occasionally one of the varieties does, like the wild ones we have in the Pacific Northwest. The golden yellow blossoms here surprised me with the same pungent scent I find at home.

Back down the hill beautiful views of the castle and its guests emerge…

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We worked our way back around the back of the castle again to follow the pathway to the walled garden beyond. This 1/3-mile path was profusely lined with rhododendrons of every hue its entire length!

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Inside the walled garden, the view was expansive.

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We were just a bit early for the rose blossoms which will adorn this garden. The purple lavender and blue flowers gracing the flower beds were just beginning to flower. I imagine this is quite an oasis during the longest days of summer coming soon.

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Soon after we had left the estate of Ballindalloch Castle and got back on the A95 highway heading toward Keith, I spotted a signpost on the side of the road indicating Pictish Stones were nearby.  A quick turn left and down the hill on “the old road” and we found ourselves at Inveraven Church.

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Just inside what looked like a roofed entrance on the north side of the church we found the protected ancient Pictish Stones…

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and a handy-dandy interpretive panel to tell us all about them!

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That is some fascinating information, and I learned a few things too about the Picts. So glad we stopped here spontaneously to check it out.  We also went inside the church and looked around the churchyard at the gravestones.

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In the corner of the churchyard was the family vault for the Grants at nearby Ballindalloch castle. None of my ancestors would be buried within its walls because it wasn’t built until the 18th or 19th century.

After that interesting and informative stop, we continued on down the road stopping in Aberlour for a lemonade and a refreshing break along the River Spey at the park. Nothing quite refreshing as dipping your tootsies in the cool running water on a hot spring day!

That concludes our visit to Ballindalloch Castle & Gardens (and Pictish Stones nearby!)

Attitude of Gratitude ~ Flowers, lots and lots of flowers; that’s what I am grateful for! Been told they are God’s way of smiling and if that’s true then God was really happy today!

 

 

 

 

The Journey Back ~ Gairloch To Aberdeen With a Visit to Speyside Cooperage

mapIt’s about a 160-mile trek across northern Scotland from one coast to the other, so it’s easily driveable in one day. We had all day long to get home so we leisurely took our time starting out on the morning of May 24th. We stopped soon after leaving Gairloch because there is a very pretty small loch right next to the road called ‘Loch Bad an Sgalaig’ with what looks like to me like an old stone abandoned croft house on the opposite bank. Very picturesque!IMG_4577

IMG_4578About a mile or two further we came to the best part of the early morning drive – Loch Maree. Sitting on its banks in the crisp May morning air is delightful and magical.IMG_4588

 

 

IMG_4594Once you leave the shores of Loch Maree heading east, the road meanders through the Docherty Glen and gradually rises to the pass in the mountains above it. Near the top,  a viewpoint with a parking lot is conveniently placed which serves up some fantastic views and where you can look back the way you came. It’s a beautiful view and definitely worth the stop. (see below)IMG_4597

IMG_4602I zoomed in a bit so you can see Loch Maree down at the end of Docherty Glen (below).IMG_4598After enjoying that view for a spell we got back in the car and continued driving non-stop for about 40 miles or so until we reached Tomnahurich Cemetery in Inverness.  The cemetery encompasses the whole hill and has graves all over it, right up to the very top. It’s easy to find, just start following the road from Inverness to Loch Ness and you’ll pass it on the right just as you’re leaving town. Tomnahurich Cemetery2This was yet another place in Scotland Lindsay had never been to that I had the pleasure of personally sharing with him. I visited this cemetery on my first trip to Scotland years ago and recalled seeing one of our family names, Naughten, engraved on a gravestone on the top of the hill somewhere.Tomnahurich CemeteryWe were both curious about the headstone and wondered if we could find it again, so we drove up to the top of the hill to see if we could find it and determine if it actually belongs to anyone in our own family tree.

After searching around for a little bit, I found it! It was a small headstone kind of tucked in the back.

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After searching our family tree for the name, we discovered this little 1-month-old infant was indeed a relative of ours!

Our 3rd great grandmother, May Naughten, had an older brother named Robert and who was a well-known Silversmith jeweler in Inverness. He had a son (also named Robert and also a jeweler). The little month-old infant buried here was Robert II’s youngest son. That makes him our 2nd cousin 3x removed.

The spot where he’s buried appears to be the only upright headstone in what looks like possibly a family plot. Grass has overgrown them but we could detect kerbstones around the perimeter of an area about 8 foot wide and 10 foot long.

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Using the metal tip on Lindsay’s old umbrella, I probed into the ground in front of the stone and around what looked like the plot area. Sure enough, there were the tell-tale sounds of solid stone clinking under the grass about 3 inches or so in a rectangular shape. There are probably more relatives of ours buried here too. Wish we had permission to remove the grass and uncover the buried stones to discover whose graves are there. But, we don’t have permission like we do when we’re working with the Moray Burial Group recording a cemetery in Morayshire, so we just let it be.

