Friday, July 31, 2015

Hiking Around Loch Kinard, Then Finding Tomnaverie Stone Circle by Chance

It was a cool, cloudy day with periods of rain.
Our purpose in hiking around Loch Kinard was to find an Iron Age village which had been excavated in the 1970's.  If there was time, we would hike on to a Celtic Cross and view the two island in the middle of the loch, one the remains of an Iron Age fort, the other with the base of a castle.
Hike we did.  We found the Loch, ferns, fungi, cows, water lilies, black slugs and beautiful scenery.  We did not find any of the places we were looking for, even after a 3 mile walk; sometimes in the rain, always in the wind.
The ferns were over 6 feet tall.

A black slug stretched out and moving.

Curled up to look like a snail.

One huge bull in a pasture of cows.
We did have a good time, though!

Tomnaverie Stone Circle in the rain.
Arriving back at our car, in the rain, I took the time to look at our map.  There just around the corner, was another place of interest.  As it was on the way on anyway, we decided to see if we had better luck finding Tomnaverie Stone Circle.  Not only did we find it, there was a clearly marked car park.

Did I mention it was raining?
Bundled up against the wind and the rain, we trudged up the rather steep hillside. Why did they always build these things on top of the hill?  It was worth the walk. The place has great views and the stones are wonderful.  Some days, even if you don't find what you were originally looking for, you may find what you need!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Rhynie Man, the Maiden Stone and Banff: A Busy Day!

Rhynie Man stands in the entrance foyer of Woodhill House, the headquarters of the Aberdeenshire Council.
The Aberdeenshire Council has published a series of leaflets on the Archaeology of N. E Scotland.  We have picked up several of them.  They are very helpful in finding the odd pieces of history we are interested in.  Rhynie Man was by far the easiest to find, as he did not involve hiking into fields or driving down one lane tracts.  We went to a big parking lot at the government complex in Aberdeen and walked into a very modern building.  When the woman at the desk asked how she could help,  I held up the brochure, saying," We've come to visit this gentleman."  She was genuinely pleased.  We were sent to the next building over, walked in and there he was.

There were two women at this desk, again asking how they could help.  I held up the brochure, saying, "We've come to visit this gentleman, and here he is!"  Again, that look of being genuinely pleased.  Bill took pictures, while I admired him.  The carving is very well preserved.  When we were about ready to leave, I turned to the women at the desk and asked them to tell who ever was responsible for the series of brochures, "Thank You", as they were not only informative, but actually directed us to the right location to find the places.  At this point, one of them picked up the phone saying, "I'll call him right now.  He'll come talk to you.  He's really nice and will be very pleased."  Not at all what I was expecting.

Rhynie Man's head and ax show well here.
A couple of minutes later, we met Bruce, the archaeologist for Aberdeenshire.  He is a young man with a big smile, who obviously enjoys his work.  He told us of several excited things on the horizon, as well as a couple of places to find more stones that aren't on their brochures yet.  We made a few suggestions on helping to find the places.  Then he gave us their newest pamphlet on Pictish Stones.  Now we were ready to go on the hunt!
The Maiden Stone stands on the side of the road.
We were headed to Banff, but once again a road sign sent us off another direction, where we found the Maiden Stone.  As we got out of our car, another car had pulled into the car park.  I walked pass the woman, nodding and saying good morning, she asked if we were tourist.  Turns out she is Patricia Oddie, the Aberdeenshire Councillor for Ward No. 10.  She asked if she could take our picture and where we were from.  We told her about meeting Bruce, who she knew.  Unfortunately, we didn't take her picture!  I did, however, think to give her one of my Ben's Kindness Coins from Tucson.  As I explained what it was, she rubbed her finger over it and told us how she was fighting cancer at the moment and such acts of random kindness made such a difference.

On the base of Maid Stone the mirror and comb show very clearly.

Each side has the beautiful interwoven designs carved,  that the Picts are known for.
We drove back to the A96 and on to Banff.  The carpark let us pay for 2 hours, so that's how long we would stay.  The castle grounds, even though there is no castle left, were just across the street.  We walked around a bit, then, noticing how the locals were flocking into a small cafe, decided to join them for lunch.
Bill had a bacon and egg roll, while I had homemade tomato soup with a big chunk of brown bread.  We splurged on dessert, too,  Chocolate cake for me and a Millionaire bar (chocolate and caramel on a cookie crust) for Bill.  YUM!

A bloom on a Monkey Puzzle tree, made it look as if it were decorated with Christmas balls.

