House of Dun – 2nd Time Round

IMG_3214 (2)Normally I write blog posts about my travels in chronological order. However, best-laid plans go awry at times, don’t they?  I try to keep them in order to make it easy on myself and so you can follow along as if you were there with me.  I can’t possibly write blog posts as fast as I visit places though, so most of the time I’m writing about something that happened in the recent past.  At this time, however, I have already returned home from my trip and am now trying to catch up where I was after a month’s time has passed since my departure!

I’m writing this posting “out of order” because I feel it belongs with the blog post I wrote just recently and it seems logical to add it now. In that other post, I had been telling you about our first visit to see the formal gardens at the House of Dun on May 14th. During the process of writing that post, I discovered AFTER visiting it that I had ancestral ties to this place like so many others! You’d think I’d learn!  Also, I discovered that we didn’t explore a couple of other features on the property as well;  ones we wouldn’t want to miss: the Lady Augusta’s Walk, the old graveyard nor the old castle site, so Lindsay and I returned a second time to check them out on June 5th.

Upon arrival the second time around, we parked the car and headed straight for the gate that took us on a very interesting walk down through the woodlands along a creek in a ravine.


The path meandered along and was flanked with pretty woodland type flowers.

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Then we took a few steps down as we entered into a bit of a tree tunnel with the pathway hugging the old castle defensive walls on one side and trees and tall bushes on the other until it opened up and a bridge appeared spanning the ravine offering access to the other side.


We could also see the creek below and a lovely secluded picnic area upstream in the distance.

We crossed the bridge and soon discovered an old ice house built into the side of the bank from long, long ago where the Lords and Ladies stored their blocks of ice.

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After exploring the ice house, we came upon a gate nearby which led us into the old walled castle area. We walked through it toward the left until we reached the Erskine family burial grounds on the far left side of the massive enclosure.

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Once inside the graveyard, we checked out all of the graves within from the Erskine family.

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We could also see another graveyard beyond the family plot railings and what looked like an old church so we went back out of the family plot, to the big gate in the castle walls, which, in turn, led us to yet another gate to the other churchyard.

In 1375, my 19th great-grandfather, Robert Erskine (1310-1385) and his wife Beatrix Lindsay, purchased the Dun Estate. He, or one of his early descendants, built a tower house on a spot about a quarter of a mile west of the current House of Dun. This is the area we are currently exploring.

The building inside the graveyard evidently was the original parish church according to archeological findings and was later turned into the family mausoleum. Perhaps some of my distant relatives are buried within its walls and in its chambers. The Erskine family graves in the other enclosure appear to be for later generations of the Lairds of Dun.

The old building is quite interesting architecturally and so are the various headstones in the churchyard. I couldn’t get access inside the mausoleum, so I can’t determine who is buried inside nor if any of my relatives are in there but it was still really cool to see and the possibility of them being in there is rather high.

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After exploring the churchyard, we walked back inside the castle walls and walked around its perimeter some more. There is still an existing archway on the site which leads into what was the inner courtyard of the original castle. The archway is the only remaining remnants of the castle (besides the castle walls).

The castle continued to be the Erskine family home until the early years of the 1700s when David Erskine, the 13th Laird of Dun, and a wealthy lawyer, decided he needed something more comfortable and prestigious.  So he built the current House of Dun across the creek and up the hill from the castle where the views were better suited to his liking.

According to Undiscovered Scotland:

“By the 1600s it was increasingly common for Scotland’s many noble or landed families to begin to feel that their ancestral castles no longer met their needs or aspirations. They responded in many different ways. In some cases, castles evolved outwards into something larger and more comfortable. In other cases the family simply built a grand house and abandoned the old castle, leaving it to become a picturesque garden ornament.

David Erskine took a bolder approach. He pulled down Dun Castle sometime before 1723, then turned his attention to the house he wanted to replace it with.”  (Clarification here –  I am not related to any of the Erskines who built the current House of Dun except perhaps by very distant cousins.)

Inside the castle walls, we found some informal gardens cared for by local residents. Wish I could tend to those gardens!  What a perfect spot and talk about an effective deer fence those castle walls make! The vegetable and flower gardens were quite extensive but barely put a dent in the massive space within the castle walls.  If I were there I’m afraid I would try to fill every inch within the walls with gardens!

We then left the castle walls and worked our way along more of the woodland pathways as we made our way back to the car park. We barely scratched the surface of the pathways. They extend all the way around to the other side of the House of Dun along the outside perimeter of the estate. It will be fun sometime to return and follow more of them discovering their hidden treasures!

It was so pretty in that wild woodland garden with lots of unusual plants and specimens. It was also fun to explore up and down, over and under – where the paths led us.

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Next, we decided to tour the new grand house that was built in the 1700’s by David Erskine. Before we did, however, we decided to get a bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich and a couple of lattes at the Erskine’s Tea Room and relax before touring the “new” house.

After our satisfying lunch, we began the tour of the inside of House of Dun.


If you were standing on the front steps looking out, this is the view you would see. (below) Everything is about symmetry in this design.


Let’s head inside and see what they have to offer, shall we?!

There was only one other couple, besides Lindsay and I, so the tour guide only had the four of us to take around.  That made it really nice and very personalized.