There were great views from the top of Tomnahurich. We could see the Caledonia Canal to the south and Kessock Narrows bridge to the north and of course 360-degree views of  Inverness all around the base of the hill.

 

We drove back down the hill and into the center of the city a short distance away, to visit another gravesite in a different cemetery – our 3rd great grandmother, May Naughten, in Chapel Yard.

 

We also scouted around for more family graves nearby. Near the back wall of the cemetery, there was a fallen stone lying on its back in the grass. We noticed the name, Naughten, hiding under the moss. So we employed plastic cards from our wallets to scrap back the lichen and moss enough to read it.

Turns out, that guy, Robert Naughten II, the jeweler, whose kids’ gravestone we found on Tomnahurich, also had a sister named Mary. He erected this stone in memory of her. That would make her my 1st cousin 4x removed.  (She, and her brother Robert, are basically the niece and nephew of our 3rd great grandmother, May; that’s easier for me to relate to than “4x removed.”)

 

Well, that was fun discovering some new headstones belonging to people we share DNA with!

Soon we were back in the car and heading further east toward Granton-on-Spey and following the “Malt Whisky Trail” toward Dufftown. We stopped in Granton-on-Spey and enjoyed some fish & chips in the park until we realized how late in the afternoon it was getting. We still wanted to visit one more place that day and take a tour so we drove the back roads on the north side of the River Spey to Craigellachie and the home of the Speyside Cooperage.

 

It took us longer to get there than we had anticipated. Luckily, we got there just in the nick of time. The last tour of the day had 2 slots left and was just about to commence!  Phew!

This is the only remaining working Cooperage in the UK. They offer a really good tour for a very reasonable price.  The tour begins with a really nice cinematic presentation that takes you through a brief history of the ancient art of Coopering, followed by a visit to the viewing gallery situated on an elevated platform above the action where you watch first-hand the Coopers below at work building, shaping, shaving, and charring casks. The quality and flavor of good whisky totally depends upon a few key items: water, barley, distillation, and of course – the cask in which it matures for a minimum of 3 years.

It is quite noisy standing on the overhead platform and it was kind of hard to hear what the tour guide was saying but oh-so-fascinating to watch!

 

The origins of the Cooper’s craft go back to prehistoric times over 5000 years ago. These highly-skilled Coopers still use many of the traditional age-old skills to restore and repair tired and damaged casks. They are simply amazing to watch. They move so quickly and maneuver the barrels easily!

To explain the history of,  and the process and various steps the men below are doing they also had very good interpretive panels with pictures and explanations.

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Like most visitor centers, at the end of the tour, there was a nice gift shop to also tour and a chance to sample a product of some sort made out of malt whisky.  That’s always nice.

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They also had some adorable stoneware sculptures on display of local animal favorites. They remind me of two similar sculptures I made in high school ceramics class of my sister’s shaggy dogs.  (hmm, that would be fun to do again!)

 

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On the way back to the car park, we admired all sorts of imaginative uses of casks.

 

We climbed back into the car to drive the rest of the way home to Aberdeen, catching a few final glimpses of interesting sights as we left the village of Craigellachie.

 

That concludes the 4-day adventure to the west coast and back. Hope you’ve enjoyed reading about it as much as I’ve enjoyed re-living the memories while sharing them with you!

Stay tuned for more adventures in the near future.  I still had three more weeks of my trip left and there’s still a lot more to share!

Attitude of Gratitude ~ I am grateful for platforms such as WordPress where stories can be shared and spread worldwide. In the not-so-distant past, I only had the opportunity to share my adventures with a small group of people that I know. Now I can share with a much broader audience worldwide and can find like-minded folks without even leaving home! I am grateful to the people who follow my blog and seem to enjoy it. Thank you!

 

 

 

 

Wandering on the West Coast ~ Applecross to Dundonnell

I know I sound like a broken record, but…

It was another beautiful sunny day on the west coast of Scotland and absolutely perfect for a bit of exploring. We were quite blessed with wonderful weather on this trip so far, because it can be a bit sketchy at times in the land of the mist!  We had plans to drive along the periphery of the peninsulas, hugging the coastline as much as possible, from Applecross to Dundonnell further north near Loch Broom.

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We left Hartfield House hostel and I had a surprise for Lindsay first thing in the morning. We only had to drive about a mile to eat breakfast at a simply wonderful restaurant; Applecross Walled Garden Potting Shed Cafe! How often does one have that opportunity?

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There were so many choices of seating opportunities, and although sitting outside was tempting, we opted for an indoor table. They had plenty of freshly cut flowers from the garden on the table and window sills, however, so we were still close to the flowers while we enjoyed our scrumptious meal.

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IMG_4162They have a very good menu with lots of options to choose from and I finally decided upon Smoked Salmon Eggs Benedict.

We enjoyed a leisurely breakfast and then went outside to walk around the garden.

