Standing Stones, Orkney

On this Summer Solstice I thought I would do a post about the Neolithic stones we recently visited on Orkney.

The Standing Stones of Stenness are well worth going to see although it can get a bit busy. We were lucky, there weren’t too many people around and we did get them to ourselves for a wee while. You can see the Ring of Brodgar and Maeshowe from this location, and when you go for a walk around you are literally tripping over settlements which haven’t been excavated yet, there are just too many of them around and presumably not enough resources to start digs.

Stones of Stenness Information Board

This area was well populated 5,000 years BC, in fact Orkney was the centre of the Neolithic world apparently! Unfortunately I didn’t notice the electricity pylon sticking above one of the stones in the photo below.

Standing Stones on Orkney

It’s a great location near the banks of the sea loch the Loch of Stenness and the freshwater Loch of Harray.
Stones of Stenness

Just to give you an idea of how big the stones are, below is a photo of me beside one, somewhat windswept!
Stone of Stenness and me

Highland River by Neil M. Gunn

Highland River cover

Highland River by Neil M. Gunn won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize in 1937 and I’m trying to make my way through as many of the winners as possible. It’ll be a long haul as there are a lot of them.

This is just the third book by Gunn that I’ve read, I think so far The Silver Darlings is my favourite.

Highland River is set around the Dunbeath area of the Scottish Highlands.

It’s really the story of Gunn’s childhood. It was a hand to mouth existence and the story begins with Kenn being sent out in the dark of early morning to get water from the well situated near a pool. It’s freezing and Kenn slips and falls in the water, but in doing so he realises that a huge salmon has become trapped in the pool, and so begins a battle to catch it with his hands. This is an aspect of the book that reccurs time and time again, in fact too much for me, it might appeal to those who are interested in unusual fishing techniques.

The Scottish Highland childhood chapters are interspersed with chapters about Kenn and his brother’s experiences in the trenches of World War 1 and I would have been happier with the book if there had been more of those. Gunn never was involved in that war though so he probably felt he was better off sticking to writing about what he knew about. He was a customs officer/excise man from 1910 until he was able to earn enough from his writing to become a full time writer in 1937.

He was active politically and was a member of the National Party for Scotland part of which later became the Scottish National Party. He died in 1973.

As it happens, when we were travelling home from our recent trip to Orkney we stopped off at Dunbeath which is a very small place, but is in a beautiful area of Caithness. They’re proud of their ‘local hero; and have erected a statue of Kenn with his massive salmon, a scene from this book. The photo below is of the river that runs through Dunbeath, it’s called Dunbeath Water, and is presumably the Highland river from the title.

Dunbeath Water

There’s also this lovely statue of Kenn and his salmon, a scene from the book.
Kenn + Salmon

I also read this one for the Read Scotland 2017 Challenge and it’s one of my 20 Books of Summer.

The Gems of Secret Scotland from Visit Scotland

Visit Scotland have sent me 27 ‘gems of secret Scotland‘ I’m not sure how many of them could be seen as secret but I’ve only visited around half of them. I’ll be going to Orkney in the summer though so I’ll be able to tick a few more places off the list.

But Loch Katrine (below) is one of my favourite places, somewhere I’ve been visiting since I was a wee girl.

Loch Katrine

I’m planning to visit the Isle of May this summer too so I’ll be getting up close to puffins for the first time ever.

Isle of May

And I’ve never even heard of Sueno’s Stone but I love standing stones so that’s definitely going on the list of places to visit.

Sueno's Stone

Have you been to many of the locations mentioned in the Visit Scotland post?

Dunkeld, Perthshire

Last Saturday was a gorgeous day, unseasonally warm for early April and we drove up to Dunkeld again. After having lunch at Palmerston’s and having a poke around a wee antiques shop and an unexpected church jumble sale – where I bought a big bag of tapestry wool (when will you use it? said Jack) and some cute wee individual Pyrex dishes, we set off for a walk around the outskirts of the town. So we walked through the gateway below which is at the beginning of a long driveway leading to a hotel in beautiful surroundings.

Dunkeld

As you near the hotel they have a boat planter full of spring flowers and an ‘angler’ catching a wooden fish.

Dunkeld

Perthshire or Perth and Kinross as I think the county is called now (why do they have to keep changing names?) is well known for beautiful trees and some of the ones around here are quite historic. As you can see from the ‘hills’ of earth on the bottom left hand of the photo the moles have been hard at work!

