Friday, 29 May 2015

Flag time again!

The flags are out again at our house, dancing in a stiff northerly wind.  Our son arrived home today after a year in Australia followed by a month wending his way back via Hawai'i, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Maryland.  I can't begin to tell you how happy we are to see him!

The temperature drop is something he's going to have to get used to.  I took the shot below when we arrived in the car park at Edinburgh airport.  Clouds like that anvil-headed beauty have been passing over all day.  On the way to the airport we drove through an onslaught not just of hail, but of chunks of ice.

Airport welcomes home always make me emotional.  We had lots of hugs today, and a few tears.  And on the subject of tears, I defy anyone to watch the T-Mobile 'welcome back' video and not shed a tear.

Monday, 11 May 2015

Skyline changes

It's not often that we have changes to the skyline right in the centre of Edinburgh, unlike Glasgow which seems to be in perpetual motion.  Overall it's a fairly low-rise city.   There are some tower blocks of social housing on the periphery, but the Unesco World Heritage status of the Old Town (which is fairly old, at 16th & 17th century), and the New Town (which is still quite old, being 18th century) keeps things in check.

It's surprising therefore to see cranes at work just off Princes Street.  I thought they made an interesting counterpoint to the Gothic spire of the Scott Monument.  A Victorian building and a 1960's building have been demolished on the corner of St Andrew Square, and a new glass boxy thing is going up.  I admit that I don't have a very good architectural eye, but I get a bit depressed by the standard stuff that is going up in our cities.  Am I being too retro, surrounded as I am by medieval/Georgian/Victorian character?  Can anyone help me to see the beauty in a glass box?


Saturday, 9 May 2015

Another walk, another loch

We returned to Edinburgh by the twisting inland route through Braemar and Glenshee, which gave us the chance to fit in another walk before returning to the city.  I will write more soon about my Edinburgh gloom, but for just now let's have another sunny day out in the hills.  The road south from Braemar passes the starting point of the walk to Loch Callater, another easy walk on the flat of about 7 miles.

The path is part of a track known as 'Jock's Road', which refers to a key episode in the history of Scottish land access when in the late nineteenth century the owner of the estate in this area tried to ban all access to the estate.  John Winter ('Jock') fought for the right to walk this route, which followed the track of an old cattle drove road used to drive cattle to markets in the south.  Legal action in the case went as far as the House of Lords.  The case led to the passing of the Scottish Rights of Way Act.  Recently in 2005 the Scottish Land Reform Act gave further rights to walkers. 

Some sections of the bank beside the burn were planted with native trees, in a similar conservation effort to the one we'd seen at Loch Muick.  It all looked very bare and contrived, and I'd love to return in a few years to see the trees looking more natural in the landscape.

At the approach to the loch is Callater Loch Lodge.  The building with the green shutters is used for shooting and deer-stalking parties from the estate.   To the right are the former stables, now used as a bothy for overnight shelter by walkers. We had a chat with an estate worker who was doing work on the interior of the lodge.  He was accompanied by a huge Rhodesian Ridgeback dog, who turned out to be a real softie.  I was glad all the same that we were introduced to him as friends.

It turned out that the man we were talking to had built the cairn standing on a hillock just beyond the lodge, in celebration of the Queen's diamond jubilee.  He told us all about how he'd built it, sourcing a stone from every farm on the estate.  After such a build-up we felt we had no option but to climb up and take a respectful look at it.

Here it is from the other side, all solemn and loyal in its lonely setting.

We had lunch beside the loch, listening to the wind and the cry of a curlew, and watching a diver out on the water.

Behind us, pools in the heather teemed with yet more frogs.  Here's one adopting 'classic frog sunbathing posture'.

You've maybe noticed that everything is still wintry-brown.  Spring comes late in the hills here.  There were some startling patches of colour however from mosses in the boggier sections near the burn.

The twisted black stems are burnt heather branches; the aftermath of the practice of muir-burn.

Back in the car and heading south, we passed Glenshee, one of Scotland's ski areas.

Just downhill from the ski area we came across large heather fires.  

Two days of walking in the spring sun left us with the classic Scottish walkers' suntan, which stops abruptly at mid neck and wrists. Still, I would rather have that than the lying on a beach sort.

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Loch Muick spring visit

Our first visit to Loch Muick (pronounced 'mick') was in late summer of 2013.  Yes, mid-August in Scotland is late summer.  The heather was coming into bloom and the light was soft and hazy.  This year we spent a few days on Deeside just after Easter, and made a return visit on a day of hard, bright sun and a thin wind. 

There were still patches of snow on the hills, although none at the lower level of our walk.

The circuit of the loch is an easy 8 miles.  On the north side there's a broad track, which feels a bit like cheating, but was fine for me to get going again after being under par with the wretched pleurisy.  

We came across a fenced section, and stopped to read the lengthy notice.

Love the email address!

We saw no evidence of the browsing deer.  Apart from some birds of prey, our encounters with wildlife were of the miniature variety:  all along the side of the track on the uphill side were large pools of water full of frogspawn.  Pools below a certain size had no frogspawn - evidently the frog brain had calculated that they risked drying out too soon.

And every pool also had its sunbathing frog.  I couldn't decide if they were smug because of their large output of frogs-to-be (although the mortality rate must be huge), or smiling because they were basking in the sun after a very long winter. 

Overhead we kept seeing two planes flying in parallel, very high up.
They criss-crossed the sky from north to south and back again several times.  We put it down to a NATO exercise that we had heard about, but when I checked later I found that it wasn't due to start until the following week.  Rather spooky.

Here's a good solid holiday cottage - at least if you're Queen Victoria.  Called Glas-allt Shiel, it was her retreat from Balmoral Castle.

Towards the head of the loch there's a tantalizing route into the more remote Dubh Loch and its waterfalls.  We didn't have time to branch off, but we'll definitely explore further on a return visit.

Easter Island-like boulders litter the hillside.

A rare sighting of me on my blog, looking extremely happy to be outside and out of the city.  

What more perfect end to the day than a deep, candle-lit bath?

For my husband, who likes the stuff, some port.

And a comfortable four-poster bed with a view of red squirrels in the trees outside the window.

We stayed again at Glendavan House, which was just as lovely as before.  I think we're hooked - perhaps an autumn visit next time?


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