They grow most of the food they serve here and it’s nice to know it’s so fresh!

The vegetables are grown in raised beds and the gardener appears to be using the “French Intensive” method of gardening that I prefer to use myself.

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IMG_4153One of the things I particularly like about the French Intensive method is that you can use a newly constructed raised bed as a compost pit. All the great stuff that goes on in the compost pile stays right there in the raised bed; the nutrients from the pile leach directly to the soil in the bed.

At right, the picture shows how they have gathered seaweed from the shoreline and layered it directly onto the bed. The bed will get turned with a pitchfork and the layers get mixed together to create a soil that is super-enriched with nutrients creating a wonderful compost suitable for planting. Once the compost pile has done its job of breaking down the roughage and turning it into super-soil, you can just plant directly into the bed! It’s fantastic!

But I digress…we were talking about traveling weren’t we, and I got side-tracked about gardening techniques!

Let’s walk around the garden and see what other treasures it holds…

IMG_4139Isn’t it a delightful garden?  I was here last year and it’s looking a lot better this year. The gardener has done a lot of work to bring it back to a nicely kept garden. Nice to see it looking so good, increased productivity and it’s obvious it’s being well-cared for!

Lots of nice places to sit to enjoy the views from. I am partial to the boat serving as the backboard for the bench. Good idea! That bench under the rose arch is inviting as well.

A perfect way to start a day – eat breakfast in the garden! Time to start heading up the road, however, to see what surprises the rest of the day has in store for us! We drove down to the edge of the water in the bay at low tide and enjoyed the views before leaving town…IMG_4120

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…and also got one more look at the Hairy Coos grazing in their pasture nearby. We also had a nice opportunity to watch a herd of local deer up close and personal. Such graceful creatures.

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IMG_2347We started driving north from Applecross to Shieldaig going around the peninsula instead of driving back over the Bealach na Ba.

It offered up some scenic sights too…

IMG_4184IMG_4187When we reached the tip at Fearnmore; the views were fantastic in all directions including looking back the way we had come…IMG_4193Next, the road turned to the east and hugged the northern coastal boundary of the peninsula along the edge of Loch Torridon and Loch Shieldaig, as it wound its way to the lovely little village of Shieldaig. The views across the Lochs of the majestic mountains (or Beinns – as the Scottish call them) opened across the water. Stunning!IMG_4207

IMG_4209Little creeks and rivers flowed down the rock waterfalls at the roads’ edge at various places. We took some videos of the route and the waterfalls just for you!

 

Then we reached Shieldag… another example of an outstandingly picturesque waterside village!  I could spend some time here!IMG_4221

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We didn’t stay long this time, however, just enough to stretch our legs and then we were back on the road again drinking in the beauty as it flowed magically past the windows of the car… what an absolutely delightful drive!

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We continued driving a total of about 8 miles from Sheildaig until we reached the town Torridon where the two peninsulas meet. I can’t believe how many beautiful sights are crammed into that 8-mile stretch of road!  Amazing!

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IMG_4253Torridon is a nice little village situated at the edge of Upper Loch Torridon with everything you could need (i.e.; a general store and cafe, post office and there’s even a great looking YHA hostel!) Perhaps I’ll need to book a stay here during my next trip!

Below is the view from the general store/cafe looking back at the shoreline we had just followed!

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IMG_4252After Torridon, our route took us cross-country to the next loch, Loch Maree, instead of driving around the peninsula. (We would have gone that way but there weren’t any roads that go completely around it.) It took us through a valley flanked by these wonderful Beinns (mountains) to the north…IMG_4254

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IMG_4261…and these to the south.IMG_4260

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IMG_4264We happened upon a side road that took us to a bridge not far from the main road (A896) with a great view of the river A’Ghairbhe as we worked our way around Beinn Eighe toward Loch Maree.

 

 

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IMG_4270We turned left onto the A832 heading west and north toward Gairloch. About 7 miles later we happened upon a nice rest area where we drank in stunning views of Slioch mountain from the south shore of Loch Maree.IMG_4269

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IMG_4275About 11 miles further and we were enjoying the views from “The ‘Sitooterie’ wildlife observation garden” in front of the Post Office at the Gairloch harbor (below). The water is so smooth at this time of day before the winds kick up and its surface reflects so beautifully. You just can’t take a bad picture!IMG_4276By this time we were getting a bit hungry so we stopped just up the road a bit further at the Shieling Restaurant for a bite to eat. I enjoyed a nice BLT while Lindsay indulged in a yummy looking shrimp cocktail! (Hmmm, maybe I should have ordered that!)

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The A832 cuts right at the top end of Gairloch and heads across the peninsula toward Poolewe on Loch Ewe. There’s not much to see on that 5-mile stretch of road but once you reach Poolewe there are quite a few options of things to see and do.  For instance, the National Trust manages a very beautiful garden there called Inverewe Garden.

