My garden in Fife, Scotland

Last week we had a couple of lovely blue sky sunny and hot days – hot by our standards anyway. Then of course the thunder and monsoon-like rain followed, and it’s still with us, well maybe not quite monsoon proportions but very damp indeed. I knew we would pay for all that gorgeous sunshine we had back in May!

my garden, Fife

But while the sun shone I took a few photos of my garden. Actually it looks a bit different now as it has been tidied up or redded up as we sometimes say in Scotland. I had to wait for my brown garden waste bin to be emptied as it was stuffed to the gunnels.

my garden

I got quite excited when I got an email from the Scottish National Trust telling me that some of their gardens will be opening on Friday. After the long Covid-19 lockdown a historic garden visit sounded perfect to me, especially as we’ve only been allowed to travel no further than 5 miles, unless it’s for essential shopping such as for food. The garden at nearby Falkland Palace or even Branklyn in Perth beckoned to me in my mind, but having seen the weather forecast for Friday I doubt if a garden visit will be on the cards. I live in hope!

my garden, Fife

Balbirnie, Fife

In normal times (remember them?) we would have done quite a bit of travelling around by this time of the year, but we haven’t been further than seven miles from home for over three months now, and that trip was just to buy some tools so that Jack could do some emergency plumbing himself. He earned many Brownie points! Eventually. Anyway, I’ve been doing a lot of reading and walking locally so here we go on another local walk in rural Fife.

The photos were taken in late May when the bluebells were out, but they are really just a haze.

bluebells, Balbirnie, Fife

bluebells , Balbirnie, Fife

bluebells, Japanese maples

It’s quite well known for rhododendrons.

Balbirnie, Rhododendron

But the one below is a mystery to me, very pretty though.

Balbirnie shrub

Balbirnie,  trees

I love that the shattered tree below is determined to hang on to life years after most of it crashed to the ground in a storm.

Broken Tree, Balbirnie

This land which used to belong to the Balfour family, related to the Arthur Balfour who was a British Prime Minister in the early 1900s is now owned by the local council and this year instead of mowing all the grass they are just cutting paths through it. Obviously this is a cost cutting exercise but it’s also great for the wildlife and plants, and very scenic I think. Tomorrow Nicola Sturgeon will hold her usual 12.30 news Covid-19 update, maybe we’ll be allowed to travel more than five miles from home – you never know your luck!

Balbirnie  vista, Fife

Largo’s Untold Stories by Leonard Low

Largo

Largo’s Untold Stories by Leonard Low is an interesting read. The author doesn’t stick rigidly to writing about the little coastal village of Largo in east Fife. I was very interested to read that there had been a big battle between the Romans and the Pictish tribes at the base of the Lomond Hills in Fife not far from where I live. If you live in the area or you intend to visit the ‘East Neuk’ it would be a good idea to read a book like this first.

Mind you given that some of the history features ‘witch’ burning and torturing I must admit that walking along Largo beach won’t ever be quite the same for me as it was the scene of some horrific acts carried out by jealous and crazed villagers.

He also writes about the real Robinson Crusoe (Alexander Selkirk) who came from Largo and about starvation and cannibalism on an expedition in search of the North West Passage which had links to the area.

Lots of stone cist burials have been found locally dating from the 420s AD and some earlier. The first one found was a woman who had been buried in a sitting position. Over the years jewellery has been found when major works have been taking place, such as the building of the railway line when two gold torques were discovered. The Pictish tribes buried their valuables before going to war.

Archaeologically, historically and geologically it’s a very interesting place.

If you are interested in seeing what the area looks like have a look at some images here.

Balbirnie Woodland Walk

It’s time for another wee walk in the Balbirnie Estate, Fife – socially distanced of course!

Balbirnie Path and burn

The burn (stream) in the photos is variously called Balbirnie Burn or the Back Burn. It’s a lovely thing but quite devoid of wildlife. The problem apparently is that there is too much sediment in it and not enough gravel for fish to lay eggs in. There was going to be a project to try to rectify that problem, but that may be on the back burner now due to all the costs of the lockdown to the local council.

