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    Scotland Coastal Villages - Banff and MacDuff

    Here I am again . . . tagging along with my wife on her golf tournament.  I dropped her off at Duff House Royal Golf Club and set off for a little photographic expedition to the coastal villeges nearby: Banff and MacDuff.  This is the village center of Banff.


    Banff is a very old village.  It had its first castle in 1163, build to repel the invading Vikings.


    Banff is a more prosperous village.  It was a trading center until the 1770s, when a port was constructed.


    Banff is built up the side of a rather steel hill that rises up from a broad bay.  There are still narrow walking paths that give the only access to quaint cottages.


    A typical 17th century house in Banff.


    Banff is a lovely village.  It is just big enough to offer all the amenities, but small enough to still feel like a village.  I could see living in this house (it's for sale) on street off the bay.


    There are a couple of scaled-down 'supermarkets' in Banff, but the downtown is still vibrant, owing to the fact that the nearest mall is 50 miles away.


    There are several quaint old hotels in town.


    I couldn't resist snooping around the fascinating old cemetery . . . right in the middle of the village.


    I come from a very wet place (Western Oregon in the USA), so I understand this kind of moss.


    There were several extraordinary crypts and carved grave covers.


    Just so your survivors wouldn't have to wonder what happened to you . . . you put a skull and bones on your grave marker.  [Note to self: do not have horizontal grave stone in rainy environment.]


    I decided to walk back through old town Banff toward the sea and the jetty.  These are the oldest continuously inhabited buildings in Banff, dating from the mid-14th century.


    Being such a very old village, there were, of course, a few buildings that were in full deterioration.  My favorite photo subject!


    House number 30.


    I love the story of time and weather written on these old, unattended, doors.


    House number 32.  Nobody home.


    The sea wall at high tide. I followed the wall out to the jetty next to a raging North Sea.


    Crabbing and shrimping pots lined the old stone jetty.


    I studied these for a few minutes, imagining myself as a crab, but I couldn't work out how these thing worked.


    View from the jetty: A broad bay separates Banff from the even smaller village of MacDuff, seen on the horizon.  This is where the River Deveron estuary ends in the North Sea.


    Ther is a small light at the end of the jetty.  At high tide the waves occasionally break over sea wall.


    I was getting hungry, so I took a different street back to my car.  I passed this relic of days gone bye.


    I often ask myself, what is it about old doors that compel me to take a photograph?  Something about mortality, I believe.


    I made my way back to the village center and then on up the steep hill to a nice cafe and had a bowl of Cullen Skink, a scone, and a cup of coffee.


    After lunch I decided to find the castle whose sign I saw driving in.  My GPS said there was a castle only four miles away. I ended up on this gravel road through a beautiful wood.


    I knew I was getting close to a castle when I started to see the old outbuildings.


    I love these old abandoned stone houses.  I have a fantasy each time of fixing it up and living in it.


    Now I knew I was getting close . . . a castle gate house . . . and occupied too.


    AH!  There it is.  A castle through the trees.  I was not sure if this particular castle was occupied by the laird, or was open to the public. I was a little concerned someone would run our and yell at me that I was trespassing.


    I stayed back in the trees, just in case . . .


    Magnificent and stately Craigston Castle, built in 1604.  As it turns out, you can stay in this castle as a "luxury self-catering vacation home."  No kidding. You can make a booking here.


    I left the castle for a short drive to the harbour village of MacDuff.  We stayed in this village right after we moved to Scotland.  In fact, it was the first over night stay we made.


    MacDuff has a proper shipyard for refitting fishing boats.


    Shipyards are visually intereting places.  What in the world are these sharpened steel 'blades' used for?  I have no idea.


    The rust was thick, but the pattern and color was captivating.


    Nice clean and newly painted fishing boats.  I got lucky as the sun finally came out in the afternoon.


    I could have stayed all day in the MacDuff shipyards, but my wife called to say her round was over.  Great idea to affix these benches inside the seawall.


