Friday 25 May 2012

Coastal Travels 3 - Scenic Wonders and Sad Stories

More photos from our coastal drive last Sunday. You can find the coastal map here.

Still travelling East hubby took us to a place none of us had seen before - Gardenstown (Or 'Gamrie' as it is known locally)

It is just... amazing! From the road you'd never think there was anything there as you driving along rolling green countryside, looking out to the sea... then the road veers North and... drops. We went down a a winding road where the land is dented by Nature into a deep 'V', like a giant fold in a big green blanket. There's a narrow track off this road that leads to the remains of the Church of St John the Evangelist. This church was built in 1513 to commemorate the defeat of the Danes at this site in 1004, in the 'Battle of the Bloody Pits'.

Even when you enter the village the road does not stop heading down. In the village itself the road zig zags down, between houses tucked into the cliff side so that some have stairs (or even tiny bridges!) to their doors. Other houses, as you wind down, lie below road level with just their roofs showing.

Here's a view from about half way down, facing the harbour. There were several yachts out.

We took these photos from a tiny parking area, in front of these houses... 

We stopped here and had our picnic, watching the yachts and the sea. You can see how the roads dips down to the right of where we were parked...

I joined all the photos together to give you a better idea of the view...

We took a quick look at the beach. It was shingle mostly, with a footpath hugging the cliffs for walkers. With warning signs about rock falls I can't say I'd go for a walk there! I'll show you that walk from the top of the cliffs further on. Wait and see!

After we left Gardenstown we noticed a sign telling us there was a "viewpoint", so we followed the road through a farm and on to the edge of the cliffs above, and to the right, of Gardenstown. There were picnic tables and this huge old tree trunk set up as a marker. (you can see the 'dent' where Gardenstown lies to the left of this tree trunk.

I took all the photos and made them into another panorama. Isn't that view just stunning? You can just see that walkway along the cliffs (from the shingle shore at Gardenstown) on the left, at the sea's edge. The man on the right, in blue, is my hubby - Sandy. :-)

Here's a closer view of that pathway... can you see the people down there?You might need to click on the photo to enlarge it. They are so far down they are barely visible.

I went to look at what Sandy was reading.

The little village of Crovie was where people were forced to live after being forced off their land during the Jacobite uprisings in the 1740s-1750s. This isn't the only time people have done that here, in the Highlands. A century or so later thebig landlords threw villagers and crofters off their land during the Highland Clearances. 

 The Highland Clearances (Scottish Gaelic: Fuadach nan Gàidheal, the expulsion of the Gael) was the forced displacement of a significant number of people in the Scottish Highlands during the 18th and 19th century, as a result of an agricultural revolution (also known as enclosure) carried out by the British Government and Scottish landowners, such as the Duke of Sutherland. They led to mass emigration to the sea coast, the Scottish Lowlands, and the North American colonies. The clearances were particularly notorious as a result of the late timing, the lack of legal protection for year-by-year tenants under Scots law, the abruptness of the change from the traditional clan system, and the brutality of many evictions.

To stay near their homelands they hid themselves in caves and secret cliff villages... very much like this one. They had to hide themselves away, in fear of being evicted again, and suddenly swap farming for fishing. Can you imagine how hard that must have been? Looking down at Crovie it's easy to see how invisible places like this must have been before cars and roads. A testament to the strong sense of identity, and stubborn spirit, of the people of this country. They don't give up!

After Crovie we went on to Fraserburgh. I took some photos at the beachfront there. It was sunny, but the wind was strong off the sea and a bit chilly.

From there we returned home via Turriff and I completely forgot to take photos! Turriff has houses made of a local sandstone that is a deep blood red colour. Most unusual. I found an internet photo to share, of the town centre with their 'Mercat cross'. You can see the colour of the stonework.

A Mercat Cross iss a Market Cross. It's a marker standing in the market place, where the merchants of the town/village would gather. It would be where local news and important events were announced as well.

