A Winter Walk in Fife

Last Saturday we decided to go for a good long walk before Storm Ciara really hit us hard as was forecast, and we had been meaning to visit the Barrel Brig ever since we saw a photo of it on our 2019 calendar. So we drove to the wee village of Coaltown of Balgonie to park the car there and stroll along the country road in the right direction. I took the photo below of Balgonie Castle from a very rural lane. If you look carefully to the left of the middle you’ll see a castle which is a mixture of ruins and a family home. The castle has been used as a location in Outlander, as have so many places nearby.

Balgonie Castle, Fife, Scotland

It wasn’t long before we realised that it was a mistake to tackle this walk at the weekend as we could hear the roar of motorbikes and quadbikes. But some of the bikers pointed us in the right direction for the bridge and presumably the farmer was happy for them to vroom about in this otherwise empty field.

Bikes , Fife

The road went from being fairly good tarmac –
farm path, Fife

To truly awful mud due to the motorbike traffic. My boots felt twice as heavy as they had been – so mired in muck were they.

Fife farm track

But we struggled on, just hoping that we were going in the right direction.
farm track, Fife

Eventually we could see a river through the trees, the River Ore.
River  Leven, Fife

The bridge is described by Historic Scotland as an – early 18th century double arch bridge with cutwater buttresses to centre pier. Rubble spandrels with squared and coursed rubble soffits. It is a pack horse bridge, erected before 1725 and was presumably used by farm labourers who were carting crops around and maybe even people, if they were lucky enough to be given a lift.
Barrel Brig, Fife

The River Leven here isn’t much bigger than a burn really but people still fish in it, or they did when there were any fish in it to catch.
River Leven, Fife

On the way back the sky turned to blue, for a wee while anyway, but as we were caked in mud by then we were glad to get home and sit down with some coffee. Sadly I didn’t lose any of the extra pounds that I put on over Christmas despite the exercise.

Fields, Fife

You wouldn’t believe that it was the same day – looking at the sky, but such is the weather in Scotland, just wait five minutes and it will have changed! I hope you enjoyed stretching your legs with me.

Fields, Fife, scenery

Peterborough, Cambridgshire, England

It’s over a year since we visited Peterborough in the English county of Cambridgshire. We were on one of our road trips and hadn’t ever been there before, but we had wanted to visit the massive antiques fair that they have in Peterborough for ages. Actually it’s held on a Froday and Saturday unusually, and if we had stuck to our original plan and gone there on the Sunday we would have been very disappointed. As it was we didn’t have much time to look around the city, but we did take some photos of the outside of the large cathedral we were too late to get inside. It was a golden evening in September when we got there. The cathedral has a very interesting history, you can read about it here. Mary, Queen of Scots was originally buried in the cathedral but when her son King James V succeeded to the throne on Queen Elizabeth’s death he had his mother’s body exhumed and re-buried at Westminster Abbey.

Peterborough Cathedral

You can see more images of the cathedral here.

The Norman Arch below is well used as you can see, I believe a car crashed into it a few years ago though.
Norman Arch, Peterborough

But I was fairly amused ot see that the local Pizza Express is housed in a Tudoresque building. I wonder what sorts of businesses these premises have hosted over the centuries. I wouldn’t like to have their insurance bill!

Peterborough Building

I’m hoping to go back to the fair sometime this year and will definitely make sure that we see inside the cathedral then.

Oakham, Rutland part 2

It was late on in a September evening when we had a look at Oakham Castle in Rutland. I must admit that I wouldn’t even have recognised the building above as being a castle, it’s very tame compared with Scottish castles. I thought it was some sort of ecclesiastical building. Apparently it’s a Norman Hall and was built betweem 1180 and 1190. You can read about its history here. Of course it was shut when we got there, but I have seen it on TV.

