Along the Ancestral Castle trail to Tantallon & the Birthplace of One of My Heroes in Nearby Dunbar

Livinston to Tantallon, Dunbar and Berwick-upon-Tweed mapI had one last day to spend in Scotland so I travelled in an easterly direction from Edinburgh hugging the coastline as much as possible to see what I could find of interest along the way the morning of August 23rd.

I had said my farewells to my good friends Keith & Helen, thanking them enormously for such a wonderful and memorable visit to the tomb of King Robert in Dunfermline and the time I enjoyed with them in their lovely new home.

IMG_4581As I followed the coastline, the first place of interest that I came across was a castle sitting out on a promontory point big as you please.  Seemed so appropriate to visit one more castle on my last day in Scotland! Tantallon was standing so majestically perched on the cliff’s edge overlooking the ocean and the entrance into the Forth estuary!

I can’t seem to go anywhere on this trip and not run into ancestors! This castle was no exception.

William Douglas, the man who built it in the 1350s was my 17th great grandfather (through my Clapp family line once again, just like recently at Dunfermline!)

He was also the nephew of Sir James Douglas “the Good,” Robert the Bruce’s trusted deputy.  Williams’ illegitimate son, George, became head of the Red Douglas’s and became heir to Tantallon castle in 1389 when the Douglas line split in two sides; the Red Douglas’s and the Black Douglas’s (headed by Archibald III Douglas “The Grim,” who had his stronghold at Threave Castle in Dumfries and who is also my 17th great grandfather!)

Let’s go take a closer look at this fascinating castle with its convoluted ancestral history! After passing through the reception area to pay my entrance fee, a pathway meandered out toward the castle across the field. Ditches and fortification earthen walls are immediately quite apparent. Evidently, it was no easy task approaching this place and getting in its gates once upon a time. It’s nice, however, that today I can just leisurely stroll in without any trouble whatsoever.

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IMG_4598Once inside the gate, the outer close presents itself.  As I approached the drawbridge at the entrance there was a huge Doocot (or Dovecot) out in the centre of the outer close in the front of the castle.

IMG_4605At left is what the doocot looked like from the inside.  Each little square cubby hole was a nest for doves.

The outer close would have had all kinds of buildings and dwellings for local tradesmen and serfs in its time to supply the castle’s needs  (see the interpretive panel below.)IMG_4599

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As I approached the entrance a huge moat appeared which the drawbridge would have spanned. Let’s cross the bridge, go through the door and into the massive barbican to see what lies beyond!

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A little more history reveals itself in the panel below – Enter the Covenanters!

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IMG_4692IMG_4697 IMG_4608IMG_4698Now that we’ve learned quite a bit about this tantamount castle, let’s explore around inside and see what life would have been like in its heydey.IMG_4637The Great Hall where just about everything important occurred.IMG_4735

IMG_4651The two-story portion of the building at left with the large windows was the Great Hall.

IMG_4738Nice view of the harbour below taken from one of the Great Hall windows.

 

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IMG_4654This place was absolutely humongous! I kept climbing stairs and following hallways eventually being rewarded with  amazing vistas!IMG_4672IMG_4700

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IMG_4708Back down to the ground floor again, I checked out the massive 32-meter fresh water well sunk through the solid rock before exploring inside the Douglas Tower!IMG_4643

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IMG_4752Back outside once again, I headed over to the furthest corner of the fortress by the ocean to have a closer look at the little island just offshore – The Bass Rock. It even has an old prison on it with a lighthouse!

