I’ve written about Lord Pitsligo before, briefly here in a post about his home, Pitsligo Castle, and then in more detail over at The Witch, The Weird and the Wonderful. He’s an intriguing character who hid around the Buchan countryside for three years following the battle of Culloden, for some of the time in a cave which is still referred to as Lord Pitsligo’s Cave. I had to find it.
A friend and I set off along the coast, heading West from Rosehearty, having read several conflicting accounts of the exact location of the cave. We knew it had been blown up by the home guard in WW2 and the lower entrance made inaccessible. Perhaps the best we would be able to say was that we’d walked near it?
We passed lines of white quartz and rocky plateaus and many craggy cliffs where we stopped and wondered: is this it?
Then: yes! We knew we’d found the place. Seagulls flew up, angry about us being so close to their nests, but down we went into the bay.
It’s not too easy to discern in my shadowy pictures but there’s a pile of rubble where the lower entrance would have been and a small opening in the cliff above.
My friend went back on a brighter day and zoomed in on the higher entrance:
We walked further, along to Quarry Head, the site of a 16th century shipwreck (interesting story here), and looked back across the various bays:
It’s a stunning bit of coastline to explore; the cave is about two miles from Rosehearty. Picture below taken on another day just before a thunder storm, note the tiny white sailing boat in the centre:
This beautiful tree sits at the foot of the Hill of Dunnideer near Insch in Aberdeenshire. It’s a short but steep climb to the top; when you see the remains of the prehistoric vitrified fort and medieval castle you know you’re nearly there.
The views make all exertion worthwhile. Click the pano for a larger version:
Down the other side:
Nestled, and almost completely hidden, under a tree are the remains of Dunnideer Recumbent Stone Circle:
A few miles further West is Leith Hall with its wonderful walled garden:
Stone guardian at the gate:
I love the Moon Gate, and in retrospect wish I had gone through it and taken a photo from the other side too. Oh well, next time!
Crovie is an 18th century fishing village in the North-East of Scotland. People first came to live there after having been cleared away from their inland homes to make way for sheep farming. Today many of the houses are holiday lets and it’s a scenic place to walk. And take photos. Oh yes.
That’s as far as vehicles can go in Crovie:
The coastline is beautiful and dramatic; light conditions change constantly.
Myself and a friend set off on what was meant to be a 1.5 mile walk. We got lost. There was torrential rain. The approach of the rain:
We walked on and on. We followed the arrows. We found ourselves in a pea field at one point.
The pea field led to a gorge; we retraced our many, many steps, eight miles of steps in the end… but then there was soup and pie and cake and all was very, very well 😀
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.
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.
More animals awaited at Sunhoney; an excited herd of cows ran alongside the path with us…
and then jostled and jiggled for the best view at the perimeter of the circle enclosure.
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.
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).
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.
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).
Finishing with an apology to the cows – we’ll try harder next time – and the view from the roof of Drum:
As a child, the task of walking to the 18th century Bridge of Alvah, near Banff in Aberdeenshire, was presented as something akin to travelling to Mordor: a journey of such length and difficulty as to render it impossible to your average mortal.
The walk from Duff House (a place with easy parking, swings, art gallery, tearoom and gift shop) to Alvah is actually comprised of just over two miles of well maintained track.
The other fact about Alvah recalled from childhood is that it is a place of great natural beauty. That is true.
The bridge stands huge and majestic – it is a bit ‘Lord of the Rings’ after all – over a deep gorge and the River Deveron.
I was most intrigued by the Gothic window (visible in first and last pics) and the many little hooks, just about discernible below.
Googling revealed that there was a room for a toll collector within the bridge which explains the window, though how he got in there is not so clear. Either the door has been sealed or there was something Rapunzel-like going on. Local legend has it that the room was used by the Earl to entertain young ladies so perhaps it was kept semi-secret. The hooks remain a mystery.
In summary: go visit the Bridge of Alvah; it’s well worth the two mile trek. Not an Orc in sight!
See the earlier post Mausoleum for more on the grounds of Duff House.
