Drum Castle Gardens – The Garden of Historic Roses


As you have probably already guessed by now, I am a gardener and an avid flower lover. Any chance I get to visit a garden is a blessing.  This garden at Drum Castle is a very nice walled garden.  Not really very big but still a peaceful and beautiful place to spend a few hours on a warm summer afternoon.  Let’s head down the path and see what it has to offer, shall we?
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On the way I got some exceptional shots of some of Lindsay’s other personalities!

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It is divided into distinct sections representing different centuries (i.e., 17th, 18th, 19th century…) and how gardens were generally planned and laid out for their respective time.
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It emphasizes the cultivation of roses and their historic place and development throughout the centuries.

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At left is a sun dial.






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Never seen a yellow thistle before!

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These rose hips were quite unusual;

I don’t recall ever seeing any quite like them either!

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The little rose reminded me of Dogwood blossoms.


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Drum Castle

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IMG_5120 (Edited)And isn’t the bark on these trees interesting?

It peels off like satin ribbons.  It is a himalayan birch bark cherry tree (prunus serrula).

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On our way out of the castle and garden grounds I couldn’t resist taking a picture of these ladies soaking up the sunshine…..  They are definitely contented cows wouldn’t you say?

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Kildrummy Castle & Gardens

IMG_4646 (Edited) I had a wonderful surprise waiting for me on this bright sunny Monday.

Last year when Lindsay and I had been touring the countryside he stopped at the Kildrummy Castle car park and asked me if I would like to visit this one.  It was late in the day and we were kind of tired so I told him, “No, that’s ok, I don’t have any ancestors tied to this one, let’s just call it a day.”  and so we drove away.

After I had visited Butchart Gardens earlier this year, Lindsay mentioned to me that there is a similar quarry garden near his home that also grows the Himalayan Blue poppies which Butchart features and he wondered if I might be interested in visiting the Kildrummy Castle Gardens when I am visiting him.  I told, “Oh, most definitely, that would be very nice.”

Yesterday, just before we left to visit them, he had printed out some information on the castle and inquired if I would also like to visit it since we didn’t visit last year.  I told him “Sure, why not?”  As I looked at the information he had printed out for my benefit, a thought occurred to me to check my tree in Ancestry just in case there might be a familial connection.  I was completely surprised to find that in fact there were some family connections, and not only one obscure one, but about 5 of them that I had no idea existed!

The first 3 people connected to Kildrummy were great aunts and cousins, but the last 2 were 19th and 22nd Great grandparents!  Ka-ching!  I just hit another ancestral jackpot!

The family names were Erskine and were the Earls of Mar and were linked through marriage to Robert the Bruce in the early 1300s who was often at Kildrummy.  It also is associated with the Stewart family (of which I have many ancestors) and Kildrummy played a major role in Jacobite Rising (if you are an “Outlander” fan like I am)

Armed with this new information, exploring the ruins of the castle took on a whole new significance.  Let’s go take a look…

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The view of the countryside from the castle….IMG_4748

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When we got ready to leave, the lovely lady who had sold us our tickets, Morag, really wanted me to be sure and sign the Guest Book since I had such strong ties to this castle. She really made me feel exceptionally special!

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At left is a model of what the castle would have looked like and below are artifacts they unearthed at the site.  Maybe some of my ancestors used some of those items!  Imagine!

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Next stop, the quarry below the castle where the stone blocks for the castle came from.  It has been transformed into a simply beautiful garden!
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Down the path we go to explore the delights found around each and every corner.

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It even had a very interesting little museum stuffed with unusual items from the past, such as these antique glass window shards below…

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Giant bellows (left)

Musket balls and old coins (below)IMG_4913 (Edited)IMG_4916 (Edited)IMG_4919 (Edited)

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It was an absolutely delightful day and what a treasure of ancestry!

