A Sunny Sunday Drive…

Lindsay and I got an early start on Sunday to start making our way back to Aberdeen.  We had such a great weekend with Keith and Helen finding buried headstones.  First we headed a little further west to Forres where Lindsay was born.  We walked through town in the early morning hours sniffing out some good coffee before we started backtracking home.

We found a nice cafe serving just what we wanted and he informed me of the route he planned to take for the drive back.

“We need a large Latte to take away for where I plan to take you!”

“Oh my, this is going to be good!” I squealed. “We’ll get to skirt along the northern side of the beautiful Cairngorm mountains, go through Tomintoul and follow the old Military road, crossing the moors,  climbing up over the Lecht and work our way back down to Aberdeen!”


Just outside Forres we made a stop at Edinkillie kirkyard.  This is another site where the MBGRG will work to identify and record all of the headstones.  Quaint little church it was. We couldn’t stay long however and explore much because church services were being held.

img_9801As we left the car park, I noticed the four-wheel Forestry truck and thought how handy it might be for the route we were going to take!  Tempting!

Hey! Lookey there! A cloud that is shaped like Scotland!


Soon we were looking out over the Spey River valley with the Cairngorms in the distance in all their glory!  Won’t be long and they’ll be crowned with snow!


Next we passed under the arched entrance to the Grant Estate House….

and soon thereafter we were entering the town of Grantown-on-Spey.

Perfect day for these lads from Inverness to go for a ride!

We took a bit of a break ourselves and I wandered around town taking pictures.  As we drove out of town, Lindsay asked,”Would you mind if we took a little detour to Nethybridge? If you might remember, some great grandparents of mine on my dad’s side of the family are buried there in the kirkyard at Abernethy Kirk.  I’d like it if you could take some decent pictures of the headstones for me.”

“Sure Lindsay,” I replied, “Why not?  I’d be happy to!  I remember you took me there on my first visit to Scotland, that would be fun to see it again!”

So we took a right at the junction and drove a short distance to our detour destination. The sun shining through the birch trees lining the road along the way were so pretty…

and before I knew it, we arrived!


Such a picturesque spot, huh?  We wandered around the kirkyard snapping photos of the stones he wanted.  The lovely summer house was still there with its intricately cut tree limbs cut into pieces and placed with loving care on every square inch!  Beautiful!

When we had found all the stones he wanted pictures of, we noticed a sign on the door of the church stating that there was an Exhibition being held today by the Abernethey Old Kirk Association.

“Hmmm, that sounds quite interesting, doesn’t it?  And they have a tea room as well!  I could use a little snack and another cup of coffee!”

(It never ceases to amaze me; wherever I go in Scotland, even it is waaaayyy out in the woods, or at a garden centre, or anywhere, there is a little Tea Room to get tea, coffee, and delicious baked sweets of all kinds!”)

We went inside and were greeted by this lovely couple, Allan and Olwen Billington, who are the coordinators of the Abernethy Old Kirk Association.  Inside the church they had various displays set up and they had tables to sit at to enjoy our goodies set up right around the pulpit!  Perfect.  I ordered a couple of Lattes, a piece of Almond cake for myself and a piece of Lemon Drizzle cake for Lindsay.

While they prepared our treats, we wandered in amongst the displays.  Fascinating.

Lindsay was particularly interested in seeing if an old Hand Bell might be among the treasures.  He had met an old man named Alaster Grant at Ballinluig Farm several years back who was a third cousin of his and he struck up a friendship with him.  He has since passed, but Lindsay remembered Alaster and how he had told him about the hand bell that had been used to call people to worship in the kirk prior to the installation of the belfry and bell in 1874.

When the belfry and bell were installed, the hand bell had been purchased by Alaster’s father and remained at Ballanluig for 125 years. Although it was no longer in the kirk, it never left the Abernethy Parish.  Alaster gave the bell back to the church in 1999 and it was rung before the Communion service in June of that year. The bell was ‘rung with gusto’  one final time again on the 26th of September, 2010 at the final service, a thanksgiving service, before the sale of the kirk to the Association.

