Conquering Castles

We’ve been a bit castle crazy recently… It wasn’t intentional. It kind of just happened. Dunnottar has been on my list for a long time. I wanted to go and take a picture the same that was on my Pinterest board. Bamburgh has always been luringly enticing, atop a beach and overlooking the sea. An Itison voucher for Drummond Castle gardens, valid only over the Easter weekend made a choice for us and the cliff edged Tantallon Castle last weekend added to the list of recently visited cool castles.

Dunnottar, reached via the Angus Coastal Tourist Route on a lovely sunny day, Historic Scotland’s advice was to park in Stonehaven and follow the coastal path until the castle’s gaze came into view. A lovely walk. I definitely recommend. This castle is undoubtedly made more spectacular due to the land it sits upon and view it holds.

Host to the filming of the 1990 movie version of ‘Hamlet’, Dunnottar has played a prominent role in the history of Scotland due to its strategic location and defensive strength. I really loved this castle. A definite worthy destination on a Scotland trip lasting a week or more. Do bear in mind though, with high wind speeds and frequent bad weather, this castle is not always open and may shut early. Website updates advise but do check before venturing!

Our second castle visit, traversing the border, rattling over a level crossing, spying Lindisfarne in the corner of our eyes (also on my list), the mighty Bamburgh Castle impressed itself down upon us. Bamburgh’s appeal? It’s on a beach! 🙂 With a very nice view! Very well kept and maintained, it was easy to spend time here capturing different angles and views and exploring its holdings. Popular, with a Royal Navy ship named after it, it has also featured in popular movie fare – the recent Macbeth adaptation, Elizabeth, Ivanhoe and El Cid.

Our third visit, it was the gardens which were the main attraction. Welcomed by an avenue of trees, statues, water features and well carved hedges create the Drummond Castle Gardens landscape. Spring just in bloom, already impressive, though a little muted, I’m sure in summer it is a colourful masterpiece. A really peaceful place, it is a definite drop in and have five minutes to yourself, resting in any number of its winding nooks kind of place.

The cliff edged Tantallon Castle was host to our last visit. Built in the 1350s, watching the Bass Rock and its large gannet population, the castle has an awesome coastal view from atop its battlements. Deceptively small seeming externally, there are lots of levels and castle areas to hold your attention. Different from the castles preceding it, it held a different sort of charm for me.

Family and friends now thinking I seem to have developed some kind of castle obsession, it is difficult in a country full of them not to visit them! My love of exploring somewhere new, coupled with scenic locations to allow for pretty pictures to be made, it just so happens these beautiful locations happen to have castles atop them :-). Go and visit them. You’ll see for yourself how cool they are. In the sunshine preferably of course! 😉

Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater?

Scottish Mining Museum

Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater…!’ Do you know the origins of this phrase? I learnt the answer to this on our recent trip to the Scottish Mining Museum. The museum on my list for a while, we finally made it there last Sunday. Our second attempt, the first we were too late for a tour. This time, forewarned we arrived in good time to look round the museum prior to the second (and last) tour of the day at 2pm. Possibly something that should be better advertised on their website to facilitate better chosen arrival times, it would also enable tours to be fuller (it was just the two of us). A definite worthwile part of the experience, I’m sure a guide rather than your own feet carrying you makes this a richer experience.

The museum set across two floors, it tells the story of colliers, coal and mining; reminds of the many uses of coal (tar, soap, antiseptics, plastic and many more); paints a picture of gases that can be dangerous; tells of the many stories of accidents and deaths and also of how mining has been modernised and changed throughout the years. Some, of course, through the result of changes to legislation.

With a mix of sounds, text boards, interactive displays and videos, it seemed to just know when the interface needed to be changed to keep you interested. I read a lot, particularly of the story of women in the mines. Reading and watching, reminded of the hard graft, it definitely felt like something children who think they are worked hard should be made to be absorbed in.

