Monday, April 24, 2017

T is for Tomintoul, highest village in the highlands

We're up to T in the A to Z blogging challenge (still haven't found a V but have had some helpful suggestions from my friends at work) and we've visited the village of Tomintoul which is 39 miles from us.

Tomintoul is the highest village in the Scottish Highlands and was founded in 1776 by the Duke of Gordon.

Tomintoul is in the Cairngorms national park and was a planned village so is focused around a central square with some of the original Georgian and Victorian buildings still there.

We stopped for a snack in the Old Fire Station Tea Room which has got lots of old fire fighting memorabilia including lots of hose nozzles, fire station related toys, helmets all around the walls, and hanging from the ceiling are fire shirts from several different countries.

As we wandered along the one street of shops, which includes several galleries and gift shops, we found this very ornate ring for tying your dog to - it reminded me a little of the door knockers in the film Labyrinth and of course I've included a video of that scene as I love that movie.

At the end of the main street there is a park with walking tracks through the forest. Along the way we found these three interesting characters in amongst the trees and the bog. Bramble decided to make friends with one of them.

As we walked through the forest we came across an adventure playground which is always a bit too tempting to the two big kids that we are. Now I semi restrained myself due to a little bit of an incident last year where I had a spectacular fall off the children's assault course in Nairn, but Ken couldn't resist the zip wire and decided that Bramble would want to do it with him.

Tomintoul has a whiskey distillery that is quite a distance out of the town, but unfortunately it wasn't open for visiting when we got there. I did like all the barrels lined up with their different coloured tops.

There was a lovely old church and graveyard on the road between the distillery and the town so of course we had to stop and look around.

Just two headstones for you today - these two crosses are so different and yet both so interesting. The one on the left is white marble and has stayed so pristine looking, whilst the one on the right looks like something out of medieval times.

Our next stop on the road was the Bridge of Avon, which was built in 1754 and originally called the Bridge of Campdalmore. It's no longer used for vehicles but is part of one of the many walking tracks.

Last two photos are of the entrance to the Urlarmore farm bed and breakfast - I love how they've used an old knife sharpening wheel for their sign, and decorated the area with a beautiful bathtub garden.

There you have it, a brief look around the village of Tomintoul - because it's so high up it's one of the first areas that has the snow gates shut on the roads during winter. Before you go, why don't you pop over to the A to Z blog and see what my fellow bloggers have come up with for the letter T - Click Here to visit.

Until next time, be good, stay safe, and have a wonderful week.

Pamela & Ken

Saturday, April 22, 2017

S is for Skye

End of the third week and we're nearly there - the fact that I have no idea what I'm doing for several letters next week is NOT bothering me at all. As we've just had a week on the Isle of Skye it was the obvious choice for the letter S. Skye lies off the West coast of Scotland and is attached by a bridge.

We love Skye and I could write pages about it, but instead I'm just going to pick a couple of things that you might find interesting. This is the cottage we stayed in, Colquhouns Byre, a converted cowshed which we stayed in nearly 15 years ago. The one big difference is that they've put in a tv since we were last here, but we resisted as it was a week for recharging our batteries, and we didn't watch it at all.

In my B post I wrote about the Battle of Culloden which feature Bonnie Prince Charlie leading the Jacobites. After they were defeated Prince Charlie fled and in part of his escape he was assisted by Flora Macdonald who got him in a boat to Skye. She sounds like an amazing woman and had quite an eventful life which you can read about HERE if interested. In 1884 the Skye Boat song was written to commemorate Flora's part in helping Prince Charles flee the country - some of you may recognise the tune as the theme to Outlander.

Flora is buried at Kilmuir graveyard on Skye - I love the epitaph and her name definitely is mentioned in history on a regular occasion.

Here's a few other interesting graves that are in Kilmuir - it's well worth a visit if you're in the area. This knight has survived the harsh weather of Scotlands west coast rather well, though Ken did scoff at the thought of Angus carrying it up from the shore on his back - the graveyard is quite a long way from the shore up a large hill.

I had to include this gravestone as Donald was killed by a boulder whilst climbing in 1945 and his headstone is shaped like a boulder - we thought it was slightly ironic and hoped it wasn't the boulder that did the deed.

This stone marks the burial place of Charles MacArthur who was a famous piper to the clan MacDonald. Unfortunately the piper's son was drowned before the inscription was finished so the stone carver gave up his work as he realised he wasn't going to get paid. The inscription finishes half way through a sentence - "and the melody of his fingers will....".

In the more modern graveyard next to the one Flora is in, you'll find the grave of Alexander McQueen, the famous fashion designer. His grave marker is really beautiful and I love the quote about love across the top.