Balbirnie Path and burn, Markinch, Fife

Like many old estates this place was well known for rhododendrons, there was a bit of a craze for them in Victorian times and Balbirnie has some unusual and very old specimens.

Balbirnie Path and rhoddies

Strangely the reddest rhoddies seem to bloom first, but I prefer the paler colours.

Balbirnie Path and rhoddies, Markinch, Fife

Balbirnie Path and rhoddies

The ferns below must be the most elegant variety growing in the UK. There are big pockets of these ones around the woodland in Balbirnie, I think they’re called shuttlecock ferns.

Ferns Balbirnie Park, ferns, Markinch, Fife

Ferns, Balbirnie, Fife

There was a tall cherry tree still in blossom. It’s a shame that it never gets warm enough here for the fruits to ripen properly.

Blossoming Trees, Balbirnie, Fife

Rhoddy flower, Balbirnie

Walking in a big loop we reached the ‘big hoose’ again and as the hotel is closed for the duration, like everywhere else we slipped through the gardens and I took a photo of the small Magnolia below, I believe the variety is stellata but the photo isn’t as good as I hoped it would be so it’s not that clear.

Magnolia (stellata)

I hope you enjoyed your walk in the woodlands. It wasn’t as empty of people as you might imagine. We had never seen it busier; usually we have almost the whole place to ourselves but people who never before exercised aroud this area are now making good use of the place. There was even an ex-leader of the Scottish Labour Party out and about.

Balbirnie House Hotel, Fife, Scotland

The local posh hotel – Balbirnie House Hotel – has beautiful gardens, and now that it is closed due to the lockdown I felt I could take the opportunity to snap some photos there.

Balbirnie House Garden, Markinch, Fife, Scotland

If you feel that you’re hemmed in by four walls I hope these photos will go some way to making you feel a bit cheerier. Just take a big breath in and imagine you are there.

Balbirnie House Garden, Markinch, Fife

It was a very bright day and the sun made some of the photos look a bit faded.
There’s obviously still a lot of hard work going into the upkeep of the gardens, which is just as well as wilderness takes over so quickly if you don’t put in the effort to keep things trimmed. It’s a shame there are so few people to see it though. I suppose I’m rectifying that a wee bit now.

Balbirnie House Garden, Markinch, Fife

Balbirnie House Garden , Markinch, Fife
Balbirnie House Garden, Markinch, Fife

The steps above lead to a little sitting area with some lovely topiary, very peaceful looking.

Balbirnie House Garden, Markinch, Fife

And the photo below is from the top of the steps looking down at the hotel which was the home of the Balfour family until the 1960s.

Balbirnie House Garden, Markinch, Fife

Balbirnie House Garden, Markinch, Fife,

Balbirnie House Garden, Markinch, Fife

Balbirnie House Garden, Markinch, Fife

This is the front of the hotel, which is the more recognisable poart to most people.

Balbirnie House Hotel , Fife

Balbirnie Estate, Fife

The weather has been so bad recently that we hadn’t been able to get out for our usual walks, so when a bit of dry weather came along we grabbed it although we knew it would be muddy underfoot. The weather never seems to bother the deer that live around here although they have been ranging further than normal and I know that because twice recently they’ve walked across roads as we’ve been driving along, thankfully not going very fast.

Deer, Balbirnie, Fife

The wee burn below is new, there’s normally a trickle in this area which just disappears into the ground but it’s actually flowing now but was easy just to step over.
new burn

Balbirnie path, Fife

It’s squelchy underfoot though and walking down the very steep muddy path below is nasty at the best of times. I wished I had armed myself with a stout stick, but with some nifty footwork I managed not to skite on my bahoukie!

Balbirnie path, Fife

Balbirnie snowdrops,Fife

Once at exactly this spot a fox rushed past us, coming from behind and just about brushing past me, I thought it was a dog at first, then a horribly aggressive pit bull terrier with no collar on and no owner in sight ran past me too. Those dogs must have quite a poor sense of smell because it didn’t realise that the fox had gone off the path and into bushes nearby, where I’m sure they have a den.

