Not your Typical “Touristy” Activity – Volunteering!

This past weekend I had the grand opportunity of partaking in an activity which I particularly enjoy while travelling in Scotland. It does not fall into the category of a typical type of activity that a tourist generally engages in, but that’s one of the reasons I like it so much; it’s different!

If you’ve been reading my blog for any length of time, you have probably noticed how much I enjoy combining my personal ancestry with the places I visit. I like finding places that my ancestors were connected to, finding headstones and final resting places of ancestors, and volunteering to help record and maintain records of all kinds of headstones for future generations.

A couple of years ago, while visiting Scotland, I started volunteering with the Moray Burial Ground Research Group (MBGRG) This group is an incredible bunch of volunteers who go into all of the old and new cemeteries in Morayshire in northern Scotland, to record, index and publish each and every tombstone within each one, including headstones that have become buried under the surface of grass and debris over the years. It is a monumental task and they’ve been working on it for almost 20 years!

How did I get involved in something like this?  My cousin Lindsay, whom I come to visit on a regular basis, is part of the group and serves as their webmaster, amongst other duties. Since he knew of my interest in ancestral headstones, he suggested I meet the rest of the group and see how its operations work and meet some of the groups’ members by meeting up with them at a graveyard they were currently working on a couple of years ago. I was intrigued and before I knew it, I was working right alongside them and enjoying every minute of it.

This past weekend was no exception. Lindsay and I travelled up to Cullen on Friday,

where we met up with Keith & Helen Mitchell, Lindsay’s cousin and his wife at their caravan park located in Cullen Bay just below the picturesque Logie Head on the coastline.IMG_1286

IMG_1296Keith serves as the Chairman of the group and Helen serves as the Field Work Coordinator.


To start our adventures with Keith and Helen, they took us to Old Cullen Kirk to have a look around.


IMG_1302MBGRG had started recording this churchyard in 2011 and they are just about ready to publish the book for it. It was a fascinating church and the churchyard was full of some very interesting and unusual headstones.IMG_1303IMG_1304

Keith took us around the kirkyard explaining many of its fascinating features, such as this cross on the wall for James, Earl of Seafield, who was killed in action 1915. The wooden cross is the actual cross from the battlefield. His body and the original cross was later removed from the battlefield and brought back home to the family plot.




Here are some of the interesting headstones –


After walking around the kirkyard, we headed inside. What an amazing little church.  It dates back to the middle ages and has quite an interesting history.









There was the organ hidden within a cabinet (above) and a very interesting tombstone of a Knight which had been brought inside out of the elements (left).

Before we leave the interior thought I’d take you upstairs so you can see what it looks like from the balcony or gallery.

IMG_1388It started to rain once we got back outside so we headed back to Keith & Helen’s caravan park just in time to see a beautiful ‘cloudbow’ off the tip of Logie Head.  Never seen a ‘cloudbow’ before! That’s pretty cool!

Then we finished the day off by heading out for dinner at a local restaurant to have a nice meal at the Cullen Bay Hotel. I ordered the soup, Cullen Skink, and Scampi.  Delicious!

The following day we packed up our supplies and picnic lunch and headed to the old Keith Kirkyard in the nearby town of Keith. We had worked here last year, but there were still four remaining buried stones we had located with our probing. Since we ran out of time last year to uncover them, we were planning to finish the job on Saturday.

Keith got us started by probing the ground where he believed one of the first buried stones was and marked it off with sticks. After determining the perimeters of where the stone lies hidden we started cutting small strips of turf and removing them to see what was below. A buried stone was definitely there so we cut a strip down the middle to see if there was any writing. There did not appear to be any.  When we got to the other end, it became apparent that what we were looking at was the underneath side of a table stone that was lying on its face. They made notes regarding its location and we covered it over again, replacing the turf in the exact same order that we had removed it.

Now to the next buried stone just a few feet away.  We cut the first strip of turf away and immediately there was evidence of writing. Then another strip; more writing – revealing probably the name Gordon and carving too!  We cut strip after strip until we had revealed the entire stone. Keith got his photographic shots; Helen transcribed and described it in her notes after we meticulously cleaned it up.


IMG_1445After the photography, a bit of flour is dusted across the areas of writing that have been eroded or worn away to see if any letters or numbers can pop into view.

