Monday, 21 December 2009

Winter has come to Speyside

We have just returned from our summer holidays, in Chile and the Falkland Islands where we enjoyed the start of their summer, to a winter wonderland. The weather is certainly making us realise that Christmas is nearly here. I can't remember when we last had this much snow before Christmas. Everywhere looks beautiful as long as you only need to sit and look at it. Steve and his helpers have been over at the cottages getting them ready for our Christmas visitors, while I have stayed at home enjoying the warm indoors and admiring the snowy hills around! I ventured out this afternoon, now that my car has on it's winter tyres, in beautiful sunshine to take a few photos just in case the weather changes suddenly. There should be good sking at the Lecht and Cairngorms if this weather continues over the holiday season. I had a look at the forecast for the next few days and the Lecht is expecting -6 to -8. This weather is lovely for the Reindeer as they pull Santa's Sleigh around the area. They are going to be at Brodie on 23 December from 10 am to 4 pm.

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Lonach Highland Games

What a fantastic day out! The weather was lovely and the drive over the heather clad hills to Strath Don was breathtaking. This was my first visit to the Lonach Highland Games although I have visited all my other local ones many times - Dufftown, Tomintoul and Aberlour as well as Braemar. Having seen and talked to some of the Lonach Highlanders at the Gathering in Edinburgh at end of July, I was keen to finally see them in action in their home place. Strathdon is very small with a tiny village and to see the car parks full of cars for at least 1/2 a mile in every direction was an eye opener. The place was buzzing with excitement. The setting is great with plenty of space for lots of retail opportunities as well as a very busy arena with dancing, piping, heavy games and athletics all taking place simultaneously. It was difficult to know where to look as there was such a lot happening. The Pipe Bands led the Lonach Highlanders around the field and it is truly a remarkable spectacle. We were told that Billy Connelly and Pamela Stephenson were present, but I did not bump into them. The colour of the day was wonderful and the men of all ages involved in the Highlanders is great to see in this day age.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Summer in Glenlivet and area

It has been a busy summer with lots of visitors staying at Bluefolds Holiday cottages and also lots staying at my home. This has given me many chances to get out and about and to see the area through visitors eyes. I had a wonderful trip via Cullen to Troup Head to see how the Gannets were doing this year. There seemed to be lots of large chicks, some already having lost all their fluff and looking very similar to the adults except for black spots on their wings. The walk out to the RSPB reserve at Troup Head is wonderful itself with views over the Moray Firth and round the headland to the small fishing village of Pennan. There always seems to be a wide range of butterflies flying around and I managed to photograph 2 different ones. I just love the isolation of this headland and the beauty and drama of the changing scenery. Many other seabird nest there during the season including kittiwakes, razorbills, guillemots and puffins, but I was too late in the season to see much beside the beautiful gannets. Troup Head is the only place in Scotland where you can visit the gannets on land - all other gannet colonies such as the Bass Rock are on islands.

Sunday, 31 May 2009

Ballindalloch Castle, Buckie and Portnockie

The remainder of May has been beautiful with lots of sunshine, although until the last few days it has been pretty cold. The gardens, countryside and seaside are all looking wonderful in this my favourite month of the year. It could be because my birthday is this month. The rhododendrons are in full bloom at Ballindalloch castle and with my annual pass have made several visits this month. I am always delighted with the range of colours in these beautiful plants. The rock garden and the path to the rose garden are looking exceptional this year. It was lovely to spend sometime there with family and friends. Ballindalloch castle in April and May is a must for any photographer from happy snapper to professional as the landscape goes from the daffodils of early spring to the array of flowers in summer. The colours are fantastic. The next day as the weather was still looking good, we decided to head for the coast and visited Buckie. One of the few remaining fishing villages or towns in the region. We arrived in the late afternoon in time to see several fishing boats returning with their catch. I spoke to one of the fishermen and asked about his catch of prawns. He said it was very poor. Buckie is also where the RNLI lifeboat lives which has saved many lives along the Moray Firth. As the sun was still shining we headed further east and ended up at Portnockie. Where a short walk along the coastal path took us to views of the Bow Fiddle rock. Again it is a magical place for photographers, but it is also a great place for walking along the coast on the coastal path. While we were there we saw many gulls nesting, watched a few yachts pass by and ships further out to sea. We were not lucky enough to see seals, but there are many places along the coast where you can see them as well. This is the time of year to also visit Troup Head which is along past MacDuff to see the gannets, razorbills, guillemots and puffins nesting. This site is now protected by the RSPB who have a warden on duty daily who will tell you the best places to see your favourite bird and let you know which ones have chicks. It is great to live in an area where we have the mountains, countryside and sea all within an easy drive.

