A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about scotland

Days 17 to 22

We leave Scotland and head home

semi-overcast 16 °C
View A maiden holiday in Scotland on SteveJD's travel map.

On our last full day in Scotland, we decided to visit Stirling Castle. It was about an hour's drive and we parked in the (free) car park for the (free) park & ride into the city. The car park also has 32 EV charging points, some fast, some slow, powered at least in part by solar panels on the roof over the parking spaces - and, yes, the sun does shine in Scotland! Now we know where some of our taxes go! The bus dropped us off a short walk from the castle and we arrived in time to enjoy an informative and amusing tour. Up to the Union, it was a royal palace as well as a fortress. After the Union, it was principally used for military purposes, a prison and a barracks (and now houses the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders Museum), so that all the royal decor was lost. In 2011 a project was completed to restore much of the castle to the state it would have been when James V was King of Scotland. As part of the restoration, the Great Hall was painted a pale gold colour, apparently as it would have been, although citizens of Stirling were not impressed with this gaudiness on their skyline!

The Great Hall in its new coat of paint, compared to the Palace

The Great Hall in its new coat of paint, compared to the Palace

Inside the Great Hall, the throne is raised on a dais

Inside the Great Hall, the throne is raised on a dais

Colourful and ornate ceiling in the Great Hall

Colourful and ornate ceiling in the Great Hall

Most of the buildings that we can see now were built in the 16th century, during the reigns of Kings James IV and V of Scotland.
The last building, The Chapel Royal was built at the end of the 16th century by King James VI of Scotland, a few years before he also become King James I of England and Wales.

The Chapel Royal

The Chapel Royal

Inside the Palace

Inside the Palace


In 2015 a team of weavers in Sussex completed a series of tapestries based on originals held in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Large tapestry in the Palace

Large tapestry in the Palace

The Royal coat of arms in the Palace

The Royal coat of arms in the Palace

Among the restorations were the Stirling Heads. These were removed when the ceiling started to collapse in 1777. Craftsman, John Donaldson, spent five years carving 37 replicas which were then painted using traditional methods.

The replica Stirling Heads

The replica Stirling Heads

Outside the Palace there is garden area known as the Queen Anne Garden. Opposite the Palace, across the garden, are the casemates which now house an exhibition showing the development of the castle.

The Palace from the Queen Anne Garden

The Palace from the Queen Anne Garden

The Queen Anne Garden with casemates to the right and the castle entrance in the background

The Queen Anne Garden with casemates to the right and the castle entrance in the background

View from the Queen Anne gardens, showing the King's and Queen's mounds in what were gardens in the 17th century

View from the Queen Anne gardens, showing the King's and Queen's mounds in what were gardens in the 17th century

Apparently, the castle is similar to Colditz Castle in Germany and it was used for external shots in the TV series "Colditz". I can just see the glider being launched out over the countryside far below!

View from the battlements to the distant memorial to William Wallace ("Braveheart"!)

View from the battlements to the distant memorial to William Wallace ("Braveheart"!)

After exploring the castle, we walked down to the town where I spotted a barber shop (my hair, such as it is, and beard were becoming unruly. I wandered in and a large, bearded Middle Eastern man followed me in and asked what I wanted. He was a Turkish Kurd and I came out shorn, although at least he did not cut out a parting as some Turkish barbers apparently do. Feeling very light-headed, I re-joined Judith and we took the bus back to the car park.

We drove over to Falkirk where we were impressed by The Wheel which carries narrowboats (and other boats) from the aqueduct carrying the Caledonian Canal down to the canal at ground level. Great engineering and a sight to behold. I wish I could upload my video! I'll put it on my Facebook page when I post this blog.

The aqueduct carrying the Caledonian Canal to The Wheel

The aqueduct carrying the Caledonian Canal to The Wheel

The Wheel part way through its rotation, carrying a narrowboat

The Wheel part way through its rotation, carrying a narrowboat

A narrowboat exiting The Wheel at ground level

A narrowboat exiting The Wheel at ground level

A lovely wicker sculpture of one of the horses - a Kelpie - and its guide

A lovely wicker sculpture of one of the horses - a Kelpie - and its guide

After this we had time to drive a few miles to Helix Park where we were able to see The Kelpies, amazing sculptures of horses' heads. Apparently, the horses which towed barges along the canal were known as Kelpies and this is a memorial to them. The park was officially opened in 2014 by Princess Anne.

