More Armchair Travelling – Grand Tours of Scotland’s Lochs/Islands

I’m not finding it too difficult to be stuck at home, I’m a home bird anyway and as we’re retired it hasn’t made an awful lot of difference to us, but speaking – at a distance – to my neighbours, the men in particular are finding it very wearing. On the plus side, one of the men said that he and his wife hadn’t murdered each other yet! But as he said that he was dragging his lawnmower out of his shed, and I had just been thinking that his grass was looking scalped. It’s looking even more so now as he’s mowing it every second day.

Anyway, if you’re also feeling a bit antsy you might enjoy settling down to watch the You Tube videos below

Series 1 episode 1 of Paul Murton’s Grand Tours of Scotlands Lochs. Legends of the West – Argyll and Loch Etive. This one is a cracker, history, geology and beautiful scenery – what more can you want?

Don’t miss Grand Tours of the Scottish Islands – Northern Skye.

If you fancy  something different from gorgeous scenery you might like to take a wee look at some of Scotland’s Treasures in  – The National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh . This is a BBC documentary, eye candy of a different sort.

I hope you enjoy these ones.



The Bangles – Eternal Flame

Tonight we were looking for something to watch on TV and considering it was Friday night the choice was dire, or maybe it was because it was Friday night it was dire. Anyway, we ended up watching an epsiode of Top of the Pops from 1989 and the last song was Eternal Flame by The Bangles. Music wise I don’t think 1989 was a great year but I’ve always loved this one. So I thought I’d put it on here. What do you think?

When I think of any year I always calculate how old my kids were then and in 1989 they were two and three, so that’s maybe why some of the other songs in this episode had gone straight past me. I was just too busy and too tired probably to pay much attention to what was going on in the music scene. But this one stayed with me.

It also reminded me of Gilmore Girls, I loved that programme. Rori took her friend Paris to a Bangles concert and she had never been to anything like that before – she really liked that band!

Boxing Day and TV

I don’t know about you, but I was so glad to have a lovely lazy day at home today – just eating leftovers and watching TV. I was quite disappointed that the Agatha Christie this year is an updated ABC Murders. John Malkovich as Poirot is very different from David Suchet’s version, very much rougher, but I did enjoy seeing the wonderful De La Warr Pavillion in Bexhill again, always a joy – especially in reality but I haven’t been to Bexhill for years. The ABC Murders is set in 1933 and the De La Warr didn’t exist then as it wasn’t built until 1935. Just a bit of nit-picking on my part!

The contrast between the immaculate art deco building and the sleazy poorer quarters featured is stark. You can almost smell the damp. Whoever has the job of designing such settings triumphed – peeling wallpaper and all. On the whole though I found this new version to be painfully slow, but I’ll no doubt be watching the second part tomorrow night.

Before the ABC Murders I enjoyed watching The Midnight Gang. I haven’t read any of David Walliams’ books but this TV adaptation was definitely worth watching, for kids of all ages.

I didn’t have any time for looking at anything on TV before today really and I see that on the 23rd I missed something called Agatha and the Truth of Murder. I’m wondering if it’s worth watching it on the iPlayer. Let me know what you thought of it if you watched it please.

I have to say that on Christmas Eve I chose to watch entirely the wrong thing. I’m not at all religious nowadays but I do love all the old familiar carols. Unfortunately I tuned in to the BBC service – big mistake as it came from Buckfast Abbey, there were no carols at all. Everything was chanted and a lot of it was in Latin! Sometimes it’s difficult to figure out whether things are RC or very high Church of England, but Buckfast must be RC, however I thought they had given up on the Latin in the 1960s so I don’t know what that was all about. Nothing resembling a good old carol was sung, in fact nothing was really sung – just chanted. I can’t imagine why the ‘high heid-yins’ in the BBC would think that it would be appreciated by many viewers. Yes the setting of the abbey is very grand, the costumes (chasubles and such) worn are sumptuous. But it missed the festive mark by miles. Clearly I should have been on ITV but I gave up and went to bed.

Have I missed anything worth watching?

What have I been watching?

