Just One More Castle

And not just any castle!  I love castles (as you might have guessed) and grew up thinking there was a ‘typical’ kind of Castle, probably due to Disney and Cinderella, but I’ve learned they are as diverse as the characters who built and inhabited them.

Yesterday was another beautiful day in Scotland, and I was pinching my cheeks that I woke up and was still here. In Aberdeen, the sky was somewhat cloudy, but I spotted a ‘sucker hole’ in the clouds off to the north.

“Didn’t you say Fyvie Castle is north of Aberdeen, Lindsay?”

“Aye, just about an hour away.”

“Well, in that case, I see a ‘sucker hole’ in the clouds in that direction that we should go follow!”


It turned out to be an absolutely gorgeous drive and perfect for a visit to one more Castle before I go home. As if to offer promise all things bright and beautiful, we suddenly found ourselves driving right under and through this spectacular splendor! Note the deep blue of the sky above the bow as compared to the light blue under its graceful arc.


img_2592Lindsay commented that I was like a kid in a sweety shop when it came to rainbows.  I told him, “Pull over, pull over! I’ve got to get some photos of this!”

It was magnificent and even doubled momentarily, although I barely got a shot of it being double by the time I got out of the car. I was, however, rewarded with a clear shot of where the pot of gold lays where it touched down through the trees.

Now, if that’s not an omen of treasure ahead, I don’t know what is!

A short time later, we also were enjoying this spectacular view as well!

Welcome to Fyvie castle!


This place has been added on to by four different families: Gordon, Meldrum, Seton, and finally Forbes-Leith. Originally it was a square-shaped fortress. About where I am standing, and taking this photograph, would have been the fourth corner of the original Castle with walls, about the height of the ground floor, spanning the distance to both the right and left towers. The ground in front of us would have been the inner medieval courtyard with people living and working inside its walls in wooden structures. The original Keep is that mid-center area along the left-hand wall. We’ll take a closer look at the original front door at that time when we go around the other side to have a look.

The Gordon’s had to forfeit their Castle after Culloden, and the Castle was given to the Meldrum family afterward as a reward for their allegiance to the British forces during the Jacobite Risings. They made improvements and made their mark on the place as did the succeeding families throughout time, each adding a level, a tower, etc. Usually, there are heraldic devices and symbolism on a castle from just one Clan, but this one has four, and it amazes me that each succeeding family did not remove the previous owners’ marks!

Before heading inside, let’s take a walk around the other side, walking on the sunny side of the street as it were…


This chestnut tree was absolutely amazing, with its ancient branches reaching out for sunlight along the ground.  The memories this tree must have of lords and ladies clambering about underneath and up in the limbs looking for ‘conkers’ to compete with!

You might ask like I did, what is conkers?  Well, let me digress here from the Castle momentarily and share with you what I learned from Lindsay what this favorite game is all about…

The Horse Chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) was first introduced to Britain from the Balkans in the late 16th century, but it was not until about 200 years later that the fruits of the horse chestnut trees were used to play ‘conkers.’

The game of conkers probably evolved from a game called ‘conquerors,’ which was initially played with snail (conch) shells. A variant of the game was later played with hazelnuts, on strings. By the 20th century, these earlier games had almost universally been replaced by the version we now know using horse chestnuts.

The autumn is the beginning of the season for the game when all over the country, children start collecting conkers. You will find them on the ground around horse chestnut trees. They come in prickly green cases. Collect a number of these and break open the cases to reveal the shiny brown conkers.

Choose one conker (a nice big round shiny one) and then bore a hole through the middle of it. Thread a piece of string through the hole and tie a knot at one end, so that it doesn’t pull through. The string should be long enough to wrap twice around your clenched hand and still have about 10 inches left.

A toss of the coin usually decides who starts first – but in the playground, this is more often a matter of whoever shouts something like ‘Obli, obli oh, my first go.’

Each player has their conker on its knotted string. Players take turns hitting their opponent’s conker.

If you are the one whose conker is to be hit first, let it hang down from the string which is wrapped around your hand. A 10-inch drop is about right. You must hold it at the height your opponent chooses, and you must keep it perfectly still.

Your opponent, the striker, wraps their conker string round his hand just like yours. He then takes the conker in the other hand and draws it back for the strike. Releasing the conker, he swings it down by the string held in the other hand and tries to hit her/his opponent’s conker with it. If he misses, he is allowed up to two further goes. If the strings tangle, the first player to call ‘strings’ or ‘snags’ gets an extra shot.

Players take alternate hits at their opponent’s conker. The game is won when one player destroys the other’s conker. If a player drops his conker or it is knocked from his hand, the other player can shout ‘stamps’ and immediately stamps on the conker, but should its owner first shout ‘no stamps,’ then ‘stamps’ is disallowed and the conker hopefully remains intact.

In playground tournaments, a winning conker can then go on to do battle with other conkers, each victory adding to the conker’s score. A conker which has won one battle is called a ‘one-er,’ two battles a ‘two-er’ and so on. So, for example, you might overhear a child saying, “I beat his fiver with my two-er.” In this case, and depending on which rules you play by, the winning two-er might simply become a three-er, or it might become an eight-er (two previous victories plus the victory over the fiver plus the five-score of the fiver). In this way, winning conkers can quickly accumulate quite big scores!

