Since this is a rather long trip to the United Kingdom this year, I don’t have to hurry and rush through places. Sometimes, I wake up in the morning and think to myself, “What shall I go see today? Where shall I go?”
Today was one of those days… I couldn’t seem to decide which direction to head; west toward Braemar or northwest toward Huntly. Finally, I decided to just flip a coin and let it decide.
I had driven to Leith Hall near Huntly late in the day a week or so ago, after visiting Huntly castle, but once I arrived there, the last tour had already departed around the house and there was a bit of a chill to the air, so walking around the gardens wouldn’t be much fun. Instead, I decided to come back another time. The flipped coin decided to head back to Leith Hall and return via Alford to Aberdeen.
Well laid plans can often go awry… After visiting Leith Hall I headed toward Alford, only to discover the road was closed, so I ended up having to double back and go further south than anticipated; about halfway to Braemar anyway. Guess what? It was a beautiful day and a superb drive after all. Even found a couple of things along the unforeseen route that was quite delightful and a treat to visit.
Sometimes one just has to let oneself wander and be open for surprises! Oh, what I do to find a story to blog about! Someone’s got to do it! Such tough work I tell ya!
Let’s go back to the beginning of the day… driving to the town Kennethmont where Leith Hall is. Along the route, we passed many a field of barley, ripe for harvesting – ‘Ah… the stuff that lovely whisky is made of!’
The sun was shining and soon we were driving through the gates of Leith Hall Garden & Estate.
Unfortunately, since it was Monday, the house wasn’t open for tours (apparently it’s only open Thursdays to Sundays!) but it was just as well because we had come to see the gardens and ponds. Guess we’ll have to return yet another time if we want to see the inside of the house – dang! – we have to come back again…
We set off down the path toward the ponds first and almost immediately came upon this tree.
Further down the woodland path, we came upon a lovely old bridge crossing the burn.
Following the path a bit further we came to the beautiful ponds filled with lily pads and gorgeous delightful reflections of the blue sky above.
We lingered here for awhile, drinking in the beauty and tranquillity, listening to bird song all around us.
As we made our way around the pond, it started to shower a few drops for a few minutes, so we sat upon a stone again at the water’s edge under the protection of the leafy canopy above us and watched the rain drops dance on the tranquil surface.
The rain didn’t last long and soon we were walking along the path again rounding the pond – continuing to enjoy its peacefulness.
We passed the old boat house and enjoyed the beautiful flowers blooming along the shoreline…
Soon we were back where we started at the old bridge with a view of the house and the neighbouring fields.
Although the house wasn’t open for tours, we were still able to gaze upon its beauty from outside and investigate its inner courtyard, heraldic symbols on the outer walls and admire its statuesque beauty.
Our tummies were beginning to grumble so we ventured into the garden to find a nice spot to enjoy our picnic lunch. Starting at the uppermost highest corner of the gardens near the old stables, we began our search.
There it was, some steps with a gorgeous backdrop and the beautiful gardens laid out before our eyes. Perfect spot for a picnic nestled in next to the delightful star like Scottish Thistles!
After a satisfying steak and tomato sandwich, we meandered over to the Stone Collection.
Next, we ducked into a pathway leading through the tall hedge which revealed the vegetable and fruit garden beyond complete with a ‘Scareboy’ in the children’s garden bed portion!
In the midst of all those veggies and fruits were the fantastically fragrant and multi coloured sweet peas to delight our nostrils!
A bit further on and outside the walled gardens, we came upon this vast path meandering along the outside of the wall as far as you could see; a wave of colourful blossoms of every ilk!
Smack dab in the middle of the long meandering path of flowers was another rope-lined pathway leading out to a gorgeous rock garden.
Back through the flowers and into the lower portion of the walled garden, we see row after row of trees growing and the walls adorned with vines and statuary offering many sights to meditatively enjoy the gloriousness of the space within its walls.
At various points around the garden, we also happened upon several very interesting Pictish stones here and there.
Of course, they also had a guard cat…
As we ended our circuitous tour of this lovely garden, we find ourselves back at the semi-circular stables where we had parked our car.
If the house is half as interesting as this garden has been; it certainly deserves a trip back to see it another day. We climbed in the car and started heading south towards Rhynie where we visited the old churchyard. Outside the churchyard, we first came upon some more ancient Pictish stones. This area is ripe with them and one finds them in the most interesting places!
Inside the old churchyard, we also saw one particular interesting stone complete with an old stone coffin! Thank goodness it was empty!
I peered over the wall of the churchyard and accidentally spooked the sheep grazing nearby; they took off like a bullet. Perhaps they thought I was a ghost from one of the graves!
The next stop was near Lumsden at a roadside farm. A couple of years ago I visited this same field and was delighted by a couple of very young little baby ‘hairy coo’s.’ Those babies have grown quite a bit but still just as friendly and lovable as ever. They loved having their photo taken and I had to laugh because the more pictures I shot, the more they posed, as if to say, “Here’s a front side, now how about this side profile and now the other side…’
The second one, who was way out in the field while I took photos of the first, seemed a bit jealous and eventually came forward across the field as if to say, “Now it’s my turn!”
What a pair of hams!
After Lumsden, we turned off at Mossat only to find out a few miles further that the road to Alford was closed, so we doubled back and headed further, finding the old Kildrummy Kirkyard along the route. What a find! That old kirk and kirkyard, a little over a mile north of Kildrummy Castle, comes with a large and fascinating collection of old gravestones.
There are two main structures still standing on the hill. One is a porch built in 1605 for the existing Kirk and later reused as a burial enclosure.
On the walls and floor are a series of superb old grave slabs of the Elphinstone family.
Nearby is what looks like it might have originally been the north wall of the older Kirk, which now stands off on its own. An old memorial is built into part of this wall, and another part has an arched recess protected from the weather by wooden doors which can be opened.
We opened the wooden doors of the protected arched recess and found the exquisite effigies of the 4th Laird of Brux and his wife, dating from the 1400s, plus the grave slab dated November 1730 honoring James Lumsden. The Lumsdens continued to be buried here until relatively recent times.
There is also a military grave commemorating Private C Lumsden of the Gordon Highlands, who died on 31 March 1921.
According to Undiscovered Scotland’s visitor information, opinions differ about the origin of the mound on which the old kirkyard stands. According to one account, this has been the site of a series of churches stretching all the way back to one established here by King Bridei I of the Picts in 581. According to other sources, the mound is actually a motte, on which a precursor to Kildrummy Castle stood until the latter was built in about 1250. What is clear is that there has been a church standing here since as far back as the early 1300s, originally called the Chapel of the Lochs. This later became the Kirk of St. Bride and was altered on a number of occasions.
After that interesting place, we climbed back in the car and started making our way home, past Glenbuchat Castle (still under repairs and covered in scaffolding; will have to visit that one again another return trip when it’s finished) working our way through a bit of the Cairngorms toward Aboyne with beautiful views along the way…
…finally arriving back at Lindsay’s house in Aberdeen after wandering around the countryside seeing lots of wonderful historic, colourful and entertaining sights along the way without any specific purpose or destinations in mind. Surprises can be so delightful!