Laggan Free Church

Like The White Bridge that I wrote about last week, today’s post features another amazing, serendipitous find.  Scotland certainly does seem to be full of those.

One afternoon a few weeks ago, Mr. C and I were driving through the southwest portion of the Cairngorms National Park near the village of Laggan. 

Threat of a storm rolling in.

We had just turned onto General Wade’s Military Road from the A86 when we spotted the fantastic ruins of an old church to our left.  Naturally, we pulled over to check it out.

Sadly, there was no information posted and the only clue was a sign at the road for something called ‘The Monarch’. It appeared to refer to the house sitting across the yard from the church. That evening, I did a Google search (what in the world were our lives like before the internet?) in an effort to discover more information. Though I couldn’t find a date for the church’s construction, I learned that what we had seen were the ruins of the Laggan Free Church (Free Church being an evangelical and reformed branch of the Presbyterian Church).

And as for the Monarch, it does in fact occupy the same property as the ruin. It was recently run as a country hotel but is now permanently closed. Interestingly, the home-turned-inn was at one time the church manse (parsonage).

I would so love to know more about this church. When was it built? Why was it abandoned? Did a newer, shinier version get built somewhere nearby? Why is the steeple and entry more intact than the rest of the ruin? Did it suffer a fire? Did it just weather away from disuse? All questions my curious mind would like to know the answers to! Perhaps I will never know.

Incidentally, before I wrap things up for today, I want to mention a great little cafe that we stumbled upon shortly after we had left the church. It’s called Caoldair Coffee and Craft Shop. Located on General Wade’s Military Road about a half mile or so from the ruin, it’s a lovely shop that sells (as their sign says) coffee, cakes, clothing, and other yummy things. Right they are. Another terrific find. Did we buy anything? Why yes. Yes we did. As for me, I left with a very nice plumb tart. Mr. C ended up with a very nice hat.

Until next time, friends.

Cheers,

The White Bridge and General Wade’s Military Roads

I never thought I’d be the type to geek out over a bridge. Or old military transit roads. Good gracious. Who AM I?! Someone please send help.

While heading southwest one morning on the B862, Mr. C and I came upon this interesting bridge over the River Fechlin in the tiny community of Whitebridge, Scotland.

Intrigued, we parked our car and with cameras in hand, crossed the road to get a better look.

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Auchindoun Castle

Hi friends,

What’s new in your corner of the world? It’s hard to believe that a week ago yesterday I was sitting on a crappy, cramped Boeing 757, heading home from two amazing weeks in Scotland. Why we humans consent to getting into a metal tube that shoots us through the air at 500 miles per hour and at some 34,000 feet above the ground is beyond me. Ohhhh, I know why. It’s because our love for the people and places that await us far outweigh any of the risks. And for Scotland (in the words of Adele), I’m willing to take the risk.

Today I would like to share with you one of my favorites castles on my ever expanding list. This is Auchindoun, a 15th century treasure that lies near Dufftown, in Moray.

I have told you before that I love all castles. Never let a castle go to waste, I say! But I have an extra special affinity for the lonely, romantic ruins that time has all but forgotten. Thankfully Auchindoun isn’t entirely forsaken, as it is looked after by Historic Environment Scotland. I’d wager, though, that only a tiny number of tourists ever find their way to this treasure and I have a hunch that many Scots aren’t familiar with it either. It feels like a secret that I was lucky enough to learn. And now you know it too.

Are you ready to explore? You’ll need a good pair of comfy, weather resistant walking shoes. It is quite a hike from where you park at the end of the road and you may have the feeling you are trespassing on a farmer’s land. It’s okay, you’re not. Trust, me, friend. The view from the hill that the castle sits upon is worth every single step you’ll take.

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Tantallon Castle

Tantallon Castle in a word:

Badass.

Seriously. Mr. C and I didn’t realize just how imposing a structure Tantallon was until we had parked the car and made the walk toward the castle grounds. The closer we got, the more Tantallon grew. And grew. And grew! By the time we had reached the building, it’s safe to say we were both quite dumbfounded by the formidable fortress staring back at us.