Folks are pretty serious about their game of ‘conkers,’ and at the World Conker Championships, they even crown their winners King & Queen!


Okay, back to the Castle. Let’s take a closer look at the details on this side.  Speaking of features, so that’s how they keep the window trim painted way up high!


Now a little closer still to admire some finer details…

Below is the original ‘front door.’ You can also see the specific levels of the Castle; first, the two lower round towers with the slit hole windows for archers, then the second level when they made the towers taller. They would have moved the front door up one level to the location of the first window to have access by a ladder which could have been hauled up into the Keep to prevent marauders from following them. And finally the top-level, added by the fourth and final family – the Forbes-Leith clan.

The Forbes-Leith Laird was responsible for the various adornments and additions of turrets, extensive improvements, like electricity, plumbing, and modernization of the Castle. He was a wealthy steel magnate and collector and admirer of fine art. (The interior is extensively decorated with many famous paintings by Raeburn and numerous other noted artists.)

Above the second level doorway was the infamous ‘murder hole’ which hot lead could be poured through raining down over the heads of unwanted visitors!

Lindsay and I thoroughly enjoyed touring the interior for well over an hour or so. Sorry, but I was not allowed to take photographs inside. You’ll just have to come and enjoy for yourselves; however, it is well worth it. It is a fascinating castle to visit, and it has earned a spot in the top 5 of my most favorites!

It’s loaded to the hilt with magnificent furnishings, artwork, and other finery. Having had four different families since the middle ages, the Castle is also ripe with history and new items. For example, a ‘weeping stone,’ a fascinating ‘Harvey Regulator’ clock which is older than the clock in the Tower of London (and still keeping perfect time). There is a beautiful hall with excellent acoustical ceilings for musical concerts with a ‘player’ organ with ‘playing rolls.’ There are stunning Tiffany lamps, Venetian lamplight posts, Delft blue Tulip Vases, and gilded china settings. Finally, there is a broad sweeping stone spiral staircase that they used as a final ascent to the finish line on the third floor for horse races. If that isn’t enough, it’s even haunted with about 4 or 5 resident ghosts.

“Most Haunted” has conducted seances here and filmed the ghosts appearing. Our tour guide recently witnessed the appearance of one such spirit in the corridor and attests to its validity!  Fascinating, absolutely fascinating!

With its many levels, corridors, stairways, turrets, and rooms to explore in each of the various levels and towers of the Castle, it offered a cornucopia of treasures to behold.

Before we left, Lindsay and I enjoyed a piece of Carrot cake, Millionaire bar, and a couple of Lattes in the castles’ Tea Room while we absorbed all the priceless beauties we had just feasted our eyes upon.

Although it was getting late in the day, and the growing season, I still wanted to venture into the Walled Gardens for a peek…

…and was not disappointed!

Below are beautiful little Chinese Lanterns changing color in the beds, and dahlia tubers which have been lifted and put to bed in the cold frame for planting next spring.  The gardeners’ work is never done!

As we meandered back along the long drive into the Castle and out the gate, we were also gifted some more spectacular afternoon autumnal scenery along the Loch, which borders the winding route…


Although the shy (and rare) Red Squirrel scooted off in the brush before I could get a picture of him, the Mallard hens were more than happy to hurry over to have their portrait taken amidst this beautiful setting adding character and female charm for my frame.

Further along, Swans and Geese added another peaceful scene…






What a bountiful day filled with surprises and delights for the senses!  Even the sunset participated by topping-off a ‘pearfect’ day!

This morning, as I prepared to start writing this blog, I grabbed my coffee, turned on the laptop and started downloading all my photos (which can take a while!) In the meantime, I decided to check my email.

I was delighted to find a response to a message I’d sent a couple of days ago to Richard Eccles from Castle Roy. He had asked me if I would be willing to write a letter explaining any connections I might have to Castle Roy and as the winner of that fabulous bottle of Tamdhu to further support their fundraising efforts.

I told him I would be more than happy to do so. After I wrote the blog post entitled ‘And the Winner Is,’ I thought I should send him a link to the post, to see if something along those lines would be ‘suitable’ to include in the letter he had asked me to write.

In his email this morning, he replied, “Hello ‘Lady’ Claudia! Many thanks for such an excellent article with plenty of great photos. Patricia and I were thrilled as I am sure Stuart Black will be who donated the Whisky that you won. To see it’s name out on the ‘www’ is fantastic. Patricia has already put it up on Facebook, which is sure to raise the Castle’s profile and get our fundraising efforts out there. Have a good trip back to the States and an enjoyable festive season. Let us know when you return, and you can come over and see how far we have got with the final part of the consolidation. All the very best, Richard.”

Of course, I was delighted that he liked it so well, but I felt especially ‘warmed’ that they shared it on their Castle Roy Facebook Page! That’ll be some excellent coverage for my travel blog!

