Markinch Highland Games, Fife, Scotland

Sunday dawned dreich and damp but it was Markinch Highland Games Day, the first games of the season I think and although it had been raining heavily for the previous few days – the games were going ahead.

Pipe Band

This was the first time I had been to the games and I was really there as I had volunteered to help out with cooking the bacon for rolls, but I got a chance to walk around and see what was going on from time to time.

Pipe Band, Markinch
There was a real mixture of age groups involved in the pipe bands and some of them were from local high schools. They had to find corners of the park to tune up and have a bit of a practice before marching to where the adjudicators were waiting to judge them. One of the adjudicators was from America originally and he was still learning the ropes, but he was one of those American-Scots who was more Scottish than the Scots.

Methil Pipe Band

Luckily the rain stayed away most of the time but waterproof capes were worn by some. I hate to think how long it would take to dry out a wet kilt.

Pipe Band , Markinch Highland Games

The photo below is of a man with a gadget which he seemed to be using to test out the pipes of the individual players. It’s a complete mystery to me!
Pipe Band, Markinch

Sadly the Highland dancers weren’t in the park this year, I think they were at the town hall so I didn’t manage to get any photos of them. The Highland Fling used to be my party trick!

In the photo below the man is attempting to throw a 54 pound weight over a very high pole above him. The competitors didn’t seem to be very heavily muscled, in fact they are regularly tested for the illegal use of performance enhancing drugs – as are all of the athletes. I think they just chose some at random but quite a few of them were tested – it’s all so serious.

Weight tossing

Weight tossing

I think this one made it over!
Weight tossing

Or maybe it didn’t. As you can see there was a cycle race going on at the same time, there were an awful lot of cycle races and various different running races as well as tthrowing the hammer, but I missed those.

Weight tossing

There were three competitors battling it out in this contest, and I’m not sure which one won.
Weight tossing

There are cabers on the grass in the background but I missed that too, I must have been too busy cooking bacon when that was going on. Anyway, it was a long and tiring day, just watching it all going on, I can’t imagine what it was like taking part in it.

A woodland walk in Balbirnie, Fife

I hope you’re up for another walk along the margins of Balbirnie estate in Fife. It was a mild and relatively calm day, I’m not really keen on walking near trees when the wind blows hard – as it often does here. It’s just too dangerous.

Balbirnie Walk

We were ambling along quite happily when a crashing noise alerted us to the group of deer that we would never have noticed otherwise as they’re so well camouflaged.
Balbirnie Walk

Just to the right of centre you might be able to see the white behind of one of the deer, if it wasn’t for their scut you would never see them.
Balbirnie Walk 3 Deer closer
There were three of them but I just managed to snap the one below as it shot past.
Balbirnie Walk ,  Deer

Today I wanted to take some photos of the garden which is looking so colourful at the moment, but my camera had run out of juice. By the time it was fired up again the flowers I wanted to snap were in half shade, maybe tomorrow we’ll have the sunshine again. If I don’t get a photo soon the wind will have blown off the ornamental dwarf cherry blossom!

Cellardyke Rainbow

We had a very busy Remembrance Sunday this year, attending the wreath laying ceremony at Markinch as Jack was laying a wreath there. Then in the afternoon we took part in the Silent Citizens Walk at Cellardyke, we have family connections there.

The walk goes past all of the houses that people whose names are on the war memorial lived in, and there’s a person standing outside the house representing them, and they too join in the procession, it’s actually very thought provoking and moving. As it’s a coastal and fishing community a lot of the men had been sailors or fishermen.

We set off in heavy rain, and were all glad to pack into the town hall for the next part of the service. It was a packed house. By the time we came out and started to walk along to the memorial it had brightened up and suddenly a lovely rainbow appeared. It seemed like some kind of sign.

Cellardyke Rainbow

Cellardyke Rainbow

From here the next land you reach is Denmark. In this photo there is also a strangely angled cloud/light shadow slanting down to the left.

