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.

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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.

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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.

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It just amazes me how old this tree is!

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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.” 

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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. 

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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!

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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.

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

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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…

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

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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!

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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

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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.”

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“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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.
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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!

 

 

 

 

Brechin ~ Castle, Gardens & Cathedral

map_LIBrechin, even though it’s a small little obscure town off the beaten track, it holds a number of little treasures which I think are worth checking out if you are in the area – and at the right time.

Brechin used to be a Royal Burgh and one of its treasures is a castle that is believed to have been home to the Kings of Scots in the 13th century.

Another treasure is the 40-acre castle gardens which date back to 1701. They are quite extensive and very pretty.

There is also an ancient Cathedral built upon the foundations of an earlier Celtic monastery and is conveniently located just across Skinner’s Burn from the castle. The Cathedral also has an unusual Irish-style round tower.

Finally, if you visit on a Sunday, you can take a ride on the Caledonia Steam Railway which embarks from the Brechin Rail Station and travels out to the Bridge of Dun and back. Steam train rides are always fun! Unfortunately, Lindsay and I did not visit on a Sunday so we didn’t get to ride the train but we did visit the castle, its gardens, and the cathedral and that’s what I’m going to share with you.

IMG_5417We started with the castle.  Luck would have it that they were giving tours when we arrived at the gatehouse.  Evidently, there aren’t very many tours offered each year. This year they only conducted tours sporadically during the month of June and only offered a couple of tours on each day.  The tour was quite extensive however and the guide was very informative and didn’t rush us at all. In fact, the tour group only consisted of about 4-5 people so it was quite enjoyable and we didn’t feel cramped or crowded.IMG_5869 Brechin Castle stands proudly upon a massive bluff of rocks above the River Southesk.

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It was built on the site of a much older fortress belonging to Scottish Kings. The existing mansion was built in 1711 and incorporates the original Castle dating back to the 13th century.

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Below is the view that is seen from the castle looking back up the entry drive. The grounds are massive and very well groomed.IMG_5872

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IMG_5881Brechin Castle is steeped in history:

  • In 1296 Edward I received the submission of King of Scots, John Baliol, at Brechin Castle.
  • In 1303, Sir Thomas Maule defended the Castle against the English for three weeks until his own death brought about its surrender.
  • In 1643, Patrick Maule, 1st Earl of Panmure, bought the Brechin Estate from the Earl of Mar. The Castle was at that time a simple L-shaped house with three stories.
  • The 4th Earl of Panmure eventually rebuilt the Castle as it is today. A crisis in the history of the Maule family, as in many noble Scottish families, occurred after the 1715 Jacobite rebellion. James, the 4th and last Earl of Panmure, took part in the rebellion and died afterward while in exile in France. His estates were forfeited to the Crown. Eventually, his brother’s son, William, bought back the estate. Through marriages, it has been passed down over the centuries to the Dalhousie family who still lives there.

It’s a beautiful house to tour. It’s filled with many treasures, beautiful paintings by famous artists, furniture and curiosities and a pleasure to explore.

Unfortunately, since the family still lives there, we couldn’t take pictures indoors to share with you. There were a lot of things to see and enjoy but the main thing that really stood out to me about this tour was that I could tell the family actually lived there. Unlike a lot of privately-owned castles I have toured, where I usually only to get to see certain parts – rooms set aside just for tours – this one I got to see most everything.

Although the majority of the contents of a room might be roped off so I couldn’t wander about their belongings I could tell they use these rooms regularly.  As I was guided from room to room by the tour guide, I noticed, sitting amongst the 17th-century furniture and exquisite paintings and chinaware, that there were big screen TVs, accompanying remotes, and various other gadgets as evidence of modern day living.

It was rather refreshing to look over and see what books they were currently reading, puzzles they were working on, the mornings’ newspaper folded up on the table, etc. It had a real homey and down-to-earth feeling about it rather than being “perfect and pretentious.” I rather enjoyed that and felt honored to be welcomed into their beautiful home to see how they still live amongst (and honor) the ancient treasures they have inherited and how they incorporate them into modern family life.