Then I opened up my next email, a link to my horoscope for yesterday. After that nice plug for my blog, it didn’t surprise me to read:

Oct 26, 2016

You are going to be in the public spotlight today, Sagittarius, whether you want to or not. This is the effect of the Virgo Moon in your tenth house of the public image today. So you need to smile big, and smile often, and the world will smile right back at you today. Be practical about this, and tend to the details like it’s your job. Because it might be today. It will be in the little details where you will win big today, and in a very public way! What are you hoping to be admired for today, Sag?

What a ‘pearfect’ topper to already ‘pearfect’ day in Scotland! It was even ‘written in the stars!’

Besides, it also serves as an appropriate ending of my “Adventures in Scotland – 2016” blog posts. Yep, you heard me right, we’ve come to the end of this year’s shenanigans.

I’ve had so much fun and traveled so many roads. I have picked up a few new Scottish terms, had a wonderful time making memories with loved ones & family, and thoroughly enjoyed the company of old friends. I have also made a whole load of new friends, laughed till I thought I’d pee my britches, and dug in the clarty dubs discovering buried headstones. I have found the whereabouts of many of my own ancient ancestors across the land, seen some absolutely stunning panoramic vistas. I learned A LOT. Ate a ton of fish ‘n chips and delectable seafood, and tasted some divine desserts til I thought I would burst. I have breathed the mountain air, man, crossed the Munros high, man, crossed the moors near Beahlach & Lecht, and driven part of the Route 500. I won a rare and valuable bottle of Whisky, have had my heart touched and warmed by so many friendly Scottish and Irish people – EVERYTHING I could have possibly wished for and then some!  Dreams really do come true!

The time has come however to let my old laptop have a rest (I’ve posted 44 posts with 307 visitors who enjoyed 2,267 views!), spend the last couple of days just hanging-out with Lindsay, enjoying a wee dram (or two, or three since we won’t be doing any more driving!), see if my suitcase can hold all the delightful treasures I’ve collected throughout my journeys (like that pound of feathers my guardian angel bestowed upon me) and the souvenirs I’ve purchased for my loved ones back home who have been holding down the fort, paying the bills and feeding my cat, Buddy, while I’ve been off gallivanting about having the time of my life!

Although I am a wee bit ‘knackered’ and ‘cream-crackered,’ I’ve really enjoyed sharing all of my travels with YOU!  I do benefit myself by capturing my travels in a ‘journal’ of sorts, but it is so much more fun and meaningful knowing that you are looking forward to my posts and enjoying them almost as much as I do.  Thanks for your lovely comments, your devotion, and your enthusiasm regarding my efforts. It’s a lot of work, to be sure, but it, like so many other efforts, is oh-so-worth-it ~ a labor of love!

Slainte Mhatch!

Lady Claudia



Slainte Mhatch (Slanj~Evaa) = Cheers, Best of Health

Knackered (nack~ird) or Cream Crackered = worn out, thoroughly tired.


Cairn ‘O Mount (Success at Last!)

Yesterday morning, when I asked Lindsay, “Fit Like?” (how ya doing?)

He answered, “Nae bad – chavin awa. Infact, it’s such a bonnie day I was thinking it might be nice to get out of the house and go for a ride; see if we can make it to Cairn ‘O Mount!”





So we headed southwest out the A93 through Banchory and Bogendreip (love that name – it conjures up a very wet and dripping bog)…


I started making some videos of the road we were traveling from about where we ran into the road closure on our first attempt…. (I apologize for the sound on the 2nd one; it was quite windy up there and we weren’t talking loud enough.  It’s not your device that is faulty.  I almost didn’t include it but decided to just the same because I thought you would enjoy looking at the view even if you can’t hear what we’re saying very well.)


and then… we finally arrived as the sun began to break through!

Afterwards I took a few ‘still’ shots of this fantastic view with my own rock sitting on top of the cairn for posterity’s  sake!


I wanted to stay there enjoying the view, but it was quite chilly so I headed back to the car and we began the descent down the other side…

Near the bottom we came to this double bridge (one low-water bridge) and another slightly higher one right next to it!  Little did I realize that this was an historical bridge until we went up to the restaurant above for a cup of coffee to warm up with.


Quite a little interesting place it turned out to be and I really liked all of the old photos hanging on the walls…and I thought we were just getting a cup of coffee!


The views down in the valley were astounding as we made our way to Fettercairn…

and beyond as we made our way further on to Stonehaven…


I really liked the way the newly sprouted green seedlings gently outlined the slopes of the brown field below…





Just before arriving at our turn to head north on the A90, we passed acres and acres of berries nestled snugly under never-ending protective huge cloches.






Along the highway in a ‘lay-by’ was this interesting historical marker about Robert Burns’ father!

Soon we were entering Stonehaven where we could enjoy a bit of the seashore.




Crickey! (pronounced cry~key) It was such a delightful wee adventure today, with spectacular views, and I thoroughly enjoyed filming it all to share with you! Hope you enjoyed it too!