I walked to the opposite end of the grounds from the harbour to get a full shot of the castle walls which face the ocean and then took another photo looking further east to see what lies beyond the castle. What an incredibly beautiful location!IMG_4767IMG_4769

This Castle has very good interpretive panels conveniently placed throughout which explains its history and provides renditions of what the castle would have looked like before it was destroyed by Cromwell’s armies. I really appreciate it when they provide informative and helpful guides like these for self-touring purposes.IMG_4770

IMG_4771Okay, now there was one last part of the castle to explore and it was over on the left-hand side – the East Tower – another 5-story tower! Phew!IMG_4772

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IMG_4795IMG_4788The view of the scenery below the East Tower was another nice little harbour like area – well worth the climb up the stairs.  IMG_4789It was fun exploring Tantallon, and I had worked up quite an appetite doing so.

IMG_4800Back in the car, I continued eastward along the coastal road a short distance to Dunbar where I found a lovely little place to eat with some absolutely delightful fare at No. 5 Duke Street Pub!

 

IMG_4798IMG_4799First my appetizer of fried brie with fruit compote and a nice green salad, then the fresh & yummy langoustine! It was fabulously fresh and delicious!

The small town of Dunbar had a surprise or two for me as well as I explored its nooks and crannies. I started out at the beach to have a nice walk on the beach after my lunch.

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IMG_4815As I got back into my car and was preparing to head on down the road a bit further, the sign shown at left caught my attention. The very first item of “Things to see and do in Dunbar” intrigued me as I am a big fan of the Scottish-American naturalist, author and environmental philosopher, John Muir.

He’s one of my heroes especially because he was an early advocate for the preservation of wilderness, like Yosemite, in the United States. I often wondered where in Scotland he came from and I was just about to find out! “This is great!” I thought, “All I have to do is find 126-128 High Street – shouldn’t be too difficult!”

IMG_4818There it was; the birthplace of John Muir. It’s now a centre for study and interpretation of the work of the Scottish-American conservationist.IMG_4819

IMG_4821This is what it looked like when he lived in it with his family.330px-John_Muir_birthplace

Once inside, the former home is not what it used to look like, nor is it distinguishable as a home apart from the two remaining fireplaces situated on the south wall of the first two stories (as shown below).

Otherwise, the whole building is set up with displays with information about this famous man, his life and his work. It is quite informative and extensive.

IMG_4824On the ground floor, near the hearth where John and his family would have gathered, interpretive panels explained a bit about his family and their life story…

IMG_4848This was a great place to visit. I thoroughly enjoyed it. The pictures I have shared barely scratch the surface of the extensive collection and resources the centre has to offer.

IMG_4850Outside once again and I looked around for anything else to explore. I decided to head down to the harbour and the ruinous Dunbar Castle at its head.

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Hanging around a nice snug harbour with a castle that has birds nesting in the crooks and crannies of its old castle walls was quite a nice way to spend the afternoon.

 

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I spent the rest of the afternoon travelling through the rest of Scotland as I headed to the Borders. That was my last day in Scotland and I felt delighted that I had I spent it quite well amongst ancestral sights and homes of heroes!

In the next few posts, I will be sharing with you more stories about travelling south through England on its eastern side and middle section, starting with Berwick-upon-Tweed, York, and then Sherwood Forest as I headed toward the southern coastline to visit the famous white cliffs of Dover. Hope you’ve enjoyed this post and perhaps even learned something new.

Until the next time…happy trails!

 

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Castle Fraser

IMG_3335Yesterday, 17 August 2017, was another bonnie day in Scotland so Lindsay and I decided to take advantage of the good weather to head out for yet one more adventure together to visit one more castle together in Aberdeenshire.

I’ve been here with Lindsay in Aberdeen for the last 40 days or so having a grand old time with him cavorting all over the countryside. We’ve had lots of laughs and seen oh-so-many wonderful sights together.  As they say, however, all good things must come to an end and tonight after I finish this post I’m going to have to pack up my suitcase once again and start heading south on my own say fare-thee-well to my good buddy Lindsay.  I’ll still have at least another 5 days or so in Scotland visiting friends in Scone and further south near Edinburgh.  I’ve been in Scotland since the 13th of July (67 absolutely glorious days so far in the land I love best!) and it’ll be difficult at best to leave.

