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!

 

 

 

 

Ballindalloch Castle & Gardens

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We approached the front door to begin our tour.

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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I worked my way to the top of the hill…

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…and then turned around to see the view below…

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

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

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

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Inside the walled garden, the view was expansive.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

Wandering on the West Coast ~ Applecross to Dundonnell

I know I sound like a broken record, but…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It offered up some scenic sights too…

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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IMG_4261…and these to the south.IMG_4260

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beahlach na Ba & Applecross

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The geological formations were quite interesting I thought.

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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