Dunkeld

As the walk goes uphill towards the end you end up quite high above the River Tay.
Dunkeld

It looked really placid from a distance but when you are close up it’s really fast flowing.
Dunkeld

This is a circular walk and it leads you back into the centre of Dunkeld, straight to the cathedral, you can see images of it here.

Beatrix Potter visited Dunkeld and the neighbouring village of Birnam every summer with her parents for years and was inspired to write some of her stories here. She also took up the study of fungi and painted beautiful specimens she had collected, unfortunately as a woman she wasn’t taken seriously by the men in charge of such sciences. There is a Beatrix Potter Exhibition and Garden at the Birnam Arts and Conference Centre which displays some of her botanical drawings. Birnam and Dunkeld more or less run into each other but are separated by the river.

There’s also the nearby Birnam Oak which is all that is left of the Birnam Wood of Shakespeare’s Macbeth fame, but I’ll save that for another post.

Cellardyke, Fife, Scotland

A couple of weeks ago some friends invited us to spend an afternoon along the coast at Cellardyke, their house is very handy for the beach, in fact it backs onto it, the tide was almost as high as it gets. I just took some photos of a small part of the beach, the North Sea looked lovely and clear, but I suspect that like most other stretches of sea nowadays – it’s full of teeny wee plastic particles.

Cellardyke, Fife, Scotland

Cellardyke

Cellardyke

Cellardyke

It looks like I must have taken this photograph from a boat but it’s just the angle that the beach takes. I’ve always wondered why the village was called Cellardyke and I’ve just discovered that it’s a corruption of Sil’erdykes as the harbour walls were covered with the drying fishing nets which were covered in silvery fish scales.

You can see more images of Cellardyke here.

We’ll be going back to that area soonish as we plan to take the boat over to the Isle of May (weather permitting) as we’ve never been there before and I dying to get some photos of puffins and whatever other seabirds might be around the place.

Edinburgh via Visit Scotland – 12 hidden gems you must explore

The weather here has been fairly decent over the past few days and I’ve been busy getting some gardening done, but today we drove north to Dunkeld. The forecast said heavy April showers and the satellite photo didn’t look great but it turned out to be a beautiful day, but more of that when I’ve had time to go through the photos.

Meanwhile you might be interested in having a wee look at some places in or near Edinburgh that are worthwhile visiting.

The photo below is Dean Village one of my favourite places for a lovely city walk. You would never believe that you are so close to busy streets.

Dean village

Kemback, Fife, Scotland

I was mooching around on Kingsbarns beach a while ago, it was just after a big storm and I practically fell over some stones with fossils in them. I’ve been back there since and haven’t been lucky enough to find anything interesting like that again, so I googled fossils in Fife and a village called Kemback was mentioned.

Now I’ve lived in Fife for over 35 years but I had never heard of Kemback before, so it was put on a list of places to visit, and one beautiful afternoon last week we got around to going there.

It’s close to Cupar and in Victorian times a mill was built there, taking advantage of the rushing water of the Ceres Burn which looks far too big to be called a burn if you ask me. The photo below is of a lovely waterfall which feeds into the river after running underneath the road. At some point it runs into the River Eden I believe.

Kemback waterfall

The waterfall is to the left of the Community Hall which you can see in the photo below.
Kemback waterfall
There are quite a few big-ish houses and a row of small terraced houses that must have been built for the mill workers, there’s a community hall and up a very steep hill stands a church and a graveyard.

But it’s the waterfall gushing down a cliffside that is the most attractive aspect of the place, it’s the one reason to visit the village really as although the waterfall feeds into the ‘burn’ there seems to be no easy way to access the burn banks or the enticing woodland over the other side of it which is really frustrating.

I love bridges in general and this one is a cute wee thing, it’s a shame about the rubbish that someone has probably chucked out of a passing car, litter seems to be all over Fife and it’s about time they started fining people because where there is a fine, such as around the Glasgow area – there is no litter on the roadside verges.

Kemback Bridge

As you can see from the photo below, it’s a fairly skinny road through Kemback, but not so narrow that passing places are needed.
Kemback cliffs

The road leading up to the church was another matter though, it’s very steep and narrow and I was terrified that we would meet a monster of a 4×4 coming in the opposite direction – but we were lucky, it’s a surprisingly busy teeny road. The church is a replacement of the original one which is just a shell in the middle of the graveyard and it was built in 1586.