Learning to Speak the Lingo

People I’ve met on my trip have asked me if  I have been having a nice holiday and I have to admit it has been absolutely brilliant! I found it somewhat difficult when I first arrived to understand what locals were saying and I really had to concentrate and pay attention.

As time has passed, however, I’ve found it much easier and have even managed to incorporate a few terms into my own conversations now making it easier for others to understand me as well.

Blimey, I’ve actually picked up a few and the locals can better understand me and I don’t sound like an eejit when trying to pronounce something!  At first they would look at me, probably thinking I was glaikit or a numpty, or just haivering! One stotter would be a conversation I was having at a restaurant today with a grannie holding her grandson, Isaac, a 5 week-old wee bairn!

The whole time I’ve been here the weather has been braw and quite bonnie, and only just recently have we experienced a dreichy day or two that made us feel crabbit. Just in the last couple of days has it really turned a bit baltic with fall in full swing.

I’ve had such fun working & volunteering in the kirkyards and since I didn’t want my fellow volunteers to think I was a skiver or worse, gallus, I dug right in and gave it all I had.  A couple of times I really got mauchit working in the clarty dubs (thank heaven they weren’t sharney dubs!) and sometimes quite drookit!

It was fun just the same, and I certainly didn’t want them to think I was a besom, or a blether, so I kept wheesht, with my head down and became laldie, following instructions and learning a lot along the way. Working in the kirkyards is not for everyone,  I admit, some might think its a scunner of a job, some might think me just a wee bit crezy, or even skerry, but I quite enjoyed it even though it was difficult at best to find a cludgie at times in kirkyards and was thankful I have a strong bladder!

Well, loons and quines, I don’t want to fouter, or be accused of being a blether, I just wanted to let you know I’ve enjoyed having you along with me on my travels via this blog!

Although Lindsay has been a bit wabbit the last couple of days with a cold, all in all we’ve had so much fun! Aye, it’s been a bonnie time traveling about with friends, and Gordon Bennett, I got to see sooooo many hairy coos this trip!

Well I’m off for a wee dram now… later I’ll work on a blog post about what Lindsay and I did this afternoon!  We gave it another try and actually made it to Cairn ‘O Mount!  Stay tuned for the rest of the story.


aye = yes

baltic = very cold

besom (biz~um) = hussy, female upstart

blether (ble~ther) = gossip, incessant chatter

blimey (bly~me) = amazed

bonnie = beautiful

braw (br~aww) = beautiful

brilliant = great

clarty (clar~ty) = mucky, boggin’

cludgie (clud~gee) = toilet

coos (koos) = cows

crabbit (cra~bit) = bad tempered, out of humor

crezy (kre~zy) = crazy

dreich (dre~ech) = dull, bleak, miserable

drookit (droo~kit) = drenched, soaked through

(ee~jit) = idiot, not the full shilling

fouter (foo~tir) = dither, to not get on with it

gallus (ga~luss) = bold, cocky, cheeky

glaikit (glai~kit) = foolish, not very bright

Gordon Bennett = OMG

haiver (hay~ver) = to talk rubbish

laldie (lall~dy) = to do vigorously, get stuck in

loons (lunes) = boys

mauchit (maw~kit) = dirty, filthy

numpty (num~p~tee) = idiot, intellectually challenged

quines = girls

scunner (scun~ner) = feeling of disgust or loathing

sharney (shar~nie) = animal manure

skerry (sker~ry) = scary

skiver (sky~ver) = lazy person, shirker

stotter (stoat~er) = excellent example

wabbit (wah~bit) = under the weather, exhausted

wee bairn = baby

wee dram = shot of scottish whisky

wheesht (whee~sht) = quiet



‘And the Winner is…’


You may recall that at the beginning of October, the day before I was supposed to fly home originally, Lindsay and I took a drive through the Moors and over the Lecht.  On our way, we took a little detour off our route to visit Abernethy Kirkyard so I could take some photographs of his 3rd great grandparents’ headstones.

While we were there we noticed that Castle Roy was accessible for the first time in years and so we headed up the small hill to take a look.  They were hosting a special ‘Open Days’ event sponsored by the Highland Archaeology Festival and offering the opportunity to buy a ‘Square Yard’ of the castle as a fundraising effort to continue the preservation of one of Scotland’s oldest castles built around 1210!


We walked around the castle with Richard Eccles and he told us all about their efforts and the progress they’ve made so far. To be supportive of their efforts I bought a ‘square yard’ in the ‘Laird’s Lodge’ (the corner of the castle shown below) and was consequently dubbed ‘Lady Claudia!’


We had a lot of fun with Richard and even ‘hammed’ it up for a photo opp depicting that he was ‘twisting my arm’ and his assistant was prying the money out of my wallet.

After I purchased the square yard within a room with a view (and also quite conveniently located near the ‘loo’) I noticed raffle tickets sitting on the table.  I inquired what the prizes for the raffle were.

They told me what the various prizes were and that the grand prize was for a Rare Malt Whiskey-Tamdhu, from the 1971 special Macphails’ Collection.

