A stroll in the grounds of Scone Palace

Scone Palace
Scone Palace

We had a couple of weekends in Perth in 2016. Both times we visited Scone Palace (and however you pronounce the thing that you eat, this Scone is definitely Scoon). The first visit was in so-called flaming June when it poured. We toured the house (no photography) and had a quick look at the Chapel on Moot Hill, crowning place of the Kings of Scots and home to the Stone of Scone aka the Stone of Destiny, before taking refuge back in the car.

As we knew there was far more than this to the grounds, we were determined to go back for a proper stroll. Fortunately, our visit in December, although very cold, was dry and we enjoyed a couple of hours there.

We started again at the palace, where we were intrigued by the white peacock which I thought might have been an albino. However, according to Wikipedia, although albino peafowl do exist, they are quite rare and almost all white peafowl have a different condition called leucism. An albino peacock will have red or pink eyes whereas one with leucism will have normal eye-colour – which I think you can clearly see here (if you click to enlarge the photo).

We followed the path round Moot Hill to the site of an old tomb and then the David Douglas Pavilion at the edge of the Pinetum. David Douglas was born in Scone in 1799 and worked as a gardener at the palace for seven years. He went on to become an explorer and a great plant hunter.

The highlight of the grounds for me was the Murray Star Maze with its copper beech hedges and water nymph in the centre. The pattern is designed to resemble the owner’s family tartan, Ancient Murray of Tullibardine, and is in the shape of a five-pointed star which is part of the family’s emblem. The shortest way to its centre is only about 30 metres although there are over 800 metres of paths altogether. We walked something in between those distances!

The village of Scone once stood within the grounds of the Palace. However, when the medieval house was rebuilt in 1803 and the new Palace grounds were landscaped in 1805 the entire village was relocated two miles away and became known as ‘New Scone’. Aren’t aristocrats lovely?

There are still many reminders of old Scone around the grounds. The Ancient Burial Ground of Scone, above, is one. The Mercat Cross and 16th century archway which was the grand entrance to the ‘City of Scone’, below, are others. Some of the stonework has been nicely restored here.

Finally we paid our respects to the Highland Cattle, one of which had rather an alarming glint in its eye. Fortunately, they were safely behind a robust fence.

I hope you’ve enjoyed your stroll round Scone Place’s grounds. I’m linking it to Jo’s Monday Walks which this week has gorgeous blue Portuguese skies to cheer you up.

Deanston and Doune

Deanston Distillery
Deanston Distillery

We’ve been meaning to visit Deanston Distillery for ages – it’s less than an hour’s drive from Glasgow – and finally got around to it in November. It’s unusual because it wasn’t purpose-built: it started life in 1785 as Deanston Cotton Mill and functioned as such until 1965. However, unlike many abandoned industrial buildings, it didn’t go into decline but reopened as a distillery in 1967. The mill’s location on the banks of the River Teith made it ideal for its new purpose and the constant cool temperature in the weaving shed was perfect for maturation.

We were lucky that a tour was just starting as we arrived. We paid £9 for the basic tour which included two drams at the end and, as John was driving, I got to drink most of that – hic! A few highlights will suffice – if you want to know about the details of whisky production at Deanston, there’s a great account on Alcademics.com.

Outside the distillery were stacks of casks – most of Deanston’s whisky is matured in ex-bourbon casks.

The most photogenic of the machines inside were the malt mill and the stills. The malt mill is the original from the 1960s, made by Porteus in Leeds. It has only had to be recalibrated twice in all that time – in fact, the company went out of business because their machines were so efficient that they never needed to be replaced!

The whisky is stored while it matures in the old weaving shed. At the front were rows of signed barrels, including one signed by the cast of the Ken Loach film, The Angel’s Share, parts of which were filmed at Deanston. (The angel’s share is a term for the amount of alcohol which evaporates from the casks during maturation.) If you know Ken Loach’s work at all you’ll perhaps be surprised to learn that this is a comedy crime caper. I’ve seen it and would like to see it again now to spot the locations!

After our tour we had an excellent lunch in Deanston’s café, The Coffee Bothy, which helped me counter the (very slight, of course) effects of the whisky, and then we set off for a walk round nearby Doune.

We started at the castle which was built at the end of the 14th century and has found fame as a film location featuring in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Game of  Thrones and Outlander. We’ve explored its interior many times, but this time we took the track which follows round the outside.

