Saturday, 1 June 2013

My Scottish Adventure - Part 2

I have returned from my travels safe and almost well; one chest infection that I took with me is still bothering me but I have drugs now so will be fine. The second part of my Scotland Adventure took me to Stonehaven and while there I went walking about to see Dunnottar Castle (probably not the wisest thing to do with a chest infection, but I swear the sea air helped). The pictures below will do far more to convey the beauty and splendour of the place than any words. The place took my breath away with how majestic the scenery is. I had to stop every few minutes while walking along the coastal path to take a picture, as every step revealed a new perspective that was even more stunning than the last.


This is Stonehaven harbour, and this is pretty much the view I had from my hotel room at the Ship Inn. If you ever go to Stonehaven I highly recommend staying there; the staff are lovely (special shout-out for Tom, who seemed to be my personal waiter every time I had dinner there), the food is amazing and the rooms have all the essentials.

The Ship Inn is the white building to the right of this picture. I'm one of those people who finds watching tides go in and out endlessly interesting so this location was perfect. It's also right next to the path you take to get up on the hillsides for the coastal path to Dunnottar Castle.

Once you're up on the path you get an amazing view of the surroundings...

Especially of Stonehaven Harbour itself. A worthy reward for an incredibly steep climb to the top.

Unfortunately due to landslides in the area the coastal path was closed when I arrived. The castle peeks over the horizon temptingly in the distance.

Boo to landslides. With the way blocked I went up to see the war memorial, planning to go back the way I came to follow the main road to the castle.

The memorial was put in place to commemorate the (huge) losses in World War I, but later had names added for World War II.

It's a beautiful structure, and all the more poignant for what it symbolises. I especially loved the way the stones have been placed so naturally around it.

I was pleasantly surprised to see poppy wreathes left out in memory of the lost. Above is only one of the many plaques in the structure with a list of the dead. Considering the size of the population in Scotland the WWI losses were significant; the plaque above is almost entirely made up of men with the last name "Christy". I'm willing to bet they were all from the same family and for me captured the tragic nature of that war.

There were more poppy wreathes left around the back of the memorial.

I found signs of people walking away from the memorial and towards a fence where you could see the castle in the distance. And that was when...

I found a fence I could climb over. There were lots of signs others have been doing exactly this to get to the closed path below (and in fact a local woman I talked to said she always goes this way with her dogs!)  I had a moment when I wondered what I'd do if I fell (no signal in these parts) but it was fine. This is the view once you're on the path again and have managed to not break your neck on the way down.

The coastal path is definitely the best route - the views are amazing and you get to see some cows on the way. This "wee coo" came down to have a drink while I stood on the bridge over the stream.

Getting closer!

And closer!

Nearly there. I defy anyone to not stop a lot on the way with so much stunning scenery around them.

Finally reached the castle and I was not disappointed. I absolutely love stone work like this, and I seem to see a lot more of it up in Scotland than anywhere else.

Dunnottar Castle is most famous for its resistance to Cromwell's army in 1651-1652, when they held out for eight months before being forced to surrender after the castle had been besieged with heavy artillery. But the invaders were disappointed; the "Honours of Scotland", the royal sceptre, sword and crown, had been smuggled out of the castle before they entered, due to the actions of Mrs Grainger, the wife of the minister of the kirk (church) at Kinneff, several miles south of the castle. No one knows how she did it, but they were likely lowered to a boat and taken to the kirk, where she and her husband buried them under some paving stones. They remained there until 1660, when they were returned to Edinburgh. It's due to this that Scotland still has its original crown jewels whereas England's were almost entirely destroyed by Cromwell.

(This is the view from the "Countess' Suite". Nice.)

A darker moment in Dunnottar's history is in 1685, when 167 people were kept in this room for over two months after being transferred from their imprisonment in Edinburgh. They were Covenanters, people who continued to observe Presbyterianism after King Charles II had outlawed it, as well as denying the King's supremacy over the church. This room gave me the heeby jeebies - even before I read the plaque above. I'm not a believer in ghosts but I've always thought emotions can seep into walls when they're strong enough; this place only made me more convinced.

Think I spent a good hour and a half in Dunnottar - well worth visiting if you're in the area and like castles. And how can anyone not like castles?!

The surrounding rocks are covered with seagulls and a few other birds - a good spot for any birdwatcher.

Just as you leave the castle (and after you climb back up the 50+ steps - phew!) there's a little side path to give you more views of the place, with a pretty stream trickling underneath.

Decided to walk back the approved way on the roadside and soon passed this; the biggest pile of shite I've ever seen. Literally.

Coming back into Stonehaven I spotted this wall and just had to take a picture for the stone work. A local told me this used to be a house but no one knows who owns it now so it's been left to ruin. I kind of like it like this though.

The owners of the Ship Inn have put tartan carpet down in the hallways, which I took as a sign of Scottish humour combined with pragmatism - after all, what are most tourists going to want from their trip to Scotland? Tartan, that's what! I might get some for my flat...

As the weather was holding out I went for a walk about the harbour and took some shots of the nets and cages left about. This is a working harbour, though they don't have as many fishing boats as they used to. It does mean that the fish and chips here are delicious (and I recommend The Bay fish and chip shop on the Promenade if you ever go - though be warned, the seagulls are bullies and try to nick your chips if you eat them on the shore front.)

So pretty!

Seriously am I the only one who finds tides fascinating?

Went shopping and walked "aboot the toon". It's a very pretty place, and small enough you can cover it about an hour or so.

The last place I visited was the Tolbooth Museum, which is in the oldest building in Stonehaven (built in the 17th century, as a store house for the castle). They also have a restaurant but it was a bit pricey so I stuck to the free museum (but left them a donation on the way out). It's filled with random bits and bobs, and I especially liked the photos of life of old.

Fish wives mending the nets. They're probably all about 40-years-old, with hands like shovels. Thankless, endless work seems to have that affect on folks. I strongly suspect they were all gossiping about "our Mary" or "our Jim" before this strange man turned up with a camera.

My final picture before heading home, of the lookout in the Ship Inn, watching the tides and horizon.

I had a lovely time in the motherland and would gladly see Stonehaven again, especially if I was with someone who can drive, as there's a tonne of things to see further afield. But I was glad to have a holiday by myself (never gone away on my own before) and will likely be posting some of the resulting drawings on my Tumblr in the coming days. And until next time; "Cheerio, the nou".

No comments:

Post a Comment