IMG_4299We drove into the parking lot but it was super crowded so we decided not to go in. (I visited it last year with my friend Pat MacLeod from Dingwall and wrote a blog post about it already so I’m not going to tell any information about it in this post, however,  if you would like to see that post you can click here: Inverewe-gardens)

It is an absolutely beautiful garden. It is widely regarded as one of the most beautiful gardens in Scotland, in fact. Inverewe is a must for anyone who loves nature. The most we will see it today is this view of it from across the bay.IMG_4297Inverewe Gardens sits on a small peninsula that juts out into Loch Ewe. On the northern side of the hill behind the garden, you can see more of the massive loch. The view looking back toward Poolewe with the mountains beyond is also quite striking.

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“During World War II, Loch Ewe was a safe haven for naval vessels and merchant ships. Its attractiveness lay in its depth, size, and seclusion with convenient access to the Atlantic Ocean it made journey times shorter.

Merchant ships laden with supplies sailed from Loch Ewe under naval protection on the renowned Arctic Convoys – sadly it was the last voyage for many seamen. While coping with freezing cold water and the menace caused by German U-boats and bombers, the convoys carried their vital supplies to war-torn Russia. Loch Ewe was a naval base from 1939 to 1945. It was protected by light and heavy anti-aircraft guns. A boom net and mine defense system helped protect the vessels in the loch from submarines and air attacks.

Altogether 481 merchant ships and over 100 naval escort vessels left Loch Ewe for Russia in a total of 19 Arctic Convoys. In a nutshell, this place existed because supplies needed to get to the Russians by their allies in order to defeat Nazi Germany.

Imagine standing here in the 1940s looking down on a sea black with ships – so many in fact that it is said, “You could walk from one side of Loch Ewe to the other without getting your feet wet!”IMG_4313In this village of Aultbea, military personnel outnumbered local residents 3-1.IMG_4320Aultbea has an exhibition center which houses all kinds of memorabilia, photographs, recorded accounts and stories from people who were there during the operations. It’s really interesting and definitely worth a stop. It’s not a very big building at all, but it’s organized quite well and they’ve managed to fit quite a bit of stuff in there; they haveutilized every square inch quite efficiently.IMG_2012Here is just a small sampling of what they have on display in the way of paintings, posters, models of ships, some tools of the trade and some very interesting stories told by the locals.

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After we had a nice visit at the exhibition center we drove a bit further up the road as far as Dundonnell at the end of Little Loch Broom.

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IMG_4362This view looking from Second Coast down at Little Gruinard Beach below in the distance was spectacular!IMG_4364

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IMG_4371We drove the last 10 miles of our route hugging the coastline of Little Loch Broom enjoying the views until we reached Dundonnell. At this point we turned around and headed back the way we came, making our way back to Gairloch where we had secured a room for the night. Oh darn! We have to look at this beautiful scenery again?!?! What torture!

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We stopped for a break when we passed back through Aultbea and got a latte at Aultbea Hotel.

I’ve seen these “bathroom” signs before that they had for the toilets; I think they are really cute.

After our break, we continued on down the road a little further. When we arrived at Poolewe we turned right off of the main road (A832) and headed out on a single-track road hugging the western edge of Loch Ewe.

We were headed to the War Memorial which honors the men who lost their lives on the Arctic Convoy missions. It stands proudly out at the tip of the peninsula. There are also a lot of decrepit and deserted remains of military batteries scattered about the rocks at the Cove Light Anti Aircraft Battery installation from World War 2 I wanted Lindsay to see.

The drive back to Poolewe held our attention with its superb scenery…

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Another 5 miles and we arrived at the Gairloch Hotel on the shores of the bay. It’s a lovely accommodation with great views and a nice restaurant where we enjoyed a pleasant meal and a simply wonderful piece of cheesecake!  The perfect topping for a perfect day of gloriously stunning landscapes.

Attitude of Gratitude ~ I am ever so grateful for having good eyesight. Sometimes it’s the little things that we take for granted, like being able to see, for instance, that we tend to overlook. This day was filled with so many wonderful sights; it reminds me to feel grateful that I can see.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beahlach na Ba & Applecross

The morning of May 22nd showed promise of sunshine after a bit of a drizzly day in Dingwall the day before and the forecast for the west coast, where we were headed, appeared even more promising.

This leg of our 4-day adventure would take us as far as the village of Applecross. I was particularly thrilled to be taking Lindsay, a native of Scotland, to a place he had never visited before! The journey to Applecross from Dingwall is only about 60 miles and takes just a couple of hours.  It’s a lovely drive that passes several lochs along the way complete with some very pretty outstanding views.

The road narrows to a single-track for quite a few miles before reaching Lochcarron, but it’s quite navigatable as long as you adhere to the courtesy of using all the available “passing places” when meeting an oncoming vehicle.  Scottish drivers are so polite and patient. They always wave at the other driver who has pulled over into a passing place as an acknowledgment and “thank you” for doing so.