The Caledonian Canal and The Kelpies

The Caledonian Canal and The Kelpies

The Kelpies - "Duke" and "Baron"

The Kelpies - "Duke" and "Baron"

The following day, we packed and prepared to leave Scotland. Firstly though, we headed over to Livingston to see the daughter of an old friend from Rhodesian days. She owns a great, very busy, coffee shop in a large shopping mall but had time for a chat and it was wonderful to turn the clock back to when she and her brother used to come, with their mother, to us at Christmas in Rhodesia.

We stopped at Jedburgh, again, for a coffee break on our way to Durham. We had booked a B & B hotel which had the address Durham, Durham but it was in fact at Cornsay Colliery and looked a bit dilapidated. Once again we had to quickly find alternative accommodation and booked a Premier Inn in Durham.

Luckily, we were close to a park & ride station (back in England, so we had to pay for the bus!). The bus dropped us close to the Market Place where we were entertained by the North Tyneside Pipe Band before walking up the hill to the Cathedral. We walked past the tomb of the Venerable Bede (his bones were buried in the Cathedral in 1022) and were in time to join a guided tour. Again, we had an excellent guide who took us round the Cathedral with so many stories of its history. He gave us all time to file by St Cuthbert's shrine; poor chap had at least three burials!

On the tour, the guide drew our attention to a "modern" (1984) window which had been gifted by the staff of the local branch of Marks & Spencer, commemorating the company's centenary. It is an unusual depiction of the Last Supper with a subtle rendering of Judas.

The Marks and Spencer window

The Marks and Spencer window

As the tour ended at the transept, we saw an orchestra and choir setting up. We popped off to the café near the cloisters and then returned to watch and hear the Durham Choral Society and Orchestra in rehearsal for their performance in the evening of Mendelssohn's "Elijah". This is not a piece with which we were familiar but we both enjoyed sitting in the pews for a couple of hours soaking up this wonderful music.

North Tyneside Pipe Band in the Market Place

North Tyneside Pipe Band in the Market Place

Palace Green, the Cathedral and library building

Palace Green, the Cathedral and library building

The tomb of the Venerable Bede

The tomb of the Venerable Bede

Beautiful rose window

Beautiful rose window

The rehearsal in progress

The rehearsal in progress

From the Cathedral we took a side street down to the River Wear and walked back along that to our bus stop.

20220521_P1230475.jpgViews along the River Wear

Views along the River Wear

The following day we were able to visit one of my cousins near Staithes (the last time there as they are moving to north Wales) for coffee and a chat. We then drove on to Whitby where we had an excellent lunch by the harbour.

The harbour with Whitby Abbey high above the town

The harbour with Whitby Abbey high above the town

Unfortunately, we did not have time to do much exploring or to visit the abbey as we were heading on down to Scarborough to catch up with an old friend from Rhodesia. We used to babysit her two daughters, one of whom lives in Durham but was in Scarborough the day we were there! We enjoyed Scarborough and, apart from seeing Joan, it looks worth a return trip.

We both enjoy seeing seabirds and had heard about RSPB Bempton Cliffs, so as this was not far down the road, we diverted and were diverted! Although we didn't spot any Puffins (Judith's favourites), the air was full of wheeling Gannets and the cliff faces were covered with nesting Gannets, Guillemots, Razorbills, Kittiwakes and even a pair of Jackdaws.

Guillemots, Razorbills and Kittiwakes - good neighbours!

Guillemots, Razorbills and Kittiwakes - good neighbours!

A Gannetry covering the cliff face

A Gannetry covering the cliff face

Jackdaw parent feeding its young

Jackdaw parent feeding its young

Gannets are really handsome birds

Gannets are really handsome birds

Razorbills are among the noisier of the birds!

Razorbills are among the noisier of the birds!

On our way back to the car, we were delighted to see a Barn Owl quartering over the fields behind the cliffs.

