Howdy, strangers! How areyou guys? It has been AGES since I have been here. I really don’t have a good reason why I haven’t published, other than that life took over, and I got lazy. Funny how that can happen, huh? I realized over the weekend, that today, August 11, is the fourth anniversary of this blog. So, how could I possibly let the day slip by without posting something, and maybe, just maybe?…spur myself on to get back into the groove.
In light of that, today, I would like to tell you about an interesting ruin located 3.5 miles south of Nairn, Scotland (about thirty minutes northeast of Inverness).
It is so much fun to drive the narrow, single-track roads through Scotland’s countryside. Not only is the scenery beautiful, but it’s along those routes that you often find the best surprises. On this day, the surprise was Culloden Viaduct.
Culloden Viaduct (also known as Nairn Viaduct) lies about seven miles east of Inverness and about a half-mile from the popular Clava Cairns site. The massive red sandstone masonry viaduct is the longest of its kind in Scotland, at 1,800 ft. Built by the Highland Railway and engineered by Murdoch Paterson, Culloden Viaduct opened to rail traffic in November 1898. Today, it is still in use and is the largest structure on the Highland Main Line (scenic rail) between Perth and Inverness.
The viaduct was built on a subtle curve with a 100 ft. wide central arch that spans the River Nairn. Ten 50 ft. wide arches and eighteen 50 ft. wide arches flank the center arch on each side, respectively (twenty-nine in all). Though the structure was built with a double-track width, only one of the tracks remains.
You can see our car and Mr. C in the photo above. Suffice it to say, we felt very tiny next to the giant columns! This was definitely a fun find. The only thing that could have made it better would have been to see a train make the crossing. Maybe next time.
Hello there, friends. I am looking out my den window at a completely joyless day – well, weather-wise, at least. It is 32º F and misting, with more freezing rain expected later today. It’s the sort of day that makes me extra appreciative of my cozy, warm house and that the first day of spring is only about five weeks away! In light of the weather, I thought today I would talk about Duffus Castle, which we visited on a lovely (and warm) afternoon in May 2019.
Duffus Castle (or Doofus Castle as Mr. C and I like to say just to be silly – admit it, you thought it too) sits near the coast of the Moray Firth in the Moray region in northern Scotland. The site lies about an hour to the northeast of Inverness and ten minutes southeast of Elgin.
Duffus Castle is a fine example of a motte and bailey castle, a common design during the 12th and 13th centuries in Scotland. Don’t worry. I had to look that up too. Wikipedia describes this type of fortification as one having “a wooden or stone keep situated on a raised area of ground called a motte, accompanied by a walled courtyard, or bailey, surrounded by a protective ditch and palisade.” Duffus was at one time a more defensible castle than it appears today, as it used to be surrounded by the now drained Loch of Spynie.
In late November, I rather impulsively pre-ordered a limited batch release of The Sassenach, Sam Heughan’s new premium blended Scotch whisky. (Sam Heughan is the Scottish actor who plays Jamie Fraser on the mega-hit television series “Outlander.”) Reserve Bar was the only place from which to buy it here in the U.S. It’s a darn good thing I snagged it when I did because it is now completely sold out. It took a little over two months to ship and arrive from Scotland, but last week, arrive it did!
A number of years ago, I discovered the British television show “Monarch of the Glen”. Have you seen it? The comedy/drama comprised seven seasons that aired from 2000-2005. I immediately fell in love with the premise and the quirkiness of the characters and storylines. If you’re not familiar with it, the first five seasons revolve around the story of Archie MacDonald, a young restauranteur in London, who reluctantly moves back to his family’s home in the Scottish Highlands (after being bamboozled by his mother), to assume his role as laird of the severely cash-strapped Glenbogle Estate. In his quest to save Glenbogle, Archie seems to constantly face a barrage of obstacles and disappointments, and his strained relationship with his eccentric father (played brilliantly by Richard Briers) makes things even more complicated. It is because of the teamwork and dedication of the family’s loyal and offbeat estate staff, that Glenbogle slowly begins to emerge from the ashes. Archie even finds love.
I can’t believe it is only five days until Christmas! Even less if you are reading this from the other side of the world. How are your Christmas preparations coming along? The holidays undoubtedly look very different for much of the world this year, but I would love to know what sorts of things you have planned. What are some of the traditions you and your family keep?
I hope that everyone who reached out about receiving a homemade Christmas card has received theirs. I mailed them on the last day of November, but as swamped as the postal service is this year, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if some of them take a while to reach their destinations. Please do let me know if you don’t get yours. I love making cards and I love you – my awesome online community.
So. I had this great idea, that I would make a Yule log cake (also called a Bûche de Noël if you want to sound fancy), share the recipe with you today before the winter solstice, and tell you about the history behind the tradition. In my fantasy, my cake would taste better than Mary Berry’s and look more beautiful than Paul Hollywood! But, alas, after two disastrously failed attempts which resulted in the wasting of food, the wasting of my time, and a wound to my pride, I decided to just buy the damn thing. This situation reminds me of the line in the cute movie “Calendar Girls” when Chris (Helen Mirren) wins the baking contest and gives the following advice on how she achieved such a light sponge: “Line the bowl with butter. Always use a warm spoon. And if it’s a special event, get it at Marks & Spencer’s.” Well, we don’t have a Marks & Spencer’s here, but we do have The Fresh Market, and it turns out they make a bloody good cake!
Nestled within the gorgeous Scottish Highlands, on a very minor road about ten miles from Inverness, sits a lovely hidden gem – Dunlichity Church and Cemetery.
Mr. C and I discovered Dunlichity Church by accident in 2019. Dunlichity is an example of “what I call” the real Scotland (any “Miranda” fans out there? 🙂 ) You might be wondering what I mean by that because obviously, it’s all real, of course! What I mean is that Dunlichity isn’t one of the uber-popular and (sshh, dare I say it?) overpromoted sites that draw in people from near and far. It will probably never appear on a list of the “Top 10 Things to Do In Scotland” (well, that is unless someone like Dana Gabaldon makes it famous). I could be completely wrong – but I’d be willing to bet that nearby residents and history enthusiasts are maybe some of the only individuals aware of its existence. A small hidden gem, Dunlcihity Church and its cemetery are a wonderful, authentic, off-the-radar testimony to Scottish lives past and present that only a lucky few curious visitors and residents will ever stumble across.
Well, hello there! How are you? Bet you thought I had disappeared. I assure you, friends, I haven’t. The last six weeks have just been completely, utterly, absolutely, and positively BONKERS. Unfortunately, blogging has taken a back seat. But here I am, back with you today and ready to take you on a walk through beautiful Milton Wood. Grab your backpacks – don’t forget to take some water – and let’s be off.
Today’s castle might not be considered a showstopper by some, but this ruin is one of my favorites. This is Corse Castle.
Corse Castle sits alongside a minor road (well, less than a minor road, really), off of the B9119, near the village of Lumphanan in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. In fact, if you didn’t know it was there, you might well miss it! Formerly a medieval tower house, this sixteenth-century castle is now a lonely roofless ruin, surrounded by deep overgrowth.
One of the cutest little critters you might encounter while in Scotland is the red squirrel.
Red squirrels (S. vulgaris) are identifiable by their reddish-brown fur, fluffy tails, and tufts of hair on the ends of their ears. They may be spotted in a variety of woodland habitats; however, these elusive creatures are most likely to be found in coniferous woods – especially in the pine forests of the Highlands or further south in the Dumfries and Galloway region.