IMG_1449We had worked up quite the appetite so we stopped and ate our picnic lunch.

Then we got started on the last buried stone and discovered under the turf a stone with a whole bunch of writing!  Took quite awhile to get it cleaned off and ready for photos and transcribing. Then some flour dusting to make out the hard to read portions.

I really like the technique of dusting it with flour to make the lettering pop out.

As usual, once we revealed, cleaned, dusted, transcribed and photographed it, back went the sod we had removed and tamped it back down so there wouldn’t be a big gaping hole in the grass 4 inches down or so for the groundskeepers to trip on.  Covering it over actually preserves the stone from further erosion from the elements as well. Now, someone, sometime, can get a picture and transcription of their ancestors’ tombstone even though it’s buried under the grass and not visual to the naked eye!  Isn’t that great? That was the last known buried stone in Keith Kirkyard and MBGRG can begin the final process of publishing their recordings.

Sunday morning we headed to another cemetery nearby called Broomhill. There were several other volunteers that day besides ourselves and our task was to record what was written on every single stone in the graveyard, either by writing it down and/or photographs.

IMG_1624A little bit after noon and a very busy working weekend, Lindsay and I said our ‘fare-thee-well’s” to our delightful hosts and fellow volunteers to start making our way back to Aberdeen. It was a grand weekend, full of all kinds of discoveries, both for ourselves as well as others worldwide looking for their ancestors. Volunteering as you travel is a wonderful way to give back to the country you love visiting. I highly recommend it. You get to know locals, make new friends, as well as making a difference and contributing to the world we all live in.


Drummond Castle Gardens

uesday, the 25th of July, Lindsay and I decided to drive south from Aberdeen a couple of hours to visit one of Scotland’s best example of formal terraced gardens, according to Historic Scotland.drummond castle gardens mapWe had a lovely drive down and stopped in the village of Crieff for a bite to eat before heading out to tour the gardens.

We found a nice little spot right on the square at 3 High Street that had recently just opened, The Crieff Food Hall & Company, where they serve organic meals that were extremely tasty and very reasonable.  They also have a store where one can buy fresh products and a lovely gift shop.  We found a sweet little table outside and enjoyed a tasty smoked salmon sandwich with dill and pickled cucumber on Miche bread.  It was delicious. (So delicious I was too busy eating it and forgot to take a picture!)

We drove a bit further out of town and soon we were arriving at the gates to Drummond Castle.IMG_0988It was such a gorgeous drive along this tree-lined lane below flanked by Beech trees.  It went on for about a mile, and as you continue down it climbs up on a natural ridge of rock.  (The castle is set on part of a prominent spine of rock known as the Gask Ridge, a geographical feature that stretches several kilometers across Perthshire, but is particularly prominent and steep-sided at the site of the castle.)


Lindsay made a short video (below) as I drove for your viewing pleasure.

Then the castle began to appear on the left and the car park appeared just beyond.  We parked, and were excited about what we were about the see!


Heading through the castle gates the views began to unfold!

Right before our eyes was the old castle Keep with yet another set of gates to enter.

Once we paid our admission at the Guard House, we could continue through the rest of the entrance tunnel to the courtyard.IMG_1008As usual, I was in awe.  Each castle is so unique and beautiful in its own right – this was no exception! I really liked the way the cobbled stones were laid out in a circular motion around the post in the courtyard near the mansion.IMG_1009



Looking back the way we came in to see what the other side of the Keep looks like. Evidently, there is a time in the early part of September that the Keep is open to visitors. If you happen to be visiting at the time, I would think it would be a great tour to see.

IMG_1013Before we turn the other direction to begin viewing the gardens, I’ll provide a bit of history about this castle.  It’s of particular interest to me because once again, I have significant ancestral ties to this place.