View from the castle grounds down to the beach; the first sand beach we've found,
After lunch, a stroll around the water front to view the boats.  Their small boat harbor was full of not just day sailors, but cruisers as well.  The local sailing club's building was near by.  We enjoyed Banff; it would be a nice place to visit for a longer stay.

One side of the small boat harbor; there were two such basins.
We drove back home after our busy day, avoiding Aberdeen and it's traffic.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015


Braemar Castle with the star shaped wall around the bottom.

Braemar Castle is owned by the village of Braemar.  It was gifted to them by the last Laird, who sold off most of the furnishings before doing so.  All the folks working inside are volunteers.  We could wander on our own with an audio guide, or there was a guided tour about to start.  We joined the tour, which consisted of another American couple from the Philadelphia area and the guide, Hanan; a Uni student from Aberdeen. She was delightful!

The dining room all set up ready to serve.
The dining room was painted a deep rose color, as the last lady of the house loved pink.  Our guide told about the chairs and other various pieces, then laughing said the table was three pushed together, all purchased from Ikea.  The original table was auctioned off for an exorbitant sum of money, so the Castle trust could not buy it.  Since the room is also rented for functions, the Ikea tables suit the bill much better anyway.
Graffiti left by solders who were barracked here after the Jacobite war.

A magic lantern slide projector with paraffin lamp, for viewing glass slides.
Most of the rooms were set up as they had been used by the last Laird and his wife.  We even saw one bedroom that was haunted!  We have decided that all of the castles in Scotland have their very own ghost!

While the Catholics could not openly worship, they would wear a piece of tartan under their clothing next to their heart, to show God they were still loyal to him, even while praying in a  protestant church.
A suit fit for the Laird, but recently made by locals.
Since this is the 400 anniversary of the 1615 Jacobite uprising, there was a room set up with clothes models of what they would wear, swords and armament, all made by two local craftspeople.  The owners of Braemar were Jacobite, so had a bit of trouble after their side lost, but finally made it back into the good graces of the King.

Bill dressed up with a friend.

Mary and friend ready to meet the guys.
The last Laird and his first wife had no children and their were no heirs from other family members.  When he remarried after her death, he decided to move to England where his new wife lived and donate the castle. We really enjoyed this castle.  The cost was not prohibitive, pictures were allowed, and the people working there are lots of fun and very friendly.

We have seen many toilets, but never one made of Delft china.

The servants staircase is quite steep.  Can't imagine running up and down this with dishes for dinner.

The stove in the kitchen, with all the copper pots above.  Each pot has the initials of the owner, so they wouldn't be stolen.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Highland Cows, Finally!

We have been on the look out for Highland Cows the entire time we've been in Scotland.  We have driven over 1500 miles, only to spot one Highland Cow in a field too far away to take a picture.  The fact that there was absolutely no where to stop on the road was a factor in no picture, too.  So the hunt continued; day after day, mile after mile, pasture after pasture.

The elusive Highland Cow with her hwo calves.
Then, while trying to locate Pictish carved stones, Bill suddenly slams on the brakes and yells, "Big Hairy Cows!"  We stopped where a side road came into the main road, so Bill could walk back, in the rain, to take a picture.

A Highland Bull; wish he had been standing, but we take what we can get.
Highland Cows are not the biggest cows around, but they are very unique looking, with that fringe of hair over their eyes and the curved horns.  We also thing they are excellent at hiding from tourists wanting to take their picture!

Monday, July 27, 2015

A Walk Around Aberdeen

The cast iron railing over the railway bridge.
We had been warned by Rae and Marty not drive to Aberdeen as the traffic was awful and parking expensive.  So, we took the bus; 6 pounds each with return. After riding through downtown to the bus/train station, we were grateful for their advice.
The street and sidewalks are very busy.
Our day was mostly dry, so walking was enjoyable.  The shops were busy, and shopping centers looked like regular old buildings on the outside, but the insides had been renovated to be modern.

The symbol of the City of Aberdeen.
The one thing that hit both of us was how grey everything is.  The buildings are made from grey granite, the sky is mostly grey, even though it's July, everyone was wearing their coats and scarves.  I don't think I would like to visit in December when the light level is very low.

Supercuts, just for Liann who cuts my hair at the Broadway and Harrison Supercuts in Tucson.  No, I didn't get a haircut, but they started at 5.95 pounds, which is less than $10.

Aberdeen Maritime Museum

Lens from a light house, it was very big and bright.
The Aberdeen Maritime Museum is down by the docks in an old church building with parts of it going into a former Skeen's house.  It is very well laid out and well worth the visit.  Plus, it's free!
Ship's head from a sunken frigate.

