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

three circles

Drum Castle

On our last visit to Drum Castle it was raining, so on the way to explore circles, we took a walk through the gardens. They were filled with the bright sights and scents of summer, the castle peeking round corners and through trees everywhere we went.

medieval tower

Next up: Cullerlie Stone Circle, unusual for Aberdeenshire in that it is not a recumbent circle. There’s only one photo as we were distracted by an elderly dog from the farm that wanted us to throw a stick.

Cullerlie Stone Circle

More animals awaited at Sunhoney; an excited herd of cows ran alongside the path with us…

path to Sunhoney

and then jostled and jiggled for the best view at the perimeter of the circle enclosure.

lineup of cows

I fear we were a disappointment. There were signs that other visitors may have danced (trampled grass) and provided snacks (rolled oats all over the place) whereas we mainly sat quietly and took photos.

Sunhoney Stone Circle

The recumbent stone at Sunhoney has many carved cup marks but lichen and light conditions were not helpful in capturing them on camera (note rolled oats though).

cupmarks

The cows gave us doleful looks as we left and did not follow us back down the path. There were no animals to greet us at Midmar Kirk Circle which is situated in a churchyard.

Midmar

While it was common for churches to be built on older sacred sites, it is unusual for the originals to have been left intact (almost, there are a few stones missing).

standing stone and graves

church and stones

Finishing with an apology to the cows – we’ll try harder next time – and the view from the roof of Drum:

window in Drum Castle roof

dancing in the rain

Chanonry

I skirted round the edges of Aberdeen on a rainy day in search of bright spots and green corners. Above is The Chanonry, a cobbled street in Old Aberdeen. Cobbles are called ‘cassies’ up here, a word I had long forgotten until I was reminded of it on Twitter.

I ran the grass maze in the Cruickshank botanic garden:

grass maze

…then caught sight of the Duncan Rice library – ooh, research! – where I found a dolphin (others previously blogged here):

dol (480x640)

He’s a Doric dolphin that one, Doric being the dialect spoken in these parts. We do have some great words and phrases:

Quine ~ girl. Loon ~ boy.Doric dolphin

Flycup ~ a quick cup of tea, often served with a ‘piece’ (biscuit) or if you’re very lucky, a ‘funcy piece’ which might involve chocolate, cream or jam.

Fit like? ~ How are you doing? The accepted answer is ‘Nae bad, fit like yersel?’

 

The Winter Gardens at Duthie Park are an excellent place to visit when the weather is damp. I remember going there as a child with my Grandmother. She would have loved these colours:

archway

14829367500_63b880f5ff_z  the Victorian corridor

A group of people huddled in the entrance hall, clinging to a vain hope that the rain might go off. I ran across the grass to the bandstand and was immediately reminded of a scene in The Sound of Music (16 going on 17) and indulged in some similar dancing. I am fortunate to have such open, non-judgemental people in my life. They joined in. We had all forgotten about the audience at the door who had quite a good view of the bandstand:

15016012785_5c18ab631c_z

Having provided enough entertainment for one day, we headed home for a chocolate based fly cup and funcy piece.

serendipity and stones and a little dance

seagull

The first serendipitous happening of the day was the haar (Scottish word for mist that rolls in off the sea) and its silvery filtering of the sunlight. Then there was the seagull that flew by as I took the photo.

Inland we travelled, to bright sunshine and summer colours and the stones of Castle Fraser. I’ve made the picture below clickable to a larger version; to the left are two standing stones and to the right, in the distance by the trees, is Balgorkar stone circle.

standing stones and a circle

I thought we’d have to just view it from the side of the field, but no, some naughty person had trampled a pathway through the crop, so we did no further damage by walking it:

illicit path

Recumbent and flankers:

stones

On to Castle Fraser itself, where I was meant to be doing research for writing on heraldry, historic dates and architecture. This took the form of running about taking photos:

Castle Fraser

Love the rooftop:

turrets

Then, after picnicking, with only half the day gone, we decided to head to ruinous Kildrummy Castle a few miles further on.

Kildrummy

In the reception was an old friend who I hadn’t seen for years. There was hugging and much talking. Other people got fed up waiting… but it was good. We kept saying it was amazing. My friend is currently doing a PhD in history, some of our conversation became spontaneous research. We finally moved to look round:

great hall

I do appreciate the use of the adverb ‘treacherously’ there; without it we might think Osbourne the Blacksmith to have merely made a mistake or had an unfortunate accident such as tripping with a pot of molten metal or dropping a freshly forged sword…

window

The day ended with a visit to Broomend of Crichie stone circle, Pictish stone in the middle:

Broomend of Crichie

This blogpost is ending in a rather unrelated way, with some ballet. It’s beautiful and romantic; only two minutes long. Scottish Ballet performing at the opening of the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow earlier this week:

You can watch the entire ceremony here on the BBC iplayer, ballet is 1 hour and 27 minutes in.

A Lighthouse in a Castle, and a Love Story, and the Sky

old lighthouse, new lighthouse

That’s the sixteenth century Kinnaird Castle on the left, it was converted into a lighthouse in 1787 and now houses the Museum of Scottish Lighthouses. On the right is the modern automated lighthouse. Quite why they seem to be leaning towards one another I don’t know; I may have been transfixed by the sky when I took the photo (a frequent and increasing occurrence, should I be worried?)