    We drove on the A947 back to Aberdeen.  We passed a sign for Fyvie Castle . . . and I couldn't resist going in.  My wife hadn't been before.


    Fyvie castle is a proper castle.  Built in 1211, Fyvie was the site of an open-air court held by Robert the Bruce, and Charles I lived there as a child.


    Fyvie Castle was closed, but the vast grounds and gardens were opened.  I will post more from the fabulous gardens soon.



    Scotland - Arbroath Abbey Ruins

    The ruins of Arbroath Abbey (c1178) is one of the most important historical sites in Scotland. The current fishing village of Arbroath has formed aroound the ruins.


    The Arbroath Abbey was the site of the signing of the Declaration of Arbroath (actual document HERE) the document proclaiming Scotland an independent nation, foreshadowing the US Declaration of `independence.


    Although the Arbroath Abbey was one of the richest, it was closed at the Reformation, and from 1590 on, it was robbed of its stones by local builders.


    The cathedral at the abbey was huge.


    Wonderful olde world passages and twisting stairwells.


    I would love to have seen the Abbey when it was in all its pristine beauty.


    The Abbey was constructed of red sandstone, a somewhat unique building material from the time.


     Not all of the structures were completely destroyed.


    The magnificent Abbots House, also of red sandstone - very red because of the rain.  That door going under the house sure looks inviting . . .


    The vaults under the Abbots House . . . this tourist came in while I was shooting . . . and stayed very still.


    Some of the 'extra' archeological finds are displayed in the basement of the Abbots House.


    The ghostly green light, the other-worldly sounds, and the strange light emanating from behind this door were enough to inhibit further exploration . . . . so I left.


    There were several high vantage points to view the lay-out of the original Abbey.  The main chapel must have been very grand, as the huge column bases indicate.


    I left my shoes in this photo . . . on the Stairwell Unto Hell . . .


    I'm a sucker for photos framed by arches.  Guilty as charged . . .


    I also enjoy photographing doors . . . all over the world.  They are the portals to an enclosure; an enclosure of that which is on the other side.


    I wandered into this chamber and discovered a very informative exhibit about the signing of the Declaration of Arbroath (document and translation HERE), signed on 6 April, 1320, which declared Scotland independence.


    Wonderful medieval atmosphere in here . . . the literal home of freedom.


    I enjoyed wandering around in these old spaces.  I had the whole place to myself.


    . . . if these walls could talk . . .


    I was surprised to find this apparition had appeared on a photo I took under the Abbey . . . who is this guy?


    Fresh Spring grass, arches, and rooms to explore.


    Even though it was a murky day in northeast Scotland, I still managed some pretty good photos . . . and had a nice afternoon while my wife was playing in a golf tournament at Carnustie.





    Scotland - Hazlehead Park, Aberdeen

    About 30 yards from my front door a path leads out from the street to follow the Burn of Rubislaw 1 1/2 miles to Hazlehead Park.


    The path is well developed and well-maintained.  It is not uusual to pass middle aged couples on mountain bikes riding along . . . and always saying hello.


    The trail sksirts man-made Walker Dam, and its many ducks and ducklings.


    In this early Spring (late Spring everywhere else in the UK!), the leaves are still young and fresh . . . and at their greenest.


    The more-or-less rare sunny day . . . beautiful light through the green and yellow tree tops.


    The Burn of Rubislaw with the path along side.


    Sections of the path go along boggy ground.


    Immediately before entering the park I pass my favorite tree . . .  tall and majestic.


    I was greeted with a flash of yellow a gainst the deep blue sky as I entered Hazlehead Park.


    I have not been to the park at this exact time of Spring . . . and realized I have not seen these particular trees in yellow leaf.


    Hazlehead Park is very popular with famalies and old folk, like me.  Fortunately, it is big enough to swollow all the people easliy and still leave enough space for verybody.


    In fact, there must be miles of paths through the flowering shrubberies.