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We drove about 3/4 of the way when we arrived at Lochcarron’s Waterside Cafe where we stopped for a latte and a butt break to enjoy the views before traveling further.

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They have great coffee and some yummy looking snacks to go with it.  I particularly liked the sign they also had posted on the wall!

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The last 20 miles of the route from Lochcarron to Applecross takes us up and over the Beahlach Na Ba – the Pass of the Cows. The road climbs steeply and zig-zags back and forth up the canyon in the photo above.  Below is a picture of a map of the road. The picture above is taken from Point 25 on the right side of the map below.

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We continued along the road toward Tornapress where we turned left to cross the river and begin our ascent.IMG_3947

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This road is part of the “North Coast 500 Route” (Scotland’s Route 66) and is very popular. Any vehicle larger than a car is prohibited due to its steep terrain, single-track roadbed and switchback turns. On the weekends it can be quite congested, but during the week it isn’t too terribly busy. It isn’t for the faint of heart or someone in a hurry, however, the views from the top and along its length are breathtaking!

Once at the top of the canyon, the ground flattens out a bit at the Beahlach na Ba viewpoint at an elevation of 2,053 feet. Don’t just drive by this viewpoint! Stop and get out of the car. It offers up some of the most outstanding views of the Isle of Skye looking south (with Raasay Island in the foreground). It’s also usually quite windy up there so hang on to your hat as you stand with your mouth agape as you take in the beauty before your eyes!IMG_3978IMG_3985

We climbed back in the car after that delightful stop and began our descent down the other side of the pass to Applecross.

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When we arrived in Applecross, we drove through the village and on down the road toward the small village of Toscaig just to see what was down there.  The map below shows the 5-mile route we followed.applecross shoreline road map

We drove out to the tip of that little peninsula across from us where the video above ends to have a look around.

The road ended at a house near a rocky beach we could access.

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The geological formations were quite interesting I thought.

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IMG_4030That little tour to the rocky beach took us off the main road, so after we watched the sheep for a bit we continued our travels back the main track to Toscaig and then doubled back to Applecross.

 

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We stopped at the Applecross Inn to enjoy a nice seafood lunch… (they have the best food!)

I ordered the freshly caught Langostini while Lindsay stuck with his tried and true favorite.

After that scrumptious lunch, we continued exploring the valley. There is a huge herd of “Hairy Coos” there and they are always fun to watch and there is a lovely river flowing down the canyon that is nice to spend time next to.

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IMG_4086We also visited the Clachan church and churchyard built in 1817. There used to an early Christian monastic community founded by Saint Maelrubha on this site.

 

 

 

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IMG_2358It had been a wonderful day of exploring. For a finale, we headed back to Applecross Inn to enjoy some more of their yummy food for dinner and to watch the sun slowly set in the west.

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Lindsay opted for gammon steak & eggs while I enjoyed the pan-seared King Sea Scallops!

Scotland is quite far north latitude-wise. I often forget that fact when I’m there. It seemed to me that it was probably about 7 or 8 o’clock in the evening while we sat there enjoying our meal by the waters’ edge, but in reality, it was more like 9:30 or 10! The sun doesn’t set until almost 11!

By the time we finished that wonderful meal, we were ready to call it a day and we headed to our beds at the Hartfield House Hostel upriver to sleep peacefully snuggled up amongst a nice grove of trees. We could hear the cows ‘lowing’ in the fields nearby and they lulled us off to a restful sleep.

Attitude of Gratitude ~ Thank God for beautiful vistas such as we saw that day. And thank goodness for those cute little baby hairy coos too! I just can’t seem to get enough of them!

 

Dingwall & Tulloch Castle (hint: click on this title to go directly to the post at WordPress)

First, allow me to explain the title of this post…

When I receive notification in my email inbox that “Claudia’s Travels” has published a new post (I “follow” my own blog) I have noticed that as I read the post in the email, I can’t see the slideshows of photos I have put together and placed within the text. I’ve also noticed that the photos I have carefully and artfully arranged in “tiled mosaic grouping’s” do not appear as they should; they are all separated and are scattered willy-nilly about the page.

My ‘followers’ are probably experiencing the same effect, which is a tad bit frustrating.  If you’ve experienced this as a follower I’ve decided to share a helpful tip with you.

If you click on the blue colored ‘Title’ of the post in the email, it will open up your browser and take you directly to my WordPress blog site. You will be able to read the post, watch the slideshows of photos, and see the grouped pictures as they are supposed to appear.  You will probably enjoy the post a lot more! Hope this information makes reading my blog a much more pleasurable experience for you.

Now that we have those ‘techy’ problems out of the way, let’s get back to the topic at hand…

After all that fun at the Gordon Highland Games the day before, we slept soundly and woke refreshed the morning of May 21st and were blessed with beautifully sunshiney views of the beach outside. We soaked up the vistas as we enjoyed our breakfasts; Lindsay enjoyed the full Scottish breakfast, while I sampled their french toast and bacon.