The other thing I have to share with you about Skye is the Fairy sites. Yes, you heard me correctly, fairies. There is a famous tale about one of the Chiefs of the Macleod clan wanting to marry a fairy princess. Eventually it was allowed but after a year and a day she had to return to her own people. The Fairy Bridge (below) is where the Chief and the princess said goodby when they parted. Can you spot any fairies hiding under the arch?

There are lots of places on Skye that are associated with fairies and there is the preserved remains of a Fairy flag in Dunvegan Castle which we saw years ago when we visited the castle - imagine my excitement at seeing a bit of fairy history. Just for those doubters, here's an interesting take on the fairy flag from the Dunvegan Castle website.

The other place on this theme that we visited was the Fairy Pools. These are a series of natural waterfalls and rockpools with slightly otherworldly clear blue water, hence the name. It's a bit of a trek to see them but it's well worth it.

Of course I had to take my shoe off and put my foot in a fairy pool - it was a little bit cold, as the mountains the water comes down from have still got some snow on them.

So there you have a little taste of Skye - a beautiful island and a wonderful place to visit. Before you go, why don't you pop over to the A to Z blog to see what my fellow bloggers have come up with for the letter S - Click Here to visit.

Until next time, be good, stay safe, and do something nice for yourself today.

Pamela & Ken

P.S: I had to include this picture of a Highland Cow that I had a chat with whilst we were on Skye.

Friday, April 21, 2017

R is for Random Highland Finds

Nearly the end of the third week in the A to Z blogging challenge and for R I thought I would share a few totally random things that haven't really fit into any of the other posts. I love it when we find the weird, wonderful, and slightly odd things in the area where we live.

The first fabulous tradition that we discovered only a couple of weeks after arriving in the highlands was the burning of the clavie to see in the old new year in January. The clavie is a wooden barrel full of wooden staves and kindling that is lit and carried around the town of Burghead on the Moray firth in Scotland.  After the clavie is lit, it is then hoisted onto the shoulders of the designated carriers and walked around the streets.  Along the way they stop and give bits of the burning wood to businesses and households which is good luck for the coming year. It's totally crazy atmosphere with everyone running alongside with sparks flying everywhere and we loved it.

In Forres, a town not far from us, they hold the world bagpiping championships each year, so this wooden piper is there as a symbol of that. Don't know who the strange woman is molesting him.

A phenomenon of the weather that we've discovered is the Haar. This is a thick sea fog that only occurs in the very northeast of England and the east coast of Scotland, which we fall under. Everywhere else can have bright sunshine and we'll be unable to see anything. It's quite spooky when you see it rolling in as you can see the sun above it still and then when it reaches you the sun is just a haze in the distance.

We loved this barbers that we came across in Pitlochry - someone with a sense of humour on the slightly dark side. Ken is standing next to a model of Freddy Krueger of Nightmare on Elm Street fame.

Now I know that one of the very common misconceptions about Scotland and especially the Highlands, is that it rains 99% of the year. Well, shockingly, some of our beaches have brightly painted beach huts for a day at the beach (and probably to get out of the rain). These lovely one's are at Hopeman which is east of us.

I had to include this sign that was in a bookshop we went past recently. It reminded me of when I used to help a friend in his record shop in Tasmania and people would come in and ask us about songs they'd heard but didn't know the title of. One woman told us it was about love and expected us to narrow that down, and another lady came in and tried to sing it to us, but she was singing no song that had ever existed.

What you can't tell properly from the window display, is every book in the window has blue as the main colour on its cover - it was fabulous.
In a graveyard in Avoch (pronounced Och) is the grave of Sir Alexander Mackenzie who was the first European to cross the North American continent - there is a river in Canada named after him.

We passed this tree when we were out for one of our drives around, just seeing where we end up. It has a fairy door and fairies hanging around outside the door - as someone who is very much a believer in fairies (you know you want to believe) I love it when I see things like this. We have fairy doors inside our house so that they can get in and out easily.

In the Highlands and islands we often find reference to their Scandinavian past, and I love the name of this craft beer that is made in Orkney.

One day we wandered into an antique shop in Cromarty which was full of incredible things, but the one that really caught my eye was the sign for the lunatic asylum - I was very tempted to buy it and hang it over our front door.

People thought I needed the above when I told them we found a unicorn near Cromarty, but here is the photographic proof. It is in the grounds of the Cromarty Arts Trust. I have a bit of a thing for unicorns so thought this was one of the best things I'd seen in ages.

One thing we can definitely say about the highlands is that it's never dull, unless of course you live there. Dull is in Perthshire and has been paired with Boring in Oregon since 2013 and there is even an official Boring and Dull day on August 9th which the Boring people hold parties on.

There you have it, random Highlands things - before you go, why don't you pop over to the A to Z blog and see what my fellow bloggers have come up with for the letter R - Click Here to visit.

Until next time, be good, stay safe, and enjoy your weekend.

Pamela & Ken