The Flight of the Heron by D.K. Broster – 20 Books of Summer

 Death in Bordeaux cover

The Flight of the Heron by D.K. Broster was first published in 1925. It’s the first book in a Jacobite trilogy, the others being The Gleam in the North and The Dark Mile. Broster was an English woman who was inspired to write this trilogy after a five week long visit to friends in Scotland, she says that she consulted 80 reference books before embarking on writing the series. I can believe it. I’ll definitely be reading the other two. Broster served as a Red Cross nurse in a Franco-American hospital during World War 1.

The setting is 1745, the book begins just before the Jacobite rebellion. Ewen Cameron is a young Highland chieftain who has spent years in France as a boy being educated and avoiding the English as his father had been a Jacobite supporter. There’s a large Scottish community and that’s where he met Alison Grant whom he’s now engaged to.

With the arrival of Bonnie Prince Charlie and the gathering of the clans at Glenfinnan Alison is obviously worried about the outcome, but with Lochiel supporting the Prince despite the fact that he hasn’t brought the promised French help with him, Clan Cameron led by Ewen will be in the thick of any battles.

Ewen’s foster-father Angus has the ‘second sight’ although he’s blind and he warns Ewen that a heron plays some sort of part in his future, but he can’t say whether it is for good or bad.

Captain Keith Windham of the Royal Scots is one of the many British Army soldiers inhabiting the Highlands at the time. He’s a career soldier and isn’t happy about this posting, he wants to be in Antwerp instead of in the old and wet Highlands which as far as he is concerned is infested with wild rebels. His meeting with Ewen is a surprise to him as what looks like a wild man to him turns out to be an educated and honourable gentleman. Captain Windham has always been a bit of a loner, having decided that that was the best way of advancing his career but he finds that he is drawn to Ewen and throughout their subsequent meetings they avoid the chance to do each other damage as they should given that they are on opposite sides.

This is a great read and the writing gives a really authentic feel of the Scottish Highlands and also the Edinburgh of the time. I haven’t read the Diana Gabaldon books, I’ve been warned that they’re probably too racy for my liking, but I have watched Outlander – I just roll my eyes at the many sex scenes, but I suspect that she read this book before setting out on her long series of books set around the same time – on and off. There are a lot of similarities between the characters, and even the shocking possibility of a clan chief (gentleman) being whipped appears in this book, but obviously back in 1925 there could only be some hints about male sexuality.

I’m always interested in who a book is dedicated to, this one is dedicated to Violet Jacob, in homage. She was a Scottish writer who had a very grand upbringing as her father owned the House of Dun which you can see here if you’re interested. I’m presuming that it was at this house with Violet Jacob that Broster stayed for five weeks and was inspired by the surroundings to write these books.

This is the fifth book from my 20 Books of Summer list.

Redgauntlet by Sir Walter Scott

Redgauntlet cover

Redgauntlet by Sir Walter Scott was first published in 1824. I’ve wanted to read this one for ages, but I can’t say that it is one of my favourites. Scott is of course very wordy, and I usually get used to that very quickly, but this one seemed like an awful long road to reach what the author wanted to say which was that the Jacobite cause was well and truly over and the Hanoverian King George sitting in London had no need to fear any other Jacobite rebellions. Scott was actually very much involved with the British royal family, he masterminded George IV’s visit to Edinburgh in 1822 and even designed the clothes that he wore for it. Yes we have Scott to blame for all that tartanry and fol-de-rol lace and velvet, although thankfully nobody has been keen to emulate that king completely as George IV insisted on wearing pink tights with his kilt!

Anyway, back to the book – young Darsie Latimer is a bit of a harum scarum and while on an adventure on the Solway Firth close to the English border he ends up getting kidnapped by Redgauntlet. His good friend Alan Fairford hears about this and decides to ride to his aid, despite the fact that he is in the middle of his first court case as a lawyer.

