Farewell & Final Blog Post…

Writing a travel blog and sharing my adventures with all of you here has been a whole lot of fun. I can’t believe, however, that I have come to the end of my stories and pictures. And I’m sorry to tell you but this post will be the last one that I write. I will still be travelling, but will no longer be blogging about it. It’s been fun, I’ve learned a lot, made a lot of friends, and it’s been an adventure in itself.

My granddaughter, Nichole, was right when she suggested I give it a try about 2 1/2 years ago. She encouraged me to share my interesting stories on a blog explaining to me that there would be a whole bunch of people “out there” that would love to hear the stories and read my blog if I took the time to write it.

There certainly have been a lot of people “out there” who are interested and who seem to be quite entertained; she was right. I have gathered dedicated “followers”; some that I know and others who are total strangers from scattered corners of the planet. So interesting. I really appreciate their support and encouragement.

Since returning home from the trip I’ve been earnestly trying to get the last of the adventures blogged in chronological order. That’s a lot of places! I’m getting tired. You must be too! Although it’s been worth it, writing a blog requires an inordinate amount of work, dedication, disciplined daily effort, stamina, ideas and time!

I have enjoyed sharing my adventures with you and have posted a whole bunch of photos, told a few stories and shared a lot of information I’ve gathered along the way. Hopefully, it has served to not only entertain you; but also inspired you to venture out and do a little travelling yourself. Maybe you are unable to travel and like to travel along vicariously; that’s wonderful too! Maybe I’ve given someone the courage to venture out on their own, travelling solo, as I often do.

There is so much to see and do in this wonderful world. Go live it and experience it your way, in whatever fashion you desire. If I had to wait until someone else had the time, the money and the desire to go with me, I probably wouldn’t have seen a fraction of what I’ve experienced and seen so far; I’d still be waiting. Life is too short for that. Go find it, even if it means going by yourself – you’ll soon be making friends along the way!

I sincerely hope you enjoyed it. Thanks for coming along for the ride on this blog with me and reading it.

What follows is the last story about the final days of my 4 1/2 month travels in Ireland, Scotland, England & Wales 2017:

One More Little Taste of Each ~ Wales, Ireland & Scotland ~ Before I Head Home

It was September 8th, my last day in Wales. I started the day early at about 9 o’clock because I had a reservation on a train to take me to the top of Snowdon Mountain.

I arrived at the Snowdon Mountain Railway station and was soon ushered aboard a railcar pushed by a diesel locomotive named George. Soon we began our hour-long ascent to the summit!

From the moment we left the station the train began the journey upwards into the clouds.  According to their website:

“This is a fabulous land of faeries and giants and kings. For centuries Welsh princes held council here. It is a land rich in alpine flowers and rare ferns left behind the retreating ice age and it is dotted with ruins that chronicle the history of long lost communities. These ancient mountains thrust upwards by volcanic forces 450 million years ago, once towered 10,000 metres. Over eons, the wind and rain and successive ice ages have sculpted them to their current form.”

Soon after the train left Llanberis station the track crossed the first of two viaducts across the Afon Hwch river and offered a wonderful view of the waterfall plunging into the gorge below.

As we emerged into open ground, I would have had a first glimpse of the peak of Snowdon, but its peak was shrouded in clouds! The train soon passed Car Esgob, Bishops Field and the ruined Hebron Chapel before starting its final summit ascent in earnest amongst spectacular countryside.

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IMG_7446A lot of people hike up to the summit on Snowdon. I admire their abilities and stamina and am extremely grateful that I can ride a train, otherwise, I would not be able to see the summit.

Including stops at the passing loops, the train takes an hour to climb to the summit and an hour to descend again, at an average speed of around 5 mph. It is is a narrow gauge rack and pinion mountain railway and steadily, but slowly, moves along for 4.7 miles offering up beautiful scenic vistas to enjoy all the while.

IMG_7475We arrived at the summit station, disembarked, walked through the Visitor Centre to the outside and then followed the rock stairs up to the brass marker.

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Since we were shrouded in clouds, our vistas were limited and could barely see down to the train tracks, let alone the lakes and landscapes way below. I have pulled a picture off of the trains’ website and posted below so at least we can see what it would have looked like if it had been clear. Quite a view I must say! Will have to go back and try another time.snowdon summit

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We started back down the mountain clearing the clouds about halfway down and the vistas opened up once again. Behind us Snowdon is still quite dark and ominous looking.