Update: we revisited the bridge in Autumn and were given access the Earl’s secret room. It’s beautiful.
Drum Castle has lots of them, from small, dark hidey-holes…
to windows and doors that reveal where you are.
On this day there was torture in the dungeon.
A knight in the medieval great hall:
A walk on the roof:
Soup by the old fireplace in the kitchen…
and unrelenting rain.
Crows nest in the old keep of Pitsligo Castle near the village of Rosehearty in Aberdeenshire. Dating from 1424, it’s an impressive and atmospheric place. The Forbes family who built it, staunch Jacobite supporters, lost their lands and titles after the battle of Culloden. The castle was then ravaged by Hanoverian soldiers and fell into ruin. Read more on the Pitsligo Castle Trust website.
The oldest part of the castle, the keep or tower:
Many of the rooms round the rubble filled courtyard remain intact. The evening sun added bright effects on this visit.
A large bird flew out of here. It was all very ‘Game of Thrones’…
Here and there the sky shows through chimneys, windows and decayed stairwells.
Just up the hill is Peathill Kirk where old and new towers stand side by side (and phone reception is great).
Ghosts of Jacobites lurk here too.
And who knows what lurks underground? It’s locked…
The two sites make a trip up Peathill most worthwhile; they would been used and inhabited at the same time and offer an evocative glimpse into the past.
After writing this post I read up on Lord Pitsligo, whose castle this was and who is buried under the place pictured in that last photo and I wrote some more: In Search of Lord Pitsligo’s Cave and then over on The Witch, The Weird and the Wonderful!
We arrived in the dark. On a boat. It missed the pier and had to spin round and go back out to sea before trying again. It was all very exciting.
Port Askaig, Islay:
So, the five of us – four humans, 1 canine – went to bed in a lovely old house and awoke to sunshine and a eucalyptus tree.
We ate breakfast. We unpacked. We ran about on golden beaches…
and had our cares blasted away by the wind on rocky shores.
There was much fireside sitting and eating and laughing and talk.
History was explored. The Kildalton High Cross and church:
The Seat of the Lordship of the Isles at Finlaggan in the soft island rain:
Then, refreshed and de-stressed, it was back on the ferry to the mainland, though the view there is of Jura:
We passed Kilchurn Castle on Loch Awe:
And walked between weather-battered oak trees on our way home.
There’s more (oh, so many more!) photos on Twitter and Instagram.
I love the way Aikey Brae stone circle seems to materialise as you step out of the dark woodland path. It’s my favourite circle; it feels like my ‘home’ one. I did used to live nearby so have visited it more than any other. This was Boxing Day.
It was bright and frosty and enchanted. There was chocolate.
A few days later, on the way to see a friend, I stopped by Loanhead of Daviot:
The day was damp and dark and cold. The circle felt calm and steadfast. Timeless.
The double recumbent:
And then, in the new year, many weathers happened at Berrybrae circle. First there was sun (pictured below) before a gale blew up and brought horizontal sleet…
Let 2015 hold more timeless enchantment (and chocolate) for us all than horizontal precipitation!
Beautiful isn’t it? Yet, I felt panicked when I saw the loch was being drained. I stood like an angry lorax at the side, pointing at trees that had been felled to carve an ugly canal in the bank, asking irate questions: Why? When will it be fixed? Why?
It didn’t look quite like that then.
The freshness of the change was jarring. A conversation made things better. It wasn’t mindless destruction. There was talk of a loch-improving grant. There will be an island to encourage wildlife. There are to be oxidising plants to improve the water quality.
Swans started spending the night in the new shallows of the loch:
They left a feathery tide:
Sunrise still happens.
Clouds still gather in dramatic formations.
I walk out onto the frozen floor of the loch and examine long-hidden tree branches, pine cones, old boat jetties and numerous wine bottles (who?). I like getting to know the space in this new way, looking back at the shore, seeing it from a different angle. Nature doesn’t take long to smooth over the tracks of human intervention. There’s been mist, there’s been ice and now there’s snow.
What will Spring look like? I’m not sure, but there’s going to be beauty. There always is.