Balbirnie, snowdrops , Fife

Balbirnie,snowdrops, Fife

The ‘back’ burn as it is called locally is much fuller and faster than normal, as you would expect with all the rain and sleet we’ve had. Not that I’m complaining having seen on the news what other people are having to put up with.
back burn, Balbirnie, Fife

We’ve been living in this area for almost six years now and we’ve never seen it flooded like this, walking into town for the Guardian in the morning has been interesting, dodging the mini lochs and rivers that at times have reached across the road.
Balbirnie Floods, Fife

No scooting across the golf course as a bit of a short cut, as you can see it has been fairly cold too with ice on top of the floodwater.
Balbirnie floods, Fife

The flagpoles outside the Balbirnie House Hotel, which was originally the ‘big hoose’ in this area, have recently had new flags run up them. I don’t think they last too long in our windy weather. I’m just so glad to see that they are continuing to fly the Europan flag.

Balbirnie House Hotel , Fife

You’ve had quite a few virtual walks around here recently and looking at my bathroom scales it seems like I’ve been having virtual walks too. I hope you’re having more success than I am!

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

Balbirnie Park Autumnal Walk

Will you join me on a walk through Balbirnie Park in Fife on a lovely autumnal morning? It was November the 8th.

Balbirnie Park, Fife, Scotland

There is a reason for the walk, apart from needing the exercise, the destination is the shop where we buy the Guardian.

Balbirnie Park, Fife, autumn trees

It used to be about a seven minute walk for the paper – there and back, but it takes about 50 minutes now that we’ve moved. Well it keeps us fit – allegedly.

Balbirnie Park, Fife, autumnal  trees

The maples are always the best I think, whether they’re bog standard field maples or the more genteel looking Japanese ones.

Balbirnie Park, Fife, autumnal trees

Although the Balbirnie estate is a very old one some of the trees which give the best autumn colour have been planted fairly recently.

Balbirnie Park, Fife, autumnal trees

Balbirnie Park, Fife, autumnal trees

We’ve had quite a lot of rain recently although luckily a lot of it has been overnight. As you can see below, there’s a mini loch flooding part of the park, but nothing to complain about when compared with the inundations that some poor souls in England have had to put up with recently.

Balbirnie Park , Fife, Scotland

We’re now walking past the golf course, not my favourite use for land but I must admit that they’ve planted it well with lovely trees.

Balbirnie Park, Fife, Scotland, golf course

It’s not all manicured though, below is part of the rough and we often end up trying to help golfers find their wayward balls – while thinking to ourselves – how on earth did they manage to hit it in this direction?! I’d give up if I was that bad, but apparently golf is quite addictive. I’m so glad I don’t have an addictive nature, apart from the good chocolate of course, but wheesht – that one’s a secret!

Balbirnie Park, Fife, Scotland

We’re on the home stretch now, almost time to get the kettle on and sit down with the paper to read about the crazy things that are going on in this world.

Balbirnie Park, Fife, Scotland

It might just be this walk that is keeping me/us semi sane!

Balbirnie Park, Fife, Scotland

I hope you enjoyed it.

A Woodland Walk

A couple of weeks ago we headed out for a woodland walk in Balbirnie, taking a route less well travelled by us as it can get a wee bit boring stravaiging along the same paths all the time. Dust down your virtual walking shoes and accompany me!

Balbirnie path

It was a hot day but setting off through the woodland it wasn’t long before the dappled shade and greenery brought some respite from the humidity.

Balbirnie woodland, Markinch, Fife

Back into strong sunlight, it looks like these trees are dead but the tops are nice and green looking.