Oakham Castle, Rutland

Another unusual building in the town is the house which was lived in by the smallest man in Rutland – the smallest county in England. You can read about him here and here. He was a dwarf at the court of Queen Henrietta Maria

Jeffery Hudson Cottage,Thatch 2

The blue plaque on his house doesn’t give you much of an idea of the amazing life that this small man led.

smallest man, Hudson's Cottage

Oakham in Rutland

The wee town of Oakham which is the largest in the tiny county of Rutland in England’s East Midlands was in the news a couple of weeks ago and it reminded me that I had never got around to blogging about our visit there last year.

On the news many of the Oakham inhabitants were up in arms about the threat of a McDonalds opening there. Quite understandably really as they didn’t want the quaint old buildings there and the ambience being tainted by the modern plastic golden M that inevitably comes with a branch of McDonalds. It turned out though that the plan was for the outlet to be on the way out of Oakham, so in the end the permission was given. I was thinking to myself that the town has a Wotherspoons in the middle of it, which is hardly upmarket, but not quite as ‘in your face’ as a McDonalds.

Anyway, I dug through the photo files and this is the result. Some of these cottages definitely wouldn’t look out of place in an episode of Midsomer Murders.

Oakham , thatched cottage,Rutland

There’s a market twice a week in the town, it’s held near the ancient octagonal pyramidal Buttercross which still has stocks in it as ypou can see below.

Oakham, Buttercross, Rutland

Oakham,thatched cottage, Rutland

I have to say though that the satellite dish attached to a thatched cottage below is almost as incongruous as a McDonalds sign, but people must have their telly choices I suppose.

Thatched House, Oakham, Rutland

The town was ‘en fete’ as you can see from the bunting in the photos below. It’s an undeniably quaint place and I can see why they want to keep it that way in town.

Oakham, Rutland

Oakham, Rutland

On the other hand there’s nowhere for younger people to go to meet friends by the look of it, it might be just a wee bit snooty! Well there is a castle there, but that’s for another blogpost. Meanwhile, those thatched cottages are all very well, but I know for a fact that you have to share them with a lot of small mammals – and some not so small come the cold weather. So my choice would be to live in a converted signal box just like the one below. I love them, it’s a shame this one is still in use as a signal box. Just imagine, you could get the housework over and done with in no time flat!

Oakham , signal box, Rutland

Dunnottar Castle – part 3

After looking all around Dunnottar Castle we decided to walk along the coastal path to the First World War memorial that we could see in the distance.

Dunnottar Castle view

We had no idea how far away the memorial was and I had a horrible feeling it might be as much as five miles but it only took us about 20 minutes to reach it, it’s very deceptive. We found out it’s a Second World War memorial too.

War Memorial from Dunnottar Castle Castle

It’s a lovely coastal walk and the cliffs look like something out of a British Rail travel poster.

Cliff View  from Dunnottar path

Dunnottar Castle, cliffs, Aberdeenshire

It was a blustery day and the sea was quite wild in places, what a great way to blow any cobwebs way, if you still have any by then!

Dunnottar  Castle rocks

Here’s a short video showing some of the rocks and nearby headland.

sea from castle

Dunnottar Castle – part 2

Back to Dunnottar Castle and after what seemed like a fairly long walk there which wasn’t really long, just a bit uneven underfoot we reached the castle itself.
It looks impregnable but William Wallace captured this castle in 1297. Click here to read more about its history.

Dunnottar Castle  entrance

I was fairly puffed out by this stage!

Dunnottar Castle from path

As you can see it was a lovely sparkling blue sky day.

Dunnottar Castle , Aberdeenshire, Scotland

Mots of the windows have window seats, it must have been lovely to sit there with embroidered cushions on them, admiring the view, reading or doing yet more embroidery.

Dunnottar Castle Window

Dunnottar Castle  windowseat

There’s only one room in the castle which has been restored so you can see what it would have looked like.

Dunnottar Castle  restored ceiling 1

Getting out of the wind gives you a very good idea of how cosy the castle could have been in its day, epscially with the addition of tapestries on the walls and maybe curtains and carpets, or at least rushes on the floors.

