Making Long Lost Ancestral Connections

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

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

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


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

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

Her name was Nancy Anne Brundage. Nancy Anne Brundage


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



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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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


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



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


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


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


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


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

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


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

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

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


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


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


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

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

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


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

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


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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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


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


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


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

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


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

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


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


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


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

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


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


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

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


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


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


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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


It just amazes me how old this tree is!

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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






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


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

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

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



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

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


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



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

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

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Now down the other side to Braemar…



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


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

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

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

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





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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

According to their website:

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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



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


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

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



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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





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.


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


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.


Soon, Lindsay and I were entering the main gate…


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.


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.


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…


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.”



“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.”


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.”


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.


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



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.


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!


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


and peeked over the left side again…


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


“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!


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.



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.


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.


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.

Cruickshank Botanic Garden and Walled Garden at Seaton Park, Aberdeen

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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The Sunken Gardens were particularly peaceful and very pretty!



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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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










Ballindalloch Castle & Gardens

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

We approached the front door to begin our tour.

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

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

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

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

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

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



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I worked my way to the top of the hill…


…and then turned around to see the view below…



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

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

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

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Inside the walled garden, the view was expansive.


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


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


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



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








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


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

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

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

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





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

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

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