Norwegian houses – Olden

Wherever we travel I’m always keen to see the sorts of houses that the locals live in and I have to say that I love the wooden houses in Norway, I think they’re almost all mainly made from wood. The one in the photo below has a turf roof, if they painted the wood green I think it would be difficult to find amongst those trees.

a Turf House

Until very recently I’ve rather looked down on wooden houses as opposed to those made from stone, probably because of that children’s story The Three Little Pigs – wooden houses never seemed that safe to me for various reasons and not just the possibility of fire. I love the one in the photo below, which I believe (if my memory is behaving itself) is in Olden in Norway, as are the others.

white wooden  house
The same house, different angle, I wouldn’t be at all happy about that big tree being so close to it though. A lot of the houses in Norway have narrow permanent ladders on their roof leading to the chimney. An aid for Santa maybe!
white house
When I thought about it I realised that the wood is a far better insulator than stone is, especially as in Norway they seem to have more than just an outer skin of wood, certainly at least two layers. They’ll actually be far easier to heat than stone or brick houses as when they get the cold air on them they become ice boxes and are impossible to heat up with modern central heating. Coal fires are needed to heat up the walls through the flues, but coal is too expensive and polluting now.

If you look to the right in the photo below you can just make out a flagpole and flag. This is quite rare in Norway, even rarer in Scotland mind you. In Norway they have very strict rules on who and when you can fly the flag. Only high up officials working for the government can fly it, unless it’s their national day and then anyone can fly the flag. I think that’s sensible, there’s something rather unbalanced about enthusiastic flag fliers – and constant national anthems too for that matter.
yellow house

The more modern houses are just as nice I think and this one below has a particularly colourful and well kept garden.
Houses  in Olden

Back to old houses and the smaller buildings seem to have been built on stone pillars, I think they were probably grain stores or barns and that would have been a way of keeping vermin out.

Turf roof Houses

It occurred to me that when the Scandinavians immigrated to the USA as many of them did in the 1800s – they took their way of building homes with them. So what I thought of as being an American house style was really originally Scandinavian it would seem. The yellow wooden house below really stands out but I couldn’t believe how close that massive beech tree is, it must make it very dark inside – upstairs anyway. I’d be terrified of it falling on the house in a high wind, although the captain said that Norway doesn’t get much in the way of high winds, which seems strange to me.

Yellow house
I like all these homes and would be quite happy to move into any of them. Interestingly they only use electricity for heating in Norway. They do have natural gas but they export it all. Although things in Norway are expensive in general necessities such as power and housing costs are reasonable and that’s really the way it should be I think. Of course they have lots of hydro-electric power, they’re way ahead of us with renewables, but in Scotland we’re catching up.

Houses

Cockburnspath/Cove, Scottish Borders

headland Cove

One day ten weeks or so ago (how time flies!) we went to Cockburnspath to visit Eric and his family. it was the last week of Freya’s school holidays. It’s a very historic area, being very close to the border with England, battles were fought nearby. When King James IV married Margaret Tudor in 1503 he presented the land around here to her as a wedding gift.

Our visit usually includes a walk to the beach at nearby Cove, a settlement that was once a fishing village with quite a lot of houses and families living there, but due to the ravages of the North Sea most of the houses have been swept away, there are only around three left that are inhabited.

Uther found a ball on the beach and he thought it was a great game to poke it over the edge of the quayside and watch it drop into the harbour, Eric wasn’t so enthralled with the game. Luckily he had his wellies on! The bystanders were very amused.

Boats  at Cove

The North Sea has worn some lovely patterns into the rocks.
rocks  at Cove

rocks and houses  at Cove

Although we’ve been there numerous times we had never witnessed the place when the tide was out, it looks so different. It meant there was far more territory for Uther the red and white setter to investigate, and I must admit that I was happy to follow in his pawsteps. Mooching around on a beach is one of my favourite pastimes, why anyone would want to lie down on a beach is a mystery to me.

Uther

Uther

rocks and Uther

The low tide had brought a couple of cockle/whelk gatherers out – rather them than me, apart from not liking seafood – there’s a nuclear power station lurking in the background!

sea  at Cove

Freya, Jack and Eric were happy to sit and chat while I risked broken ankles scrabbling around amongst the rocks.

F,E, J
These old houses are incredibly picturesque and part of me thinks it would be exciting to have the North Sea battering off your walls, but the fact that all the other houses have been torn down by the sea makes me see sense. This one is now only used to store fishing gear nowadays.

steps  at Cove

Uther is the only dog that I’ve ever known that doesn’t like to go into water, whisper it but – maybe he was a cat in another life!
Uther

harbour wall

Scapa Flow Visitor Centre, Hoy, Orkney

The small island of Hoy is a fairly short ferry trip from the Orkney mainland. The Scapa Flow Visitor Centre is well worth the trip. The area was very busy during both World Wars as it’s so strategically placed it’s a perfect place to position a large part of the British Navy, meaning the population exploded with the arrival of loads of sailors and soldiers and airmen too.

