Being a May bank holiday weekend today was grey and overcast, although noticeably warmer than recently. We picked up our hire car and after lunch headed south-west of Edinburgh to the tiny village of Carmichael.
Carmichael is the ancestral home of Clan Carmichael, the clan taking their surname from the are in which they lived. The Carmichael Estate has been owned by the Carmichael family for some 800 years, and at its centre is the Carmichael Visitor Centre and Farm Shop.
We called in to pick up a map of the walks on the estate, and some sweet apple chutney, then set off to explore. The path leaves the farm north then west, passing through a deer park, then through a small wood before crossing St. Michael’s bog. The bog has evidently been drained during the course of agricultural improvements, but still has tufts of reeds and bog grass which are perfect for the likes of pheasants to hide in.…
Sadly it was time to say goodbye to the Tulloch Castle Hotel this morning. Just like yesterday we had an ambitious itinerary of places we wanted to see, this time on the way home, but we started by driving the short distance down to Dingwall town centre.
In the middle of the car park is the Cromartie Memorial, built by Sir George Mackenzie, the 1st Earl of Cromartie, around 1710. It is built on a slight mound which is all that is left of Dingwall’s moot hill, itself developed from a Viking “Thing” site.
Close to the car park is Dingwall Church, within the grounds of which stands Dingwall Churchyard symbol stone. Although not completely clear with the naked eye, it is decorated on one side with three circles at the top, below which is a crescent and V-rod symbol. This face is also decorated with six cup marks.
Yesterday afternoon we drove north from Edinburgh to Dingwall, where we were staying for the weekend at the Tulloch Castle hotel.
Possibly dating back as far as the 12th century, the earliest part of the current building is a tower that was built in the mid-16th century (you can read more about the history here).
After breakfast this morning we explored the public rooms of the castle. On the first floor of the old tower is what was the main hall, still with its huge fireplace on show, now used for functions.
The walls of the tower are massively thick, around 2.5 metres, as can be seen between the main hall and a later wing.
Below the main hall are a pair of vaulted chambers with several gun loops at each corner.
There was an open day at Winton House today, so we headed out towards Pencaitland in East Lothian. Having been lucky with the weather yesterday, there was unfortunately no sign of the sun today in the flat grey skies.
Winton House was originally a castle, built in the 15th century by the Seton family, but over the centuries it has been added to and modified, creating a grand country house. It is now owned by the Ogilvy family who open the house and grounds each year for an open day in aid of charity.
We parked the car and walked through the walled garden, where there were stalls selling various locally-produced crafts, food, drink and plants.
Passing through the opposite wall of the garden we got our first view of Winton House.
In a pen in front of the house were a sheep and her two cute lambs.
There was a change in the weather today, with sunshine and bright blue skies, something rather unusual after weeks of chilly temperatures.
We set off for Falkland in Fife, but stopped on the way just outside Strathmiglo, primarily to take a photo of Corston Tower, but there was also a good view of the Lomond Hills, covered in snow.
Corston Tower is a ruined 16th century tower house, of which only the east gable still stands.
It was apparently almost intact until the 1880s, when a major collapse occurred leaving only the east end standing to its full height.
We continued on through Strathmiglo to Falkland, and parked in the centre of the village. As we walked up Cross Wynd to the High Street a vintage car passed us.
Despite the promising earlier sunshine, stormy clouds were gathering overhead, creating a rather dramatic backdrop for Falkland Palace.
Tonight the Red Bull Hill Chasers came to Edinburgh, a multi-disciplinary uphill sprint involving mountain bikes, BMXs, road and fixed gear bikes.
The 170 metre course ran up the cobbles of Victoria Street from the Grassmarket to the finish line at the junction with George IV Bridge. The street was packed with thousands of spectators, as was Victoria Terrace above, but we made our way along here in the hope that the higher vantage point would help us to see some of the racers.
The atmosphere was great, the crowds enthusiastic despite the cold, and Red Bull logos were being projected onto the buildings on the other side of Victoria Street.
There were so many people pressed against the railings that it was difficult to get even a glimpse of the riders, but we just about managed.
A big screen at the finish line was keeping the crowd up to date with what was going on, since although the course was short, the curve of Victoria Street meant that those at the finish couldn’t see the riders setting off from the start.…
Various factors have conspired to stop us getting out and about over the past few weeks, not least the unseasonal weather which led to a trip north being postponed due to the roads being blocked with snow!
To keep the blog ticking over, I headed into the centre of Edinburgh tonight, braving sub-zero conditions on my bike, to do some nighttime photography. I must admit at this stage that I originally hoped to catch the sun setting behind the Castle from the North Bridge, but I missed it by a matter of minutes.
I cycled up to Marchmont and then across to Bruntsfield, the plan being to work my way down from Bruntsfield Links, taking advantage of its high position and views towards Edinburgh Castle, and onwards to the Meadows.
With the sun having just disappeared over the horizon, it was still casting its rays up into the sky, illuminating the clouds behind the massive spire of Barclay Viewforth Church and the Castle beyond.…
After a few weeks of relative inactivity – due in part to spending the first couple of weeks of the year in Russia, then the Six Nations – we headed down to the Moorfoot Hills today, with the intention of combining a walk around the Gladhouse reservoir with a visit to Hirendean Castle.