I have to say that the new season of TV programmes have been very entertaining. I’ve been enjoying watching The Bodyguard despite the fact that ten minutes into the first episode I turned to Jack and said – If I had realised this was about terrorism I wouldn’t have started watching it. But it dragged me in and I’m beginning to think that Richard Madden who plays the bodyguard police sergeant David Budd would make a great new James Bond. Well the best Bonds are always Scottish!The Bodyguard
Mind you I tend to watch anything with Keeley Hawes in it too.

I’ve also been watching Vanity Fair. I had a bit of a moan when I saw a trailer for this new version, it doesn’t seem long since it was on TV in another version, but I enjoyed the book and I think that Olivia Cooke is a perfect Becky Sharp. As this one is on ITV we’ve been watching it on catchup, that way we avoid most of the adverts.

The Great British Bake Off is a must watch and although I still miss Mary Berry it’s really the personalities of the bakers who are entertaining so I’m sticking with the show.

I wasn’t sure about watching Press and after watching the first episode I’m still not sure about it. It somehow has a very old-fashioned feel to it, a bit like newspapers would have been like in the Fleet Street days, but I’ll watch the next episode anyway.

The Repair Shop is a very gentle programme featuring talented craftspeople who can restore just about anything that’s broken and damaged it seems – whether it’s an old teddy bear or a Georgian table. People seem to get very emotional when they’re re-united with their treasures. It’s just fascinating watching people work and having so much pride in the end results.

On Saturday evening I watched a film that was only made in 2016 called This Beautiful Fantastic – and I loved it. I believe that the whole film is available on You Tube but you can see a trailer below which will give you an idea of what it’s about.

Have you been watching any of these programmes and is there anything good on now that I’ve missed?

Doune Castle in Stirlingshire

A couple of weeks ago we visited Doune Castle which is not far from Stirling, we hadn’t visited it before although we’ve been to Doune quite a lot and even looked at a house in the village when we were house-hunting prior to J’s retirement. The castle was built in the 14th century.

Doune Castle

There’s some work requiring scaffolding going on at part of the castle.

Doune Castle
Like many such places it has been used as a location for TV programmes and films and probably because of the plummeting pound it has seen a big increase in visitor numbers, especially from the US. I’m beginning to think that Diana Gabaldon should be given some sort of award from the Scottish government – for her services to tourism in Scotland.

Doune Castle

There was also a wedding going on in the kitchen of all places while we were there and the bride was due any minute so we only got a quick look at the kitchen, the guests were already waiting for her to arrive.

Doune Castle Courtyard
Doune Castle has been famous for quite a long time though as it was used in Monty Python and the Holy Grail and Game of Thrones.

Internally it has some quite grand rooms that would have been more suitable for a wedding I think, but maybe that would have meant closing down most of the castle and they wouldn’t want to do that.

Doune Castle Interior
You can see more images of Doune Castle here.

Doune Castle Interior

The staircase below started off fine but got progressively narrower and steeper, it’s amazing to me that people manage to negotiate them without breaking something, although I did hear of one lady who got stuck in a staircase at Culross Palace!
Doune Castle Interior
Most of these National Trust properties have a dressing up box for the children, but at Doune it’s for adults who fancy dressing up as Clare from Outlander! One lady was desperate to try a dress on but I think they were all in Claire’s size so she had to give up trying. In the shop they have for sale replicas of Claire’s riding jacket priced at £200. I think you would have to be a fairly dedicated fan (or nutter) to shell out that sort of money.
Castle Interior  Dressing up

We went for a walk around the castle and it was only then that we realised how well positioned it is. They built it on high ground at the confluence of two rivers, the River Teith and the Ardoch Burn so it wasn’t going to be easy for any attackers to gain access from those sides. There were a few men fishing in the Teith.
River at Doune

There isn’t a tearoom at the castle but we enjoyed coffee, scones and cake at Willows Dell which is in the village of Doune nearby. You can see photos of the village here.

Willows Dell

Woodsman by Ben Law

Woodsman cover

Woodsman by Ben Law was a random choice from a local library. I had never heard of him before but apparently he is well known through being on TV’s Grand Designs after having built a house in his own woodland Prickly Nut Wood.

This book is good in parts, Law tells the story of how he started out living in Prickly Nut Wood in a bender he made himself, later upgrading to a yurt before eventually building his own home from the local wood. But in the last chapter the author zips forward to 2037 and imagines life will be more land based with people taking the place of machinery due to a lack of oil. He doesn’t seem to have heard of green energy, the renewables that will definitely take-over in the future. He imagines the future as looking like a step back in time, it’s all a bit silly.