Dunnottar Castle chair + Fireplace

But most of the castle is in ruins, it’s almost more interesting to be able to see how it was built though, seeing the skeleton of the castle rather than its skin I suppose.

Dunnottar Castle interior

Tomorrow I’ll show you the scenery surrounding the castle.

Dunnottar Castle

Dunnottar Castle, Aberdeenshire, Scotland

On Friday morning we left home to travel up to Aberdeen so that Jack could go to a football match there the next day, but we stopped off at Dunnottar Castle near Stonehaven on the way. We had never been there before, but since we visited it seems to be popping up everywhere as it featured on a TV programme yesterday and when I visited the National Gallery of Scotland in Edinburgh today I saw a beautiful atmospheric painting of it by Waller Hugh Paton, see below.

Dunnottar Castle

Dunnottar Castle, Aberdeenshire, Scotland

This castle is not for the faint-hearted or those who aren’t too good on their feet as there are lots of steps leading down towards the castle and then yet more steps leading up to it, the ground is uneven, but it all adds to the atmosphere. The location is fantastic as the castle is built on the edge of cliffs, 160 feet high above the North Sea with wonderful views out of the windows of what is now a ruin. It must have been an amazing place to live in in its heyday though and the lady of the castle had a wooden balcony at her bedroom window although I’m not sure that I would have fancied sitting on a balcony hanging over the sea.

Dunnottar Castle from path

Given the location and rockiness it’s not surprising that Dunnottar has long been a fortification with the Picts having a wooden fort there before a stone castle was built in the early 1300s. King Aethelstane of Wessex made a raid on the place in 934 but in the year 900 it was the Vikings who were having a go at King Donald II here. Mary, Queen of Scots visited – where didn’t she visit I ask myself, but at least she wasn’t imprisoned here. I took lots more photos, but I’ll keep those for another day.

Dunnottar Castle, Aberdeenshire, Scotland

Dunkeld, Perthshire

Dunkeld in Perthshire, or what I think is now called Perth and Kinross is one of my favourite places to visit, the drive up there is lovely and it isn’t too far from where we live. This time our visit was a bit different as we took an old friend with us, she hadn’t been there for decades, it’s not really the sort of place you go to on your own.
Dunkeld bridge, Perthshire

Anyway, I took some photos, mainly to show to another friend who used to fish in the area, but hasn’t been able to do that for years now. In the photo above I was standing on the bridge that takes you over the River Tay and into Dunkeld. My friend used to stay in the Atholl Hotel on the right on his fishing holidays.

Dunkeld Bridge, Perthshire

It was October but I think we were just a wee bit too late for the best of the autumn tree colour. The area in the photo below has changed quite a bit over the years, not the buildings obviously but they’ve spruced up the foreground and added more parking places by the side of the river which is just out of view. In the summer they put tables and chairs out near that area.

Dunkeld hotels, hills, Perthshire

The view to the other side of the bridge as you get into the Dunkeld is obscured by trees, but the trees are nicer than houses anyway.
Dunkeld, Perthshire, Scotland

Standing more or less on the middle of the bridge I took the photo below of the River Tay looking north.

River Tay north, Dunkeld, Perthshire

I pointed the camera a bit further to the right for the photo below, Dunkeld Cathedral is just beyond that area.
River Tay north, Dunkeld, Perthshire

I crossed the road to take the photos below of the River Tay looking south.
River Tay south, Dunkeld, Perthshire

River Tay south , Dunkeld, Perthshire

Really the trees below were looking good but they could be doing with having some trees with red leaves too, copper beech or maybe red maples, but maybe they wouldn’t grow so well there.
autumn trees, River Tay,Dunkeld Scotland

Beatrix Potter was inspired by the countryside here as she visited Dunkeld and Birnam with her parents on holiday every summer. You can read about that here.