After the tour, we made our way to the gardens.  As you can see from the aerial view below, the grounds are quite extensive and the gardens are a fair walk from the castle. The walled garden is in the lower right of the picture in a kind of a circular area.

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Soon, Lindsay and I were entering the main gate…

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The first formal design and creation of Brechin Castle Gardens was accomplished by Alexander Edward for James, the 4th Earl of Panmure between 1701 – 1708. Since that time there have been many improvements, including the addition of shrub and woodland gardens in the early 20th century.

It is touted that Brechin Castle Gardens is one of the finest private gardens in Scotland. It covers over 40 acres of planted parkland and includes the famous walled garden. The gardens link to Brechin Castle by woodland paths with banks of vibrant colors of azaleas and rhododendrons in Spring and we were in luck. They were in full bloom!

The 13-acre walled garden has an exceptional plant collection around a structure of mature trees and in particular a magnificent cedar of Lebanon and sculptured yew hedge along the main pathway.

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The walls near the entrance gate are adorned with such beautiful roses such as Rosa Foetida ‘Bicolour’, also known as Austrian Copper, for its yellow-centered coppery-red blossoms.

Nearby peonies and Clematis provide spectacular spring and summer color.

An ornamental gate beside a drinking fountain in the wall and inscribed with “Drink and Be Thankful,” is the kitchen garden area containing most of the greenhouses including a unique curved Victorian peach house. Also, potting sheds, vegetable areas, and cold frames are also located there but the public were not allowed to walk amongst them.

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The upper garden is open to the sun and contains areas of lawn, mature ornamental tree plantings, beds and borders with Rhododendron and vine houses and a garden room.

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The Rhododendrons and Azaleas were ablaze with color as we worked our way down toward the second level!

We came upon a circular group of tall evergreen trees with a 17th-century sundial perched in the middle of them.

Beyond that, we walked through the yew shrub to see a vista of a vast grassy area leading down toward the river.

Lindsay stayed up in the upper garden while I explored the lower levels where a vast variety of trees were growing. I followed the grassy areas between them toward the center of the garden where I found a circular lily pond at the base of a cherub-flanked flight of steps.

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Then I finished walking the rest of the way across the gardens back toward the entrance and saw all sorts of beautiful blooming delights…

French Lilacs! Oh, they smelled good!

More and more Rhodies and Azaleas…

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I worked my way back to the entrance gate where I met up again with Lindsay. It was such a wonderful garden to explore. Next, we went over to see the cathedral and what it had to share.

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According to the information interpretive boards:

“Brechin has its roots in the Medieval Cathedral and Celtic monastery which preceded it. It enters written history in the late 10th century during the reign of Kenneth II (or MacMalcom), King of Scots, who further endowed the mastic community, by then perhaps 300 years old.  In the mid 12th century, King David I made the church one of Scotland’s Cathedrals and Norman style alterations were made to reflect its new status. Rebuilt and altered at various times, it achieved its present form in 1900-1901.

The Transepts – The existing South Transept is on the same scale as its 14th-century predecessor. The North transept (or “aisle” in Scots) was enlarged partly to provide more accommodation, but also to give the building a more cathedral-like appearance. As it was being built, the Queen died and so it was treated as Brechin’s Victoria memorial being called “The Queen’s Aisle.”

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We headed inside…

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There were a lot of colorful windows as you might imagine there would be…

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We headed back outside and started working our way around the west end of the church and the square tower.

IMG_5934Again, according to the interpretative boards:

“The Square Tower was built in the 14th century. The clock in the Steeple face is actually the town clock. The first clock was gifted by Bishop David Strachan in 1665, the “great IMG_5923orlodg” it was called. The current clock mechanism dates from 1974.

The curfew bell (from the French “couvre feu”) still rings each weekday at 8 pm, a reminder of bygone days when the bell summoned monks to Compline, the final prayers of the day.

Fragments of Norman work dated 1140 AD have been found in the foundations of the west gable. The West Door is from the early 13th century. The great west window is in the beautiful “Scots flamboyant” style of the 15th century.”

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“The Round Tower – One of only two round towers of the Irish type in mainland Scotland, it was built as a free-standing tower in the 10th century.