Cellardyke Rainbow

An Autumn Walk

Just over a week ago we were in Aberdeenshire, visiting Fyvie Castle and remarking on how hot it was for the time of year. It turned out that it was 18 celsius at Fyvie and I know that because that night the weather man on the BBC said that Fyvie Castle had been the hottest part of Britain that day – amazing for late October. Just a week later and back home in Fife we had our first frost of the season. There was a time when we used to have a proper autumn which lasted for weeks but those days seem to have gone.

Anyway on one of my recent autumn walks I took some photos of the surroundings on the edges of the Balbirnie estate, get your flat shoes on and come with me!
path south

I’d like to know who put this hill here, it’s just a wee bit too steep to be enjoyable, until you get used to it!
hill near Balbirnie, Fife

Phew – we’ve reached the top and it’s downhill for a while now.
looking south from hill
So called civilisation with a road in the background, but the cars don’t seem to bother the horses in the field which you should be able to see – just.
horses

If you look carefully below you should be able to see an orange and black beetle, near the centre of the photo below, it’s a Burying beetle, that’s only the second one that I’ve seen and I saw my first one just a month previously as it was in the act of burying a shrew’s carcass – life must go on I suppose, for the beetle anyway.

Burying beetle

path west
Through some trees.
woodland path
In the winter the ground here is usually really boggy, it doesn’t help that mountain bikers use it too.
woodland path

woodland path

Back on to the gravel path, there’s a busy road to the left of this path but trees and a stone wall hides the traffic. You might think that it looks like the photos were taken on different days as the sky goes from bright blue to whitish grey – but that’s our constantly changing weather!

gravel path south
The berries below are on Viburnums or Guelder rose.
Viburnum berries

They’re so bright and shiny they almost look like plastic.

Viburnum berries

I love the roots of the tree below, look closely and you’ll be able to see a short blue nylon rope hanging from the left of the tree. Local kids are obviously using it as a rope swing and you can also see that they’ve been making stepping stones over the burn. I’ve never seen anyone playing there but I’m so happy that kids are still doing things like that and aren’t always glued to some electronic gadget.
tree roots

I also love the fact that people have been working and living around this area for thousands of years, well about 5,000 years anyway, and below is the evidence they left behind in the shape of standing stones and burial areas.

standing stones 2

Well, that should have burned off a few calories, so it’s a good excuse to put the kettle on, put your feet up and have some tea/coffee and biscuits. That’s what I did next anyway.

St Monans Windmill and coast in Fife, Scotland

Pittenweem from St Monans Windmill 1

One lovely Sunday in August we went to a local craft/food fair along the coast at St Monans and then took a walk along part of the Fife coastal walk. I took the photo of the village of Pittenweem above from the old windmill at St Monans, which is below. It has been fairly recently refurbished but you don’t seem to be able to get into it.
Windmill
The tide was just about as high as it gets, but there weren’t many boats around, just one yacht and a small fishing boat laying creels/lobster pots.
Rocks  + Yacht

We sat for a while on these beautifully sea worn rocks, watching the patterns of the ripples and waves.
Rocks and Sea
From the windmill you can look down on the remains of the salt pans below. It was quite a complicated and time consuming business. No wonder people were described as being ‘worth their salt’.
Salt Pans

Salt Pans at St Monans

Salt Pan Information Board

Salt Pan Information Board

Below is a photo of the windmill with the old fishing village of St Monans in the background. It’s famous for having a ‘squinty’ harbour wall. You can see images of the village here.
Windmill and St Monans

Random photos

I must have walked past this window in St Andrews hundreds of times but I only noticed it recently. The buildings are generally very old but this is obviously an Art Nouveau/Arts and Crafts window, somebody did a bit of refurbishment over the years.

Art Nouveau Glass Window

Across the road I noticed the stone owls sitting on the edge of the portico. I think that like many buildings in St Andrews this one is owned by the university, so presumably the owls are symbolic of wisdom and learning.

