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    Scotland - Drum Castle and Gardens

    A nice day in northeast Scotland . . .

    The grounds and permission to build Drum Castle was granted in 1325.  It is the ancestral home of Clan Irvine.  It is about 15 minutes from our home in Aberdeen.

     

    Drum Castle is a part of the Scottish National Trust properties. It sees a fair number of tourists during the summer months, but today there were only a few people wandering about.

     

    Yes, Scottish castles are wonderful, but many of them still maintain their gardens and grounds in spectacular fashion.

     

    Plant species from around the world were often brought back to the family estate by adventurous colonialists during and before the Victorian era.

     

    There are always so many fascinating flowers to look at in the gardens and grounds.

     

    The walk to the formal, walled gardens took us past a delightful nature pond.

     

    Although it is May 21st, Spring has not fully arrived here in these far northern latitudes.  I was hoping for more flowering  . . . .

     

    The walls that surrounded the gardens were covered with magnificent espalier.

     

    Climbing vines on the interior, shady side, of the castle garden were only just beginning to show signs of budding . . . in LATE MAY!

     

    The gardens themselves were lovely, hedge-lined masterpieces of architecture.

     

    There are many such lovely scenes through the gardens.  As you might imagine, there are weddings, and wedding photography taking place here almost every day.

     

    So inviting on a sunny day . . .

     

    In late summer these arches are covered in fragrant honeysuckle vine . . . perfect for a bride and groom!

     

    The beds are still being planted (and transplanted).

     

    The plantings await some sunny days to bring out their full beauty. 

     

    There were still a couple of cabana tents left here and there: evidence of recent weddings. Ever-changing lighting conditions made the photography challenging.

     

    There were some novel tulips still in bloom.

     

    A purple flowing espalier.  Beautiful.

     

    We walked out past the castle and wondered at its magnificence.

     

    Drum Castle.

     

    The road that leads out of Drum Castle passes through a wonderful wood in early foliage.

     

    I wanted to say in this forest for the rest of the day . . .

     

    Instead we went home . . . . somehow my back garden does not seem so impressive to me anymore!

    Scotland - Fraserburgh 

    It's nice when my wife has a golf tournament out of town . . . I get to drive here there and then explore the area around Fraserburgh.

    The Waters of Philorth.

     

    Fraserburgh Golf Club is the 7th oldest golf course in the world, having been founded in 1777.  It sits among the dunes on the Scottish Aberdeenshire Coast.

     

    The sea breeze was strong along the tops of the dunes, but calm down in the deep sandy hollows.

     

    Walking the dune trails had a mystical quality to me . . .

     

    I crested a dune to find the North Sea . . . and miles of beach.

     

    I looked left to the town of Fraserburgh, trying to decide which way to go . . .

     

    Although walking east toward Fraserburgh looked inviting . . .

     

    I decided to walk west toward the next village, Inverallochy, and what looked like a ship wreck.  I wandered around in the web of sandy trails looking for a way down the embankments to the broad beach.

     

    There were beachcombers on the broad Fraserburgh beach.

     

    Fascinating patterns in the sand to look at.

     

    As sea level rises, the beach dunes are eroded.

     

    Beach, sea, sky . . . looking like a tropical paradise, but at 5c, not exactly tropical.

     

    I wasn't the o nly person out on such a fine and windy day . . . these brave wind surfers were preparing for their brand of fun.  I must add; the wind was very cold.

     

    Jellyfish and feather.

     

    A beach combing find from somewhere far off in the North Sea.

     

    Such a broad beach creates wonderful patterns as the tide recedes.

     

    Where the beach met a fast moving burn, a set of contrasting shapes, textures, and colors met in a happy collision.

     

    I walked all the way to the end of the beach . . .

     

    I arrived at the estuary of the Waters of Philorth, but could not find a way across the swift and deep waters without getting my feet wet.

     

    The last big wave drained into the burn this way.

     

    I didn't want to go back the way I came, so I walked inland along the stream knowing I would eventually run into the road.

     

    I could not find a way across the burn, The Waters of Philorth, so I followed it inland, stopping here and there to study scenes of beauty.

     

    The Waters of Philorth eventually came to the highway and this old disassembled rail bridge.

     

    This inviting road stood in front of me, so I walked in until . . .

