Saturday, October 29, 2016

further explorations in Southern Scotland

We made new friends in Cornwall just before we moved to Scotland, handily they live in Scotland so we took the opportunity to catch-up in Stirling and go out and do some touristing.

First we visited the Wallace Memorial, before getting thoroughly lost on the descent of the hill:

From there we headed to Doune Castle, where we joined Historic Scotland, we plan many more castle visits in the coming years:

Doune was doubly fascinating both for its history and its association with Monty Python, scenes from The Holy Grail having been filmed at the castle.   The audio guide includes Monty Python commentary and excerpts, including the infamous 'your mother was a hamster and your father smelled of elderberries' etc. 

The next weekend we were free we decided to explore Dumfries and Galloway a bit, visiting first the RPSB Mersehead reserve which we really enjoyed.   The Barnacle Geese having arrived in large numbers already:

From Mersehead we set out on a circular route taking in MacLellan's Castle in Kirkcudbright:

And via a few other less notable buildings to Caerlaverock Castle, which is magnificent:

We were just too late to explore it (last entry is 15:30 in winter) however we definitely want to go back to do so!

We also visited the WWT site at Caerlaverock, which was well worth it and a lovely way to complete the day.

The next morning dawned much brighter, Scotland does seem to enjoy a lot of 'golden dawns', when the light is exciting.

As we checked out of our hotel in Dumfries a skein of Geese flew over, going inland from Caerlaverock WWT:

We drove from Dumfries to Loch Doon on what proved to be a beautiful autumn day:

We also visited the Castle which had once stood on a now mostly submerged island in the Loch:

It was moved some time ago but is still worth a visit.

We also had our first house guests in Scotland, and on another glorious morning I took them to New Lanark, which was as spectacular as i hoped it would be:

Autumn in full swing:

My only regret was my ongoing recovery from a sprained ankle meant i couldn't walk, so although the views from the sites were good i missed out on a spectacular light, colour/and river photography session, which our guests properly enjoyed and indeed filled their boots with.

I took this snap before retreating:

The site does look magnificent on a sunny day though:

We're still enjoying exploring our new home though i feel drawn to the sunshine....

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Isle of Arran

After our latest trip from Cornwall to Scotland, we needed Saturday to wind-down and indeed start to move into our rented flat.   The weather forecast for Sunday however looked glorious with almost no wind, little cloud and plenty of sunshine, so we grabbed one of the last spots on the car ferry from Ardrossan to Arran.

Sunday dawned cold and foggy, a chilly 3.5c to start the day for the hour-long drive to Ardrossan to check in just after 9am for the ferry.  We boarded and the ship set out for the 55 minute crossing on time.

Whilst cold the morning autumn light was golden, as you can see in this image of the harbour lighthouse:

And again on the harbour wall as we headed out:

In the harbour a winter plumage Black Guillemot was disturbed by the ship:

We headed over to Arran this being the strongest breeze the sea could muster:

As we neared the Island a group of Gannets were diving for food, one flew close to the boat:

Having done some homework before setting off I decided on an anti-clockwise circuit of the Isle, taking in as many of the sights as we could.  We started at the Scottish National Trust's Brodick Castle:

The gardens look like they would be best in Spring, but it was still worth a wander through the grounds and just outside for a coffee.   We saw a number of birds in the grounds, including this Common Treecreeper, on a wall:

A Painted Lady butterfly was feeding and sunning in the garden:

as another Lady looked on:

A nearly adult Robin wasn't bothered by us:

We drove from Brodick to Lochranza, stopping in the Loch area to soak up the view:

And indeed to see the castle ruins:

From Lochranza we drove around to Machrie, now halfway around the Isle, to see the ancient monument there:

It's a half-hour walk to the largest standing stones - Helen is stood next to the middle one to illustrate the scale of the landscape and indeed the stones:

The round-trip was well worth it, it's a fascinating place.

From Machrie we drove to the South of the Island to Kildonan, where there's a small island offshore:

We drank tea and coffee at the hotel whilst looking out to sea and were treated to an Otter briefly popping out to munch on something before sliding back under the water to hunt:

Further along the coast Common Seals were catching the fading sunlight as the tide ebbed:

We drove on past Holy Island:

And back to Brodick where we found most of the restaurants closed and the few remaining open packed, so dinner was sandwiches and crisps from the Co-op sat in the car marvelling at what a beautiful day we'd enjoyed at the start of October on the Isle of Arran.  

Then all too soon it was time to queue again for the car ferry and the trip back to Ardrossan and thence home.

