Shifting Sands

There’s been a lot of barefoot walking along beaches this summer, with friends, with family, much of it between St Combs and Scotstown. And that’s where there do be many shipwrecks to see! Aye, aye, me hearties! Prepare yersels for the photos!

I don’t know the name or date of this first wreck. It’s wooden and relatively small and sometimes entirely covered by the shifting sands that it, no doubt, fell victim to. It’s well bedecked with seaweed!

Closeby is a large metallic boat. It’s usually more submerged than this. I *think* it’s the HMS Erne. She ran aground in 1915 and broke her back 🙁

On this day I got to go right up to it.

And touch the barnacles.

And wonder if that’s a treasure chest…

A bit further on, between Rattray Head and Scotstown, lies a much more well documented ship: the Excelsior of Laurwig, a Norwegian barque wrecked in 1881. It’s rather impressive.

There is another, somewhat different, wreck on this bit of coastline, sometimes to be seen wedged into the sand:

Now, let’s go to Cruden Bay, for the last barefoot walk of the summer!

Trip, trap, trip. trap, across the bridge. To find…

Is it a shipwreck? I’m not sure. It may be part of a defense from WW2. Not very boat shaped!

But it’s a great beach to finish the season and the post on.

Over the Sea to the Fairies

The Isle of Skye. That’s the Old Man of Storr in the hills above, a beautiful rock formation visible for miles around. The island is a place of fairies: there’s a castle and a glen and a bridge… but first, back to another rock formation, specifically the one spied from the bedroom window of our holiday house.

‘That’s an interesting rocky outcrop,’ said I to husband.

‘Aye, we should walk up to it,’ he replied.

So we did.

And there was Dun Hallin, an Iron Age broch we had intended visiting but thought would be hard to find. Duns, or brochs, were a complex form of roundhouse, probably defensive, precursors to castles.

I loved Dun Hallin and the surprise of finding it like that. And the wonderful views of Trumpan Point.

Trumpan Kirkyard held surprise too. An ancient standing stone, Clach Deuchainn, the Trial Stone:

Trial stones were used to try a person. In this case if the accused could put their finger in the hole located on the stone while blindfold they were innocent. The stone is undoubtedly far older than this use; it is also known as the Priest Stone and the Heaven Stone.

There were some interesting graves too; these, and the gruesome history of the church can be read about here.

But back to the fairies. Firstly the Fairy Glen, an unusual land formation, which sadly does not have any old fairy folklore associated with it but it does feel otherworldly when you walk round it.

The rocky peak is known as Castle Ewen:

But it’s Dunvegan Castle we need for fairy legends!

Displayed inside the castle, so no photos, is the ancient and tattered Fairy Flag. There are many stories and traditions surrounding this relic and its origins. The tale favoured in the information provided to visitors is the one in which the Chief of Clan Macleod marries a fairy. The couple have a child together but the fairy knows she has to return to her people in Fairyland. She leaves the magical flag, imbued with protective powers, wrapped round the baby, and this she does a few miles away at the Fairy Bridge:

There are also Fairy Pools on Skye but we did not get to them this trip. We did manage a quick visit to Kilt Rock:

We also took in the Museum of Island Life, one of the few places on the island with good mobile internet which meant I was distracted by a sudden barrage of Twitter notifications!

Near to the museum is the memorial to Flora MacDonald:

One more fairy mention: the house we stayed in was previously owned by the writer Aileen P. Roberts, and full of books, so I read her novella Fairy Fire while there which was set in Skye and surprising and perfect.

The sun rises over Dun Hallin:

And sets at Trumpan Point:

Goodbye Skye! We’ll be back!

A Walk Round Broadsea

Broadsea is the older part of Fraserburgh in Aberdeenshire, having been the site of a Pictish settlement and later a fishing community. It still feels distinctly different from the surrounding town, more like a small village, and is a great place for a walk!

From Fraserburgh, we’re heading down Broadsea Road, past all the wee hoosies, right to the end.

From there we’re going left to see the craggy rocks and some paintings. There’s a Lion Rampant on the other side of that outcrop but it’s taken a bit of a bashing from the sea and is rather faded.

Let’s retrace our steps and continue on round the corner to the right towards the cove of Broadsea, the lighthouse at Kinnaird Head just coming into view.

We tiptoe between houses and walk the curving path, passing many old cottages. The new housing development we come to next holds on to hints of the past in the form of various buoys placed along the verge.

On we go. Up to lighthouses, old and new. Great museum and tearoom here if you need a break. Older post with more on the museum and lighthouse here.

A little further along from the lighthouse is The Wine Tower, said to be Fraserburgh’s oldest building. Post on it here.

We can finish there if you like, but I prefer to walk all the way back so as to see Broadsea from the other direction.

So, one last look at The Wine Tower… perhaps a quick run up and down the steps and a peer in the window…

And we return to the wee hoosies.

And Broadsea Road.