When we were moving house all of almost six years ago now we looked around the Dunkeld area, just online, but there were only four houses for sale at the time and they were pricey in comparison with the other places we were looking. It’s maybe just as well, because it is quite far away from Edinburgh and we do enjoy being able to visit the city easily whenever we fancy. And if we lived in Dunkeld we wouldn’t be able to go there for a nice afternoon out every now and again!

Pittencrieff Park, Dunfermline, Fife

On a lovely blue sky day in mid August we were in Dunfermline doing mundane but necessary domestic stuff, but when our wandering took us down to that dip and turn in the High Street which leads to the grand entrance gates of the Pittencrieff Park, we decided it was too nice a day to walk past them. I didn’t have my camera with me so the photo below is from the Wiki page.

Pittencrieff Park gates

So I was only able to take some photos using my phone, which isn’t great but better than nothing. As I recall – it was the day that Fife schools began again after the six weeks summer holidays and as ever Jack was particularly happy that day as he is now retired from teaching! Below is a photo taken from the park of the botanical glasshouses with Dunfermline Abbey and the Palace ruins in the background.

Dunfermline Palace and garden from Pittencreiff Park

The hanging plants looked luscious and I wish I could get mine to look half as good. I think I need to do a lot more plant feeding than I have been doing.

Pittencreiff Park gardens, Dunfermline, Fife, Scotland

arch Pittencreiff Park, Dunfermline, Fife, Scotland

Through the archway are some of the formal gardens.

Arch Pittencrieff Park,  Dunfermline

formal gardens, Pittencrieff Park, Dunfermline, Fife

apath through Pittencrieff Park, Dunfermline

From part of the park you can get a good view of Dunfermline Palace ruins.

Dunfermline Palace and Abbey

There’s a very good website here called The Castles of Scotland and there’s lots of information on the abbey and palace if you’re interested.

If you look carefully at the photo below you will see more or less right in the middle of it the three white looking sort of pyramid shapes which are the cable supports of the new bridge over the River Forth, the Queensferry Crossing.

Queensferry Crossing  Bridge

If you happen to be in Dunfermline it’s definitely worth having a wander around their unusually central Pittencrieff Park. The land for it was gifted to the town by Andrew Carnegie, the town’s most famous son and if there was ever going to be a patron saint of libraries it should be him as he financed so many of them.

St Mary’s Church, Mold, Wales

While we were visiting Gladstone’s Library at Hawarden in North Wales we took a trip to the nearby small town of Mold. It was the morning and seemed like a nice bustling sort of place, full of locals going about their business. On our wanderings around we spotted this old church called St Mary’s which turned out to be quite historic. Sadly we weren’t able to get into it.

St Mary's Church, Mold, Wales

But the information board outside was interesting. The church was built/funded in the 1480s by Margaret Beaufort, the mother of Henry Tudor.
The church was built in thanksgiving for Henry’s victory at the Battle of Bosworth Field.
St Mary's church info, Mold, Wales

The gravestones seem to have been re-arranged over the years and I doubt if many of them are really marking the actual grave of the person named. Most of them were written in Welsh but it seems to me that Welsh women keep their husband’s name after they die as women do in England too. Of course in Scotland the name on a gravestone is her maiden name, it makes life much easier for people doing family research I think.

St Mary's Church, Mold, Wales, gravestones

St Mary's churchyard . Mold, Wales

It’s a very grand church for such a small town but it’s such a shame that the locals haven’t managed to organise some volunteers to show people around the church – at least during the summer months, and make sure that nobody can vandalise it. Apparently vandalism has been a problem in the past. The old church in the teeny town I live in manages to keep the chuch open with volunteers in the summer, and it’s a focal point for people walking the Fife Pilgrims Way.

St Mary's  stitch

Directly across the road from the church is this Tudor building which has lovely old diamond paned windows. I waited and waited for that car to move, but although the driver was sitting in it he seemed determined just to stay there staring into space. I suspect he moved as soon as we left the area!
Tudor style S (windows)

If you happen to find yourself in the area of Mold it’s worth a visit, but there doesn’t seem to be much else of interest around there, or if there is – we missed it!