    Magnifiscent color!


    I never had to wait to get a clear photo wthout people in them.


    I love flowers.


    Picture Post Card, as they say.


    I planned by departure from the park to make sure I passed by one of my favorite pieces of public sculpture.


    Mechanical man.  I see some vandal stole his middle spoon.


    Then I was off down the path, under the trees, beside the Burn of Rubislaw, back to my Aberdeen home.  A good couple of hours of exercise.

    Scotland - Outer Hebrides, Summer 2015

    Our explorations of the west of Scotland often begin in the port and ferry terminal city of Oban.  It is a beautiful old town . . . and also has the best oysters in Scotland.


    I love the old fishing trawlers at the quay in Oban, mostly because I am rust obsessed.


    Working boats . . . working for our seafood.


    We took the ferry from Oban to the Outer Hebrides, a four hour trip.


    The ferry left Oban though the Sound of Mull.  The view of the Isle of Mull was spectacular.


    We arrived on the Outer Hebrides on Barra island, in the town of Castlebay, named after the 16th century Kisimul Castle in the bay.


    Most of the Hebrides were depopulated in the 1950s.  There were plenty of old abandoned buildings to photograph.


    The Outer Hebrides are very remote, one of the most remote places in Europe.  We were here at the very beginning of the tourist season and not everything wad open yet . . . some for unforeseen circumstances.


    We drove north up the A888, a mostly one-lane road with passing pull-outs every now and then.  The otherworldly rocky landscape was fascinating.


    A Barra beach.


    The chain of Islands are connected by a few bridges and several ferries.  We left Barra for Eriskay (old Norse of "Eric's Island") and South Uist islands. In the 2011 census South Uist had a usually resident population of 1,754.


    Getting to the ferries early allows time for photography . . . and a cup of coffee in the tiny terminal.


    The ferry passage between islands under the leaden skies and misty sounds created a fine dark mood.


    South Uist island is home of the Askernish Golf Course, designed by Old Tom Morris (in 1891), the same course designer of the Old Course at St. Andrews.  The Askernish Golf course was 'lost' for over 80 years until re-discovered and reopened in 2008.


    The fields of South Uist we all abloom in yellow flowers.


    From South Uist we passed over a causeway to Benbecula island and then across another causeway to North Uist Island.  We followed this road to Lochmaddy, where the ferry to the Isle of Skye terminates.


    We had a fine lunch at the port of Lochmaddy and afterward I walked along the fishing pier at low tide to capture some still life photos.


    Grey rope and grey stone.


    I found a wad of bright orange kelp and took many photos.  I use this (in full resolution) as a desktop photo.  Fascinating.


    Although we had very little clear skies, we also had very little rain.  A threatening storm approaches . . . then fizzled.


    To say that the Outer Hebrides is a wet and cloudy place is an understatement.


    Always wet, always damp, always rocky, always peaty.


    The Outer Hebrides is such a completely different environment from any I have ever seen.


    There is some agriculture and husbandry out on the Outer Hebrides.  These are Highland cows.


    We made another small ferry passage from North Uist to the Isle of Harris, the home of the famous Harris Tweed.


    We made a beautiful landing on Harris.


    More beautiful fishing boats on Harris.


    Nothing like the beach on a beautiful summer day in the tropics . . . but wait!  This is the Isle of Harris in the Outer Hebrides, an island chain a hundred miles off the far northwest shores of Scotland!


    Being Scotland in the summer, we were just happy that it wasn't actually raining.  The clouds are no problem.  In fact, during the 10 days we spent on this trip to the Outer Hebrides from Aberdeen, we saw actual rain only once.


    Most of the roads we drove on the Hebridean Isles were one-lane.  It seemed we were never more than a few hundred yards from the sea . . . and views of coves, beaches, and cliffs.


    Oh!  The views!


    Brooks and streams pouring into the sea from every hill and mountain.