That little black line is me standing in front of Tantallon Castle’s Mid Tower and massive curtain wall. The ruined tower on the left is the Douglas Tower. Originally seven stories high, it served as the earl’s private residence. The East Tower sits to the far right and served as lodging for household staff and guests.
Though a large, open space today, the area in front of the castle would have been a place of much activity. There would have been all manner of structures essential to life in the castle, such as bakehouses, brewhouses, workshops, and stables.
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When Christmas Was Banned In Scotland

Hello my friends!  I hope you are having an extraordinary day.

For today’s post, I would like to share with you about a time in Scotland’s history when Christmas was banned.  Yes, it really was!  And to mix things up a bit, I thought I’d have a little fun and try my hand at writing it as a poem.  Perhaps it will sound a bit familiar to you.  🙂  Enjoy.

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‘Twas the night before Christmas

and all through the land,

not a creature was stirring,

for Christmas was banned.

 

“Why?” you might ask,

when in Scotland of old,

the Yule was indeed

important we’re told.

 

You see, Yule – from the ‘Yuletide’-

was a festival of fun,

a time to laud the solstice

and the return of the sun.

 

Greenery was hung

as a symbol of life,

and the yule log burned warm,

merry, and bright.

 

In the year 1560, though,

something new happened.

The Reformation began –

spirits were dampened.

 

What used to be fun

was now frowned upon.

No more celebrations.

Beloved Yuletide was done.

 

From there it got worse,

more sadness and gloom.

And in 1640,

the Church lowered the boom.

 

Too pagan! Too Catholic!

Not biblical they said.

Go to work, eat your supper,

just be quiet instead.

 

Yuletide was banned,

the festivities finished.

If caught in celebration,

one would certainly be punished!

 

With no games, no gifts,

no more feasts to be had,

the people of Scotland

must have felt sad.

 

Thankfully, though,

cooler heads would prevail.

Nearly fifty years later

the act was repealed.

 

Three centuries more

was the notion suppressed,

though little by little

Christians welcomed the fest.

 

Old traditions and customs

that once had been barred,

were now part of Christmas,

reclaimed and restored.

 

Today Yuletide carols

are sung by a choir,

and Christmas trees sparkle

by the light of a star.

 

This Christmas as you

and your family delight,

I wish a happy Christmas to all

and to all a good night.

 

*Christmas became a public holiday in Scotland in 1958.

 

Enjoy your week, everyone and I’ll see you again soon!

Cheers,

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Dunnottar Castle

Welcome back, everyone.  Hope you’re having a lovely week.

If you like castles, then you’ll want to stick around for today’s post.  It’s a biggie!

Castles are amazing, don’t you think?  It doesn’t matter to me if it has been renovated and now serves as a five-star luxury hotel, if it’s a well-preserved ruin, or if all that remains is a crumbling mess, a mere shadow of what once had been.  Every castle has a tale to tell and I love them all.

Today I would like to take you to Dunnottar Castle which sits on the North Sea, about two miles from the town of Stonehaven, Scotland.  I can still remember my reaction the firstfullsizeoutput_296 time I rounded the path and Dunnottar came into full view.  Hmmm, how do I describe it?   Okay, got it.  Do you remember the romcom “Notting Hill” starring Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts?  (Where have all the romantic comedies gone, by the way?)  Do you remember the scene where William (Grant) takes the famous actress Anna Scott (Roberts) as his date to his sister Honey’s birthday party?  And do you remember Honey’s reaction at meeting Anna for the first time?  Hahaha!  Yeah.  That pretty much sums it up.

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Perched atop a massive flat rock with sheer cliffs on three sides and connected to the mainland by only a narrow stretch of earth, Dunnottar Castle and its surrounding landscape is an extraordinary sight to behold.  Truly, photos cannot do justice to the magnitude of the rock upon which the castle resides.

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Recipe: Prince Charlie’s Coffee

The year was 1746 and a young man by the name of…wait for it…Charles Edward Louis John Casimir Sylvester Severino Maria Stuart was on the run.  We know him better as Bonnie Prince Charlie (and thank goodness because that was a mouthful).

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Photo:  Public Domain

Following a crushing defeat at the Battle of Culloden – the short, bloody battle in which Prince Charlie led his Jacobite supporters in an attempt to restore his family (the Stuarts) to the English and Scottish thrones – Charlie found himself fleeing for his life from an aggressive pursuit by the king’s men.  With assistance from loyal Scottish clansmen along the way, Charlie’s escape took him through the Highlands and into the western islands of Scotland, finally landing him on the Isle of Skye in the Inner Hebrides.