I digress… as I was saying, Lindsay and I took advantage of the lovely sunshine yesterday and headed out about 15 miles west of Aberdeen to visit Castle Fraser!

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I parked the car after dropping off Lindsay at the front gate and walked back down to meet up with him again, soaking up the view before me.  Isn’t it just wonderful?

We walked around the west side of the castle taking it all in toward the entrance on the south side.

There’s the front door where we’ll enter to take the self-guided tour.  Before we do, however, let’s take a look at the various heraldic symbols, the cylindrical imposing tower, and elaborate turrets…

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IMG_3369This castle is a National Trust for Scotland property, and we’re in luck today because unlike a lot of places, we are allowed to take pictures indoors as long as the flash is turned off!  We were greeted by these two wonderfully delightful and helpful ladies at the reception desk.

Once the tour begins our first stop is the kitchen!

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As well as cooking implements they also had on display this artfully crafted model of the castle…

Next, we began the climb up the first set of stairs (complete with spy holes in the stairwell) to the next level leading into the Grand Hall.

This massive Hall opened up before us.  The door we entered was not the original 1400 medieval door to the castle.  The rock-lined alcove with the ‘kist’ (locking trunk) featured in the photo below was where the first door to the castle actually existed.

I took pictures of the interpretative sheets explaining each room as we entered them so you can read for yourself about each room and its features.  (Hint: If you find that the image is too small to read as it appears, right-click on the picture and ‘open it in a new tab,’ it will open up in another window; then to make it larger, and therefore, easier to read, use your zoom button on your browser page and increase the size of the image for easier reading.)

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So many interesting things around the Great Hall to admire… paintings, violins, and family genealogy!

IMG_3422Immediately after leaving the Great Hall through the doorway beside the fireplace, we entered the dining room.

Usually, the table is set with its finery, but preparations for a wedding that would soon take place were underway for the occasion, but there was plenty of other things to look at and admire.

IMG_3431IMG_3433Just off of the dining room was a small room containing a very interesting and unique exhibition – a very old map that been wadded up to stop a draft in a chimney and found years later under the floorboards!IMG_3438

 

 

It was quite amazing to look at the ancient map mounted on the wall behind glass.

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IMG_3439There were extensive display boards explaining the process that was undertaken for the preservation of the old map.  I took individual pictures of each of the display items so you can see each one up close.

I created a photo collage below of all the individual images. If you click on the collage, the photos will open up in another window allowing you to scroll through each of the photos.

We walked back through the dining room to the other side, stepped through the door and entered the round tower portion of the castle into the Peacock Parlour. It was chock full of more interesting items to explore…

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We then began the steady climb up the towers’ winding staircase stopping at each subsequent level to visit various bedrooms and sitting rooms until we reached the top floor which was the Estate Office.

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One final climb up the spiral staircase and through the low door took us to the very top of the tower with dazzling magnificent panoramic views of over 300 acres of landscaped grounds surrounding the castle!

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The top of the tower also provided dizzying views below!

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We enjoyed those outstanding and amazing views and afterward began our descent back down the stairwell until we arrived at the next stop in the tour at the Library near the ground floor.

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IMG_3587The staff and guides throughout the castle were so nice, helpful and extremely informative. We enjoyed their input, stories, exceptional service immensely. Although it was a self-guided tour, someone was always nearby to answer questions, bring our attention to special items we may have missed such as this lovely lady we really enjoyed interacting with while we purveyed the library.

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At the end of the tour, we came to the final displays in the Trophy Room and China room.

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IMG_3613Just before we left the China Room we noticed what we thought might be tea mugs when we discovered they were in fact, beer mugs, and appeared to have funny little creatures in the bottom of them.  About the same time, we also noticed the paper explaining the “Frog Mugs.”

Curious and quite unique!

