Archives for : May2017

Trip Diary – April/May 2017 – Day 44 – Inverness to Isle of Skye

We wanted to visit at least one island while we were here, and we chose Skye because it was one of the largest. Big mistake! We found out the Outer Hebrides have better weather, by far, than Skye, which has the nickname “Cloud Isle.” We found that out was a good name. We woke up to rain in the morning on the Isle, and drove higher and higher into more dense clouds. Barely able to see a few hundred feet in front of us, we decided to cut our loop trip short and return to Inverness.

As we left the Isle, we stopped at Eilean Donan Castle, a 13th Century stronghold on the shoreline, accessible only by an easily-defensible bridge.

Back to Inverness to prepare to find Nessie tomorrow!!

Trip Diary – April/May 2017 – Day 43 – Aberdeen to Inverness

As I wrote yesterday, the name Gordon is big in these parts. Based out of Huntly Castle on the eastern Highlands, they ruled a vast area. George Gordon, 2nd Earl of Gordon, was known as the “Cock of the North” and has a song written about him. The Gordons were also the first family to be given the title Marquis. The inscription on the front of Huntly Castle denotes that fact.

Further down the road, we ran across Brodie Castle. Don’t know much about it, or the family now living in it.

Just outside of Inverness is Culloden Field, the site of another famous battle in Scotland’s history, although not one to be proudly discussed. The Scots who supported Bonnie Prince Charlie (Charles, son of King James II) were Jacobites (James in Gaelic) who fought in opposition to George, the English King from Germany, supported by other Scots. From what I know, the clans I’m related to were sympathizers of the Prince, and fought and died for him at the Battle of Culloden in April, 1746.

The two forces lined up in the huge field opposite each other. Noted by the blue flags for the Jacobites and the red flags for the British, they charged. Seriously outnumbered, over 700 Jacobites fell and died on the first charge. As the others tried to re-group, they were cut down in large numbers, as well. The Jacobite ranks broke and tried to escape, but the British had orders to kill every opponent, with some being caught and killed days after the battle. Others who died were civilians who had nothing to do with either side in the battle. Culloden became the last armed resistance between the Scots and the English.

Many clanmembers were buried in mass graves in the field. The owner of the property put markers on the graves in the late 1800’s to show the locations of known graves. Dead British soldiers were also buried in a large mass grave near the British lines.

On this day, as days before, the landscape was worth capturing in photos. Everything is in full bloom now, and promises a beautiful Summer for future visitors.





Trip Diary – April/May 2017 – Day 42 – Aberdeen and the Castle Loop

In a day-long trip west of Aberdeen, you can visit a number of castles. Some are simply ruins, long forgotten, while some are being renovated, and others are dwellings for the wealthy and famous, including a royal family. We missed a few because we drug our feet, but here they are:

Drum Castle

Crathes Castle

Craigevar Castle

Glenbuchat Castle

Balmoral Castle – Queen Elizabeth II’s home away from home in Scotland, just along the River Dee


The Gordons, my primary clan, are HUGE in the Aberdeen area. The renowned Gordon Highlanders have a museum there, and the name Gordon appears elsewhere in the district. This was a memorial in a small town, simply honoring members of the community who had fought and died with the Gordon Highlanders.

As we drove further into the country, especially on the northern leg of the castle loop, the road got narrower and narrower, with numerous “Parking Places” where you’re expected to pull over and the oncoming traffic go by. It always seemed we had to yield to oncoming cars, but they didn’t seem to have to do the same. One particularly interesting road feature was a single-lane bridge we had to cross.

As usual now, another piece of beautiful landscape….You have to look into the future for the beauty of this shot – just image all that brown you see now, which happens to be heather, and project yourself into August or September when the brown turns to all shades of blues and purples.


Trip Diary – April/May 2017 – Day 40 – Aberdeen

Another travel day, this time up the eastern coast from Stirling to Aberdeen. Aberdeen is an old city that has experienced a lot of ups and downs as its economic base has changed over the centuries. It is on an up-cycle right now with the North Sea oil trade, but recent developments are raising new doubts. Beautiful country along the way, as shown by the photos.

Trip Diary – April/May 2017 – Day 39 – Oban to Falkirk

Back towards population centers again….. the main goal being the area around Stirling and Falkirk, directly between Glasgow and Edinburgh, but further north.

Stirling, and its bridge, figure dramatically in the history of Scotland. William Wallace (Braveheart) and Robert the Bruce fought here, and chased the English out of Scotland after the Battle of Bannockburn. Stirling Castle has a long history of royal residency and royal burials.

Cyndie kept talking about the Kelpies. She had seen something about them somewhere, but I had never heard of them. They turned out to be these sculptures (pictures are far better than words for this)….