This took us down to the confluence of the Ardoch Burn on the left and the River Teith on the right. Walking upstream alongside the Teith we met some friends grazing.

Eventually a high fence blocked the riverside but a path up to the right led us to the main road, and another right along the pavement took us into the village of Doune. We passed the Muir Hall and St Modoc’s Episcopal Church.

The Moray Institute, now homes, and some picturesque cottages.

There have been two referendums in recent years. The occupant of one cottage left us in no doubt which way s/he had voted in either of them, with Saltires and European Union bunting fluttering in the breeze.

We emerged onto the main street by the Mercat Cross, and then passed the Highland Hotel and the former Kilmadock Parish Church.

A final footpath took us back over fields to the castle and our car having enjoyed a lovely and varied day out.

Doune Castle
Doune Castle

2016 – the ones that nearly got away

30 years at the University of Glasgow
30 years at the University of Glasgow

A Happy New Year, everyone! I hope 2017 will be good to us all. I’m trying to polish off 2016 by clearing out old photos and ideas for blog posts. Some will get an entry to themselves; this is a catch-up for the rest – the ones that nearly got away.

John

You’ll all be familiar with John, my partner in life and photographer-in-chief. He had a big birthday this year – can you guess which one from the pictures below? Not hard! He also had a presentation to mark 30 years of service at the University of Glasgow (top image), which means we’ve lived 30 years in Glasgow as we moved up from Yorkshire when he got his lectureship. That’s over half my life – in the first half I lived in 9 different towns or cities, so I think I can now call myself settled.

Mum

The other big family milestone last year was my Mum’s 90th birthday which I’ve already written about (here). Earlier in the year, she and I paid a visit to the village she grew up in, Kilmacolm. We’ve been before, many times, but this time we took some photographs where her home used to stand. The name of the building was Low Shells – now, there is only a grassy area and some benches but the name lives on.

Dams to Darnley

Dams to Darnley is a newish country park which sits between Barrhead, Darnley and Newton Mearns to the south of Glasgow. We found it almost by accident when we were looking for somewhere else and enjoyed a pleasant Sunday afternoon stroll there. Centred on a series of reservoirs and bisected by a railway, it’s not particularly spectacular but I’ve included it because I’m impressed that two councils (it falls between Glasgow City and East Renfrewshire) have co-operated to make the most of limited green space and not build all over it.

Palacerigg

Palacerigg is another minor country park within half an hour of Glasgow. Again, the local council, North Lanarkshire this time, has made a big effort to introduce nature trails, birds and animals, particularly with children in mind. This was July, but I see I am wearing winter clothes. The joys of a Scottish summer!

Loch Leven

In December we had a couple of nights in Perth. I’ve started some posts about that, but I don’t think I’ll get round to writing about the lovely walk at Loch Leven we did on the way home. Here’s a slide-show of some of the best images. It was a stunningly crisp morning as you can see.

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2016 Stats

Finally, speaking of the ones that got away, whatever has happened to WordPress’s stats helper monkeys? You know, the ones that send you a report with fireworks that tells you how your blog did that year? Or is it just me they’ve decided not to visit? *Sulks*. Anyway, being a resourceful type, I’ve looked at the 2016 stats all by myself. They’re up by over 50% compared to 2015, which is lovely, and of the ten most read posts nine were about Scotland (one of my Yellowstone posts just scraped in at number ten). I guess you like reading about my home country! There will be much more of the same this year so I hope you will keep visiting. I’m grateful to everyone who has read, liked, commented or all three. As a TV series of my youth used to end “Thank you for coming to my little show. I love you all!” (Brownie points if you can identify which one….)

Glasgow canal walks

Forth and Clyde Canal at Maryhill Locks
Forth and Clyde Canal at Maryhill Locks
The Forth and Clyde Canal runs very close to our house and we love it for a Sunday afternoon stroll. We have three choices – east, west or the spur that runs into the city centre. I’ve already written about the spur (here) so this post will cover the east and west walks we took in November. Now, you will probably guess that the photograph above does not show Glasgow in November! That was in June, but it’s the only time I’ve ever seen boats going through any of the canal locks so I wanted to include it.