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Whisky Festival - Cavalcade and Music

The most amazing day of the festival for photographers. It was great to see something different happening on Speyside. The first time that a horse cavalcade has been involved and the new Spirit of Speyside Flag. After following the horses for the afternoon and watching them ride behind the band through Aberlour it was the turn of the River Spey to be the central focus for the flag. A heavy shower of rain did not detract from the Flag being brought down the Spey by the Ghillies and handed over for the Musical Even finale of the Festival. I guess Pipe Bands are used to getting wet - the Dufftown band certainly did while playing manfully as the boat passed under the Penny Bridge. The Evening concert including the Broxburn Pipe Bands, dancers, Fochabers Fiddlers and finally Capercaillie was a magical end to the day culminating in a fantastic firework display.

Friday, 15 May 2009

Smugglers Walk in Glenlivet

The Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival lasted 10 fun filled days this year with many distilleries not usually open to the public throwing there doors wide. As well as lots of whisky tasting in Dufftown, Elgin, Keith and many places in between. There was also a Whisky Fair in the Memorial Hall in Dufftown which was incredibly busy this year. There were ceilidhs and stramashes, Robin Laing and the Final Music Event was in the Alice Littler Park in Aberlour. This was a spectacular evening of music ending with a wonderful firework display sponsored by Walkers of Aberlour. It was a fitting finale. On Sunday we went out to enjoy the fresh air and beautiful scenery of Glenlivet following the Smugglers Walk guided by David Newland. It was a beautiful day and everywhere looked really green and fresh. It was great to learn about the edible plants that we see on walks without realising how important they used to be to people living in a remote area like this. Visiting Drumin Castle and sampling a dram of Benromach where the barley for the whisky was grown locally was good for the whisky lovers. I love to walk beside the River Livet and it was great to share the chance to see little dippers, ducks and other birds as we walked along. We saw a little dipper feeding her 2 chicks. We walked to the Packhorse bridge and met up with a photographer from Homecoming Scotland who wanted to record our walk. It was interesting watching him work and I got the opportunity to take some interesting photos as well. Steve gave a nosing and tasting here with The Glenlivet Nadurra which everyone enjoyed. We then walked by the Falls of Glenlivet (small, but beautifully formed) along to the Glenlivet Hall and then on a small side road round to the Croft Inn for a delicious lunch of homemade soup and delicious sandwiches. It was a wonderful walk. After lunch, I went with my Swedish friends, Paul and Kerstin to Tombae to see the primroses, dog violets and lots of other wild flowers.

Saturday, 11 April 2009

Easter at Bluefolds Holiday Cottages

It was amazing, I woke to a blue sky with no clouds - this was not what was forecast, but it made me very happy for the visitors already staying at Bluefolds Cottages and for the ones arriving today. When we went across to turnround a cottage, the sun was warm and the daffodils were waving in a light breeze, I just had to rush out and take some photos to show what it was like today. In the afternoon, with some family, I went to Lossiemouth to the beach which again was wonderful. I helped to build a sandcastle and collected shells for decoration. We finished a beautiful day with supper at the Croft Inn in Glenlivet and drove home as the sun went down. The family are visiting from Yorkshire and were amazed by the sunshine and temperature. They are not sure that there holiday is in the Highlands of Scotland!

Friday, 10 April 2009

Easter in Glenlivet

Although, it is bit windy today - great for drying the washing, it is lovely weather for getting out and exploring Speyside and Moray. I have found a great site that offers various lengths of walk across the whole area. See

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Daffodil Time in Elgin - Oystercatchers, Curlews and Lapwings return to Glenlivet

This year we are having an early spring in Glenlivet and Speyside which is wonderful. The oystercatchers have been back for around 2 weeks and have now seen the usual 2 pairs near the cottages in Glenlivet studying their heap of stones. Oystercatchers like to nest on a heap of small stones - it seems like a strange place to nest, but they choose the same ones every year. The curlews are also back patrolling their territory. They nest in rushes near Folds Cottage and spend a lot of the day in the air around the area making their distinctive call. I have also seen fields of lapwings around the area. It is wonderful to see so many in one place. Soon they will be paired up, and nesting around the Glenlivet area. Last year, we had to wait until May before the daffodils were out in Glenlivet, but this year they are starting to bloom. As you drive down through Aberlour and along to Elgin there are daffodils in bloom everywhere. I just had to visit the area around Elgin Cathedral once in the early evening and a couple of days later in the morning to see the daffodils beside the River Lossie as it flows through Elgin and out to the sea at Lossiemouth. If you click on the collage it will open in another window showing larger version of the photos.

Monday, 30 March 2009

Changing Weather at Bluefolds, Glenlivet and Cairngorm

On Saturday, my cousin, Jennifer was to help us with the painting in Glenlivet cottage. The first problem was that there was about 6" of snow on the road to the cottages and we had to abandon the car at the farm about 1/2 a mile from the cottages. You could think that we struggled through the snow - but we waited until Steve arrived with the girls who were doing the cottage turn rounds! I know it is cheating, but it meant we were fit to get on with the painting. The weather remained snowy with some heavy showers which let to Jennifer being able to sledge on a run behind the cottages. She loved it!
On Sunday after all our labours over the last few days, we went for a typical day out from Glenlivet starting with a visit to Drumin Castle (Lair of the Wolf of Badenoch in an earlier time), the views to the River Livet and River Avon are lovely and it was easy to see why he chose this spot with panoramic views. The castle has been made safe by the Crown Estate, Glenlivet. There is also a lovely walled garden and the daffodils will be in bloom in another week. We drove past the Glenlivet distillery which is currently being renovated and along a little side road which gave views back to the distillery and Ben Rinnes still with a cap of snow and on towards the Ladder Hills and Tomintoul. Ben Avon (pronounced A'an) was still looking very snowy and it would be a good day for sking at the Lecht. We stopped for hot chocolate and cake at the coffee shop in the Whisky Castle. Both were delicious and it was good to see that there were quite a few shoppers visiting on a Sunday. Kathy stocks a wide range of goods and Jennifer found some warm hats which were put to good use later. It was a beautiful sunny day until we reached Cairngorm for a trip in the funicular! Everything changed as we approached, the wind increased in speed and soon we were in a mini blizzard. As is the usual case in Scotland, if only we had been there 2 hours earlier! The trip up the mountain was wonderful and we braved the outside for a few very cold minutes to get some photos. It was hard to believe the change in temperature from Tomintoul to Cairngorm. We were amazed at the number of people sking, although we knew earlier in the day the car park had been full, as we could see the spaces where cars had left. We caught the last train down the mountain at 1620. We passed many skiers in the blizzard still making there way down the slopes as well. We drove back to Glenlivet via Carrbridge. The bridge was looking beautiful in the evening light and the river was very full. As we drove back to the Grantown road we saw that the blizzard had passed and the mountains in the Cairngorm range were once again looking wonderful with their snow caps. We crossed back across the River Spey at Grantown and drove along enjoying the light shining on it. There were quite a few weekend drivers around so it was fine to enjoy the trees, river, light and beautiful skies. It had been a wonderful day out, we were ready for our supper and nice refreshing glass of wine.

Friday, 27 March 2009

Visit to Lossiemouth Beach from Bluefolds Holiday Cottages

The weather in this area never fails to amaze me as we go from several feet of snow to brilliant blue skies and sunshine. The weather was outstanding for a second day running and I just had to go to Lossiemouth. Since then there have been few days off to enjoy the lovely weather, as we have been cleaning and painting the holiday cottages ready for Easter. We still have some availablility between 28 March and 18 April. Have a look on our website for discounts.

Monday, 16 March 2009

Trip to Findhorn

An afternoon off from work at the holiday cottages. It was raining in the morning, but by the afternoon the sun had come out and my friend, Paddy and I decided to visit Findhorn for a stroll along the beach. It was a windy, cold day, but beautiful as we wandered along the beach. The tide was on its way out so it was ideal for a long walk with lots of looking in rock pools, admiring stones of every shape and size; looking for shells and just generally enjoying being out it the fresh air on a breezy March day. We felt great after inhaling great lungfuls of sea air. Just proves you don't need to wait for summer to visit a beach!

