Castle Fraser, Aberdeenshire – the walled garden

As you can see from the photo below box topiary is quite a feature of the walled garden at Castle Fraser, they don’t seem to have a problem with box blight – fingers crossed for them!

Castle Fraser, walled Garden, Aberdeenshire    3

Aberdeenshire is quite far north so it takes the plants a bit longer to get going in the spring.

Castle Fraser Garden, Aberdeenshire

I absolutely love walled gardens though and I still miss the high wall that we had in our old garden.

Castle Fraser, walled Garden 4

Click on the photos to enlarge them if you want to see them in more detail.

Castle Fraser, walled Garden

There’s an unusual old sundial in the garden.

Castle Fraser, walled Garden, sundial
Despite Castle Fraser being fairly far north they are still able to grow fruit, thanks to the walls, and the apple blossom was just beginning to flower when we were there a few weeks ago, it’ll be looking great now I imagine.

espalier, fruit trees, Castle Fraser, Aberdeenshire

Castle Fraser, Aberdeenshire

A few weeks ago we went up to Aberdeenshire, for one night only, it was mainly so that Jack could go to a football match, but as you can see we managed to visit Castle Fraser too, which is good as I’m really not much interested in football. The earliest part of the castle dates from 1575, you can read about it here.

Castle Fraser, Aberdeenshire

It was a grey morning and really quite freezing and slightly misty for mid April.
Castle Fraser, Aberdeenshire

The castle is in the Scots baronial style which is more akin to the pepperpot towers so beloved of medieval European castles than anything that you would find elsewhere in the UK.
Castle Fraser, Aberdeenshire, Scots baronial

The photo below is of the Great Hall.
Great Hall, Castle Fraser, Aberdeenshire

Below is the library, a room I could have spent a long time in, apart from the books it was the warmest!
library , Castle Fraser, Aberdeenshire

The doorways are very ornate.
ornate door , Castle Fraser, Aberdeenshire

We of course slogged up to the top of the tower to get a good view of the surrounding area.

courtyard from tower, Castle Fraser, Aberdeenshire

In the distance we could see the walled garden, so we made our way carefully back down the long spiral staircase so we could go and get a closer look at it. I’ll leave the photos of the garden for another blogpost. Castle Fraser is definitely worth seeing
walled garden from tower, Castle Fraser, Aberdeenshire

Glitter of Mica by Jessie Kesson

Glitter of Mica cover

Glitter of Mica by the Scottish author Jessie Kesson was first published in 1963. Previously I’ve read Another Time Another Place and The White Bird Passes and I enjoyed those ones but I didn’t like this one nearly as much.

The setting is rural Aberdeenshire in the north-east of Scotland, the parish of Caldwell and the book begins in the 1930s. Hugh Riddell is a farm worker who is never kept on after his year of contracted work is up, which means that every year he has to find a new job in the area at a different farm. His wife is sick fed up with the constant moving, she can’t even plant a garden as she would be working for whoever would take over the tied house that goes with the farm work. They had a son, also Hugh and it’s his family that this book is mainly involved with.

The marriage of Hugh and his wife Isa isn’t any more successful than that of his parents, Hugh despises Isa and she seems afraid of him, they did manage to produce a daughter though, Helen does well at school and goes to university, but her mother is disappointed that she is only doing a diploma in social sciences and won’t come back with the MA that past ‘scholars’ have attained.

Helen gets work as a youth worker and unknown to her father starts a relationship with Charlie Anson, someone else that Hugh despises. As you can imagine it all ends in tears.

There are some flashes of humour in this book such as ….for she was a tight woman and had she been a ghost she would have grudged giving you a fright.

The characters in this book remind me, if I ever needed to be reminded of why I am ‘pining for the west’ as they are almost all miserable and mean spirited and are their own worst enemies. Love doesn’t seem to enter into anyone’s life, people get married because they have to marry someone and quickly go right off them it seems. There’s only one character who seems to have any human warmth – and she’s the talk of the place – being a wee bit too friendly with some of the local men. But the women have to admit that she always hangs out a ‘bonnie white washing.’ High praise indeed among the women.

This is supposedly Jessie Kesson’s best book but I just found it too depressing, I have no doubts that it is a very true portrait of the area and the times. Some readers wallow in misery, but it’s not for me

You can read what Jack thought of the book here.

Drum Castle, Aberdeenshire, Scotland

Just as it was getting towards the time when all the National Trust and Historic Scotland properties were going to be opening for the new season – they didn’t, due to Coronavirus. But when we visited Drum Castle – I’m amazed to see that it was way back in October 2018 – I only wrote blogposts about the outside of the castle and it’s surroundings here and here.

