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.

Castle Campbell, by Dollar, Clackmannanshire,

Castle Campbell, Dollar, Clackmannanshire, Scotland

Castle Campbell which is situated in Dollar Glen close to Dollar in Clackmannanshire. It was originally named Castle Gloom but was changed to Campbell in 1489-90 by Act of Parliament with the approval of King James IV. The word Gloom was probably from the Gaelic glom meaning a chasm. As you can see it was a gorgeous blue sky day when we visited at the end of October.

Castle Campbell, Dollar, Scotland

Castle Campbell,Dollar, Scotland

Castle Campbell, great hall, Dollar, Scotland

Below is a photo taken from the top of a spiral staircase – you have to be fairly fit!
Castle Campbell, spiral staircase, Dollar, Scotland

The large vaulted room at the top has a cute wee window seat at one end, a perfect place to sit and read or admire the view.
Castle Campbell, Dollar, Scotland

If you look carefully at the photo below you should be able to see two carvings of faces that look a bit like the Green Man. There are holes at the mouths and it’s thought that lamps probably hung from there.
Castle Campbell, ceiling face carvings

Onwards and upwards to the roof which would have been a good place to relax, away from the bustle of the castle and servants, somewhere to have a private conversation – and get away from the smell of the loos as many of the rooms have an ‘en suite’ – non flushing of course.
Castle Campbell roof, Dollar, Scotland

And a fine view can be had in all directions, below is a photo looking over to the wee town of Dollar.

view from Castle Campbell, Dollar, Scotland

It’s a popular place with hill walkers, but we stuck close to the castle grounds, not feeling too energetic – and I didn’t bring the correct footwear – well that’s my excuse!

view from Castle Campbell, trees, Scotland

a view from Castle Campbell, Dollar, Scotland

Of course there had to be water nearby and below is a rushing rushing burn, eager to join up with more of the same which could be heard thundering far below in the glen.

burn, Castle Campbell, Dollar Glen, Scotland

It’s definitely a good place to visit although there’s an uphill walk of about 800 yards from the car park so it’s not great for anyone who couldn’t tackle that by foot

Info Board, Castle Campbell

River Don at Dyce, Aberdeenshire, Scotland

When we were in Aberdeenshire in the north east of Scotland recently we realised that the hotel we were staying in was very close to the River Don and there was a good riverside walk which was easily accessible for us. I love rivers and to me if a town doesn’t have a river going through it then it’s a substandard place. I suppose in reality it just means it’s not such an old settlement though.

The reflections were beautiful. Why is it that reflections look so much more special than the actual thing they’re reflecting?
River Don, Dyce , Aberdeenshire

It wasn’t exactly what you would call busy but some locals were walking their dogs, there were a couple of anglers out in a boat just beyond the beginning of the path, no doubt happy to be away from the disturbance of others using the area. The midges were out in force but weren’t causing us any problems, they mustn’t have been peckish!

River Don, Dyce, Aberdeenshire

It was a beautiful warm evening, the cows on the other side of the river were eating as they usually are – before they toddled off to their nighttime quarters, possibly just into the woodland.

River Don, Dyce,  Aberdeenshire

I said to Jack, I think that’s a bird in that tree or just a plastic bag stuck in it? It’s a bag he said – then the bag soared up and flew down the river to alight in a similar tree. There are advantages to wearing varifocals as I do. Then followed a discussion as to whether it was a heron or an osprey. Heron seemed more likely but when we saw an information board it only mentioned to look out for ospreys.

River Don, birdlife, Aberdeenshire

River Don, Aberdeenshire, Scotland

When we got to this turn in the river we decided to turn back the way we had come as our fish and chips were calling us.
River Don, Dyce, Aberdeenshire

It’s a lovely walk though – if you ever happen to be in the area of Dyce near Aberdeen.

The Secret Herb Garden, near Edinburgh

Looking at these photos – and particularly when you are actually at The Secret Herb Garden, it’s quite difficult to believe that you are just a hop and a skip from the hustle and bustle of Edinburgh.

Secret Herb Garden

It’s mainly herbs that are for sale as well as some vintage things such as old gardening tools and some furniture.
The Secret Herb Garden

But The Secret Herb Garden is mainly a lovely place to get away from the city and have a nice snack at the cafe.

Secret Herb Garden, Edinburgh

We had plenty of choices for where to sit, but as we visited on a very hot day we decided not to sit at a table in one of the greenhouses as it was just too hot and bright.
Secret Herb Garden

Secret Herb Garden

Vintage cars are used as decoration in parts and the old VW Beetle has been pressed into use as a log store.
Secret Herb Garden

We went all around the various garden areas first though and it feels just like being in the garden of a National Trust property, or something similar.

