Making Long Lost Ancestral Connections

In 1881 two brothers left Dingwall, Scotland for Liverpool, England to emigrate to the USA. William Rose Frew, my great-grandfather, was just 21 years old and his older brother, Thomas MacNaughton Frew II, was 23 when they made the great voyage. According to William’s naturalization papers, they landed near Chicago and ended up in Canada.

A year later, records indicate that William had made it as far west as Dillon, Montana, where he opened up a photography studio at a time when photography was in its infancy. He opened it with another man by the name of Nesbitt located near the Dillon Tribune newspaper office.

William Rose Frew I Bozeman, MT abt 1884
William Rose Frew


Thomas MacNaughton Frew II, Dillon, Montana Photo by William Rose FrewThomas temporarily parted ways with William while still in Canada and headed to Michigan where their mother’s brother, Uncle William Alexander Dallas Rose, owned several lumber mills. Thomas worked as a blacksmith for Uncle WAD for a year or so but then he eventually ended up joining his brother in Dillon, Montana where the photo of him by William Rose was taken.

William Rose fell in love with the daughter of the Editor of the Dillon Tribune, Hiram Brundage.Hiram Brundage

Her name was Nancy Anne Brundage. Nancy Anne Brundage


By November of 1883 William Rose and Nancy Anne were wed in Dillon, and a year later my grandfather, William Rose Frew II, was born in the frontier town complete with covered wagons.



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Thomas also fell in love with a woman named Evangeline Lilly from Wisconsin. How they met I’m not quite sure but after their marriage in Wisconsin in 1890, they traveled back out west to Sacramento where their first child was born. William Rose with his wife and son also traveled down to California, met up with Thomas and they all settled on homesteads in the Antelope Valley near Lancaster in Southern California.

Unfortunately, within 2 years, my great-grandfather, William Rose, died from a fall off of a windmill at the young age of 32, leaving his widow and children alone in the desert. She was pregnant at the time and made the decision to return to her family in Montana rather than stay in California.

His brother, Thomas and his family, however, stayed put in California and by 1900 had relocated to Newhall where he bought a blacksmith shop. The business prospered and endured for another 40 years after his death in 1934.


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Thomas and his family lost all contact with his brother’s widow, Nancy Anne, and William’s children when they went back to Montana. Consequently, the descendants of the two brothers had no contact with one another for 126 years until just recently!

My sister, Sue, shares my interest in genealogy, and she also enjoys visiting Scotland and places where our ancestors are from almost as much as me!  When she heard that I had made contact with Thomas MacNaughton Frew IV (our great-grandfather’s brother’s grandson) this last winter through DNA result matching she was excited. She got even more excited when she also learned that I had plans to go and meet him and asked if she could join me!

I spent a good part of the spring and early summer this year visiting Holland and Scotland as you well know if you’re following this blog. During the winter, while I was planning that wonderful trip I had the good fortune to make connections through DNA results in Ancestry with Tom Frew IV (my long lost cousin, and my great-grandfather’s nephew from Newhall!) It was the first time those two lines of the family had talked in over a hundred years! We were both so excited! We talked on the phone a few times and soon decided it would be great to get together once I returned from my trip abroad in mid-June.

Little did I know, however, that once I got home from Scotland, I would sell my house and move north to the Portland, Oregon area to live closer to my own granddaughter, and great-granddaughter within two weeks’ time! By the 4th of July, I had relocated and was actively looking for a new house to buy. This unexpected move waylaid my plans to travel south to meet Tom in August, but I promised him I’d make it down to California by Halloween.

On October 5th, I started my 1,000-mile drive to Southern California to meet my long lost cousin Tom.


Along the way, I stopped at Fort Bragg, California to pick up my sister Sue, (Point B above), and we continued on as far as Monterey where we spent the night and enjoyed a wonderful harbor side seafood dinner at sunset. She enjoyed King Scallops and I had the Rock Cod. Yum!


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The following day before leaving Monterey we enjoyed a local Parisian Bakery and it’s delightful assortment of delicious pastries before we toured the famous “17-Mile Drive” in Carmel-by-the-Sea and Pebble Beach.



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Afterward, we drove US Hwy 101 south towards Santa Barbara and Ventura, stopping off occasionally to take in the beautiful seaside vistas. We even chanced upon a pod of California Brown Pelicans roosting on the cliff sides and gliding in the air around us!


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IMG_7908Not long afterward we were arriving in Camarillo and we would meet our cousin for the first time! Even though we had never met one another, he cordially invited us to stay with him in his lovely home and we spent many hours during the rest of the week, visiting, sharing photos and stories and getting to know one another! He is quite the character, a gracious and generous host and definitely one of our own! We all hit it off wonderfully.