Darsie had no idea who his parents were but it turns out that the Border laird Redgauntlet himself is related to Darsie and Redgauntlet has been busy trying to gather together some people that he thinks might be interested in taking part in another Jacobite rebellion. He tells Darsie exactly who he is, and that his father had been executed for his involvement in the 1745 rebellion. Darsie isn’t interested in joining the cause, not even when he knows that Charles Edward Stewart is there. There’s a bit of romance in there as you would expect, and a man dressed up as a woman to avoid detection, a standard Jacobite rouse!

My favourite Scott novel is still The Pirate.

Culloden Moor – a battlefield

Culloden battlefield

After spending a night in Inverness we (Peggy, Evee, Jack and myself) went to visit Culloden battlefield which is nearby. It was the first visit for Peggy obviously but the rest of us had been there a few times before. Jack and I visited Culloden when we were on our honeymoon which it seems amazing to think was almost 39 years ago! Back then there was no visitor centre and I think the place was more atmospheric, probably for that reason. It was just a vast battlefield with grave markers dotted all around it.

Although they’ve tried to make the visitor centre’s architecure sympathetic with the surroundings, just the fact that there’s a modern building there detracts from the experience.

This is where the Jacobite Rebellion featuring ‘Bonnie Prince Charlie’ came to a disastrous end. The battle was fought in 1746 and was the last battle to be fought on British soil. You can read about it here.

Culloden

There are red flags and blue flags around the site, marking the various positions of the opposing soldiers.
Culloden battlefield

The whole area has lots of grave markers around it, where the various members of different clans were buried, as you can see from the photo below there are still people laying flowers at the stones, in remeberance.

Culloden

The photo below is a close up of the cottage which you can see in the distance in the first photo. It has heather thatch, something you don’t see all that often nowadays and similar houses were there when the battle was being fought, which would have seen it all.

Culloden  house

I love it. I could quite happily move in there, okay it needed a good sweep out with a besom broom but I could make a home out of it. A kind chap took photos of us all perched on the seat outside the cottage and I thought that he used our camera but I don’t have the photo so it must have been on Peggy and Evee’s cameras, I’m sure he took two. No doubt I’ll see a copy of it sometime.

If you want to see more photos of Culloden have a look here.

Glenfinnan, West Scottish Highlands

Glenfinnan monument

Last week we took a trip up to the Scottish Highlands which for us is a journey of about three hours by car. At last I was going to that west which I pine for! We were based in Fort William which is fairly well known for being rather wet and it was certainly wet when we were there but as soon as we started travelling north from there we always met the sunshine, as you can see when we got to Glenfinnan it was a lovely day. There is a tourist on top of the monument in this photo, as well as the statue of a highlander. This is where Charles Edward Stuart, better known as Bonnie Prince Charlie, stepped off a boat on Monday, 19th August 1745 and started to raise support from highlanders, in the hope that he could reclaim the British throne from the German Hanoverians. Known as the Young Pretender, his father was the Old Pretender and he had counselled him not to rekindle the old Jacobite cause.

Mountains at Loch Shiel

This is a view from the top of the Glenfinnan monument. That Scottish baronial house has such a gorgeous setting, if a bit remote.

Loch Shiel from monument

This is Loch Shiel from the top of the monument and if you are fairly fit I would definitely recommend you to tackle the very steep spiral staircase which leads to the top of the monument, it’s worth it for the views, although it was a bit scarily windy up there so we didn’t stay long.

Glenfinnan viaduct from mon

Still on top of the monument though, these photos were taken in all directions and this is the Glenfinnan Viaduct which has always been famous in Scotland anyway but is even more so today, especially amongst Harry Potter fans as it is the viaduct which the Hogwarts Express travels over in the films.

Glenfinnan viaduct zoom from mon

And the photo above is just a zoom in on the viaduct. If you enjoy beautiful scenery then you might want to put Glenfinnan on your bucket list – if you have such a thing. It is really beautiful.

Click on the photos to enlarge them.