Scotland’s Mountains from the Air and The Finest Mountain Between Heaven and Hell

I feel that things are getting very samey around here, normally I would be able to blog about my travels and visits to what I regard as interesting places but lockdown has scuppered that. While You Tube wandering – not something that I do a lot of – I came across the scenic films below. I hope you enjoy them. You’ll have to click over to You Tube to view the first film. Meanwhile I’m going to trawl through my old photographs to remind myself of where I’ve been before lockdown and haven’t got around to blogging about.

Scotland’s Mountains from the Air

The Finest Mountain Between Heaven and Hell

The film below has some great scenery on it with a couple of kayakers travelling to Knoydart, then climbing a mountain. Armchair travelling is the perfect way to do it – no midges involved.

Armchair Travelling around Scotland

I must admit that I’ve watched a lot more TV this year than usual due to the various lockdowns, and it has been a good way to see some lovely scenery and note down places to visit in the future when we’re eventually able to get out and about. Or even to re-visit favourite places that we haven’t been allowed to travel to.

I always enjoy Paul Murton’s Scottish tours, the episode below is from Grand Tours of Scottish Islands. I hope you can see it and it isn’t blocked where you are.

Or you might prefer Tales from the Coast with Robson Green in the Outer Hebrides.

Or what about the classic Weir’s Way with Tom in the Orkneys? These films are really old now but still entertaining.

Tom Weir in Edinburgh.

And Tom Weir again at Dumbarton Rock, which is where I used to play when I was wee. This is now quite a historic wee film as the town of Dumbarton has changed so much. The Ballantine’s distillery which can be sen steaming away in the background at times is now long gone. It was the largest brick built building in Europe at one time.

I hope that wherever you are you can see these You Tube films and find them interesting. There are loads of them on You Tube and it’s good to be able to do some research this way before setting out on your own journeys.

Strip Jack by Ian Rankin

 Strip Jack cover

Strip Jack by the Scottish (Fife) author Ian Rankin is the fourth book in his long Rebus series which follows Detective Inspector John Rebus through his whole career in the Lothian police force, based in Edinburgh. I have read quite a few of the books and it would have been sensible to read them in order mainly for the personal life of Rebus, although not crucial I think.

Strip Jack was first published in 1992, it’s quite shocking to think that that is now 28 years ago, so this book now has the feel of vintage crime, no mobile phones or internet, it adds to the charm.

The book begins with a police raid on an up-market brothel in one of the Georgian terraces in Edinburgh’s New Town, (believe me – there is one!) One of the clients caught up in the raid happens to be the popular local Member of Parliament Gregor Jack. The ‘gentlemen’ of the press are hanging around the brothel doorway and it dawns on Rebus that they must have had a tip off from someone, he suspects that the MP is the victim of a set up.

Gregor Jack’s wife Elizabeth is from a local wealthy family and she’s more than a bit wild, she’s a party animal, with drink and drugs involved. She spends a lot of time away from home, sometimes at her home in the Highlands, so when she disappears it’s assumed that she has gone there in high dudgeon after having seen her husband’s face all over the newspapers.

Gregor Jack’s staff and close friends that he has known since childhood rally round to protect him, but his friends are not what they seem to be on the surface.

I really liked this one although I do think that the books get even better as the series progresses.

At the back of my copy of the book there is a map of Edinburgh New Town which will be of use to people who don’t know the city, but if you do know the area part of the charm of these books is being able to visualise all the locations. However, if you’re really keen you can go onto Google Street to have a wee ‘walk’ around and see for yourself.

River Tay, Perth, Scotland

For obvious reasons our travelling this year has been very much curtailed, but I’ve been coping well with having to keep within the guidelines for travelling around, even when we were only allowed out for an hour a day for exercise, and to go to the supermarket. But it looks like we in Fife will have to stick to our own county again soon as Covid stats rise again. So last Thursday we drove to Perth in the neighbouring county, just for a change – and while we could. I wasn’t interested in the shops – well – apart from the Oxfam bookshop, but the River Tay is right at the top of the High Street so we went to have a look at it. Unfortunately as you can see from the photos below we were a week or two too late for the best of the autumn colour.