A little bit more of the wise and having been told why not to throw the baby out with the bathwater (typically washed last in a very very very dirty bathtub after the older to younger generations of their mining families preceding them), our guide Andrew, a retired miner showed us round Lady Victoria pithead. Past trainlines, coal trucks, tunnels and machines, he informed of the site’s history and so absorbed me in his tales I felt it rude to take any pictures during this time. Very very cold though, I advise you to wrap up warm!

Obtaining admission cheaper through using a groupon, this is a definite worthwhile few hours visit. Especially so to serve as a reminder if you’re feeling hard done by!

Wonderful Wanderings

That need to explore hasn’t left me… I am still shocked by how much of my own country I haven’t seen…! Since returning, I have been doing my best to rectify that… As far north as Dundee, to Blackpool and Croome in the South, to trying to cover a bit more of Edinburgh’s bounds… A weekend feels wasted if I haven’t explored a new place :-).

Top of my list, of course, was the new addition to the Scottish landscape since I’ve been away of the ‘kelpies’. Two 30m high horse head sculptures in Falkirk. Personifying local and national equine history, they also represent the lost industries of Scotland. Not quite as tall as anticipated, there is something very quite cool about them. They have been very popular since their creation, so much so they are soon to be getting their own visitor centre where you can learn more of their story.

Looking for places for a weekend visit, I didn’t realise how near to Edinburgh Dundee was. Of course anywhere feels near after time spent in Australia ;-). Off on our way, crossing the Tay Bridge, taking in the view from Dundee Law and walking the sands of Broughty ferry, I was interested to learn of the tales of the Antarctic in the Discovery museum. I didn’t realise Captain Scott had spent two years there… Tales of eating turtles and penguins, they apparently didn’t find them too tasty!

Also learning of jute (the raw material for making potato sacks) in Dundee’s Verdant Works, I hadn’t even heard of it, never mind know that Dundee had depended on it for its industry. A really well told story of the history, I will now appreciate the effort that goes into making a jute bag. Do consider buying a joint pass if you’re planning on visiting both, it is slightly cheaper. Returning via the Fife coast, the towns of St Andrews, Crail, Elie and Anstruther held our attention, as well as trying out the once famous best UK fish and chips.

Having never been before, on the return journey from visiting my sister, we had a lovely afternoon in Blackpool. For sure caught in a bit of a time warp and in need of investment, that is perhaps all part of its charm. I absolutely loved the beach and of looking to the pier; reading the comedy carpet’s words and checking out the view from the tower. Very clever glass surrounded corners allowing views from multiple angles. Their 4D experience showing the illuminations at night, I would quite like to return to see them some point.

Within Edinburgh’s bounds, I have been working my way through a ‘To do’ list of places to see. Showing Ben Calton Hill (somehow I have never ever been up it?!), Edinburgh blew me away with its views! Lovely lovely spot. Loved the national monument too. Again not having been before, we popped along to Rosslyn Chapel. Propelled to fame and now doing a roaring trade thanks to Dan Brown’s ‘Da Vinci Code’, it is a really really interesting building to wander around. Unfortunately no pictures allowed inside to show you, there are lots of carvings to hold your attention. Then venturing on a Firth of Forth ‘cruise’ to Inchcolm Island, it wasn’t the best weather Edinburgh has delivered (I in fact needed to wear my gloves. In June… In supposibly the height of summer 😉 ). It was genuinely though the beginnings of the ‘Birds 2’, with some territorial nesting seagulls. A word to the wise, avoid June if you can, the seagulls prevent you from exploring the entire island. Nice to return though after having not been there since I was a child :-).

However, one of the favourite ‘Edinburgh’ things I’ve done was exploring Jupiter Artland. An outdoor sculpture garden found in a book of ‘100 places to visit in Scotland’, I thought it was really really cool. A beautiful day and provided with an electronic tour guide through their app, between the life mounds and the smaller pieces of art, it is a really interesting wander. Definitely better appreciated in the sunshine than on a rainy day though!

Spending time in Bo’Ness motor museum, Glasgow’s transport museum and Kelvingrove Art gallery, we also found some cool street art outside of Tennents brewery :-).

We’ve done very well but still so much to see! Please do let me know of any suggestions :-).