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.

Haddo House, Ellon, Aberdeenshire, Scotland

Last weekend we drove up to the north-east of Scotland, a couple of hours from where we are in Fife. The main reason for the trip was so that Jack could watch his beloved Dumbarton football team play Peterhead – and ‘collect’ one of the few football stadiums that he hadn’t visited in Scotland. As ever we tried to squeeze in visits to other places of interest locally which is why we ended up at Haddo House which is near Ellon. It was built in 1732 and was designed by William Adam in the grand Georgian/Palladian style. Sadly I didn’t manage to get a photo of the front of the house as the heavens opened just as we walked to the house from the eatery for our scheduled guided tour, then we had to leave early as we were in danger of missing the football match!

Haddo House Garden, Aberdeenshire, Scotland

The house is now owned by the National Trust for Scotland and they don’t allow photography inside this property which is a real shame – even our guide agreed that it was a daft decision. The windows are shaded to prevent the textiles from being damaged by bright light and there was only one window not covered and I was allowed to take these photos of the garden from it.

There’s a very long winding road leading to this house and it isn’t the original access road. This property was handed down through generations of Earls of Aberdeen and one of them married a woman who didn’t like the house and would only marry him if she could change things. I think it’s obvious from the photos I took that the original driveway was through the middle of the avenue of trees, it would have been a much more elegant and scenic arrival for guests. Aparently her husband gave her the equivalent of £14 million to reconfigure the house to her liking. We all agreed that moving staircases and adding some bits on including a chapel couldn’t have cost that much, we suspect the rest of it went into her private coffers for dresses and jewels!
Haddo House garden, Aberdeenshire, Scotland

There are quite a lot of photos of the interior at the Undiscovered Scotland site.

There were only ten of us on the guided tour but this place is obviously very well used by locals as a great day out for families, the car park was very busy.

During World War 2 the house was used as a maternity hospital so the guide always asks if there are any Haddo babies among the visitors so he can show them where they were born, we were the most local people in the group though as the others were mainly from London, apparently visiting Scotland now as they feared they would need a passport in the future! The rooms used for the expectant mothers had been used by Queen Victori and and Prince Albert during their one night only stay.

Haddo House Garden, Aberdeenshire, Scotland

You can read more about the history of Haddo House here.

Thankfully Dumbarton beat Peterhead 3-2.

Huntly Castle, Aberdeenshire, Scotland

I’m still catching up with the photos I took when we were on our trip up north to Aberdeenshire at the end of October 2018. We had been meaning to go to Huntly for years. Actually it was quite a surprise as in my mind it was a much bigger town than the reality turned out to be, it’s really small. There are just a few shops there but one of them is a secondhand bookshop! Yes I did buy books.

Huntly Castle

Apparently over last summer the lettering on the stonework was refurbished, I’m not sure what they actually did but it looks quite new now. Originally the lettering would have been painted to make it even more visible.

Huntly Castle

Huntly Castle
You can read about the history of Huntly Castle here.

The first castle was built on this site around 1180 but the castle that we see now dates from around 1550.

Huntly Castle Info Board

Below is a photo of an upstairs fireplace with a modern canopy over it to protect it from the worst of the weather.

Huntly Castle

The photo below is of the castle interior.

Huntly Castle Interior

One good thing about living in a castle was that you were never far from a loo, most of the rooms had one in a corner and some even have the remnants of fancy plaster decoration on the walls. I suspect that they didn’t smell great though as it was basically a hole going into a stone shaft. I imagine that now and again a servant had to chuck water down them. The loo below has had a piece of perspex placed over the opening, just in case some bright spark tried to use it I suppose.

Hunly Castle Loo

Below are the windows in the stairwell.
Huntly Castle Windows
And below is where the stairs lead to. The view’s not bad – what you can see of it anyway.
Huntly Castle Top

Sadly you can’t get right up to the top in this castle, my favourite place is usually the solar which is where I imagine the ladies sat and did some needlework or reading in good weather. I think the small bit with the glass windows in the photo below is the solar.
Huntly Castle Solar

Castles obvioulsy had to be built near rivers and Huntly has two rivers nearby – the Deveron and the Bogie, I’m not sure which this one is but it’s pretty anyway.
River at Huntly Castle

Huntly Bridge

Huntly is definitely worth a visit if you’re in the Aberdeenshire area.

Huntly Castle