“Ooooh!  I really like Scottish whisky, especially a well-aged one.  I’ll buy a couple of tickets; one for me and one for Lindsay, please.”


We went on our way and didn’t give it another thought.  About a week or so later, while I was visiting Pat & Ian in Dingwall and on my way to Applecross, I got an email from Richard Eccles, requesting that ‘Lady Claudia’ should contact him at her earliest convenience!  When I replied, he informed me that I held the winning ticket for the 1st prize – that bottle of whisky worth over $800.00!!!!  Wowsers!


Richard subsequently sent me a copy of the newspaper and a clipping from the 7th page where the winner announcement was published! (below)


I love whisky and was ever-so-tempted to open it up and try it, but I think I’ll keep it on the shelf as an investment (for a little while at least!)

There’s even more to the story however…

When I talked to Richard he asked me if I have any connections to Nethybridge or Castle Roy and I explained to him that I do have ancestors in nearby villages, but my cousin Lindsay has a lot of ancestors buried in the kirkyard at the foot of the hill where Castle Roy sits.

He thought that was pretty cool.


Just recently I visited the small village of Dunkeld with Pat and ‘her girls’ and you might recall that I came across a chest tomb with a stone knight atop that turned out to be one of my ancestors, Alexander Stewart, ‘The Wolf of Badenoch’ – my 18th great grandfather! Well….



img_2012When I got back from the trip with Pat, I was looking up information about Alexander and enjoying looking at my beautiful bottle of whisky which had arrived in the post while I was galavanting about when I discovered yet another fantastic connection!

It turned out that ‘The Wolf’ owned Castle Roy in 1381 (among several other castles)!  This is getting more interesting at every turn.  It seems really appropriate now that I chose the square yard in Castle Roy which was located within the Laird’s Lodge and was consequently dubbed ‘Lady Claudia!’

If that wasn’t enough to convince me that this whisky was indeed special for me in particular, another point of interest suddenly dawned on me as I stood there admiring the beautiful honey color of the whisky – this was bottled in 1971 – the year I graduated from Los Alamitos High School, 45 years ago!  (Eeegads, has it been that long already?!?)

I’m beginning to believe ‘it was meant to be’ that I am now the proud owner of this rare malt whisky in oh-so-many ways! And yes, I do expect you to curtsey to me from this point forward!  🙂






Jonesin’ for Mexican Food

Yesterday, October 23rd, was kind of a rainy, ‘dreechy,’ day. I decided to warm it up a bit with some heat by making Chicken Enchiladas, homemade Pico de Gallo Salsa, Spanish Rice, and Refried beans so my Scottish cousins could get a little taste of something ‘south of the border!’ It’s not something they generally have access to like we do in Southern Oregon with a Taqueria on every corner!

(Besides, I’ve been really Jonesin’ for it myself – especially the chips and salsa!)

First, debone a roasted chicken and get it simmering in the pot with some spices, onions, and sweet peppers…

Next to the Pico de Gallo….with a little more ‘kick’ in the peppers!

A little later, I began assembling the Enchiladas…


…topped them with a generous portion of cheese and put them in the oven to bake.


Our family guests arrived, Lisa, Robin, Ailie & James, with the Corona’s, and they seemed to really enjoy the chips, salsa, and guacamole as appetizers.

Soon afterward, we were enjoying the main entree, and it seemed to be a real hit with one and all. 


Like usual, however, we were all so stuffed all we could manage was to sit back and let our bulging tummies digest…

I got my craving satisfied and, at the same time, enjoyed the company of my extended family at least one more time. I sent them home with all the remaining leftovers to enjoy during the week after school and work.  Lisa especially seemed to really appreciate that.

I’ve Been Everywhere, Man

img_2377Alistair, at Enterprise Rent-A-Car, commented the other day when I returned my third rental, “Wow!  You put over 1,200 miles on this last car, and at least 1,000 or more on the other two you rented before!  You get around!  You’ve been to more places in Scotland in the last 2 months than I’ve been to since I arrived 6 years ago from Lithuania!”

Out of curiosity, I decided to highlight the roads on my atlas which I’ve traveled on to visit various locales on this trip alone.  Alistair is right, I have managed to get around to a lot of wonderfully beautiful places!

Then another thought crossed my mind which might be fun; “I’ll try writing my own version of the lyrics to a familiar song, made popular by Johnny Cash…”

I’ve Been Everywhere

I was toting my pack along the narrow, winding, country way,

When along came Lindsay, Pat and Deirdre with a plan for the day,

If you’re going to adventures, Claud, with me you can ride,

And so I climbed into the car and then I settled down inside,

They asked me if I’d seen a road with so many Coos and Lambs,

And I said, “Listen! I’ve travelled every road in this here land!”


I’ve been everywhere, man,

I’ve been everywhere,

Crossed the Munros high, man,

I’ve breathed the mountain air, man,

Travel, I’ve had my share, man,

I’ve been everywhere.