Let’s walk east first. We join the canal at Maryhill where there used to be interesting, if not infamous, buildings above its banks such as the Glasgow Magdalene Institution for the Repression of Vice and Reformation of Penitent Females. Yes, really! Shockingly, this only closed in the late 1950s after a number of inmates escaped, leading to an investigation into their (mis)treatment. Today, the site is covered in houses with a golf course on the other bank, so nothing very picturesque. The camera only comes out when we reach Lambhill Stables.

The Stables were built around 1830 when horses pulling barges were the main means of moving goods along the canal. Today they have been restored as a community facility with a café, heritage displays and a garden. The Stables are closed on Sundays, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to see. First, there is the memorial to the Cadder Pit Disaster of 1913.

A stroll round the garden results in some unexpected sightings. A robot in Lambhill!

Through a gap in the hedge at the back there are good views towards Possil Loch and the Campsie Fells.

Back on the canal towpath, we walk a little further then turn into Possil Marsh and Loch nature reserve – though there is so much marsh that we don’t actually see the loch again, as the track can only go round the very edge of the site. We do see, through another hedge gap, the splendid entrance (James Sellars, 1881) to Lambhill Cemetery and the plaque to commemorate the Possil High Meteorite which fell nearby in 1804. (This photo is a cheat, taken from an earlier walk. I couldn’t make the writing on the plaque legible, even in close-up, so I thought you might as well have a long view with the bonus of John).

It gets dark very early in winter, and the sun was setting as we walked back home.

A couple of weekends later, we set off west to walk another section of canal. Once again, it’s quite built up but there are times when you can pretend you are in the country. Not when you see a Saltire-painted tarpaulin and Nessie on the opposite bank though! And a curious cat who probably has as little idea about what is going on as we do.

It’s also easy to link up a canal walk with the River Kelvin Walkway. Here’s one we did in October, taking in the Botanic Gardens and its Arboretum.

Finally, you never know what you might come across on the canal. One of my volunteer “jobs” is leading walks from Maryhill Health Centre (aimed, for example, at people giving up smoking or finishing physiotherapy) and sometimes we have pop-up artists. Below, you can see members of the delightful Joyous Choir living up to their name and a small ceilidh band. Shortly after this picture was taken we danced The Gay Gordons up and down the towpath which prompted a certain amount of curious windae-hingin’ (hanging out of windows) on the adjacent Maryhill Road. It was fun!

This post seems to have got out of hand and strayed away from the original east-west walk! I kept thinking of more to add. Expect more rag-bag posts in the New Year as I clear out photos and ideas that didn’t get used in 2016. Linking this one to Jo’s Monday Walks. Her latest is about Roker Beach and Park where I spent many happy hours as a child.

Happy Christmas!

Edinburgh at Christmas
Edinburgh at Christmas

We’ve made a couple of trips over to Edinburgh in the last few weeks to visit art exhibitions, but also taking plenty of time to appreciate the sights and sounds of Christmas: the funfair, the market, the Street of Light.

This gallery is my Christmas card to you.

The last picture has nothing to do with Christmas at all: John snapped this tour bus coming up from Edinburgh’s New Town on one of our summer visits. I just love the composition and don’t want to waste it, so here it is!

Edinburgh tour bus
Edinburgh tour bus

A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to everyone! May 2017 bring us all hope and joy. See you then.

 

A walk round Overtoun Estate

Overtoun House
Overtoun House
Overtoun House was built in 1862 for James White, a wealthy industrialist, and stayed in the family until 1939 when it was bequeathed to the people of Dumbarton. In the past it has been used as a maternity hospital and a film set, but since 2001 it has been run by the Christian Centre for Hope and Healing. Since my last visit a few years ago, a weekend tea room has opened in the house and the Forestry Commission has greatly enhanced the paths around the estate.

We did a figure-of-eight walk, returning to the house in the middle for lunch. The first loop took us past the Welcome Cairn to a viewpoint where we could see Ben Lomond one way (just visible over John’s shoulder) and Dumbarton Rock and Castle the other.

Descending back towards the house, there was an area with wooden sculptures – maybe for children to play on? I don’t know: on this cold, November day there were no children around to demonstrate. The autumn colours were lovely.

