Communion Of Dreams


Scotland 2018: 8) No stone circle is really complete without a nuclear bunker.

Being a photo-heavy travelog of our 2018 trip to Scotland.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Saturday, May 12.

We had a nice breakfast at the hotel, and considered our options for the day. Aberdeen and the surrounding area has a lot to offer — our preliminary list had about a dozen possibilities on it, and we had identified at least that many more in looking through “Vistor’s Guides” and such there in the hotel.

In the end we decided that we really wanted to see more of the Highlands, and figured that driving up into the Cairngorms was the best way to do that. It was probably the best decision that we made on the entire trip.

Why do I say that? Well, read on …

The Cairngorm Mountains are just incredibly beautiful on their own. Seriously, like the inter-mountain range of the Rockies in Colorado, though of course they’re not as tall.

And Martha had seen something promising on one of her research forays: Kildrummy Castle.

I admit, I was somewhat unimpressed with the number and quality of medieval castles in Scotland. That’s because for the most part, castles were repeatedly upgraded and renovated … or they were allowed to disappear completely. So you get those magnificent structures like Stirling, Dunvegan, and Edinburgh, or private fortresses such as Eilean Donan and Doune, all of which saw significant rebuilding and modernization through their history. But places like Urquhart and Old Inverlochy are pretty rare in Scotland, whereas in Wales they’re seemingly around every river bend.

But Kildrummy Castle is a magnificent ruin, substantial in structure and easy to understand in terms of layout and architecture. It would have been a formidable stronghold, and played an important part in Scottish history. We stopped in at the ticketing office, and had a chat with the caretaker — who was both enthusiastic about the castle, and a little surprised to find a couple of American tourists stopping in to check out the place. Then we walked up the path to the castle, which I hadn’t seen at all while driving.

But this is what we saw:

Promising …

 

Up the hill and across the dry moat.

 

Across the drawbridge, left …

 

… and right.

 

Elphinstone Tower.

 

Great Hall and Warden Tower.

 

Chapel.

 

Exterior of the Chapel and Warden Tower.

 

Martha in the inner ward.

 

More of the inner ward.

I want to note that we were the only people there, the entire hour or so we spent exploring the castle. On a beautiful Saturday, in the largest National Park in the U.K.

And this, I think, is important, and in itself changed the way I thought about the entire trip. Scotland has done a fair amount of work to promote tourism, and there were places we visited which were crowded with tourists from all over the world. But just a little work to get off the beaten path always took us away from the madness, into a part of the country which was just as beautiful, just as full of history, and a whole lot more enjoyable (at least for this introvert).

We stopped back by the ticketing office. I thanked the caretaker, and told him that I thought that Kildrummy was one of the best medieval ruins I had seen anywhere, in Scotland, Wales, the UK, or on the continent. I’m sure it made his day. Visiting Kildrummy made mine.

Spirits high, we headed further into the mountains. First we stopped at Glenbuchat castle, a nearby fortified home dating to the 16th century. It was well-sited, but closed for renovations. Then we went to Corgarff Castle, a medieval tower which had been expanded in the 18th century, but didn’t hold our interest. We had a nice lunch at a little cafe, then proceeded south across the moors on the Old Military Road:

Stairway to heaven.

We took the A93 back towards Aberdeen for a while, but then went north again towards the small village of Tarland, but stopped at the Tomnaverie Stone Circle. From another website about the circle:

The restored circle is a truly beautiful site to visit, the circle is now neatly grassed over, the quarried area to the south has been filled, and there is a small car parking space available below the hill. The raised location allows for panoramic views in all directions, and there is also an information plaque which gives details of the circle and its history. Those with an interest in prehistory or megalithic monuments will need no coaxing to visit Tomnaverie, and for the casual visitor it is wonderful place for a stroll or a picnic.

See for yourself:

Oh, say can you see?

One unusual feature of the Tomnaverie Stone Circle is noted on the information board:

Which is here:

The small structure just right of center is the bunker entrance.

Strange juxtaposition.

We decided to make one last stop before heading back to Aberdeen, which was just a short way away: Culsh Earth House. Description from that site:

Earth houses, or souterrains, can seem mysterious structures: stone-lined tunnels dug into the earth, usually leading to a dead end and with no obvious purpose. The reality is actually fairly mundane, and it seems that earth houses were simply built as underground storage for agricultural produce.

Culsh Earth House probably dates back to some time before AD100. At the time a timber roundhouse farmstead would have stood nearby, perhaps a direct predecessor of the farm which stands immediately to the south today. The entrance to the earth house might have been inside the roundhouse to next to it, and the earth house itself would probably have been used for the storage of grain or other produce.

Here ya go:

Wonder where that goes?

 

Cool!

 

Looking back.

 

Reemergence.

The rest of the drive to the hotel was uneventful. We had a nice dinner in the pub, and crashed relatively early.

 

Jim Downey

 

Advertisements


Scotland 2018: 5) Fantastic faeries, and a castle in the Skye.

Being a photo-heavy travelog of our 2018 trip to Scotland.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Tuesday, May 8.

A driving day. Just as we loaded our bags into the car, rain started falling. It persisted for most of the next 3.5 hours as we drove NE to Invergarry, then NW to the Isle of Skye. Because of the geography of Scotland, this sort of back & forth to get somewhere is typical, and you quickly learn to just enjoy the scenery or it’ll drive you nuts. This probably explains a lot about the Scots and Scottish history, now that I think about it.

Anyway, yeah, it rained while we drove. And I discovered something about our rental car (a new Vauxhall Astra): it had a ‘rain sensor’ setting on the windshield wipers. Yeah, it would vary the speed of the wipers depending on how much rain you had on the windshield. Handy, for driving in the UK, I imagine.

The rain started breaking up when we got to Skye, and wow, is that island beautiful in its stark emptiness:

20180508_173450

20180508_174741

We crossed the island to the west coast to Dunvegan Castle. While the current appearance of the castle is largely due to Victorian-era renovations, parts of the castle itself date back to the early 1200s.

20180508_130144

It is home to the Chief of Clan MacLeod. It’s been the home of the Chief of Clan MacLeod for over 800 years. And the history inside the castle shows it. Here are a few glimpses:

20180508_131031

Martha thinking: “… hmm … yeah, I could live here.”

20180508_131712

Trinkets!

20180508_132130

Weapons!

20180508_131230

The Faerie Flag!

And a whole lot more.  Seriously, spend some time poking around their website, or peruse the Wikipedia entry.

After a light lunch in the castle cafe, we thought we’d see if we could find the Faerie Pools. Getting there wasn’t a problem, though the last section of road (about 5 miles) is one-way, with passing areas. But it was a popular enough that parking was a bit of a nightmare, easily 5x the number of cars parked along the narrow road as were in the small designated parking area. But we lucked out, and got a spot in the gravel lot.

While the rain had passed, there was a stiff cold breeze blasting across the landscape. We dressed appropriately and set out. It was about a mile to the first pool, and we kept going for about another half mile to see some of the higher pools. Just an incredible landscape and a lovely walk:

20180508_153617

20180508_154729

20180508_155601

20180508_160401

20180508_160653

20180508_161627

20180508_161633After the walk back, we climbed into the car and drove to our B&B in Ardvasar on the SE corner of the island, just across the bay from the fishing village of Mallaig. We had a very yummy dinner at the hotel restaurant just down the road.

 

Jim Downey