The castle comprises a tower house (Keep) built in the late 15th century, and a 17th-century mansion, both of which were rebuilt in Victorian times. The lands were owned by the Drummond family from the 14th century and the tower house was built over several years by John Drummond, 1st Lord Drummond of Cargill in about 1490. He was my 17th great grandfather:

John Drummond (1438 – 1519)
17th great-grandfather

Margaret Drummond (1472 – 1502)
daughter of John Drummond

Margaret Jane Stewart (1497 – 1510) & (wife of King James IV of Scotland)
daughter of Margaret Drummond

LORD GEORGE GORDON Earl of Huntly (1513 – 1562)
son of Margaret Jane Stewart

Lord George Gordon Earl of Huntly (1535 – 1576)
son of LORD GEORGE GORDON Earl of Huntly

George 6th Earl of Huntly, 1st Marquis of Huntly Gordon (1562 – 1636)
son of Lord George Gordon Earl of Huntly

Lady Mary Gordon (1610 – 1674)
daughter of George 6th Earl of Huntly,1st Marquis of Huntly Gordon

Lady Jean Douglas (1650 – 1678)
daughter of Lady Mary Gordon (daughter of George Gordon of Huntly)

Mary Drummond (1675 – 1729)
daughter of Lady Jean Douglas

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

(Remember Huntly Castle that we visited just recently?  Well, about 1/3 down the lineage you’ll see  ‘Lady Mary Gordon (daughter of George Gordon of Huntly)’ who was from Huntly castle.  Oh! the webs they weaved marrying within the aristocracy! Sometimes it is difficult at best to try to keep track of! Fun, none-the-less, and it spices it up with an added dimension!)

So back to some more history; John Drummond, the 2nd Earl of Perth, was the first to lay out the first terraced garden around the castle in the 1630s. James Drummond, the 4th Earl was Lord Chancellor of Scotland under King James VII.  It was he who began building the mansion house in 1689 before he was imprisoned after the King was deposed by William of Orange.

James Drummond later fled to the exiled Jacobite court in France and the Drummonds continued to support the Jacobite cause in the uprisings of 1715 and 1745.

A rather interesting note here for fellow Outlander fans – in the series when Jamie & Claire went to France, it showed them hanging out in France in the fancy gardens of Versailles you may recall.  In all reality, those scenes weren’t Versailles, but were filmed here in Drummond Castle Gardens!  Perhaps you’ll recognize some of the scenery when we turn our attention to them in just a few short moments.

After the Battle of Culloden and their allegiance to Bonnie Prince Charles, the Drummond properties were declared seized by the British and managed until 1784 when it was then sold to Captain James Drummond.  He made a bunch of improvements which were continued by his daughter Sarah and her husband, Peter Drummond-Burrell, 22nd Baron Willoughby de Eresby, including the formal gardens and terraces in the 1830s. Queen Victoria visited the gardens in 1842.

Shall we turn attention to these drop-dead gorgeous gardens now?  Alrighty then… Here’s what you get to see when you look away from the courtyard and down into the gardens.

It took my breath away!  No wonder I love gardening so much – it’s in my blood!

IMG_1016Let’s look at this slowly again sweeping from left to right and try to take it all in…IMG_1018


IMG_1019Now let’s put our attention on some things immediately around us and bring the focus in closer, starting with the beautifully carved artwork right in front of us like this piece.IMG_1020Okay, I can’t help but look past it again and take in another sweeping view…

IMG_1024Let’s head down the path to our left and make our way down into the garden from that direction… There are at least a dozen carved marble busts along the wall on either side separating the terrace from the first level of the garden that I hadn’t even noticed yet!


Here are a few stairs leading down to the next level, let’s take those…

Nice guard dog! Walking down the path toward the left, we come to an archway in the yew hedge…IMG_1032IMG_1033

The view opens up and I can see a bridge over there off to the left.  Seems the path we’re on will take us in that direction. It’s a nice gently sloping path taking us down to the next level. Looking back I get a nice glimpse of the back side of the mansion house.IMG_1035IMG_1037A bit further down the path offers another view of the backside of the house with the lovely trees dotting the slope. See the arch in the big Yew hedge up there? That’s where we passed under to head in this direction to the arched bridge. Under the bridge is this lovely little pond with the Crest of the Drummond family lined out in white rock at its center.

IMG_1039Looking out over the other side of the bridge, the small pond opens out to a bit of a lake, although the level of the lake is quite low! That’s a shame, so many missed opportunities of reflections on its surface in such a beautiful setting.

IMG_1041We walked down to the small pond at the bridge in front of the Drummond Crest and began walking back toward the center of the garden once again.