To begin with he didn’t have much in the way of woodland skills and apparently these aren’t easy to learn as in times past those who made their living coppicing and such were keen to keep their knowledge to themselves for fear of doing themselves out of work in the future. I’m glad to say that nowadays things seem to have improved and it’s possible to go on courses to learn woodcraft. Mind you I already knew a lot of the skills involved and I’m sure I learned of them through reading Thomas Hardy’s The Woodlanders, as I recall he even explained how charcoal was made.

Ben Law started living in a bender in his woodland but decided to build his yurt when his first child was due, presumably his partner wasn’t keen to bring up a baby in a bender. But apart from that there is absolutely no mention of family life, except that he has three children.

I wish I had seen the Grand Design TV show which featured the house he built, but I gave up watching that programme because all of the ones I had seen featured enormous piles and much wrangling with banks for finances, really the programme should have been called Grand Debts.

Ben Law’s house is built more on a human scale though.

Ben Law House
As it happens there is an article in this week’s Guardian Weekend magazine about people who have bought woodland, it’s becoming very popular. You can read it here if you’re interested in it. In fact some years ago I thought about buying a small woodland – it was for sale at a bargain basement price, but the fact that there was a fairly busy road along the edge of it put me off because I suspect that it could be a place that people would fly tip their junk, instead of going an extra few miles to the municipal tip – you know how awful some human beings can be!

I’ve found the Grand Designs on Vimeo, the woodland is lovely, an idyllic place to bring up a family I think.

Grand Designs – Woodsman Cottage (Ben Law) from Nebruks on Vimeo.

Honfleur in France

I couldn’t resist taking a photo of the building in the photo below, it’s up for sale but it looks like nature is going to beat any buyer to it.

aplant cliff 1

From there we went for a snoop around a supermarket, it’s always interesting in a foreign country – to see what different things are on offer food-wise. But with French supermarkets you always have to pluck up courage to go in as when you first step through the doors you are invariably assailed by such a horrendous smell that it takes some courage not to just turn around and dash out again for fresh air. I don’t know how they manage it, I suspect they just never clean the places.

Below is a photo of an old style French ‘gents’ public toilet – and it’s still in use. As usual Jack was in need of a loo (I swear I could write a guidebook on the public loos of Scotland – I seem to have stood outside most of them at some point!) Anyway, he went into the small white building which he thought was unisex, but I’m not so sure as the old metal structure is still in use, I saw chaps using it, and I mean saw as their heads were in view. This is all rather alien to Brits, but French toilet facilities still leave a lot to be desired, in some places it is literally just a hole in the ground!

It reminded me of Clochemerle, it’s a book by Gabriel Chevallier and it was televised way back in the early 1970s on the BBC, very late due to its subject matter being seen as rather risque in those days.

From the ‘cor blimey’ to the sublime Saint Catherine’s Church below is really old, 15th century in some parts I believe.

Honfleur Church

The church has a separate belltower.
achurch 4 belltower
And this other church was actually open.

achurch 5

As you can see the internal decor is quite different from British churches.

achurch archway

The very intricate designs on the walls and ceilings seem to be more in keeping with a grand house, but maybe that is a feature of French Roman Catholic churches. It’s beautiful anyway.

achurch frieze

aleaving harbour 1

Sailing on out of Honfleur, the surroundings are lovely, with this heavily wooded area right by the coast.
aleaving harbour 2

Sailing back out to sea, as you can see it’s a flat calm but the sea did get a wee bit more interesting in the next few days as we sailed back to Scotland. Most of the time though lying in bed on ship made me think of how it would feel if you were being stirred around gently in a big bowl. I find it very relaxing – rock-a-bye-baby sort of sensation, although I always worried about that lullaby’s words. Even as a small child that sounded crazily dangerous to me!

aleaving harbour 3

Earl Hamner Jr 1923 – 2016

I just noticed Earl Hamner’s obituary in Friday’s Guardian, you can read it here if you’re interested. He died in March but I think the Guardian is a bit behind with some obituaries – it has been such a busy year! It was one of those times when I looked and thought – I assumed he was already dead! In case you don’t know, Earl Hamner Jr was the man who created The Waltons, but he did an awful lot more than that.