According to the guidebook, “The House of Dun is the finest surviving modest-sized house designed by William Adam, the pre-eminent Scottish architect of the early 18th century. It has undergone remarkably little change to its original form through the years.  Fashions in interior decoration have come and gone and furnishings have changed according to individuals’ tastes but the essence of a family home remains, with its unique combination of genteel grandeur and welcoming atmosphere.”

Inside, the house was quite impressive!  We stood in the foyer for a short while as the tour guide gave us a brief history of the house and its inhabitants before we ventured into the main saloon beyond.

What a magnificent room!  “The superb plasterwork by Joseph Enzer was one of the final touches to the house and the wonderful array of his allegorical emblems in the saloon still leap from the walls with remarkable freshness. The dominant Roman God of War, Mars, representing the family history and noble pedigree, is balanced against Minerva, Goddess of Wisdom and Peach, a suitable emblem for the house of Lord Dun, a high court judge.

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The pastoral emblems above the windows are typical of the 18th-century romanticized view of nature and provide a direct link with the view outside.”

He even used a real basket to plaster, and the plastered seashells are also real. Makes me wonder if the violin is also real and was given a coat of plaster as well!  Remarkable plaster work!

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The next room we entered was the dining room and its walls were adorned with all kinds of paintings of various family members throughout the ages.

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The child on the right in this painting is Millicent Lovett, the 21st and last Laird of Dun, with her mother and sister.  We also saw her headstone in the family graveyard earlier.

The woman below with her children is Lady Augusta.  She was reportedly very beautiful, with a charming manner and an irresistible speaking voice inherited from her actress mother, Dora Jordan.

She was one of 10 illegitimate children of King William IV and Ms. Jordan.  According to the guidebook, “She married the Honourable John Kennedy Erskine, heir to the House of Dun through his mother. Following their wedding, they came north to Dun and embarked on a series of changes to the house.


There are many reminders of Augusta’s royal lineage in the house. She was also a prolific and accomplished needlewoman, creating the woolwork bed hangings bearing the family crest for the red bedroom, decorative silk fire screens and the remarkable embroidered curtains and pelmets depicting floral wreaths and exotic birds that once adorned the saloon but are now in the boudoir.  For the wedding of her son, William Henry, she embroidered a silk bedcover with delicate flowers & initials, and the words “From Mother.” The plan for the flower garden is also attributed to her, with ribbon borders and a rose bower in the center.”

Since I also have done a bit of needlework myself, I was particularly impressed with her work.  She created so many pieces and of such large proportions!  It must have taken her so long to create all of these beautiful and intricate needlework specimens!

We will see many more examples of her work as we visit the various other rooms in the house. For now, we are still in the dining room.

After the dining room, we visited another room which had quite a fine collection of Chinese porcelain and other interesting pieces.

We passed through the Stone Hall, pausing to admire the collection of walking sticks & horse whips displayed on the walls above our heads.  This family was quite into horses!


Then we headed upstairs to tour the bedrooms.

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This bedroom had a very unusual bathtub called a boot bath adjoining it.  Never have seen one quite like it before!

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Near the top of the house was this lovely little sitting area with a game table, a piano and a beautiful mother of pearl clock!

At the very top of the house was a large room which the Trust had used as an exhibition area to tell the stories of the House of Dun’s famous inhabitants.




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The next room we visited was the red bedroom with the beautiful and ornately embroidered wool bed coverings, family crest and a handmade embroidered quilt by Lady Augusta for her son William for his wedding.

After touring the main part of the house where all the family members hung out, we went back downstairs and to the lower levels of the house where the servants lived and worked. I always enjoy this part of the tour! I can just see them scurrying about and making everything happen.

This was followed by a visit to the nearby wine cellars and the game keeper’s office.


Next came the kitchen!

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And for the finale, we toured the Governess’s quarters.  Quite charming and cozy!

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We really enjoyed the tour and walking some of the woodland pathways.  The House of Dun is definitely a place to visit, but be sure to allow a full day for exploring all of its many treasures.  As we left the Estate and started up the road for other destinations that day, we noticed a sign pointing the way for the “Bridge of Dun.”  We turned down the narrow road and came upon this beautiful bridge as a final surprise! What a delightful find!

Now that I am home once again in Oregon, it’s really fun to review the photos and information I have gathered up to write about the rest of the trip.  I still have about 40 folders full of wonderful photos and stories to share with you so this definitely is not the last entry about my 2018 travels! I also have other adventures in California and Washington to embark upon later this summer and fall.  I’ll probably be writing about them all right up to the end of the year!

In the meantime, as if I didn’t have anything to do, I decided to move!  I have relocated with my daughter and granddaughter to the northern part of Oregon, near Portland, to a lovely little rural town called St. Helens on the banks of the Columbia River. My oldest granddaughter, Nichole, and my great-granddaughter, Alaska, also live nearby so therein lies my biggest motivation to relocate!

There are all kinds of new roads to follow and paths to discover, wrought with fresh material for future blog posts to share with you!  The possibilities are endless!

Attitude of Gratitude ~ I am so grateful for the ability to travel and write about the wonderful places I visit.  I am grateful for the opportunities that arise and the delightful places I get to share with my readers; all the while hoping to inspire them to seek adventure and surprises themselves.
















Exploring the Scottish Highlands

It’s been about a week since my last blog post. Lindsay and I have been traveling around the lower half of the Scottish Highlands visiting Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park this past week.

