Thursday, 30 June 2011

Balmoral Castle.

42.3 Miles. Now at Silverbank Caravan Club site at Banchory.

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Balmoral Castle.

Balmoral Castle

Gate keepers cottage at Balmoral castle.Gate keepers cottage at Balmoral Castle.

Entrance gates inscribed with Queen Mary and King George. Balmoral Castle.Entrance gates inscribed with Queen Mary and King George. Balmoral Castle.

We had quite a busy day planned with several stop offs along the way. Luckily we were only travelling forty odd miles so time wasn’t an issue. First stop was Balmoral Castle, although technically it is a Hunting Lodge as it was not fortified as a castle. The building was designed by Prince Albert to replace an earlier castle on the site that was too small for royalty.The first thing we spotted was the bridge over the River Dee was designed by Isambard Brunel and built in Wiltshire. That guy certainly left his mark all over the country.

The entrance to the old stables and carriage store at Balmoral castle.The entrance to the old stables and carriage store at Balmoral Castle.

Balmoral Castle gardens where exotic flowers are grown in the glass house. The engraving above the door reads "One is nearer God's heart in a garden than anywhere else on earth".Balmoral Castle gardens where exotic flowers are grown in the glass house. The engraving above the door reads "One is nearer God's heart in a garden than anywhere else on earth".

Entering the estate you couldn’t help but be impressed by the huge Cedar and Pine trees lining the road up to the castle, they had a real old and gnarled look about them. Touring the gardens we learnt that the gardeners have a very short season in which to grow both vegetables and flowers as August is the only month they are guaranteed not to get frosts. Autumn is spent heavily composting the gardens to help protect them over winter which can put up to 2 foot of snow on the ground. June and July are busy months getting everything up to scratch for when the Queen and her family arrive for the Summer holidays.

Balmoral Castle viewed from the grounds. The fountain is an old mooring bollard from Aberdeen.Balmoral Castle viewed from the grounds. The fountain is an old mooring bollard from Aberdeen.

Since being purchased originally by Queen Victoria for her “Bertie”, Balmoral has been a strong favourite with all the royals. Hiking, horse riding, hunting and fishing, they all take part in one or more of these activities. There is plenty of deer stalking as there are approximately 3500 deer on the estate of which about 10% are culled each year just depending on the breeding season. The cull is very tightly controlled as the stags are dealt with before the Rut so they are in prime condition and the hinds just before winter after the fawn’s are weaned.

The Garden cottage at Balmoral castle which was an isolation hospital for 2 years.The Garden cottage at Balmoral castle which was an isolation hospital for 2 years.

One building in the grounds looked a bit like a six sided summer house with slit windows. It transpired that this was the slaughter house where the culled deer are brought by horse back to be cleaned and dressed ready for market. In general the wild life on the estate are well managed to ensure survival of the species for future generations.

The slaughter house where culled deer are cleaned and processed ready for market.The slaughter house where culled deer are cleaned and processed ready for market.

In the castle, the only room open to the public is the ballroom which as ballroom’s go is quite small. Around the wall’s were an array of red deer heads some of which were 12 pointers (Royals) and 14 pointer’s (Imperials), trophy hunters dreams. For the ladies there were 5 David Hartnell designed dresses worn by the Queen at various functions plus some expensive silverware.

Canbus O'May suspension bridge over the river Dee. Built in 1905 reconstructed 1988.Canbus O'May suspension bridge over the river Dee. Built in 1905 reconstructed 1988.

Canbus O'May suspension bridge.

Leaving Balmoral castle we headed to Ballater where Royalty have arrived by train for a century. It was the end of the line from Aberdeen which I suspect had been built purposely for Queen Victoria. The line was to be extended but the Queen didn’t want it going past Balmoral disturbing the peace and quiet so it never was. The station was restored after the line closed in 1965 and opened as a museum and information centre in 2001. Despite the exhibit being well done I felt it didn’t warrant an entrance fee. In saying that we realise that the Queen Victoria story is a big income earner for the district and a big employer when you consider the 1200 staff employed at Balmoral Castle.

Ballater railway station restored as a museum in 2001.Ballater Railway Station restored as a museum in 2001, after being closed in 1965.

The LNWR Royal carriage at Ballater Station museum.The LNWR Royal carriage at Ballater Station museum.