P1200287.JPGTwo views of one of our favourite birds

Two views of one of our favourite birds

We continued to our overnight stop in Boston were we stayed in a comfortable but rather odd hotel by the river. The place was unmanned so we had to phone for a code for the key safe and when we walked into our room and turned on the light, the room was suffused in a pink glow!

Passion Flower Hotel?!

Passion Flower Hotel?!

We did find "normal" lights and had a good night's sleep and a reasonable breakfast (no kitchen staff either - clearly a no frills budget hotel!).

Never ones to travel straight, we decided to visit RSPB Titchwell in Norfolk - as it happens, exactly a year since our last visit. I treated myself to a new pair of binoculars and we walked out through the reserve where we saw Sedge and Reed Warblers, a Reed Bunting, Avocets, Pochards and all manner of other birds - and, even a Water Vole, a rare sight these days although I well remember hearing the plop as they went into the water in the canal not far from my home in Newbury, occasionally seeing them as well.

20220523_IMG_6392.jpgA lonely Sedge Warbler singing for a mate an a beautiful, graceful Avocet

A lonely Sedge Warbler singing for a mate an a beautiful, graceful Avocet

20220523_IMG_6412.jpgFemale and male Pochard, female with leg oddly twisted up onto her back

Female and male Pochard, female with leg oddly twisted up onto her back

20220523_IMG_6419.jpgA Black-tailed Godwit and a Canada Goose with goslings in tow

A Black-tailed Godwit and a Canada Goose with goslings in tow

A Reed Warbler hiding in - reeds of course!

A Reed Warbler hiding in - reeds of course!

A nice change from birds, a Southern Marsh Orchid (I think!)

A nice change from birds, a Southern Marsh Orchid (I think!)

A Muntjac Deer to see us on our way

A Muntjac Deer to see us on our way

We came back to a rather overgrown garden and have been busy getting it back into order and enjoying the fruits of our labour.

Posted by SteveJD 22:31 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged birds scotland england castle stirling whitby Comments (0)

Days 12 and 13

Inverness to Onich

semi-overcast 14 °C
View A maiden holiday in Scotland on SteveJD's travel map.

We returned to the Black Isle but this time headed along the north coast where we stopped at RSPB Udale. This is just a layby with a hide next to it! However, the bird watching was excellent and helped by the presence of a chap who knew the birds in the area better than we did. We had good sightings of Red-breasted Mergansers as well as numerous other waterfowl, including a pair of Mute Swans defending their territory.

View from hide at RSPB Udale to offshore rigs near Cromarty

View from hide at RSPB Udale to offshore rigs near Cromarty

Red-breasted Merganser

Red-breasted Merganser

Intruder being chased off

Intruder being chased off

Splashdown after seeing off the intruder

Splashdown after seeing off the intruder

We couldn't linger long so soon set off along the road towards Cromarty but we had hardly started when we spotted some birds close to the road and these turned out to be Eiders - another first for us.

What a handsome bird, a male Eider

What a handsome bird, a male Eider

We continued round the island, heading back to Rosemarkie. We stopped just outside as we spotted a sign to Fairy Glen - you have to investigate don't you?! It is on the edge of the town and is a lovely wooded glen with bluebells flanking a pretty stream. We had an appointment so couldn't stay long so didn't get to the waterfalls where, at this time of year and maintaining a tradition, school children plant Spring flowers under the waterfall. This keeps the fairies happy and in turn they ensure that the water is clean. Both parties must be doing a good job as the stream was crystal clear and sparkling.

Steve walking by the stream

Steve walking by the stream

Judith on the boardwalk

Judith on the boardwalk

View along the sparkling stream

View along the sparkling stream

Our appointment was at the Groam House Museum (appointments needed as it is small and we were still having to wear masks in enclosed spaces). After a quick look at what was Marine Hotel (where Judith's mother was billeted) and is now a block of flats called Marine House, we made our way to the nearby museum (everything is nearby in Rosemarkie!). This had has a great collection of Pictish art, in particular a large cross stone which had subsequently been used as a paving slab in a church. As a result, the cross side was quite worn but the decorative side is well-preserved. I mentioned Picts when we visited Aberlemno but didn't say who they were. I don't know! All I know is that they inhabited the north of what is now Scotland, apparently had no written records but left some beautifully carved stones. They are believed to be the "painted warriors" the Romans mentioned. They could have been tattooed but also used woad to dye their skin blue. They appear to have been absorbed into the various peoples who subsequently settled Scotland. I am reading up and trying to find more about the early people of Scotland as I have found this all so interesting. Anyway, history lesson over.