Perth, River Tay at Perth

River Tay at Perth , River Tay, Scotland

There’s a nice old bridge over the river.
River Tay at Perth, Scotland

And a not quite so nice more modern bridge.
River Tay at Perth, Scotland

With my back to the river I took a few steps forward to take the photo below. The river is perilously close to the shops and the town has flooded in the past but I think they’ve solved that problem, for now anyway. I love towns with a river running through them, as all the old places do. The building on the left below with all the flags hanging from it is now the Perth County Council Headquarters. I really like that they are inclusive and happily fly the flags of so many other countries instead of just a Union Jack/flag or Saltire/St Andrews flag.

Perth, Scotland

You can see some great images of Perth here.

Yes I DID buy a couple of books in the Oxfam bookshop, but I’ll keep those for another time.

Falkland Palace Garden, Fife, Scotland

Falkland Palace , Fife, Scotland

Although we’re members of the Scottish National Trust we haven’t been able to visit any of their properties this year as they’ve obviously all been closed due to Covid. Some of the bigger castles have opened up again, such as Edinburgh Castle and Stirling Castle, but last week we decided as it was a beautiful day we’d visit nearby Falkland Palace, just to walk in the garden, the palace wasn’t open. You can just walk in and there’s a box for donations.

Falkland Palace, Fife, Scotland

Falkland Palace was the hunting lodge of the Stuart kings and queens. Built in the 16th century by King James IV and his son James V and modelled in the French style it was also a favourite with Mary, Queen of Scots as it reminded her of the French chateaux of her childhood.

Falkland Palace , Fife, Scotland

Much of the palace is a romantic ruin, but in the 19th century the third Marquess of Bute had it partly rebuilt.

Falkland Palace, Fife, Scotland

We quite often just go for a wander around the gardens, there’s a pleasant orchard, although a lot of the trees have been fairly recently planted. In normal times you can have a nice wee sit down on a bench and admire the views, but I believe they’ve been removed due to Covid 19.

Falkland Palace Gardens, Fife, Scotland

Anyway, here are some of the photos I took while we wandered around.

Falkland Palace Gardens , Fife, Scotland

Falkland Palace Gardens, Fife, Scotland

Falkland Palace Gardens, Fife, Scotland

Falkland Palace Gardens, Fife, Scotland

Falkland Palace Gardens, Fife, Scotland

Falkland Palace Steps, Fife, Scotland

The gate below is obviously modern, it leads through to the orchard some of which you can just see in the background. The apple crop was not nearly as good as usual due to the weather.

Falkland Palace Gate, Fife, Scotland

Although Falkland has always been popular with tourists it has become even more so in recent years as the village and palace have been used as a location for Outlander. Click on the photos if you want to see them enlarged.

The Turning Tide by Catriona McPherson

 The Turning Tidecover

The Turning Tide by Catriona McPherson was published in 2019, I’m glad that I’ve caught up with this series which should be read in the correct order if possible. Dandy’s family has just expanded by two as her daughter-in-law has given birth to twins.

The setting is the summer of 1936 and on the east coast of Scotland Dandy is feeling no need to shed her cardigan as there’s a keen wind, as usual! Dandy and Alec have been asked to investigate goings on at the Cramond Ferry. It doesn’t sound like their sort of thing and initially they decline to take the case on, then refuse the second plea, when the third request came along things at Cramond had deteriorated and they decided to take the case on. Apparently the ferrywoman’s behaviour was now so strange that she was refusing to ferry anyone out to the small tidal island in the middle of the Firth of Forth. There has been a tragic accident, the body of a young man has been fished out of the river and Dandy realises that she knows his family. When Dandy and Alec arrive at Cramond island the ferrywoman who goes by the name of Vesper Kemp is raving, filthy and is naked from the waist up. Alec doesn’t know where to look! Vesper claims she murdered the young man.