Another interesting tidbit below caught our eye as well…

The last surprise was hiding in the corner in the wall about knee height in the wall. When we looked through the hole, we discovered it was the “Laird’s Lug!” Many times, when visiting castles, you’ll see something like this hole in the wall somewhere.  ‘Lug’ means ‘ear’ in Scottish, therefore, these holes allowed the Laird (or Lord of the Castle) or his loyal “spies” or “guards” to eavesdrop or keep an eye on a visitor while they stood and talked down in the Great Hall. In the picture below, Lindsay indicates where the small hole appears on the wall above the door down in the Great Hall.

Many times, when visiting castles, you’ll see something like this hole in the wall somewhere.  ‘Lug’ means ‘ear’ in Scottish, therefore, these holes allowed the Laird (or Lord of the Castle) or his loyal “spies” or “guards” to eavesdrop or keep an eye on a visitor while they stood and talked in the Great Hall below. In the following picture collage, Lindsay indicates where the small hole appears on the wall above the door downstairs in the Great Hall.

That was a fun and interesting tour.  Back outside, we strolled around the other side of the castle. Lindsay thought he might give Weight Tossing a try like he witnessed at the heavy-weight competition events at the Highland Games this past weekend!

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Quite a stunning castle, majestic and grand. We worked our way back to the car up the tree-lined path, stopping at the walled gardens on the way.

The ancient burls on this tree were amazing.  I bet the wood grain inside is a sight to behold.

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There’s the garden’s gate; let’s enter and explore its wonders and delights.

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Quite the multi-faced sun dial and the garden’s center!

IMG_3683Such a delightful garden!  Small and compact, but gracious and calming; a nice fragrant retreat.

When we arrived back at the car, there was one more surprise waiting for us. Parked right next to us was this sensational and pristine Austin 7 British saloon car, the “New Ruby,” that was popular in the 1930’s about the time the Model T was popular in the U.S.

We had worked up an appetite after all that exploring, so we headed to our favorite pub, The Ploughman, in Peterculter, and treated ourselves to their signature dish, ‘Steak Braveheart.’

While we waited for that divine dish to arrive, we admired their delightfully extensive collection of tea pots that line the window sills throughout the pub.

It was deliciously divine! A wonderful ending to a perfectly phenomenal finale of adventures in Scotland with Lindsay. I’ll miss being here with him when I leave in the morning to head south.  We’ve made a lot of wonderful fun memories together cavorting all around the countryside!  Thank you, Lindsay!

 

 

 

 

The “Friendly” Abernethy Highland Games & the Majestic Strathspey Railway Caledonia Engine

Lindsay and I debarked from the Strathspey Railway at Broomhill station and boarded a shuttle bus bound for The Abernethy Highland Games – known as the “Friendly Games.” They are held in the center of Nethy Bridge in the Highlands of Scotland on the second Saturday of August. We were excited to attend this event and enjoy its activities the whole day. We duly noted the times to return via the shuttle to the train for the return trip back to Aviemore and eagerly waited in line to enter the games.

The first thing we saw was this delightful display of young lads and lassie’s competing in Highland dancing…

…followed by the beginning of the children’s games, starting with a wheelbarrow race!

Next were the boys’ three-legged races…

…next up – the girls!

We walked along the booths lining the field when we came upon none other than Richard Eccles and his lovely wife at the Castle Roy Trust booth. It was great to see him again. We met him last year while visiting nearby Castle Roy when I bought a square yard of the Castle in support of their efforts to restore the ancient site.

Richard offered us a ‘wee dram’ for a perfect preamble for watching men’s Heavy weight competitions which began with the Stone putt.

While the men prepared for the next heavy-weight event, we strolled a bit further around the track getting the flavour of the games as we walked.

The next event was throwing a steel weight for distance… weights are made of metal with a handle attached either directly or with a chain.

IMG_3003The men warmed up for the event in the open, but when the actual competition began they had to enter a caged area for safety reasons in case the weight slipped out of their hand as they turned and turned before releasing it out into the field.

