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.
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.
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.
Bennachie is a large hill that can be seen for miles in Aberdeenshire. Its craggy peaks seem to loom out of nowhere as you drive round twisty corners of country roads. I once climbed it three times in one day for charity; complainers of sore legs were reminded of that fact yesterday. The top of Harthill Castle, which was owned and restored by the late American writer Ann Savage, is just visible over the trees.
The Great Tapestry of Scotland is a beautiful trail through history and, at 143 metres long, the longest tapestry in the world. Its soft sewn artworks filled three large rooms of Aberdeen Art Gallery and photography was allowed. Yes. I was happy. May you be too.
Despite the earliness of my visit, the gallery was crowded; I was not quite so happy about the angle of this next pic. Lovely, lovely stone circles though:
Some of Scotland’s past is sad and terrible:
‘Fiction is to grown men what play is to the child.’ RLS
and strange ones…
There was something calm and nourishing about walking round this exhibition. Whether it was the gentle and warm art of needlework that hung everywhere in the rooms – there was also a lady demonstrating sewing techniques – or the many different styles from the 1000+ stitchers marking the constant change of the world, I don’t know. The overall feeling was reflective yet hopeful: happy.
The Tapestry is touring , mainly in Scotland at the moment but other UK and overseas venues are planned, see the website for details.
Rapunzel’s Tower appears over the trees, dark and mysterious, a fairytale setting at the top of a hill. No hair is let down in answer to my call. Maybe the newly installed CCTV reveals me to be neither Prince nor abusive mother figure so I am ignored? Or maybe the words on the council sign are true and the Drinnie’s Wood Observatory really is only open May-September.
Onwards and upwards. And downwards. Up the wrong path and back again. Up another, almost identical, path and ta-da! The elusive Louden Wood Stone Circle:
It evaded me for years, this place. The entry to the narrow path is hidden by low hanging pine branches, and it wasn’t until the advent of Google Earth that I finally pinpointed its exact location.
I do like the white tree that stands opposite the large recumbent stone:
Most stone circles in Aberdeenshire are imbued with a deep peacefulness. This one seems alive somehow, buzzing with an undercurrent of ancient energy, like a radio still tuned to the past. Carved stone:
Back to the present and a newly planted wind turbine, another tower I would like to look inside; see the inviting steps and door at the bottom? Surprisingly large up close – diagonal was the only way to get the whole thing in shot – and surprisingly quiet, whoosh-whooshing us gently into the future.
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:
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.
Everything was serene down below by the loch, amid the sand and the trees.
It was warm enough to paddle before heading to the stone circle at Aviemore:
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.
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…