The Secret Herb Garden

The Secret Herb Garden
We had coffee and cake but I didn’t buy any plants as – I already had them all. I suppose that proves that I’m definitely a plantaholic!
The Secret Herb Garden

This is one of those places that we’ve been meaning to visit for ages. If you’re inclined towards distillery visiting you can do that too as there’s one just beyond the gardens which seems to make whisky and gin – as they just about all seem to nowadays. I don’t care how fashionable gin is, or whisky for that matter – I can’t stomach the stuff.

The Secret Herb Garden

Annan, Dumfries and Galloway, South-west Scotland

Last Saturday we drove down to Annan in Dumfries and Galloway, the south-west of Scotland. It was a glorious day, a bit too hot really for me it was about 70F I suppose.

Annan Bridge, Scotland
Jack was going to a football match there so I decided to take a stroll along the riverside walk along the Annan which flows through the town. It has a lovely ancient red sandstone bridge.

River Annan, Dumfries and Galloway, ScotlandBridge

Just a stone’s throw from the bridge is the remains of Robert Bruce’s motte and bailey, it seems just to be a few lumps and bumps in the ground from a distance anyway, I couldn’t get any closer. I was interested because I had just finished reading Nigel Tranter’s book Footsteps to an Empty Throne and this is where the first battle of the Wars of Scottish Independence was fought.
Bruce's Motte and Bailey, Annan
I had the river all to myself with just a few swans and a heron for company, sadly the heron flew off before I could get a photo.

River Annan (south)

They are obviously proud of the Robert the Bruce connections in Annan and had this statue put up on the Town Hall, but Bruce also had a manor/castle at Cardross near Dumbarton where I grew up, although nobody knows exactly where it was. In fact that’s where he died.
Statue of Bruce at Town Hall

Below is the town hall from another angle, if you lok closely you’ll see it’s desperately in need of being weeded of budleias and various other plants.
Annan Town Hall, Dumfries and Galloway

I enjoyed my walk around Annan and Jack enjoyed the football because Dumbarton won – unusually!

Oldhamstocks, East Lothian, Scotland

Oldhamstocks houses, Scotland

I’m amazed to discover that it’s almost two years since we visited the tiny village of Oldhamstocks in East Lothian. We had seen a road sign pointing the way to it and it seemed such an incongruous English sounding name for its East Lothian location that we made time to have a look at it. It’s really wee with just 193 inhabitants according to Wiki, but it has a church so it is offically a village – not a hamlet. The church was consecrated way back in 1292. You can see photos that Jack took of it here.

Oldhamstock houses, East Lothian

It’s the picturesque houses that appealed to me though. This village is close to the Scottish Border with England and apparently its name means old dwelling place.

Oldhamstock houses, East Lothian

When we were there they had a notice up in a noticeboard advertising the upcoming village fete so despite it being such a wee place they do have a good community spirit, sadly we couldn’t go to it but heard it is worth going to as they were selling second-hand books, what more can you ask for?!
Oldhamstocks green, East Lothian

Stockholm, Sweden

Stockholm Gardens, Royal Palace

Back at Stockholm, above is a photo of the royal palace and public gardens nearby.

Below is a statue of what Jack described as a disporting gent but we didn’t find a clue as to who he is.

adisporting gent , statue, Stockholm, Sweden

statue, Stockholm, Sweden

Below is definitely Linnaeus.

Linnaeus

One of a pair of waterfalls at the royal palace.

Royal Palace  waterfall, Stockholm

A church and street.

church, Stockholm

The national museum – below.

national museum, Stockholm

The Riksdag below is I presume the parliament building, I thought the plane flying past would have looked better than it does in the photo.

Riksdag + plane, Stockholm

Riksdag gateway.

Riksdag gateway, Stockholm

Eventually we found Gamla Stan which is the old part of the city and as you can see was stuffed with tourists. Shops selling Dala horses abounded, but we resisted as our old ones look nicer than the ones they sell now. I nearly bought an old children’s book with lovely illustrations but as the shop owner was on the phone all the time we were there – chatting with a friend – she didn’t get the sale. I’m still annoyed, but it happens here too, I just wonder why people have shops if they aren’t willing to serve the potential customers.

Gamla Stan, old Stockholm

Lastly is a photo of the waterfront. I don’t know what it would be like on a cold and grey winter’s day, but certainly in blue sky sunshine Stockholm is a stunningly beautiful city.