I’ve been to:

Dingwall, Ahoghill, Elgin, Drum Castle,

Kildrummy, Grandtully, Huntly, Threave Castle,

Cawdor, Fearnmore, Aviemore, Dornoch,

Loch Broom, Tomintoul, Gracehill, Gairloch,

Montrose, Fortrose, Inverness, Easter Frew,

Burghead, Peterhead, Shieldaig, Inverewe,

I’m a Frew!

I’ve been everywhere, man,

I’ve been everywhere,

Crossed the Munros high, man,

I’ve breathed the mountain air, man,

Travel, I’ve had my share, man,

I’ve been everywhere.

I’ve been to:

Whithorn, Findhorn, Deskford, Mid Frew,

Torridon, Strathdon, Culloden, South Frew,

Rannoch, Avoch, Aberfeldy, Blair Castle,

Ellon, Kippen, Cullen, Crathes Castle,

Stirling, Loch of Skene, Aberdeen, Wigtown,

Banchory, Crathie, Buckie, Randallstown,

I get around!

I’ve been everywhere, man,

I’ve been everywhere,

Crossed the Munros high, man,

I’ve breathed the mountain air, man,

Travel, I’ve had my share, man,

I’ve been everywhere.

 I’ve been to:

Edinkillie, Dalbeattie, Killiecrankie, Garlieston,

Kirkcudbright, Loch Maree, Inverurie, Collieston,

Fochabers, Ballater, Strathpeffer, Girvan,

Loch Carron, Portgordon, Pitmedden, Cairnryan,

Dumfries, Portknockie, New Abbey, Auchindrean,

Forres, Crathes, Letters, Achnasheen,

See what I mean?

I’ve been everywhere, man,

I’ve been everywhere,

Crossed the Munros high, man,

I’ve breathed the mountain air, man,

Travel, I’ve had my share, man,

I’ve been everywhere.

 I’ve been to:

Antrim, Drum, Glenbuchat, Castle Roy,

Loch Garve, Braemar, Nairn, Portsoy,

Lossiemouth, Pitlochry, Alford, Cairn ‘O Mount,

Bogendreip, lots of sheep, Dunkeld, Stormont,

Ballymena, Crossmichael, Blair Atholl, Connor,

Castle Douglas, Applecross, Belfast, Leadmore,

Is there more?

I’ve been everywhere, man,

I’ve been everywhere,

Crossed the Munros high, man,

I’ve breathed the mountain air, man,

Travel, I’ve had my share, man,

I’ve been everywhere.

Well….. almost!

After I highlighted the roads I’ve travelled on this trip, I also highlighted other routes I’ve also taken on previous trips.  Below is the revised map with all roads highlighted. img_2387As you can see, there are still a few  areas I haven’t explored very much!

And yes, I’m already thinking that will be my  trip next year – the places I might manage to visit might look something like this:


I can dream after all – and enjoy my dreams come true.

I have just a five days left before I head back home on Sunday.  Lindsay and I are ‘hanging out’ together, doing a bit of genealogy, (I’m writing blogs!), and generally enjoying each other’s company while we still can.  We might even manage to get in a visit to one more castle!




Moray Burial Ground Research Group Annual Dinner



Last night, Lindsay and I drove up to Elgin to attend the annual dinner the MBGRG hosts as a final event for the season to celebrate their hard work, dedication, and teamwork in recording churchyards and cemeteries in Morayshire at the Laichmoray Hotel.

For me it was especially nice to get to see several people I had the pleasure to work alongside of during my vacation in Scotland at Keith, Edinkillie and St. Lawrence kirkyards one more time before I head home in about a weeks time.  I also had the additional pleasure of meeting many more that perhaps I’ll have the opportunity to work with when I return once again in the future.

I really want to thank these three people below in particular: Helen & Keith Mitchell, and my cousin Lindsay Robertson.  They have taught me so much about gravestones and memorials: the symbolism represented on stones, the techniques and methodologies to employ, how to cut a “pensioners” size cut of turf,  how to flour a stone and take good photographs, and in addition to all of that have opened their home to me for a place to lay my weary head at the end of a day of digging in the ‘clarty dubs,’ made me sack lunches, and have welcomed me so heartwarmingly into their lives, their homes and their passions.

Helen is the Field Work Coordinator, Keith is the Chairman and Lindsay is the Webmaster. They each put an incredible amount of time, energy and dedication into the passion they share; preserving and recording historical ancestral records for future generations worldwide.  I feel so honored and proud to be a member of this group and be counted as one of their own.  Thank you!


I made new friends last night too – wonderful ladies like Karen and Margaret.


Then there was Rosie, Morag and the happy couple – Irene (Treasurer) and her husband Gordon.img_2348




Followed by Stephen, Gail and Ali having too much fun in the corner!




Ruth (Secretary & Fundraiser)

and Michael and Mary Evans (Genealogist)


We enjoyed great conversation, lots of laughs, a raffle drawing, a wonderful meal and scrumptious desserts together.

img_2355  img_2345








img_2357These folks completed and have been recording approximately 10 churchyards this season and will soon have their results and hard work published and available online and in printed form to people who are searching for their ancestors’ gravestones worldwide.

That’s a monumental accomplishment! They all do it out of the goodness of their hearts and because they are such dedicated volunteers.