He shared so many wonderful old photos of his grandparents, his parents and life growing up in Newhall.


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The Frews were prominent and active citizens in their hometown and played a big part in their community over the course of decades, including the 4th of July parade every year with their entry floats.


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Tom Frew III inherited the business from his father and carried on the business.

IMG_7686Over the years they built a new shop next to the old one which had now become quite dilapidated.  Of course, they built the framing for the new structure out of steel and welded it together for strength and durability!


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Tom IV inherited the family business from his father as well, but times were changing and Tom also had other interests in life he wanted to pursue so he closed the shop and followed his dreams, just as his grandfather had before the turn of the century.

Although he is retired now, he gave a lot of his time in service to his community by serving as Docent at the Historical society for instance. He is also a very creative man and has quite the imagination and ingenuity.  One of his favorite things to do was to host extravagant and well-planned parties for his family and friends.  One year he turned his house into “Castle of the Oaks” and hosted a medieval event called “Midsummer Moonlight Madness!” Below is a copy of the proclamation scrolls he had printed up as invitations!IMG_7783

It took him a very long time to create the right atmosphere so the parties happened every couple of years. He is very creative with cardboard. He built the entire castle walls out of cardboard which were painted grey and then stamped with painted styrofoam templates to make it look like rock walls.


He also created thrones with ordinary lawn chairs by adding cardboard. Guests ate meat, cheese, and bread off of wooden planks branded with the “King Frew” coat of arms and drank their ale from specially purchased medieval mugs!


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On another occasion, he created a circus complete with tigers, acrobat performers, a tattooed lady, and his aunt Vangie came as the bearded lady!  What fun! He even had tickets, posters, and press releases printed up for it!  Naturally, he came as the Ring Master and made his grand entrance on an elephant!


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Suzie and I had so much fun getting to know our long lost cousin and we thoroughly enjoyed looking at all of his photo albums chock full of memorabilia from his life while he relived and shared his adventures and events in his life with us. During the week we spent with him there was never a dull moment from all the stories he had to share.

One day we traveled about 45 miles from Tom’s house in Camarillo to his hometown of Newhall (now part of Santa Clarita) so he could show us a number of things he thought we would be interested in seeing.

Our first stop was at the Santa Clarita Historical Society where the second home his grandfather built is located and sits on a piece of property which adjoined the estate of a famous silent movie cowboy star, William S. Hart. We parked the car and walked over to his grandfather’s house. All the while, Tom reminisced about being a young boy visiting his grandparents in this house.


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As we were leaving a Park official came round the corner to ask us if we needed any assistance in any way. We explained who we were and when he found out he was talking to the well-known and highly respected Tom Frew IV, he was delighted!  He had heard so much about him. He invited us into the office, and although the rooms in the house have been transformed into park offices, we could still see traces of how the family lived, what their kitchen looked like, etc.  I could just imagine Tom with his grandparents in this house.

Tom wanted to take us up the hill above the historical society to visit William S. Hart’s house. The Frew’s and the Hart’s were longtime friends and neighbors and I suspect Tom’s interest and work in the movie business stemmed from this association. The Park was hosting a Pet Fair that day, so the park official we met decided to personally escort us up the hill to the mansion through the road barricades and crowds!


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We enjoyed the free tour of the house thanks to William himself. Upon his death, he bequeathed the house and property to the historical society IF they maintained it and let people visit it for free!

Many famous movie stars visited and stayed with William in this mansion on the hill and their pictures graced the halls, and one particularly good friend that William had was Emelia Earhart!


The interior was stunning and full of western cowboy artifacts, handmade Native American rugs, movie props, and all sorts of interesting memorabilia.


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On the way back down the hill to the historical society, we came upon the herd of buffalo and had a great view of the town below.


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We pulled up to the old train station that serves as the museum. Tom used to serve for many years as the Docent here.


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The current Docent got so excited and downright giddy to see Tom when she found out he was in the building visiting. They had a wonderful and happy reunion while Suzie and I checked out the museum.


Before leaving town Tom took us in the old downtown of Newhall where his grandfather’s blacksmith shops had been near the corner of Market & Main Streets. The “newer” shop is quite distinctive because of the arches on the roofline, although it now houses a different kind of business.


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Near the end of our week-long visit, Tom had arranged for several other family members to join us for an afternoon meal in Camarillo. They traveled from various places in Southern California (Atascadero, Goleta, and Westwood in Los Angeles). We felt quite honored that they took such trouble to come to meet us and welcome us into this side of the family.