Balbirnie Woodland, Markinch, Fife

You’re never far from a golf course in Fife and the Balbirnie course can be seen through the trees below. Someone told me that there are 53 18-hole golf courses in Fife and nobody has ever bothered to count the 9-hole courses – I can believe it!
Balbirnie golf course, Markinch, Fife

I always stop to scrutinise the burn when I reach it, living in hope of seeing some fish, but I’ve only seen a couple over the five years I’ve been that I’ve been looking.
Balbirnie burn, Markinch, Fife

Apparently it’s something to do with the lack of gravel on the bottom that means there’s nowhere for fish to lay their eggs. The environmental people are hoping to sort that out eventually.
Balbirnie burn side, Markinch, Fife

However I did spot this frog, so dark and completely unlike any others I’ve seen before. I saw a movement out of the corner of my eye and thought it was a piece of bark falling off the tree but it turned out to be this frog who realised he had been spotted and was in a tough spot, so I quickly snapped this photo and left him or her in peace.

Balbirnie frog, Markinch, Fife

A rural road skirts the woodland, leading to the for me anyway romantically named village of Star of Markinch.

Fife road , (Star Road)

I hopped across the road to get a better view of the fields. It looks like the harvest has been quite a good one.

Fife Field  stitch

Back over the road again and into the woodland.

Stobcross road , Fife

I had only seen one redwood tree before but coming from a different direction I saw it was actually two planted very closely together, it seems strange.
redwoods, Balbirnie Woodland, Fife

Some doctors here have taken to prescribing patients suffering from anxiety and stress a woodland walk, instead of medication. ‘Bathing’ in forests is becoming quite trendy – and it works I think. I hope you’ve enjoyed this relaxing woodland walk. We did anyway!
Balbirnie woodland, Markinch, Fife

Strathmiglo, Fife , Scotland

I’m not complaining, but on a sweltering hot day when we were on our way north to Perthshire we stopped of at Strathmiglo, instead of just driving past it. We had to get out of that hot car! Below is a photo of the tolbooth which was built in 1734.

Strathmiglo Tolbooth, Fife, Scotland

The kirk/church below would have been a perfect example of Presbyterian austerity if someone hadn’t tacked that completely different coloured stone porch onto it back in 1925. The Monkey Puzzle tree – or Araucaria if you’re a plantsperson or Guardian crossword person – is a beauty though, don’t you think?
Monkey puzzle and Strathmiglo  Kirk

I admit that the photo below isn’t the most scenic, but I do love it when you can stand in a street and see the hills not far away, in this case – the East Lomond.
View of Street, East Lomond

Jack and I are really well matched as we both enjoy mooching around old graveyards and burial grounds (what’s the difference I wonder). He’s normally looking for Commonwealth War Graves, usually of those poor souls who got home from their battleground only to die of their wounds later. I’m seeking out much older stones as you can see from the one below. The date on it is 1713 and at the time skulls were seen as a suitable decoration, a reminder of mortality to anyone looking at it. Sadly half of this stone has sunk down into the grave (I hope it missed the body!) so it isn’t possible to read who’s actually buried here.

old gravestone, Strathmiglo, Fife, Scotland

The one below has sunk even more, but I was amazed by how well it has survived the weather and years, I’m sure this one dates from the 1600s, I believe there was a date on the back of it. I’m impressed by the designs on it. Whoever’s grave it is must have been a gardener or something similar. There are two crossed spades in the middle of the design and the flowers on either side seem to have his initials incorporated into the design – J C being at the end of the stems, with the C looking like a scythe. The flowers have a very modern look somehow – there’s nothing new under the sun!

old gravestone , Strathmiglo, Fife, Scotland

Strathmiglo is definitely worth a look around if you’re passing by that way. There are some rather grand looking houses in the high street too, but it’s a very sleepy wee place nowadays.

I meant to mention before that the road which goes around the side of the church leads to a road called Cash Feus – named because the land belonged to the ancestral family of the Country and Western singer Johnny Cash. Obviously his branch of the family must have been the poor cousins as they took the decison to leave for the New World at some point. However he did come back to visit when he had researched his family tree, but it was the nearby village of Falkland that he went to most as he played some concerts there. I think one of his daughters still visits. Well, there are lots of links between Scots traditional music and country music.