The ornate panels and ceiling of the Royal station at Ballater.The ornate panels and ceiling of the Royal Station at Ballater.

Queen Victoria's Royal carriage built by the London North Western Railway.Queen Victoria's Royal carriage built by the London North Western Railway.

By Royal appointment. There are quite a few of these signs in Ballater.By Royal appointment. There are quite a few of these signs in Ballater.

A total of 3537 miles, since 5 March 2011

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Braemar Scotland and Otago New Zealand.

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Braemar Castle.Braemar Castle.

Surprise! The heat wave that has been hitting Britain for the last few days seems to have crept up into Scotland. We are not experiencing the 30+ degree temperatures but it is a lot warmer than it has been, at least now we are in double figures.

Invercauld Arms hotel, Braemar, stands where the royal standard was raised in 1715.Invercauld Arms Hotel, Braemar, stands where the royal standard was raised in 1715.

River Dee, Braemar where 4 water wheel ran mills for the area.River Dee, Braemar where 4 water wheel ran mills for the area.

Walking boot’s to the fore and we headed off into the great metropolis of Braemar. I don’t think either of us expected to discover what we did, both in the town and the Kirkyard (graveyard). The latter was most interesting. Walking among the headstones it took us a while to twig to the fact that all the married women were named presumably by their maiden name and not their married name. To begin with we thought that they were all just living together as they seem to do today but that would have been frowned upon in the 1800’s.

Fife Arms hotel, another large hotel in Braemar. The town was renowned for it's hotels and guest houses.Fife Arms Hotel, another large hotel in Braemar. The town was renowned for it's hotels and guest houses.

Lovely wee cottage in Braemar.Lovely wee cottage in Braemar.

One headstone was of great interest as it had a Braemar/New Zealand connection. Member’s of the Shaw family had emigrated to Palmerston South,Otago. We know it as just Palmerston. John Shaw is recorded as dying there in 1908 and his sister (presumably) married into the Reid family and she died there in 1907. Any connection to somebody you know? For anybody doing a family tree, the Scottish Kirkyards are a mass of information as the headstones carry the history of some families going back 3 generations. This included date of birth, death, occupation and to whom married. Some even named where they died, i.e some cottage or farm or even several at Balmoral Castle, the loyal servants of royalty. Most interesting reading.

Mausoleum in the Braemar Kirkyard.Mausoleum in the Braemar Kirkyard.

A connection with Otago NZ found in the Braemar Kirkyard. Shaw and Reid families.A connection with Otago NZ found in the Braemar Kirkyard. Shaw and Reid families.

Next was a quick visit to the Braemar Castle. It is run by the community after being leased to the town by Mrs Frances Farquharson on a 50 year lease. As it is volunteer run, it only opens on week-ends but you can wander around the grounds. Built in 1628 by the Earl of Mar as a hunting lodge it became embroiled in the Jacobite wars when it was burned by Black John (Farquharson) in support of the Stewart Kings. After the 1746 Battle of Culloden when the Jacobites were defeated it was resurrected and used as a military base for Government troops to keep an eye on the troublesome inhabitants of Braemar. They must have been a bad bunch.

Summer house in the grounds of Braemar castle. Thatched with Heather.Summer house in the grounds of Braemar Castle. Thatched with Heather.

The Princess Royal and Duke of Fife memorial park, Braemar. The venue for the Braemar Highland Games.The Princess Royal and Duke of Fife Memorial Park, Braemar. The venue for the Braemar Highland Games.

Braemar also hold two UK weather records.  In January 1982 the lowest temperature was recorded at -27.20C and the town has the lowest annual average temperature of 6.350C.  Prince Consort set up a meteorological observatory to record the areas temperatures which has now been replaced by a modern weather station.  Today we managed to hit 190C, Wow.

This Toad nearly got trod on in the Braemar Kirkyard.This Toad nearly got himself trod on in the Braemar Kirkyard.

Bristol Pegasus XVIII engine recovered in 1999 from a 1942 crash site in the Grampian Mountains.Bristol Pegasus XVIII engine recovered in 1999 from a 1942 crash site in the Grampian Mountains.