The routes I’ve marked on the map below denote the two major 4-day trips we’ve taken. During the past week, the route we followed is the lower one which took us southwest over to the picturesque coastal town of Oban and back again.

The upper route is one we took northwest over to Applecross about 3 weeks ago. I’ve got so much to share with you! Before I do, however, I thought it might be helpful to create this map in order to show you where our travels have taken us over the entire last two months and what you have to look forward to reading about.

The blue ‘splats’ on the map denote various sights we’ve visited along the way. (I don’t dare mark all the routes we’ve taken because you wouldn’t be able to see the any of the map details underneath; it would be covered with blue lines especially in and around Aberdeen!)


Needless to say, we’ve had some great adventures, traveled about 3,000 miles total going to and fro, and have had a ton of fun making a plethora of precious memories all the while!

I will be flying back home to Oregon in just a couple of days and although I extremely enjoy sharing my adventures with you, I want to make the most of the last precious hours I have while I’m still in Scotland.  The sun is shining outside and I can feel the pull of a garden somewhere calling my name to come and enjoy its blossoms!

Once I get back home, I’ll resume writing the blog posts. I already have about 20 drafts started and it may take me most of the summer to write them and to catch up with myself! In the meantime, know that I’m thinking of you and am taking a ton of photos to share with you!  Until the next time…

Attitude of Gratitude ~ I am so grateful to have such a great traveling partner like my cousin, Lindsay! He’s so easy-going, fun to spend time with, and wealth of Scottish knowledge, Scottish phrases and lingo, and suggestions of places to visit! I will miss his companionship terribly but am so grateful to have his friendship!

House of Dun Gardens


IMG_3214After visiting the Montrose Air Station museum on the morning of May 15th,  we drove about 3 miles east to visit the Dun Estate, another National Trust property.

Lindsay had visited the gardens briefly once before and since I had never been there, he thought I might enjoy seeing the gardens while we ate our picnic lunch in the sunshine.

We drove up the drive, parked the car and entered the front arched entryway.


On the other side of the entryway, a very nice courtyard opened up before us complete with picnic tables! That was perfect!


IMG_3218We picked out a table and enjoyed our lunch and the views while we did so.

In the middle of the grassy area was an interesting little building raised up off the ground; it turned out to be the game larder.

Oh, and look! There are garden plants for sale! Lindsay and I have started a tradition of our own. Each time we visit a castle garden, we like to pick out a plant to take home as a souvenir to plant in his backyard. We’re getting quite the collection!

After lunch, we headed for the garden via the north side of the house, which evidently was the front of the house. Mighty grand place this was!


I walked up the front steps and peeked in the window of the front door.  We had decided not to tour the house for some reason. Guess we just wanted to be outside. After taking that huge 2-hour tour of the air station in the morning, we were just a bit “toured” out for the day, and yet I couldn’t quite resist a peek inside just the same, “maybe some other time if I like what I see.” I mused.

IMG_3226To the left of the house was a doorway in the wall leading to where I really wanted to go…

Oh my goodness! What a splendid view from the stairway on the east side of the house!


IMG_3231Back down the stairs, I spied another uncurtained window on the ground floor, so I peeked in there too!

We started walking around the garden’s perimeter in a clockwise direction, passing a beautiful tall pot that looked like a basket with a tree growing in it near the first corner and then began working our way down the northern perimeter wall.

Not very many plants were blooming yet; it was still early in the season, but the border beds were filled with lots of perennials and I’m sure will be quite spectacular by this time next month. In the center of the garden were circular rose beds with an arched centerpiece covered with what looked like ivy, but could possibly be some other flowering vine.

IMG_3234The view of the house with the outstretched garden in front of it from the east wall was quite striking. Imagine the four circles ablaze with roses basking in the sunshine; I bet it looks amazing.IMG_3236

In the southeast corner of the garden appeared a little nook on a garden that looked intriguing. It was enclosed by a metal framed trellis that climbing roses and other flowering vines will cover, offering the little nook privacy and a nice little intimate space to spend time in.

IMG_3240Along the south wall, another nice little spot appeared to sit and enjoy the garden from.IMG_3241


At the end of the wall, there was another gate, which we exited through to view the south side of the house. The other side of the walls were fruit trees espaliered its entire length on either side of the house.


Like the main entrance on the opposite side of the house, the south side also had a big staircase with a wrought iron railing that looks like it will hold pots of flowering plants for a beautiful display of color and greenery all around the grand curved staircase.

The view from the top of the stairs of the estate spread out before it was breathtaking;  impressive arched hedges!


(hmm, I wonder what Lindsay is looking at down there; think I’ll go see…)


Then I walked down the stairs and across the lower lawn to the fenceline in order to get a better view of the house from below… discovering an interesting sundial.



We headed back to the courtyard afterward to look at the plants and pick one out to take home to plant in Lindsay’s garden. We also visited the gift shop where you buy the admission tickets to tour the house. They had a framed hand-written family tree chart that I felt compelled to take a photograph of. They also had some nice gift items for sale which I bought for a couple of my family members at home before we headed back to the car to leave.

It wasn’t until I started editing my photos yesterday in preparation for writing this blog post that I looked closely at the family tree photograph I had taken. I was astonished! At the very top were two names from my own family tree that I recognized; Sir Robert Erskine and his wife Beatrix Lindsay!  I double checked my family tree for the names and the accompanying dates of their birth and/or deaths, and sure enough, I had discovered yet another ancestral home here at Dun!