Over 106 feet tall, it is as refined as any example in Ireland where they are called “bell towers.” The elaborate doorway is well above ground level because the tower was also a place of safekeeping of the precious manuscripts or relics belonging to the monastery.”

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IMG_5941This is an amazing tower! I first saw this type of tower in Ireland at Glendalough and they just absolutely astound me because those skinny and tall towers are still standing after all this time.  They were built to last!

According to the intrepretative boards:

“The finest feature of the tower is the doorway. It is of upward-tapering form and is framed by a broad band, edged with pellet mouldings. The arch is cut from a single block of stone. At its apex is the figure of the crucified Christ, and there is a saint on each side of the opening. Flanking the threshold are crouching beasts.”

“The Irish examples of these towers are now thought to date mainly from the period between 950 and 1180, and a date around 1100 seems likely for Brechin. There was probably a religious community at Brechin during the reign of King Kenneth II (971-975), but the church had become the cathedral of a bishop before 1160.”

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I continued walking around the perimeter enjoying various features until I reached the Queen’s Aisle back near the front entrance where we started.

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It was a beautiful cathedral, small in stature compared to many I’ve visited, yet packed with its own unusual elements.

That was the end of our explorations for the 5th of June. We headed back up the A90 highway toward Aberdeen, stopping off at Stonehaven for some fish & chips from the Bay Chipper, and we enjoyed watching the gulls flying along the seashore at days’ end while we reflected back on all the interesting things we’d seen that day.

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Attitude of Gratitude ~ I am grateful for another 10 days left to explore Scotland on this trip. 10 more opportunities to share its many treasures – more stories and beautiful places to see yet to come!

Kildrummy Gardens, Leith Hall Garden & Estate in Sunny Aberdeenshire

Saturday, June 2nd’s forecast for the Highlands called for sunshine in most places, with a lone little blob of clouds looming somewhere south of Elgin. The chances of running into that one blob of clouds were slim if we visited two gardens a bit east of there; one at Kildrummy and the other at Leith Hall so we decided to go for it.

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We set off for the day and decided to visit Kildrummy Gardens first and then head about 11 miles further north to Leith Hall & Gardens afterward.

We arrived, parked the car and began walking toward the entrance which is across a very tall bridge which spans a large chasm of what used to be a rock quarry. Kildrummy Gardens sits just below the Kildrummy Castle built in the middle ages. The castle was built from the rock which was quarried from this site.

Although there isn’t any access to the castle from the gardens, as far as I know, you can still catch a glimpse of it up on the top of the hill here and there from the garden below.  If you want to visit the castle, it’s entrance is just a bit further up the road from where you turn off the main road to go to the garden. It’s a great castle, very ruinous, and has a rich history including Edward I and Robert the Bruce. IMG_5297

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The short stroll from the car park to the garden entrance across the bridge greeted us with a beautiful display of purple and magenta colored Rhododendrons.

Once we were on the bridge we could look over its edges to the garden below – first to the left… it’s so far down there it almost makes you dizzy looking over the edge.

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and then to the right… My! That’s very pretty, isn’t it?  Could barely wait to get down there and follow all of the paths!

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We got to the other side of the bridge where the entrance is just ahead…

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and peeked over the left side again…

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…only to discover the gate was locked and it wouldn’t be open for another hour or so!  Dang!

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“That’s alright… let’s just head over to Leith Hall for now,” we agreed, “We can tour the house and its gardens and return to Kildrummy afterward later this afternoon.” So off we went! Best laid plans sometimes go awry, so it’s good to be flexible and be willing to implement Plan B!

It was a nice short drive through the countryside and before we knew it, there we were at Leith Hall!

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IMG_5319Lindsay and I have been here a couple of times before during one of my previous trips. We’ve toured the gardens, walked along the paths to the ponds and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, however, every time we visited the house, the tours weren’t being conducted. This time, we made sure we came on the weekend when the tours are open!

We had arrived in plenty of time for the next tour, in fact, we had enough time to enjoy a nice bite of lunch in their cafe while we waited. I savored a Brie and Cranberry sandwich, while Lindsay enjoyed a nice cup of Carrot with Coriander soup.

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After our yummy lunch, we went inside the front door to begin the tour.