IMG_3019We walked around a bit more checking out more of the booths and watching some highland dancing competitions while waiting for the next heavy-weight event, Scottish Hammer throw, to begin. IMG_3025

IMG_3030Loved watching these two little girls next to us practice their dancing…

The next heavy-weight event was the Scottish Hammer throw…

While we were waiting along came that cute little boy who we saw competing earlier…

IMG_3059Next came the Caber Toss!

Now for the Weight Thrown Over the Bar event!  I don’t think I could even lift that heavy thing off the ground let alone toss it up in the air and over the bar! They started by throwing it up a distance of about 11 feet, each taking their turn. When each had thrown it successfully over the bar, the bar would be raised further up another 6 inches until it reached the final height of 13 1/2 feet! Geez!

Just after Harry Hancock won the Weight Toss, the Pipe bands and Clan members came into the arena! Yeah! This is my favourite part!

Before opening ceremonies took place, Harry Hancock (who had won the weight toss event) had the bar moved one last time and made a final attempt to clear 14 feet! Wow!

IMG_3103The official opening ceremonies took place by the dignitaries of the Clans and then the parade of the Pipers, drummers, Clans and standard bearers departed from the field for the events to continue.

After all that work of watching the men toss heavy things about and the parade of the Pipe Bands, I had worked up an appetite! It was lunchtime so one and all qued up for various meals. Lindsay and I lined up with the Piper and Drummers for some fish & chips and fried haggis!

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IMG_3119While we ate our lunch at a picnic table we were delighted by the sights of all the wonderful views around us… like the majestic Pipe Major and people just having a grand time visiting with one another, enjoying themselves.

We also got to watch the competition of the Pipers and the Pipe Major practising his baton twirling and tossing.

After that scrumptious and entertaining lunch and before the 10-mile running race began, there were some impromptu races taking place before us by the youngsters with their festively painted faces. So darned cute!

The gunshot sounded and off they went running around the track three times before exiting out the field to return after their 10-mile run…one guy was even running barefoot; he’s in the bottom right picture in the group of pictures below. He’s really brave and hopefully has leather-like soles on his feet!

Soon after the runners left the field, however, a great downpour of rain occurred scurrying most of the spectators from the games field. Lindsay and I shared his umbrella and I offered mine to a group of teenagers sitting nearby.

Unfortunately, these two photos were the last of the day because my camera was full and dead as a doornail! When the rain ceased we realized it was time for us to make our way back to the shuttle bus to catch the train back to Aviemore at Broomhill and call it a day. What a day it was!

Bright and early on Sunday morning we eagerly headed back to the train station at Aviemore because the stunningly beautiful Caledonia Steam Engine in its majestic royal blue colour was proudly preparing for its journey down the tracks with its load of excited passengers.

Lindsay climbed into the Engine this time to purvey her beauty and power…

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IMG_3173Soon her whistle would blow and she would head off down the rail without us.

IMG_3183We weren’t riding that day, but rather going by car, chasing the train through the rolling and scenic countryside alongside to her turn-around destination, Broomhill.

We arrived just in time to catch her on her return trip.

Waiting at the top of the tunnel she would have to pass through, we poised ourselves for some great pictures.

Here she comes!

Oh, that was fun, wasn’t it?

After the thrill of chasing the train, we crossed the old bridge over the River Spey to make our way back to Nethybridge once again.

Our next destination? The old Abernethy Church & Castle Roy.

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After visiting the castle and church we ate lunch at a lovely sunny sidewalk table at Chaplin’s in nearby downtown Granton-on-Spey.

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For dessert, we visited another relic, the old Spey Bridge on the edge of town.

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We returned to Abernethy Church later in the afternoon to attend a very special service; the 250th Anniversary Thanksgiving Service of the church!