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Robert Erskine (1310 – 1385)
19th great-grandfather
Thomas Erskine (1340 – 1405)
son of Robert Erskine
Robert Erskine (1368 – 1452)
son of Thomas Erskine
Thomas Erskine (1418 – 1493)
son of Robert Erskine
Alexander Erskine (1436 – 1508)
son of Thomas Erskine
John ERSKINE (1487 – 1555)
son of Robert Thomas Mar Thomas Erskine
Margaret Erskine (1513 – 1572)
daughter of John ERSKINE
Archibald “9th Earl of Argyll” Campbell (1629 – 1685)
son of Lord Archibald Campbell Marquis of Argyll Earl of Argyll
David Daniel Campbell (1675 – 1753)
son of Archibald “9th Earl of Argyll” Campbell
Charles Campbell (1699 – 1767)
son of David Daniel Campbell
William Campbell (1728 – 1803)
son of Charles Campbell
Jeanette Campbell (1770 – 1851)
daughter of William Campbell
John Holliday (1803 – 1872)
son of Jeanette Campbell
Nancy Anne Brundage (1867 – 1948)
daughter of Elizabeth “Lizzie” Holiday
William Rose Frew II (1885 – 1976)
son of Nancy Anne Brundage
William Kenneth Frew (1917 – 1997)
son of William Rose Frew II
Claudia Louise Frew
You are the daughter of William Kenneth Frew\
Before I go home in a couple of weeks, I am definitely going to come back and tour the house.
IMG_3214 (2)I also noticed on the signboard something else about this place I hadn’t noticed before until I started writing this post. I zoomed in on the picture of the signboard when we first entered and noticed something else.
Near the parking lot, there is a path that leads down to the ruinous remains of Dun Castle and the Family Mausoleum in the old churchyard! We definitely have to go back now that I know I have ancestral ties here.
 As we drove back down the lane to get on Hwy 935 back to Montrose, we noticed a couple of little plaques along the roadside, so I stopped to see what they were.  They also turned out be quite interesting about an even older history of this place!







Dunninald Castle Gardens

mapIn the afternoon of May 14th, and after visiting Edzell Castle, we traveled the short distance between Edzell (Point B on the map) and Dunninald Castle (Point C).

It was a pleasant drive and was only about 20 miles in length. Along the way, we drove through the town of Brechin, we noticed it also has a castle & gardens and made a note to ourselves to come back one day in the near future. Just before Montrose, we also passed another National Trust Property, House of Dun, and added that one to our list of sights to see as well!

Dunninald sits off by itself just south of Montrose and there isn’t a very big sign on the main road heading south to Arbroath. We missed it the first time we drove by but luckily there was a layby where we could turn around. From the layby, we could barely see the tower of the castle sticking up above the treetops so at least we knew which direction the castle was. We drove all the way around the outer stone walls, but couldn’t find a marked entrance directing us where to go. Finally, we just drove down the most obvious entrance and a few hundred feet later drove up to the front of the castle.

The place was basically deserted, except for the gardener mowing the front lawn. He explained that the castle is privately owned and tours of the castle do not begin until June 30th. He did, however, invited us to visit the walled garden and pointed out the way through the woodland paths. Evidently, the walled garden is one of the main reasons why people come to this place, as well as to walk around its many woodland paths because it has quite an extensive collection of a variety of trees.

Near the front entrance to the castle, we noticed a signboard, with laminated maps one could borrow and return later when ready to leave.

As we started down the path the gardener directed us to, we noticed a bunch of signs stacked up against the barn which had recently received a fresh coat of paint and which hadn’t been placed throughout the acreage to guide visitors. It became quite apparent to Lindsay and I that we were just a tad bit early for the “season” and were probably the first to visit!

IMG_2891The wooded grounds were lovely. We passed two big columns topped with ornate finials at the back of the castle which must have been the original entry gates and flanked a wide avenue lined with Beech trees.





We followed this serene avenue, passing meadows of wood hyacinths.




IMG_2901After a pleasant stroll amongst the trees, we found the next smaller path the gardener had told us to turn onto and soon we spied the walls of the garden ahead.

Just a bit further, we came to the beautiful gate and entered an absolutely gorgeous and well cared for and meticulously manicured garden!

After catching our breath from the awe of what we saw, we began strolling in a clockwise direction…


IMG_2910Right off the bat, I noticed this tall bushy looking plant with the most interesting blossoms that had just opened up. I had never seen this plant before.  (Later I inquired about it when I came across a gardener and was told it is a tree peony and that the blossoms don’t last very long once they’ve opened.)


As we walked, there were delightful bits of color and variety everywhere we turned, and it was still very early in the season.



Next to the service gate was this cozy little spot to sit and enjoy the garden from. You could tell by the age of the wrought iron this spot has been enjoyed for eons!

Across from that cozy seat, the greenhouse could be viewed. Next to the greenhouse running the length of it were strawberry beds and what looked to be a vegetable patch beyond. There was also an interesting little experiment being conducted near the doorway of the greenhouse – growing potatoes inside of bales of straw.  Looks like a good idea.  At home in Oregon, people often plant potatoes inside of a tire filled with straw. Once the potato plants get up past the top of the straw, another tire is stacked on top of the previous one and again filled with straw. This process is continued until the tires are stacked up 5 or 6 high.  When it’s time to harvest, the tires are removed and the straw falls apart to reveal the clean ‘tatties’ inside.  No digging required!

