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.

Edzell Castle

Edzell Castle and Garden
Edzell Castle and Garden

Edzell Castle was built by the Lindsay family in the 16th century, with its beautiful walled garden added around 1604 (then restored in the 1930s). It’s had some famous guests – Mary Queen of Scots in 1562 (though can there be a Scottish castle she didn’t visit?) and her son, James VI, in 1580 and 1589. Unfortunately, mounting debts forced the Lindsays to sell up in 1715. Today, Edzell is run by Historic Scotland and has to put up with less famous visitors such as ourselves. They still send out a welcome party though – an unusually co-operative peacock who almost posed for his picture (though kept his tail unfanned).

My favourite part was the garden walls which included little niches for flowers….

…. and heraldic sculptures and carved panels representing the Liberal Arts.

The garden itself looked best from above:

Garden from the castle
Garden from the castle

Edzell is in Perthshire, just north of Brechin and Montrose. We stopped off on our way to Aberdeen to catch a ferry – there’ll be much more on our destination to follow…..

3 Day Quote #1: Nature

Inscribed bench
Inscribed bench by River Earn

The tumbling bridge and fallow field; Once deeply scarred by soot and steel; Now nature has crept back to heal

These lovely words run along the back of this unusual bench which sits alongside the River Earn near Crieff. (The path goes through a beautiful avenue of trees, parallel to an old railway embankment.) I’ve chosen them as my first entry in the 3 Day Quote Challenge. What is that, I hear you cry? Quite simple!

  1. Post a quote for three consecutive days (one down, two to go).
  2. Thank the person who nominated you. With pleasure! Thanks to La Sabrosona of  my spanglish familia – laugh and cry, as I do, with her tales of a Mexican / Canadian family bilingual in Spanish and English.
  3. Pass the challenge on to three more people. Hmm, as has been my recent practice, I’ll skip this bit and just say you are all nominated if you have quotes you want to share.

I’ll leave you with a few more pictures of the walk, the River Earn and Laggan Hill circuit. It starts and finishes at Glenturret Distillery, with its statue to the famous mouser, Towser. (As a bonus, the café here has recently been upgraded and serves an excellent lunch.)

We found more benches by the river (this one has an inscription about salmon leaping), and a sort of fairy house in a tree trunk!

Finally, the views from Laggan Hill are lovely:

I do believe I can enter this post in two more challenges! Jo’s Monday Walks and Jude’s Bench Series, which in July is looking for benches with unusual details. Bingo! Click on both links to see what other bloggers have been up to this week.

Scottish Snapshots: Scone

Scottish Snapshots is a series of short posts about places I visited in 2013 but didn’t write about at the time

In October our friends from Yorkshire, Valerie and Kenn, rented a cottage in Scone for a short break and we went up to visit them overnight. The next day we did the lovely Scone Circular walk before driving back to Glasgow. It was a bright, sunny autumn day, which we don’t get very often – though mind you, shortly after the picture at the Obelisk we had to hang on to each other to avoid being blown away. An added bonus was a short detour to Bonhard Nursery for lunch in their café. (If following the walk instructions, turn left instead of right at the beginning of Stage 6. You’ll need to retrace your steps, but it’s worth it.)

Scottish Snapshots: Branklyn Garden

Scottish Snapshots is a series of short posts about places I visited in 2013 but didn’t write about at the time

Branklyn Garden is a National Trust for Scotland site in Perth. It’s a small (2 acres) but magnificent garden with an impressive collection of unusual plants, including the rare Himalayan blue poppy. My Mum and Dad love gardens so I took them there one afternoon last summer. We had a lovely time as you can see below.

Unwinding in Crieff

Glen Lednock and the Maam Road

On a day out in March, we stopped off in Crieff Hydro for tea and thought it would be a lovely place to stay. After a gruelling few months at work, this popped back into my head when looking for somewhere for a relaxing couple of nights to recover and I booked up. Perthshire is a beautiful county and we were hoping for good weather to get some walking done – we got a bit wet the first day, and both days involved sinking to our ankles in mud from time to time, but walk we did, accompanied by our guide of choice Perthshire: 40 Town & Country Walks. The authors, Paul and Helen Webster, also run the website Walk Highlands, another excellent source of ideas.