The three hours we spent together just zoomed by and before I knew it, a grand evening with such interesting people came to a close and we were headed outside to the car park to depart.

Yet, I know I will return once again in the future and have the opportunity of working alongside them.  I look forward to that and am grateful to count them as friends in my ancestral home of Scotland.




Doing Dornoch

img_2117On Wednesday morning, I had planned to head back to Lindsay’s house in Aberdeen; however, Pat had other ideas!

You know by now how I love to be spontaneous, I did not decline the idea she had of driving just 29 miles north of Dingwall to the village of Dornoch sitting on the edge of Dornoch Firth. We could definitely drive up there in the morning, spend a couple of hours and I could drive on to Aberdeen later that afternoon, so off we went!

First stop, Dornoch Cathedral!



The autumnal colors of the trees perfectly framed the cathedral as we walked around the beautiful stone structure to the front entrance.




Let’s head inside…

Below; what welcomes its visitor as one crosses the threshold..












Like many cathedrals I’ve visited there was a plethora of beautifully hand-crafted stained glass windows.  Luckily, they also offered a notebook available to their visitors to explain and tell the story of each window!

I’ve matched up my photos of the windows with the description page from the notebook below.

Above is the first page of the notebook with its introductory map of the windows and a bit of history.  This notebook was quite handy and offers some very interesting and informative information!












A little side note here regarding Skibo Castle –

Skibo Castle (Scottish Gaelic: Caisteal Sgìobail) is located to the west of Dornoch in the Highland county of Sutherland overlooking the Dornoch firth. Although largely of the 19th century, and early 20th century, when it was the home of industrialist Andrew Carnegie.

The first record of Skibo Castle is a charter from 1211 on a site of an ancient Viking fort.

In 1897, the wealthy industrialist Andrew Carnegie took a one-year lease, with an option to buy. In 1898 he exercised that option for £85,000. However its condition had declined so much by this time that a further £2 million was spent on improvements, including an increase in area from 16,000 square feet to over 60,000 square feet, plus the creation of Loch Ospisdale, an indoor swimming pavilion and an 9-hole golf course. Skibo stayed with the Carnegie family until 1982.

It is now a five-star facility with access only through membership to The Carnegie Club; one of the world’s most prestigious private clubs for the privileged few – offering members and their guests accommodation in both the castle and estate lodges, a private links golf course and a range of activities including clay pigeon shooting, tennis and horse riding. Probably not a place I will ever stay at but thought you might be interested.

Okay, back to the stained glass windows…





Now let’s just wander around the cathedral and see what else it has to offer beyond its magnificent windows…




In the choir, each of the seats of the chairs and the pews had cross-stitched seat covers or pads. Below are but a few examples….

Back outside once again… quite an impressive cathedral wouldn’t you say?



Another note regarding Dornoch Cathedral before we move on is that Madonna and Guy Ritchie were married here on Dec 22nd, 2000.  Evidently, it was quite the hullabaloo!

We headed to the town square and visited some other historic buildings, passing this quaint house with a charming rose garden below.

Across the street we encountered the Courthouse so I went inside to explore.  It housed the visitor center downstairs and upstairs, where the courtroom used to be was a nice tea room; its walls offering many Carnegie photos, information regarding his legacy and some really great quotes.





I really liked the old sink in the restroom!




Next stop – the Jail next door.


Once inside it was a very posh shopping venue.  Down the hall where Pat is chatting with the shop owner is where the jail cells were.  Each cell housed a host of expensive gifts, home decor, children’s toys, etc., to purchase.


There was at least some historical information about the jail on the far wall near the iron gate.

I thought these signs were a great gift idea…

Great paintings of Highland Coos!

And of course they had a “Christmas Shop” section upstairs…


Afterward we headed back to the car, I discovered we were parked quite close to the “Mercat Cross” below with a handy sign describing it and its importance.

For our lunch we drove a little further north to a small village called Embo and enjoyed the seaside view of the North Sea, the shoreline and its many birds in a ‘caravan park’ called “Grannie’s Heilan Hame.” (Granny’s Highland Home)


Then we drove back to Dornoch and visited its nearby beach as well before we headed out of town and back to Dingwall.


As we meandered through the town’s streets once again, I found additional treasures to photograph…

including this old church…

Another noteworthy mention – Lindsay, spent a great deal of his youth in this town growing up.  He told me that he used to go to this church as a young lad to see the latest films!  Evidently there wasn’t a formal ‘movie theatre’ available.

Just before leaving town we found the Primary School (below) that Lindsay attended as well. His father, Allan Frew Robertson, was the Headmaster at this school!

allan-frew-robertsonShown at left is Lindsay’s father (center) with the Queen Mother, and the janitor, Kenny Macrae at the grand opening of the new Academy.

Lindsay tells me that the reason they are laughing in this photo is because the Queen had just asked Kenny, “Haven’t I seen you before?  You look quite familiar.”

Kenny replied, “Aye, your Majesty, you did – I was playing the pipes when you flew in on your helicopter, but afterwards I quickly ran back up the hill to change into my Janitor’s uniform in time for your tour around the new school!”

