The first one that we really took note of was probably the one near the sixth tee at Maybole Golf Club in Ayrshire. After that one we started noticing War Memorials on several golf courses (Turnberry, Strathlene Buckie, Anstruther, Abernethy) and in most villages (Crieff, Muthill, Kenmore, Dornoch, Dunkeld).
These memorials to parish or village soldiers lost in World War I, II, and other conflicts would make an interesting subject of study for the visitor interested in the historical and sociological aspects of those wars. They, though, have not yet become a compelling subject for us. As we return again to Scotland for our 18th time in eleven years I find that I do seek out special topics to plan our trip around, sometimes with Anne’s active encouragement and other times with her reluctant consent. Other travelers may have no need of special subjects as they explore one new place after another, as we did when we traveled to Alaska on our first cruise or took a road trip to Banff National Park in Canada. Yet as we try to explore Scotland in depth, special topics to research or study help focus our travel days.
We’ve had a variety of topics which have directed our trips over the past few years including castles, religious structures, standing stones or stone circles, waterfalls, gardens, and, of course, distilleries.
It would be quite easy to build several trips around exploring Scotland’s castles--lived in, ruins, great houses. In fact, in the northeast of Scotland there is a designated “Castle Trail,” which includes Drum, Crathes, Kildrummy, Fyvie, Huntly, and others. In the Ayrshire area on the west coast are the great castles of Dean and Culzean (cul-een) with its apartments on the upper floors dedicated the President Dwight D. Eisenhower for his services in World War II.
The Borders area in the southeast may not be rich in castles, although Floors Castle is nice to tour, but it has a wealth of abbeys to tour. Melrose, Jedburgh, Dryburgh, and Kelso abbeys are individually fascinating, but as a group only a few miles apart these David I structures are phenomenal. The ruins of St Andrews Cathedral and St Rule’s Tower just blocks away from the ruined St Andrews Castle in the golfing mecca of St Andrews are not to be missed. Glasgow has its impressive Cathedral and Edinburgh has St Giles on the Royal Mile. As impressive as these are, we enjoy visiting the smaller (a relative term) cathedrals at Dunblane, Dunkeld, Dunfermline, Dornoch, and
St Magnus in Kirkwall on the Orkney Islands.
Books such as The Explorer’s Guide to Abbeys, Monasteries and Churches of Great Britain by Frank Bottomly (Avenel Books, 1981) and The Ancient Stones of Scotland by W. Douglas Simpson (Robert Hale, 1968) have helped direct our explorations.
In the last couple of years we’ve used local booklets or guides, such as Stone Circles and Standing Stones of Perthshire by David Watson (Simple Guides, 2006) and The Stones of Strathearn by Andrew Finlayson (One Tree Island, 2010), to direct our searches for these very ancient monuments. I pick up the guide on one trip and then use it to plan the next trip or a portion of it. Last fall I picked up A Cycle of Saints: The Medieval Chapels of Strathearn by Perth and Kinross Heritage Trust (2004) and used it to plan our last day of touring on our spring trip--kept us actively touring and close to our home base of Crieff which is in central Strathearn (the valley of the River Earn).
This brings me to this fall’s quest: Scottish graveyards. Some might say such a search is a dead end, but then we’d have to punish them for saying that. From two recently acquired books from Amazon, A Scottish Graveyard Miscellany by Hamish Brown ( Birlinn, 2008) and Understanding Scottish Graveyards by Betty Willsher (Canongate Press, 2006), I have convinced a reluctant Anne to join me in searching through interesting Scottish graveyards for folk art carved on the gravestones.
We’ve seen and I’ve photographed some picturesque carvings on gravestones in the past, but now I will seek them out with some ideas about what they mean. I have in our travel itinerary visits to cemeteries in Muthill, Methven, Perth, and Kinfauns, St Madoes, Logierait, and Tulliallan to look for and photograph stones with carvings of Biblical stories and occupations. We will still visit or revisit castles, stones circles, gardens, and, of course, distilleries, but will add the new graveyard search to aid our in depth understanding of Scotland.
Photos in Order: Muthill War Memorial; Ring of Brogar; Culzean Castle; Dunkeld Cathedral; Scottish Medieval Church; Adam & Eve carving.
Look for our blog entries from Scotland soon after we arrive on September 1.