Scots Roots

Sandaig Bay
November 28, 2018, 11:32 am
Filed under: Photographs, Wildlife | Tags: , , , ,

Sandaig Bay 1

Sandaig Bay 2Strolling along the beautiful sandy shore of Sandaig Bay, it’s difficult to imagine that this was once the home of Gavin Maxwell and the otters that he made famous in his book ‘Ring of Bright Water’ and its sequels, ‘The Rocks Remain’ and ‘Raven, Seek Thy Brother’.

Maxwell’s house at ‘Camusfearna’, as he called the bay in his books, burnt to the ground in 1968 and Maxwell himself died the following year.

Sandaig Bay 3

Sandaig Bay 4His ashes were scattered over the site of his cottage and a memorial boulder has been placed over his final resting place.

Another memorial to Edal, one of the otters, is over by the river.

Sandaig Bay 5

Sandaig Bay 6Sandaig Bay can be found just to the south of Glenelg, looking over to the Isle of Skye. Maxwell called the bay Camusfearna in his books so that he could retain a degree of privacy. It’s still remote but worth tracking down.

Sandaig Bay 7

Sandaig Bay 8

Red Squirrels
October 22, 2018, 9:12 am
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Red squirrel 1

Red squirrel 2Red squirrels are native to the UK and have lived here for thousands of years. Grey squirrels were introduced by the Victorians in the 1800s from North America. Some escaped and formed a wild population and now we have around 2.5 million greys and only about 140,000 red squirrels.

Red squirrel 3

Red squirrel 4In fact, red squirrels are virtually gone from England and Wales, living now mainly in the north of Scotland.

Red squirrel 5Grey squirrels are bigger than reds and compete more successfully for food and habitat. They also carry the squirrelpox virus which doesn’t affect them but is fatal to reds.

Red squirrel 6It always feels like a privilege if you’re visiting the north of Scotland and you spot a red squirrel.

Red squirrel 7

Red squirrel 8

Caerlaverock Castle
August 28, 2018, 11:34 am
Filed under: Photographs, Scottish History | Tags: , ,

Caerlaverock Castle 1

Caerlaverock Castle 2Situated to the south of Dumfries and near the Solway coast line, Caerlaverock is a unique triangular castle surrounded by a moat. It has a twin-towered gatehouse to the north and high towers to the south where the walls meet at the other two angles.

Caerlaverock Castle 3It was built in the 13th century and, being close to the border with England, was the scene of numerous conflicts.

Caerlaverock was besieged in 1300 by Edward I during the Wars of Scottish Independence and suffered several periods of partial demolition and rebuilding over the following centuries.

Caerlaverock Castle 4The castle was a stronghold of the Maxwell family from the 13th century to the 17th century.

The Maxwells were Catholics and, in the early 1600s, they supported the unpopular King Charles I.

Caerlaverock Castle 5In 1640 the castle was besieged by a Protestant army of Covenanters. The Maxwells managed to hold out for 13 weeks before surrendering.

Following the castle’s surrender, the south curtain wall, which had been damaged during the siege, was demolished and has never been rebuilt. Charles I was executed in 1649.

Laverock is an old Scottish name for a lark so Caerlaverock was the castle of the lark.

Caerlaverock Castle 6

Caerlaverock Castle 7

The Falkirk Wheel
August 1, 2018, 3:57 pm
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Falkirk Wheel 6


Falkirk Wheel 4Opening in 1773, the Forth & Clyde canal linked the River Clyde in the west of Scotland to the River Forth in the east.

Some 50 years later in 1822 the Union canal opened linking Edinburgh to the coalfields at Falkirk but also joining the Forth & Clyde canal by means of a series of 11 locks. Even though the locks took the best part of a day to get through, it was still a relatively quick way to transport bulky goods between Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Falkirk Wheel 1

Falkirk Wheel 2Following the coming of the railways, canal use went out of fashion and over the years, stretches of the two canals were filled in for road and housing development. The 11 locks were dismantled in 1933.

A resurgence of interest in canals for leisure purposes in the 1990s gave rise to a project to re-open the two canals – the ‘Millenium Link’ project – to be funded by several local authorities and other interested parties, with help from the Millenium Commission and the National Lottery.

Falkirk Wheel 5

Falkirk Wheel 3Work started on the 84.5 million pound project in 1998. In place of the 11 locks a boat lift was commissioned – the Falkirk Wheel. Two rotating gondolas, each containing 300 tonnes of water, can accommodate four canal barges. The wheel only uses around 1.5kWh of energy to turn (roughly the same as boiling eight kettles of water) because the weight of the gondola going down helps to lift the other one up.

Opened by the Queen in 2002, the Falkirk Wheel is an engineering masterpiece.

Falkirk Wheel 7

Cawdor Castle
May 31, 2018, 10:17 am
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Cawdor Castle 1

Cawdor Castle 2Often linked with Shakespeare’s Macbeth, Cawdor Castle wasn’t actually built until the early 15th century, whereas Macbeth was King of Scotland from 1040 to 1057. Although there were Thanes of Cawdor, Macbeth was never one of them and he didn’t have any connection to this castle.

