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.

Mauchline ware

After yesterday’s blogpost about Clark’s and Coats artificial silk thread, I was surprised that some people didn’t realise that those very successful companies had begun in Paisley in the west of Scotland. Paton’s and Baldwin’s wool and Anchor embroidery thread also hailed from Scotland, but I’m not sure if those companies became well know outside Britain. Like so many other things the manufacturing seems to have been moved abroad in recent years to cut costs.

Anyway, I used to collect Mauchline Ware, another Scottish invention, if you can call it that. Originally they were mainly small boxes made from good quality boxwood. These were produced for tourists so they have a huge variety of places printed on them, many castles of course and big houses, sometimes a view of a whole town or a bridge. With the coming of trains and the consequent opening up of the country, people were able to travel around as they never had before and they wanted to take a souvenir home as a reminder of their travels.

Mauchline Ware Collection

The manufacturers often decorated their wares with tartan paper, the boxes have several layers of varnish on them to protect them. When ferns became wildly popular in Victorian times they were used to decorate the goods. Of course Victoria and Albert started the craze for all things tartan and when Albert died Victoria went into mourning forever more and I think that is when Mauchline ware began to appear in black.

Originally made in the small Ayrshire town of Mauchline in the 1820s, other places in that area got in on the action, but the last of Mauchline ware was made in 1933. By then they had expanded their repertoire and made all sorts as you can see. Sewing things were popular – pin cushions, needle cases, thimble cases and crochet hook cylinders. Glove stretchers, egg cups, money boxes, napkin rings, glove boxes, watch stands, rulers, page turners, whisky glass cases – you name it and they made it.

As so many sewing related articles were made adverts for Clark’s thread and similar things began to be inserted inside the boxes, as you can see from the photo below.

Mauchline Ware Sewing Related

A huge fire at the last Mauchline ware manufacturers in 1936 put an end to the production, but so much of it was made that it’s easy to find at any antiques fair and sometimes charity shops.

They also put foreign tourist spots on their wares – such as Bunker Hill and the Champs-Élysées and sent them abroad for sale in America and France. Germany nicked the idea and made similar objects but these are easy to recognise as the quality is so poor compared with Mauchline ware. The German wood is pine and much rougher looking and the scenes depicted aren’t nearly so well defined.

You can see more images of Mauchline Ware here.

Visit Scotland Burns Night tips

Are you all organised for Burns Night on Wednesday? I am as I’m stocked up with various veggies, beans and lentils, not forgetting black pepper, the main flavouring of haggis. Yes I’m making my own version of haggis again.

In fact we’re going to another Burns Supper on Thursday night too, that’ll be a traditional haggis, turnip and tatties I think, but no dancing will be going on.

If you want to know what should happen at a traditional Burns Night have a look at Visit Scotland’s Burns Night tips. You can even see some wee videos of the dancing involved, that’s the easiest way of experiencing it – armchair dancing, the real thing is absolutely exhausting!

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.

A Day Out in Edinburgh

On Wednesday we drove into Edinburgh, we don’t go into the centre all that often, mainly because the more interesting wee independent shops are elsewhere. I really wish I had my pedometer with me to see how many steps I walked because we were all over the place in a big circle from Meadowbank to George Street where we had lunch at Cafe Andaluz. Then we walked on to Lothian Road the West Port and the Grassmarket and back to Meadowbank where we had parked the car. Click on the links if you want to have an armchair trip to Edinburgh with me. The castle just looms up on you as you can see from the photo below. It does seem incongruous when you’re out shopping but the rock and castle were there long before anything else.

acastle 1

acastle 2

The Christmas lights in George Street are truly hideous. I didn’t even bother to take a photo but I found the one below online. Oh for the days when we just had ordinary coloured light bulbs strung from side to side across streets in various patterns!

hristmas lights

I hate these modern LED lights, the light they give out is so cold and brash looking. You can see photos of Princes Street Christmas lights here. I noticed that Google and umpteen other places on the internet think that it is Princess Street – it isn’t!