The best time of day for a Broadsea stroll definitely seems to be in the morning. Clash with school let out time and you may have sticks and stones brandished at you! For a fascinating read on the 19th century history of the place, I highly recommend The Christian Watt Papers.

Sparks of Light

Buchan Ness Lighthouse

Buchan Ness Lighthouse in Boddam, Aberdeenshire, shining its light out into the sunrise.

We’ve reached the point in the year, here in Northern Scotland, where light is scarce. It arrives late in the day and leaves early, by about 4pm. But that low sun does some special things, especially at the beach:

a walk on the beach

And the low temperatures play with ice and colours…

Tiger Hill

Above is the large sand dune on Fraserburgh beach known as Tiger Hill. Below, a puddle.

ice and leaves

Rivers and lochs seem to reflect back more light than you can see in the sky. Morning reflections at Pitfour:

relections

The sun sets in the woods… What sparks of light have you spotted in winter?

woodland sunet

going coastal

sea at Fraserburgh beach

Sky. Sea. Sand. It’s been a summer of these. Even on dull days it’s been warm and walks on the beach, beautiful. But I’m donning the tour guide hat again and we’re heading along the Aberdeenshire coast, starting up North and working our way round the corner and down.

rainbow

Two generations of quines walked the coast route between Banff and Whitehills back in February. We got rained on, but we got a rainbow. And amazing colours of sky and sea. Below is the Red Well, said to date from Roman times, also said to be haunted by an old lady ghost and to be aligned for sunrise sunbeams on the summer solstice. I lived in Whitehills for a short time as a child and remember the beehive shaped building being called ‘the witch’s hoosie’ and kids shutting each other in there for ‘fun’. It’s now locked.

The Red Well, Whitehills

No time to linger, we’re skipping along into summer to Gardenstown and St John’s Kirk. There it is, up on the hill between cloud shadows.

St John's Kirk, Gardenstown

There is an exciting tale of local ladies winning a battle with the Vikings in 1004 by weaponising their stockings with rocks and sand. Three Viking skulls were subsequently built into the walls of the then under-construction Kirk.

walls of St John's Kirk, Gamrie

Today it’s a peaceful place, though the landscape is probably much the same as it was during the era of battling lassies and Viking warriors.

landscape at Gamrie

Time for a picnic, and an exploration of the various bays at New Aberdour.

New Aberdour

Let’s lie on the ground and gaze up at the red rocks and blue sky above…

rocks and sky

Let’s watch, entranced, as sand martins dart in and out of their nests. Whoops, forget to cover the home made pizza so it’s now covered in sand…  Never mind, just time for a poke around in a rock pool before we go…

rock pool

Okay. Shoes off. We’re going to race along the golden shore at Fraserburgh, getting the sand right up between our toes. If we’re feeling energetic we can climb Tiger Hill, that large dune to the right, and enjoy enhanced views of the beach and town.

reflective clouds

A reflective moment.

Fraserburgh beach

Calming right down now. We turn the corner. Out comes a book and a bar of chocolate as we sit on the rocks at St Combs.

St Combs beach

Walking boots on for this next part…

rocky

On we go, past Peterhead, to seek out mermaids at the Bullers of Buchan. There are folk tales of them being spotted here in the Sea Cauldron:

the sea cauldron

It’s actually quite a dangerous place, cliff edges all round, so do take care.

Bullers of Buchan

We’ve come to the end of our coastal oddessy. Just one more stare at that silvery sea at the Bullers, and it’s home for a cup of tea.

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Here we go a-castle-ing!

Delgatie Castle

Yes, it’s another post about castles! I do seem to find it difficult to write anything without one, or three, as in this case. The first, above, is Delgatie Castle, near Turriff in Aberdeenshire. I met one of the quines there last week and we walked the woods and gardens and encountered these little Shetland ponies looking as if they were waiting for the tearoom to open. From there, we went on to the Auld Kirk-yard in Turriff to see the grave of the late owner of the castle, Captain John Hay:

grave stone

And then, on the other side of Turriff, the beautiful River Deveron:

River Deveron

Let us pass through a door to another day and another castle…

door at Craigievar

Craigievar:

Craigievar Castle

Near Alford, this beauty is rumoured to be the source for Walt Disney’s fairy-tale castle. It is wonderfully pink and turreted and full of colourful ghost stories. Red John Forbes is supposed to have forced his daughter’s lover, a Gordon and hence an enemy, to jump to his death from The Blue Room window. The window is now hidden behind a headboard but you can make out light through a pinhole. Both Red John and the Gordon boy are said to haunt the castle.

Photos were allowed up on the roof!

the roof of Craigievar

But it’s time to skip across the stone mushrooms…

stone mushrooms at Craigievar

and on to: Corgarff.

Corgarff Castle

A bit more out of the way, near Tarland, but still in Aberdeenshire, is the fortress that is Corgarff Castle. Originally home to the Forbes, it was then burnt by the Gordons and left derelict. After the battle of Culloden the tower house was gutted and rebuilt as barracks for government soldiers (Redcoats).