Two other museums in town are closed for renovations, so parts of their treasures are on display.
Aberdeen has been associated with sea faring since it all began.  The museum traces it back to the iron age, but focuses on the 1800-1900 times especially.  The life for folks along the coast was very hard.
Looking out the large church windows upstairs onto the docks; very busy.
There is also a very informative section on oil and gas exploration in the North Sea.  What really caught my attention was the realization by the oil companies that the fields are not as productive as they once were.  They now have to dismantle the huge platforms, which are no longer being used, without just ditching them in the ocean; thanks to environmental protests!
Replica of the Murchison Platform which is in the North Sea.  I never appreciated how huge it is.

Stats for Murchison; they are pretty amazing!
The connection of Aberdeen to the opening of trade with Japan were also explored.  I've read  Shogun by James Clavel, but never realized how accurately he described the Scottish connection.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Glamis Castle, childhood home of HM Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother

The front of Glamis Castle, built in the classic Scottish L-shape.
Glamis, pronounced Glams, is the Seat of the Earls of Strathmore and Kinghorne. The same family has lived here since 1372.  (That's a bit mind boggling;  I've never lived anywhere longer than 20 years.)  Since it is privately owned, the admission has to be paid; 10 pounds each for seniors.  The castle is only visited by guided tour.  No pictures allowed.

Memorial to Princess Margaret, the current Queen's sister, who was born at Glamis.
Our guide was excellent!  Good information imparted with a touch of humor.  My favorite story involved one of the Lairds who loved his card games.  He started playing one Saturday evening with friends, and near midnight his servants came to say it was almost time to stop, as gambling wasn't allowed on Sundays.  He sent them away saying he would play until the end of the world and the Devil be damned!  About that time a stranger came to the door, was invited in and introduced to the Laird, who invited him to join their game.  The group played until dawn, when the stranger introduced himself as the Devil by saying they would keep playing until the end of the world.  In the large hall we were in, there is an area that has been walled up.  On the outside is a window, also blocked. They say if you are in the hall late on a Saturday, you can hear laughter and card games going on, from inside the space.   We enjoyed the visit to the castle and all the memorabilia to be seen.  We were also given enough time to look at everything.

The Queen Mother's new garden gate, dedicated on her 80th birthday.
The gardens were a disappointment.  Not well maintained, and in the walled garden, not even any old plantings.  Most looked to be under 2 years.  There were gardeners working in the walled garden, putting in new water features, so I guess they are trying.
View from the gardens back toward the Castle.
After having visited other privately owned estates, we both felt this one could be better run.  Perhaps they should visit Chatsworth to see how they do it!

Friday, July 24, 2015

House of Dun

One of those days when we had planned to do one thing, but the weather decided we should do something else.  Headed to the coast to explore the Montrose Basin Nature Reserve, when it started raining.  Since most every day's weather forecast is chances of rain and sunshine, we decided to find something else to do during the rain, while waiting for the sun.  A quick look at the map showed House of Dun, belonging to the NTS.  Serendipity is such a lovely thing!

One side of the row of Giant Sequoias.
Walking up to the house we couldn't help but see the 16 Giant Sequoias, no puny boxwood hedge in front of this house!  It's amazing how many of those are in Scotland. They are always breathtaking!
Entrance to house grounds from garden.
To visit the house, we joined in a guided tour with Caroline, who obviously enjoyed her job.  The information was good, layered with little tidbits about the family, politics of the times, and what was happening now at the property.
Perfectly symmetrical Georgian style house.
The house was designed by William Adam in 1730 for David Erskine, Lord Dun. The style is Georgian, making everything a mirror image of the opposite side. Inside there are doors which open to walls, just so the symmetry can be maintained.  The house contains many Royal mementos, as the illegitimate daughter of William IV, Lady Augusta Kennedy-Erskine, was the wife of the second owner.

The box hedge at the back entrance is symmetrical, too.

After the tour, the rain held off long enough for us to visit the walled garden. There were so many roses blooming, their perfume filled the air.  But, it was the perennials that caught our eye.

We have seen these in several gardens, not realizing they opened into sunshine yellow flowers.

About the time we finished walking around the gardens, the rain started again.  The walk back to our car was a bit damp, only getting heavier as we drove out to the road. We headed back up the coast toward home, not stopping at the reserve. Today was rain, no sun.

Looking toward the house from the walled garden.

Doune Castle

Doune Castle was rebuilt by Robert Stewart, the Duke of Albany, a man who was the power behind the throne as Regent for James I of Scotland,...