Overtoun Bridge, visible on the left in the first picture below, looks picturesque but has an unpleasant history. Since the 1950s or 1960s numerous dogs have leapt from the bridge at the rate of about one dog per year, falling 50 feet onto the waterfalls below. In 1994, a man threw his two-week-old son to his death from the bridge, because he believed the child was an incarnation of the Devil, and then attempted to jump himself. Well, we made it across safely and popped into the house for lunch in the beautiful Angel Room. I can report that it was very good and very cheap – the best chips / fries I’ve had in a long time. (Don’t judge me on the chips – it was a cold day and I needed fuel.)

The second loop was less photogenic. It took us down, allegedly, to a waterfall, but there were so many trees we could barely see it. Can you spot it lurking in the first picture below?

Arriving back at the house again, John amused himself taking some shots of the stone ornamentation while I shivered.

It does show what a splendid pile it is though, doesn’t it? Linked to Jo’s Monday Walks. She has the most fabulous Christmas lights this week.

Yellowstone’s Geyser Country Day 2 – Grand Prismatic Spring

Traffic jam Yellowstone style
Traffic jam Yellowstone style

On the last day of our week in Yellowstone, we headed back to Geyser Country. The two guys above (there’s a second bison just going out of sight behind the trees) held us up for a short while. Most people were back in their cars by the time John risked this snap – some of them had been standing way too close.

The best thing we saw in our whole week in Yellowstone came right at the end of the day, but there was plenty to do before that. Just south of Madison we turned off onto Firehole Canyon Drive, a short detour leading to some pretty falls.

A few miles further on we reached Lower Geyser Basin. On one side of the road is Firehole Lake Drive. The main attraction here is Great Fountain Geyser (second picture below) but it wasn’t due to erupt till the afternoon and we didn’t have time to hang about. Plenty other things to appreciate, though.

Across the road is the Fountain Paint Pot trail. The Pot is full of thick, bubbling mud.

Red Spouter, below, has existed since an earthquake in 1959 which altered much of this landscape. It’s unusual in that it behaves like all four thermal features at different times of year. In spring and early summer it’s a muddy hot spring that might seem like a geyser at times as it splashes water several feet high. By summer and autumn, as the water table lowers, it becomes first a mudpot then a fumarole venting steam, as here.

Below Red Spouter is an area with several geysers. This is Fountain Geyser.

The colours in the basin are beautiful. We’d seen many trees such as the ones below on our travels, but learnt something new about them from the trail guide here. They are lodgepole pine trees which drowned in the super-hot water of shifting thermal activity. Silica penetrated and hardened the bases of the trunks leaving a white appearance, so they are nicknamed “Bobby Socks” trees.

Finally, we arrived at Midway Geyser Basin.

There are two major features here. Excelsior Geyser Crater was formed when a huge geyser blew itself out of existence in the 1880s. The last eruption was a hundred years later in 1985, but it still discharges 4000 gallons of hot water per minute into the Firehole River. It may not look as spectacular, but it expels more in a day than Old Faithful does in two months.

And now for the pièce de résistance – Grand Prismatic Spring. At 370ft wide and 121ft deep, it’s Yellowstone’s largest, deepest hot spring and probably its most beautiful. I’ve never seen anything to rival it anyway. The water at 70C / 160F ensures it is usually cloaked in steam and the brilliant colours around it are caused by the microorganisms which live there.

Could we top that? Not really. We made a quick stop at Gibbon Falls which we’d passed several times already without viewing, then it was back to Canyon Lodge for our last night.

We left Yellowstone the next morning with over a week of vacation still left. However, this seems like a good time to take a break and blog about something else for a while. I’ll come back to our US road trip after the New Year.

Yellowstone’s Geyser Country Day 1 – Old Faithful and friends

Approaching Geyser Country
Approaching Geyser Country
Our last two days in Yellowstone were spent exploring Geyser Country, the area south of Madison Junction to Old Faithful. If you thought the sights I have already shown you were spectacular – well, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet!

On the first day, we drove to the southern end – Upper Geyser Basin, home to Old Faithful and about 180 other geysers, plus a variety of hot springs. The first port of call should always be the Visitor Centre where you can pick up predicted times of eruption. Although not the biggest (up to 180 feet) or the most predictable geyser in the park, Old Faithful is the most frequent – every 90 minutes or so. We observed it twice – the first time, just after we arrived, from the boardwalk.

The second time, we climbed Observation Hill behind the geyser to look down on it and I think this was better. The first picture below shows the crowds patiently waiting, and how nondescript Old Faithful looks before spouting.