In the photo below, from left to right – Suzie Frew, Claudia Frew, Judy & Don Nason (Don is Tom’s cousin), Tom Frew IV, Nick & Mary Arnold (Mary’s maiden name is Frew and is also Tom’s cousin), Liana & Tom Frew V (Tom’s eldest son). Suzie and I were fortunate to meet not only one Frew during our visit, but 3 more as well!  What a genealogy treat!


We had such a great time with all of these wonderful and delightful new family members.  By the end of the week, we hated to leave and say goodbye.

The two brothers, Thomas and William, who emigrated to the USA before the 20th century each had families. Although their respective families drifted apart about a decade after their emigration, it’s so nice to have them reunited once again although we are quite spread out across America.

Thomas’ family pretty much stayed put in the same general area of California, while William Rose’s descendants have scattered across the United States.  Some still live in California (my sisters, Sue & Phyllis and some other cousins), I live in Oregon, and we have cousins that live near Seattle & Bellingham, Washington, some still in Montana, and others who live in Idaho, North Carolina, and along the gulf coast of Florida!  Two family members also live in Dublin, Ireland! My cousin’s son Ben, and Tom Frew IV’s younger son Erik!  I wonder if the two of them have crossed paths on Dublin’s streets not knowing they are related to one another! It’s interesting following the family lines throughout history and seeing where they started and where they’ve ended up.

Speaking of which, remember the mention earlier of my great-grandfather, Hiram Brundage, the newspaper guy?  Well… speaking of where people in my family ended up…


Suzie had done quite a bit of research while I was traveling this summer. After he retired from the newspaper business in Dillon, Montana, he also traveled south to California with his second wife and family and bought a lemon grove in Montecito, near Santa Barbara.  Since Sue and I were in the general area while visiting Tom Frew IV in Camarillo we decided to take one of the days we were visiting to see if we could find out any more about our great-great-grandfather, Hiram.

Every town Hiram lived in, starting in Virginia City, Montana he not only started a newspaper business, and built a house, but he was also a founding father of the local Episcopalian church in town! Montecito was no exception. Suzie had made arrangements to visit the “All Saints By The Sea” Episcopal Church in Montecito that he helped build near the turn of the 20th century and to also visit with the archivist there.


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Hiram served as the Senior Warden under the first Vicker, Melvyn Moore. So we were looking at yet another well-built and still standing example of our great-great-grandfather’s handiwork!

One lady greeted us and gave us a tour of the interior with all of its beautiful woodwork and stained glass.


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Then we met with the archivist and she brought out old record books of Marriages, Baptisms, & Births which she had marked ahead of time with pink post-it notes where Hiram or his family were recorded.  She also produced documentation of Hiram’s contribution to the Pew Fund when they needed pews to replace the folding chairs the church used early on and a receipt from the lumber yard that Hiram had purchased the original timbers and supplies from the local mill with which to build the church!  Amazing!


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She also showed us old photographs of the church when it was first built and used before they had the luxury of new pews. I wonder which chair my great-great-grandfather liked to sit upon during services.


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The various people at the church we met were so helpful, informative and quite happy to meet a couple of the descendants of one of their own founding fathers. They presented us with a lovely book about the history of the church and we felt so honored. You meet the nicest people when exploring ancestral and genealogical ties.

After visiting the church we headed for the Santa Barbara Cemetery less than a mile away to see if we could find Hiram’s gravestone and family plot.


We drove to the office and found a plot map. Due to Suzie’s exhaustive research, she had discovered the plot number and it was just a matter of finding it on the map of the cemetery with the help of the receptionist.  Not long afterward we were standing right in front of it.  In the picture below, I have drawn a pencil line to outline the family plot where Hiram, his wife, Mary Jane, and their children are buried.IMG_7864_LI

Hiram and Mary Jane’s headstone were made out of sandstone and have consequently eroded beyond recognition over the decades. Their children’s headstones are still intact.


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The view from Hiram’s resting place is also not too shabby!


My sister and I had such a wonderful trip but it was time to head back to our respective homes so we headed back the way we came early driving through the miles and miles of endless acres of fertile agricultural lands filled with all manner of food for the world; including all sorts of fruits and nuts, orchards, lettuce, artichokes and garlic until we reached San Francisco!


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We crossed the Golden Gate Bridge and continued north to Fort Bragg.

The following morning I continued on my way toward Oregon driving along some of the most beautiful and scenic sections of the northern California coastline which includes lots of trees for miles and miles, including groves of giant Redwoods!