We were aiming for the second-hand book-shops around the West Port and Grassmarket area, we hadn’t been to those ones for ages so I had high hopes of finding some goodies. But as ever when you have high hopes you tend to end up disappointed and I only ended up getting a couple of J.I.M. Stewart (Michael Innes) paperbacks.

From West Port we made for the Grassmarket and by then it was quite dark and the tree lights were on. This is the old town and in our younger days we used to frequent this area. As you can see Edinburgh Castle towers over this area too.

acastle 3

alights 1
It was quite atmospheric in the gloaming.

alights 2

Below is Victoria Street, a steep one which I could have been doing without but Edinburgh is very hilly and multi-layered, so you just have to get on with it. Just above the top set of lights there is actually another street but you can’t really see it in this photo.

alights 3

You can see more images of The Grassmarket here.

From there we went on down The Royal Mile which had absolutely no signs of Christmas about it, it seemed appropriate for that very Presbyterian stronghold. You can read about that area here.

By then I was fairly exhausted but we still had a long way to go to get to the car, all the way down the Royal Mile (High Street) past the Scottish Parliament building, yes – it IS a bit of a mish-mash!

We walked on past Queen Mary’s bath house. I love that wee building, it’s like something out of a fairy tale.

At last we reached the car and drove on to Morningside to visit one of our ‘boys’ and his lady. By this time it was getting on for dinner time and we were lucky to find the Oxfam book shop still open. I was so lucky to find three Dorothy Dunnet hardbacks that I had been looking for – and a third of the price of the others I had seen and decided against earlier.

We’re at that stage in life when we really don’t need or want anything in the way of expensive presents. It’s going to be a very bookish Christmas for us both.

I hope you enjoyed that armchair trip around Edinburgh. It’s the best way to do it really, a lot less tiring anyway!


A couple of weeks ago we decided to go to Dunkeld for the day. It’s one of my favourite wee towns. It was the day we were in search of autumnal trees.

aDunkeld trees 4

I took the photo below from the bridge in Dunkeld, looking north up the River Tay.

aDunkeld trees 1

I crossed the road to the other side of the bridge to capture the view to the south.
Dunkeld trees 3

Some houses just off the High Street in Dunkeld.

aDunkeld street 5

The town was decorated with bunting, it wasn’t long after Halloween but I think it was something to do with a local tradition.

aDunkeld street 3

aDunkeld street 2

If you look closely at the photo below you can just see the beginning of the bridge.

aDunkeld street 1

Here’s the bridge itself, built by Thomas Telford.

Bridge through trees

The River Tay is famous for salmon fishing but you have to put them back if you catch any.

aDunkeld trees stitch

Kenmore in Perthshire, Scotland

On our way back from the Highlands recently we passed through the teeny wee village of Kenmore, I say passed through but when I saw how pretty it was we had to stop. I had no idea that this place even existed and it’s really quite close to where we live, well 60 miles or so from us. Just above the Post Office sign to the right it says Telegraph Office, I’ve never seen that before and I’m glad that it has been left there as it’s part of the building’s history.

Kenmore pano 1

The Kenmore Hotel claims to be the oldest hotel in Scotland. I think we’ll have to go and give it a go sometime.

Kenmore pano 2

Kenmore 7

A one minute walk from the Post Office takes you to the banks of Loch Tay as you can see. Kenmore has a really beautiful setting and is very historic, people have lived in that area for thousands of years and a crannog has been reconstructed on the loch, as they would have been there originally in the Bronze Age.

Kenmore 3

It was beginning to get quite chilly and misty when we were there and we were keen to get home after our Highland jaunt but we’ll be going back there to explore it more thoroughly in the future.

Kenmore pano 3

I’ve wanted to visit a crannog for years so I’ll definitely be going to explore the one below, maybe in the springtime.


