Aquhorthies Stone Circle

When we were up in Aberdeenshire a few weeks ago we perused the map and I noticed that there were standing stones marked on it, very close to where we were based. I can’t resist standing stones or stone circles – so off we went to find the Aquhorthies Stone Circle.

Aquhorthies Stone Circle info board

Aquhorthies Stone Circle isn’t right by the roadside as many are, but there’s a small car park close by and from there we walked the 400 metres or so to the field with the stones. They’re quite impressive, not on the same scale as the ones in Orkney but still very good.
Aquhorthies Stone Circle

It’s thought that these stones were an aid to farming, with the moon being a guide to the ancient farmers, telling them when it was a good time to plant their seeds. However, I think that’s just one of many theories over the years. I’m fairly sure that the Victorians would have looked at that massive recumbent stone and said – aha, that’s obviously a sacrificial altar stone.

Aquhorthies Stone Circle, Aberdeenshire, Scotland

As you can see from the tractor in thhe background this region is still a farming area.
Aquhorthies Stone Circle, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, neolithic monument

Whenever I visit standing stones I can’t resist patting them, but as yet I’ve never had anythig close to an Outlander moment, although some of them definitely do seem to hum and buzz, and they’re all incredibly atmospheric.

Aquhorthies Stone Circle, standing stones, Aberdeenshire, neolithic monumnent, Scotland

And – no I haven’t a clue how Aquhorthies should be pronounced!

An Autumn Walk

Just over a week ago we were in Aberdeenshire, visiting Fyvie Castle and remarking on how hot it was for the time of year. It turned out that it was 18 celsius at Fyvie and I know that because that night the weather man on the BBC said that Fyvie Castle had been the hottest part of Britain that day – amazing for late October. Just a week later and back home in Fife we had our first frost of the season. There was a time when we used to have a proper autumn which lasted for weeks but those days seem to have gone.

Anyway on one of my recent autumn walks I took some photos of the surroundings on the edges of the Balbirnie estate, get your flat shoes on and come with me!
path south

I’d like to know who put this hill here, it’s just a wee bit too steep to be enjoyable, until you get used to it!
hill near Balbirnie, Fife

Phew – we’ve reached the top and it’s downhill for a while now.
looking south from hill
So called civilisation with a road in the background, but the cars don’t seem to bother the horses in the field which you should be able to see – just.
horses

If you look carefully below you should be able to see an orange and black beetle, near the centre of the photo below, it’s a Burying beetle, that’s only the second one that I’ve seen and I saw my first one just a month previously as it was in the act of burying a shrew’s carcass – life must go on I suppose, for the beetle anyway.

Burying beetle

path west
Through some trees.
woodland path
In the winter the ground here is usually really boggy, it doesn’t help that mountain bikers use it too.
woodland path

woodland path

Back on to the gravel path, there’s a busy road to the left of this path but trees and a stone wall hides the traffic. You might think that it looks like the photos were taken on different days as the sky goes from bright blue to whitish grey – but that’s our constantly changing weather!

gravel path south
The berries below are on Viburnums or Guelder rose.
Viburnum berries

They’re so bright and shiny they almost look like plastic.

Viburnum berries

I love the roots of the tree below, look closely and you’ll be able to see a short blue nylon rope hanging from the left of the tree. Local kids are obviously using it as a rope swing and you can also see that they’ve been making stepping stones over the burn. I’ve never seen anyone playing there but I’m so happy that kids are still doing things like that and aren’t always glued to some electronic gadget.
tree roots

I also love the fact that people have been working and living around this area for thousands of years, well about 5,000 years anyway, and below is the evidence they left behind in the shape of standing stones and burial areas.

standing stones 2

Well, that should have burned off a few calories, so it’s a good excuse to put the kettle on, put your feet up and have some tea/coffee and biscuits. That’s what I did next anyway.

Bakewell in Derbyshire, (Peak District) England

During our fairly recent trip down to England we stopped off in Bakewell, Derbyshire for lunch and to stretch our legs. A walk along the very scenic River Wye is a must, especially on a lovely sunny day.

Bridge at Bakewell, Derbyshire

We walked from the car park over this stylish and very ancient gothic arched stone bridge which dates from the 14th century, and if you’re interested there’s a decent second-hand bookshop right at the end of the bridge – or the beginning depending on which way you’re walking – all profits going to local worthy causes.

Bakewell Bridge

Weirs always add interest to waterways and I noticed that this one doesn’t quite go all the way across the width of the river, one edge has been kept clear so that fish are able to navigate easily up or downstream.

Bridge  at Bakewell

Which is just as well because …

Fish

it’s absolutely full of fish – trout and grey mullet I think. They’re big too, most of them being around 18 inches long or thereabouts. The last time we were in Bakewell there were even more fish though and it seemed quite spooky to me as they were all grey and ghostly looking.

As it was such a dry summer the Wye was very low, there wasn’t much depth for the fish to swim in and they were navigating around the legs of the ducks and swans. I’ve never seen anyone fishing here so I suspect it isn’t allowed which is just as well really as there are so many it wouldn’t seem very sporting – like shooting fish in a barrel.