IMG_3660IMG_3661The next leg of our adventure took us as far as Dingwall, where our great-great-grandparents lived and raised their family.

Dingwall is our ancestral home and we had another opportunity to spend the night there at Tulloch Castle. We were excited to get our day started so after our hearty breakfast we packed up the car and continued on down the road.

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I recently made contact with yet another descendant of our Frew family who lives in California. His great-grandfather, Thomas MacNaughten Frew II, immigrated to America in the 1800s with my great-grandfather, William Rose Frew.

First, they went to Montana, where William got married and then they headed south to  California. William homesteaded in Lancaster and Thomas opened a Blacksmith shop not too far away in the town of Newhall. After a short period of time, William unexpectedly passed away from a fall off a windmill. His widow, Nancy, returned to Montana where she lived the rest of her life.

Unfortunately,  the familial connections were severed with Thomas and his family at that point in time as far as I know. One of Thomas’ descendants, Tom IV, did a DNA test recently and we were able to find each other through matching DNA results. How cool is that?!?  Now that I’ve connected with him, Lindsay and I are so excited to share all the genealogy and ancestral treasures we’ve collected with him as well. In fact, later this fall, my sister, Suzie, and I are planning a trip to go meet Tom and his family in person.

Since we were going right through Dingwall on our adventure, Lindsay and I wanted to take a lot of current photos of the town: its museum, the houses our ancestors lived in, streets they walked on, schools they attended, etc., in order to share them with Tom when I meet him face-to-face in October.

The first time I met Lindsay during my very first trip to Scotland about 12 years ago, we met up and visited Dingwall together. He took me around to all of the special places in Dingwall and shared all its treasures with me. So this time, we retraced our steps and re-visited each of the sights together again. That was a fun walk down memory lane in itself!

Our first stop was Mitchell Hill Cemetery where a lot of our relatives are buried, including Lindsay’s great-grandfather, John Rose Frew, who was a brother to Thomas & William. We took photos of relatives’ headstones and visited the Mitchell monument at the top of the hill.

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Then we headed back down the hill descending into the town of Dingwall at its base…

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We headed straight for St. Clements church in the center of town to take pictures of where John, Thomas, and William’s parents are buried in its churchyard.

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It was good to see that the painting restorations I had done to their headstone a couple of years ago are still holding up quite nicely!  The paint hasn’t chipped and it is staying in place and just as vibrant as the day I painted it!

We walked around town taking pictures of High street and the businesses along it; the picture house, the chip shop and somehow I couldn’t quite resist the temptations of Deas Bakery!

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In the center of High Street stands the clock tower at the old courthouse just down the lane from St Clements church. This building is the centerpiece of Dingwall and now houses the museum.

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We visited various houses that our second great grandparents lived in for a while, and stopped by ‘Sunnyholme,’ the house that Lindsay’s great-grandfather, John Rose, lived in.

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We met up with our good friend, Ian MacLeod, curator of the Dingwall Museum. He had created a new window display which celebrated 100 years of the Royal Air Force. He has collected these beautiful commemorative plates over the years and they make a fitting display.

We walked through the arched walled pathway back to the museums’ garden patio and admired the pictorial history of Dingwall on its walls along the way.

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Afterward, we met with Pat MacLeod, Ian’s wife, inside the museum and she showed us around to the new displays and exhibits they have created since we last visited.

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In the Reception area of the museum, numerous memorabilia from our family still grace the walls; the John Rose Frew clock keeping time & pictures of our cousins standing in front of the Chemist Shop which was operated by another great uncle, James MacDonald Frew. His Chemist shop is now the Reception area for the museum.

We marveled at the ancient Mercat Cross standing in the window and which used to stand outside on the square in front of the courthouse.

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We headed upstairs to what used to be the Council Chambers. They have it set up as if a Council meeting is taking place. Lindsay’s great-grandfather, John Rose, is an honored member on the Roll of Provosts who have served proudly over the decades. He served in 1906.

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We got to look at a lot of old photos of the town, Tulloch Castle, and what life looked like when our great-grandparents were children living in this town.

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Pat joined us for more picture taking elsewhere, and we stopped in Strathpeffer, a quaint Victorian town nearby for a bite to eat at a really good deli opened by Dea’s Bakery! We enjoyed a satisfying lunch of sandwiches, quiche, and salad before continuing on our way.

Our final stop for the day was the Neil Gunn monument. Neil Gunn is a famous and much beloved Scottish author, much like Mark Twain is for us here in the U.S. It just so happens that he married one of our cousins, Jesse Dallas Frew.  (You may have noticed her headstone from the Mitchell Hill cemetery photos earlier).

One of the most famous books he authored was “Silver Darlings.”  This monument showcases that piece in particular. The upright slabs of rock you see encircling the large stone are carved with scenes from the book.

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On either side of the walls next to the Tryst Gate, there are carved quotes from the same book.

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It had been a full day of activity going around to all the special sights in Dingwall together. We were ready to relax after a nice dinner with Pat & Ian at their favorite restaurant. We drove up to Tulloch Castle sitting on the hill above Dingwall and settled in for the evening.

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We got a couple of ‘wee’ drams of our favorite Scottish Whisky and settled in nicely next to the fire in the sitting room.

Later, we joined in with a group of other guests, to take the 9 o’clock ghost tour of the castle!

The bartender gathered us together in the bar and then took us around to a lot of other rooms that guests don’t normally have access to unless, of course, they are part of a wedding party or some other event.

We started out in the dungeon which was just off the main entryway.

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Next, we went into the oak-paneled room which, if I’m remembering correctly, used to have a billiards table for the menfolk. There were lots of pictures of past inhabitants on the walls, and this old woman is said to be one of the ghosts seen at times wandering about the castle halls.

Then we were escorted into this huge room which is where larger weddings and large banquets are held.

Right next door is this handy bar! This really would be a nice venue for a wedding!

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Then we entered the formal dining room. Its walls were graced with very large paintings.

The young girl on the left of this large family portrait evidently fell down the stairs to her death after she caught her father involved in a little hanky-panky with one of the servants. It surprised and shocked her so much she went running down the stairs and tripped.

She is quite an active ghost according to the siting’s our tour guide shared. At the time of her death, she wasn’t much older than she was in the painting. You might notice in the upper left-hand corner of the painting behind her that the canvas looks very dark, almost black.  That’s because the father had been standing behind her and her mother in the painting, but after his dastardly deed, which caused the death of his daughter, he was painted over and blacked out of the portrait!

 

The tour was great and it was nice to see the rest of the castle and hear more about its history.  Before we left the following morning we also visited the Clan Davidson library.

It was filled to the brim with all manner of Davidson family history, stories about its inhabitants and a ton of old photos.

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It had been a fun-filled day walking down memory lane in our ancestral home.

Attitude of Gratitude ~ Getting to retrace ancestral ties with Lindsay in Dingwall like we did so many years ago was a real treat and we are both so grateful we had the opportunity to do it. We both love our heritage and our roots are dear to us so it’s a blessing to us both to get to be together remembering them all and keeping them alive in our hearts and minds.

 

 

Gordon Highland Games

It was yet another sunny and beautiful Sunday in Scotland when Lindsay and I set out for a 4-day adventure across the Scottish Highlands to the west coast from Aberdeen. The general route we followed (as shown below) included some interesting and extremely scenic sights along the way including the Bealach na Ba (Pass of the Cows), our ancestral town of Dingwall, the lovely little seaside village of Applecross, to and through Poolewe, Inverness to visit the gravesite of our 4th great grandma and a very interesting tour of a “Cooperage” in Aberlour where “Coopers” make whisky barrels for local distilleries.

trip map

I will be sharing these adventures with you over the next 3-4 blog posts and I’m hoping you’ll enjoy reading about them. Our first stop on May 20th was in a village called Fochabers (Point B on the map above), where we attended one of my favorite Scottish Events – Highland Games, this time hosted by Clan Gordon at Gordon Castle!

Through the gates with a throng of other attendees, we approached the imposing tower of Gordon Castle sitting center stage. I didn’t have to wait long before I was seeing one of my favorite sights – men in kilts!

Just to the left of the main entrance was a fantastic display of various birds of prey. Over the course of the day, the Falconer put on exhibitions of these marvelous and well-trained specimens of nature.  Aren’t they exquisite examples?

Highland Games always have a wide selection of traditional Scottish culinary specialties to tease your taste buds with. I noticed this vendor with his unique offering of smoked fish all stacked and cooking over the smoking barrel! Yum!

IMG_3507This fella looked mighty pleased with his purchase and delighted to be diving in for his first bite!

I’ve been to several Highland Games at various locations. They have all been similar in regards to their set up and content but Clan Gordon seemed to take a little bit different approach.

Usually, there is just one event field or arena, and all the various kinds of competitions take place in that field in sectioned off areas. The crowds watch from the perimeter of the field and roam around its periphery to watch certain events which interest them.

Gordon Castle was the centerpiece in this case and various areas around the castle were set up for particular events. For example, in the gardens in front of the castle, the Highland Dancing Competitions were held by themselves; separate from the main field events such as the heavyweight competitions.  At other games I’ve attended, the young lassies competed in a portion of the same field that the heavyweight events (such as Shot Put or Heavy Hammer Toss) were also taking place.

In addition, they actually had two main fields; one in front of the castle with various activities and demonstrations being conducted and the other, behind the castle in its backyard, if you will, where all of the heavyweight competitions took place.

Since we were still in the front area of the castle, we enjoyed watching the young girls all dressed up in their Highland Dance garb competing up on stage dancing their little hearts out to the sounds of the Piper. Aren’t they just adorable?