Above right is Lindsay with his new “proper” bike he got for his 16th birthday in 1957.  His first set of “wheels” offering independence and freedom to explore.

Below is another shot of Lindsay a year later when he appeared in a school play called “Allison’s Lad” – A Cavalier’s and Roundheads production of the English Civil War at Dornoch Townhouse stage, 1958.  Lindsay is on the left in the bottom row.  At right, after he produced the photo of the play, he went upstairs and he also produced the pipe he used as a prop in that play.

He’s told me many a story about living in that town as the Headmaster’s son and it was fun exploring the town and its many buildings that were part of his childhood, including the cathedral where he attended church on Sundays with his family – a little slice of the life of my dearly loved cousin.








A ‘Girls Only’ Weekend – Chocolate, Castles, Shopping, Food & Giggles Galore

The past four days have been spent with Pat and her ‘girls;’ her sister Cecilia, her daughter Lynn, her granddaughter Amber and her close adventurous friend – me!  We managed to cram so many things into a couple of days – even I was astounded at just how much we managed to see and do!

Pat and I started out on Sunday morning driving from Dingwall to Pitlochry.  Along the way we passed some absolutely gorgeous scenery as we made our way south.  We took a little diversion from the A9 to find “Queen’s View” along Loch Tummel.


Instead we ended up in a quaint little town called Rannoch where we stopped for a Latte and a Border Tart (a scone with santanas, dried cherries, coconut and walnuts).  Yum!

We somehow managed to arrive just in time to see the first 4 marathon runners coming into the finish line before we got back on the road, backtracking to the A9.  (We never did find “Queen’s View.”  Turned out we had turned off a few miles too soon!)

Once we got back on the A9 and went a little further south, there was a castle at Blair Atholl – gotta stop there!

We went inside to tour the numerous heavily decorated rooms of this enormous castle.  I took the picture below as we entered the main foyer when I was told by the receptionist that photography was not allowed inside the castle, except for the last room, the great hall.  Sorry folks!  Trust me though, it was over the top with furnishings.

This castle originally belonged to the Stewarts, but after the Jacobite Rising and the Battle of Culloden, the Stewarts lost the castle and the Murrays were appointed the new proud owners.  They continue to hold this privately-owned castle to this day.


Below is the great hall where the Atholl Highlanders (remember them from the beginning of my trip when I attended the Lonach Highland Gathering back at the end of August?) The Atholl Highlanders are the only privately owned armed militia in all of Europe!  They hold their ball in this hall, and have weddings and other public events here as well.

Once outside again, we found it was beginning to drizzle so we quickly walked back to the car, catching a few quick shots of the burn (stream) along the way.

Just a little further down the road we arrived at our destination, The Fishers Hotel, located in beautiful ‘downtown’ Pitlochry – a lovely little village.  We would be calling it home for a couple of days.

Below is the room Pat and I shared.  (Ooooh – it has a bathtub to soak in!) We met up Cecilia, Lynn and Amber at the hotel lobby and they shared another room similar to ours, but a wee bit larger than this one with a fireplace and bay window.


The view from our window down to the courtyard below.

After getting settled in we headed back down to the lobby to enjoy our “Welcome Dram of Whisky or Sherry” and make our plans of things to do and see while we were in town.





As a part of our booking, both breakfast and dinner each day was included.  Below is a sample menu of the many choices we had to choose from and a couple of the desserts we opted for:  Sweet Cherry and Chocolate Roulade with Chantilly Cream and Lemon Pie with Fruit Coulis.  Almost too pretty to eat – but I did say ‘almost!’

In the morning after breakfast, Amber and I explored outside around the hotel and the train station in the back of the property.

Then we went around the front of the hotel and explored some areas just across the street and around the corner!  We found these delightful iron sculptures…

and the Old Mill Inn…

Our plans for the day included taking a ride to the nearby village of Aberfeldy and Dunkeld. Along the way we happened upon this wonderful little shop in Grandtully.  Oh yeah! We’ve got to stop here and see what it is all about.  Let’s head inside!

At the entry I happened upon some statues of Griffins.  In high school, at Los Alamitos High School, the Griffin was our school mascot. (Have to take a picture of these beautiful little creatures for my friend Tracie Hixson who was the head cheerleader!) I also loved the wrought iron dress form with a clematis vine growing on it!

Inside it was a feast for the eyes and a huge temptation for the senses!

They had nice displays about the history of chocolate and how it is grown, popularized and special tools that chocolatiers utilize… very interesting!

Of course they made all sorts of things out of chocolate and Amber was in heaven!

Next came the gift shop with all the ‘seasonal’ trappings one could want for decorating and creating just the right mood…



Wonderful garden ornaments like these “green man” wall decorations…





And of course, Christmas is just around the corner… Cecelia, Pat and Lynn were particularly interested in a number of items.

I found these delightful round pop-up cards…

and some delightful little signs with oh-so-truisms…

And last but not least was the chocolate counter and all of its delicacies!