Get your hiking shoes on because today we are going somewhere SPECTACULAR!
I am taking you to see Cove Bay along the Scottish coast in Moray.
Cove Bay (also sometimes referred to as Primrose Bay) is located about 3.5 miles northwest of Duffus Castle and about a mile and a half east of Hopeman Beach. If you Google it, you want the Cove Bay that says ‘Hopeman/Elgin’, not the one that is near Aberdeen – although I’m sure that is lovely too. This beautiful stretch of paradise lies along the Moray Firth, at about the point where the river begins to meet the North Sea.
Cove Bay can be accessed via a coastal path from Hopeman, however because Mr. C and I don’t do anything the easy way, we instead clambered down the cliffside to reach the beach. I’m not gonna lie, the climb down was a little precarious, as some of the natural, earthen ‘steps’ are quite steep. Well, tricky for some of us, I should say. Not for Mr. C. He’s some kind of gazelle, I think! But thorny gorse bushes and slippery sand aside, it was worth every single careful step I had to take. Cove Bay is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. I absolutely didn’t want to leave.
I’m going to keep it short and leave you now with a few more photos of this gorgeous place. I hope you enjoy them. Have a lovely weekend, friends.
Following each of our trips to Scotland, I like to create a coffee table photo book as a way to both commemorate our adventures and to share the highlights of our trips with others. Today I thought it would be fun to share with you a page from the book I am currently working on. It’s just a little snapshot of some of the wee sweet feathered and furry faces we met when we were there this past May. Cuties all of them. 🙂
Have a terrific week, everyone. I’ll see you again soon.
What do you call a rock that never goes to school?
A skipping stone.
Why are geologists never picky in relationships?
Because they will date anything.
When were rock puns the funniest?
During the Stone Age.
Where do rocks like to sleep?
Did you hear about the geologist who got divorced?
He was taking his wife for granite so she left him.
You want to heart the best rock puns?
Give me a moment and I’ll dig something up.
What happens when you keep reading geology jokes in your free time?
You know that you have really hit rock bottom.
I really hate rock puns.
My sediments exactly.
Well…now that I have thoroughly amused you (or perhaps sent you running for the hills), I’d like to invite you guys to come along today as we visit Tomnaverie Stone Circle in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. No more geology puns. I give you my rock solid promise.
Hi there, friends. I have something fun and a little different for you today. Recently, I had the opportunity to chat with talented fiction author Cristine Eastin who, like me, has a deep and profound love for Scotland. Her most recent novel, Love Inherited, is set in the Scottish Highlands. Although relatively new on the literary stage, Cristine is a skilled and creative storyteller. She describes herself as an “author of contemporary fiction spiced with romance, faith, and hope”. I am so delighted to introduce her to you today! So without further adieu…
Wendy: Welcome, Cris. Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me.
Cristine: Thanks so much for the privilege of getting to do this!
Wendy: It’s my pleasure. Let’s just jump right in, shall we?
Wendy: What was the inspiration behind Love Inherited?
Cristine: Hmm…a gorgeous American woman inherits a huge Highland estate and tons of money and gets the drop-dead gorgeous laird…I didn’t have to go very subconscious to get to…wouldn’t that be fun? But seriously, having been an American young woman transplanted to England for two years, I know the outlander experience. And I wanted to write a story that, when the reader came to the end, would count for something. So I gave the main characters deep wounding or hurts they had to struggle with.
Wendy: The story of Love Inherited takes place in the beautiful Highlands of Scotland. Why did you choose this location as the setting for your book?
Cristine: Because I love, love, love Scotland. It’s where I’d love to live if they didn’t drive on the left. Living there in my writer’s head was second best. Having made eight trips to Scotland, I know it fairly well and I thought I could convey the setting to the reader.
The actual location of Love Inherited, Fionnloch, is a fictionalized Gairloch in Wester Ross in the northwest Highlands. My husband and I stayed at Shieldaig Lodge a few years ago and I was so captivated by the area that I set my book there.
One of the things I love about Scotland is their “freedom to roam” code, though I would be lying to you if I said that I am totally comfortable with it. The very idea that it is acceptable to trespass on someone’s private property uninvited is just so foreign and so contrary to our laws here in the United States. I can never quite get over the feeling that I may be an interloper, an unwanted guest who might get asked to leave whenever I wander off a public path. Of course, that’s simply not true!
In 2003, Scotland’s Land Reform Act was initiated, allowing everyone “rights of access over land and inland water throughout Scotland, subject to specific exclusions set out in the Act and as long as they behave responsibly” (http://scotways.com). Per Scotways, this basically boils down to three things: respecting the interests of other people, caring for the environment, and taking responsibility for one’s own actions. Of course, there are a some restrictions that hikers and other outdoor enthusiasts must abide by. For example, the land next to and used by a school, fields where crops are growing, or a person’s most immediate personal space (like their backyard or garden) are off limits. But restrictions aside, the beauty of this act is that is allows individuals the freedom to explore Scotland’s vast, wild, and remarkable landscape and unmaintained historical sites completely undeterred. And in a country with over 30,000 square miles of land and a population of only about 5.5 million (most living in the cities), that means you might never see another person while you roam!