Thursday 24 May 2012

Coastal Travels 2 - Macduff and Old Memories

Our next stop (last Sunday's drive) was Macduff, across the river from Banff. Macduff is a fair sized town with a very charming frontage onto the harbour, as you can see here...

There was a rescue boat just coming in and I quickly took this photo.

The best bit was when my hubby, Sandy, took us out to a very special place... a quarry. Sounds funny, but it was my very first experience of quaint local names. Ten years ago I first saw "Cowbog Construction" and guess what... they still exist, although now in part with another bigger firm.

In honour of this memory I went and dug out one of my original photos from that first trip. Here I am, ten years ago, standing in Banff with Macduff behind me in the distance.I know I have other photos, but they're all packed away and this is the only one I have scanned to computer, because I emailed it from Scotland back to my family in South Africa. :-) 

Wednesday 23 May 2012

Coastal Travels 1 - Cullen to Banff

This last Sunday truly was a SUN day, so hubby thought we should all get out and enjoy it. Dad and I flung together ham rolls and snacks and within half an hour we were all in the car and off to enjoy the day. :-)

We went East, beyond Elgin, along the Moray coast. 

We went to some new places, but mostly we stopped in at all places I first saw almost exactly ten years ago, when I came out to Scotland to meet my future husband. ;-) Cullen, Portsoy, Banff and Macduff and then Gardenstown and Fraserburgh before heading back through Turiff. You'll need to click on this one to enlarge it.

Here are my first photos, from Cullen to Banff. :-) At Cullen we stopped by the beachfront and I took two photos, left...

...then right. 
You can see the houses of Cullen in the distance there. Cullen is most famous for "Cullen Skink" - a soup made of smoked fish. I've never had any, but my brother-in-law says it's delicious.

There was a board up with info about the town. I took of a photo...

 Behind us loomed the viaduct that used to take the old steam trains on their coastal route.  

Then we went to that other side, to the harbour. Here's a photo looking back at the beach and the viaduct.

We drove through Portsoy, but I didn't take any pictures. Maybe some time later in summer we'll go back. Portsoy fills its houses with flower baskets and flowerboxes by the windows. It is so pretty, but it is too early for the flowers now.

Next stop was Banff. We stopped at the harbour. I took some of the sea, but they're not that exciting. The harbour is more interesting.

Here's a close up...

Over the harbour wall hubby saw an Eider duck on the rocks. Eider ducks are a sea duck, most unusual. He had his head out, but as I focussed the camera... he stuck his head under his wing and went to sleep. ARGH!

Beyond the harbour and over the river is the town of Macduff. You can see it in this close up I took.

More photos to follow!

Thursday 17 May 2012


 I've been forgetting to update everyone here about my annoying hand problems. I finally saw a surgeon earlier this month and I'm set for surgery on my left hand, for the carpel tunnel, some time late this month. That's all he could estimate - late in May.

After waiting an entire year to get to this point I feel mostly... anti-climax. I've seen ten doctors in three towns/cities to get here... it's been a journey that has worn me out!

I promise to let everyone know when the surgery is once I know, because it will mean I won't be able to type for... a few days? Not sure. I'll just have to wait and see.

Friday 11 May 2012

Rabbit, Rabbit... Hare?

Recently I mentioned the old tradition of saying "rabbit, rabbit, rabbit" (or some variation of that) on the first day of the month. It's a good luck wish that probably has a very ancient past and it reminded me of an equally ancient trio of hares.
If you go into old churches and cathedrals in Europe and Britain you are quite likely to see a most unusual carved decoration... three hares in a circle.

They are often in a prominent place, implying that their symbolism was important... but what was the meaning behind the three hares? Some think it's a symbol for the Christian Trinity - three as one. Some think it might relate to the Virgin Mary, since the Hare was used as a symbol of virginity.

An even more interesting is the fact that some of the oldest examples are found in England, Germany... and China! Yes, the three hares, or rabbits, are used in ancient Buddhist and Islamic art as well.

Where do those three hares come from? I can't begin to guess and even the professional researchers are mystified. There's an ongoing research project collecting three hares photos and information here at the Three Hares Project website. 