Hazelhead Park, Aberdeen

On a quiet Sunday, and after such a big day like Saturday at the Lonach Highland Gathering, it’s a perfect day to just relax, take it kind of easy, and just go for a stroll to smell the roses.

Just a few short blocks from Lindsay’s house is a wonderful city park…imageimageimage







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Loved this version of Rodin’s “The Thinker” entitled “The Re-Thinker” made from recycled and repurposed bits of metal scraps.





175th Lonach Highland Games

Yesterday, Lindsay and I headed out to Strathdon to attend the Lonach Highland Games.


The Lonach Highland and Friendly Society was founded in 1823 by Sir Charles Forbes, 1st Baronet of Newe and Edinglassie (1773-1849). Membership is drawn from the inhabitants of Strathdon, who continue to fulfil the society’s original mission of preserving Highland dress and “supporting loyal, peaceful, and manly conduct; and the promotion of social and benevolent feelings among the inhabitants of the district.”

It was a lot of fun and very interesting to attend an authentic event such as this and of course, there were A LOT of men in kilts in a wide range of variety!

The day commences with the March of the Lonach Highlanders departing Bellabeg at 8am returning to the Lonach Hall where they are provided with a dram of whiskey.



The man with the two eagle feathers in his cap is Lord James Forbes, the head of the Forbes Clan.  The Lonach Gathering includes two clans; the Forbes (in green tartan) and the Wallace clan (in red tartan).



When they on their march, they have a police escort, Sargent Mitchell, who rides a 1931 bicycle, wears a 1934 uniform and he proudly told me he was born in 1955 and has been escorting them on their march for 17 years!








After a long march in the morning, they are provided a nice lunch in Lonach Hall. Afterward they form up once again and march to the games field where we will meet up with them later.  Now let’s head to the games field ourselves and see what it has to offer.


Lindsay and I met up with Lindsay’s’ daughter, Lisa, her beau – Robin, and her daughter Ailie, and we started out enjoying all of the various events.

First there were the Highland dancing competitions:




Races, which included relays, and the famous “hill race” where they race around the games field, head out the gate, run up the nearby hill and back down into the arena (which takes about 1/2 hour!) The Shot Put competition…

Tug of War between the two clans…DSC00047

DSC00046 (2)the Tossing of the Caber

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And of course a wide variety of men in kilts in all sizes, ages and styles….















IMG_4481and this one particular dapper dude who was delighted I wanted to take his picture…

IMG_4501There many vendor tents with art, jewelry, woolen goods, and of course whiskey and food!IMG_4431


We had such a fun-filled day together.IMG_1533IMG_1053









Lindsay even ran into an old mate he used to work with and hadn’t seen in years…


The Lonach Highlanders march one final time around the game field at the end of the day, lead by their trusty police escort, Sargent Mitchell.  This year, as a special tribute, the Atholl Highlanders, ceremonial infantry regiment, joined the Forbes and Wallace clans. They are the only official private army in all of Europe (which is why they are allowed to carry rifles!) It was quite a sight to see over 300 marchers parade around the fields. The Lonach Highlanders are the only ones who have a march of the highlanders.  It is a “must see – must do” that will tug at your Scottish heart strings…








and last, but by all means least, the march members include “Socks” the horse, who pulls the cart!


It was a wonderful day filled with everything Scottish, including Scotty Dogs!

When you visit Scotland, make it very high priority to visit one of their many Highland Gathering, enjoy the games and all the tradition they represent.  You won’t be disappointed.

Back in Scotland! First stop – a visit to Crathes Castle Gardens

IMG_4155IMG_4156Yes indeedy, I am back in Scotland once again and oh-so-happy to be here!  I landed in Aberdeen yesterday after a very long flight and just in time to enjoy an evening meal with cousin Lindsay at Cult’s Hotel where we both enjoyed a traditional meal of Fish & Chips!