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On the way down we passed another steam train headed up the mountain. Before long we were pulling into the station and the ride was over.  Sure was a fun one!

The sun was shining brightly in Llanberis at noon. I spent the rest of the afternoon at the hostel doing domestic chores like laundry and sorting out my luggage. The following morning I would be taking the ferry across the Irish Sea to Dublin. I also had to clean out the rental car I’d been using since June and after driving it for over 6,200 miles. (That’s a lot of miles; I’ve loved every one of them!) I finished off the day with good traditional local fare for my supper and enjoyed a beautiful rainbow while doing so.  It was a perfect day!

I had a few more days left in September on my itinerary. I wanted to use them wisely, so I returned to a couple of my favourite haunts to see some of my favourite people one more time before I headed back home to America.

After an uneventful ferry ride back to Ireland, I rented another car and made a beeline to Northern Ireland to see my good Frew friends for a few days…Deirdre, Heather – the whole Frew girl lot! I had some additional special personal time together with both Deirdre and Heather, exploring a few new sights. Deirdre, and her wonderful little great-granddaughter, Lilly, took me to the waterfalls at Glenariff and then we drove along the northern coastline near Carnlough and Glenarm. Beautiful!

Heather treated me to a visit to her sister’s fabulous tea room near Armagh.

All the “Frew girls” near Ballymena are always a delight to see. It’s a real hoot to get together and spend time with each other (usually  laughing our heads off!)

After spending a week or so in Ireland, I spontaneously decided at the last minute to change my plans. My sister, Sue, and her husband, George, had arrived in London a few weeks earlier and had been travelling north to Scotland while I was exploring Wales. We didn’t think we would see each other while we were both in the UK at the same time. That was until I decided to surprise them!

After conspiring with my cousin Lindsay in Aberdeen, I drove back to Dublin, returned the rental car, took the ferry back to Holyhead, rented another car and then proceeded to drive all the way to Aberdeen to his house arriving the same day that my Sue and George did.

That was a long drive, let me tell you! I didn’t arrive in Aberdeen until the well after midnight. While I was driving they arrived in Aberdeen, had dinner with our cousin Lindsay and made plans for the following day to go visit a castle or two. When they arrived at Lindsay’s front door in the morning, I went out the back door and circled round to the front, and then waited for a couple of minutes for them to get a bit settled, then I rang the doorbell.

Lindsay commented to Sue & George, “Oh, I hope you don’t mind; a neighbour lady friend of mine heard we were going to visit a castle and wondered if she could come along. Do you mind if she joins us?”

“Sure, the more – the merrier!” my sister replied. He opened the door and invited me in, pretending to introduce his “neighbour friend” and boy you should have seen the look of surprise and delight when they realized it was me. They couldn’t believe it and were quite surprised!  We all had such a great time together; a special “family heritage, ancestry” time exploring castles we have ancestral ties to with each other for a couple of days.

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First, we visited Fraser Castle, the Clan that our Frew ancestors are associated with. We visited another castle at Braemar that Sue and I share ancestral connections to and we also toured Craigievar Castle just because it’s one of my favourites and also because I was sure they would absolutely love it.

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Spending a little extra special time with each of my favourite people at the end of a very special trip was the perfect way to end it.

IMG_8286Well, like they say, all good things shall come to an end…

I have had a fun time sharing my travel adventures here on this blog.  Thanks for reading it, sharing it with friends and family and coming to read the posts on my blog.  Happy Trails!  ~ Claudia

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Wales – Part Four ~ Caernarfon Castle & the Welsh Highland Railway

IMG_6759I was snuggled up real cozy at the YHA Snowdon Llanberis hostel on the morning of September 6th. The hostel was nestled at the base of Snowdonia Mountain. I opened my eyes, peeked out the window from my warm bed and pinched myself; what an idyllic location! I noticed it was a bit misty outside, but, was glad that at least it wasn’t raining! I was excited about exploring this new territory in oh-so-many-ways. The guidebooks & travel articles I read, as well as some personal experiences that friends have shared, have revealed that there are a lot of things I would like to see and experience here in Northern Wales.

After a satisfying breakfast of scrambled eggs and toast, I decided to go for a walk along the edge of the nearby lake, Llyn Pardan, to kick start my morning. Along the way, I thoroughly enjoyed the company of some very friendly local swans who quickly swam over to me greeting me curiously as I strolled.