Owls

It’s rare to see an empty street nowadays, they’re usually full of parked cars on both sides of the street, but on their Open Arts Festival in Cellardyke, a coastal village in Fife, the place was deserted of cars for once. The clutch of red balloons being the only evidence of modernity, denoting where an artist was exhibiting work.
Cellardyke

I took the photo below in the fair city of Perth, the hanging baskets and window boxes were looking so lovely. I think the rather grand looking building was a bank originally – remember them?!
hanging baskets

I have visited the small town of Dunkeld hundreds of times as it’s one of my favourite places, but I had only ever been into the cathedral ruins there. The photo below is of the newer cathedral which is obviously still in use as a place of worship.
Dunkeld Cathedral Stained Glass

The photo below is the view of Dunkeld that you get as you drive over the bridge.
Dunkeld From Bridge over the River Tay

After visiting the cathedral I walked over the bridge to get a photo of the River Tay. I’ve never seen it so low before, there were actually people walking out to the ‘islands’.
River Tay From Bridge at Dunkeld

I bet it was still cold though!

Cellardyke

A couple of weeks ago we visited the Bowhouse craft and food/drink fair near St Monans in the east neuk of Fife. They are a fairly regular occurrence, no-doubt a product of farmers having to diversify nowadays as the venue is a group of barns. Anyway, we had a nice time there and bought a few things. It’s a fair trek from where we live though so as it was a lovely afternoon we decided to drive on a couple of miles along to through the coastal fishing villages and ended up at Cellardyke. Below is a photo of the Firth of Forth with the Isle of May in the distance. It’s a haven for birdlife of course.

Isle of May

There are some really old houses, some of them are quite pretty I think and they seem to stand up to the icy blast of the North Sea well, but I wouldn’t want to live in one.

Old House

I’ve been told that the ground floor of these houses used to be used just to store the fishing gear, which would make sense as I suspect the sea comes in to visit them now and again, so I would much rather have my living quarters upstairs.

Old House

If you walk along to the end of the village and go up to the war memorial you are high enough to get a good view of the rooftops and sea.

Houses and Sea, Cellardyke

The houses on the left hand of this street back onto the sea, this photo was taken on an earlier visit, when we went there to see the local art exhibition. The red balloons in the distance mean that that house has artworks on view and for sale.

Cellardyke

And below is the view from behind those houses. The big pole is one of only a couple that are left now, they were for hanging the fishing nets on in the olden days, so they are historic really. I find them quite obtrusive but people seem to like them.
Cellardyke
But the place to hang your washing/laundry is at the harbour as you can see from the photo below. These washing lines are well used by the locals although if it blows too hard your washing is likely to end up in Norway!
washing

Lastly a close up of Isle of May. We had intended taking a boat trip to this island, mainly to see the puffins, but so far we haven’t made it. It takes a couple of hours to get there. Last year we really didn’t fancy being stuck out on a boat in what seemed to be endless rain last so-called summer. This year we didn’t fancy getting roasted by the sun on the trip, not that I’m complaining.

Isle of May

Backhouse Rossie Estate Gardens, Fife, Scotland part 2

Although the address of the Backhouse Rossie Estate is given as Collessie it’s actually on the road to Auchtermuchty. In the past the estate was famous for daffodils, something to remember in the spring as I’m sure they’ll have a good show of them.
Information Board, Backhouse Rossie Estate
I have to say that I was most impressed with the design and planting at Backhouse Rossie. I love walled gardens, they always feel so comfortable and safe and although I adore historical places I was pleased to see that there are some beautiful modern and thoughtful designs incorporated in the gardens.

The display of plants in pots is a similar idea to the Auricula ‘theatres’ that were popular in the past, especially with the French Huguenots who came to Britain in the 16th century to escape persecution from the French Catholics.

Wall and pots

The ‘DNA’ path below leads to a modern sculpture.
DNA Path

DNA Sculpture

DNA Sculpture info board
The DNA Path from the side, as you can see climbing roses have been trained over the path, but we were just too late to catch them in bloom. This year the roses have come and gone very quickly due to the unusual hot weather. I live in hope of another flush of blooms soon though.
DNA path

Below is an old gateway leading out of the walled garden.
gate to walled garden

It was such a sunny, hot day that I really needed a bit of a sit down, but all of the benches were in bright sunshine, so after looking around all of the garden areas we decided to have a walk in the surrounding woodland.
We walked there via the orchard and the apples have a decent crop on them this year.

apple tree

Somewhere in woodland there was an old tomb to visit, and I can rarely resist a ruin. So we followed the path to the tomb.