Back in town we found the house where in the summer of 1881 Robert Louis Stevenson wrote the book, ‘Treasure Island’, There is also a room dedicated to him in the Braemar Castle. Braemar is only a small town but it is huge in history and well worth the time to visit.

The house where Robert Louis Stevenson wrote Treasure Island in 1881.The house where Robert Louis Stevenson wrote Treasure Island in 1881.

Family cabins at a local hotel in Braemar.Family cabins at a local hotel in Braemar.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Braemar in the Mountains.

99.1 Miles. Now at Invercauld Caravan Club site at Braemar.

You don't see too many of these around these days.You don't see too many of these around today.

After a quiet week-end in the country it was time to head into town, any town with a bank. We had some business to sort out with our New Zealand bank so we needed somewhere we could send a fax. Checking out the Sat Nav we found that Huntly had what was required plus a Tesco supermarket and service station. So we had to back track to Banff to pick up the right road.

In Huntly we found the Tesco first and stocked up for another week. In town we managed to find a park right in the town square opposite the Lloyds Bank. The lady teller was helpful but was unable to send our fax as they seemed to have a toll bar on the phones. Hmm a bit archaic. However after some foot work we finished up in the local press office where they had the job done and dusted in minutes all for a quid.

Back on the road we started to get the occasional shower of rain until we reached Rhynie when the sky opened up with a torrential downpour. People on the footpath were sheltering anywhere they could and the gutters filled so fast that the road started to flood. This lasted for about 15 minutes before easing. Shortly after we passed through a forestry area and when we emerged from the other end of the forest the road was bone dry, unbelievable!

We finally reached our new camp site just before 4pm where we have found that the public transport is only 2 hourly. As we will have to back track again on Wednesday to our next camp we will have to make sure we set off early enough to give ourselves time to visit some interesting places as we pass through them.

A total of 3494 miles, since 5 March 2011

Monday, 27 June 2011

Summer! Don’t make me laugh.

While England swelter’s in 30+ degree temperatures we have gone back to wet and windy conditions today. The temperature gauge is struggling to hit 14deg: Still, it gives us a chance to catch up on all those small jobs that keep getting put to one side.

I don’t know where it originates from but we have been listening to Waves FM which has been playing all the oldies from the 60’s and 70’s. Great stuff. Tomorrow we head inland into the Grampian Mountains and the Cairngorm National Park.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Fraserburgh on Scotland’s northeastern coast .

48.9 Miles. Now at Smithy Croft CL site at Boyndlie, Fraserburgh

It was with some sadness on leaving Findochty this morning as we had enjoyed the place so much. Being tucked away on the East Coast, away from the usual tourist routes this village and others along this coast are a real treasure trove of an unspoilt Scotland. We would recommend visiting this area to anybody venturing this way.

Dis-used railway bridge across Cullen, Aberdeenshire.Dis-used railway bridge across Cullen, Aberdeenshire.

Macduff harbour light.Macduff harbour light.

Only being an hours travel to our next camp site we carried onto Fraserburgh (pronounced Fraserborough) where there is a lighthouse museum and Fraserburgh Heritage Centre. We visited the latter as they were having a fund raising open day. This covered the history of the town in detail from the industries, fishing, food processing, barrel making, light engineering, transportation, horse drawn, railways, and todays heavy haulage to famous people born in the town that made a name for themselves all over the world. Fishing is still a major industry here along with frozen food factories processing the catches.

Macduff harbour. The locals must enjoy sitting out watching the boats.Macduff Harbour. Notice the seating, the locals must enjoy sitting out watching the boats.

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Herrings have been a large influence in the town for over 100 years. During the Herring season families would travel north to gut, salt and pack the herrings in barrels for export to Russia and Europe. They would follow the fish as they migrated all the way down the coast as far as Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft where the fishing season ended. They would then return home to work in the local fishing industry until the next season.

Fraserburgh lighthouse museum. Kinnaird castle was the first light house in 1787. This tower built 1824.Fraserburgh lighthouse museum. Kinnaird castle was the first light house in 1787. This tower built 1824.

The Wine tower. Fraserburgh's oldest building.The Wine tower. Fraserburgh's oldest building.

Despite being an insignificant town on the Scottish coast didn’t save it from being dragged into the bombings of WWII. It appears that the Germans had got wind of the towns war efforts in keeping the troops and the general population fed with processed dried foods and producing engine parts for the Spitfire and Hurricane aircraft engines that the town took quite a pasting but never the less kept going.