 

Since it was my first full day in this area and I had so many things I wanted to see and do the next three days, I began prioritizing them. For instance, there is a steam railway in Llanberis which travels up Snowdonia Mountain right to the summit! As you might imagine, it is quite popular, therefore requiring the purchase of tickets at least a couple of days in advance.

Since riding that particular steam train was a top priority I made sure I purchased my ticket straightway. I was lucky enough to get a ticket for the first run in the morning on the very last day I would be staying in town.  That was lucky! In the future, I will definitely go online and purchase them a lot sooner instead of waiting until I got there as I almost didn’t get one at all during my stay! That could have proved to be quite disappointing!

Another attraction I wanted to see was Caernarfon Castle. Luckily it was only about 7 miles away along a beautiful country road from where I was staying in Llanberis so after saying farewell to the swans, I jumped in the car and began the beautiful drive west in the sunshine that had broken through. In no time at all, I was standing right in front of that mighty impressive castle right at the water’s edge!

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It appeared in person just as the castle’s website had described it:

“A brute of a fortress. Caernarfon Castle’s pumped-up appearance is unashamedly muscle-bound and intimidating. Picking a fight with this massive structure would have been a daunting prospect. By throwing his weight around in stone, King Edward I created what is surely one of the most impressive of Wales’s castles. Worthy of World Heritage status no less.”IMG_6761

Like so many, it also had previously been the location of a Norman motte and bailey castle and before that, a Roman fort. The river and easy access to the sea made the banks of the River Seiont an ideal spot for King Edward’s monster of a castle with its polygonal towers; the Eagle Tower being the most impressive!

 

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The castle and its walled city were built in 1283 and it amazes me that they are still standing despite having been ruinous for a large number of those years!IMG_6911

It’s a fun little town to walk around both inside and out. I am so grateful that people had the foresight to preserve these beautiful architectural treasures for future generations.

The parking area on the right in the photo below is where all the ships and shipping activities flourished in the past. Rather quiet now with just parked cars! It used to bustle!IMG_6775

 

IMG_6880Like so many castles I have had the pleasure to visit on this trip, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Caernarfon Castle also holds ancestral connections for me. Edward I, King of England (1239 – 1307) built and lived in this castle and he is my 20th great-grandfather  Geez, it just gives me goosebumps when I make these discoveries!!!! 

I didn’t realize this fact until just now, as I write this blog and therefore didn’t know it while I was visiting the castle. Usually, before I visit a castle I check my family tree in Ancestry to discover whether or not the person who built the castle was an ancestor of mine. I didn’t check ahead of time because I didn’t realize I had any family connections in Wales. However, when the thought occurred to me to at least check now, although after the fact – lo and behold! – I did have a connection! Amazing!

I suppose I should be getting quite used to this by now, but it never ceases to impress upon me how complex my ancestry is; how many golden ancestral threads crisscross the countryside of this island. It’s like my ancestry DNA is weaving its own beautiful tapestry with a thread from each place containing all the individual pieces of splendour and history from each location and each person in my family tree.

I cannot recommend highly enough nor encourage you more to trace your roots. Tracing your family history and visiting the actual locations they come from is such a unique and wonderfully fulfilling experience. Sure, it takes a little work to figure out who your ancestors are (and that can be quite fun in itself) and it also takes some more time to map out where they came from, but it’s oh-so-worth-it!  Doing so has really helped me to learn a lot more about history, my ancestors and most importantly, myself, who I am and where I come from.

So….anyway, back to this castle – one that one of my great grandpas from way-back-when built in 1283…   It’s pretty amazing both inside and out. Let’s take a detailed look.

I walked around the outside perimeter and also walked around and through the small quaint city inside the walls while I waited for the castle doors to open for the day. The city had all kinds of interesting buildings and shops, a town square called the Maes, churches and many busy little side streets that were fun to explore.

 

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No matter what angle I took a picture from, the castle constantly appears formidable and takes centre stage. The view above is taken from the town square, ‘the Maes,’ and the big archway opening on the left side of the castle is called Queen’s Gate. There used to be a stone ramp that led up to it from the quay, but it’s long gone.

Below are pictures which were taken from the Queen’s Gate arch looking both into the interior of the castle, and looking back down to the Maes.