Kemback Church and War Memorial

As you can see the World War 1 war memorial is in the shape of a Celtic cross.

It was the old church that really interested me, it’s situated below where the existing church is now and is surrounded by a graveyard which is still in use, but some of the graves go back hundreds of years. The church was built in 1582 and it replaced one from 1244, so it’s a fairly early Christian area. There’s only one World War 1 grave which is in front of the church in the photo, the poor soul must have been brought back home wounded – and lingered until 1920.

Old Kemback Church

The photos below were taken inside the church, where there are some ancient gravestones.
Old Kemback Church
Old Kemback Church

A view of some of the surrounding hills.
hills, Kemback< Fife

We went for a wee walk beyond the village and below is a photo of the road leading back into it. The orange thing to the left in the distance is a temporary barrier as it looks like some idiot had crashed into the wall recently. The walls around Fife seem to have taken a battering over this winter one way or another.
Kemback road

No doubt in the past this area has been quite industrial but now it’s a quiet backwater, apart from the roaring of the water that fuelled the industry.
3rd waterfall

There’s nothing else in the village apart from the community hall and the church it seems. Nobody has been tempted to open up a tearoom – which would no doubt have bought loads of visitors, but I’m not surprised that the inhabitants want to keep the place to themselves. I didn’t see anywhere that looked like a good place to find fossils, but we had a lovely afternoon out there.

You can see more images of Kemback here.

Visit Scotland – and Stromness, Orkney

I’ve received another email from Visit Scotland, telling of the many attractions of this country. You can see it all here.

We’re already booked up for Stromness in Orkney later in the year and you can see some of its attractions here.

It looks very peaceful in this photo but I imagine it must be quite a busy place – when the ferry comes in anyway.

Stromness

Joan Eardley Exhibition

Joan Eardley

On Thursday afternoon we went to Edinburgh to visit the Scottish artist Joan Eardley’s exhibition at the Modern Art Gallery 2 Sadly this exhibition isn’t free, I think it cost £9 but we became ‘friends’ of the galleries which is well worth the money if you enjoy visiting art exhibitions. Firstly we parked the car at the wrong gallery and had to walk across the road to Gallery 2. Then when we did get there I was quite disappointed because there was just one small room with her Glasgow children paintings on display and I nearly left a comment saying I was disappointed that it was so small. Just as well I didn’t as it turned out that there are four more rooms full of her work upstairs. lots of them are landscapes of the wee village of Catterline that she stayed in for years, travelling between her cottage there and her studio in Glasgow. Catterline is north east of Aberdeen, and in the 1950s when she was painting there they still had a small salmon fishing business going on. She bought a cottage there for £30, it had no running water or anything but even so, I wonder how much those cottages cost nowadays!

It’s fair to say that Eardley’s paintings of the Samson children who lived in a flat beneath her studio in Glasgow are not things of beauty. They were living in abject poverty – a family of twelve children who were all models for Eardley, but when you see the actual paintings you see the detail in the background and she captured the essence of a time and place that no longer exists. There are three short films in the exhibition too where you can see her at work and old Glasgow of the 1950s in a film about renewal plans.

The Catterline paintings were my favourites though and there were a couple that I would happily have hung on walls in my home. Unfortunately as usual the gallery shop didn’t have any prints of my favourites.

The exhibition also has a lot of photographs of the Samson children and letters from the artist to friends and her sister. It’s so sad that she died of breast caner when she was only 42, especially as one of the letters says that she is going to the doctor because her bosom was giving her such a lot of pain. Obviously she should have gone to the doctor a lot earlier than she did.

If you’re interested in seeing images of her artwork have a look here.

You can see images of Catterline here.

Catterline

Visit Scotland – Orkney

Scapa Flow

One of the places we hope to visit this year is Orkney, doesn’t the photo of Scapa Flow above look great?! It’s all incredibly historic, or maybe I mean pre-historic.

The photo below is of Skara Brae, I’ve wanted to go there for years even although I thought it was just what you can see in the photo, but last week I saw it on TV and the site is much bigger than this. The dwellings are 5,000 years old.

Skara Brae

You can see lots more photos of Orkney on Visit Scotland here.