Afterwards, we got caught up on the latest news and of course enjoyed a ‘wee dram’ before retiring for the evening!  Yum!  IMG_4161IMG_4163

Then I fell fast asleep…

First thing this morning we woke up to sunshine, and although we had planned a kind of laid back, “de-jetlag,” kind of day, we decided to make hay while the sun was shining and we headed straightway to Crathes Castle. We visited and toured the castle last year in the springtime.  Since it is much later in the season the garden is now blooming profusely and absolutely beautiful.  I’ll let the pictures pretty much speak for themselves.IMG_4165   IMG_4195







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This is the beautiful dovecot off in the corner of the garden…. it even has it’s own heraldic device!IMG_4198

IMG_4203Butterfly bushes, astilbe, poppies and fountains…







Then there was this gnarly old tree with a chiselled out stone which serves as a planter box, bigger ones were traditionally used as horse or cattle troughs. Interesting rings of bark on that old tree.IMG_4228  IMG_4225




And of course, there were fuschias galore…IMG_4217



IMG_4222IMG_4231Inside the greenhouses….  more floral treasures
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IMG_4265and one heck of a giant gnarly thistle!



IMG_4272Lindsay stopped to smell the roses, especially these since they are the Crathes Castle Rose!IMG_4273


IMG_4278and for my friends back in Oregon, you should definitely recognize this tree since we have an abundance of them and use them for a good hard firewood – the madrone!




Those beautiful Yew hedges so painstakingly pruned and such an unusual specimen of hedges and topiary…




There was even a friendly resident kitten that begged me to rub her belly as I passed.


I love this dragonfly statue in the water feature.





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On the way back to Lindsay’s house we passed by the Falls of Feugh, where the salmon muster all they have to climb the falls in order to get to their spawning beds.IMG_4342 During the spring run the water is so high and rushing so fast you can’t even see any of these rocks and that one fir tree in the background, nearest the river, is on a tiny island all by itself!


For dinner (or Tea as the locals call it), we headed to one of our favorite places to eat…IMG_4343

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and we both enjoyed Scampi and chips! Yum!




I’m really enjoying myself and so happy to be “home” again in Scotland.  Can you tell?

IMG_4346Tomorrow we have another VERY interesting and exciting day planned.  Stay tuned because we are headed for the 175th Lonach Highland Gathering where there will be pipers and drummers, dancers and lots and lots of men in kilts who will be tossing the caber amongst other things.  It should prove to be one fantastic day you won’t want to miss!  Until then…







Part Three – North Shore Oahu; a little “island” time

After travelling to Paris in April and the Butchart and Butterfly Gardens in May, I received a spontaneous and surprise invitation from my son, Will, in late July to visit him and his girlfriend, Amy, on the North Shore of Oahu for a week.

I love spontaneity, as you’ve probably surmised by now, and he didn’t have to twist my arm very hard at all to accept his wonderful invite.

Their studio bungalow served as a perfect launching pad for lots of adventures and the making of very special memories indeed.

will and amy's studio on Olohio St

will and amy's kitchen

They were the perfect hosts, providing lots of homemade island yummy treats and meals from their kitchen and my ‘bedroom’ was outside under the stars no less!

Lucky for me, Amy even works at a Amy where she worksgreat coffee shop!  After arming ourselves with wonderful freshly brewed Hawaiian coffee, we headed to the local farmer’s market to gather some fresh veggies and Poke! Yum!


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Later that first day, we made homemade lemon drops (double YUM!) and headed to Will and Amy’s favourite beach, what they have dubbed “Pools,” just down the road to watch the sunset.

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will and amy at Pools

A perfect ending to a perfect first day in paradise!

The following day, after a wonderful and filling island breakfast…

we visited their favourite roadside fruit stand and walked to Kewela Beach.

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kewela beach scene

horseback riding

and finished the day at Turtle Bay resort watching yet another gorgeous sunset.