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Lindsay has ancestors buried in this church yard. We had visited it last year and had read in the newsletter earlier this spring of the celebration so we definitely didn’t want to miss this opportunity to celebrate with them!IMG_3271

They have an old hand bell on display in the church that was used years ago (before they had a bell and bell tower) to call the parishioners to church on Sundays. After the arrival of the bell and subsequent bell tower, the hand bell had disappeared for about 75 years. One of Lindsay’s ancestors located the hand bell, which had been in the possession of one of the residents’ in the valley, and determined to return the hand bell to the old Kirk for safe keeping.

Lindsay was honoured before the celebration service began by being asked if he would be willing to ring the hand bell outside the church entry doors to once again call the people to the Thanksgiving Service like it had done so many years ago.

It was a wonderful service in the old Kirk, complete with a wonderful harpist, Marie Louise Napier, playing a clarsach (knee harp) and singing a beautiful Gaelic tune. (I was oh-so-tempted to record her playing but knew it wasn’t appropriate to do so during a church service!) After the service, we visited with other attendees while we all also enjoyed some tea and cake.

IMG_3298Our next destination for the day was Dingwall to visit our good friends Pat & Ian MacLeod.

En route we passed through the small village Carrbridge and were pleasantly surprised to arrive just in time to see a Rubber Duckie Race in process as we rounded the corner!IMG_3301

What an opportunistic surprise we stumbled upon!

Back in the car once again we travelled the rest of the way to Dingwall uneventfully.  We met up with Pat & Ian and enjoyed a delicious meal together at the National Hotel.

I especially savoured my salmon fillet with dill cream sauce, Ian his haggis stuffed chicken, Lindsay ordered Scampi and Pat delighted in her Mac ‘n Cheese!

It was a wonderful meal with close friends and family in our ancestral home and the perfect ending to yet another perfect day. Cheers!

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Aberdeen to Aviemore & Strathspey Railway

After attending the Ballater Highland games on Thursday, Lindsay and I set out across the country from Aberdeen once again to spend the weekend near the Cairngorm Mountains. We travelled on the old military road from Ballater to Tomintoul crossing the flowering moor in the beautiful sunshine.

Crossing the bridge over the River Gairn on the old military road is always a treat and a nice spot to get some great photos. This bridge has a very distinct arch and often times some longer vehicles bottom out on their bellies while attempting to cross because its arch is so severe! Right after the bridge the road turns sharply to the right and then begins a steady, steep climb up toward Corgarff Castle built in the mid 16th century by the Forbes of Towie & where the British military hung out after the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745 trying to spot and capture the evasive Scottish clansmen hidden in the heather on the hills.

Up at the top, the moor spreads out before us; the Heather has just turned to its purple bloom along with the beautiful flowering Scottish Harebells.

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Roughly 40 miles further from Tomintoul we arrived at our destination; the beautiful town of Aviemore – a well known and popular holiday destination with absolutely gorgeous scenery. Aviemore is a year round destination with snow sports being the popular winter activity and walking, climbing, biking and a whole host of other activities during the summer.

The Cairngorms National Park nearby has activities suitable for all ages and abilities including a really cool funicular railway on Cairngorm Mountain – Scotland’s only funicular railway! This is a unique visitor experience that allows people to reach the Top Station where there is an opportunity to see panoramic views from over 3,500ft and boasts the highest post box in the British Isles. (We did not go on the funicular railway this visit, but we did plan on enjoying a ride on the nostalgic steam train on the Strathspey Railway!)

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IMG_2839After we arrived at our destination and got checked into the Park Guest House, we took a stroll around town and decided to head over to the train station to look around.

As luck would have it, the steam train had just returned from its afternoon run and the engineer was getting ready to drive the engine into the shed for the evening. We got a quick look at it before he did so.

Before the sun disappeared behind the western hills we then drove up the B970 road toward the Cairngorm National Park to Loch Morlich to get just a few more delightful views of this fantastic natural beauty.