Saturday, October 01, 2016

Start of Autumn in Scotland

So, right now we're living in Hamilton and have sufficiently settled to enable me to catch-up with some blogging.  We picked Hamilton from the map because of its connections (road North and South, rail to Glasgow) and absent any other specific information.

Our first home was a very small flat, rented by the day in the South-West of the town, just off the motorway and close to Chatelherault Country Park.   Our first weekend there the sun was shining so we walked down for an explore:

Scotland seems to do tourism really rather well.   They have free leaflets and brochures and Visit Scotland offices dotted about and it's inviting and friendly, as indeed are all the people we've met thus far, a pleasant change to the colder more distant and hurried English culture.

The walk into the Country Park meanders along a pleasant river valley which is also a Nature Reserve and home to a family of dippers.   We literally left our flat, walked to the edge of town, turned a corner and saw Dippers!

The Country Park is enormous with views of the whole valley including Hamilton, Motherwell and their conurbations.

Our next spare weekend we headed further afield, picking Inveraray.  We had though about Fort William but as it was still holiday season the hotels were all full, so B&B in Inveraray it was.

After a pleasant drive we started off walking through town and generally exploring, this is the war memorial on the edge of Loch Fyne:

We didn't visit the castle, only paid to park and used the parking ticket to offset a light lunch, which was a good deal, then climbed the hill/folly for cracking views back down into Inveraray.  We kept bumping into people carrying coats and had ourselves turned away from a garden not 10 miles from the town due to rain but all was sunshine and heat, as evidenced by this Scotch Argus nectaring:

Our walk into town for dinner enabled us to enjoy the evening light over the Loch:

After a great dinner at the pizzeria in town and a reasonable night's sleep the morning was beautiful, well worth taking a few pictures of the cloud reflected over an unusually still Loch:

With Inveraray as a backdrop:

We enjoyed further views and scenery as we headed to the two RSPB reserves on the other side of Loch Lomond, quite a drive:

The first is brand new and still mostly a muddy track and fields, the second at Inversnaid is down a single track road and basically you just explore the area.   We opted for the upland walk:

Seeing Meadow Pipits all around the trail:

Faded Small Pearl Bordered Fritillary:

Scotch Argus:

An amazing landscape:

Pretty waterfalls (the ground was quite boggy in parts):

It's a lovely spot and I suspect you can walk for miles and miles without meeting another soul.  We've even invested in a decent GPS to facilitate walking, hiking and hill walking,

The route back took us through Stirling, a city we need to visit more thoroughly, i couldn't resist a quick picture of the Wallace Monument when we stopped for fuel:

Aside from the challenges of moving, repeatedly, being isolated from our friends and family we have already enjoyed the start of our time in Scotland and look forward to exploring the place much more thoroughly in the coming years!

From Lanark to Aberdeen

When I say 'all change' this time I mean it!    Helen has a new job in central Glasgow and therefore we've moved to Scotland, and moved again and then again (but that's another story).

Having dropped one car load of stuff in a very small flat, after the 8 hour drive North, we set off on the following day to explore our local area, the first place that caught our eye being New Lanark:

It's a fascinating and quite scary former factory alongside a river, with it's own school, accommodation, etc., and is now a World Heritage Site.   We were doubly lucky both with the weather and fact that the hydro-power station was offline for repairs, meaning the water running down the river was at full power:

New Lanark is definitely a site to revisit and explore further and the walks around and about look good too!

We had also promised to visit a nephew in Aberdeen so meandered our way even further North the following day, popping in to see Glamis Castle on the way:

It's an amazingly grand pile and absolutely not our cup of tea, so we had a walk around their gardens, with obligatory bee friendly bits:

But this kind of stuff is just window dressing when you think of everything else this type of family gets up to.

From Glamis we visited stopped off at Dunnottar Castle just South of Aberdeen:

I'd like to visit agin with blue skies and better light, it's a fascinating ruin.

We also visited the RSPB at Loch Strathbeg:

The Lighthouse Museum at Faserburgh, climbed our first Munro, Mither Tap, the woodland here on the way up:

How much further?

A moody view from the top:

We visited a Gannet colony on the coast (Helen did this one, I couldn't face the very narrow and precipitous cliff path):

 Actual proper cliffs, with barley on them :

And visited Aberdeen itself.   We had a cracking evening of pub, curry and watching some good old fashioned street fighting!   It was really good seeing our Nephew in his own habitat though Aberdeen really does need some town planning to make it easier to get round!