Corgarff

Inside the star shaped perimeter:

coutryard of Corgarff

This is how the soldiers’ barracks room would have looked in 1750:

18th century barracks room

And that’s it. Off out the door you go, but do come back soon!

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Gight Castle and the Hagberry Pot

gight castle

Gight Castle may be one of the lesser known castles of Aberdeenshire but it has a rich, if somewhat bleak, history with many of its owners dying prematurely. Built in the 15th century by the Gordon family, it was the ancestral home of Lord Byron. A ghostly piper is said to haunt the ruins. The nearby Hagberry Pot in the River Ythan is said to be bottomless and full of treasure!

The quines took a walk. We started in Methlick and strolled through the Braes of Gight woods, across fields and along roads. This was the long way to do it: there is a car park relatively near to the castle. First view:

Gight through the trees

The castle was surrounded by barbed wire and there were ‘enter at your own risk’ signs. In we went:

interior of Gight Castle

Great windows:

gight8  gight2

We were careful not to wake Sleeping Beauty. Or the ghostly piper.

ivy

I was most impressed by this brave little tree:

tree

Then, taking the circular route, we headed off down to the river and tried to work out which bit was the Hagberry Pot. Nowhere looked very bottomless or a good hiding place for jewels, but this seemed the most likely site by the bridge:

Hagberry Pot

The 7th Laird of Gight threw his jewels in there when the castle was sacked by the Covenanters. The poor diver who was sent down to retrieve them floated back up to the top in four pieces. There is a more involved version of this story here, featuring the devil. We did not go in.

The walk back along the river was pleasant, if a bit boggy, with glimpses of the Castle up on the hill.

gight5

Walking with the Quines

Haddo House

Quine is the Doric word for girl. The Quines (or Super Quines as we have become recently) are a group of women that met on Twitter. I can’t recall the exact ways in which we all first started chatting, though these has been much hilarity from the start. I follow many local people as well as those who share various interests, and there’s a mix of that among The Quines. Last year some of us met up in person, out in the wider world, and we hope to meet our more distant living Quine one day too.

There’s been tea. There’s been talk. And walks, lots and lots of walks.

snowy beach

The most recent walk was on a snowy beach. Beaches feature quite a bit. Back in the summer we walked barefoot along golden sands and through a river to see a shipwreck:

sands

St Combs

Other coastal Quine walks have already been documented: Crovie (where we got lost in a pea field) and another day when we searched for Lord Pitsligo’s Cave.

Summer continued with Huntly Castle and a much thistled stroll along the River Deveron:

Huntly Castle

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A tall tower and a stone circle (Drinnie’s Wood Observatory and Louden Wood Circle):

tower

sun and stone

Autumn returned us to the Deveron. Alvah Bridge and the Earl’s Love Nest within (more on that here):

The Bridge of Alvah

Gothic window

The Lake at Pitfour Estate was nice and mellow, the old Temple of Theseus thankfully no longer housing crocodiles!

Pitfour

Sometimes social media isn’t all that social; it can be taken over by constant ads and spam and passive aggressive Facebook memes. But good things happen too. I deeply appreciate the caring and non-demanding friendship of The Quines. I value many others I’ve got to know along the Twitter path too.

So take a minute. Listen. Laugh. Tap those screens and sit and chat.

bench

The first picture in this post was of Haddo House; the one above was taken in the country park there too.

an t-Eilean Dubh (The Black Isle)

The Black Isle is a peninsula near Inverness in The Highlands of Scotland. The towns and villages of the ‘Isle’ boast many excellent museums, hotels and shops, there’s castles too, making a quick drive over the Kessock Bridge well worthwhile. Dismantled oil rigs can be seen on the Cromarty Firth side, as can dolphins sometimes.

Cromarty

Inland there are older places, prettier places. We took a wrong turn while searching for The Clootie Well, an ancient, possibly Celtic, shrine and then spent some time wandering among trees.

pines

Ah Ha! We were on the right track:

cloots

People hang cloots (cloths) beside the well and in the surrounding woodland to ask for wishes or healing. As the cloot disintegrates, healing occurs or wishes come true.

hillside

It’s an unusual but peaceful place; despite the modernity of many of the hanging items, the well feels timeless. The number and variety of cloots is impressive. They extend right down the hill to the roadside.

the well

A few miles on there is The Fairy Glen, another beautiful woodland, this time with waterfalls. Children used to dress a pool within the glen to keep the fairies happy.

waterfall

Coins are pressed into a dead tree, by some for wishes or luck, but in older tradition these tree coins are an offering to the fairies to ask them not to exchange babies for changelings.

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The atmosphere of The Fairy Glen is joyful; it’s easy to imagine fairies dancing and flying and giggling over the pools and streams.

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For more information see The Black Isle Community website or Black-Isle.info

A Little Autumn Love

Buchan pano

Golden mornings follow bright sunrises and the low sun does things to the sky:

pitsligo

Leaves lie among patches and lines of light…

leaf

lineoflight

and rainbows form over the Witches Stone (Forres).

witchesstone