Dunkeld in Perthshire

It was a sparkling afternoon in October I think when we visted Dunkeld again, just for a walk around the place. Perthshire is well known for having lovely trees.

sheep

Walking around the edge of the cathedral brought us to these sheep that are in the normal sheep stance – head down and chomping away.

Dunkeld sheep

The banks of the River Tay are very close to the remains of the cathedral, so the grass there is manicured compared to the rest of the riverside. It’s a nice place to sit and is just a hop and a skip from the wee town.

River Tay at Dunkeld

The Tay is really a thing of beauty, swift, clean and somehow honest looking, certainly when I compare it with my recent visit to the River Severn. Don’t fall in though! One of our ‘boys’ once kicked our football into it when he was a youngster, I think he thought we would be able to get it back – no chance.

River Tay

Sometimes they have the salmon season opening ceremony at Dunkeld, they pour some whisky into a quaich which is a two handled Scottish drinking vessel and throw it into the river as a blessing. Nowadays if you catch a salmon you have to put it back in the river, after taking photos of it of course. Conservation is important.

One year I remember they had to crack the ice to get a boat onto the river, but I can’t find any videos of that freezing year. I did find one of the 2018 ceremony at Kenmore though, another wee place I’m fond of and I’ve added it to an old Kenmore blogpost of mine. So if you enjoy listening to a pipeband and you’re interested in seeing a River Tay fishing season opening ceremony have a look here.

Fortingall, Perthshire

Way back in August last year we visited the Highland Perthshire village of Fortingall. The village is well known foor its ancient churchyard yew tree which is thought to be over 5,000 years old, apparently the oldest living thing in Europe. Over the years the yew tree has died in the middle, leaving a cave like space in the middle, so sadly there’s no massive tree trunk to hug! Tourists over the years cut bits off the tree as souvenirs so a wall and railings were built around it for protection.

Fortingall Yew

There has been a church there for centuries, the original one dating from the 8th century, but the church there now dates from 1901.

Fortingall Kirk
The surrounding landscape is typical hills covered with what looks like a Forestry Commission plantation. I hope that fewer of these are going to be planted in the future as they don’t look great en masse and when they do cut them down the place is always a scene of devastation.

Fortingall Hills
I believe that it was the local MP who had these gorgeous Arts and Crafts design houses built for the locals, lucky locals I say!
Fortingall Arts and Crafts

Fortingall Arts and Crafts

But the more traditional Scotish houses such as the one below are lovely too, this one had a lovely garden.

A Fortingall house

It looks like an idyllic village, but as always – I wonder what it’s like for young people to live there. I suspect they would just be stuck in the village unless they have parents willing to provide a regular taxi service for them.

Fortingall Arts and Crafts
However there’s a lovely burn for kids to play in in the summer, that’s something that we all did as kids but I have a nasty feeling that parents don’t allow their children to have fun messing about in burns nowadays.

Fortingall Burn

Fortingall is a very small village but like lots of far-flung places it seems to have a great community spirit, when we were there they were having an art festival and quite a few well known artists were exhibiting.

You can see more images of Fortingall here.

Loch Lomond and Ben Lomond

One day last week we had to drive over to my beloved west of Scotland, it’s only around 70 miles away but it’s very different from the east coast. Below is a photo of Ben Lomond, I don’t remember ever seeing it with so much snow on it before.
Snow on Ben Lomond

There was still plenty of snow piled at the side of the roads on the way there, but by the time we got to central Scotland, the Stirling area – it had disappeared. We couldn’t resist stopping at Loch Lomond to take this photo of Ben Lomond capped with snow. I was brought up just a few miles away from here and in the summertime, in the days when we actually used to have decent summer weather, I used to walk here to visit my older married sister who lived nearby.

In Scotland the largest hill in any area is called ‘ben’ and locally that one will always just be known as ‘the ben’.

Snow on  Ben Lomond

We drove onward to Arrochar and Tarbet where what had been a gorgeous day turned briefly quite grim with rain, so no photos were taken but you can see some images of the area here.