We enjoyed a lot of activities during the week, including the Haleiwa Arts Festival…

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One day I helped Will propagate a few newly sprouted baby water lilies in a nursery bed from his lily pond…

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while the precious Gheckos kept the porch clean…

and just had a nice, ‘hang loose’ kind of afternoon.IMG_3878

I thought it was a perfect day spent with my son but little did I know he still had a few surprises up his sleeves for later that evening.

He prepared a wonderful meal for all of use, utilizing the fresh herbs he grows on his lanai…

and we savoured it outside under the rising full moon laughing, talking and just having one heck of a great time together.romantic bungalow full moon July 2016

We sat there altogether on the grass enjoying the beauty of the moon filled sky when Will decided this was the perfect moment he had been waiting forIMG_3883 (Edited)

IMG_3916 (Edited)He reached in his pocket and pulled out my mother’s wedding rings which he had asked me to bring with me…

and he proposed to Amy and she said “YES!”

Is that just so darned romantic or what?!? I felt so honored and pleased to be able to share that special memory-making event with those two happy people who are in love!

IMG_3964 (Edited)Before that blessed week came to an end I managed to do a few more things like…snorkeling and collecting seashells for my friends in Scotland and Ireland (per request)…collecting shellswent sightseeing around the island….and on the final morning of my visit (as usual) I headed down to the beach one last time….

Afterwards, I headed out to the small local airport where Will works.pacific skydiving I watched the skydivers flying above and coming in for landings on the airstrip…

I got to meet a lot of the great people he works with; fellow skydivers, parachute packers, and then…

We climbed aboard this airplane…13700177_1232181353473226_6801992845649414878_nand I got to do a tandem jump with my son! Oh my goodness, it just doesn’t get much better than this!  Talk about an adventure. It’s divine to fly like a bird soaring at 14,000 feet and I couldn’t think of anyone I’d rather do it with.  He’s the best of the best!divineHe even gave me control of the canopy and showed me how to turn… what a kick!13908875_10210314513238814_7380960552469859364_o


Well, that concludes this three-part blog of my travel adventures so far this year. I hope you’ve enjoyed it.  I’ve been wanting to catch up with myself for months and been trying to find the time to write these blog posts before I set off on yet another adventure.

In less than one weeks’ time, I’ll have my bags packed once again. I am headed back to Scotland and Ireland for 2 months. Many, many more travel adventures await! Stay tuned. See you in Scotland!


Part Two -Butchart Gardens and the Butterfly Gardens, British Columbia

Once upon a time, there was a woman who dreamed. The woman was the wife of a man who owned a big cement operation and a very large and ugly limestone quarry pit. She dreamed of transforming that eyesore into a beautiful sight to behold.  Had it not been for her dreams, this place would have just been another hole in the ground, another gaping rip in the landscape.

Instead, nestled around Tod inlet on Vancouver Island, docka gem of a garden sparkles with prolific blooms in a most unlikely place.


I visited this place, quite by chance, over 20 years ago and vowed I would return again someday.  This was the year to do it!

From Southern Oregon, it is a nice scenic drive for a couple of days up to Washington and the Puget Sound.  In Port Angeles on the Olympic Peninsula,  a ferry can be caught to the beautiful city of Victoria.  Just a short drive north of Victoria is…front gate

The grounds are quite extensive; plan on staying awhile to get the whole effect!

Afterwards, for refreshment, you can enjoy a wonderful meal at the restaurant, or a nice refreshing snack at the ice cream or Gelato stand!

The tour begins from atop the rim of the former quarry with an outstandingly breathtaking view below…

    Descend and enter a gardener’s paradise…

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The Himalayan Blue Poppy – Butcharts’ signature flower.

Tucked nicely in the corner is a fascinating computerized fountain to sit and watch peacefully before continuing on.IMG_3265

Stroll further along the path to the sumptious Rose Gardens…

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Stroll past woodland waterfalls…waterfall

Marvel at the sculpted fountains…

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enjoy flowers galore at every turn.