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Across the way from the dances,  in the front main field, there were other various demonstrations going on like this one that really appealed to the young teens in the crowd – the Savage Skills of mountain bike mastery!

IMG_3482We noticed a lot of people heading down a pathway toward the back of the castle.

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We joined up with them to discover that the heavyweight competitions were being staged back there in another large arena and we arrived just in time to watch the Caber Toss.

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Up close, one can see how muscular and strong the heavyweight competitors are! A lot of these guys travel all over the countryside competing against one another as they make their way around the circuit of highland games throughout the summer, vying for overall championship awards.  Other competitors might just be some local lads competing alongside them.

I could hear a pipe band playing in the background as I shot the video above so we decided we would go find where the music was coming from and also find some lunch while we were at it.

Along the way, we passed booth after booth of fine handcrafted items for sale and we also enjoyed the people watching.

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The couple below enjoys dressing up in period costumes from days past and it was fun to talk to them. I had seen them before at Lonach Highland Games in Strathdon a couple of years ago and it was good to see them again.

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Eventually, we found the fish & chips vendor near this humungous Rhododendron bush! It must be hundreds of years old!

IMG_3569We sat in its shade enjoying our fish supper.

Afterward, another pipe band had started to play so we continued our search, following the sounds of pipes and drums until we found them playing near the back door of the castle.

I love listening to a pipe band and hearing the traditional tunes they play! It stirs my Scottish blood.

After that treat, we heard the announcement that the Heavy Hammer Toss competition was beginning in the main arena nearby.  Let’s head over there and check it out!

Oh, look! We are also just in time for the Tug-of-War too!

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Now the lads are warming up for the Shot Put…

 

 

One aspect of Highland Games that I particularly enjoy is the inclusion of dogs – all kinds of dogs! Some are ‘working’ dogs and go everywhere they’re Masters venture, but others are just adorable pets.  They are all welcome at the games, and there is always a nice variety of breeds to enjoy.  And of course, some of them are just so darned cute!

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I really enjoyed the Gordon Highland games, but I have to admit that one aspect I didn’t like was that they had two large event fields with a lot of various activities happening in each.

It’s important to get a copy of the Schedule of Events when you first arrive at a game so you don’t miss your particular favorites and also position yourself around the field to get a good view of the event you want to watch, but at least it is all happening in just one field. At the Gordon Games, Lindsay and I found we had to go back and forth between each field as events we wanted to watch unfolded. That involved a lot of walking in the crowded pathways back and forth between them and that was tiring and taxing.

After watching the heavyweight competitions in the backfield, we had to walk back to the front field to watch the parade of the Pipe Bands.  This is the absolute best part of any highland game as far as I’m concerned! Lots of lads and lassies in kilts and they are playing drums and playing pipes!

Near the end of the afternoon, we spent our time walking around just enjoying the sights. This little darling had a perfect seat high above us on her “da’s” shoulders and other children of all ages were enjoying the ice cream in the warm afternoon sunshine.

We ventured into the big pavilion tent which had kinds of wonderful goodies you could taste test and yummy things for sale!

I bought a jar of Fresh Raspberry Jam from this sweet young lady but I really wanted a jar of each flavor! It was soooo good!

I definitely needed to sample this new variety of Scottish Whisky the Glenfiddich Distillery was offering up! IMG_3600

There were also a lot more handcrafted items for sale as well which featured some quite imaginative items amongst them.

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Just before we decided to call it a day, we noticed a “mum ‘n dad” race just about to begin in the nearby field where the kids’ races had been taking place earlier. That was fun to watch…IMG_3625

On the way out we finally found where they were holding the individual Piper’s Competitions – on the tennis courts back in a grove of trees – of course! It’s no wonder I kept hearing ‘distant’ pipes playing all day long and couldn’t ascertain where the sounds were coming from.  They were hiding!

Lindsay and I were having such a super day at the Gordon Highland Games, but we were getting a bit tuckered out from all the fun. Our lodging for the night was just a little further up the road on the coast at Lossiemouth. We were returning to Skerry Brae because we had enjoyed it so much a few weeks earlier and luckily they still had a room left just for us!IMG_1792

We got checked in and were promptly greeted by their friendly Bartender and “hostess with the mostess” in their bar and restaurant. She got us set up with fresh beverages to sip while they prepared our “dinner” (or as the Scottish would say – “tea”).

We enjoyed a really nice meal of surf & turf while we sat and watched a beautiful cloud formation drift by over the lighthouse in the distance and we reflected upon all that we had seen and done that first day of our adventure.

We soon thereafter settled off into a wonderful sound sleep for the rest of the night. What a perfect day it was!  In the morning we would be heading further west to the seaside village of Applecross! But that, my dear readers, is another story for yet another day…

Attitude of Gratitude ~ I am so glad the tradition of Highland Games has been upheld and kept active over the centuries! What a fun event to attend.  The Scottish are very proud of their heritage and culture and I am grateful and honored by being counted among them.