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In the Willamette Valley of Oregon just south of Portland, farmers raise grass seed, and this sight was welcome as it meant I was almost home!


It was a wonderful journey and a very educational one as well. As usual, it far exceeded my wildest dreams in so many aspects and even held a few surprises which I always enjoy but it’s always nice to get back home so I can start planning yet another adventure and keep my eyes directed toward the horizon for more.

Attitude of Gratitude ~ I am ever so thankful that my sister Sue shares my love of family and genealogical ties and that we are able to travel together and share the discoveries with one another.  I am particularly grateful for all the legwork and research she conducted to find out information ahead of time about our great-great-grandfather, Hiram, while I was busy traveling earlier in the year in Scotland. Thank you, Suzie! In addition, I must admit I agree with Sue that we are both extremely grateful for the quality ‘sister time‘ the two of us got to share. After all, it all boils down to making memories with the ones we love, isn’t it?!


One More Adventure Before I Have to Go (Part Two)


On the 10th of June, we left The Drover’s Inn after another yummy and sustaining breakfast and proceeded to spend the day slowly working our way eastward once again visiting a number of interesting sights en route. Although we could have just driven straight through to Aberdeen in a couple of hours, we were having so much fun we decided to add another day to our adventure. Our route for the day was only about 60 miles long and it was a good thing we didn’t have to travel very far because it was once again filled with many wonderful experiences and sights.


IMG_6431Our first stop was just two miles up the A82 highway – The Falls of Falloch.

The River Falloch passes through Glen Falloch as it makes its way south towards Loch Lomond. The falls are 30 feet high and it is a truly enchanting site set in a very peaceful glen.

It is very accessible as well. At the side of the road is a car park and then a very level and wide pathway that follows the road in amongst the trees and leads straight to the falls. At the end of the trail is a sturdy, strong, steel pier-like structure you can stand safely upon where you are positioned out over the edges of rock that surround the falls and over the pools below. It affords the perfect view of the falls.


The river meanders along down the glen and there are many delightful paths to follow tracing the water’s edge while enjoying the gurgling water as it makes its way to Loch Lomond.

After that delightful first stop, we climbed back in the car and turned east on A85, enjoying the views of River Dochart flowing through the glen along the way. When we arrived at the junction of A85 and A827, we turned left onto A827 still following the river which was headed to Killin and Loch Tay.
IMG_6436It’s a lovely drive and about 2 miles up that road are the beautiful Falls of Dochart and a handy-dandy coffee shop right beside the bridge no less!IMG_6447

Further up the road, we came to a lovely little village called Fortingall which I had visited last year with my friend Karen. It holds some very interesting specimens of architecture.

According to Wikipedia: “The attractive village of Fortingall, with its large hotel adjoining the churchyard, was built 1890-91 by a shipowner and Unionist MP, Sir Donald Currie (1825–1909), who bought the Glenlyon Estate, including the village, in 1885. It was designed by the architect James M MacLaren (1853–90) and built by John McNaughton.

The thatched cottages are notable examples of a planned village built in vernacular style (here combining both Lowland Scottish and English influences, notably from Devon) and are increasingly appreciated as one of the most important examples of ‘arts and crafts‘ vernacular style in Scotland.

The Fortingall Hotel, recently restored to its original appearance, is an important example of Scottish vernacular revival. Based on the tower-houses and burgh architecture of the 16th and 17th centuries, but in a modern idiom which anticipates the buildings of Charles Rennie Mackintosh, whose work MacLaren influenced.”

Near the end of the village is the church which I really wanted to share with Lindsay, particularly because of the ancient yew tree in its yard.


It just amazes me how old this tree is!

See the short wooden stakes in the ground? Those mark the original outside perimeter of this ancient tree!

IMG_6463“The Fortingall Yew is an ancient tree in its own walled enclosure within the village churchyard. Its age is estimated to be between 3000 and 9000 years, and it may be the oldest living tree – perhaps even the oldest living thing – in Europe. Place-name and archaeological evidence hint at an Iron Age cult center at Fortingall, which may have had this tree as its focus. The site was Christianised during the Dark Ages, perhaps because it was already a sacred place.”

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“The area immediately surrounding Fortingall has one of the richest concentrations of prehistoric archaeological sites in Scotland, including Càrn nam MarbhGaelic ‘Cairn of the Dead’, a re-used bronze Age tumulus that is said to have been used as a burial ground for plague victims in the 14th century, and a focus for the village’s Samhain festival.” 

The mound with the post sticking out the top of it is the ‘Cairn of the Dead’ where the plague victims were buried in the middle of the pasture in the 14th century.

About 5 miles further we arrived in the village of Kenmore at the end of Loch Tay. We strolled around the grounds of the Kenmore Church of Scotland but didn’t go inside as services were being held.

Then we drove around the other side of the loch and admired the interesting architecture from days past at the Scottish Crannog Center.


The Scottish Crannog Centre is an award-winning and interactive center which shows what Iron Age life was like with a reconstructed prehistoric loch-dwelling. It was built as an archaeological experiment based on underwater discoveries. The thatched roundhouse is a living museum on the water. It overlooks the remains of 4 of the 18 ancient crannog settlements preserved in the loch, with the picturesque village of Kenmore to the east. They conduct interactive tours, but we didn’t take the tour as it would have taken too long.

Instead, we drove 26 miles further east and a little north to our next stop ~ Blair Castle ~ where we did take a tour!

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It’s a wonderful castle to tour and is packed with all kinds of neat stuff to look at.  This castle was used in one of the episodes of PBS’s dramatic productions, “Victoria,” and they had costumes and paraphernalia that the actors wore on display in the rooms where they shot the scenes.  It was really cool.  I loved that series and especially enjoyed seeing the costumes on display.  Like most privately owned castles, they did not allow photography inside except for the grand ballroom at the end of the tour. I found a couple of pictures online of the inside though so you can get a glimpse.

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One of the things that particularly interested me in the grand ballroom at the end of the tour was a display about Niel Gow who was the most famous Scottish fiddler of the eighteenth century. He attracted the attention of the Duke of Atholl, who became Niel’s patron and ensured Niel’s employment for balls and dance parties for local nobility. Many of Niel Gow’s compositions are still played today at ceilidhs and country dances.

On the stage in the massive ballroom of the castle, there is the Raeburn painting of him, his famous fiddle and the chair he sat upon to entertain the parties. I could almost hear his music playing within the walls.


After touring the castle, we walked up to the gardens to enjoy its wonders. There was a lovely rectangular pond the entire length of the garden complete with baby ducks.

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We saw a picture of the pond frozen over in winter with people curling on the surface. Up by the castle’s front door, there were also granite curling stones on display that they had used to play the game years ago.

We walked the entire perimeter of the walled garden enjoying the various flowers and whimsical statues…

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After that wonderful stroll through the garden, we decided to go see something else. We still had a bit of sunlight left in this long summer’s day so we drove down to the village of Dunkeld a few miles down the road. There was one more item I particularly wanted to share with Lindsay while we were in the area.


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The cathedral itself is something to behold; half-ruinous – half still used as a church. Just behind the alter however was something particularly of interest to me that I was sure Lindsay would enjoy seeing – the stone carved likeness of a Knight, but not just any Knight, this one is one of my 18th great grandfathers, Alexander Stewart, the notorious Wolf of Badenoch, who burned down Elgin and Forres when he didn’t get his way many centuries ago. Earlier on this trip, we had visited Elgin Cathedral and Spynie Palace where people were dressed in period clothing and telling the story of Alexander and his escapades.  It seemed only appropriate to show him where Alexander is buried.

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There were many other displays with interesting artifacts at the cathedral too…

…including the original headstone of that famous fiddler we saw at Blair Castle, Niel Gow.

They also had several interpretive signboards that provided some interesting facts and information about the church and its expansive history. It’s quite the place!






One of the “parent Larches” of 14 million Larch trees that were planted in this area. It still stands, and grows, proudly next to the tower. 


At the gates of the cathedral, the oldest buildings of the town line the street back to the village’s center. Each house is marked with a blue round sign denoting its significance.

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After a full and satisfying day of exploring all of these wonderful sights, we gladly checked into our room at the Atholl Arms Hotel across the street from Blair castle.

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After getting our bags up to the room, we headed back downstairs to the Bothy Bar, ordered ourselves some libations and a hearty meal; Chicken Fajitas sizzling on a cast iron griddle for me and a lovely Beef Curry and Rice for Lindsay!



The following morning after a good night’s rest and a delicious breakfast of Scrambled Eggs with Smoked Salmon & Eggs Benedict…

…we set off for home on the back roads through the Cairngorms National Park.


First stop was really close by, “Queen’s View” overlooking Loch Tummel!  What a great way to start the day! IMG_6763



We worked our way toward the Spittal of Glenshee to begin our climb up the mountains toward Braemar.IMG_6775

The path we followed is shown on the map below. Starting at the lower left at Spittal of Glenshee, we drove up the glen to Glenshee, the high pass in the mountains with a ski resort at its peak!

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Now down the other side to Braemar…



From Braemar, we headed toward Balmoral & Crathie (the Queen Elizabeth’s summer residence) and the town of Ballater.


In Ballater, we stopped for a bit of lunch and to check on the progress of the restoration of the Royal Train Station. It burnt down a couple of years ago and they’ve been spending a lot of time and effort to rebuild and restore it.  Looks like great progress is being made!

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At Ballater, we turned right and drove up the glen to the isolated Loch Muick. It’s a picturesque glen and not very many people drive up this way (unless you happen to be an avid walker or outdoorsmen) because it dead ends at the Loch. The mountains to the north are part of Balmoral Estate and therefore off limits because of its royal status.

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The road didn’t go all the way to the Loch, unfortunately.  The last mile or so had to be hiked. With the infestation of a million midges, we decided we wouldn’t venture to the Loch’s edge, after all, but it was definitely a beautiful drive through the glen. After that, it was just a nice leisurely drive along the Deeside Road back to Lindsay’s house and it had been another wonderful and exciting day to finish our adventures with.  I hated to see it come to an end; it had been so much fun! Hope you’ve enjoyed it as well!

Attitude of Gratitude ~ I feel extremely grateful to have had one last adventure with my best bud, Lindsay. We try to fill each day since we only have a relatively short time together and I am so grateful for every moment with him exploring the Scottish countryside and its many wonders!





One More Adventure Before I have to Go! (Part One)

Lindsay and I had one more 4-day adventure planned before my holiday in Scotland would come to its end. We decided to spend our last weekend together traveling over to the west coast again, only this time we would be visiting new places further south. My sister, Suzie, and her husband, George, recommended a very interesting old Inn built in 1705. They have stayed there a couple of times and had nothing but great things to say about it so we also wanted to give it a try. It’s called The Drover’s Inn and it is in the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park just north of Glasgow. It was the perfect place to use as a base for explorations over the weekend in another interesting and scenic region of Scotland.

Below is a map of the routes we took over the course of 4 days. We covered quite a bit of absolutely stunning and picturesque territory. map2The first day we traveled from Aberdeen to Inverarnan near the head of Loch Lomond. It looks like a long distance to travel on the map, but it’s actually only about 140 miles and if driven straight through without stopping, (what would be the fun in that?) it would only take about 2-3 hours, depending on how fast one drives. mapDid I mention there might be some beautiful scenery along the way? IMG_2603A good friend of ours, Karen, lives at Scone and we were driving right through that town on the way to Inverarnan, so we called her up and surprised her with an invitation to join us for lunch.

Last year I spent a couple of absolutely fantastic days with Karen exploring Scone Palace, attending the amazing Perth Tatoo, visiting the medieval town of Culross, standing in awe together in the shadows of the giant Kelpies and marveling at the engineering feat of the Falkirk Wheel – not to mention a fantastic ride out into the countryside near Loch Tay. She fit so much into 2 days I was amazed! (If you would like to read about those adventures with Karen last year, here’s a link to those stories on my older blog “Globetrekker Grandma”…  Perth Tatoo & Loch Tay and Culross, Kelpies & Falkirk Wheel).

Since we were driving right past Karen’s house on this trip we couldn’t possibly think of just driving by! We picked her up and she took us to a wonderful little coffee shop near Scone Palace called Macmillan’s – a charitable venture run by volunteers.

Macmillans coffee shopThe coffee shop is set in a beautiful woodland park and is the ideal place to combine a walk in the fresh Perthshire air with a satisfying lunch. They serve delicious soup, sandwiches, and home-baked goods. All proceeds they receive from the venture go to help cancer patients in Perth and Kinross. It was a great lunch, with a great gal for a great cause!

After that nice lunch break with Karen, we continued along A85 heading west and passing a lot of interesting sights along the way as we followed the River Earn.

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Soon we arrived at the head of Loch Earn at the village of St. Fillans. We gladly got out of the car to take another break and enjoyed a lovely little walk along the loch’s edge.

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IMG_6215When we returned to the car, I noticed this sign posted by the Trossachs National Park. John Muir’s words perfectly reflected what I was thinking at the time…

We only had about 30 miles further to drive to reach our final destination for the day – The Drover’s Inn.

According to their website:

“With over 300 years’ worth of visitors, you’d expect the walls of the Drovers to be able to tell a tale or two. From the famous to the infamous, this historic building has welcomed hundreds of thousands of people, Rob Roy and Gerard Butler to name just a few.

On arrival at The Drovers Inn, you’ll immediately be struck by the imposing architecture and authenticity. Once inside, it’s like taking a step back in time. To an era where folk sang songs and drank their whisky neat by candlelight. Where the fire’s always lit, the food’s always good and the people are always smiling”.