Beyond the greenhouse was the orchard.


We headed back into the center of the garden on the other side of the greenhouse to continue our exploration of this delightful garden.

There were several lengths of beds spreading all the way back to the west gate we entered, filled with a huge variety of goodies, such as raspberries within an enclosure that could be covered with wire when the fruit begins to ripen to keep the birds out.

More flowers and espaliered fruit trees…

More flowers of every ilk, and beds as far as the eye could see which would soon be blossoming like crazy. There were also arches for roses down the center aisle.

Turning our back on the massive garden and looking along the other side of the greenhouse were more beds. Some filled with a nice supply of rhubarb and a little miniature tree farm with a large selection of many varieties lined up like little soldiers.

Turning our attention back to the beds in the center of the garden we spotted this cute little boot scraper and a beautiful display of forget-me-nots.

We came to the end of the greenhouse and looked at the other end of it.


By the way, have you happened to notice how tidy and meticulous this garden is?

We turned around and discovered another gate with an interesting plaque on the wall over a stone water pond.

As we walked along the south wall, more interesting and colorful specimens revealed themselves.

As we approached the last corner of the garden, we encountered this young lady scraping away at the only remaining weeds. So, she’s responsible for this meticulous garden! We chatted with her for awhile and learned that her name is Roz. We highly complimented her on the garden. I only saw one other younger man dart here or there during our entire tour around. I asked her about the unusual plant I had noticed near the entrance and she told me all about it.

When I asked her name, I also asked her if she lives nearby, thinking perhaps she was a local who came to volunteer, when she said, “Well, yes, I do live nearby. I live in the granny flat next to the kids in the castle. Evidently, she is either the mother of the Lord or the Lady of the house! I was flabbergasted and left speechless.


I have to admit, I would have assumed the Lord or Lady’s mother would have been much more ‘posh’ and certainly wouldn’t be caught out in the garden getting her fingernails dirty under most circumstances. I was pleasantly surprised to be wrong and found myself admiring this delightful down-to-earth woman who obviously loves this garden and tenderly takes care of it. She’s my new hero – and a woman after my own heart. I thanked her profusely for the opportunity to see this beautiful place and I could tell she was quite pleased and rightfully so – proud.

After that wonderful encounter, we mosied along toward the last corner of the garden and were pleasantly surprised with this little intimate nook.

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And finally, as we left that nook and was headed for the gate to exit, we encountered another nice feature.

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We reluctantly left that warm & inviting microcosm following along another path through the surrounding woodland back to the car at the castle.


What a beautiful experience that was. Perhaps someday I’ll be lucky enough to return once again and can also tour the castle. That would be nice.

We leisurely drove back to the entrance and headed back to the highway heading for Montrose. Our next stop was only about 5 miles away – the Montrose Air Station Museum.

Unfortunately, when we arrived, the gates were locked and the sign stated they were closed on Mondays. “Oh well, we can just come back tomorrow! It’s late in the day anyway. I’m getting kind of hungry; what do you say we drive the coast road up to Stonehaven from here and get some of that great fish ‘n chips from the Bay Chipper?” I suggested. Lindsay whole-heartedly agreed!

Attitude of Gratitude ~ Today I am grateful for wonderful surprises like Dunninald Walled Garden and the love and devotion of its delightfully down-to-earth granny gardener!




Edzell Castle & Yet Another Ancestral Discovery!

While I had been writing a blog post on May 13th about my last day of cycling on the Bike & Boat tour in The Netherlands, unbeknownst to me my cousin Lindsay had been sitting across from me at the table working away on his laptop and was busy planning another outing to some sights to visit near Montrose.
The following morning, I asked him over morning coffee what he might like to do that day and he replied, “I’m glad you asked! What do you think of this?” and he produced a draft itinerary that included two castles and a visit to a museum of a Royal Air Force station in Montrose.
“Wow! That sounds great!” I replied. “These look very interesting. I’ve never heard of Edzell Castle or Dunninald. What do you know about them?”
He explained that he had been to the ruinous remains of Edzell Castle years ago and that it had a really nice formal garden as he recalled. He also stated that although he had never been to Dunninald before he had ‘googled” it and it appeared to have a really nice walled garden that might be worth visiting. The third item on the list, the air station museum, might be worth a peek, even though he wasn’t sure how much it might interest me because it appeared to be rather small and therefore, not very significant or remarkable but it might be worth a look.
I agreed this itinerary and route looked great and was delighted with his suggestions.
I soon was busy making a picnic lunch for us and made preparations to spend the day exploring.  Before we left, however, he mentioned that I might want to check my family tree before we leave because Edzell Castle was built by the family of Lindsay, and he was pretty sure he remembered it had that surname in it.
I vaguely recalled seeing a Lindsay surname in my tree myself but hadn’t researched that branch. Knowing our incredible luck, however, I felt compelled to follow up on his suggestion and was extremely surprised when I did so!
If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time you are well aware of my interest in genealogy and family history and have been surprised over and over again when Lindsay and I go to visit a castle somewhere only to discover I have connections to them that I wasn’t aware of.
Edzell was no exception; there was yet another ancestral connection to a Scottish castle! Usually, the connections I find are through my father’s side through my great, great grandmother, Elizabeth Holliday, or “Princess Lizzy” as I like to call her, but this time the connection led to my mother, through the Stewart line! This is fantastic!
David Lindsay, Lord Edzell (1551 – 1610)
12th great-grandfather
Margaret Lindsay (1575 – 1614)
daughter of David Lindsay, Lord Edzell
Catherine Carnegie (1600 – 1655)
daughter of Margaret Lindsay
Lady Margaret Stewart (1620 – 1672)
daughter of Catherine Carnegie
Lady Mary Douglas (1655 – 1694)
daughter of Lady Margaret Stewart
Alexander Stewart (1675 – 1742)
son of Lady Mary Douglas
Alexander Stewart (1700 – 1732)
son of Alexander Stewart
Daniel Stewart (1731 – 1800)
son of Alexander Stewart
Archelaus Stewart (1771 – 1854)
son of Daniel Stewart
Martin Stewart (1803 – 1879)
son of Archelaus Stewart
Grace Ellen Stewart (1887 – 1954)
daughter of Walter Sullivan Stewart
Verna Emma Poling (1897 – 1981)
daughter of Grace Ellen Stewart
Daphne Claire Tholen (1919 – 2015)
daughter of Verna Emma Poling
Claudia Louise Frew
You are the daughter of Daphne Claire Tholen
We arrived at the ticket office and were soon exploring the displays inside and getting a sneak peek at what we would be exploring!