 

King’s Gate, the main entrance, is about halfway down the right side of the castle walls. After getting all of these great pictures of the outside, I ended up at the castle doors just at the right time to be greeted by a friendly face who was opening the doors and welcoming his guests to the castle.

 

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Off I went exploring further inside after purchasing my concessionaires discount ticket! (I love being a senior citizen!)

 

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I climbed to the top of the towers… and there were a lot of them!  I think I counted about 9 and some of them were about ten stories high at their rooftop levels! I got my exercise that day… The views from atop were outstanding and magnificent.  My favourites!

 

 

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All throughout the interior of the towers and rooms throughout the castle were numerous displays and exhibits, such as The Royal Welsh Fusiliers Regimental Museum,

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where you will find a wealth of original exhibits with film, sound and models, telling the story of over 300 years of service by Wales’ oldest infantry regiment.

 

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IMG_6856There was also this display of all of the main characters throughout the course of the castle’s history set on a chess board. The white pieces represent the English; the red represents the Welsh. It was a very interesting way of presenting a very dry subject and it was fun to walk around and intermingle amongst them.

 

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Then there was the King’s bedroom in another tower….IMG_6905

 

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IMG_6909It was a wonderful castle to tour; one of the best I’ve been to, actually. They had really good audiovisual equipment, professional and updated contemporary signage. Their displays were extensive and quite informative.

After visiting such a massive structure, however, I was ready for something a little bit smaller, kind of cozy, and gentile.  So, I got back in the car and headed inland this time and down the road to another wonderful spot, the quaint village of Beddgelert. Straightway I found a handy parking place right next to a perfect outdoor cafe with riverside seating where I enjoyed a delicious lunch while listening to the flowing and rippling water nearby.

 

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After a very satisfying meal, I took off on foot exploring across the bridges, down the streets and on the pathway to an unusual grave.

 

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IMG_7002Next, I walked to the top of the town where the train station is, IMG_7001bought a roundtrip ticket and boarded a steam train bound for Porthmadog.

 

 

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It was a really cool old train which meandered through the glen following the river most of the way, going through tunnels and blowing its whistle. I felt like a little kid and enjoyed it tremendously.IMG_7066

 

 

 

 

As we approached Porthmadog, the ground levelled out and we were travelling through farmland looking at the mountain ranges on either side of the lush valley.

 

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Entering Porthmadog was an event in itself. The train tracks go right down the main street to the station and vehicular traffic as well as foot traffic is barricaded so the train can drive down Main street and over to the station.

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Once we arrived at the station, all passengers disembarked and stretched their legs while the Engine went down to the turntable to reposition itself.  It also gave us a chance to have a good look at the engine that had been pulling us.

 

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I mosied around the train station for a little while I waited, grabbed a fresh coffee and a lovely little welsh pastry to go with it, and discovered quite a few things of interest close at hand. That station was right at the harbour’s edge, in the centre of this bustling little seaside town.

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There were several very interesting and beautiful steam trains to marvel at.

 

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IMG_7068Soon it was time to board the train again to head back to Beddgelert. The First Class cabin had pretty lush and comfortable looking seating, but you couldn’t open the window and let the wind blow in your hair! I’ll take the latter, thank you!

We began the ascent up into the mountains and enjoyed the beautiful scenery once again in reverse order.

When I arrived in Beddgelert again, I still had just the right amount of sunlight left in the day to take the same road through Pen-y-Pass as I had the day before, retracing the way I had come. There was some absolutely gorgeous scenery through there and I wanted to take my time, stop at every turnout and take a picture or two this time through. The day before I had been driving all day long and was looking for my next hostel so I hadn’t had time to stop but once or twice.  Now I had plenty of time to stop, much more sunlight for my photos, and much more time to spend enjoying and capturing nature’s grandeur and beauty.

 

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It was a delightful day, full of fun train rides, beautiful scenery and an outstanding historic castle. Who could ask for more? Not I! My day had been chock full of wonderful surprises and discoveries and I was grateful for them all.

I returned to my hostel nestled up on the side of the hill at the base of Snowdonia. I treated myself to a serving of Bangers and Mash supper that the hostel offered for dinner that night, chased it with a nice dram of Scottish whisky and then my day was complete.  I tucked away for the evening in my cozy bed back in my “room with a view” in anticipation of the next day – yet another castle to explore, wonderful waterfalls and an ancient archaeological site to visit!