Fish , River Wye, Bakewell, Derbyshire

If you’re interested our lunch was of the clotted cream scones variety – delicious.

You can see more images of Bakewell here.

Coniston Water and Brantwood

After visiting Grasmere we drove on to Coniston Water on the way to our next overnight stop in Derbyshire. It was a lovely day and thankfully Coniston Water wasn’t nearly as busy as other places in the Lake District – such as Ambleside which always seems to be heaving.

We were making our way to Brantwood which is the lovely house that the writer, art critic, philosopher, philanthropist and environmentalist John Ruskin bought, it is situated high above Coniston Water and these photos were taken from the grounds at the front of the house.

Coniston Water

Coniston Water

Coniston Water

You can see in the photo below that there are lots of wee boats and yachts in the lake. This lake inspired Arthur Ransome to write his Swallows and Amazons series.
Coniston Water

And below is a photo of Brantwood, it has marvelous views of the lake. Ruskin bought this house unseen as he had often holidayed at Coniston and at a time when he was ill he thought that if only he could lie down in the water at Coniston he would get better. It must have worked as he lived here for many years.

Brantwood, Coniston

I suspect that the one thing that everyone knows about John Ruskin is that his wife had to go to court to get an annulment for non-consummation of the marriage. That harmed his reputation for a long time but that was just a small part of a long life which included many interests. He was interested in educating ordinary working people, at this time education in England was in a very poor state compared with in Scotland. He was involved with progressive schools for girls, and he also set up workshops that trained and employed people who would probably otherwise be unemployed and destitute.

I’ll show you some photos of the inside of the house soon.

Grasmere, Lake District

Grasmere is very touristy, click the link to see some lovely photos and read about the area. The first time we went there though I was quite surprised that the lake isn’t lapping the houses though. It’s a fair wee walk from the centre of the small town to the lake if you aren’t used to much walking.

Grasmere

If you go to Grasmere you really have to buy some Grasmere gingerbread, it is very tasty and is unlike any other gingerberad I’ve had. It isn’t soft for one thing, but I thought it was different from the last batch we sampled a few years ago. Possibly it’s one of those things that’s never the same twice and depends on how many clouds are in the sky! Or is that just a chemist’s excuse?

Grasmere

As lakes go it’s nice enough but not a patch on Coniston which has links with Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons books. But more about that later.

The aerial photo below is from the Visit Cumbria site.
grasmere

Around Grasmere, Lake District

The photos below are of the view we had from the window of our hotel room just outside Grasmere in the Lake District. I took these ones in the morning, but I was so annoyed when I looked out of it because when we arrived the night before it had been full of unusual grey fleeced sheep, and I didn’t take a photo of them as I thought the light wasn’t good enough.

farmland, outside Grasmere
I’m not great at getting to sleep when I’m away from home and I wasn’t helped by the sound of an owl hoo-oo-ooting. It must have been sitting on the roof directly above our bed, but it sounded like it was sitting on the bedhead, and it was one of those spooky sounding owls. It went on for quite a while only stopping now and again when I imagine it must have flown off on a hunting expedition, before alighting above us again. It was definitely a different experience.
farmland, Grasmere

Very early in the morning I had been woken up by some dogs barking outside and I did think in a woolly way that they must have been sheep dogs and my brain just didn’t click to the fact that they were rounding the sheep up, taking them to new pastures – I hope.

The view of across the road from the hotel is really quite different as you can see.
hills outside Grasmere
It’s much more mountainous although maybe I should say craggy as by Scottish standards these are really just hills. I love the stone built farm buildings they have in this area.
scenery outside Grasmere
The Lake District does seem a bit like a mini Scotland – with loads more tourists. It’s not really that far from the ‘debatable lands’ of the Scottish Borders which were always being fought over.
hills outside Grasmere

I took some photos of the types of houses that are in Grasmere. The one below is so wonderfully craggy and solid looking and I’ve never seen chimney stacks like that before. This house is close to Dove Cottage.
House + chimneys

In complete contrast whitewashed houses like the one below always seem quite fragile to me and remind me of iced cakes. I’ll be completely un-pc and say that as I often think of houses as having characters then the top craggy one is definitely male whilst the whitewashed one is veering towards femininity!

typical Lake District house

The burn/stream below edges the graveyard that the Wordsworths are buried in. I did take a photo of the lovely wee bridge over it but sadly it came out all blurred.
Burn, Grasmere

If you want to see more images of the village of Grasmere have a look here.

The Japanese Garden at Cowden

I haven’t managed to sort through the Lake District photos yet so I thought I would do a post on the Japanese Garden that we visited a couple of weeks ago. It’s at Cowden Castle, between the small village of Dunning and Yetts o’ Muckhart. Yes that is a place, ‘yett’ just means gate.

The garden isn’t finished yet, it has undergone a lot of refurbishment as it has lain neglected for many years and has only recently been opened to the public again after being closed for years. It was originally created in 1908 but was closed to the public in 1955. It has taken three years of work to get it to this stage but there’s still some work to do on it.