The decorative side of the Pictish Cross stone

The decorative side of the Pictish Cross stone

The worn side with cross still deeply carved

The worn side with cross still deeply carved

View of Rosemarkie from Chanonry Point

View of Rosemarkie from Chanonry Point

On a whim, we decided to drive further west into the mountains and headed for Aultguish Inn - an arbitrary choice pin-pricked from the map! Some way along the road, we stopped at Rogie Falls where we had a pleasant walk (in some parts a clamber!) through beautiful woodland to the falls. We had intended to cross the suspension bridge and walk back the other side but, as you will see from the photos, the bridge is in need of repair and we were barred from that route.

The suspension bridge from beside the falls

The suspension bridge from beside the falls

Rogie Falls

Rogie Falls

We continued on to the inn, which is in the middle of nowhere cowering under a huge dam which holds back Loch Glascarnoch. We didn't need a meal and they had no snacks, so we satisfied ourselves with coffee before starting our return journey.

Aultguish Inn

Aultguish Inn

Looking over the car park to the dam wall

Looking over the car park to the dam wall

We had been told that there were Red Squirrels all over the car park at Contin forestry area. We drove in and Judith caught a glimpse of one climbing a tree but it rapidly ran round to the back of the tree and that was our last sighting of a Red Squirrel in Scotland!

The following day we left Inverness and headed south, driving along the "slow" road on the eastern shores of Loch Ness. With no sign of Nessie, we stopped at Change Point (so named as this was a point where travellers would stop to change their horses) where we had views up and down the loch and could just make out Castle Urquhart on the opposite side.

View across Loch Ness

View across Loch Ness

Jet Set was with us again

Jet Set was with us again

A selfie by Loch Ness

A selfie by Loch Ness

A view down the loch, no sign of Nessie

A view down the loch, no sign of Nessie

Shortly after this, near Foyers,, we stopped at one of the best tearooms we have ever been to, The Camerons Tea Shop - if you are ever in the area, give it a try, great food and drink in a lovely setting.

Camerons Tea Shop

Camerons Tea Shop

We drove inland and up to a viewpoint giving views along The Great Glen. It was quite "breezy" so we did not dwell long!

20220515_120958_Judith.jpgViews along The Great Glen

Views along The Great Glen

Just after passing Fort Augustus, at the southern end of Loch Ness, we stopped at the Bridge of Oich which crosses the Caledonian Canal. The old cantilever bridge is still maintained but only in use for foot traffic, it is an engineering masterpiece.

The cantilever bridge from the "modern" bridge

The cantilever bridge from the "modern" bridge

Barge on the Caledonian Canal

Barge on the Caledonian Canal

Judith on the cantilever bridge

Judith on the cantilever bridge

The snapper snapped

The snapper snapped

The "modern" bridge from the cantilever bridge

The "modern" bridge from the cantilever bridge

Our route took us on down past Lochs Oich and Lochy (really!) then took us away inland where we stopped at Spean Bridge to look at the majestic Commando memorial (unfortunately fenced in!) and the even more majestic mountain range which included Ben Nevis as a backdrop.

20220515_P1230288.jpgBack and front views of the memorial

Back and front views of the memorial

Ben Nevis and her sisters

Ben Nevis and her sisters

Not being climbers, we had hoped to take the cable car up to see Ben Nevis from a high point but unfortunately that day it was closed due to high wind so we continued to Glenfinnan. Just before the small village, we stopped at a viewing point where we climbed some awkward steps to get a distant view of the famous viaduct (featured in Harry Potter films) to the north and, to the south, a beautiful view over the Bonnie Prince Charlie monument to Loch Shiel. We had thought about a trip on the Jacobite steam train which runs from Fort William to Mallaig, crossing the viaduct en route, but by the time we checked, the earliest booking was August!