We found them in a large park in Falkirk, south of Stirling. They are made of stainless steel and stand about 90 feet high. The artist built them in miniature, then enlarged each piece at an industrial plant before assembling them on-site. We didn’t stay, but they are lit at night.

Besides seeing giant horses, we finally managed to get a good view of the Highland Cow (heilan coo) everyone talks about. I think this one was looking at me when I took his picture, but a few seconds later he went back to eating. They are supposedly plentiful, and adapt especially well to the Highlands, but we’ve only seen them in a few places, and then usually far away.


Trip Diary – April/May 2017 – Day 38 – Glasgow to Oban

Today was a travel day. Pictures, primarily landscapes, are the rule of the day.

This drive took us to the west coast of Scotland itself, with a view of the Hebrides as we drove. Oban is a small village right on the coast, but with an island feel. Everything in this part of the country has the rugged, rough country look to it. Lakes, and there are a lot of them from Loch Lomond north, are crystal clear. Loch Lomond is a big recreational area, but as you travel west and north, recreational use drops off dramatically.

Trip Diary – April/May 2017 – Day 37 – Glasgow City Views

Glasgow is an unusal city in several ways. It is more vibrant and alive than Edinburgh, the capital city of Scotland. Its population is also 3-4 times that of Edinburgh. SkyNews and BBC have their offices and broadcast facilities here, rather than the capital. The universities are larger and more numerous, too. Modern buildings are not nearly as prevalent in Edinburgh. Some of the things that caught our eye were:

One of our final stops on the bus tour was the People’s Palace, opened by Queen Victoria, who also turned on the fountain at the site. She also stands proudly on top of the center column. The highlight of the museum is the exhibition of various aspects of the life of the common man in Glasgow, hence the name of the building.

We are not caught up completely yet, but the last few days have been days of travel more so than photography and site visitation. I am working on pictures after I post this, so it will be soon.


Trip Diary – April/May 2017 – Day 36 – Glasgow, Riverfront Museum & Cathedral

We’ve talked before about the value of hop-on, hop-off buses in cities you’re visiting. You see the general layout of the city, get a little historical background, and see a variety of different sites. Then you decide what you want to visit and take the tour again, getting on an off when you want to.

In Glasgow, we took the bus to the far western part of the city, where we found the Glasgow Riverfront Museum and Tall Ship. The Museum is primarily a display of transportation items, but it also deals a bit with such topics as design, fashion, model building, and so on. One thing we have found in our travels is that creativity in exhibits and presentation is very high, further enhancing the desire to learn about the subject.

The tall ship was a mid-19th Century steam ship that hauled cargo up and down the river and across the seas between countries in the region. Nearly every area on the ship was accessible, giving visitors a real sense of what it might be like to travel on the ship.

Another stop was the Glasgow Cathedral. Several buildings are in the area, including the Royal Infirmary of Glasgow, the oldest building in Glasgow, the Cathedral, another church, and one of only a few police call boxes we found so far. The most interesting thing to me was the placement of headstones flat on the ground, instead of vertical as they usually are. Time and the elements have done a job on many of the softer sandstone tombstones, but it would make a fantastic genealogy project to try to get information from the others. Sites like Find-A-Grave make no mention of the cemetery.


Trip Diary – April/May 2017 – Day 34 – Sweetheart Abbey

This was a travel day from one point to another, with no particular goals in mind other than that. Along the way, however, we ran across this beautiful ruined abbey. After spending nearly an hour wandering around, we were accosted by a young man who chased us away for not buying a ticket to get in and look at the site. By then we had all the photos we wanted, so we drove on.


Trip Diary – April/May 2017 – Day 33 – Hadrian’s Wall & Roman Settlements

Under the rule of Emperor Hadrian, the Roman Empire extended its borders into England (third photo below). Around 122 AD, a wall was built from one side of England to the other, a total of 74 miles, to keep the Picts and other enemies of Rome at bay. Along with the wall, towns, forts, storerooms, and other structures devloped to support the Romans’ mission in Britain (fourth photo).

Following the fall of the Roman Empire, farmers and others began to slowly dismantle sections of the wall to build their own walls to divide their fields. Over time, natural weather, wind and earth movement did its best to destroy the wall even further, but then farmers began finding structures underground as they worked in their fields, students began searching for ancient ruins, and a cottage industry in the preservation of Hadrian’s Wall sprang up. A Roman Army Museum was created to tell the story.

Further down the road from the Museum, Romans built a large fort and an accompanying town developed nearby to support it functions. Vindolanda is now a site that is expected to be explored the next 150 years of more, yielding new information about Roman life in England with each dig.

Birdoswald was the site of a Roman fort along Hadrian’s wall. The boundaries of the fort have been exposed, along with Hadrian’s Wall nearby. The site overlooks a valley, highlighting its value as a military facility.