Fraserburgh fog horn in service from 1903 until 1987. Had a range of 12 miles.Fraserburgh fog horn in service from 1903 until 1987. Had a range of 12 miles.

Being one of the biggest towns along this coast and possible due to the industrial nature of the place it struck as drab compared the the lovely little villages we had passed through on our way here.

A total of 3395 miles, since 5 March 2011

Saturday, 25 June 2011

North Sea Sunset!

Sunset at Findochty

Finechtie is Gaelic for Findochty.

Last evening we had received an invitation to meet a local couple, Sam and Beth Campbell who had been born and raised in Findochty who also had connections with New Zealand. Well it transpired that Beth has family contacts (Wright family of Holland Street, Wainuiomata) who were known to Dot through being in Real Estate in Wainuiomata. What a small world. Sam had two sisters in NZ the sole survivor living in Tokoroa. Needless to say a couple of hours slipped by quite rapidly but we parted company much the wiser of local matters.

The old fisherman's cottages by the harbour entrance.The old fisherman's cottages by the harbour entrance.

The oldest part of Findochty.The oldest part of Findochty.

One such conversation that came up was that up until approximately 1913 Findochty had no street names and houses were numbered as they were built so the house numbers were not in numerical order. Luckily at that time there were only about five surnames in the village, all related, and the postman would have probably known them all personally anyway.

Herd and Mckenzies old shipyard around the coast from Findochty harbour.Herd and Mckenzies old shipyard around the coast from Findochty Harbour.

Restored or built to the original design?Restored or built to the original design?

Investigating the oldest part of the village we found the remains of an old ship building industry that began in 1903 when a family of shipwright’s moved to the village from Dumbarton and built a slipway and associated buildings at what is known as the Crooked Hythe. Herd and McKenzie built 36 timber Steam Drifters (fishing boats) here at Findochty but eventually moved to bigger premises at Buckie where they could build 4 boats simultaneously. The Crooked Hythe was used until 1932 when the last boat built there was launched. It took a skilled boatman to bring a boat into the slipway between rocks that put the boat side on to the incoming waves. This all had a big impact on the local fishing industry and Herd and Mckenzie became one of the biggest shipyards in Scotland.

Local church in Findochty.Local church in Findochty overlooking the harbour

Narrow passage into Findochty harbour.Narrow passage into Findochty Harbour.

The locals know the town as in the spelling Finechtie and are unsure as to when it was changed.  Probably by a misspelling in naming the railway station which disappeared with the railway in the 60’s, although the Station Masters house is still there although almost unrecognisable in Station Road.

Not a car to be seen.Not a car to be seen.

Friday, 24 June 2011

Findochty with surprises.

51.2 Miles. Now at Sunnybrae Cottage CL site at Findochty.

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We broke camp between showers this morning and got away mid morning. Once we were away from Inverness we found a good layby to pull into to test the internet strength. Luck was on our side, so we stayed long enough for Dot to down load emails and put up last night’s blog in case we have problems at our next camp site.

Fishermans cottages around Findochty harbour.Fishermans cottages around Findochty harbour.

Fisherman's cottages built around the 1900's in the village of Findochty.Fisherman's cottages built around the 1900's in the village of Findochty.

Along the A96 at Forres we spotted a Cairn with a replica Lancaster bomber alongside. Searching the internet I found quite a lot of history on Airfield, Bomber flight training and aircraft crashes in the area. This particular memorial is one of five in the district relating to the RAF during WWII. Another town of interest was Elgin with it’s old and in cases impressive architecture.

Findochty harbour with it's waiting list of 59 awaiting berths.There is a very long waiting list to get into this marina at Findochty. Basically a fishing harbour.

Rocky coastline around Findochty.Rocky coastline around Findochty.

Arriving on site I checked in with the property owner who requested our details. Once New Zealand was mentioned he quickly asked “Do you know Lower Hutt”?  Of course this then opened up a whole new chapter in that around the turn of the 19th century, a lot of people emigrated from Findochty to Lower Hutt with the assistance of the Salvation Army. Findochty  is a small fishing village where the original inhabitant’s were Campbell, Smith, Flett, Sutherland and Herd, all of whom would have connections in Lower Hutt. So if anybody named here reads this drop us a line.