 

 

Leith Hall Gardens, Kildrummy Kirk & Hairy Coo’s – All in a Day’s Work of Blogging!

mapSince 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!’

IMG_2407The 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.

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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.IMG_2541

IMG_2469There 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!

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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.

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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…

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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!IMG_2548

 

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!”

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What a pair of hams!

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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.

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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.

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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…

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…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!

 

Huntly Castle

Having traveled back and forth on the A96 between Aberdeen and Inverness many a time in my travels, I’ve passed the town of Huntly without blinking.  I never guessed there was a castle there, let alone one that one of my ancestors lived in!

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It’s another obscure and gem of a castle hidden in this small, unpretentious village and one that I didn’t discover until I visited Historic Scotland’s website to see what other properties might interest me.

Like Tolquhon Castle which I visited last week, I read about the inhabitants, searched for the names in my family tree and was utterly amazed to find the following relation on my dad’s side of the tree:

George Marquess of Huntly Gordon (1591 – 1649)
12th great-grandfather

Anne Gordon (1613 – 1656)
daughter of George Marquess of Huntly Gordon

James Drummond (1648 – 1716)
son of Anne Gordon

Mary Drummond (1675 – 1729)
daughter of James Drummond

James Francis Edward Keith (1696 – 1758)
son of Mary Drummond

Geo Alexander Keith (1715 – 1796)
son of James Francis Edward Keith

Daniel Keith (1739 – 1829)
son of Geo Alexander Keith

Nancy Keith (1766 – 1838)
daughter of Daniel Keith

Andrew S Scott (1786 – 1859)
son of Nancy Keith

Nancy Scott (1811 – )
daughter of Andrew S Scott

Elizabeth “Lizzie” Holiday (1842 – 1872)
daughter of Nancy Scott

Nancy Anne Brundage (1867 – 1948)
daughter of Elizabeth “Lizzie” Holiday

William Rose Frew II (1885 – 1976)
son of Nancy Anne Brundage

William Kenneth Frew (1917 – 1997)
son of William Rose Frew II

Claudia Louise Frew
You are the daughter of William Kenneth Frew

Needless to say I decided this was definitely a “must see” castle, especially because this ancestor was a “Marquess!”

George

Here’s a little bit of history about him and his wife, Henrietta Stewart Marchioness of Huntly.  Note:  Henrietta is also a Stewart! (I have a lot of Stewart’s in my family tree; therefore she’s probably related to me in more ways than just George’s wife, but that’s probably another story sometime and the tangled web of gentry, aristocratic families marrying one another! Tolquhon’s William Forbes’ wife was Lady Elizabeth Gordon, who was probably also related to George Gordon of Huntly.  Like I said, tangled webs to try to trace out and unravel!)

Now for the history –

Originally this castle was a ‘motte & bailey’ type castle and the motte can still be seen today immediately to the west of the site of the standing remains of the castle. The bailey was reused for the site of the later castles.

According to Wikipedia: “By early 1306, John of Strathbogie, by now both Earl of Fife and Earl of Atholl, was executed by Edward I for supporting Robert the Bruce. The castle passed to his son, David of Strathbogie. After years of family support for Robert the Bruce, which included his using the castle as a base in 1307, David of Strathbogie chose to shift his support to the English early in 1314. This was a bad move, coming as it did just before Robert the Bruce’s final victory at the Battle of Bannockburn.

In response to what he would have seen as treachery, Robert the Bruce granted the castle and the lands of Strathbogie to Sir Adam Gordon of Huntly, in Berwickshire, who had shown him more consistent loyalty. This brought the Gordons to Moray, and with them the name of Huntly that was later to replace Strathbogie as the name of the place in which they settled.”

George didn’t build the castle we see today, it had been around for a long time, but he inherited it after a very tumultuous past.

According to Undiscovered Scotland:

“George, the 6th Earl of Huntly, joined a plot against James VI in 1594. The King’s response was to attack the castle, damaging it again and blowing up the remains of the old tower house on the north side of the enclosure. By 1599 George had made his peace with James VI and been promoted to Marquis of Huntly. His response was a further round of building work at Huntly Castle, designed to make the 1550 palace even grander and more decorative.