Just when you think you’ve seen it all, a serene and exquisitely laid out Japanese Garden awaits…

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Hundreds of gardeners are constantly working the grounds, plucking spent blossoms, planting new plants in pots for fresh display or working in the background in the numerous greenhouses on the grounds which they maintain year round to grow and supply all the beautiful planting specimens for this entire garden!  Amazing!

If that’s not enough then stick around for evening fireworks on the ponds or summer concerts on the lawn.  A perfect place to enjoy nature’s bounty of flora, landscape design and music.

I found a simply wonderful B&B to stay in nearby, Benvenuto, the closest B&B to Butchart Gardens just a mile or so from the gates.

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I highly recommend this convenient place to stay. It is quiet, great hosts, unpretentious and has the best breakfast!IMG_3176

Simply delicious and delivered right to your door in a lovely basket!  Benvenuto sits right between the two locations I wanted to visit; Butchart Gardens and the Butterfly Gardens which we will head to next.

The Butterfly Gardens

It doesn’t look like very much from the outside but once you enter this magical place you’ll be transported temporarily to another world filled with tropical delight on wing.

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The place is small – yet packed with a tropical punch!

IMG_3469After enjoying all of these wonderful creatures and flowers I was ready for a nice dinner and libation at the water’s edge – watching the sunset.  A perfect way to end a simply wonderful day in some pretty fantastic gardens.

In Part Three, the third and final destination of this series is out in the middle of the great Pacific Ocean – we’re headed for Hawaii and a bit of romance and adventure!

Paris, British Columbia & Hawaii – Part One

A trio of wonderfully unique and varied destinations have been served up on my traveling agenda so far this year – Springtime in Paris  with friends in April, a nice little solo trip strolling through the world famous Butchart Gardens in Victoria, British Columbia during the merry month of May, and also, out in the middle of beautiful blue Pacific Ocean, I visited my skydiving son on the north shore on the Hawaiian tropical island of Oahu  in July!  Who could ask for more variety than that?!

Part One


10398999_1153046184720077_8321705333591934713_ngetting ready to climb Sacre Coeur domeFor two glorious weeks, my friends and I explored the city of love and light and were in awe of its splendor and beauty at every turn. I could’ve easily stayed longer to explore so much more.  I can now understand how so many fall in love with this place and never leave. Everywhere you turn there is something new, something bizarre, beautiful, elegant and sacred all at the same time.

Our lodging, Le Village Hostel, was situated conveniently at the base of Sacre Coeur Basilica in Montmartre where many a famous painter has created and cavorted over the centuries – a perfect neighbourhood for variety and eclecticism.

Paris has a plethora of cathedrals and churches in every make and model. They were a delight to tour, marvel at and climb to the top of to enjoy every square inch of their rich religious heritage and history. Absolutely Divine!  Literally….

Jesus in sc

There were so many famous art museums to visit (the Louvre and Orsay for example). We were tantalized and mesmerized in the presence of countless magnificent masterpieces.

And let us not forget the heavenly french food everywhere you look!




and the street markets filled with flowers and art…

We visited houses of famous people such as Victor Hugo (my favorite author),

and an extremely decadent palace at Versailles where there were surprises and delights in no short supply…

versailles palace

ceiling painting at versailles   versailles  royal chapel

and the delightful hamlet of Marie Antoinette in the Petite Trianon


Tuileries garden2I peered into every nook and cranny of Paris that I could find discovering beauty, curiosities, unbelievable vistas and landscapes.


montmartre vineyard

People, especially children, were fun to watch and enjoy…12472773_1153070944717601_6473839894508299841_n and the brides were everywhere a bridal shootwhich lead to baby carriages.baby carriage at Petit Triannon



At day’s end, Paris is a must see – must do kind of place.  It is quite the experience and nothing is ever quite the same. It stays in the heart and soul – and thank goodness!12932584_1153055748052454_1161192638153779848_n

In Part Two we’ll head for my second destination – Butchart Gardens – located on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada!