Wednesday, 3 October 2007

Castles of the Highlands, Moray and Aberdeenshire

I have had a wonderful time taking photos at various castles and garden in the local area. One of my favourites is Ballindalloch Castle near Aberlour. Another favourite is Balvenie Castle at Dufftown and during the Whisky Festival last weekend there was a fascinating display of music and light just as the sun was setting.

Monday, 3 September 2007

Braemar Highland Gathering - Saturday 1 September 2007

It has been a mixed year weather-wise for the Highland Games throughout the area, but the sun shone for the final Games of the season at Braemar. The gathering was attended by the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh. It is always a very colourful event as you have the youngsters wearing their tartan for the highland dancing and then there is the massed pipe bands. There were 11 bands this year and the shield for the best band was won by Lonach and district Pipe Band. I always enjoy the Heavy Events which include tossing the caber, weight over a bar and throwing the hammer. It is great to see that these traditional Scottish Events now have competitors from around the world with Texan and a Ukranian competing. The Ukranian won the weight over the bar and in fact set the new record for this 2 years ago at over 16 feet. The journey from Speyside over the Lecht and along the River Dee to Braemar is very beautiful especially as the heather is in full bloom.

Friday, 17 August 2007

Summer is passing

It is hard to believe that we are half way through August already. The children have already returned to school in the Highlands. We have been lucky with our weather in Speyside in comparison with areas in the south of England, but both Tomintoul and Dufftown Highland Games in July were rained on. This did not deter the enthusiasts including many of our visitors at the cottages. My first look at Pipe Bands this year was after the Aberlour Games on 4 August. It is always a thrill to watch and listen to them marching along the High Street with the colourful Drum Majors leading the way. Pipe Bands have wonderful support from the communities and children are encouraged to join and learn the Pipes and Drums from a very early age. In the photo on the right you can see 2 young Drum Majors. After marching several times up and down the High Street the Pipe Band followed by the children's fancy dress parade make their way back to the Alice Littler Park for their final tunes of the day.

Sunday, 10 June 2007

Touring the Area

I had a great couple of days this week with a trip to Carrbridge where I stopped to photograph the beautiful old packhorse bridge. Erected by Brigadier-General Sir Alexander Grant of Grant in 1717 for estate purposes to provide passage for foot passengers, horses and stock and for funerals to Duthil Churchyard, hence its other local name "the coffin bridge". The bridge took six months to built and cost £100. The specification for the bridge stated that it should be of "ane reasonable Breadth and Height as will Receive the water when in the greatest speat." And it is - only the parapets of this bridge were washed away in the muckle spate of 1829. It was lovely to be by the river listening to the rush of the river, admiring the bridge and watching the clever little dipper catching flies above the water. Later in the week, I visited Forres situated about 27 miles east of the Highland capital of Inverness, the town's impressive parks and gardens with outstanding floral sculptures have led to many awards from Britain and Scotland in Bloom competitions. My friend who lives at Kinloss suggested we should go and have a look at the new sculptures and I was very pleased that we did as once the flowers become established, I think it will be one of the best shows ever. This year, as well as the well known peacock, there is a bear, hedgehog, squirrel, butterfly and a nimrod aircraft. Forres is very close to RAF Kinloss, but this is the first time I can remember seeing a military display in the park. The plane is not a floral sculpture, but surrounded by flowers.

Thursday, 31 May 2007

Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival - more

The Whisky Festival although mainly about visiting distilleries, nosing and tasting whisky with many different foods such as chocolate, smoked salmon and cake, it was also about good food, music, walking and wildlife. I was lucky enough to attend an evening at the Clockhouse in Tomintoul where we ate a delicious meal, prepared by experienced chefs, learnt about and drank Tomintoul whisky and listened to many and varied songs by Robin Laing also on the subject of whisky. Visiting Aberlour the following afternoon, there were free samples of Walkers shortbread which is made in Aberlour. The next day it was time for a 5 mile walk from the Railway station in Dufftown along the side of the river Fiddich on the Dufftown spur of the Speyside Way to the River Spey and then for a delicious light lunch at the Pantry in Aberlour. We saw a huge range of wildflowers, herbs, trees and birds while enjoying spring sunshine. There was also time for a "wee dram" to help us on the journey.

Monday, 14 May 2007

Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival

The Spirit of Speyside was a fantastic weekend with fantastic weather, great distillery tours, plenty of whisky tastings coupled with ceilidhs, food and photography. I accompanied one of the tours starting with the Ben Rinnes distillery which is not normally open to the public. We were met by Scott one of the distillery operators who gave us an excellent tour. It was nice to be taken round by someone who works on the distilling side rather than as a tour guide. The bus tour with 15 people on it seemed a really good size to tour the distillery. They are looking very happy at the start of the tour and it is interesting to see a wide range of ages and from many countries including Sweden, Denmark, Scotland and England.

Thursday, 3 May 2007

River Spey near Rothes - Glen Grant Distillery

On a trip to Elgin to buy paint for the guttering and downpipes at Blufolds cottages, I could not resist the early morning light and stopped to take a photo of the Thomas Telford bridge at Craigellachie and lots of photos at the bend in the river Spey where you can see Rothes in the distance. Rothes has the Glen Grant distillery and garden. Glen Grant whisky is the top seller in Italy. I was lucky to find a fishing boat and a fisherman on the river as well. After all the excitement of the morning it was good to stand outside painting for the rest of the day. The weather over the last 2 weeks has been exceptional with all the blossom and leaves coming very early to the trees.

Monday, 30 April 2007

More Spring Sunshine

Rushed out this morning and headed for Aberlour and just had to find a place to stop and take this photo looking down on the River Spey and Aberlour. Every time I go out at the moment, I just stop and take photos as all the colours are so fresh and vibrant. I had not remembered how many colours of green there are in spring in Speyside. I was lucky enough to get close to a lapwing on the moor in Glenlivet. I think they are beautifully coloured birds and it is great to see them nesting in Speyside as is the fact that curlews are also nesting here. The weather looks set to continue for several more days. Pre-digital cameras, I would have worried about running out of film, but this is not the case now!

Tuesday, 24 April 2007

Aberlour in sunshine

It was such a beautiful sunny morning that I had to rush out to take more photos of spring. This is an iconic spot on the river Spey at Aberlour by the Penny bridge. It looks wonderful with the blue sky reflected in the river. After a little while some fishermen came along to add to the excitement of the river. I wish I had seen them catch a fish! The river Spey is a a famous river for fishing salmon and people pay lots of money to do this. The light had changed with more cloud in the sky and more wind, by the time the fishermen started which was better for them as if there is too much sun the fish can see the fishermen and avoid being caught!

Monday, 23 April 2007

As you go down to the woods today, you are in for a big surprise

While driving around Glenlivet, I passed this lovely tree and glimpsed the ruined Blairfindy castle in the background. I then drove on to the Tombae area and found banks and fields covered in violets, primroses, celandine and wood anemone. This is on the Glenlivet Estate part of the Cairngorms National Park. There are a wonderful selection of walks on the Glenlivet estate.

Ballindalloch Castle, Speyside

Ballindalloch castle has been home to the Macpherson-Grants for 500 years. The castle and gardens are open to the public from Easter to 30 Sep every year. I went along to their open day on 5 Apr and found that the daffodils were looking wonderful. I take out an annual gardens membership so that I can visit the gardens in all different seasons. The rose garden is beautiful in summer and the rhododendron path to it shows fantastic colours during May and June. The rock garden has excellent colour in spring with azaleas and rhodendrons. There is a play area for children and a dog walking area as well as walks beside the river Spey.

Sunday, 22 April 2007

Oystercatchers choosing a nest in Glenlivet

Since early April, the oystercatchers have moved inland looking for places to nest. They often choose unlikely places to nest and particularly like piles of stones by the roadside. I am waiting to see where they nest this year and hopefully get photos of their young.

Peacock Butterfly & Ben Rinnes Glenlivet, Speyside

The peacock butterfly colonised the Cairngorms in the early 1990's. I was delighted to see it on 14 April which is the earliest that I have ever seen a butterfly in Glenlivet. I was even more amazed as I saw several peacock butterflies in different parts of Glenlivet that day. The hill is Ben Rinnes and is a Corbett which means that it is over 2000 ft but is less than 3000 ft. This hill can be viewed from many angles as you drive around Speyside. This view is from the road to Bluefolds Holiday Cottages in Glenlivet.

Spring in Aberlour, Scotland

The young leaves are very fresh and a very vivid green. This is a fantastic time to holiday in Speyside with changes to the landscape on a daily basis as the blossom, trees and gorse add colour after the winter months.

Speyside in Springtime

Spring arrived early in Speyside this year. The daffodils have been in bloom since early April and looked great when I walked beside the River Spey on the Speyside Way at Aberlour on 15 April. It was lovely to see the cherry blossom and the early leaves emerging as well. The Alice Littler Park beside the River Spey is a delightful walk, through all the seasons as there is a lovely range of trees beside the river which go from dramatically bare in winter all the way through to gorgeous autumn tints. The walk through the park is on the Speyside Way which stretches from Aviemore to Spey Bay.