Before we go in, let’s walk on a bit to the wine tower, the oldest building in Fraserburgh. The photo may not be the best of the tower, but look up!

wine tower and sky

Not much is known about the wine tower, other than the obvious use suggested by its name, but it does have this sad story attached to it. Strain your eyes and you will see the red paint on the ground there. Beneath the sky.

(Update: we visited the tower again on Doors Open Day and saw inside! Go here to read about it.)

love story piper laird's daughter

A better photo, I do love the uneven bricks and studded door of the solid little building:

wine tower

Back up the hill to castle walls…

castle walls

and lots of stairs…

spiral staircase

and, ooh look, my Granny had a television just like the one in the lighthouse keeper’s quarters! Interesting use of books.

television from the 70s

Out onto the wider deck:

lighthouse

It’s scary on the top balcony, I can’t keep the skyline straight.

sky

Into the main museum to examine things, some of which feel quite steampunk.

14300955380_d80a282c48_z lenses

We end this trip and post with a walk on the golden sands of Fraserburgh beach, as the colour blue tantalises from above.

beach, it's the sky, of course it's the sky!

loch

misty loch

Clouds of mist swirled over the surface of the loch last night. An unexpectedly hot day led to unexpectedly beautiful conditions. Well, not completely unexpected, it’s always beautiful, always different.

Summer brings lush green foliage and colour to the loch*, it’s not very deep so swimming can be warm.

summer loch

That glassy ‘stand and stare’ stillness can happen at any time of year. Sunsets are pink, silver or even purple. Whatever the sky is doing is intensified in reflection.

sunset

Winter is fierce. One year layer upon layer of ice and snow built up so thick that people and dogs ran about on it. It was at once surreal and yet so very real, unconnected from civilisation as it feels up there in the woods. No TV, no computers, just life and joy and fun on a natural huge flat screen among the trees.

snow

I feel the need to go for a walk and wonder what awaits me today. A liquid mirror? Slow moving ripples? The slightest change in airflow, made visible by water. There’s blue in the sky so there will be in the loch. Maybe there’ll be swans, or an otter leaping about on the banks (happened once), a boat, a dog, an owl… Excuse me, I need to go.

* I freely admit to having overused the word ‘loch’ in this post. The word ‘lake’ is not a suitable substitute. If you don’t come from Scotland you can have no idea how very wrong that notion is. And while we’re at it, make sure you’re saying/thinking the word right. The ‘ch’ sound is like a Scottish wildcat (something I once saw up by the large expanse of water, but no one believes me) hissing in the back of your throat. There you are, got it.

of Mountains, and Circles, and Russian Dolls

Cairngorm

Above is a picture taken from the top of the  Cairngorm Mountain, which in no way captures how windy it is up there. Loch Morlich can just be made out in the distance.

Gales aside, the mountain is always grounding. It is so huge and so solid and high. Worries recede. Ridiculous dramas can be seen for the trivial nothings that they are. And I was wearing my new, very cheerful dress:

russian dolls dress

There’s a scene with Russian dolls in my book, so I love this. Admittedly, it wasn’t the most appropriate clothing for hill walking, but I did wear sensible boots and a good coat and felt great solidarity with the man who had teamed shorts and plimsolls with a furry hat. We both attracted what I like to think were admiring looks.

Loch Morlich

Everything was serene down below by the loch, amid the sand and the trees.

loch waters

It was warm enough to paddle before heading to the stone circle at Aviemore:

Aviemore stone circle

This circle is rather unusually situated in the middle of a housing estate, but a peaceful and energising place nonetheless. *enters tour guide mode* There are over 150 stone circles in the Grampian region, more than the rest of Britain put together, but this is the most urban one I’ve encountered. They’re more commonly nestled on the brows of hills, sometimes surrounded by trees, sometimes overlooking open countryside. *reverts to ‘woman wearing a silly dress’ mode* I have a definite ‘thing’ for them; I write about them, I kiss them, I dance round them.

Aviemore stone circle

Yesterday I needed to soak up the calm, to absorb it from the stones and carry it with me into the week to come. However: I’ve already made one critique partner cry; I’ve got myself into a horrible manuscript formatting tangle and I have eaten too much chocolate. And it’s only Monday…

grey skies, blue skies

hay bales

It’s harvest season in Scotland, the start of autumn, the time of illuminated crops set against dark grey skies and heavy rainfall followed by hot golden sunshine. There’s bright blue skies too, crisp fresh sunny days, new winter boots and stripy tights. That ‘new start’ feel is in the air as people head back to school or begin fresh phases of work and study.

This is my favourite season, it always feels exciting, regardless of whether I’m partaking in any ‘newness’ of my own. I feel a deeper connection to nature as the earth quietens down in readiness for winter; my predilection for sitting in trees is at its height just now (or at its most disturbing if you’re an unsuspecting passerby).

I dig up tatties, make soup and bask in the beauty of it all.

Berrybrae