Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Into the wilds and back to a surprise!

At Braemar on Royal Deeside
It's been the most fabulously hectic week. Since I last posted I went off on a birthday jaunt in Scotland. My trip took me to wildly remote parts, a famous viaduct, ecological marvels, one of the best castles in Scotland, a famous catherdral, and then I went home to find my house had been invaded. NO. Not by aliens, but by over 30 family and friends awaiting my return to a surprise party! And it was one HECK of a surprise! I loved seeing friends and family members who hadn't visited for a while, since we live a 300+ round trip away from most of them.

Many tourists who visit Scotland want to sample Royal Deeside and that was the first stop on my recent tour. The day was very fine for March in Scotland-14 degrees centigrade makes us strip off the outer layers and bask in the sun -and that is no joke! Braemar, a little village in Royal Deeside was a favorite of mine as a teenager when I did lots of hillwalking, canoeing and oftimes skiing, when the conditions were favourable. Here's a lovely little nostalgic view from the bridge that is right in the centre of Braemar looking up the river.

Pitlochry Salmon Ladder
My trip continued south to the very popular tourist town of Pitlochry where there is a very famous Hydro-Electric Dam and Salmon Ladder. In 1951, the ecological worthies of the time decided to help the salmon in their migratory trip upstream to Loch Faskally, to their spawning grounds. In order to bypass the new dam a ladder consisting of 34 chambers was constructed to allow them to swim through tunnels enabling them to pass up to the loch to spawn. Approx 5000 salmon pass through the ladder to their spawning grounds each year, during a trip of 6000miles.

On Rannoch Moor
We then journeyed on to one of the wildest parts of Scotland, a designated heritage sight called Rannoch Moor. The famous author Robert Louis Stevenson wrote these words about the moor in his book KIDNAPPED in 1886,  ' A wearier looking desert a man never saw'. The road from Pitlochry is SCARY in places-tight bend after tight bend on the narrowest of roads that has quite a surprising amount of coaches and freight traffic. Meeting a 70 seater tourist coach on one of these corners was one of those AHEM moments when I wondered where my car was going to go. NOT off the side of the road I was screaming in my head! We (my husband and I) were driving to Rannoch Station to catch a train to Mallaig on the west coast of Scotland, and we did not want any unplanned hold ups or to have to call a tow truck to get us out of the ditch at the roadside! I'm not usually a nervous front seat passenger BUT I was a BIT NERVOUS, hence the lack of photos for that bit of the journey.

Glenfinnan Viaduct
The barren looking level plateau of the huge moor is dotted with lochans and bogs, protected species of bog plants, and is in some parts over 1000ft above sea level. It's surrounded by majestic mountains to the south west, and west, which are over 3000 ft high and to the north mountains of over 2000 ft. It's really hard to believe a railway was constructed across it but we did get to it in time to catch our train which took us across the Glenfinnan viaduct made famous in the Harry Potter movies.
At Mallaig
We journeyed on to the fishing port of Mallaig where we spent a few hours before the return journey. Mallaig is only a small port but the fish and chips there are marvellous-they say they are fresh off the boats... but who knows? All I know is I loved eating it, especially with a lovely glass of crisp white wine- it was my birthday after all!! (please excuse the drunken looking photo but it really was only 1 glass of wine!)

Glenfinnan Viaduct
The Jacobite
My last visit to Mallaig was in some ways even more special. That was in 2009, the occasion being my daughter's 30th birthday. 25 of us spent the weekend partying in Fort William, another fishing port on the west coast of Scotland.On the day of her birthday we all boarded the steam train called THE JACOBITE, that goes from Fort William to Mallaig. We journeyed over the Glenfinnan viaduct, my husband taking the photo above out of the opened window of the train. The trail of steam visible in the photo very kindly entered the carriage as well! On that occasion on our return journey we were toasting my daughter with champagne and strawberries, organised by her very well planned mother-in-law, as we passed over the viaduct. It was another of those family jaunts that give me ideas for my future novels!

Blair Castle
At Blair Castle
My holiday wasn't over though as on our way home to Aberdeenshire we stopped at Blair Castle, the ancient seat of the Dukes and Earls of Atholl. I've been to many of our Scottish castles, some many times, but that was my first visit to Blair. It isn't one of the many castles owned and managed by The National Trust for Scotland, but is privately owned. It was FANTASTIC! Of the 20, or so, rooms available for the public to view some of the reception rooms were breathtaking. The plasterwork of the ceilings was incredible, and the furnishings totally amazing. Definitely worth a visit if you are ever in Scotland touring! The artwork adorning the walls is superb, and the William and Mary four poster state bed, brought by the 1st Duke to Blair from Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh, has the most amazing hangings. 

Dunkeld Cathedral
Our journey continued to the town of Dunkeld where we visited the Cathedral. It's a beautiful building in a wonderful setting.  In the photo below the part on the left of the picture is ruined inside but the taller bit on the right is in use every day, and is the main church in the town of Dunkeld. Dunkeld Cathedral has a long ecclesiastical history dating back to the 7th century when St. Columba came to the area from the Scottish island of Iona. In the 9th century, Kenneth MacAlpin, the first king of Scots, made Dunkeld the head of the Celtic church and the capital of the new formed nation after the union of the Scots and the Picts. The oldest of the present buildings was started in 1325, but sadly was destroyed by fire during the 16th century Reformation times. Reroofing took place later to create the church in use today. There's plenty more history to it but not on the blog today!

After that it was home, I thought to have a wee rest and a quick stab at my 400 hundred or so emails that had been neglected. It wasn't to be, though, since my wonderful daughters, sons-in-law, and sneaky husband had organised a gathering of the clans. Clans being his side and mine! A fabulous time was had by all-since our family know how to party-and I had a very special birthday cake. I was too excited to take a photo of it, and too busy making an impromptu very short speech, but my daughter had arranged for it to be like three stacked books. Any guesses what was the photo on the top layer?

It was my MONOGAMY TWIST front cover. Yipee! It's an exceptionaly tasty chocolate cake, made by a very talented friend of my younger daughter. My thanks go to all for everything related to my birthday.

Now what am I going to do since the laundry of the bedding and towels used by all the stay-over-relatives has been done, the house restored to a sort of tidy state, and all the evidence of a party taken to the recycling centre?

Why...start writing my next novel!

Since it's now Tuesday, 10.45 pm, I'm thinking it WILL BE TOMORROW!



  1. Amazing pictures. You must have found so much inspiration for the next book. Happy Birthday!!!

  2. Thank you, Sandra ...and yes, I believe I have.

  3. Oh my goodness - I'm GREEN with envy. Your pictures are lovely. It certainly sounds like you covered a lot of ground on your rambles - from desert moors to refined castles. *sigh* A perfect birthday weekend.


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