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Winter snow and sunshine - mountains and castles

On Friday last week, when I was on the way to do spring cleaning at the holiday cottages in Glenlivet, I was sidetracked by sunshine and snow and had to stop and take some photos on my route past Drumin castle, the Glenlivet distillery and Blairfindy castle. When I was stopped, I had a beautiful view of a buzzard overhead with the sun shining on it's wings. Unfortunately, the photo I took is now very sharp - not a high enough shutter speed! As Ben Avon and the Cairngorm mountains were looking wonderful in the sunshine, I had to stop work to go out and take some more photos - the advantage of being my own boss! It always amazes me, even although I have lived in this area for 10 years, how many days in winter we get glorious sunshine whether combined with snow or frost! A friend, Paddy, arrived on Sunday for a short holiday with us. The weather had taken a turn for the worse with rain and high winds, but Paddy loves wind so we were not daunted and had a lovely walk beside the river Livet and saw 2 little dippers, bobbing on rocks in the river which quite captivated us. We also saw banks of snowdrops telling us that spring is really on the way.

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Trip to Cullen

Sunday was a day for relaxing away from cleaning holiday cottages. My young cousin Jennifer is visiting from South Africa and my friend Ann fancied a day out as well. As we drove past the Copperage at Craigellachie there was interesting light on all the empty whisky barrels. I just had to take a photo or two. We stopped briefly in Dufftown to see the Glenfiddich distillery and Balvenie Castle before heading over the hills to Huntly. The castle was looking wonderful in the winter sunlight. Jennifer went for a visit while Ann and I walked down to the river Deveron. It was flowing fast and looked very pretty. It was quite mild down by the river. Jennifer loved the castle with all its history and different architectural styles. Next we visited the harbour at Portsoy. The wind from the sea blowing into the harbour was cold! It felt like time for lunch, but most places in Cullen were closed. We went to the Cullen Bay Hotel. Our hearts dropped when we saw that they were very busy, but they were brilliant and were able to offer us a late lunch in an hours time . We made great use of the time by walking and playing and taking lots of photos on Cullen beach in the strong wind. We returned to Aberlour via Fochabers. Fochabers has some truly outstanding buildings. It was a lovely day out.

Saturday, 21 February 2009

Snow in Glenlivet

Valentines Day in Glenlivet. We are at the holiday cottages cleaning them for the visitors arriving in the afternoon. There is still an incredible amount of snow lying. The single track road from the B9008 has snow about 3ft on each side of it. Not much choice of where to drive just straight along the track hoping that you won't meet anyone going in the opposite direction! Reversing would be a nightmare. Steve had cut out a track from the gate to the cottage doors on either side there are 3 ft drifts of snow. When the children arrive they immediately want to go sledging, build a snowman and have a snowball fight - in no particular order. The snow is starting to melt, but only people with 4 wheel drive can get their vehicles to the cottages. Steve ferries the other along with their luggage. The view out to the snow from Aberlour cottage is the most amazing I have seen with the courtyard completely filled with snow to about 3 ft. Part of the guttering around the cottage has been pulled down by the snow. It is a good job we put up snowboards all round the sides of the courtyard otherwise the guttering would have gone completely. Good news is that the visitors loved it.

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Winter wonderland - Glenlivet at New Year

The hard frost over the New Year period has led to lots of beautiful sunshine which makes the short days seem a bit longer. December and January can be depressing with daylight not happening until around 9 a.m and it being dark again by 4 p.m. You have to rush out as soon as it is light if you want to take photos at this time of year and the shadows are very long by 2 p.m. I had some lovely walks beside the river Livet in Glenlivet and just loved the sunlight along with the frost.

December in Glenlivet and Speyside

The sunrises, sunsets and hoare frost that we saw during the Christmas and New Year was wonderful. The cold, dry weather was a joy. The visitors staying at Bluefolds Cottages had a wonderful time. 4 of them spent their days sking at the Lecht. We went for walks by the River Spey in Aberlour along the Speyside Way and down by the River Livet to the confluence with the River Avon. We met the local farmer going to check on his cattle in the field by the river. He too was enjoying the dry weather. He lives beside Drumin castle and said that there had been lots of visitors to it over the Christmas period. The collage shows the frosty view to Ben Avon along with a stunning sunrise and sunset and beautiful frosted leaves.
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