Having learned about the hand bell from Alaster, Lindsay had wondered whatever became of it.  When he saw it on display in the kirk, it moved him profusely.

Allan was so touched by Lindsay’s response that he took it out of its display case and brought it over to Lindsay, setting it on the table in front of Lindsay for him to admire.   Allan insisted he should feel free to ring it!  When Lindsay rang the bell it brought tears to his eyes.  So touching!

Allan sat and talked to us for quite awhile and we really enjoyed getting to know him and hearing about the work he and his wife, Olwen, and other members of the village do for the association.  They are very passionate about it.  By the time we left, both Lindsay and I had become members of the association in support of their efforts.  Who knows, maybe when I return another time, I’ll be volunteering for them!  That could be fun!

After filling our tummy’s with treats and our hearts with new friendships we said our farewells and headed back to the car park.  That’s when I noticed this sign.

“Hey Linds, before we get in the car, let’s go up and see Castle Roy, ok?”

“We can’t go up there, Claudia, it’s all fenced off.  Has been for years.”

“Well, then why is the gate open and there are cars parked up there then?”

“What?!  It’s never been accessible as long as I’ve been here.” he exclaimed.

So, we ventured up there.  Evidently Historic Scotland has sponsored its restoration and a village association has been formed to rebuild and fortify this ancient castle!  To gain grant funding, one can buy ‘one square yard’ of the castle!  Now that’s an interesting twist for fund raising!

A really nice man, Richard Cummings, met us and provided a tour of the castle, explaining its history, and all of the work that has been going on to restore it before it completely fell down.  Check it out on their Facebook page:  Castle Roy or their website:  Castle Roy website. You could help them with their efforts!

img_9987By the end of the interesting and personal tour I found my arm being twisted and the money being ployed out of my wallet!  (Just kidding!)  I was more than happy to “Buy a Square Yard” of Castle Roy in support of their efforts.

I bought my square yard in the Laird’s Lodge and hence, became “Lady Claudia Frew” as a result.  I know own land in Scotland! I got a certificate of Ownership listing which square yard I own (one with a window view, mind you) and I received some extra little thank you gifts including locally made shortbread, a wee dram of whisky, and my own personal hand-made and hand-painted model of the castle to take home with me.  Sweet!

That was certainly unexpected, but totally fun!  I’m really glad we took that wee detour to Abernethy kirkyard.

(I like to collect small rocks from places I visit and you can certainly bet I grabbed a small one from the rubble pile on my way out to add to my collection.)


We got back on the road and started trekking through the moors filled with heather.  So, so beautiful and wild!  We followed the Old Military Road that the British built to try to catch those wiley clans men during the Jacobite Risings.

Midway we came to the small village of Tomintoul…


We climbed up, up, up over the Lecht arriving at the Lecht Ski Center.

Then began the descent down the other side toward Strathdon, and the River Don.


Just before our final descent to the River Don, we came to a lookout with a monument overlooking Castle Corgarf.

It’s not really a castle.  It is a garrison built for the British soldiers trying to catch the clans men during the Risings.  (Can’t you just imagine the clans hiding in plain sight and watching the soldiers from the heather moors instead of the other way around?)


We descended down to the River Don and I assumed we’d be driving straight on home after this point, but Lindsay had one more stop in mind – a real castle – Glenbuchat Castle!


Before leaving we sat down on an old stump and Lindsay remarked how old this tree must have been. He counted the first 10 rings – it must’ve been at least 150-200 years old when it was cut!


What a perfectly wonderful day we had on a sunny, Sunday drive through the picturesque countryside, moors and river valleys.  We even made new friends, and he even has to curtsey and bow to me from now on.

I have just a couple more posts to catch up on for things we’ve done and seen this past week, but I won’t be posting them for awhile yet.  I have rented a car again and I am headed back to Dingwall tomorrow to visit Pat and Ian.  Pat and I have plans to visit some places near the Western Isles in the Highlands!

Until the next time…

With Best Regards,

Lady Claudia




Author: Claudia Frew

Adventuresome, independent, and fun-loving 68-year young American great-grandmother who loves to travel; often going solo!

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