A perfect example of a time when Mr. C and I benefited from this access right was when we visited Croft Moraig Stone Circle near Aberfeldy. The prehistoric site happens to occupy a farmer’s field, but because of Scotland’s code, we were permitted to park our car in an unmarked area on the side of the road and walk onto the property without fear of reproach. We were simply reminded by the farmer’s sign to shut the gate, which we were all too happy to do.
Scotland is not the only country with such a code. In fact, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Iceland, and Austria are just a few examples of other nations that also allow for the freedom to roam. Though I love and thoroughly appreciate having this unfettered access when I travel, I grapple with what my reaction would be if we enacted such a practice here in the U.S. Let’s face it. We Americans are overall quite a kind and generous lot, but many of us also strongly believe in a person’s right to privacy and in the right of consent. I know…it’s a conundrum – I want it both ways.
Regardless, as a visitor to Scotland, being granted permission to venture beyond roads and other public access points to off-the-beaten-path places and to be allowed to fully experience the wild, natural, and untamed beauty of the land is both a joy and an enormous privilege. I hope one day you can experience this freedom too.
The last thing one would expect to see in Scotland (outside of a zoo) are Mandarin ducks. But Mandarin ducks we did see!
A couple months ago, we were walking through Milton Woods (near Farr), along the grassy bank above the River Nairn, when Mr. C spotted some unusual water fowl swimming below. Not sure what type of birds they were, he attempted to snap some photos. Unfortunately, they caught sight of him and were frightened and flew away. This photo was the best one he got.
It wasn’t until a bit later when I was looking through our photos that I realized what we had seen. How fantastic! Mandarin ducks! In Scotland!
According to BBC Scotland, the birds were introduced to the UK from the Far East in the mid-eighteenth century. Over time, some have managed to escape captivity and have bred and established colonies. There are over 7,000 Mandarin ducks in Britain but apparently very few have made it all the way to Scotland. Which makes what we saw even more special.
One of my heart’s desires on our recent trip to Scotland was to find a bluebell wood. I worried that we might have been too late, but was absolutely delighted to find them still in bloom. These photos were taken in a wood next to Boleskine Burial Ground on Loch Ness.
It’s the little things.
A fine and subtle spirit dwells In every little flower, Each one its own sweet feeling breathes With more or less of power. There is a silent eloquence In every wild bluebell, That fills my softened heart with bliss That words could never tell.
At the western end of Loch Tay, roughly a half mile northeast of the village of Killin, Scotland, lies the precarious, overgrown, atmospheric, and seriously cool ruins of Finlarig Castle.
It is unlikely that you will find this one in your guide books, as Finlarig sits on private property. However, it’s definitely worth a stop if you happen to be in that neck of the woods. If you are a serious castle seeker, then I think Finlarig is worth going out of your way for.
Parking is available across from the cemetery, about a minute’s walk to the castle. When Mr. C and I were there a few years ago, we were approached by a local who requested we move our car to the lot rather than park directly at the site. I don’t think we were hurting anything, but alas, it is private property so it’s best to do as you are told.
A couple of my friends are ardent travelers and as such, are a bit perplexed as to why Mr. C and I choose to keep returning to Scotland. “Don’t you want to go somewhere else? See someplace new?” I do understand their question. It’s a very big world after all, full of amazing and wonderful things. But my answer is generally always the same.
Well yes. But not if it means that it takes Scotland off the table.
I really do want to visit other countries. In fact, it’s a dream of mine to see the other four Celtic nations and also Italy. But the truth is, I’m simply not done with Scotland yet. As much as Mr. C and I have seen and experienced, I feel like it’s just a drop in the proverbial bucket of all that the country has left for us.
When I fell for Scotland, I fell hard. So my philosophy is that as long as there are discoveries to be made, as long as it continues to make my heart sing, then I’ll just stick with what I know and truly love, please and thank you. Italy will just have to wait.
That one comes at you straight from Mr. C. Thank you, Ladies and Gentlemen. He’ll be here all week. 😀
Also called ‘whin’, common flowering gorse is a large, spiny, evergreen shrub that bursts onto the scene in late winter/early spring. Though it is not uncommon to spot gorse blooms in Scotland year round, April and May is when this plant really explodes in bright yellow splendor.
Whether you’re traveling through Scotland on a dual carriageway (divided highway) or on a single track road (yes, they really are only wide enough for a single car), you will discover that there is no shortage of beautiful, interesting, and unique surprises at every turn.
I snapped this photo on the morning that Mr. C and I arrived in Scotland a few weeks ago. We were heading north on the A9 (on our way from Glasgow Airport to our rental near Inverness) when I suddenly spotted this beautiful castle looking structure on the right. Mr. C quickly rolled down his window and I somehow managed to capture the shot from my side of the car, at some 70 mph – a testament to the quality of my camera!
After doing some sleuthing, I think I finally figured out what this building is. I believe (someone please correct me if I am wrong) that this is Atholl Palace Hotel in Pitlochry, a 19th century hotel set against the gorgeous slopes of Ben Vrackie.
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.