I took the photo below of Loch Long whilst we were driving along, it reminds me of the Norwegian fjords with those layers of mountains in the background.

Loch Long
Then we drove over to Rhu and Helensburgh by a very skinny road which twists and turns and has ups and downs reminiscent of a big dipper ride. We breathed in at times whenever a 4×4 was coming from the other direction. You can see images of Rhu and Helensburgh here.

It’s a pity there are so many trees lining the loch as it can be quite difficult to get a glimpse of it at times.
Loch Long

The only place that you can stop is when you reach the Ministry of Defence area, where my dad used to work in fact, straight ahead it’s a blot on the landscape, all military metal, nuclear nonsense and razor wire, but looking back up Loch Long it does feel very Nordic.

Loch Long

Loch Long

A walk around Helensburgh and coffee at The Sugar Boat ended a perfect day out.

Crichton Castle in Midlothian, Scotland

I do hope that I’m not repeating myself because I could have sworn that I had already done a post on our visit to Crichton Castle, but it doesn’t seem to be on the blog, and the photos weren’t on Flickr, so I must just have written the post in my head – and got no further!

Crichton Castle

Anyway, as I remember it was a lovely visit to the castle which has quite a long footpath leading to it after you park your car. We had it all to ourselves although as we were leaving some other people turned up.
Crichton Castle is near the village of Pathead in Midlothian, not that far south of Edinburgh. The oldest part of the castle was built in the late 14th century, but by the time Mary, Queen of Scots attended a wedding there it must have looked quite different.
Crichton Castle
Crichton Castle

It was owned by the Earl of Bothwell who became Mary’s third husband – really that poor woman should have been much wiser and been more like her cousin Elizabeth I and eschewed marriage altogether.

Crichton Castle  stairs

The castle has a scale and platt staircase, in other words a straight staircase with landings, instead of the normal spiral staircase that castles of that age have. Francis Stewart who owned the castle in the 1580s was inspired by a trip to Italy and copied an Italianate style, adding fancy diamond rustication to the courtyard wall, medieval stone cladding I suppose.

Crichton Castle
You need to put your initials on your castle obviously!

Crichton Castle

The setting is lovely, high above a river with plenty of trees around.

Crichton Castle

The castle features in Sir Walter Scott’s Marmion and was painted by J.M.W. Turner in 1818.

New Slains Castle in Aberdeenshire

New Slains Castle

A few weeks ago we drove up to Peterhead so that Jack could attend a football match – which ended up being cancelled, so we decided to make the best of the situation and visited some interesting locations around the area. My friend Christine had mentioned that Slains Castle was nearby, but might be a bit too spooky, and I must admit that I had never even heard of it. There are in fact two Slains Castles – an old and a new one. We visited both of them but there’s very little left of the old one and a farmer seems to be using it as a bit of a dumping ground.

New Slains Castle had a lot of re-building done over the years and the photo below shows that it ended up being given a Scots Baronial makeover at one point.

Slains Castle

Dracula author Bram Stoker had visited the new castle as a guest in its heyday and apparently the location inspired him to use it as a model for Dracula’s Castle. Sadly since those days the castle has fallen completely to ruin. In 1925 the owner decided to remove the roof to avoid paying tax on the building and as the building is practically hanging over the North Sea it won’t have taken long for the weather to ravage it, but it is very atmospheric.

New Slains Castle
Unusually for Scotland there’s quite a lot of red brick in the building of dividing walls and such, I suspect these bits were re-done in the 19th century.

New Slains Castle
You can see where the beams and joists were originally.

New Slains Castle

New Slains Castle

When we were there it was quite busy with foreign tourists and local kids. Those youngsters are always heart-stopping for me as they are fearless, it seems that if there’s a cliff around then there’ll be kids dangling their legs over the edge of it. This time I was amazed to see some boys aged about 14 had climbed right down to the sea – and even more gobsmacked when they disappeared behind a rock and emerged wheeling their bikes – they had ridden down there it seems!