The Glenfinnan Viaduct

The Glenfinnan Viaduct

Loch Shiel and the Bonnie Prince Charlie monument

Loch Shiel and the Bonnie Prince Charlie monument

We drove along to the village where we walked up to the station and enjoyed much needed cake and drinks in one of the old railway carriages.

View westwards from Glenfinnan Station

View westwards from Glenfinnan Station

Finally, we found our B & B at Onich, part of a cottage on a small farm owned by a lovely couple, Gary and Mhairi. Our bedroom was small but comfortable and the newly built bathroom was very spacious and one of the best fitted bathrooms we have used on our stay. The cottage looks out over the farmyard, across Loch Linnhe to the mountains beyond.

View from our bedroom window

View from our bedroom window

Our next booking was for Stirling but when we (re-)checked the details and contacted the owner, we found that parking was not to be guaranteed and if we were not lucky we would be carting luggage quite a long way. We cancelled this hotel and booked an AirBnB on a farm at Gartocharn on the south east side of Loch Lomond and only an hour from Stirling.

Posted by SteveJD 12:14 Archived in Scotland Tagged birds scotland lochs glenfinnan black_isle Comments (0)

Days 9 and 10 - From the Cairngorms to Inverness

Birds and the Black Isle

semi-overcast 15 °C
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We were a bit undecided as to where to go today, so headed up to Findhorn on the coast to the north of us. This is a very pleasant small fishing port and harbour. It was on the breezy side (where by the sea is it not?!) but we had an enjoyable stroll through the dunes to the coast and round by the side of the harbour. Apart from the pleasure of the coastline, we spotted Linnets and Judith found a stone surrounded by snail shells - clearly an anvil stone used by a thrush. We then spotted a lovely Song Thrush. We had arrived at high tide so there was a limit to where we could walk. We had heard mention of the Findhorn Valley (aka Valley of the Raptors), so decided we would try that.

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To my surprise, not being sure where the valley was, our satnav took us west to Inverness and then down the A9 to Tomantin where we turned off, negotiated some roadworks and found ourselves in a lovely wide valley with a river winding slowly through and with mountains rearing up at the sides. Given a day of good thermals, I can see how raptors would enjoy this. A short way into the valley, while still among a few scattered houses, we saw our first Red Squirrel - it ran across the road and disappeared over a wall. Judith only saw its tail! No chance for a photo but at last we had seen one. We have seen them before in Northumberland and, in my youth, much closer to home in the south. The valley was fascinating to drive through but the recommended car park at the end of the 9 miles stretch was in one of the bleakest and least wildlife-friendly areas of the whole valley! We stayed for a while but then headed back and about 4 miles down the track joined other vehicles in a gravelled area by a bridge. One of the chaps said there was a Grey Goshawk but, although I had glimpsed a bird high in the sky as I parked, I really couldn't say that I had seen this. I did however see a Grey Wagtail on the rocks and then a Dipper which turned out to be nesting under the bridge. As the day was mainly overcast with showers, it was not ideal for photography and the valley is much more impressive than our photos suggest.

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As a finale to a pretty good day, we spotted a sign to Lochindorb where there was another castle, looking more like a blockhouse!, on an island in a loch. When we got to the turn off, there was a notice on the side saying "Road Closed" but we decided to press on and were rewarded with a meandering drive through some lovely heather moorland along the edge of the loch. Along the way, we spotted quite a few different waterbirds but none close enough for good photography in the fading light. Generally, things are beginning to look brighter.

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Before this trip, we had never heard of a Slavonian Grebe and thus far had only mid-distance views. However, we were assured that Loch Ruthven was the stronghold in Scotland, so of course we set off in that direction. Once again, we set off along the Findhorn Valley but part way along, we took the Road to Farr, a very logical name since it took us to Farr! As we drove into the valley, before turning off, we spotted a Red-legged Partridge which is an unusual sight for us.

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The drive was very enjoyable taking us into high heather clad moors, very dramatic scenery.

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At one place we stopped and were lucky to spot a Snow Bunting but it did not stay for a portrait unlike, in Farr, a melanistic cock Pheasant. We had seen a partly melanistic hen Pheasant at Insh Marshes but this chap was very handsome.