IMG_6217It’s a delightful place and oh-so-old!  When you enter the front door…

…immediately you are surrounded by all sorts of unusual curiosities – stuffed birds, old pictures, a suit of armor and a menacing looking bear to greet you!

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We got checked into our room which was located on the top floor directly above the entrance. It was a great room and made me wonder if someone else who is famous may have stayed in this very room!


IMG_6238We headed back downstairs and enjoyed some of the pub grub and a wee dram (or two). I particularly enjoyed their deep fried haggis appetizer! Yum!

We also enjoyed live music that evening with lots of other people. It’s a popular pub! The West Highland Way  – Scotland’s best-loved long distance walking route – passes right through here so we had a lot of Walkers, young and old alike, enjoying the pub along with us. So many fascinating people from all parts of the world.

The next morning, we decided to explore in the vicinity nearby so we decided to drive further west to the lovely seaside village of Oban. Below is a map of the driving route we followed. (We started at point E heading north & west)map2

IMG_6239After a satisfying full Scottish breakfast, we got in the car and started driving north to tie back in with A85 again following it further west to Oban.

We saw some beautiful sights along the way, like this sight at the Falls of Lora at the juncture of the Firth of Lorn and Loch Etive.

IMG_6245We arrived in Oban, drove around town to various sights and then drove up on the nearest hillside residential section to get a birdseye view of the bay, harbor and waterfront town buildings. We could even see the old ruinous Dunollie Castle tower situated on the tip of the northern boundary of the bay.

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Then we headed down to the waterfront to check out all of the beautiful sailing ships moored there.

We also enjoyed a very nice lunch at the award-winning “Ee-Usk” restaurant situated in the heart of Oban right on the pier.  Ee-Usk means ‘Fish’ (Phonetic Gaelic). Fish is what they are famous for.

I simply love this restaurant. When I visited Oban & took the ferry to the Isle of Iona a couple of years ago, I ate dinner here a few times and looked forward to yet another scrumptious meal. At our table next to the window, we enjoyed uninterrupted views of the neighboring isles of Kerrera, Lismore, and the mountains of Mull and Morven beyond. The Caledonian Macbrayne ferries and fishing boats go back and forth across the bay amongst sailing yachts and small fishing boats. There is also a lot of wildlife in the bay; customers have seen otters, dolphins, and seals from their tables as well as many types of birds including wild ducks, swans, guillemots, cormorants & terns so its a pleasant place to sit, enjoy the sights and eat a delicious meal! IMG_6253Lindsay and I enjoyed their “special of the day” – a delicious cracked crab and shrimp cocktail with Rose Marie sauce for our mid-day meal.

We also drove to the northern end of the bay, past Dunollie castle,  and a bit beyond to Ganavan Beach. Evidently, it’s a popular place for “putting in” with a kayak to follow the Kayak Trail in the Argyll Sea which goes practically all the way to Glasgow! What a lovely area to kayak in!IMG_6247

IMG_6252After lunch, although we were thoroughly enjoying Oban, we got back in the car and headed back inland following the same route we followed earlier stopping to see a couple of things we had passed earlier and wanted to investigate further. On the way, we came across a small herd of cows playing in the water at the beach…IMG_6276…and we stopped at Loch Etive for one more picture; the water’s surface was so calm and the perfect reflections were irresistible! IMG_6282A bit further, we stopped at a charming little church on the banks of beautiful Loch Awe.IMG_6284


What a fascinating church! Small, but an absolute treasure trove of interesting architecture and a bit unusual and quirky!

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Luckily, there were extremely informative “interpretive signboards” throughout providing key information about this interesting little church.  This is what they had to say about the cloisters above:

“Although these cloisters have no real function in St Conan’s Kirk, they were commonly a feature in the old abbeys of Scotland. The architect, Walter Campbell, was determined to build a Cloister Garth for St Conan’s.

IMG_6302Much of the stonework came from the parish church at Inchinnan in Glasgow when it was demolished. It was the old family church of the Blythswood family.

Heavy oak beams above the doorway in the cloisters are from two famous old battleships: The Caledonian and The Duke of Wellington.”

“Walter Campbell was a man of many talents; he was a capable, if not somewhat unorthodox, architect, a collector of ‘objets d’art’ and a highly skilled woodcarver.”


“Visitors to the Kirk will be surprised to learn that the church was completed in 1930, despite its medieval appearance. Its story begins in the 1880s. It was built by Walter Campbell, the younger brother of the first Lord Blythswood. His arrival in Lochawe preceded the arrival of the railway and hotel in 1889 when he purchased Innischonain (the island just by the railway bridge at the south end of the village). He settled here with his sister, Helen, and his mother, Caroline.