I meant to get around to blogging about the inside, but you know what it’s like, it somehow eluded me, anyway below is a photo of the dining room. I must say that Drum Castle is very comfortable looking, considering it’s a castle.

Dining Room, Drum Castle

The library is very well stocked, but untouchable of course.
Drum Castle, library, Aberdeenshire, Scotland

There’s a very handy sitting area at the window where you could settle down with your choice of book, if you had happened to live there. The alcove it’s in highlights the thickness of the castle’s walls.

Drum Castle Library, Window Recess

The door leading to the sitting room loks like a castle door should I think.
Sitting Room, Drum Castle

But the room is fairly homely I think, not too grand.

Sitting Room, Drum Castle

I could quite happily settle down at this fireplace.
Sitting Room Fireplace, Drum Castle

The sitting room ceiling goes well with the door.
Drum Castle Sitting Room Ceiling

I woinder if there ever really was a cradle at the bottom of this four poster bed when this castle was a family home. I suspect that a nanny was in charge of the nursery and children. But the cradle is beautiful.
Bedroom, Drum Castle

As is the half-tester bed below, and the bureau which I believe is in a Japanese/Chinese style but it’s so long ago now I can’t remember!

Bedroom, Drum Castle, Aberdeenshire, Scotland

If you happen to be in the vicinty of Drum Castle in Aberdeenshire or what is now called Grampian I believe, it’s well worth a visit.

Dunnottar Castle – part 3

After looking all around Dunnottar Castle we decided to walk along the coastal path to the First World War memorial that we could see in the distance.

Dunnottar Castle view

We had no idea how far away the memorial was and I had a horrible feeling it might be as much as five miles but it only took us about 20 minutes to reach it, it’s very deceptive. We found out it’s a Second World War memorial too.

War Memorial from Dunnottar Castle Castle

It’s a lovely coastal walk and the cliffs look like something out of a British Rail travel poster.

Cliff View  from Dunnottar path

Dunnottar Castle, cliffs, Aberdeenshire

It was a blustery day and the sea was quite wild in places, what a great way to blow any cobwebs way, if you still have any by then!

Dunnottar  Castle rocks

Here’s a short video showing some of the rocks and nearby headland.

sea from castle

Dunnottar Castle – part 2

Back to Dunnottar Castle and after what seemed like a fairly long walk there which wasn’t really long, just a bit uneven underfoot we reached the castle itself.
It looks impregnable but William Wallace captured this castle in 1297. Click here to read more about its history.

Dunnottar Castle  entrance

I was fairly puffed out by this stage!

Dunnottar Castle from path

As you can see it was a lovely sparkling blue sky day.

Dunnottar Castle , Aberdeenshire, Scotland

Mots of the windows have window seats, it must have been lovely to sit there with embroidered cushions on them, admiring the view, reading or doing yet more embroidery.

Dunnottar Castle Window

Dunnottar Castle  windowseat

There’s only one room in the castle which has been restored so you can see what it would have looked like.

Dunnottar Castle  restored ceiling 1

Getting out of the wind gives you a very good idea of how cosy the castle could have been in its day, epscially with the addition of tapestries on the walls and maybe curtains and carpets, or at least rushes on the floors.

Dunnottar Castle chair + Fireplace

But most of the castle is in ruins, it’s almost more interesting to be able to see how it was built though, seeing the skeleton of the castle rather than its skin I suppose.

Dunnottar Castle interior

Tomorrow I’ll show you the scenery surrounding the castle.

Dunnottar Castle

Dunnottar Castle, Aberdeenshire, Scotland

On Friday morning we left home to travel up to Aberdeen so that Jack could go to a football match there the next day, but we stopped off at Dunnottar Castle near Stonehaven on the way. We had never been there before, but since we visited it seems to be popping up everywhere as it featured on a TV programme yesterday and when I visited the National Gallery of Scotland in Edinburgh today I saw a beautiful atmospheric painting of it by Waller Hugh Paton, see below.

Dunnottar Castle

Dunnottar Castle, Aberdeenshire, Scotland

This castle is not for the faint-hearted or those who aren’t too good on their feet as there are lots of steps leading down towards the castle and then yet more steps leading up to it, the ground is uneven, but it all adds to the atmosphere. The location is fantastic as the castle is built on the edge of cliffs, 160 feet high above the North Sea with wonderful views out of the windows of what is now a ruin. It must have been an amazing place to live in in its heyday though and the lady of the castle had a wooden balcony at her bedroom window although I’m not sure that I would have fancied sitting on a balcony hanging over the sea.