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To finish off this absolutely fantastic day we enjoyed a very nice dinner of Roast Beef with Yorkshire pudding and Fish & Chips at the Cairngorm Hotel restaurant. We also indulged ourselves with delicious desserts – Sticky Toffee Pudding and Ice Cream!  Yum! A perfect ending to a perfect day!

The next morning after a very restful sleep we headed back to the station to take the 10:30 run to Broomhill. Our destination for the day was the Nethybridge Highland Games. As part of the fun, one could ride the Strathspey Railway to the games as far as Broomhill where a shuttle bus picked us up and took us the rest of the way to the games! Oh, what fun!

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We arrived in plenty of time to get a good look at the train & meet the Conductors and Engineer.

Also got to get up into the engine even and watch them shovel coal into the fire box and view the controls up close! Wow!

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Soon the Engineer, Jock, said it was time to climb aboard and start enjoying the train going down the tracks, hearing the whistle blow, watching the steam puffing from the engine…

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…and feel the wind on my face as we made our way listening to the clickety-clack of the wheels on the track… oh be still my heart!

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The Conductor, Simon, came around the punch our tickets and I was so glad to see they were pet-friendly as well!

IMG_2926Simon even let various people try on his Conductor’s hat and capture special & memorable moments on their cameras! Such fun!

We stopped halfway on the trip at Boat of Garten so the engine could get a drink of water. We were allowed to get off the train, stretch our legs and take a look around the old train station.

Kids of all ages were once allowed to get on the engine and blow the whistle, while a very dedicated young Piper entertained us with some great tunes!

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The scenery we passed en route was extremely pastoral and plentiful. Views of the Cairngorms mountains offered up exquisite panoramic views to behold.

The end of the line for the Highland game attendees was Broomhill, also known as “GlenBogle” station on the British TV series “Monarch of the Glen.”  We were part of that entourage so off we went climbing aboard shuttle buses to take us the rest of the short distance to the Friendly Highland Games at Nethybridge nearby. The rest of the passengers aboard the steam train made the return trip to Aviemore after the engine disconnected itself from the railcars, turned itself around on a turning track and pulled the cars back along the way it had come. What an adventure!

Stay tuned for my next blog post about the Nethybridge Highland games!  You won’t want to miss it!

A Bonnie Day at Ballater Highland Games

This past week I’ve been enjoying a whirlwind of activities and haven’t had a moments’ rest to blog, but I’m not complaining! I’ve been having way too much fun attending one of Scotlands’ best events – Highland Games!

If you’ve never attended one, it’s a must-see one-of-a-kind Scottish tradition. A trip to Scotland is just not the same without having attended one of these unique events as a way of celebrating Scottish and Celtic culture, especially that of the Scottish Highlands! Each area schedules at least one during the spring and summer months so no matter where you go, you’re bound to find one to fit into your travel itinerary.  You can find one by visiting this site online: Scottish Highland Games Association

Men in kilts put forth their best strength, skill and endurance in various Heavy competitions including caber tossing, Scottish heavy hammer throwing, weight toss, tug of war and stone put, to name a few. Each throw, toss and swing is recorded by judges and trophies awarded to the best of the best.

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Another category is running races and many games include the Hill Run, where runners circle the track a couple of times, then exit the games and run up a nearby (very) high hill and back down again to the finish line a good hour or so later!

Highland games are a family event for young and old alike, and that includes bringing the family dog! Fun is had by one and all.  IMG_2665

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The whole time various competitions are in play, the sound of the pipes is ever present. Many pipers come to specifically compete themselves on stage but are also often in a field nearby practising, or playing for the Highland dancers while they compete in competition dances. Judges look for precision and timing of the dancers’ steps in conjunction with the required arm and leg movements. Dancers aim to appear relaxed and in control of all movements.

Course the best part for me is all the men in kilts!