This inevitably led to a change in the opportunities of the local females who up until then didn’t have much to choose from when it came to getting married. When the navy finally weighed anchors and sailed off permanently the local females’ horizons must have closed in on them again. To compensate for this disappointment it seems that they were encouraged to take up pig farming instead of getting married. No difference some might say! I liked the cartoon below which appeared in a local newspaper at the time.

Cartoon

The author Compton Mackenzie (Monarch of the Glen, Whisky Galore) owned a couple of the islands and was stationed here and donated his uniform to the museum.
Comptom Mackenzie's Battle-dress

It’s really quite a good museum with exhibits inside and outside, although I’m not too interested in military hardware.

Gun

I was happier with the more domestic parts such as this mock up of a typical 1930s interior, although I feel that they could be doing with a nice 1930s three piece suite, if I had known that I would have donated one to them before we moved, as I ended up giving it to a local college to practice their upholstery skills on.

1930s room

You can have a look at an air raid shelter, there must have been more of them scattered around but possibly they’ve all been filled in again.

Air-raid shelter

There’s also a tearoom, done out to look like it would have in the 1930s, but it was full of people partaking of the cup that cheers – as usual, so I didn’t take any photos of it. They had tasty cakes though.

The sign above the door seems to be the original one.
Church Army Sign

Hoy is well worth a visit. I’m only annoyed that we didn’t realise that the ferry is such a small one with not much room for vehicles, so you have to book ahead, we were too late to book so we just went as foot passengers, so could only explore by foot. Next time we’ll take the car and travel across as much of Hoy as we can as there’s obviously a lot more to see than we managed, going from these images.

Norwegian settlements

Joan @Planet Joan mentioned that the photographs of the fjords and mountains in Norway reminded her of the Scandinavian murder series on TV and I can see what she means although when you’re actually there it just looks majestic, despite the greyness.

Houses, Lysefjord, Norway

But it means that the occasional patches of greenery, the rare places where there is enough earth to actually grow some grass long enough to make hay, are a sort of Norwegian equivalent to seeing an oasis in the desert. A real feast for the eyes.

Green Space, Lysefjord, Norway
I’m sure that must be what makes these wee settlements so attractive and comfortable looking, well that and the fact that they look like something that a model train enthusiast would set up to landscape their train tracks.

Some of these houses are only used in the summertime, there’s a danger of avalanches in the winter and even in the summer there’s danger as some of the houses now have huge piles of scree balancing behind them. It looks like if you moved one small piece of stone then the lot would come tumbling down. I saw a few houses that I definitely wouldn’t want to live in for that reason.

Reflections, Norway

Olden, Norway

Olden was the second place we sailed to on our recent trip to Norway. I had never even heard of the place, I felt a bit embarrassed by that but actually visiting Olden cured me of that as it’s really a very small place, but rather lovely.

River
We were keen to get off the Black Watch and into the lovely countryside, we had eschewed (how do you pronounce that word? I opt for shoo rather than chew) the organised trips and took to the road, winding through some house lined streets and going up into the road that leads to the scenic Oldeelva river.

It wasn’t a blue sky day but I’m quite glad of that as the low wispy cloud was so atmospheric.
Oldeelva river ,Olden

Oldeelva river , Olden

In parts the river became a roaring torrent.
Oldeelva river falls , Olden

Walking further on you reach a lake, called Floen. When we got back to the ship later that day we seemed to be regarded as heroes for managing to walk that far, and back again of course. The onlly other people who went there under their own steam had used hired bikes, and we beat them there!

Lake at Olden

I had wanted to go and visit a glacier too, but if we had gone on that arranged trip we wouldn’t have been able to do the walk, a glacier visit will have to wait for now.
Lake  at Olden

The photo below is taken from the bridge over the river at Olden looking up the valley back towards Lake Floen.
looking up valley  at Olden

On the way back to the Black Watch we decided to take the path along the opposite side of the river, but eventually the ground became very boggy so we had to go further up the embankment onto the hillside where it was drier. All in all I think we must have walked about seven miles or so. The photo below of Olden and the Black Watch at anchor was taken when we were really quite tired and longing to reach our temporary home. It was a great afternoon out though!

looking back to Olden

Aurlandsfjord, Norway

From Lysefjord we sailed into Aurlandsfjord which turned out to be even more spectacular. It’s a branch of the much larger Sognefjord as in the map below. If you look to the right hand side of the map you will see Aurlandsfjord.

Sogne Fjord map

The photographs don’t look that wonderful, it was a grey day, but I think you can get a flavour of the ethereal atmosphere with the wispy low clouds.

Aurlandsfjord

I think of Norway as being just like Scotland – with knobs on! It always amazes me that trees can thrive in such grim growing conditions, this is a very heavily wooded mountainside and the trees have their roots in the rocks.

Aurlandsfjord mountains

Aurlandsfjord leads to the small town of Flam (pronounced flom as in from) and on the way there there are small communities, wherever there are some small patches of greenery people have settled there. These pieces of fertile land are few and far between, most of Norway is too rocky for growing crops. That was the whole reason that the Vikings had to get on their ships and look for somewhere else to live, the land couldn’t support all of the inhabitants.