Various Cramond residents including the local minister don’t believe that Vesper is guilty, surely it was just an accident, but there’s no doubting that there are strange things going on in the small community. Dandy and Alec are the ones to get to the bottom of it all, assisted by Grant, Dandy’s maid who now sees herself as a key component of any investigation.

This was a good read and for me the fact that I know the settings of Cramond and Edinburgh so well added to the enjoyment. You can see images of Cramond here. However the tidal island off Cramond whih is featured in this book sounds much bigger than the actual island.

Culross, Fife, Scotland

Culross

A lot of the wee houses in Culross are owned by the Scottish National Trust and were delapidated and uninhabited until they took them over and renovated them.

Culross street, Fife, Scotland

Then they rented them out to people, I’m not sure if the houses that I’ve photographed are some of those ones but I think they are. I wish they had kept one of them as a tourist attraction, it’s lovely to visit palaces and stately homes but it can be even more interesting to see how the ordinary people lived back in the 16th and 17th centuries.

Culross, Fife, Scotland

Culross, Fife, Scotland

It’s strange but looking back I remembered having a hard time picking my way over the stones and boulders that made up the roads but I now see that some of them were tarmacked. In the photo below you can get an idea of how rough some of the roads are. It looks like a great tower house and must have a lovely view over the River Forth.

Culross house, Fife, Scotland

It’s a pity about the wheelie bins in the photo below – ugly but necessary for the people who live there. Sometimes tourists forget that these are people’s homes and have a good old look through a window, nose pressed to glass. I know someone who did that thinking the house was a museum and got the shock of their life when she saw the woman of the house staring back – it wisnae me!

Culross house, Fife, Scotland

The merkat cross below is about halfway up the very steep hill that leads to Culross Abbey, it seems a strange place to hold a market, it can’t have been an easy haul up there for any stall holders or shoppers. Maybe they held the market elsewhere despite the merkat cross being here.

Culross Mercat Cross, Fife, Scotland

On the way back downhill it’s easiest either to walk down the gutter at the side or along the middle of the road where the boulders are bigger and flatter.

Culross lane, Fife, Scotland

Below is a photo that I took close to the top of the hill that leads up to the abbey, looking over to the Firth of Forth. I inadvertently got a cow’s backside in view too!

River Forth View, Culross, Fife

The beach isn’t the bonniest but apparently it’s very rich in food for seabirds which is the main thing. Culross is definitely worth a visit if you are in or close to Fife.

Culross, Firth of Forth,Fife

Culross Abbey, Fife, Scotland

Last Friday dawned dry and bright, the only dry day in the week, so we decided to drive to the very historic Fife village of Culross, which is pronounced Cooris. Although we’ve visited Culross Palace at least three times we had never tackled the very steep and stony road which leads to the Culross Abbey. It is now a ruin and a lot of the stones from it have been ‘robbed’ to build the nearby manse.

The tower of the abbey church which is in use today stands in what was the middle of the original abbey. It was founded in 1217 by Malcolm, 3rd Earl of Fife. It was home to Cistercian monks who wore white habits.

Culross Tower, Fife, Scotland

The metal stairs are very steep, I went down backwards.

Culross Abbey Vault

Culross Abbey Ruins, Fife, Scotland

Culross Abbey Wall, Tower, Fife, Scotland

Culross Abbey Ruins , Fife, Scotland

And parts of the original abbey can be seen in the manse garden. What a wonderful feature to have in your garden!

Culross Abbey Ruins,River  Forth

The ‘modern’ Abbey Church is still in use, it’s a shame it was closed when we were there, it looks like it would be very interesting internally. I did have a good old mooch around the graveyard though.

Culross Abbey church  graveyard

I know it isn’t everyone’s idea of a good afternoon out but it hit the spot for me!

Culross graveyard , Fife, Scotland

If you don’t mind walking up a very steep hill on at times a painfully uneven surface this is an interesting place to visit, as much for the lovely wee houses on the way up as for the grand but ruined abbey. A lot of the houses in the village are now owned and rented out by the Scottish National Trust, they were ruins before they took them over and refurbished them, but I’ll keep the photos of the houses for another blogpost.