IMG_1042As we get closer to the center, views of the castle return once again on the right and a lovely fountain with a statue appears encircled by rose beds straight ahead.

Along the soft grassy path, other marble statues appear at the end of the path nestled amongst the foliage drawing you ever nearer for closer inspection.

IMG_1048In the other direction, the center of the garden beckons us on for more exploration and more beautiful views of the castle above…

Now we get a close-up view of the beautifully trimmed boxed hedges and the flowers encased within; roses and lavender.IMG_1052

IMG_1053In its center, we come upon this ornately carved marble pedestal with some very interesting characters and carvings…


IMG_1056We find ourselves surrounded by these exquisitely maintained boxed hedges forming intriguing patterns in every direction.IMG_1057

IMG_1058IMG_1063IMG_1064Another archway in the distance beckons us to explore, but before we do there are a number of Romanesque statues encircled in circular yew hedges to explore. Let’s go have a look at those first.

I think it’s interesting that originally these statues were carved as nudes, but in the Victorian period, metal fig leaves were created and attached to statues everywhere.

Flanking the back wall was this beautiful pond with more statuesIMG_1069

IMG_1073There were so many pretty trees planted in this part and so many interesting varieties. Yet another archway further along the wall, teasing and beckoning us to go beyond and explore.  There are more statues and trees to check out first.IMG_1074




Having worked our way back to the centre of the garden again from the right we come upon a lovely twisted tree marking the spot where originally stood a very unique sundial placed here centuries ago with 76 faces.  Here’s a picture of the sundial that I found online.

I wonder what happened to it.  Perhaps it was becoming too eroded and needed to be taken indoors.  Perhaps it is being restored, who knows? But I do like this tree just the same and notice how it stands in a cobbled stonework depicting the family crest.IMG_1087

IMG_1064Now it’s time to go back to that beckoning arch to see what lies beyond…Oh look, it’s the vegetable garden.  I wonder what it has in store for us!


My my, what a lot of yummy food growing right in front of us, and a greenhouse to explore.


First, let’s take a closer look at these veggies all protected from the birds in netted cages.IMG_1091Nice looking plump veggies ready for picking and eating fresh off the vines!


Next door in another raised bed are lettuces, onions, potatoes…IMG_1095

IMG_1096The greenhouse is jam packed with all kinds of delightful specimens!IMG_1097


Grapes trellised inside the greenhouse – great idea!

Outdoors again on the other end of the greenhouse, a whole other section of the vegetable garden is revealed to us.  Wow!

Working our way around this part provides lots more flowers, herbs and baby boxwood specimens.

IMG_1127We rested here, sitting on the edge of the raised bed next to the baby boxwood, enjoying the woodland view beyond the borders of the garden.


IMG_1130Continuing on, we came across these fragrant honeysuckle blossoms and drank in their beauty through our nostrils.

Above them, flanking the walls as we headed back toward the greenhouse and gardeners storage area were the absolutely gorgeous array of roses!


The fruit trees and berry vines they have espaliered against the walls were also quite fruitful!

Even more flowers and herbs…

I couldn’t resist.  I bought a little plant to put in Lindsay’s garden, a variety of heliopsis and then we headed back up the stairs, through the archway and back into the formal gardens slowly taking in the beauty as we made our way to the exit.


IMG_1148As we made our way back, I had the pleasure and the honor to meet one of the gardeners of this exquisite site.  His name is Oliver.  Curiously, I asked him how many gardeners are needed to keep this place in such impeccable condition. I was utterly amazed when he revealed that during the height of the season, there are only 7! I would have guessed at least a couple of dozen! During the off season, they maintain it with just 4!  Incredible! More carved busts and marble artwork caught my attention as we climbed the stairs to the castle courtyard above.


Posed with the cherubs is the heliopsis plant I bought to plant in Lindsay’s garden.

Just before reaching the final set of stairs, this area, which appeared to be a defunct fountain, appeared before our eyes. In its stead were all the pieces of what must have been a very pretty fountain with real giant clam shells and interesting rocks such as the geode of amethyst crystals.

Alas the sundial below, confirmed it was time to go.IMG_1178

Once we got back to the car park and into our car, the exit drive took us past the gardener’s cottages, a beautiful pond and I day dreamed of how I would just love to be one of their crew tending these beautiful grounds with them and living in such a grand location.