We parked at the north-east end of the reservoir, leaving the car to be watched over by a flock of sheep.
Crossing a bridge over the eastern spur of the reservoir, we looked west to see rather ominous grey clouds hanging menacingly in the air.
The first section of the walk is on a tarmac road up to Mauldslie farm, lining the side of which are a variety of picturesque trees.
The road climbs slightly, which gave us a view west over the reservoir. Formerly known as Moorfoot Loch, it is the largest body of freshwater in the Lothians, and was dammed and turned into a reservoir around 1878, to supply Edinburgh with fresh drinking water.…
Last night Edinburgh got its first decent snow of this winter, probably around 5 or 6 centimetres. It had started to melt by the time we set off today, but there was still plenty of the white stuff around as we headed up onto Calton Hill.
Although the sky was blue and the sun shining, looking out across Edinburgh and Leith to the Firth of Forth we could see the snow clouds rolling in.
In pretty much every direction Calton Hill has great views, but arguably the most famous is past the Dugald Stewart monument towards the castle.
Looking to the south-east is another of Edinburgh’s hills, Arthur’s Seat, with the Salisbury Crags projecting from it, dusted with snow.
On the top of Calton Hill is the National Monument of Scotland, built to commemorate the soldiers who died during the Napoleonic War.
With a strong, chilly wind blowing today, we struggled for the motivation to go outside. But eventually we did, heading south into the Borders.
We had hoped to have a look at Drochil Castle, a massive ruined 16th century castle which stands in the grounds of Drochil Castle Farmhouse bed and breakfast.
Unfortunately however, the owners weren’t there, so we took a photo from a distance and continued on to a place we’ve been meaning to visit for a while now.
Whitmuir The Organic Place is a fantastic development built on a working farm, with a café, restaurant, art gallery and well-stocked shop full of organic products.
After buying a few bits and pieces from the shop (including bread and stollen from the Breadshare Bakery), we resisted the temptation to go straight to the café, and instead followed one of the waymarked trails up behind the farm. It was pretty cold and getting colder, and there was ice forming on a pond up the hill.…
With Christmas approaching comes the inevitable trip to Tillicoultry for Christmas shopping. In an attempt to balance out the shopping with something more interesting, we stopped off at a couple of castles on the way, both of which we had failed to visit properly on previous occasions.
A previous attempt to visit Almond Castle had to be aborted when the car broke down before we even got there. On another day we had managed to get to Airth Castle, but as wedding guests were in the process of arriving we decided to leave it for another day.
Today however, we had success at both castles!
It was a chilly day, with frozen snow and plenty of ice on the ground. We took a slight detour off the M9 and parked at Muiravonside Church, then walked along the footpath next to the Union Canal, which was frozen.
This weekend was Doors Open Day, a fantastic annual event organised by the Cockburn Association where buildings not always open to the public open their doors for all to see and explore.
We started off close to home, visiting the architect-designed 1 West Annandale Street which is just around the corner from us. Converted from an old shop, it highlights the benefits of a thoughtfully-designed space, and features a triple-height central space reaching from a mezzanine office level down through the main living area to an excavated basement.
Just around the corner from that house is the Lothian Buses depot, which had numerous old buses on display, and various activities going on.
We then switched from east to west, making our way through the grand New Town streets to St Vincent Street and the offices of the architect Lorn Macneal, where they had various drawings and 3D models of their projects on display.…
Every year the end of the The Edinburgh Festival is marked by a firework display at Edinburgh Castle, and it could also be said that this marks the end of summer in Edinburgh.
Previously we’ve watched the fireworks from Princes Street Gardens, but this year we opted to climb Calton Hill and watch the display from there. The sun was just starting to set as we approached the summit, and an almost full moon was rising. Unfortunately, by the time I’d set up my tripod the moon had disappeared behind some clouds.
With the long summer days now behind us, night fell quickly, and the vivid reds of the sunset soon gave way to the deep blues of night.
When we got to the very top of Calton Hill, we found that all the best seats had been taken, with the National Monument of Scotland packed with fellow spectators.
Continuing with our car hire experiment, we tried a slightly different approach this weekend and hired a car from Hertz for first thing Saturday morning in the hope that it would get us on the road earlier than usual. Inevitably we left at (almost) the same time as usual.
That’s being slightly unfair on ourselves, we were ahead of our usual schedule and managed to visit somewhere before lunchtime. We were heading down the coast of East Lothian towards a couple of castles we’ve not yet managed to visit, but on the way we planned to call in at Oldhamstocks, where a castle once stood.
Before we got there though we had to stop to take a photo of a freshly-harvested field, the overcast sky in stark contrast to the stubble below.
Continuing in our roles as tour guides to our Russian visitors, today we drove along the East Lothian coastal road to Dirleton Castle.
Set in the picturesque village of Dirleton, the castle is largely hidden from view, with a 19th century boundary wall giving little clue as to what lies within, save for a small castellated round tower at the corner.
Entering through a doorway in the wall you are met not by the castle itself but by a magnificent garden, notable for having the longest herbaceous border in the World (a fact confirmed by Guinness World Records no less).
Unlike previous visits the sun was shining and the sky was blue (if a little hazy in places) – perfect garden photography weather!