Cawdor Castle 3

Cawdor Castle 4Located near Nairn on the Moray Firth, Cawdor Castle originally belonged to Clan Cawdor before passing to Clan Campbell in the 16th century.

Cawdor Castle 5

Cawdor Castle 6Today the castle and its gardens and grounds are open to the public. Still a family home, a number of rooms with original furniture, beautiful paintings and tapestries can be viewed.

Cawdor Castle 7

Cawdor Castle 8

The Solway Firth

Solway Firth 1

Solway Firth 2The Svalbard Islands lie midway between Norway and the North Pole.

Every year, as winter approaches, 42,000 barnacle geese leave the islands to overwinter on the mudflats of the Solway Firth to the south west of Scotland. That’s a journey of around 2,000 miles.

Solway Firth 3The geese will roost on the mudflats at night for safety and during the day they graze in the surrounding fields. The Scottish Government compensates local farmers for their lost grazing, which is needed for sheep and cattle.

Thanks to the efforts of the WWT’s Caerlaverock Wetland Centre and the RSPB’s Mersehead Reserve, which each provide a managed and undisturbed refuge for the birds, these geese have recovered since the 1940s when only a few hundred remained.

Solway Firth 5

Solway Firth 4Around 4,000 whooper swans also spend the winter here having spent the summer breeding in Iceland. If you’re ever in the vicinity of whooper swans, you’ll soon realise how they got their name.

WWT: Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust.

RSPB: Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

Solway Firth 6

Tantallon Castle
February 28, 2018, 5:02 pm
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Tantallon Castle 1

Tantallon Castle 2One of my favourite castles, Tantallon is basically just a big wall across a rocky promontory at the top of a cliff. The main curtain wall is around 300 feet long, 49 feet high and 12 feet thick. The other three sides are naturally protected by sea cliffs although there once was a lower protective wall around the cliff edge too.

Tantallon Castle 3

Tantallon Castle 4

Built in the mid-1300s by William Douglas, a nephew of Sir James Douglas (who fought with Robert the Bruce), the castle endured several sieges through its long history. Its owners often clashed with the Crown and the castle was besieged by James IV in the 15th century, James V in the 16th century and was finally abandoned in the 17th century due to the destruction caused by Oliver Cromwell’s army.

Tantallon Castle 5

The castle can be found 2 miles east of North Berwick in East Lothian, overlooking the Bass Rock and the Firth of Forth. It is currently looked after by Historic Environment Scotland.

Tantallon Castle 6

Tantallon Castle 7

Postie’s Path, Isle of Harris
February 7, 2018, 5:18 pm
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Postie's Path 1

Postie's Path 2The road to Rhenigidale in North East Harris was only completed in 1989. Prior to 1989 this path was the only overland route to the remote village. Generations of postmen had to make this four mile trek three times a week to deliver the mail.

Postie's Path 3

Postie's Path 4

Postie's Path 5The path was upgraded from a rough track to an engineered track in 1912 but even so, it can’t have been easy to follow in poor weather. The path would also have been used each week by children attending the secondary school in Tarbert. The path has been restored recently for walkers to enjoy the historic route.

Postie's Path 6


Preston Mill, East Lothian

Preston Mill 1Although there has been a mill on this site since the 16th century, the current Preston Mill was built in the 18th century. It ceased production in 1959 but the machinery is still in working order.

Preston Mill 2This is a meal mill and produced oatmeal. The oats were dried in the kiln – the oddly shaped conical building – before entering the milling process.

Preston Mill 3The mill is currently owned by the National Trust for Scotland and, if you take a guided tour, you can see the machinery in action.

Preston Mill 4Followers of Outlander may recognise it as the mill on Jamie’s family estate where he was nearly captured by the Redcoats as he swam beneath the mill wheel, trying to repair it.

Preston Mill 5

Annet House Museum, Linlithgow
December 11, 2017, 4:20 pm
Filed under: Photographs, Scottish History, West Lothian | Tags: , ,

Annet House 1

Annet House 3The museum is based in a large Georgian town house on Linlithgow High Street with a huge garden to the rear. Annet House itself was built in 1787 for the Bartholomew family.

Linlithgow was the birthplace of Mary, Queen of Scots, so it’s not surprising that she features strongly in the exhibits. There’s also a statue of her out in the garden.

Annet House 5Other exhibits tell the story of the town’s heritage featuring displays on linen, leatherworking, distilling and papermaking amongst others.

Annet House 2The garden at the back, known as the Rigg, would have been used to provide the family’s everyday requirements with areas for flowers, fruit, vegetables and herbs for medicine. Today’s garden has been set out much as it would have been in its heyday.

Annet House 4The museum is scheduled to move to larger premises in the newly-refurbished County Buildings in Linlithgow which sadly means the garden will be left behind.

Annet House 6

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