They had a life-size painted cut-out of a giant of a man (7 foot 2 inch), Andrew Hay of Rannes. Andrew Hay of RannasHe was a loyal Jacobite in 1745 and fought at Culloden alongside Bonnie Prince Charlie. Andrew was the brother of  John Leith II’s wife, Mary Hay.

After Culloden, he was one of few Scottish survivors and fled to Leith Hall to hide. Later, during the tour, the guide was showing us a bedroom upstairs and told us that it was the bed he hid in where he disguised himself as an old woman who was on her deathbed and was actually successful at fooling the British. Evidently, his ghost has also been seen occasionally wandering about this and the adjoining room pacing back and forth since his death!

IMG_5332Leith Hall was built in 1650, on the site of the medieval Peill Castle, and was the home of the Leith-Hay family for nearly three centuries. At the end of World War II, the last remaining heir, Henrietta Leith-Hay decided to give the house to the National Trust of Scotland as their first property, under the condition that she could live in it until her own death. She didn’t have any heirs because both her husband and son had passed away in 1939. When she passed, she left the house and all that it contained. So, this house has basically been left the way she left it with some minor adjustments. It’s pretty cool.

The National Trust has done an excellent job of maintaining the integrity of the property and it is quite unique in the respect that everything in the house used to belong to this family and were left in place.  It has quite a collection.

Unfortunately, it is one of those National Trust properties that do not allow photography inside the house. It’s a shame because there are a lot of beautiful and unique things to behold. It’s definitely worth a visit to see for yourself and the guides are quite informative and do an excellent job. Just remember that they only do tours on the weekend!

They had this interesting display showing how the house had evolved over the years and expanded.

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When we finished the tour we decided to walk into the gardens and have a look around the gardens before heading back to Kildrummy even though we have seen them before. They are absolutely lovely and they have an excellent example of a Moongate!

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On the side of the entrance gate, there are some very interesting Pictish stones to admire and the cats atop the gate posts are intriguing.

Upon entering we started just strolling along enjoying the sights and scents along the way. We decided to head to the left toward the rockery first.

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We were enjoying the sights when all of a sudden it started to gently rain. We found a bench under some cover to hang out under while we waited for it to stop.

IMG_5375However, it wasn’t letting up at all, in fact, it started raining harder and harder and the cover we were under was no longer doing us any good.

Thankfully we had our raincoats on. We decided to brave it and get back to the car in the nearby car park as soon as possible. Our coats kept our torsos dry but it rained so hard the water rain down our legs and filled our shoes!  Oh my, we had such a good laugh when we got back to the car totally drenched! It kept up pouring down as we drove, but soon we were out from underneath that one blob of clouds that day. Elsewhere in the region, there was not a drop of ran; it all fell on us!

(Sorry that we weren’t able to continue our tour of Leith Hall Gardens and show you everything. I have written a whole blog post about them before in my old blog “Globetrekker Grandma” if you’d like to see more. You can click on this link: Leith Hall Gardens)

When we got back to the house we had to set our shoes outside on the porch to dry out while we enjoyed a nice steak dinner with locally grown fresh green beans!

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A few days later, we returned to Kildrummy once again and the weather was much better suited! We started our stroll through the garden at the lower end of the garden going around the shallow pond on the north side of the bridge. There were all kinds of floral varieties in full bloom.

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On the other side of the bridge, the gorgeous views continued.

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We continued along, following the many intimate pathways leading to hidden gems…

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The burn (stream) of Back Den runs through the pools and cascades down various waterfalls of rock. They were built about 1902 and were inspired by Japanese designs.

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Next, we headed up the hill to the upper section of the garden…

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This section of the garden is where the bulk of the rock was cut away from the side of the hill. There is still a lot of exposed rock where they quarried and plants have been placed in and amongst the rubble creating a very beautiful and interesting landscape. Around every corner, in every nook and cranny, you’ll see all sorts of wonderful horticultural gems.IMG_6022

There is also an old wooden building which resembles a log cabin of sorts and it houses the museum which is full of all kinds of archaeological finds discovered on site.

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They even had some old pictures of the bridge over the quarry being built and the ruins of the castle above.