     

    I walked up the road, which turned out to be the driveway of Castle Cairnbulg . . . and a 'Private Property' sign.  Yes, this is not only a real castle, but it has been continuously occupied by the original Fraser family since 1308.  Currently.  Katharine Fraser, Mistress of Salton, resides within the 700 year old walls.

     

    I considered jumping the estate gates and exploring the park-like grounds of the castle . . .  but didn't.

     

    I took a shortcut though a small wood and found this striking stump.

     

    The gorse (ulex europaeus) was in full bloom.

     

    Boggy land draining.

     

    Of course, this trip was about my wife playing in a golf tournament.  I walked back through the historic golf course to the Fraserburgh Golf Club, the 7th oldest golf course in the world.  Although the golf club was officially established in 1777, golf has been recorded being played here since 1618 . . . 398 years!

     

    It is a beautiful course in a beautiful setting.  It had been a fine day . . . with a five-mile walk.

    Scotland - A Forest Walk: Barkscapes

    With my wonderful wife playing a round of golf at a nearby course, I was free to ramble in the forest.

     

    There were different kinds of woods.

     

    The trail was good, and well-maintained. But each kind of forest had one thing in common . . . incredibly interesting and beautiful bark!  Barkscapes.

     

    I spent Saturday morning walking in the Haughton County Park outside of Alford, Scotland.  There was much to see.

     

    Haughton County Park encompasses a variety of landscapes, including a motorhome park, a stately mansion, and some wild forest land.

     

    I wasn't the first person to visit these woods.  In fact, in the summer, when the campground and RV park fills up, I bet these woods are crawling with visitors . . . I don't mind.  I'm glad with the thought  people are out of their homes . . . and not in front of their television sets.

     

    There are often very strong storms in Scotland with fierce winds.  There is a history of these storms in the blown down trees that litter the forest floor.

     

    Some of the fallen trees have been down for a long time and show the action of time and weather.

     

    The great winds have literally ripped some of the trees apart.

     

    Broken, ripped, dried, and weathered.

     

    Otherworldly landscapes in old wood.

     

    Dreams in wood and bark.

     

    A few of the fallen trees had been cut, revealing rings, patterns of color, and clefts.

     

    Grounded stumps.

     

    A history of slow healing.

     

    Torn and cut.

     

    Nature's Art.

     

    Some trees had been on the forest floor for a very long time and were in a state of advanced decomposition.

     

    The old and dead nurturing the new and living.

     

    The living trees in this wood had their own strange beauty.

     

    As is often the case, family members of the old estates traveled throughout the British Empire and brought back exotic trees and seeds.

     

    Exposed to the sun over the winter months, the trees take on a green-tinged coating of light moss.

     

    I had to remember that these trees were alive, in several senses of the word.  They were forming: changing, developing, and reacting.

     

    A story left behind in scars . . . like people.

     

    There was a mix of pines.

     

    Pine bark, with its shattered, ever-expanding surfaces.

     

    Another kind of pine/evergreen with a dusting of lichen.

     

    Deep within the deep and dark forest . . . .

     

    Late Winter, early Spring growth pushing the old bark away.

     

    The work of woodsmen here and there.

     

    Swirling, ripped, and torn beauty.

     

    A Winter forest just waking up to Spring.

     

    There have only been a few days of sunshine and "warm" weather since October, but the ferns were beginning to unfurl.

     

    I was surprised, and mystified upon discovering this structure in the deep forest.

     

    For the life of me I couldn't figure out what in the world it could be!

     

    This open area in the forest was on the other side of the wooden structure . . .

     

    Ah!  The Vale of Alford Curling Club forest curling pond . . . . now empty after the winter season.  What a surprise to see!

     

    There were strategically placed benches in the wood.  I sat next to this interesting stone, the only stone I saw in the forest.  Little did I know just how interesting it was.  It was a named stone:  The Gordon Stane.

     

    George Gordon, Lord of the Gordon Clan was laid out here after perishing is the Battle of Alford on July 2, 1645.  It seems the forest I was walking through had been a battlefield 371 years ago.

     

    I walked through the boggy forest for many hours.

     

    Such a beautiful place

     

    I walked out of the forest and into the parkland that surrounds the mansion.