The remodeling around 1600 included the remarkable fireplaces on view in the palace, one of which is dated 1606, and the decorative oriel windows and inscription on the exterior of the upper floor of the palace. The inscription reads: George Gordon First Marquis of Huntlie 16 above Henriette Stewart Marquesse of Huntlie 02. The “16” and “02” together date the completion of this part of the work. Also dating to this remodelling is the incredible carved frontispiece stretching vertically above the main entrance to the palace on the courtyard side. This is unique in Britain.”

“Huntly Castle last played an active role in Scottish History in 1746, when it was held by Government Troops against the Jacobites. It later became a handy quarry for those building the town of Huntly before its value as an attractive ruin began to be appreciated in the late 1800s. It was passed into State care in 1923, and is now looked after by Historic Environment Scotland.”

Now that we’ve talked a bit about the history, let’s have a look at this place.

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Of note is the “hand of God” on the facade to the left of both George’s and Henrietta’s names, signifying they were ‘divined’ by God.  Hmmm….

 

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IMG_0510This little sign solved a mystery.  I was looking at my family tree, and noticed that George’s ancestors were from Strathbogie, but yet also associated with Huntly castle and this was confusing to me.  Now I know!

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As soon as you cross the threshold when entering the door you encounter a spiral staircase!  These steps do not appear to be the original ones and I can’t help but think that there must have been some sort of landing inside the door with stairs leading up to the main floors and on the other side perhaps a door, separating the other stairs leading down to the servants area below.  It’s just a guess; doesn’t seem right somehow because they put so much thought and design into the rest of the castle, I would think they would’ve given much more thought to this grand entrance to impress guests.

So let’s head downstairs first…

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The lower part of the castle had two levels, so now we’ll head further down to the lowest level.

Mainly it had three vaulted ceiling rooms like the room above for storage of grains, wine, etc.  But at the end of the corridor was this narrow passageway that lead to the dungeon!

On the walls of the corridor we found some very old graffiti!

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Let’s head back upstairs now and check out the upper floors, shall we?

Straightway we come to the Grand Hall, the first room visiting guests would have seen!

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Then, beyond that door at the end of the room you move into this room below…

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Up the stairs and directly above this room was the Masters bedroom as shown below.

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The “privy” or toilet adjacent to the bed-chamber.

Further up the stairs to the next level…

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Wow!  This looks interesting!  Henrietta’s “Withdrawing Room.”

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IMG_0648Nice bay windows too with wonderful views to boot!  I like this room!

Let’s check out the room adjoining this one…IMG_0651

 

 

 

 

 

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Looking out the bay windows, I can get a close up look at the facade below.

There’s still one more final floor to explore; up the stairs we go to the highest point…

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And what a view it is indeed!  I can just imagine my great grandfather gazing out this window surveying his lands below.

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One last little room at the tippy top and it’s back down the stairs we go…

IMG_0483 One last look back at the castle that I thoroughly enjoyed exploring.  Rather unique in oh-so-many ways.

It always never ceases to amaze me how much more I feel connected with ancestors after having spent time wandering around the places they inhabited. At first glance, I wouldn’t think it would make that much difference, but am continuing to be amazed each time I visit a place where they lived, breathed, cried, loved, and often also died, just how much more I feel I know them, and myself, better. Some little part of my DNA resonates with theirs and I know whence I came from in part.

People often ask me why I continue to come back to Scotland over and over again. My answer, “I feel compelled to do so.”

After visiting Scotland the first time to visit Dingwall where my emmigrant great grandfather had come from I actually believed that would be my one and only visit. A few years later, after I retired, I first started to build upon my family tree and investigate my heritage further.

I never imagined it would lead to these adventures. I was just curious. After four years of judiciously building the tree I got glimpses into where I came from and the intrigue began. Having found out even more information about my heritage, I decided it would be nice to return to Scotland again and explore some more. Including the present visit, I have now come back 5 times and who knows how many more there might be.

Each stage seemed ‘unconnected,’ but now, in hindsight, I’ve found that in reality, each step of the way has proven to be a journey of self-discovery. Just when I think I’ve exhausted the trail of clues, new ones emerge, making the story of “me” fuller and more complex. The more I discover, the more I want to explore. If that means returning to Scotland over and over again, then so be it.  Here…twist my arm!

After that wonderful tour of the castle we exited through the reception area and I found this little tidbit.  What was its purpose?  It seems to be a riddle. I think maybe it might have been the head to a puppet.  Who knows?

We had worked up an appetite so we headed across the bridge and down to the river to enjoy our picnic lunch before heading over Broombrae with its wonderful view of where we’d been to head back home to Aberdeen.