As we made our way back to the main road via The Balloch, countryside views offered up a peaceful and serene backdrop to gaze at as we settled in with our thoughts and memories of a day well spent.


Haddo House and Pictish Stones & Circles in Nearby Inverurie

Haddo House map

Last year, just before I went home in late October, Lindsay and I had driven out to one more National Trust for Scotland site – Haddo House – only to be told it was closed because they were getting ready for their very popular annual event, a Haunted House! This past Monday, 24 July 2017, Lindsay and I started out our week with a follow-up visit.

The location of Haddo House is shown above on the map with the white circle around the blue splat.  Notice also that along the A96 highway, there are also quite a few other blue splats.  They signify the locations of various ancient Pictish stones, a stone circle and a very old and ancient church.  I found these interesting places to visit on the Historic Scotland website.

So we decided to first visit Haddo House and then go on a scavenger hunt trying to find the various stones, the circle, and the ancient church.  Since these sites are usually in very obscure places, like out in a middle of a farmer’s field, it can be quite challenging sometimes.

We started out with the easy to find location. It looks like we’re in for a real treat!  IMG_0725First, we enter what used to be the stables to gain entry…

IMG_0739We begin by walking up to the house up the old driveway.


This is another grand house which belonged to some “Gordons” and their crest is proudly and prominently displayed.  Along the way, we also pass Haddo Hall which houses a theater which one of the Gordons had built, with rehearsal rooms, known as the Peatyards.  Haddo House Choral & Operatic Society, a large and vibrant choral society was formed in 1945 and has its operations base here.  For over sixty years it has been noted for its annual musical operatic productions.

As you might imagine, this house is steeped in history. The Gordons, who later became the Earls of Aberdeen and Marquesses of Aberdeen, have lived on this site for over 500 years.  George Gordon, born in 1732 became the 1st Earl of Aberdeen, and eventually Lord Chancellor Scotland.

The 4th Earl, George Hamilton-Gordon, was Haddo House’s most notable former resident; he was the British Prime Minister from 1852-1855. A picture of him is shown below.

Another notable period in the history of this house was during World War II.  The house became a maternity hospital for evacuated mothers of Glasgow.  About 1,200 babies were born here and many of them still come back to visit and are affectionately referred to as the “Haddo Babies.”

Haddo House sits near the site of the old Kellie Castle (see photo below). It was the family’s previous dwelling dating back to 1732. IMG_0751It was burnt down by the Covenanters and a new house was built – Haddo House – designed by William Adam in the Georgian Palladian style. The style interior of the house, however, is late Victorian and was refurbished in the 1880’s by the same interior designers that worked at Culzean Castle in Ayrshire. It also contains a very nice art collection, including a series of 85 castles hand-drawn by a very talented artist, James Giles, and a Madonna believed to be painted by Raphael, scattered amongst the various family member portraits.IMG_0799We were met by a really friendly, kilt-wearing guide named Alan.IMG_0749


Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take any photographs once inside.  The interior was quite fascinating and we were taken through room after room, upstairs and down, looking at all kinds of wonderful things including the room where Queen Victoria stayed! I highly recommend taking the time to tour this house if you’re in the area.  The guides were very knowledgeable and friendly.  It wasn’t busy at all which meant Lindsay and I got an individualized tour all by ourselves.

There is even a chapel attached to the house so they could go to church without even stepping outside. Still to this day Ecumenical public services are held with the current Lady in attendance.

After the wonderful tour, we headed through the gate near the chapel to go out to the gardens at the back of the house.








IMG_0796We headed back to the car park, grabbed our picnic lunch and sat out on the grounds to enjoy the view of the obelisk in the distance.

Afterward, we drove about 7 miles south toward the town of Inverurie to find the Aquhorthies Stone Circle.

IMG_0824We walked up the short path and before we knew it; there it was! Yeah!

IMG_0839These places are so cool and just fascinate me to no end; let’s see what the sign has to say.


Now let’s get a closer look, shall we?

IMG_0865It just amazes me that these ancient people somehow got this big rock on the right hauled down from the mountain top in the background to this point.  The mountain, by the way, is called Bennachie (pronounced Ben-a-hee) and is 1,732 feet high and there is an ancient iron age fort at its summit.  The summit is called Mither Tap (see photo below.)