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After that brief history lesson, we headed back outside and began our explorations.
The walk through the grounds was so pretty and lovely, I couldn’t resist recording a video to put you in the mood…

Near the end of the first walkway I spied a rather handsome gentleman strutting his stuff on the other side of the castle walls I thought you might also enjoy…

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We walked along the northern side of the castle walls, admiring the burgeoning flower beds flanking the walls along the borders until we turned south around the corner tower revealing the castle’s front face and original entrance.

Now let’s begin our tour of Edzell Castle…IMG_2651


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Just to the left of the entrance on the inside of the castle, there was this door so we entered and it appeared to be a storehouse of sorts and included a peephole for guards to see who was approaching the castle’s front entrance.

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Back outside we worked our way around the castle in a clockwise direction and first came to the point where the entrance to the main living quarters would have been. We then climbed the stairs to see what was up there.

Back down the stairs again we approached the doorways in the corner under the principal living room.

Then we worked our way along the northern side of the castle through what used to be the kitchens.

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Working our way along the southern wall back toward the square tower we passed the gate to the garden. We will come back to that later; first, we’re headed into the tower!

The lowest level of the tower…



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Below is a picture of the inside of the fireplace’s chimney – it’s massive!


I continued to climb up to the upper levels while Lindsay continued his explorations below.

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Looking out the window, I discovered a wonderful view of the beautiful walled garden below!

Heading back down the stairs to the lower levels once again, I found another mason’s mark as I eagerly found my way to the garden.

The interpretive sign displays all the delightful elements we are going to explore next!

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Like the castle, Lindsay and I worked our way around the garden walls in a clockwise manner.


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Now, we’ll go inside to see what this summer house has inside its walls…

Before going up the spiral staircase to the floor up above, I went out the back door to see what it looked like.

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Inside the doorway, on the bottom floor, I discovered this…

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Back through the door in the round tower, I headed up the spiral staircase…

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Well, that was fun.  I really like the summer house.  Let’s continue exploring the south wall of the garden.


Then I came to the southwest corner and found the well and where the bathhouse used to be.

Finally, we explored the west wall back toward the tower.

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We walked along the outside of the eastern wall of the garden admiring the ornaments along the top of the wall on this side, then meandered back toward the car where we started. We were feeling a ‘wee bit peckish” when we spotted a picnic table and decided to enjoy our picnic lunch while we basked in the views of the wonderful castle and gardens that we had just finished exploring.

After lunch, we drove to the churchyard just down the road and made some further discoveries.IMG_2857


We wandered about the churchyard, finding some interesting and unusual stones when we came upon this building.

Turns out the building was part of once was the original church and this remaining portion within the church was where the Lindsay’s vault was located!

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We couldn’t go inside, but I was able to get some pictures of some remaining stones.

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Near the church on the other side of the road, we spied the hill where the original castle would have stood, but I was remiss and didn’t get a picture of it.  Dang.

We traveled further down the road toward the coast and Montrose to see if we could find Dunninald Castle & Gardens.

That’s a whole other adventure I’m going to save for my next post, so stay tuned! Hope you’ve enjoyed exploring another castle with special ancestral ties for me as much as I did.  Until the next time…

Attitude of Gratitude ~ I am ever so grateful for the time I spent building my family tree in  It took a long time to do, but I am so happy I took the time to do it. It has proven invaluable in calculating the ancestral ties I have to so many wonderful castles in Scotland. I don’t think I would’ve ever put the connections together without its resources. Someday soon I’m going to have to compile a list of all the castles and my ancestral families associated with them for my own descendants and other family members.


Balmoral Castle and the Royal Lochnagar Distillery

Thursday the 10th of May was another beautiful sunny day. Having stopped to view Dunnottar Castle the evening before, I really didn’t get a good enough “castle fix” and still had a big hankering to visit another castle and some gardens. We jumped in the car and headed west into the Cairngorms to visit the Her Majesty’s summer cottage – Balmoral Castle!