It was on Skye that John MacKinnon, the chief of Clan MacKinnon, helped Prince Charlie escape Scotland for France.  As a token of his gratitude, the Prince gave John the secret recipe to his personal liqueur that had been created for him when he was at the French court.

Many generations later, in 1873, that secret recipe passed into the hands of John Ross of the Broadford Hotel on Skye and John’s son James went on to register “an dram buidheach” (in Gaelic, “the drink that satisfies”) as a trademark.  In 1914, Malcolm MacKinnon obtained the recipe and trademark and established what we know today as the Drambuie Liqueur Company.

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Inchcolm Abbey

Hi Friends,

Did everyone had a nice weekend?  I spent mine planting lots of pretty pink flowers, eating delicious food, visiting with family and friends, and writing a word or two.  The long Memorial Day holiday is almost over and tomorrow it’s back to business as usual.

In today’s blog post, I’d like to point out a really interesting site located on the island of Inchcolm in the Firth of Forth (the estuary off Scotland’s east coast that flows into the North Sea).  Mr. C and I first spotted the structure from the grounds of Lauriston Castle in Edinburgh.

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As viewed from Lauriston Castle.

We had no idea what we were looking at that day and assumed it was a castle ruin.  It wasn’t until we chartered a sailing tour of the Firth (a blast – more on that in a future post) that we saw this remarkable structure in clearer view.  Turns out it was Inchcolm Abbey, the most well-preserved group of monastic buildings in Scotland.

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Lauriston Castle Part 1

Hi Friends.

How would you like to join me today for a stroll around the grounds of one of the prettiest castles in Scotland?  Oh good, I’m so pleased!  I promise that you are going to love it.

Today we are in Edinburgh at the oh-so-lovely Lauriston Castle.

Just a quick history of the castle:  Lauriston’s tower house – the original construction on the left – (see picture below) was built by Sir Archibald Napier sometime around 1593 and the pretty Jacobean-style extension was added in 1827.  Over the centuries, the castle passed through numerous hands until it came into the possession of its final owners – William and Margaret Reid. The Reids acquired the property in 1902 and lived there until Mrs. Reid’s death in 1926.  Because the couple had no children, they left the castle to the city of Edinburgh under the condition that it be preserved unchanged.  And so the promise was kept.  The remarkable Edwardian interior, filled to the brim with their fine furniture and artwork, is now a museum maintained by the city.  For a nominal fee, you can take a guided tour of this home (uh, castle) which remains exactly as it was at the time of the Reids.  The manicured grounds, which boast a view of the sea and a stunning Japanese garden are a real bargain – free!  Lauriston truly is a gem in Edinburgh.

The photos that follow are from Mr. C’s and my first trip to Scotland, which we took in the month of May.  The weather that day was magnificent.  I think you will see that with scenery like this, it was impossible not to fall crazy in love with the place.

I do hope you will enjoy today’s pictorial blog.

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Redhouse Castle

Hello Friends.  Guess what?  It’s almost Friday!

Today I would like to take you to another ‘off-the-beaten-path’ place.  You probably know by now that those spots are my favorite.  There is something fun about seeing things that the typical tourist doesn’t know about.  Mr. C and I discovered this one completely by accident.  Today I’m going to take you to see Redhouse Castle.

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St. Andrews Kirk

Hope you are having a great weekend, Friends.  If you are someone who celebrates the Risen Savior, Happy Easter!

Is the calendar really turning a page today?  It feels like we just celebrated the new year and here it is already four months in.  Not that I’m complaining, mind you.  I adore the month of April.  The breeze blows softer, the grass turns greener, the sun shines warmer.  With every new leaf that springs forth on the trees and every tender shoot that arises from the ground, I am reminded that all things are being made new once again.  Kind of an appropriate allegory for today, I think.

With today being Easter Sunday, I thought it would be relevant to journey with you to the ruins of a place in Gullane, Scotland that no doubt saw many an Easter Sunday celebration.

That place is St. Andrews.  Pretty neat, isn’t it?

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Proud Mary-Part 2

“Mary, Queen of Scots entered the room where she would be executed. She told her friends and servants to ‘rejoice rather than weep for that the end of Mary Stuart’s troubles is now come … tell my friends that I die a true woman to my religion, and like a true Scottish woman and a true French woman.’