Dunnottar Castle from path

Given the location and rockiness it’s not surprising that Dunnottar has long been a fortification with the Picts having a wooden fort there before a stone castle was built in the early 1300s. King Aethelstane of Wessex made a raid on the place in 934 but in the year 900 it was the Vikings who were having a go at King Donald II here. Mary, Queen of Scots visited – where didn’t she visit I ask myself, but at least she wasn’t imprisoned here. I took lots more photos, but I’ll keep those for another day.

Dunnottar Castle, Aberdeenshire, Scotland

Pitmedden Garden, Ellon, Aberdeenshire

We visited Pitmedden Garden when we were in Aberdeenshire recently. It’s a place that I have wanted to visit for something like 40 years after watching the early days of the Scottish gardening programme The Beechgrove Garden, because one of the presenters – George Barron – was the head gardener at Pitmedden then.

Pitmedden Garden, Ellon, Aberdeenshire

Apparently I took 42 photographs while we were there, but I’ll just show you a few of them just now, to give you an idea what it’s like if you’ve never been there.
Pitmedden Garden, Ellon, Aberdeenshire

Pitmedden Garden, knot garden, Aberdeenshire

The garden is a wonderful knot garden with over six miles of clipped box and yew hedges as well as a fairly recently replanted orchard. Most of the trees in there are too new to have much of a crop, but the older trees which are trained against the tall stone walls were well laden.

apples, Pitmedden, Aberdeenshire

One of the great things about this garden is that despite the fact that its ‘bones’ are set in the intricate box patterns, it will still be ever changing as the spaces are planted up with seasonal bedding plants. The area in the photo below was filled with several different sorts of marigolds. I love the topiary yew buttresses aginst the walls in the background too.

Pitmedden Garden, Ellon, Aberdeenshire

It isn’t all formal though, there are some lovely overflowing mixed herbaceous borders too.
mixed border, Pitmedden Garden, Aberdeenshire

We were there quite early on a Saturday morning and almost had the place entirely to ourselves. It’s definitely worth visiting if you’re in Aberdeenshire.

Below is a You Tube video of the beginnings of Beechgrove Garden and you can see George Barron and Jim McColl chatting away, George had a lovely Aberdonian accent which wasn’t something I had heard much of back then. Occasionally he slipped into the ‘Doric’ but not often enough for my liking!

Tolquhon Castle, Aberdeenshire, Scotland

Earlier in August we were in Aberdeenshire – for one night only, but we managed to fit a lot in as usual and Tolquhon Castle near Ellon was one of the places we visited. It was built in 1580 and although it’s now a ruin it’s well worth visiting, it’s easy to imagine how elegant and luxurious it must have been in its heyday. It’s thought there were earlier structures here around the 1200s.

Tolquhon Castle, Aberdeenshire

Originally built for the Forbes family it was eventually sold in 1716 as the then laird had lost most of his money in the disastrous Darien Scheme.

Tolquhon Castle, Aberdeenshire

Tolquhon Castle, Aberdeenshire

Although it’s a ruin there’s still lots to see and loads of spiral staircases to climb up and descend, always more difficult coming down – and slightly scary!
Tolquhon Castle, Aberdeenshire

The very narrow stairs in the photo below lead up to the highest point of the castle, a teeny wee room. These rooms are always my favourite part of castles as they would have been used mainly by the owners, probably the lady of the castle – a great place to read or just get away from it all, although this one only has one small window and there’s nowhere to sit outside on the walls – as other castles often have.
Tolquhon Castle, Aberdeenshire

As you can see below it’s dark in there so maybe it was used for assignations!
Tolquhon Castle, Aberdeenshire

Tolquhon Castle, Aberdeenshire

Below is the only straight and wide bit of the many staircases and must have been a later construction I think, built after the castle was used mainly as a home rather than a place of defence.
Tolquhon Castle, Aberdeenshire

You get a good view from the top, but I was really interested in the two white bulls in the field below – well I think they were some variety of bull as there was nothing else in the field but they seemed placid.
Tolquhon Castle, Aberdeenshire

Castles are all very well, but most of us would have been living in a wee cottage way back then, if we were lucky to have one, and I would have been happy in one of these cute wee ones at the entrance to the castle. One of them is now a visitor centre. What about you – castle or cottage?
Tolquhon Castle, Aberdeenshire

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.