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Isle of Skye – the Rest of it

After visiting the mesmerizing fairy pools, I leisurely drove further north up the west coast of Skye along the A863 through Struan, Ose, and Roskhill.  Still basking in the colorful waters of the pools and falls of the fairies I delighted in the continual beauty around every turn or hill the road took me up, over, or around.  Before I knew it I had arrived at my next planned stop, Dunvegan.

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Why Dunvegan? Because Clan MacLeod castle, Dunvegan, is there!

According to Scotland/Alba: Built on a rock in an idyllic loch side setting, Dunvegan is the oldest continuously inhabited castle in Scotland and has been the ancestral home of the Chiefs of Clan MacLeod for 800 years.

On display are many fine oil paintings and clan treasures, the most famous of which is the Fairy Flag. Legend has it that this sacred banner has miraculous powers and when unfurled in battle, the clan MacLeod would invariably defeat their enemies.

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Another of the castle’s great treasures is the Dunvegan Cup, a unique ‘mazer’ dating back to the Middle Ages. It was gifted by the O’Neils of Ulster as a token of thanks to one of our most celebrated Chiefs, Sir Rory Mor, for his support of their cause against the marauding forces of Queen Elizabeth I of England in 1595.

 

And for all my fellow Outlander fans, there was also have a impressive collection of Bonnie Prince Charlie related items on display including: One of the Prince’s waistcoats, a Jacobite amen glass, a lock of the Prince’s hair etc., which were of particular interest to me. As I admired the collection and read the descriptions, I noticed one thing in particular, the date that Flora MacDonald and Prince Charlie had narrowly escaped the British forces under disguise after the battle of Culloden on June 29, 1746. The day I was at Dunvegan, looking at the memorabilia from that event was June 29th; exactly 271 years later! Hmmmm…

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Unfortunately however, photography was not allowed inside the castle!  Not unusual especially when a castle is still occupied by inhabitants for obvious personal identity reasons, but dang!  (Perhaps I can find some photos available online to include here so you get a glimpse of what I saw.)

It was fabulous!  In the meantime, here are pictures I took on the outside.

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Below is the sea gate.  Originally this was the entrance to the castle; the only entrance!

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These are the photographs of the inside taken from Images of Dunvegan Castle interior on google.F

I was also too tired and hungry to tour the gardens (can you believe it?) so here are some photos of what the gardens have to offer via google images.

 

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The gardens were very pretty but my phone had run out of ‘juice’ at this point, and so was I.  It was getting late in the afternoon, I was getting mighty hungry and I needed to find my hostel in Portree so off I went in search of it.

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I drove along back toward Portree and found this old house and old bridge further down the road that I couldn’t resist not getting a photo of.  Luckily the phone had charged just enough in the car as I drove to be able to take a few more pictures again!

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When I arrived in Portree I practically drove right to the very nice hostel I would be spending the night in and, again it was located quite picturesquely across from the waters edge!

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What a view right across the street from the hostel!

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After getting checked in, I headed down to the harbour, found a great little restaurant, and settled into some absolutely divine seafood, a nice whiskey and another scrumptious raspberry dessert pudding to top it off.

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Boy did I ever sleep soundly that night after such a delicious dinner! Good thing too because the following day had a lot in store for me!

The only portion of Skye I hadn’t explored yet was the northwestern tip, so from Portree I followed the A87 toward Uig and spent the day touring the northern tip in a clockwise manner.

Uig (below) was a quaint little village tucked snugly in a cove. Just outside of the village I turned at the junction of A855 and the road turns sharply right in a tight hairpin turn which pulled me up and over the top of the hill urging me to explore further along the coastline looking out to sea over pasture lands on the left and the rising mountains on the left as I meandered along the mostly single track roadway.

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I drove along enjoying the views until I arrived in the village of Kilmuir. There is the most interesting and well restored thatched roof community of crofters houses called the Skye Museum of Island Life!  I spent a good deal of time meandering through each of the quaint cottages all the while catching a glimpse of how the people lived, loved, fished and farmed in this remote location near the headlands of Skye.

Join me here as I take you around with pictures of just a smattering of what the museum offers building by building.  I think you might like this!

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First, the blacksmith shop…in one end of the building and the local ‘shop’ at the other end….