Covenanter's Tomb

As you can see there’s not much left of it now. You can read about the Covenanters here.

Covenanter's Tomb

Covenanter's Tomb

The estate is surrounded by farmland and these young bullocks were interested to see us emerging from the woodland. Actually they were very placid, which is not my usual experience of bullocks, so perhaps these ones have been ‘done’.
bullocks

There’s a wee putting green which is nicely situated with a good view of the East Lomond hill in the distance.
lawn and East Lomond

That’s more or less the view that the owners must have from their house below, but that isn’t open to the public.
Backhouse Rossie House

If you’re interested in gardening, or just having lovely walks and a change of scenery then this is a lovely place to visit. You can read more about it here.

Backhouse Rossie Estate Gardens, Fife, Scotland

The day after we inadvertently visited the lovely wee village of Collessie we managed to find Backhouse Rossie Estate. It was a gloriously sunny day, but dare I say it – too hot! The gardens are wonderful, the only downside being that we were there just after the climbing roses had finished, I must remember to go earlier next year. The estate is actually on the road to the small town of Auchtermuchty – yes that IS a real place name.
a Backhouse Rossie Estate,entrance + planters

As you can see, there’s woodland beyond the walled garden. We did go for a walk there, mainly to get into some shade.
flowers , Backhouse Rossie Estate

flowers , Backhouse Rossie, Estate, Fife

flowers,  Backhouse Rossie Estate

flowers , Backhouse Rossie Estate, Fife

This fountain is one of the more traditional water features.
fountain, Backhouse Rossie Estate, Fife
There’s a rill leading to a pond.
rill and pond

You can’t really see it in the photo below but the rill is filled by the water which bubbles up from this stylish sculpture.
rill source

The photo below is of the East Lomond hill, a view over the garden fence, not a bad setting for an estate.
East Lomond and fields from estate

I took lots of photos so there’ll probably be a couple more blogposts about this lovely estate garden.

Collessie, Fife

One beautiful day last week we decided to visit a nearby estate garden which is open to the public. We had never been before but the address in books was given as Collessie, so we drove to that small village, a place we had never been before despite it being just a few miles from where we live. We never did find the estate garden that day as it’s actually on the rode to another village. I was enchanted by Collessie though so we spent an hour or so walking around the very historic village. Below is a photo of what had been the post office and is now someone’s home. Post Offices have been closed down all over the country which is a tragedy as they were often the hub of a village. In fact this place has no shops or anything, just a church and a community hall.

Old Post Office, Collessie

It’s like stepping back into a sort of Brigadoon. I’ve only seen a few thatched houses in Scotland, they’re much nore common in the south of England, so I was amazed to see several of them in Collessie. The village apparently has the most thatched roofs of anywhere in Scotland.

Thatched Cottage
They look lovely but we have friends who lived in a thatched cottage down south and they said that as soon as the weather turned a bit cold – all of the local ‘skittering’ wildlife moved into the roof for warmth, not my idea of fun. Especially as they didn’t stay in the thatch but made forays into the house.
Thatched cottage
Of course not all of the cottages have thatched roofs, but the street below is still amazingly quaint looking. It looks like nothing has changed for a couple of hundred years.
street in Collessie
I think that the road in the photo below must have been the main road leading to St Andrews which was of course a popular place for pilgrims to walk to in the days of the early Christian church. You can see the church beyond the thatched roof, it has been extended a lot over the years but the original part of it dates from before 1243 which is when it was consecrated by the Bishop of St Andrews.
Thatched Cottage

Considering the size of the village this church is enormous. I think that over the years the population must have decreased a lot.
Collessie Church

The village is a bit of a dead end as it has been by-passed by a larger road which is why we had never been there before, but it’s definitely worth making a detour off the main road to step back in time to Collessie. I’ll put a few more photos of it up tomorrow.