However, Upper Geyser Basin has so much more to it than Old Faithful. We watched our first eruption at 1030 and didn’t leave till 1600. There’s the park architecture to start with – lots of modern stuff which you can see above, but also Old Faithful Inn (1903) and Old Faithful Lodge (1928) which are still in service.

Most of the geysers and springs, such as this one, the name of which I can’t remember, line the Firehole River:

Firehole River at Upper Geyser Basin
Firehole River at Upper Geyser Basin
And there were so many! Once again, I’m struggling to cut down to a reasonable number of pictures.

Giant Geyser
Giant Geyser

Blue Star Spring
Blue Star Spring

Anemone Geyser
Anemone Geyser

Crested Pool
Crested Pool

Belgian Pool
Belgian Pool

Chromatic Pool
Chromatic Pool

Morning Glory Pool
Morning Glory Pool

Daisy Geyser
Daisy Geyser
Daisy Geyser (above) wasn’t as big as Old Faithful but it was a bit off the main path and very few other people were there when it erupted so we probably enjoyed it more. The gallery below shows Grotto Geyser, another favourite, in various stages of agitation. It teased by spouting water from different orifices in turn followed by a finale of spurting everywhere! We thought that was more entertaining than Old Faithful shooting straight up in the air.

Do we look exhausted?

Maybe not yet, but after 5 and a half hours we were certainly footsore. However, we stopped off at two smaller basins on the way back. First, Black Sand Basin.

Then Biscuit Basin.

By this time, we really were exhausted. However, the next day we were back to complete our tour of Geyser Country – and saw what I think was the most beautiful sight of our whole trip.

Elephant Back and West Thumb

Hayden Valley
Hayden Valley

Heading south of Yellowstone Canyon took us through the Hayden Valley where the river was a placid contrast to the torrents pouring over Upper and Lower Falls. However, despite this calm appearance, we were on the verge of one of Yellowstone’s most geologically volatile regions at Mud Volcano.

Its first manifestation is Sulphur Cauldron, a spring with waters about ten times as acidic as lemon juice. Sulphur-rich gasses rise furiously.

Across the road is the Mud Volcano area itself. Features include Cooking Hillside – I’ve included the information board not just for the explanation of how it got its name, but also to show how the treeline had retreated even further since it was erected.

After a picnic by the river, we decided to tackle Elephant Back Mountain, a 3.5 mile loop trail which sounds more impressive than it is – only 800 feet elevation change. Not really a mountain then! A heavily wooded trail leads to good views from the top over Yellowstone Lake.

We then drove along the shores of the lake to West Thumb Geyser Basin, a small volcanic caldera formed inside the main Yellowstone caldera about 150,000 years ago. Some wildlife encounters en route!

If Mud Volcano was all about – well – mud, here we were back to glorious colour. There was something magical about wandering along in the late afternoon sunshine with the lake on one side and these jewel-bright springs on the other.

We returned to the Lodge tired but happy. In the next instalment we see the Park’s most famous geyser, Old Faithful – but prefer some of its neighbours.

Mammoth Hot Springs

Mammoth Springs
Mammoth Hot Springs

The terraces of Mammoth Hot Springs are a sight to behold – living sculptures shaped by a large volume of water flowing across sloping land, and coloured by thermophiles (heat loving microorganisms). A series of board walks takes you round the lower terraces and a short drive loops round the upper terraces. Here are far too many pictures. I just don’t know how to choose.

Mammoth Springs Mammoth Springs Mammoth Springs Mammoth Springs Mammoth Springs Mammoth Springs Mammoth Springs Mammoth Springs Mammoth Springs Mammoth Springs Mammoth Springs Mammoth Springs Mammoth Springs Mammoth Springs

But that’s not all! Mammoth used to be Fort Yellowstone. In the early years of the National Park (established 1872) the Springs were threatened by poachers and souvenir hunters. In 1886, the army moved in and stayed for 32 years: many of the buildings erected then are now used as park headquarters. Cute squirrels too!

On the way to Mammoth, we admired Tower Fall and the Narrows – the far end of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone which I wrote about in an earlier post.

Finally, we came across more wildlife on, or by, the road.

Yellowstone just gets better and better! In my next post, we head for Elephant Back and West Thumb.