We then headed back down the path back to the car and started to scout out our next destination, the Maiden Stone, up near the town of Pitcaple a little ways north up the A96 highway.

IMG_0849IMG_0867Luckily, there was a Historic Scotland sign just north of Pitcaple pointing the way and about 1 mile up the road there it was literally right next to the road!


IMG_0926What a fascinating stone!  Next stop, we headed back south to Inverurie to the Brandsbutt Stone.  Again, the signs pointed the way and we found ourselves in the middle of a neighborhood with a little park nestled in amongst the houses.


IMG_0920This grassy lawn area of the park is where the stone circle was.  Even though there is little left of the stones, you can easily see exactly where the circle was in the grass.  See that circular line in the lower foreground of the photo above?  I walked around the indentation the whole circumference of the circle.  I’m sure there are still stones underneath the grass like the Aquhorthies circle we were at earlier.

Over in the corner of the neighborhood park was also this little interesting feature:

Okay, one more place to try to find on our ancient scavenger hunt, Kinkell Church.  We drove through the village of Inverurie heading south and out of town again following an obscure farm road.  This time no Historic Scotland signposts guided the way.  We did pass a beautiful patch of wildflowers some people had planted, however.

IMG_0903Although the route wasn’t sign posted like the others, Lindsay was able to find it on his phone using Maps and he navigated me through the winding roads until at last, we came to a dead end at a farm and the ancient monument was just across the road sitting in the middle of his fields!

IMG_0953It had very little remaining of the church, but what did remain was quite interesting.

On the north wall is an elaborate sacrament house, dated 1524, designed to hold the consecrated Host. Also, a bronze replica of a Calvary of 1525.  Both the sacrament and the Calvary bear the initials of Alexander Galloway, Parson of Kenkell.


Nearby is the reused grave slab of Gilbert de Greenlaw, slain at the battle of Harlaw in 1411 on one side and on the other side: “Here lies bright with honor, and adorned with saintly piety of character, John Forbes of Ardmurdo, 4th successor of his name, who died 8th July, 1592 in the 66th year of his age.”  So they were ‘re-purposing’ grave stones even then!



IMG_0959It was a fun day visiting grand manor houses and gardens and then scouting out ancient Stone Circles, Stones, and churches in the countryside.  Quite the unique adventure on the menu for today.  Hope you enjoyed our finds as much as we did!





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!

Huntly map

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!”


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.


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….




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!


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…


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!


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!


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



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



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

Further up the stairs to the next level…











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



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








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…


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


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.


Gordon Highlander’s Museum

Today was a bit rainy so we decided to choose an indoor venue for our explorations and the Gordon Highlander’s Museum fit the bill perfectly. According to their website: “Situated in the fashionable west end of Aberdeen, Scotland, in the former home of leading Scottish artist Sir George Reid, The Gordon Highlanders Museum offers a warm, friendly welcome to all visitors.”  They did not disappoint!


IMG_0273For starters, the grounds and Sir George Reid’s former home were very nice and a pleasure to be in.  It was immaculately kept inside and out and serves as a venue for a wide variety of purposes.


The Gordon Highlander’s crest is proudly displayed prominently near the entrance. Their motto, “Bydand,” means “abiding & steadfast.” IMG_0281We paid our admission, walked through the gift shop full of all things “Gordon.”

We were soon greeted by a very friendly volunteer guide IMG_0287by the name of Jim. He showed us around the ‘educational room where students who are studying World Wars I & II, and who come to learn about how the regiments fought, what kind of uniforms they wore, what tools and weapons they used, etc.

They even have a very well designed and handmade model of what the trenches looked like during the war and how they operated.  I was amazed at how detailed and intricate it was!

After viewing an extremely informative and well-produced 15-minute film introductory overview of the history of the Gordon Highlanders we were set to begin walking through the artifacts on display within the two-floor museum. At the entrance, we were first introduced to a well-dressed and quite realistic mannequin donned in the Gordon Highlander dress!