     

    A line of exotic evergreens marked the drive to the mansion.

     

    Haughton House mansion, a listed property,not part of the county park, and the offices of a very large RV and camping facility.

     

    The daffodils were everywhere.

     

    It felt like Spring  . . . at last!

     

    Thank you Aberdeenshire for keeping such a wonderful park in such good shape.

     

    I walked the mile back into the village of Alford and into the Grampian Transport Museum, where I work as a volunteer.  It was another great day in Scotland.

    Photos of the West of Scotland

    My wife's sister visited from Hong Kong . . . that meant a ROAD TRIP back along the locks and islands of the west of Scotland.  We had wonderful weather . . .

    The joy of driving around the west of Scotland is the ever-changing vistas of the lochs and fjords.

     

    The Scottish vistas often include a castle, or castle ruin or two.

     

    There are so many things to see and photograph along the way.

     

    We were in full explore mode: driving down a small road, I saw a sign that said 'smokehouse next right' . . . which led us through an enchanted, mossy wood.

     

    We stopped at the smokehouse and had wonderful fish and corn chowder . . . afterward I explored the nearby forest.

     

    Our route brought us back to the port town of Oban (for the 4th time!).  My wife and her sister loved the oysters there: "The Best Oysters In The World" they both proclaimed!

     

    The light around Oban is very special.

     

    The sunset that night was magical: the sun, the sea, the surfaces, the story, the clouds reflecting . . .

     

    I wasn't the only person who found the sunset captivating.

     

    OK, one more irresistible Oban harbour sunset.

     

    The gorse was in fine yellow bloom as we headed out over the bridge leading north from Oban.

     

    Lovely old train trestle along our way to the sea.

     

    While skirting the end of Loch Ern in a driving rain squall, we came upon the famous Mirror Man of Loch Ern.  I stopped for some photos when . . .

     

    . . . I could see a squall line of rain approaching me . . .

     

    . . . looking left, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted this fleeting rainbow and shot off a few snaps.  A once in a lifetime photo!

     

    The Mirror Man lends himself to black & white photography.

     

    We made it to Loch Duich which led us back to the famous Eilean Donan Castle . . . again.

     

    I was here just at Eilean Donan Castle one month ago . . . but in a driving sleet and snow storm.  Today there was sun.

     

    A lovely castle . . . although NOT as ancient as you would think . . .

     

    The tourist season began only one week before our trip . . . and the big tours and thousands of visitors had not yet arrived here.  In July/August you can forget about parking within a mile of this wonderful castle.

     

    Our hotel in the Kyle of Lochalsh had a magnificent view of the Bridge of Sky.  Did I mention we had hand-dived scallops to die for at the Waterside Seafood Restaurent.

     

    The beautiful Skye Bridge and lighthouse.

     

    As you drive on to the Isle of Skye you immediately see a difference in geology.

     

    There was not as much snow on the Skye peaks as there was a month ago.

     

    Light danced across the sloping valleys and hills.

     

    We hiked up the well-developed trail to a wonderful view point about half way up The Old Man of Storr.

     

    The view from The Storr was breathtaking.

     

    We had fun just following the small roads from the map and discovering what was there to be seen.

     

    Great scenery on the Isle of Skye.

     

    Continuous headlands and lochs . . . plus ocean view!

     

    The Skye headlands.

     

    It must be hard to make a living out here . . .

     

    Loch Dunvegan, where we had a fantastic gourmet lunch at the famous Three Chimneys.

     

    A tradition stone house at a Uig heritage museum.

     

    We spent two nights out on Skye.  We had to drive back by Eilean Donan on our way to Inverness . . . but it was clear and the water was still for some good castle reflection photos.

     

    This is the photo everybody seems to want of this castle.

     

    I love this view of the castle and the loch . . .

     

    MORE TO COME . . . .

     

    A map of the Isle of Skye and our route marked in purple . . . and of our whole road trip in purple on the insert map.

    Scotland Photos: The Tattie Hols Road Trip 2014

    This blog entry is a little late in getting posted . . . my wonderful wife and I took this trip in mid-October 2014 . . . but the busyness of my life has, unfortunately, kept me from post-processing (I do very little) and posting.  ENJOY!