Acer at Japanese Garden, Cowden

In 1925 this garden was described by Profesor Jijo Suzuki as the most important Japanese garden in the western world.

pond and bridge

There’s a Zen garden, not my favourite kind but still intersting. Obviously there are a lot of cherry trees that have been newly planted so I’ll have to go back there around next May to see what they look like.

dry garden /Zen garden

Stepping stones are a big feature of the gardens and you can even walk across the pond/loch using them – if you have good balance!

acer

apond and bridge

We visited the gardens the day after Storm Ali which caused mayhem in some places with lots of trees keeling over as they were still in full leaf, but these gardens are set in a sort of wee glen so they’re quite sheltered, only one tree seemed to have been blown over.
looking back to pond

Pond and Bridge

There’s twenty acres of woodland to walk in if you have the time and energy. Before going here we had a look online to see what people said about the place. Some comments were less than complimentary, but we had a lovely time, the staff were welcoming and the soup in the cafe was very tasty – what more can you ask?!

Cove, Scottish Borders

Cove harbour

One day last month we went to visit Eric and his family and that always means a lovely walk to the wee harbour at nearby Cove. The water was so tranquil, but there were no scuba divers around.

cottages at Cove

The cottages are still standing despite no doubt being pounded by storms at times, these are the only ones left of what was once quite a large fishing community.

harbour and headland

harbour and headland

This wee harbour is almost like a secret, you really need to know someone who knows the place as you have to walk through a dark tunnel which was created by digging through a hillside. It’s still quite easy to imagine how it must have been when it was home to lots of families though. If you’re interested you can read more about the history of Cove here.

Random photos

I must have walked past this window in St Andrews hundreds of times but I only noticed it recently. The buildings are generally very old but this is obviously an Art Nouveau/Arts and Crafts window, somebody did a bit of refurbishment over the years.

Art Nouveau Glass Window

Across the road I noticed the stone owls sitting on the edge of the portico. I think that like many buildings in St Andrews this one is owned by the university, so presumably the owls are symbolic of wisdom and learning.

Owls

It’s rare to see an empty street nowadays, they’re usually full of parked cars on both sides of the street, but on their Open Arts Festival in Cellardyke, a coastal village in Fife, the place was deserted of cars for once. The clutch of red balloons being the only evidence of modernity, denoting where an artist was exhibiting work.
Cellardyke

I took the photo below in the fair city of Perth, the hanging baskets and window boxes were looking so lovely. I think the rather grand looking building was a bank originally – remember them?!
hanging baskets

I have visited the small town of Dunkeld hundreds of times as it’s one of my favourite places, but I had only ever been into the cathedral ruins there. The photo below is of the newer cathedral which is obviously still in use as a place of worship.
Dunkeld Cathedral Stained Glass

The photo below is the view of Dunkeld that you get as you drive over the bridge.
Dunkeld From Bridge over the River Tay

After visiting the cathedral I walked over the bridge to get a photo of the River Tay. I’ve never seen it so low before, there were actually people walking out to the ‘islands’.
River Tay From Bridge at Dunkeld

I bet it was still cold though!

Cellardyke

A couple of weeks ago we visited the Bowhouse craft and food/drink fair near St Monans in the east neuk of Fife. They are a fairly regular occurrence, no-doubt a product of farmers having to diversify nowadays as the venue is a group of barns. Anyway, we had a nice time there and bought a few things. It’s a fair trek from where we live though so as it was a lovely afternoon we decided to drive on a couple of miles along to through the coastal fishing villages and ended up at Cellardyke. Below is a photo of the Firth of Forth with the Isle of May in the distance. It’s a haven for birdlife of course.

Isle of May

There are some really old houses, some of them are quite pretty I think and they seem to stand up to the icy blast of the North Sea well, but I wouldn’t want to live in one.

Old House

I’ve been told that the ground floor of these houses used to be used just to store the fishing gear, which would make sense as I suspect the sea comes in to visit them now and again, so I would much rather have my living quarters upstairs.

Old House

If you walk along to the end of the village and go up to the war memorial you are high enough to get a good view of the rooftops and sea.

Houses and Sea, Cellardyke

The houses on the left hand of this street back onto the sea, this photo was taken on an earlier visit, when we went there to see the local art exhibition. The red balloons in the distance mean that that house has artworks on view and for sale.

Cellardyke

And below is the view from behind those houses. The big pole is one of only a couple that are left now, they were for hanging the fishing nets on in the olden days, so they are historic really. I find them quite obtrusive but people seem to like them.
Cellardyke
But the place to hang your washing/laundry is at the harbour as you can see from the photo below. These washing lines are well used by the locals although if it blows too hard your washing is likely to end up in Norway!
washing

Lastly a close up of Isle of May. We had intended taking a boat trip to this island, mainly to see the puffins, but so far we haven’t made it. It takes a couple of hours to get there. Last year we really didn’t fancy being stuck out on a boat in what seemed to be endless rain last so-called summer. This year we didn’t fancy getting roasted by the sun on the trip, not that I’m complaining.

Isle of May