IMG_0320Another handsome volunteer guide named David, proceeded to take us through the museum’s numerous display cases, thoroughly explaining each, telling us stories and pointing out particularly unique, interesting or historical items to pay special attention to. The individualized personal tour he gave us was very nice, relaxed, unhurried and extremely informative.  David obviously was not regurgitating a memorized script and was very knowledgeable about every minute detail within the well laid out and artistically arranged chronological displays.

Let’s stroll through the displays and I’ll try to point out many of the interesting things David shared with us as we go… but first a brief history lesson on how the regiment was first formed:

The Gordon Highlanders was raised in 1794 by the 4th Duke of Gordon as a regiment of Highland Foot (infantry) officially named “The Gordon Highlanders” in 1881. Many of the original recruits were drawn from the Gordon estates assisted by the 4th Duke’s wife, the Duchess of Gordon (Duchess Jean).

The Duchess is said to have offered ‘a shilling and a kiss’ as an incentive to join her husband’s Regiment.




The Gordons were formed during the French Revolutionary Wars and played a prominent role in the final defeat of Napoleon at Quatre Bras and Waterloo in 1815.


A little side note about the horses’ hoof above:  Horses were at a premium and quite valuable at that time. Because of this when an officer’s horse was shot and killed, he was required to cut off a hoof for “proof” that his horse died and wasn’t sold for profit!  This particular hoof was made into a snuff box.

Below is an example of the uniforms they wore.  Notice the lapels and cuffs; on the left is the fancier version with lace the officers wore and the right lapel is what the infantry wore.IMG_0365

This guy above, George Findlater, was quite the piper! Here’s a picture taken of a huge painting in the dining room depicting the scene of the battle; notice him sitting on the ground propped up against the big rock.


Actual letters written by soldiers sent home to their loved ones, below.  One of the really fascinating things about this museum is that the displays hold authentic artifacts – not replicas.  For instance, the medals you see are the actual medals, not facsimiles.  Because they are so valuable and therefore worth a lot of money, many museums lock away the real ones and have facsimiles made for display.  Not this place; they are so proud of their medals, they put the actual ones in the secure display cases.  What you see is the real deal, like these letters donated by family members to the museum!


The Gordon Highlanders have served over 200 years (1794-1994).  According to their website: “In the 19th century, the expanding British Empire saw The Gordons serve on the frontiers of India, Egypt, Sudan and South Africa.

In World War One, some 50,000 Gordons served in the regular, territorial and service battalions. Of these, approximately 27,000 were killed or wounded. Among other major battles, every Gordon Battalion saw action in the Somme in 1916.

In World War Two, Gordon Battalions served with the British Expeditionary Force in France in 1940, and in the Far East in 1942, where many became prisoners of war. Great success was achieved in the North African Campaign, in Sicily and Italy, in the invasion of north-west Europe, followed by the long advance into Germany, and the liberation of Burma.

In the years after 1945, the Regiment took part in peace-keeping and anti-terrorist operations in Malaya, Borneo, Cyprus, Germany and Northern Ireland, with detachments serving in the Gulf War and Bosnia.”

They earned a lot of medals and commendations along the course of history.

There are also a lot of pieces of memorabilia brought home from the war by the soldiers or returned to the regiment years later.



This next guy is another fine and outstanding example of the regiments’ bravery and individual commitment to abide and remain steadfast, according to their motto. Be sure to read the plaque detail below the picture to get the full details of what this one guy did!

Talk about bravery – utterly amazing!




The following is another great story.  What the plaque below the photo doesn’t tell you is that the book was handmade by the people of the village of Chievres.  Each page is hand lettered with fine detail.  All of the paintings on the pages are hand painted watercolors! It is a priceless treasure!




This next piece I found rather interesting and poignant.  These medallions, called the “Dead Man Pennies” were made from melted down shell casings which were left over after the cease fire and sent to all next of kin of those who died during the Great War, or later as a result of wounds received during the war.  A whole lot better than a telegram wouldn’t you say?




They also served in Burma and were prisoners of war who were forced to work at hard laborers to build the railroad.  I think there was a movie made about that recently!


Finally, before we headed downstairs there was this really cool, and extremely detailed model of the soldiers in western Europe fighting the Germans who they had cornered upstairs in buildings.

Downstairs we were taken into the dining room with the table set suitable for the Officers.

Next we visited the current exhibition “Citizen Soldiers.”