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We finally reached Loch Ruthven and were told that there were two male Slavonian Grebes doing a "grass dance" but they were beyond the reach of our binoculars! It was an attractive but non-productive setting, although as we were leaving we watched an Osprey at the end of the lake, swooping then diving down and grabbing a fish.

Our next stop was Culloden, the site of the battle in 1746 in which the Jacobites under Bonnie Prince Charlie were finally defeated. It is a very bleak place and for those who have watched "Outlander" it is a pretty accurate portrayal. When we got there it was very windy and dull so we did not explore the site, so took a photo and carried on.

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Our main reason for visiting Inverness was to explore Black Isle, just across the water, not really an island as it is connected by a narrow strip of land. During WW2, Judith's mother, Dorothy, who was serving with the WRNS, was posted there in 1943 as part of a large team carrying out secret work on the preparations for D-Day the following year. She had spoken of her time there fondly so we felt that we had to check it out. It is delightful! Dorothy had sent a folding postcard to her father so we had some places to check out. One of the pictures was of Rosemarkie taken from the beach, with an X marking the Marine Hotel which is where she was based. I got a fairly close approximation.

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Inverness had been another accommodation change. Not long before we left, the B & B that we had booked contacted to say that they had to cancel our booking as they had a date for building works which would affect our room! At this notice, the best we could do was the Holiday Inn which was OK but not what we had planned.

Posted by SteveJD 15:47 Archived in Scotland Tagged scotland loch island culloden inverness findhorn rosemarkie dipper river_valley black_isle Comments (0)

Day 8 - Day 2 in the Cairngorms

The Cairngorms fail to live up to expectations

semi-overcast 15 °C
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We had been told that Avielochan was a great place to see Slavonian Grebes, a rare species. We had the hide to ourselves, though quite chilly as the wind was blowing straight in. With the wind blowing towards us, I thought we would have a good chance to see these grebes close to the hide, as other people we had met had done, Eventually, we did see one, possibly two but on the far side of the loch, just recognisable. The only other birds we saw there were Greylag Geese, Black-headed Gulls and Goldeneye but none close enough for acceptable photography, so I will include just the attractive view we had from the hide.

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RSPB Abernethy was highly recommended so we moved on there. The young woman at the entry "gate" told us much about how valuable this tiny relict part of the great Caledonian Forest is but, unlike other RSPB places we have been, did not offer a map and didn't seem to have much idea what we could do, other than go up to the Visitor Centre. This site is renowned for its Ospreys and when we reached the centre, we found that we could see nests, out on Loch Garten, through digiscopes or nest cams which we could have watched from home! We watched Siskins and other birds making good use of the feeder just outside the viewing window. There were some walk tracks but we had no idea where these went and, in any case, were still stiff from yesterday, so just wandered down to the edge of a body of water (possibly an arm of Loch Garten but without a map we couldn't say) where there some good views through the forest.

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The advice received from our hotel seems to be rather more hopeful than accurate! According to the blurb, at Loch An Eilein we could sit in our car and birdwatch (just up our street!) as with the bird feeders in the car park, we could be certain to see Crested Tits (one of our wish list, as mentioned). We happily and hopefully drove there only to find no bird feeders and mighty few birds! We settled for a walk along the shore of the loch to see the ruined castle on an island. We had to share this with groups of off-road cyclists who were incredibly noisy - it is a family-oriented place so I had half expected something like this but they were rather inconsiderate of others. We did find a quiet area by the loch where we watched a very smart Mallard cruise by, while Siskins and Pied Wagtails hopped around on rocks and shore.