Privately owned caravan site on the sea front at Findochty.Privately owned caravan site on the sea front at Findochty.

Findochty harbour and fishing village.Findochty harbour and fishing village.

After lunch we went for a walk down into the village as the skies had finally cleared and the sun was shining. The immediate reaction by both us when we saw the village was that it was Picture Postcard material. Absolutely beautiful. We walked down to the harbour where we found the Harbour masters notice board on which was posted a waiting list for moorings for pleasure craft. The list was quite extensive with 59 applicants from all around the district. From this we gathered that this is a very popular harbour.

Sculpture of a fisherman looking out over Findochty harbour and the sea for returning boats.Sculpture of a fisherman looking out over Findochty harbour and the sea for returning boats.

Walking around the coast a wee way we found another privately owned caravan park which had the Site Full notice on the gate. From here it was up hill to the village war memorial where we found the five surnames mentioned earlier were listed far too many times in both World Wars. It doesn’t pay to think what impact this would have had on the village. On the way down we passed three locals taking in the sunshine and got into a discussion with them. We learnt quite a lot more about the village as to where and how it had grown over the last 100 years. These days because of the lack of employment it has a heavy presence of retiree’s but there are still enough young people to keep the school going.

Findochty War memorial above the harbour with 5 families named far too many times.Findochty War memorial above the harbour with 5 families named far too many times.

A total of 3346 miles, since 5 March 2011

Thursday, 23 June 2011

City in the Highlands.

The torrential rain that we had all night eased mid morning so the first job of the day was to move to a higher vantage point in the camp when a space became available. Well we got probably the most prominent site in camp and after all our efforts we still couldn’t get TV or Internet. Only one thing for it but to catch the bus into Inverness and take a laptop with us.

Inverness railway station built by the Inverness and Aberdeen joint railway.Inverness railway station built by the Inverness and Aberdeen joint railway.

This bell was made in 1858 when the Inverness railway station opened.This bell was made in 1858 when the Inverness railway station opened.

We finally caught the midday bus along with 6 German tourists who are also staying at the camp. Arriving in town we set about trying to find a coffee bar with Wi-Fi . We tried Costa without success and then spotted good ole McDonalds. We asked at the counter if they had Internet available to which they said they did. We then had to order some lunch to keep the manager smiling, as she had just asked a lady to leave who had only bought a coffee and had been using the internet for an hour.

Inverness covered markets since 1870.Inverness covered Victorian Markets since 1870.

Views along the river Ness through Inverness.Views along the River Ness through Inverness.

At first Dot had trouble connecting to the internet and being only on battery was running out of time. A quick word to the manager and she sent up one of her staff to assist, Dot never realised that an initial registration was required. Finally on the internet Dot had just enough time to put up last night’s blog and down load all the important emails before the battery ran out. At least we had the emails to check back at camp.

Views along the river Ness through Inverness.Views along the River Ness through Inverness.

Inverness Castle.Inverness Castle.

We then spent a bit of time wandering around “The City in the Highlands”. We had spotted the other end of the Caledonian Canal, (another staircase flight) when we drove through town yesterday but couldn’t find any tourist signs pointing us in the right direction today, only the river Ness.This was quite interesting as in a very short distance there were 7 bridges across the river, a couple of which didn’t appear that old.  According to a tourist map we spent most of our time in “The Old Town” with all it’s old buildings and the Victorian indoor market which began in 1870. There is some new redevelopment around Falcon Square where there is the Eastgate Centre, a modern shopping mall.

An old bank building with a new lease of life?An old bank building maybe with a new lease of life?

Inverness Town Hall with it's fine copper clad lights outside.Inverness Town Hall with it's fine copper clad lights outside.

Heading back to camp we caught the 2.55pm bus not thinking anything of it. We realised after a while that the driver was taking a different route which lead him to the local college or high school. Around Scotland they don’t put on special buses for the school runs ,they just get incorporated into the scheduled services. A 10 minute wait and then the bus filled up with loud cackling, boisterous teenagers. Hmmmm! We had been warned at another camp not to catch any bus around 3pm because of this. Must remember next time! We then had just enough time to run a load through the laundry before it got busy and they were queuing up for the clothes dryer.