Of course, Queen Elizabeth isn’t there yet, which is a good thing; otherwise, we wouldn’t be allowed in! We also had two free tickets to visit the Royal Lochnagar Distillery just down the road from the castle so we decided to include that as well. This was going to be a great day!map


IMG_2343Once we got parked, got our tickets and a map, we started walking toward the castle along the river, stopping off at the castle tea room for a latte beforehand and soaked up a little sunshine as well.


Such a beautiful walk through the woodlands and along the river. I could sit in this spot for awhile and wouldn’t be surprised if the Queen often sits here herself. Prince Albert planted a lot of trees on the estate and its a delight walking through them and under their graceful branches.


In no time at all, we were approaching the castle.  Such a grand castle it is!


We walked along, admiring it as we headed toward the gardens…



The path in the foreground of the picture above, goes along a huge lawn area, past Queen Anne’s Cottage, the ponds, and eventually leads to the garden beyond so we just moseyed along enjoying the sights along the way. I couldn’t resist getting several pictures of the castle as we strolled in the wonderful spring sunshine amongst the daffodils and narcissus blossoms…




IMG_2365Soon we arrived at Queen Anne’s cottage and we walked through the wood to the ponds behind it first. In the summer, so many reeds, flowers, ferns, and other plants grow in and around the pond obscuring the views but today we got some great views of the water with excellent reflections and the surrounding terrain.


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Then we turned back toward the cottage behind us. I took some pictures of the interior of a couple of rooms for you through the windows too. The rooms are all decorated as they were in days past and they are lovely to look at.IMG_2372

First is a parlor…

another; a bedroom off the hall at the other end of the cottage…

Next comes the garden at the other end of this trellis which is covered in a lovely vine (honeysuckle I believe) during the summer.



As you enter the garden, large herbaceous borders flank the pathway on the right…IMG_2390

and a splendid view of the castle appears dead center behind a fountain on the left!


I love these little plants that live amongst the rocks on the wall…


The next feature is the conservatory with all the beautiful flowers inside and the busy bumblebees assisting with pollination…

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We stopped for rest at a garden bench to enjoy the view of the area of the garden that the cut flower varieties are grown in.  Imagine this place with all kinds of dahlias, sweet peas, lupines and the like.  It’s absolutely gorgeous later in the season; for now, the gardeners are just getting it ready and the perennials are just getting started. Soon they will be 3-4 foot tall and will be bursting with blooms to grace the halls of the castle for the Queen.

They have a new volunteer gardener to lend them a helping hand…

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Continuing on, we pass the herb beds and discover some fennel emerging… followed by some sweet peas (or perhaps some broad beans?) on the other side.IMG_2421


The new greenhouse is chock full of plants to plant out. The gardeners certainly have their work cut out for them.


The next area is for the vegetables and fruits which will also supply the kitchens for the Queen’s meals.

Next, we arrive at the cold frames and they are just bursting to the brim with so many plants that will end up out in the garden, in hanging flower baskets and in the flower beds. Wish I had a set up like this at home!


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More greenhouse filled with plants!

On the way out of the garden, we pass this lovely area on the other side of the new greenhouse which will be filled with a stunning display of colorful flowers in the summer and the gardener’s dog keeping a watch out!

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On the right, we encounter the chicken coop and the girls come running out to greet us!

Back toward the castle once again…

Thought I’d try a black & white photo; makes it look like days long ago!IMG_2450

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This is the only part of the castle you get to visit inside.



The Ballroom Exhibition is the building on the lower left with the four big windows; one last look before we go.

Back through the woodland with its yellow dogtooth violets and out the front gate!

We will drive through the gates and travel straight down the road a mile or so to our next destination, Lochnagar Distillery!

In the neighboring pastures were a bunch of ewes with their baby lambs. Couldn’t resist getting a short video of them to share…

Once inside the reception area, where the tours begin, the shelves along the walls were filled to the brim with lots of gift and souvenir ideas and a fine selection of some very good (and expensive) Scottish Whisky…


Although they did not allow photography throughout the guided tour (and it was an excellent tour I might add – well worth the admission!) they did offer a nice area of photographs and interpretive panels about the distillery which I took pictures of for you.

I’ll let them speak for themselves:

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At the end of the tour, our wonderfully informative guide, Ken, provided two samples of their fine whiskey in the tasting room.  Definitely an excellent dram!

We began our drive back to Aberdeen following the Dee River on the south side where there is less traffic passing an interesting bridge to someones’ home.

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We stopped for a butt break at the Deeside Gliding Club in a handy parking area along the way.


As luck would have it, there right in front of us was a lead plane pulling a glider and getting ready to take off! We couldn’t have timed it better if we planned for it! I had just enough time to turn on my phone after we got out of the car to stretch our legs to catch this next video for you!

Figuring the glider would be out for awhile cruising around, we were getting ready to get back in the car when we noticed the planes coming back again. Must be a practice session of taking off and landing! Here comes the lead plane…followed by the glider right behind him!

IMG_2550Also at the rest area was a map of the area listing all the attractions along the North Deeside Road heading west to the Royal Deeside.

So there you have it! Hope you enjoyed your tour of Balmoral Castle and its gorgeous grounds, as well as the distillery.