As a youngster I loved The Waltons, I know it has a reputation for being sickly sweet and schmaltzy but I think if that is your idea of the series then you must never have watched it.

The Walton family is portrayed as a realistic one with the siblings often at daggers drawn with each other, the reality in large families. Even grandma and grampa had a rocky relationship, often not speaking to each other and referring to each other as ‘old man’ and ‘old woman’ in a cutting way. Hamner based The Waltons on his own family’s experiences of life in Virginia in the 1930s.

I must admit that I haven’t read any of his books. Have any of you?

What do you think of The Waltons? I saw a Walton Christmas film recently and I could just sit down and watch the whole series again given the chance. You might call it ‘comfort’ viewing, but there was always some sort of crisis going on and that house is one that I could move into right now. Castles, palaces and the like have never appealed to me as a home.

It’s a shame this is just a film set.

Falkland, Fife – Outlander

Falkland in Fife

On Monday we went to Falkland, a nearby village, it’s a place we visit regularly, it’s very quaint and it’s good walking country, but this time the main street was lined with ‘no parking’ traffic cones as you can see, and lots of people were hanging about, presumably to make sure nobody parked there anyway, you know the way there are always those who believe that any rules don’t apply to them.

I hope that paint comes off the stonework all right, the drainpipes are normally all shiny black paint but you can just see that they have painted the one on the left to look all rusty and grotty, the ‘wet paint’ sign is still on it.

Falkland  in Fife

The shop below is normally a gift and coffee shop but it was in the middle of being kitted out as a furniture shop, 1950s style I would say.

Falkland  in Fife

The upshot was that they are filming Outlander there, it seems that just about everywhere we go has been in Outlander, but as it’s on a cable TV channel that we don’t have we haven’t seen any of it.

I say 1950s because there are loads of bananas in the fruit shop display, but I suppose it might be the 1930s. This shop is normally a restaurant/coffee shop and they have just about managed to cover up the modern shop sign with the awning.

Falkland  in Fife

The boarding in the two photos below is not normally there.
Falkland in Fife

We noticed a couple of weeks ago that the biggest pub/restaurant was closed and boarded up which seemed weird but presumably they were busy doing something to the interior, they would have to, because the place had been gutted and was very modern looking inside.

Falkland in Fife

And across the road from all that stands Falkland Palace, it has seen a lot in the lifetime of its stonework, as it was the hunting palace of the Scottish royalty – the Stuarts and a favourite home of Mary, Queen of Scots, before her imprisonment by the English.

Falkland  in Fife

I’m now definitely buying the Outlander DVDs so that I can play at spotting all the locations.

TV I’ve been watching

In these long days of winter and especially in the horrible weather we’ve been having recently I’ve been watching TV, even in the afternoon sometimes. In fact this afternoon was one of those days when I drew the curtains at 3.30 because it was just so dark and dreich (dismal) that the best thing to do was just shut it all out.

I scrolled down the TV menu and was amazed to see the words Three Pines – could it be the same Three Pines I wondered? And amazingly it was – Still Life. I’m not even sure that I knew that they had made a film of one of the Louise Penny books. I was/am puzzled though as to why they chose an English actor (Nathaniel Parker) to play Armand Gamache. Anyway I enjoyed it although of course inevitably it had been sanitised,, especially Ruth Zardo, who was nothing like the anarchic character in the book, but fair enough, they couldn’t have an old lady in a film ‘effing’ her way through life as she does in the books.

Otherwise I’ve been enjoying watching Capital, which is intriguing.

Also The Detectorists. That Toby Jones chap is getting around!

The Last Kingdom has been a must watch for us, it’s historical and thankfully it’s not the Tudor period. It’s King Alfred and Vikings, I’m unsure whose side I’m on!

Doctor Who is also a must watch but this series is bizarre. Each time I think it’s getting better, it is followed by a distinctly weird episode.

London Spy has turned out to be a good spy/thriller series even although it is obviously based on something which was in the news a few years ago, involving a spy who was into weird sex – it’s fine once you get past that bit.

Well that’s what I’ve been watching recently, have you seen anything else which is worth watching?