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We then decided to try RSPB Insh Marshes where there is a circular hide from which we had panoramic, if distant, views of the marshes below us. We could make out some birds but not sufficiently well for photography. However, just outside the curved window was a set of bird feeders and on these we had close encounters with Chaffinches, Coal Tits and Blue Tits, Siskins, Pheasants (including a melanistic one - darker than usual plumage), a Great Tit and a Robin. This was an enjoyable spot and, if time had permitted, we would probably have made a return visit

As we left Insh Marshes, we spotted Ruthven Barracks - an imposing ruin which, after earlier castles had been destroyed, was created early in the 18th century as a defence against Jacobite rebels. One attack by about 300 rebels was repulsed by a dozen soldiers but when some 3,000 Jacobites, retreating from their defeat at Culloden, attacked they overwhelmed the fortified barracks and left them in the ruins which can be seen today. Unfortunately, like a few places we have been in Scotland, visitors are temporarily barred - mainly while renovations take place.

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A somewhat mixed day but overall rather disappointing. Even the scenery that we have seen so far has not been as impressive as expected, although it has been great to see some wonderful woodlands. We have relatively little woodland in Suffolk so it is really nice to see the variety of forest that exists in Scotland.

Posted by SteveJD 17:48 Archived in Scotland Tagged birds scotland cairngorms Comments (0)

Day 6 - We leave Edinburgh

A roundabout route to the Cairngorms

rain 13 °C
View A maiden holiday in Scotland on SteveJD's travel map.

As far as I am aware, I only have one slight family connection with Scotland. In the 19th century, my paternal grandfather's half-sister gave birth to a son at Dupplin Castle while there with her husband who was the coachman. The poor old castle had a chequered career - it seems that it was built sometime in the 13th century but in 1461 it was attacked and was destroyed. This seems to be some internal Scottish rivalry rather than an English invasion! The castle was rebuilt, ownership changed hands and, some time later, in 1688 it was again rebuilt. I presume this had been required due to the ravages of time as I can find no mention of fire or other damage. The castle was gutted by fire in 1827 but was again rebuilt and restored as a country house. This must be the version in which my half great aunt had her child. In the 1920s or 1930s there was a fire in the interior. It was then demolished in August-October 1967 and a new house was built in 1970 on the foundations (thanks to Wikipedia). This is a family-run estate and there appears to be limited access.

All of the above is to explain that, on leaving Edinburgh, we headed for Dupplin but found that the buildings were not visible from the road and, as the castle was destroyed long ago, it is all rather academic. Still, a pleasant country drive.

One of the benefits of my Wednesday morning "lessons" with Sam Newton is that he digresses from the subject matter and I and the others find out about all manner of history. On one occasion, Sam mentioned Pictish stones at Aberlemno, so we made this our next stop, The stones date to between 400-800AD and, not surprisingly, are covered during the winter months. One stone, in the grounds of the little T-shaped church and dated to about 800AD has a depiction of a battle on one side (believed to be the Battle of Dun Nechtain in 685 in which Northumbrian raiders were routed by the Pictish army) and a cross on the other, albeit with dragons and other creatures included! Along the road are three further stones, a similarly dated roadside cross, a presumably much older stone known as the Crescent Stone on which there are barely discernible crescent shapes and the Serpent Stone (which was leaning before I touched it!). This dates back to between 500-700AD. Apparently there were other stones in the fields so this must have been quite a significant site for the Picts.

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The weather on this trip was mainly drizzly to showery and windy, with a brief clear spell at Aberlemno. We decided to take a chance and headed for RSPB Troup Head. I did get out of the car and walk across the car park to see where the paths led but I was almost blown off my feet and got a little damp. The photo flatters the conditions - or my photographic abilities!

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From this remote spot, we drove through some narrow lanes to Banff. Judith's great-grandfather had an aerated water factory in Annan (see photo of ginger beer bottle sold on e-Bay!) and either he or another member of his family ran a similar business in Brewery House in Banff. This a rather foreboding building, in an otherwise quite attractive town, opposite the harbour. I don't have all my records with me, so I can't bore you with the full details!

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We finally carried on to the Grant Arms Hotel in Grantown-on-Spey, in the Cairngorms area, where we stayed for four nights. At dinner in the evening we were chatting to a couple from Northumberland who had been there for 7 days. They suggested a couple of places to go, one of which was great and the other I suspect was with a personal guide and our experience there didn't quite live up to expectation. Other than that, we have had a good journey with some interesting waystops.

Posted by SteveJD 18:57 Archived in Scotland Tagged scotland banff cairngorms picts aberlemno ginger_beer Comments (1)

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