The Three Hares Project is researching and documenting an ancient symbol of three hares or rabbits running in a circle and joined by their ears which form a triangle at the centre of the design. The symbol is a puzzle for each creature appears to have two ears yet, between them, they share only three ears.
The Project has revealed the motif to be an extraordinary and ancient archetype, stretching across diverse religions and cultures, many centuries and many thousands of miles. It is part of the shared medieval heritage of Europe and Asia (Buddhism, Islam, Christianity and Judaism) yet still inspires creative work among contemporary artists.

They have some smashing photos of the three hares in Devon churches as well as others from all over Europe, Asia and  the Middle East. 

What interests me is the similar link of three and rabbits/hares between the symbol and that first of the month good luck wish.

The hare is sometimes considered the animal linked to the Anglo-Saxon goddess Eostre, or Ostara. She was the goddess who gave her name to Easter and she was most likely a goddess of dawn, spring, fertility and new beginnings. She's often shown with eggs and hares, both symbols of fertility and spring. Some believe that hare became our more modern "Easter Bunny."

Wikipedia has some very nice quotes by Jacob Grimm, who researched old legends in Germany in the early 1800s. Grimm says:

"We Germans to this day call April ostermonat, and ôstarmânoth is found as early as Eginhart (temp. Car. Mag.). The great christian festival, which usually falls in April or the end of March, bears in the oldest of OHG remains the name ôstarâ ... it is mostly found in the plural, because two days ... were kept at Easter. This Ostarâ, like the [Anglo-Saxon] Eástre, must in heathen religion have denoted a higher being, whose worship was so firmly rooted, that the christian teachers tolerated the name, and applied it to one of their own grandest anniversaries.[7]
Ostara, Eástre seems therefore to have been the divinity of the radiant dawn, of upspringing light, a spectacle that brings joy and blessing, whose meaning could be easily adapted by the resurrection-day of the christian's God. Bonfires were lighted at Easter and according to popular belief of long standing, the moment the sun rises on Easter Sunday morning, he gives three joyful leaps, he dances for joy ... Water drawn on the Easter morning is, like that at Christmas, holy and healing ... here also heathen notions seems to have grafted themselves on great christian festivals."

The fact that the three hares symbol is found in English and German churches (Anglo-Saxon) does seem rather interesting. 

Is the three rabbit wish, to start a new month, in any way related to the three hares and their ancient connection to a long-lost goddess of new beginnings? Is there a connection? We'll probably never know, but I can't help wondering...

Saturday 5 May 2012

Beside the Seaside

On Thursday we went to vote and on the way home we stopped at the beachfront. The sun was so bright, I had to take some photos. I've also made three of them into my banner photo for May.

The sea was out so far... you can barely see the man, walking with his dog, in this photo. 

There's a caravan park on the far left...

...and a harbour at the far right.

The sea was so sparkly!

It was a beautiful day. :-)

Thursday 3 May 2012

RABBIT rabbit

Ok, so this should have gone up on the 1st of the month, to truly be a "rabbit rabbit" good luck wish, but I forgot to download the photos in time.

We went out last Sunday, to a nearby Garden Centre and Tearoom and there... in the garden... we met a RABBIT. Not a rabbit - a RABBIT.

You'll see...

The garden centre has a resident mascot - a very BIG bunny. He's allowed to wander in and out the shop on his leash.

He was very friendly, ready to go over to anyone who was willing to give him a pat or a scratch behind the ears.

The lady holding the leash says that he lays out the rules of where they walk. You can see that in the next photo. It's a case of, "No, I want to go THAT way!" LOL

While everyone was fussing over Mr Rabbit an itty-bitty-kitty (half the size of that rabbit!) was trying very hard to win some interest. She walked between everyone, she lay down and waved her paws in the air, she miaowed... no-one noticed.

So Hubby went over and gave her some fussing. She was so pleased she purred and purred.

On the way back to the shop we saw Mr Rabbit chilling in the shade. Aren't those big fluffy toes just the cutest you've ever seen?