Day 1 – The Hosh and the Knock

This 10k figure of eight walk starts directly from the Hydro, so we didn’t need the car all day. The Hosh is an area of woods and riverside which takes you down to Glenturret and its famous distillery. Time for a tour and a dram! Unfortunately not. We arrived just before they were to be inundated with coach trips and there wasn’t another public tour for an hour and a half. Never mind, I had my photo taken with the Famous Grouse:

The Famous Grouse at Glenturret Distillery

We also admired the monument to Towser, the prodigious mouser, one of whose successors was asleep on the visitor centre floor (standards must be slipping):

Towser the Distillery Cat

The walk looped back to the Hydro, and then up the Knock of Crieff and back through rather soggy farmland. We did part of this walk on our previous visit, and I posted better photographs then. This time it rained, and was a bit dreich, but still beautiful:

The Knock of Crieff

Day 2 – Comrie and the Deil’s Cauldron

This is also a circular walk, starting in Comrie, just down the road from Crieff, and meandering about 7.5k around Glen Lednock. It takes in the Deil’s Cauldron (a waterfall) and, as an addition to the main circuit, a climb up Dun More to the Melville Monument. Viscount Melville was the last person to be impeached in the House of Lords – in 1806 he was accused of improper use of funds when in charge at the Admiralty. Plus ça change….etc, although in this case he was later acquitted.

At the Deil’s (Devil’s) Cauldron:

Deil’s Cauldron

The climb up Dun More to the monument rose steeply through trees:

Dun More and the Melville Monument

There are fine views from the top:

View from Dun More

The way down is via a delightful hill track, known as the Maam Road (see also top of post):

Glen Lednock from the Maam Road

The route returns on the other side of Glen Lednock, from where the monument is often visible and, sometimes, quite sinister looking:

Melville Monument

After our exertions, we treated ourselves to enormous slices of cake at the fabulous Tullybannocher Café.

The Hydro

Crieff Hydro was a very comfortable place to stay. We probably didn’t make the most of it because we walked both days rather than take advantage of its outdoor activities – though on the first walk, we barely left the estate and were very impressed with its extent. If the weather had been really bad, there would have been plenty to do indoors too, with a pool, a Spa and even a cinema. It’s not a big, soulless chain either – after 140 years, it’s still managed by descendents of the founder, Dr Meikle, who gives his name to the restaurant. John really enjoyed the food but, as is often the case in hotels, I found the vegetarian options a bit bland. What lets them down is the restaurant service – amusingly eccentric the first night, awful the second when we went from feeling we were being rushed through everything to being totally forgotten about by the end. Better supervision and coordination is required. Top marks though for having veggie sausages on the breakfast buffet – the first time I have seen that. I’ll give it 7/10 overall.

Glen Lyon

I’ve wanted to visit Glen Lyon for ages because I had heard it was really beautiful. Fortingall, where we stayed the weekend, is just at the mouth of Glen Lyon which didn’t disappoint when we explored it on Sunday. We drove from one end to the other and then climbed Meall Buidhe, the first time I’ve done a Munro in ages, and boy, did my legs feel it! However, the views almost made up for the discomfort.

The glen is dammed in several places, and the walk started by rising above one of the dams, at Loch an Daimh:

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The ascent is very boggy, but the summit ridge is easier (if you don’t count getting snowed on!)

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You could see Loch Rannoch and Schiehallion, which was probably the last Munro I climbed, come to think of it:

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After all that effort, we felt we were due a reward and stopped at the tearoom further down the glen for a cuppa and a cream scone. It was full so we had to sit outside where we were amused by the antics of the local chaffinch population, especially when our neighbours failed to finish their scones (weirdos, huh?)

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I think this one has been in the habit of over-indulging on many occasions. That’s one fat bird!