    The Isle of Harris and the Isle of Lewis are conjoined.  Crossing them several times, we were taken with the grand views of this dramatic landscape.  The stripes are the remnants of peat cutting, or harvesting.


    Peat (turf) is an accumulation of partially decayed vegetation or organic matter that is unique to natural areas called peatlands, bogs, or mires.  The peat is cut off from banks and left to dry, or drain.  Peat, when dry, is slow burning (and smelly!), and has been used to heat homes in remote Scotland for centuries.


    We saw many seals basking on the rocks from our several ferry trips, and abundant birds everywhere, but this rabbit was the only land mammal we saw.


    Only a few traditional old thatched houses remain on the Outer Hebrides.


    Old shepherd's sheds dotted the high bogs of Lewis.


    The Callinish Stones as we first saw them.  There are many prehistoric sites all about the Outer Hebrides, but the Isles of Harris and Lewis have the most.  Magnificent.


    Although this Neolithic site dates from before 3000 BC, the standing stones date from 2900-2600 BC.  The Standing Stones of Callinish are a complex of neolithic structures, including a burial chamber (closed the day we were here).


    The light came and went all afternoon, creating a drama of different moods across the stone circle.


    The view from the mound of standing stones was inspirational.





    The Hebridean landscape lends itself to fancy photographic effects . . . .



    Scotland - The First Nice Day of Spring

    Looking out the back window at our garden one day in late April, I happen to notice the flowering bushes were flowering.  I also noticed it was a nice day . . . the first nice day of Spring.


    So, I grabbed my trusty Fuji X-T1 camera and headed outside.  Yummie light and color.


    Such happy blooms . . . after such a long, cold, and dark winter in Aberdeen.


    There was so much new growth to notice, and capture, around the house.


    Buds and new growth.


    I love the colors of rose bush newly sprouting leaves.


    The daffodils had just popped in the yard . . . and all over town too.  Aberdeen is famous for its billions of daffodils.  It was just too nice outside to spend the day inside . . . .


    . . . so I stuck my head inside and yelled up the stairs, "Honey, we're going for a walk today!"  "Great," came the reply.  Our choice was to walk the nature trails around Crathes Castle, 20 minutes for our home.  We parked near the castle gate house and headed up the trail (yellow).


    The trees were still bare of any foliage.


    Although it was April 24th, Spring comes very late at these far northern latitudes (57.1526°N 2.1100°W).


    The beauty of the day reflected in an abandoned stone pit.


    There were wisps of budding leaves on some species . . . signs of the beauty to come.


    We headed deeper into the castle grounds, and the Scottish pine forest.


    The pine cones had a wonderful in the heat of the first Spring warmth.


    In fact, the whole forest smelled of freshness and the prospect of Spring.


    The trail followed a burn through some lovely scenery and quaint arrangements.


    Boughs reflected in the pond.


    "Crathes sits on land given as a gift to the Burnett of Leys family by King Robert the Bruce in 1323."  As such, a castle of this period had to supply and manufacture everything for its own needs.  This is the Crathes Castle Mill Pond.


    The National Trust For Scotland has done an excellent job of marking the trails and, where necessary, protecting any fragile land.


    The elevated walkway followed a delightful stream.


    The peaceful, slow movement of an amber stream passing through the naked forest . . .


    It was fun walking along these elevated paths through the early Spring of a Scottish forest.


    We took a lot of iPhotos of ourselves at every opportunity . . . and there were many.


    The wide path eventually opened up into some open fields.  We passed 10-15 other walkers on the day, but could see the popularity of these woods for walking by the size of the paths.  Crathes Castle is on the "Castle Trail" for tourists, and is packed in the summer.


    Under a bright Spring sky.


    From the meadow back into the trees.  The castle grounds offer a wonderful array of beautiful natural scenes.


    This Victorian gate post reminded me of the political and economic power the lairds had in old Scotland.  If you were to come across this gate post in a forest, you would steer clear of the castle.  The gate post was a symbol of the power of whom lived within.