    Oban Bay sunset on our Tattie Hols road trip.

     

    In Scotland the schools have either a one or two week holiday, called The Tattie Hols, so the students can help harvest the potatoes. Not many young people harvest potatoes today, but the holiday remains.  I had a one-week holiday and, as we have done the past several years, took a road trip somewhere in Scotland.  We headed due west over the Grampian Mountains. This is the upper River Dee.

     

    A beautiful glacier-cut valley in the Scottish Highlands.

     

    We love our Scottish Highlands road trips.

     

    Autumn is our favorite time of the year to be in the Highlands . . . the sky is so magnificent.

     

    Highlands Fall colour.

     

    Although there are very few houses in the Highlands, the ones that you do see are stately.

     

    Our route skirted the Grampian Highlands along Loch Awe where we discovered the amazing St. Conan's Kirke.

     

    It is rumored that a bone fragment of Robert the Bruce, King of Scotland 1306-1329, is buried here . . . but the LIGHT!

     

    So much to see.  After a couple of days through the Highlands, we arrived at the Bridge of Lochay, near Killin.

     

    We stayed the night in the old world Bridge of Lochay Hotel

     

    The interior of the Bridge of Lochay Hotel had recently been tastefully renovated.

     

    The Bridge of Lochay Hotel had a wonderful old intercom system that must have come when rural electrification arrived.

     

    The hotel dining room was quaint . . .

     

    . . . and the barman friendly and skilled.

     

    I took an early morning walk across the bridge next to the hotel.

     

    A thin light filtered through the trees.

     

    Early morning along the River Lochay.

     

    The River Lochay quickened as it fell under the bridge toward Loch Tay.

     

    As we rounded a bend in the  road coming into Kenmore at the foot of Loch Tay we were stunned with this otherworldly sunset.

     

    We stayed long enough with our mouths agape in wonder for the sunset to become golden.

     

    On another morning near Loch Awe, we set off on a wooded trail.  There are many, many well-marked trails all over Scotland.

     

    Tree.  Forest walk.

     

    Our trail brought us along the shore of the loch.

     

    Such beautiful scenery in Scotland.

     

    Scenery to inspire a landscape artist.

     

    The sky and light ever-changing . . . .

     

    Migrating ducks were happy to dive for fish in the shallows.

     

    We crossed Scotland to the west coast and the town of Oban for another fantastic sunset.  My wife loves oysters, and Oban has the best oysters in the world, she says.

     

    We strolled along the Oban Esplanade during a stunning sunset one evening.

     

    I had a wonderful amber ale with my seafood dinner in Oban, so we decided to see if we could find the brewery.  Loch Fyne, and the Fyne Ales, were only a few hours away.  We drove there and bought four cases of Jarl before heading on . . .

     

    The bridge at the upper end of Loch Fyne.

     

    The autumn hills across Loch Fyne. We had great oysters near here too.

     

    Based on a restaurant tip, we headed down to Argylll from Oban . . . to find a brewery . . . and this sweet village.

     

     Our return route took us along Loch Lomond where we stayed overnight near the house-proud village of Aldochlay, before driving on to Glasgow.

     

    I can't resist another photo of this lovely cottage and garden on Loch Lomond.

     

    We stayed in Glasgow a few days before driving home to Aberdeen.  We love Glasgow, a city of 2.5 million souls.

     

    We like walking around Glasgow.  There are many parks, but our favorite is the Glasgow Botanic Garden.

     

    The greenhouses are fantastic.

     

    It's nice to visit the tropical houses . . . we miss the tropical plants and heat of Bangkok sometimes.

     

    The 12th century Glasgow Cathedral is certainly worth a visit. "It is also one of the few Scottish medieval churches (and the only medieval cathedral on the Scottish mainland) to have survived the Reformation not unroofed."

     

    It goes without saying that the interior of Glasgow Cathedral is a phantasmagoria of images, light and shadow.

     

    The pipe organ of Glasgow Cathedral.

     

    I could have stayed all day in this old space.

     

    The Museum of Modern Art in Glasgow with the famous statue of the Duke of Wellington with the traffic cone . . . yes, it is an art installation.

     

    The interior of the Glasgow Museum of Modern Art.

     

    We love to walk around Glasgow.  There is so much public art there . . . .