Aurlandsfjord houses

Some of these houses are only lived in during the summer, they look idyllic to me but I can imagine that the winters are long and grim.

Aurslandfjord houses

I was quite happy with our grey sky views of the fjord but if you want to see other people’s blue sky photos have a look here.

The next Norway post will be of Flam.

Lysefjord, Norway

For the first couple of days in Norway we sailed through some fjords before actually getting off the Black Watch.

Lysefjord

There are loads of waterfalls tumbling down the sides of the mountains. It’s all quite magical, so atmospheric.

Lysefjord in Norway

Pulpit Rock below is famous, it’s a flat piece of rock about 25 metres square and people go up there to sightsee, I’m not sure I fancy that!

Pulpit Rock

These are just a wee taster of our first fjord on our trip, I have loads more photos. Sadly they don’t capture just how spectacular the area is – but I’m sure you know that feeling when you look back at your own photos, they still bring back the memories though.

Lysefjord

The Island of Hoy, Orkney

We got a ferry from Houton to Lyness on Hoy, there’s a military museum there and a cemetery, both within easy walking distance of the ferryport, which is just as well because we had to go as foot passengers. We hadn’t realised that the car ferry was so small and you have to book up a few days in advance to make sure of getting on to it.

A yacht in Scapa Flow, Hoy behind.
Yacht + Hoy from Scapa Flow

This area was very strategic during both World Wars of course and Scapa Flow is famous as the Germans scuttled their navy there at the end of World War 1. That turned out to be quite handy eventually as the metal from the wrecked ships has been very useful due to the fact that it hasn’t been contaminated by the radiation from nuclear bombs that were dropped on Japan towards the end of World War 2 and subsequent nuclear tests. NASA used the metal to make instruments for experiments in space – something like that anyway!

Mainland Orkney to left, Scapa Flow to centre, Graemsay to right
Yacht in Hoy Sound, Orkney

Graemsay and Hoy from Ness Battery, Stromness
Graemsay and Hoy from Ness Battery

Hoy from south Stromness

Hoy from south Stromness

If you want to see photos of the War cemetery on Hoy hop over to Jack’s post on Lyness Naval Cemetery.

In the cemetery there is also a Memorial to HMS Hampshire, the ship in which Lord Kitchener died.

HMS Hampshire Memorial, Lyness War Cemetery

Carn Liath Broch, Sutherland, Scotland

The weather on our way back from Orkney was beautiful and we decided to take a long slow journey back home, stopping off at anywhere that took our fancy. When I spotted a sign to a broch on the road between Golspie and Brora we just had to visit it. Carn Liath Broch is situated very close to the main road south and there is a good lay-by on the other side of the road for parking.

Carn Liath Broch

It’s fairly well preserved with some of the walls still 12 feet tall. It’s in a beautiful position fairly close to the beach – but not too close!

Carn Liath Broch

Carn Liath Broch

There’s still quite a lot to see and it’s easy to imagine what it must have been like for the original inhabitants, quite cosy I imagine.

Carn Liath Broch

Carn Liath Broch stairs

Carn Liath Broch chamber 1

We had the place all to ourselves and although there’s a main road nearby the cars weren’t visible.

Carn Liath Broch

cows and sea from Carn Liath Broch

The broch was probably built in the last century BC or first century AD. But it was first excavated in the 1800s. Nobody is quite sure about the purpose of brochs, and the ideas range from resource-hungry status symbols to temporary defensive structures for extended families and their livestock. Around 500 were built in Scotland, including good examples at Broch of Gurness in Orkney, Dun Carloway in the Western Isles and Clickimin Broch near Lerwick in Shetland.

I’m so glad I spotted that roadsign.

House of Dun, near Montrose

One beautiful day a couple of weeks ago we decided to grab the good weather and drive up to the House of Dun close to Montrose. It’s a Scottish National Trust property that we had never visited before. It’s just over 50 miles away from us. Below are some photographs of the outside from various angles.

House of Dun

The house was originally owned by the Erskine family.

House of Dun, Montrose

House of Dun, Montrose

House of Dun, Montrose

The gardens are meticullously maintained, I hate to think how many hours it all must take.
Garden

Garden , House of Dun, Montrose

As you can see from the plaque below, it was laid by the Queen Mother to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the birth of the house’s architect William Adam. He was the father of three famous architects, the most famous being Robert Adam.

Box hedging dedication

The pergola below looks lovely now but it will look even better when the plants have covered all of the metal support. It is of course in the shape of a crown. The owners of the House of Dun were closet Jacobites and there are various not very well hidden decorations in the house featuring the Scottish crown.
Garden pergola

The photo below of the box hedging was taken from the top of the house steps, the back door really. The setting is fantastic with beautiful views from the house.
box hedging pano

You can actually rent holiday cottages and I think apartments in the actual house. It would be great – if the weather behaved itself. Crucially there is a good tea room!

Hurrah! the National Trust now allow people to take photographs of the inside of their properties, but I’ll keep those ones for the next blogpost.