Mary was disrobed; her black garments were removed, revealing an outfit of deep red – the Catholic colour of martyrdom. She knelt down on a cushion, resting her head on the block, before stretching out her arms and crying in Latin “Into thy hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.” The axe came down, but landed on the back of her head rather than her neck. A second blow cut into her neck but a third was required to sever the head completely.

When the executioner lifted Mary’s head it tumbled onto the stage, leaving him holding her wig. Her hair was short and completely grey due to years of stress as a prisoner. A final surprise was waiting for the executioner – Mary’s little Skye terrier had been hiding under her skirts, soaked in blood.”  –Laura Brown, Historic Environment Scotland

 


Hello again, my friends.  I hope this day finds you well. I also hope that you are not too annoyed with me if ‘Proud Mary’ has gotten stuck in your head.  That song has been playing on a continuous loop in mine for the last two weeks! Perhaps publishing my article today will be the magic that makes it quit.

So, today we are going to pick up where we left off in my previous blog about the life of Mary, Queen of Scots.

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On display at Edinburgh Castle

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Proud Mary-Part 1

Greetings everyone!  It feels like it’s been awhile.  A wonderful, restful vacation in sunny Florida and the regular busyness of life have taken me away from you lately.  It’s good to be back with you again.

Today, my blog topic is by special request from my friend and faithful reader, Paige. About to embark on a honeymoon trip to Scotland (fab decision), she asked if I would mind writing an article on the fascinating and controversial Mary Queen of Scots.  My friend has a similar interest in history so I am thrilled to oblige (even if it has taken me a long time to get moving on it!)  Paige, dear, this one’s for you.


So…if there is one takeaway from my research on Mary Queen of Scots, it is that the relationship between Scotland and England is a complicated one.  Always has been. May always be.

I want to begin by saying that the story of Mary is also complicated.  As with any events that took place half a millennia ago, sometimes that which separates fact from fiction is not crystal clear.  I imagine there will always be scholarly debate and political and religious bias which informs individual opinion, but I think most people would agree upon the major points of Mary’s life.  As for the finer, cloudier points, well, they are certainly fodder for the imagination.  That being said, let’s dig in.

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The Bard of Ayrshire: Robert Burns

Welcome back! I hope everyone is having a terrific week.

Today I would like to pick up where I left off in my previous post about Scottish poet Robert Burns and the annual Burns Night celebration. I promised you I would go a little deeper into the life of the man who penned ‘Auld Lang Syne’ and who some 222 years later, is regarded as the national poet of Scotland. So let’s dig in!

Ol’ Rabbie was a handsome chap, eh?

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The eldest of seven children, Robert Burns was born on January 25, 1759 in a small town in Ayrshire, Scotland. His father, William Burnes (the family later dropped the ‘e’), and mother, Agnes Brown, were poor tenant farmers. Because of their impoverished situation, young Robert’s formative years were spent engaged in hard, manual labor on the family farm. This facet of his life would shape his world view and inform his writing throughout the years.

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Burns Night

Greetings Readers,

Today is a big day in Scotland and for those of Scottish descent around the world.  For today is January 25, the birthday of Scotland’s beloved national poet, Robert Burns.

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Photo:  Public Domain

Also known as Robbie Burns, Rabbie Burns (my personal favorite), The Ploughman Poet, and the Bard of Ayrshire, Burns is one of Scotland’s most celebrated sons.  You may know him best as the man who first penned the words to ‘Auld Lang Syne‘.  And I’m sure you have heard the poetic verse: “O my Luve’s like a red, red rose that’s newly sprung in June”.  Perhaps you are familiar with Burns’ narrative poem, ‘Tam O’ Shanter’.  Or, maybe you have a fondness for one of Rabbie’s other 713 works (possibly more?), which range in topic from death and war, anguish and greed, from religion and politics, to love and sex (and many other topics in between).  There is certainly no shortage to choose from.  *Although archived and no longer updated, I discovered a BBC page dedicated to Burns that lists 716 poems and songs.  It allows you to search for works by title, season, theme, and year written.  Well worth a look if you are at all interested in Rabbie’s poetry.

Every January 25, Robert Burns is celebrated with the annual Burns Night Supper.  I have never had the good fortune to take part, but oh how I would love to!

So, what does a Burns Supper involve? Fun, I would imagine!

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