Eilean Donan Castle, Highlands, Scotland

Peggy flew back to TN this morning, no doubt she’ll be in need of another holiday to get over this one in Scotland. Last week we took her up to the Highlands for a couple of nights in a Bed and Breakfast at Dornie, a short walk from Eilean Donan Castle. It must be one of the most popular places to visit for tourists. I couldn’t believe how packed out it was at 10 o’clock in the morning when it opened. Apparently this castle was featured in the film Highlander, but I’ve managed to dodge that one despite it having been on TV almost as regularly as the Bridget Jones films.

Eilean Donan 1

Luckily you can walk all around the outside of the castle when it is closed, or about to close, and take photos from all angles. The only difficulty is trying to take photos that don’t contain other people taking photos! For some reason they don’t allow you to take photos of the inside of the castle.

Eilean Donan

The castle is situated on a small tidal island just where three lochs meet; Loch Alsh, Loch Long and Loch Duich. You can read about some of the history of the castle here.

Eilean Donan Castle

You can see more images of the castle here.

It’s definitely worth going to see but even if the castle didn’t exist it would be worth going up to Dornie as the whole area is incredibly scenic. You can see more images of Dornie here.

You can see how clear the loch water is from this photo I took of golden seaweed below the surface of the water. It is of course a sea loch.

seaweed at Eilean Donan

And below is a photo of Peggy and me, we look estranged! but we weren’t.
Eilean Donan

It’s an interesting but very busy destination.

Eyemouth, Scottish Borders (Berwickshire)

Last Friday we took Peggy to Eyemouth, an old fishing town in the Scottish Borders that she had been keen to visit.

As it happens it’s the town that Jack’s mother grew up in, she lived there in the 1920s when her father was the minister/vicar/priest of the Episcopal church there, it’s called St Ebba and when Jack’s parent’s bought their house they called it St Ebba after the church. I’m quite surprised that nobody chooses to name a daughter Ebba nowadays.

You can see Peggy’s post on our Eyemouth visit here.

St Ebba

I only took one photo while we were there.

Eyemouth St Ebba Lifebelt

As you can see it’s of the lifebelt from the lifeboat St Ebba.

Abernethy, in Perth and Kinross

Abernethy in Perth and Kinross is a fairly ancient place as you can see from the Pictish tower in the photo below. Sadly that white van on the right was there for the duration of our visit.

Abernethy  Round Tower 1

We climbed all the way to the top of the tower. It has a modern metal spiral staircase which ends in a ladder leading to the top of the tower and you go up to it through a hatch. It’s not for the faint-hearted as it’s a very long way up – and down! Sir Walter Scott actually mentions this tower in his book The Antiquary. You can see more photos of the tower here. I was surprised to see a set of ‘jougs’ attached to the stonework. It’s a metal sort of dog collar on the end of a chain that was fitted around the neck of any naughty locals who were thought to be in need of punishment.

Abernethy  View 1

You get a good view of the surrounding area from the top though. You can just about see the Rivers Tay/Earn at Carpow from there and that is where a 3,000 year old logboat was discovered buried in mud a few years ago. The boat was originally preserved and on display in Perth Museum but is has been moved to Edinburgh now. You can see it here.

Abernethy  View 2

Of course the confluence of two rivers has always been seen as being a magical place by our ancestors but I love that the Romans also decided that Carpow would be a good place to set up a camp about a thousand years later.

Abernethy is a teeny wee village with just one shop but it has an interesting graveyard and if you visit then make sure that you pay a visit to the museum which has varied exhibits and particularly a lot of information on what went on in Abernethy during the wars. It was one of those places that was ‘taken by storm’ by the Polish Free Army, as one old lady friend of mine said of her home town of Kelso. All those clicking heels and bowing to kiss hands meant that any local men still living in the place didn’t get a look in. I imagine it was much the same in Abernethy.

The museum is run by very friendly and helpful volunteers.