Local tradition tells that his mother found the journey to the nearest church tiring so he decided to build her a church nearby. Designed in no singular style, Walter took ideas and designs from different places and periods and built a church that serves as a collection of all the best and most interesting features from other churches. The result is an eclectic mix of various styles from the Norman and Romanesque periods to Celtic motifs and even pagan symbolism in the form of the now fallen stone circle at the entrance gate.”

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I really thought this was a very very old church, but apparently not!  I like the way that Walter mixed all the styles and periods together in this one little church and just made it “look” very old.  Fascinating! Below, in St. Bride’s Chapel, is the grave of that quirky architect.


There was a beautiful ornate organ surrounded by an extensively carved wood screen of Celtic and mythical symbols with a Gothic style round window above it.

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The architecture is stunning and so interesting. Carvings everywhere, both in stone and wood.



We really enjoyed looking at every nook and cranny in this eclectic church. We headed outside to the back side of the church afterward and continued to find interesting items such as flying buttresses, sundials, statues, complete with a wonderful view!


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IMG_2652We spent quite a bit of time at Saint Conan’s Kirk, but there were still a few things we wanted to see that day so we continued on down the road.

We turned south off the A85 at Kilchurn Castle (yet another castle that I have ancestral ties to) and worked our way crossing the mountains on the way to Inverary.



IMG_2644Storm clouds were gathering and it ended up raining very hard all the way to Inverary. IMG_6385

Luckily, when we arrived at our destination the clouds had moved further south so it was dry and rain free!


We parked down near the harbor and walked amongst the buildings in this town where they are all painted the same color and similar styles.

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IMG_6395We even enjoyed a nice cone of home-made ice cream as we enjoyed the scenery!

IMG_6398It was getting late in the day and although we didn’t take a tour nor even visit the grounds, we still enjoyed a nice view of Inverary Castle as we headed out of town heading south toward the Argyll Forest. If you’re in the area, the castle is quite nice to visit. It is a privately owned castle, Clan Campbell, and although you only get to see parts of it, it’s still worth a visit. (I visited it before on a previous trip and it wasn’t the best tour I’ve ever experienced. I have ancestral ties to this castle, like so many I’ve discovered. However, that’s another story in a previous blog post.) It may look familiar to you if you were a Downtown Abbey fan; this was where they filmed the big 2-hour special Christmas episode in 2012 where they visited relatives in Scotland at ‘Duneagle Castle.’IMG_6409The road from Inverary traverses around Loch Fyne and then begins ascending up a glen to a mountain pass between Beinn Ime and Beinn an Lochain. A commemorative stone called “Rest and Be Grateful” sits on the high mountain pass at a rest area with fantastic views of the old Drover’s Road.

IMG_6412The straighter “new road” sits up higher on the left-hand hillside above the old winding Drover’s road below it. The old road is blocked off to traffic except for local residents.

The picture below is taken on the other side of the pass and shows the road we drove up to get to the pass. Such beautiful scenery no matter which way you look. IMG_6418IMG_6419

By this point, we only had about 15 miles to go following along the edge of yet another gorgeous body of water, Loch Lomond, until we were back where we started at The Drover’s Inn. What a wonderful day it had been; brimming with extremely interesting sights around every turn.

IMG_6425We were very content to be back in the now all familiar pub at Drover’s Inn enjoying yet more great food, libations, and laughs. I ordered some of their homemade cream of mushroom soup and another order of that yummy appetizer of fried haggis! Lindsay enjoyed his favorite – fish & chips. We spent the rest of the evening with all these fine folks listening to more live music in the pub!

That marked the end of the second day of our 4-day adventure and this is where I’ll end this particular blog entry. Stay tuned for Part 2 where we spend another couple of days traveling back to Aberdeen via the Falls of Dochart, Loch Tay, an ancient Yew tree at Fortingall, Blair Castle, and the dramatic back roads up through the Spittle of Glenshee to Braemar.

Attitude of Gratitude ~ I am grateful for the great recommendation to visit and stay at The Drover’s Inn from my sister. It was perfectly delightful, extremely historic, and it served as a great central location to explore from. Thanks, Suzie!





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.


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…


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.


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…


…and then turned around to see the view below…



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.


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.


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.


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



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








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.


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.


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.


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!





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.


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…


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.




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.


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.


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.

The view of Dingwall from up there was quite nice.IMG_3876

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.


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!


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.


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.



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.



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 f