Stockholm waterfront

Jean Sibelius – Helsinki, Finland

Helsinki in Finland was one of the destinations on our recent Baltic cruise. We decided to walk out to see the structure which commemorates the composer Sibelius – we walked and walked – and ‘better’ walked as the Scots phrase for too much goes, thinking we would never get there, but we did, just as three bus tours full of Chinese tourists descended on it. They all wanted an individual photo of themselves standing beside the monument for some reason, so it was quite some time before we could get an image of it on its own. Meanwhile I wondered if any of them had even heard of Sibelius, but for all I know they may have been a Chinese branch of his appreciation society!

Sibelius, Helsinki

I’m wondering if the designer got mixed up between Sibelius and Mendelssohn as it really reminds me of Fingal’s Cave which is the cave on the uninhabited Scottish island of Staffa in the Inner Hebrides which inspired Mendelssohn to write his best known piece of music of that name. you can see images of it here.

Below is the man himself and yes they did all have to have their photo taken with him – individually.

Sibelius, Helsinki, Finland

I found the video below on You Tube, it’s his Finlandia, Op. 26.symphonic. Apart from beautiful music it also shows amazing scenery and lots of animals as well as the northern lights.

East Neuk Easter

Easter Sunday was a gorgeous day in the East Neuk of Fife where we were lucky enough to be celebrating the day at the home of our newly extended family by marriage in Cellardyke. Below are a few photos that I took from their verandah – looking over to the Isle of May in the distance, it was a wee bit hazy.

Isle of May

Isle of May

It was all go on the Firth of Forth – which is really the North Sea at Cellardyke, with next landfall being Norway.

Kayaks

Two lots of rowers went past in quite big boats and they went at quite a lick. There has been an upsurge in competitive rowing between the Fife coastal villages recently although I think it’s mainly women tha take part in it.
Kayaks

You should be able to see one of the big heavy rowing boats in the background. A pod of four dolphins arrived and swam under and around the kayakers for a bit before swimming off further along the coast, but they turned out to be impossible to photograph.

aKayaks 4

Ella and Zinki are waiting patiently at the gate which leads onto the beach. Zinki the spaniel had already cut his paws on shards of shell or something but it didn’t seem to be bothering him much, he was still determined to get into that freezing water again – and he did!
Zinki and Ella

It did get a bit chilly later on, but by then we were into the home-made chocolate so nobody minded. It was a great day.

easter eggs

The Japanese Garden at Cowden, Clackmannanshire, Scotland

Japanese Garden , Cowden, Scotland

Japanese Garden , Cowden, Scotland

Last Monday was a bright and beautiful day so we decided to drive along The Japanese Garden at Cowden near Yetts o’ Muckhart which is in Scotland’s smallest county of Clackmannanshire.

There’s a small area given over to a gravel garden, and we watched a couple of the gardeners carefully raking the gravel and then making circular patterns in it. Luckily I managed to take this photo just before some garndparents took their grandchildren for a scuffle through it, ignoring the ‘keep out’ sign. Reading is wasted on some people!

Japanese Garden, Cowden, Scotland

As most of the cheery trees in streets, parks and gardens were already in bloom I thought it would be a good time to re-visit the Japanese gardens that we visited for the first time in the autumn. But it’ll be quite a while before anyone can sit under this tree below’s cherry blossom.

Japanese Garden, Cowden, Scotland, cherry tree

It turned out that as the original cherry trees which were planted in the garden back in the 1920s seem not to have survived, the trees that are there now are really small, having been planted recently.

But heigh-ho, we still had a lovely afternoon there. There’s still a lot of work ongoing, such as building new paths and expanding the woodland walk.

Japanese Garden , Cowden, Scotland
You can walk across the zig-zag bridge, if you aren’t worried about your balance, but you aren’t allowed onto the arched bridge – Health and Safety probably.
Japanese Garden , lake, Cowden, Scotland

The large pond (or is it a lake?) has a healthy amount of frog spawn in it, or maybe it’s toad spawn as when we were in the woodland walk I almost stood on this fine fellow who was sitting on the path, as I approached him I thought he was a clump of autumn leaves – or something even worse that I definitely didn’t want to put my foot in!

Toad

The Japanese Garden at Cowden is certainly worth a visit, although I must admit that we went a bit too early – well I had a ‘two for one ticket’ which was expiring the next day! In another week or so from now the maples will be looking great.
Japanese Garden , Cowden, Scotland