You can see more images of the abbey here.

Kinnoull Hill, Perthshire, Scotland

Last Thursday was a beautiful day, such a treat after the twelve hour long thunder and lightning storm of a few days previously, so we grabbed the day and drove to Kinnoull Hill in Perthshire. For decades we’ve driven past the rocky outcrop which towers above the M 90 motorway that takes you into the city of Perth and had just never got around to actually visiting the place, despite it being a really popular beauty spot.

Kinnoull Hill Path, Perth, woodland

The hill is covered with trees and the path is fairly steep but it only took us about 15 minutes to reach the top, we really needed the exercise anyway after being cooped up in the house hiding from the torrential rain of earlier in the week.

Kinnoull Hill Path,Perthshire, Scotland

There’s a wood carving of an owl in flight on the way up, but the woodland itself was bereft of birdlife. I’ve often been puzzled by this when walking in woods. Even when there’s nobody else around and it’s very quiet the woods never seem to have any wildlife in them. There are far more birds around my garden.

Kinnoull Eagle sculpture, Perthshire

Through a gap in the trees you can get quite a decent view of the historic village of Scone which is close to Perth.

Scone, from Kinnoull Hill, Perthshire

From the top of Kinnoull Hill you get a great view east to the Carse of Gowrie and over to Errol, even on what was a fairly hazy day. You can see why the River Tay is called the silvery Tay. Over the river are the hills of Fife.

Kinnoull Hill View , Distant Hills

The photo below is a stitch of three photos that I took looking over to the south side of the river and Fife beyond. The yellowy-gold coloured fields had just been harvested.

River Tay stitch, Perthshire, Scotland

The stitch below is from the top of what was a very blustery Kinnoull Hill, looking down towards the bend in the River Tay. It felt quite dangerous, in fact there are plenty of warning signs to tell you not to go too close to the edge as it just falls away and it would be easy to walk over by accident.

River Tay stitch, Perthshire, Kinnoull Hill

The one below is looking northwards towards Dunkeld and Birnam Wood of Macbeth fame.

View from Kinnoull Hill

Below is an information plaque which tells of all the instances of historical interest around this area.

information plaque, Kinnoull Hill, Perthshire, Scotland

After we walked back down the hill we had another look at the information board at the car park and realised that we had somehow missed a tower which has been built on the hill, so one day we’ll have to go back again and take a close look at it. Obviously we missed a path which leads over to that side of the hill. You can see images of it here.

We should have done our homework before setting out, such as visiting this Visit Scotland site.

The Gleam in the North by D.K. Broster

The Gleam in the North cover

The Gleam in the North by D.K. Broster is the second book in Broster’s Jacobite trilogy which begins with The Flight of the Heron. It was first published in 1927.

The story begins with Ewan Cameron’s two small boys playing by the edge of the loch that they’ve been warned not to go near. Donald the eldest is enthusiastically telling Keithie his young brother about the battle of Culloden and he shows Keithie his favourite possession – an old claymore (sword) which had been used at the battle. But Keithie is most unimpressed and throws the claymore into the loch, which prompts Donald to push his young brother into the loch after it – and it’s a very deep loch.

Keithie is rescued but the cold soaking leads to him falling seriously ill and his father’s search for help in the moors and hills of the Scottish Highlands which are being patrolled by King George’s Redcoats alerts the authorities. They’re looking for ‘rebels’ such as Ewen so that they can take them down to England to execute them.

It isn’t only the Redcoats that the Jacobites have to beware of though, there are some spies within the clans, selling their own for a handful of coins, much less than 40 pieces of silver.

This was not quite as enjoyable as The Flight of the Heron but was still a good read full of suspense and is a painless way of reading about Scottish history if you’re interested in it. Ewen inadvertently meets up with his old friend Keith Windham’s family which goes a long way to explaining Windham’s personality.

It was a time when the Highlanders were being violently suppressed, forbidden to speak Gaelic, wear the tartan or be in possession of anything resembling a weapon, and they were being transported to the colonies at the drop of a hat.