Attitude of Gratitude – I am grateful for sunshine and beautiful gardens to visit, and for being able to get a “castle fix” as I wish!


The Gardens are Burgeoning at Crathes Castle

One of my favorite springtime past times is wandering through a garden looking for the emergence of the tender newborn noses of plants triumphantly pushing defiantly and making their way through the crust of soil, rocks and other obstructions in their path. The shoots are so tender and fragile; and yet, somehow they defy all odds to present themselves to the world.

I have visited Crathes Castle several times in the past, and the various gardens within its boundaries are a marvel; worthy of visiting at various times of the year to experience their everchanging vistas.

Once I arrived back in Scotland, from my recent venture to The Netherlands for 10 glorious days, I spent a couple of days taking care of some domestic chores (like laundry for instance) in preparation for more exploration and I couldn’t imagine any place better to start than at Crathes!


As we drove along the tree-lined road to the garden, my heart quickened at the prospect of what I would find on this wonderfully ‘Bonnie’ day in Scotland!

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We parked the car and headed toward the castle, previewing the map on the interpretive panel at its approach to remind us what was in store…

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…and then continued along the path as we approached the backside of the castle as we worked our way to the walled gardens gate…what a view!

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Arriving at last at the gardens’ gate!  Yeah! This is going to be good; I can just feel it in my gardener’s bones! This is one of my all-time favorite gardens!

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Immediately inside the gate, the beautifully manicured landscape unfolded before me in all its early spring glory…ahhhh!


Lindsay and I decided to start exploring in a counter-clockwise circuitous fashion, hugging the walls as we went, so we walked under the wooden trellis on the right and headed up that path, instantly finding all sorts of interesting features and spring blossoms…

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IMG_1482About midway in the east wall of the garden, we happened upon a gate leading to the Woodland Gardens.

Naturally,  my curiosity implored me to venture onward to see what treasures lie beyond…

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Back inside the main walled garden, we continued on along the second half of the east wall, occasionally walking into an inviting little subsection with camellia, tulip, and yellow dog-tooth violet blossoms basking in the morning sunshine.

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Right now it’s not very “colorful” because it is so early in the spring, but here’s a couple of pictures of what the right-hand side pathway on the panoramic picture below will look like in the not-so-distant future.


We then continued on until we came to the northeast corner where the Dovecot gracefully towers above the almost 4-acre garden offering up some great views from its steps (above).

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Immediately surrounding the Dovecoat, we found some interesting flowers, including white and chocolate colored trilliums.

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Continuing on along our stroll until we came about midway along the north wall…

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…until a pathway beckoned us in to explore the center of the garden and a gorgeous view of the castle beyond…


As we strolled, we happened upon these two gardeners who were busy weeding (a never-ending job I might add).  They told me there are only 6 gardeners that maintain this huge garden and I complimented them on their meticulous work which they really appreciated.


Then we headed for the Victorian Glasshouses just a bit further on…



Inside, we were graced with a wide variety of delights…

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Back outside once again, we came upon a variety of tree that grows rather prolifically in my neck of the woods, Madrone!IMG_1540

As we made our way to the Upper Gardens closest to the castle, we came across all sorts of delightful specimens here and there…



Although the herbaceous borders were just beginning to grow, it was fun to imagine the glorious colors that would soon grace this pathway…


Now, the Upper Gardens!


The upper level of the garden is divided into four gardens, each having a background of yew hedges. Near the Castle are the Croquet Lawn and the Upper Pool Gardens; with themes of yellow, red and bronze. The Fountain Garden has a Victorian atmosphere with plants in varying shade of blue, and the Rose Garden contains floribunda and hybrid tea roses in a formal layout.

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As we worked our way to the Fountain Garden, we passed the Croquet Lawn (which was recently reseeded for the season).

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I noticed Lindsay examining something so I wandered over to see what he was focused on, Ahhh! The emerging clematis that graces the railings with their beautiful purples blossoms later in the season!

The final leg of our garden tour led us back down the stairs from the Upper Gardens to the main gate in the south wall.

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We had worked up quite an appetite and were feeling “a wee bit peckish” (as Lindsay would say), so we strolled back toward the castle and beyond to the stable area where they have a nice little cafe where we enjoyed their soup and sandwich combos.  Lindsay opted for Leek & Tattie soup; I chose the Butternut Squash with a kick of chili pepper added and we shared a BLT.  Yum!

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After that delicious, and filling, lunch, we wandered back to the Castle entrance and decided to tour the castle. I’ve visited before, several years ago, and it certainly was worth a second look within.  This castle belongs to the Burnett family. Since I have found so many ancestral connections to Scottish Castles across the landscape in my travels, I double-checked, but alas, amazingly I have no connections to this one.

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Luckily, in this National Trust property, they do allow photographs inside, so you’re in for a treat!

The tour began in the lower levels of the Castle working its way up to the top; first stop, the kitchen!


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Just past the kitchen, we are guided past the original entry door to the Castle (which we saw from the outside), complete with its Yett (iron stronghold gate), and then up the spiral staircase to the Hall.

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This room is full of interesting features and treasures which includes a lampshade with handpainted Bible passages, stained glass windows, a magnificent fireplace with ornately carved mantel and an interesting looking book of the genealogy of the Burnett family which looks like a Bible sitting on a special holder.