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Fortingall

What is the oldest living thing in Europe? Apparently, this yew tree which is estimated to be about 5000 years old:

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You can find it in the Perthshire village of Fortingall where we’ve just spent a couple of nights in this lovely hotel:

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The whole village has an air of Arts and Crafts with, very unusually for Scotland, several thatched cottages:

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Another claim to fame is that the village is supposedly the birthplace of Pontius Pilate, following a visit by his father to the Caledonians as an emissary from Emperor Augustus, but that seems to be no more than a myth. Still, it makes a good story!

Innerpeffray Library & the Knock of Crieff

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I’ve wanted to visit Innerpeffray Library for years. Last weekend, when we stayed in Perth, I planned to visit on our way home but overlooked the fact that the library is not open on Mondays or Tuesdays. This weekend, we decided to go before the notion left us again. This was the plan: arrive in Crieff in time for a pub lunch, quickly visit the library when they opened for the afternoon at 2pm, then go for a long walk to work off lunch.

We had lunch in the Caledonian Bar in the centre of Crieff: one fish and chips, one mushroom stroganoff and two halves of Speckled Hen. All very good and served efficiently and with a smile and a chat. We then arrived at Innerpeffray just after 2pm, but the short visit lasted almost two hours! It was absolutely fascinating. Innerpeffray is the oldest free public lending library in Scotland. It was founded in 1680 in the church next door by David Drummond, 3rd Lord Madertie, but the dedicated library building “only” dates from 1762. This makes 2012 its 250th anniversary and so the books in the display cases date from around that time – a time when 75% of adults in Scotland could read and write, compared to only 53% in England. Why would that be? Because by 1750 almost every Scottish town of any size had a lending library. This obviously resonates today when so many public libraries are under threat.

The reason our visit took so long is that, unlike other historic libraries we have visited such as Pepys’ Library in Cambridge, you can actually handle the books, not just look at the displays. Lara, the Library Manager, and the two volunteers on duty were absolutely excellent and so friendly. They chatted to us to find out our interests and then quickly found books that they thought we would like, even though (anathema to my librarian’s soul!) they were not in classified order. We spent ages browsing and reading, sometimes with books nearly 400 years old. You can also view the borrowers’ register from 1747 until lending ceased in the 1960s, and lists of 18th century desiderata. I strongly recommend that you check the link above to find out more about the library and then visit it. It costs £5 per person – excellent value. The pictures below show internal and external views – the church can also be visited, but is not open till April.

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(Update 1: 29/04/12 – for a good post on Innerpeffray, see the Georgian Gentleman blog.)

(Update 2: 10/05/12 – another blog Echoes from the Vault about a visit by Rare Books Librarians.)

(Update 3: 26/08/13 – read about my second visit, when the chapel was open. Also, check out author Helen Grant’s blog – she often writes about Innerpeffray.)

After a quick refreshment in the splendid café at Crieff Hydro, we went off for a shorter walk than planned. I found it hard to believe I had never been there before, but certainly have the Hydro marked down as a suitable place for a future weekend away.

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From the Hydro, we walked up to the Knock, a view-point above the hotel. It was dusk when we returned and the sky was lovely.

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As we walked back down through the hotel grounds, we got stuck behind a group of 10-12 young women, all beautifully dressed for a night out. The only trouble was, their shoes were so high that they were hirpling along like a gaggle of old grannies (hope that’s not too ageist), holding onto each other and the railings. They were happy to joke though – I offered to lend one my walking boots to get down the hill, and when we finally strode past them, another asked for a lift. Two of the more footsure can just be seen in this picture.

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I hope they had a lovely evening. And that they’re not crippled by the time they are 40. (Suppresses memory of 18-year-old self attempting a country walk in four-inch platforms.)

Kinnoull Hill

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As a post-script to our holiday, before we left for home this morning we spent an hour walking in Kinnoull Hill Woodland Park. The 222m hill rises over Perth just behind our hotel and from the ruined Kinnoull Tower, an 18th century folly, you can look down on the Tay and the road below.