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Ceilidh means ‘visit’ in Gaelic, and often is used to refer to a small gathering of friends and neighbours. Long ago before television and radio, neighbours would meet in a house to make their own entertainment; play music, sing, dance and tell stories around the fire. This ceilidh house is filled with old photographs and documents covering a wide range of subjects regarding Skye and offers a great deal of information about their local heroine from the Jacobite cause and Bonnie Prince Charlie – Flora MacDonald!

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Further up the road up the road near the headlands I stumbled upon yet another castle, although quite ruinous, Duntulm Castle. Duntulm Castle stands ruined on the north coast of TrotternisH near the hamlet of Duntulm. During the 17th century it was the seat of the chiefs of Clan MacDonald of Sleat.

Duntulm was originally a Pictish fortress, forming one of a chain of duns, or forts, stretching along the north coast of the Isle of Skye. On the arrival of the Norsemen the fort became the residence of a powerful Viking leader who gave it the name David’s Fort.

Trotternish often changed hands. It was not until the 16th century that the Lords of the Isles finally seized the territory and Donhall Gorm (Blue Donald) the chief, took up residence there and carried out considerable improvements to the fort. In 1730 the MacDonalds moved away from Duntulm and stayed for a time at Monkstadt before building their new castle at Armadale.

Duntulm is home to a clach-ultaich, a lifting stone. It is said to weigh a ton.

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After Duntulm, I was looking forward to seeing the massive peaks and land slip of the Quiraing and the Old Man of Storr but it was a misty day with clouds hiding the peaks.

I did, however, get to see Kilt rock!!! (below) Wowsers!

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It was only about 1 o’clock in the afternoon when I returned to Portree and I was supposed to spend another night in the hostel there, but… a thought came into my head!

One of my favorite parts about visiting Scotland is returning to Dingwall, my ancestral home where my great grandfather, William Rose Frew, emigrated from.  I was only about a 3-4 hour drive from there, and although I wasn’t expected until the following day, I thought “Why not?! Pack up and start driving Claudia, there is no time like the present!”

That’s exactly what I did!  I could feel the tug of Dingwall’s magnetic pole pulling me ever closer as each mile effortlessly passed beneath my wheels!  It was as if the car knew the way home just as I did and before I knew it I was coming down the hill at Strathpeffer and rolling down into the town I love in Scotland the best and where two of my very best friends in the whole world live, Pat & Ian MacLeod!

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Emerald Island Escapades; Week 5 of 5

Ahoghill to Dublin. June 8 – 14th

This final week of our Ireland  adventure continues in Northern Ireland for a couple of days.  On Wednesday June 7th, Deirdre, Lynne and I left Deirdre’s house early to catch a ferry boat from Ballycastle harbor over to Rathlin Island for the day.

It wasn’t long before we were approaching the harbor of the island and we quickly found ourselves aboard the Puffin Bus shuttle bus which took us around the island and over to the west side where a very unusual lighthouse stands and the puffins, razorbills and guillemots were nesting for the season at the bird preserve.  What a fascinating sight that was.

It was also Lynne’s birthday so it made for a very special day for her. After touring the island we went back to the mainland via the fast ferry and had a nice, but quick visit with Deirdre’s Aunt Marion who owns a a B&B near the harbor in Ballycastle.  So nice to meet Marion, and Deirdre’s cousin, Boyd, as well.

For dinner we stopped at Stewart Frew’s fish and chip shop in Ahoghill and had the pleasure of seeing him and his daughter, Nicola, as well as feasting on some of their absolutely scrumptious fish!

On Thursday Lynne and I drove to nearby Antrim Castle & gardens after we renewed the paperwork on our rental car at the Belfast International airport.

The grounds were very pretty and the castle ruins interesting to wander through and admire.

There was even a very old Motte from the old motte and bailey. In days of long, long ago they used to build wooden castles upon a motte before the more modern stone and mortar types we are more familiar with.  A motte-and-bailey castle is a fortification with a wooden or stone keep situated on a raised earthwork called a motte, accompanied by an enclosed courtyard, or bailey, surrounded by a protective ditch and palisade.

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After our stroll through the grounds we stopped in to ‘refresh’ ourselves in the Tea Room and I indulged in a raspberry and white chocolate scone with clotted cream and fresh raspberry jam.  yum!

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That evening Deirdre, Lynne and I were invited over to Maureen’s house for a lovely dinner, a little libation and some really great laughs at her beautiful home.