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The bridge was copied off of a 14th-century bridge – The Brig O’Balgownie on the River Don in Aberdeen. That bridge is very close to the Walled Garden at Seaton Park that we visited a couple of blog posts ago.

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We peacefully wandered about the remaining sections of flowers before coming to the tunnel under the bridge which leads back to the entrance. So many pretty flowers and I found a variety of Himalayan Poppies I haven’t seen before. They have a lot of the Blue Himalayan but I didn’t realize there were other colors too! Check out the purple and deep red ones! I like those!

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IMG_6107It was a wonderful visit to one of my favorite gardens and I hope you’ve enjoyed your glimpse at its wonders.

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They also have a very nice Tea Room where you can sit and enjoy yourself. Just outside on the patio they also offer plants for sale that you can buy for a very reasonable price and take home to plant in your own garden. I couldn’t resist. Just had to buy 2; one Himalayan Blue Poppy and one of the other variety of Poppy that blooms in other colors like purple or deep red. Lindsay and I have started a tradition. Each time we visit a castle or garden that sells plants like this, we buy one and go home to plant it in Lindsay’s yard. That way we have souvenirs of our visits that just keep giving back to us year after year.  But, ya know, that’s another story for another time. I’ll write a new post about gardening at Lindsay’s Castle sometime in the near future. For now…

Attitude of Gratitude ~ I am grateful for beautiful sunshiney days for visiting gardens and I am also thankful for the ability to be flexible and adaptable.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

Gordon Highland Games

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IMG_3569We sat in its shade enjoying our fish supper.

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

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

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

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

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Now the lads are warming up for the Shot Put…

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Scouting for Stone Circles

All over the United Kingdom, the countryside is littered with ancient stone circles and they are located in some very interesting and scenic locations. Sometimes they are in unexpected places such as the middle of a housing development or sitting way up on a knob of land out in a farmer’s field, and sometimes, they are a national treasure sitting out in a big open plain, such as Stone Henge. Wherever they are, they are well respected and they are protected. Often times fenced but always with access entries and pathways leading to them so anyone can visit.

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On a beautiful sunny day on the 17th of May Lindsay and I decided to go and explore Aberdeenshire due west of his house searching for a couple of stone circles near Midmar which we had noticed on the Historic Scotland website.  There was also an obscure castle we also wanted to see if we could find. Historic Scotland has an extensive map they have marked with various historical sites so it’s fun to pick a few in a general area and then head out to see you can locate them in the countryside.  It’s like going on a scavenger hunt.

They are usually well marked, like the first one we visited below – Cullerlie. Sometimes not so well marked; it takes some sleuthing and determination to find them.  Cullerlie was easily accessible and very well tended, plus it had that nice avenue of tall evergreens flanking the sides while you stroll on the mown grass down to the circle beyond.

 

 

According to Wikipedia: “Although many theories have been advanced to explain their use, usually around providing a setting for ceremony or ritual, there is no consensus among archaeologists as to their intended function. Their construction often involved considerable communal effort, including specialist tasks such as planning, quarrying, transportation, laying the foundation trenches, and final construction.”

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Stone circles are very interesting to me and always cause me to pause and consider the ancient people who placed them here so long ago, worshiped here and honored their dead.

In a nearby tree, Lindsay found this card hanging for passers-by to reflect upon.  Thought that was really kind of a nice thing to do!

 

After contemplating Cullerlie Stone Circle, we headed further west across the farmlands toward Midmar in search of its castle.IMG_3308

It wasn’t easy to find, but after going down several roads off the main road we finally found it.  We found out that it was not, however, a public place; it is privately owned. Midmar Castle is a 16th-century castle. It was built for George Gordon of Midmar and Abergeldie between 1565 and 1575. After discovering it was someone’s private house, we turned the car around to head back down the driveway to respect the owners’ privacy.  I couldn’t resist taking just a couple of pictures though.  What a cool place to live in! It reminds me of a couple of other neighboring castles; Craigievar and Braemar.

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Back to the main highway and up the hill, from Midmar Castle we found the Midmar Kirk.

 

As we approached the back of the church there was the stone circle right in the middle of the churchyard!

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The recumbent stone and the “flankers” were enormous!IMG_3318