Up and Down and All Around

tree at Dunnydeer

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.

vitrified rock and medieval castle

The views make all exertion worthwhile. Click the pano for a larger version:

panorama of view from Dunideer

Down the other side:

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Nestled, and almost completely hidden, under a tree are the remains of Dunnideer Recumbent Stone Circle:

recumbent and flankers

stone under tree

split flanker

A few miles further West is Leith Hall with its wonderful walled garden:

colourful borders

Stone guardian at the gate:

lion

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!

moongate

Crovie

Crovie

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:

Crovie and coast

Postbox:

red letter box

The coastline is beautiful and dramatic; light conditions change constantly.

rocks

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:

clouds gather

We walked on and on. We followed the arrows. We found ourselves in a pea field at one point.

pea plants growing

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 😀

pebbles

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

The Bridge of Alvah

The Bridge

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.

top of bridge

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.

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The other fact about Alvah recalled from childhood is that it is a place of great natural beauty. That is true.

River Deveron

The bridge stands huge and majestic – it is a bit ‘Lord of the Rings’ after all – over a deep gorge and the River Deveron.

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I was most intrigued by the Gothic window (visible in first and last pics) and the many little hooks, just about discernible below.

side of the bridge

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!

bridge from below

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.

earlsroom (540x540)

earlsroom2

windows and doors

courtyard view

Drum Castle has lots of them, from small, dark hidey-holes…

little window

to windows and doors that reveal where you are.

pink castle

chapel door

On this day there was torture in the dungeon.

a Scold's Bridle

A knight in the medieval great hall:

armour

A walk on the roof:

castle rooftop

Soup by the old fireplace in the kitchen…

range

and unrelenting rain.

Drum Castle

Pitsligo Castle and Peathill Kirk

Pitsligo Castle

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:

the towerhouse tower

Many of the rooms round the rubble filled courtyard remain intact. The evening sun added bright effects on this visit.

gun hole

A large bird flew out of here. It was all very ‘Game of Thrones’…

dark room

Here and there the sky shows through chimneys, windows and decayed stairwells.

the kitchen chimney

window

stairway

The gateway:

daffodils

sungate

Just up the hill is Peathill Kirk where old and new towers stand side by side (and phone reception is great).

phone tower, bell tower

Ghosts of Jacobites lurk here too.

grave

plaque

And who knows what lurks underground? It’s locked…

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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!

Art in the Sand

retreating waves

Bare feet on warm sand. This is rare. In April. In Scotland.

glistening sand

It’s like being in a fairy-tale, everything shiny and magical and new.

surf

The sea is cold as ever, we beat a quick retreat.

reflected dunes

Water reflects dunes and makes art in the sand.

a sand tree, formed naturally by rivulets

We bask in the absence of wind. No need to brace against it or hurry inside.

Relaxed, we walk on.

Five Go on an Island Adventure

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:

ferry arrival

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.

window view

We ate breakfast. We unpacked. We ran about on golden beaches…

Kilchoman

and had our cares blasted away by the wind on rocky shores.

Salago

There was much fireside sitting and eating and laughing and talk.

jam tarts

History was explored. The Kildalton High Cross and church:

Kildalton Cross snowdrops

The Seat of the Lordship of the Isles at Finlaggan in the soft island rain:

standing stone at Finlaggan

grave 16595908336_d7f677c656_z

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Then, refreshed and de-stressed, it was back on the ferry to the mainland, though the view there is of Jura:view of Islay

We passed Kilchurn Castle on Loch Awe:

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And walked between weather-battered oak trees on our way home.

Strone Hill

There’s more (oh, so many more!) photos on Twitter and Instagram.

stone circles in winter

Aikey Brae stone circle

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.

frost and sun

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:

Daviot circle

The day was damp and dark and cold. The circle felt calm and steadfast. Timeless.

The double recumbent:

split stone

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…

Berrybrae

Let 2015 hold more timeless enchantment (and chocolate) for us all than horizontal precipitation!

drained

snow and ice on the loch

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.

mud banks

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:

whooper swans over the loch

They left a feathery tide:

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Sunrise still happens.

sunrise on the shore of the loch

Clouds still gather in dramatic formations.

clouds

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.

snow on the loch at sunrsie