We did climb up some of the castle stairs for a better view and to imagine what all the rooms must have been like but it does feel quite dangerous up there as because the floors have all gone you can’t walk from one room to another as there’s always a big gap between them, if you aren’t careful it would be easy to fall down into a downstairs corridor, it’s as scary as looking down a ravine.

New Slains Castle

The stairs are distinctly dodgy!
New Slains Castle

They chose a good spot for the castle though – both defensively and just for a spectacular view.

Rocks
Rocks

There have been quite a few accidents and strange deaths here and there were floral memorials and woven wooden things that must have been to keep witches away – and of course – red thread.

Somebody fell down the ravine below not long ago – don’t go too close!

Slains Castle Sea inlet

You can see more images of Slains Castle here.

Isle of Skye

It must be around 20 months since we visited the Isle of Skye, but I have never got around to blogging about it, unlike Jack. So if you want to see some photos of Skye, albeit on a fairly misty day have a look at the link. Isle of Skye

We only spent a few hours there and it was quite busy at all the ‘beauty spots’ although it wasn’t quite as busy as it has been this last summer, when it actually said on the news that the Isle of Skye was full to bursting point and so if you didn’t have a reservation at an hotel, B&B or campsite then – don’t go. It’s the Outlander effect apparently. I must say that Skye isn’t my favourite part of Scotland, I suffered a horrible fortnight’s holiday there when I was 11. It involved a caravan, a boggy field, a brother and a lot of rain, it put me off holidays for years!

A Winter Walk

A couple of weeks ago we attended a meeting at the local church (no I haven’t got religion!) where there was a local history talk about the Pilgrim Way in Fife. You can see Markinch’s St Drostan’s Church tower in the middle distance.

St Drostan's in the snow

The snow was still lying quite thickly in places, it has been a snowy winter this year and more is forecast for later this week.

Trees

But at least the days are getting longer already. These photos were taken at 4.45 pm, just a couple of weeks previously it would have been pitch black. I suppose the brightness of the snow helped.

There were apparently three paths traversed by pilgrims on their way to St Andrews Cathedral, but this path through woodland leads straight to the church which would have been a resting stage for the pilgrims.

Trees
I think that going on a pilgrimage was a bit like going to a gig nowadays. Something for people to look forward to, a bit of excitement, a chance to meet new people and particularly members of the opposite sex.

Wintry Walk in Fife

Come on – how about coming with me on a wintry walk in Fife, it’ll help blow the cobwebs away! One afternoon a couple of weeks ago during a really cold snap we went for a walk in nearby woodland.

Balbirnie Estate trees

And then we left the woodland, crossed the road and set out for the open farmland surrounding the woods.

Estate Trees

Farm Track

It was the middle of November but the trees were still holding onto leaves and looking quite colourful, I think some of them are beeches.

Trees

In the summer these fields will have crops of wheat, oats or barley in them.

winter Trees

The fields had been boggy after all the rain we’d had earlier in the year but where there were tractor tracks the puddles in them had been frozen over. We kept to the farm track, in the photo below you can just see a small bridge that goes over a railway line, there’s a concrete and brick structure above and beside the track which looks like a World War 2 pillbox.

Railway  Bridge and pillbox

Presumably the pillbox was built to defend the track in the event of attack.

Pillbox

Below is the track going north.
Railway  track

And below the track is going south to Edinburgh.
Railway  track, Fife

We disturbed some pheasants in one of the fields and they flew off in that awkward way they have that makes me think that anyone who shoots them for ‘sport’ is akin to a murderer as it seems they can’t fly away very well, having said that they were too fast for me to get a photo of them.

Trees in Fife

By then we were frozen to the bone so we turned for home, it was coffee and cake time! I’m sorry I couldn’t share that with you, but I hope you enjoyed your rural stroll with me in Fife.
Road

The land around here isn’t that far from Falkland Palace and I imagine that when Mary of Guise, Mary Stuart and King James lived there this area would have been part of their riding and hunting ground as Falkland was built as a hunting palace. It would have been much more heavily wooded in those days. The Palace is mentioned in Dorothy Dunnett’s Lymond Chronicles

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