Sunday, July 24, 2016

Scotland Spring 2016: The Best of the Rest

     This post contains what I believe to be the Best of the Rest of the spring trip to Scotland.   Either they represent the Best Photos from the rest of the trip, or they relate to the Best of the Stories from the rest of the trip.  I hope you enjoy.
     The two photos below represent the best and the worst culinary experience of the trip.  First, the best, a wonderful lamb shank dinner at Anderson's in Boat of Garten (Highlands).  Next there is an absolutely awful cider at a seaside bar in Nairn--tasted like watered-down dishwater.

     We also had some pleasant visits to castles and abbeys.  At Arbroath Abbey in Arbroath (where the Declaration of Arbroath was signed by Robert the Bruce declaring Scotland an independent nation, we watched bunches of bunnies playing amounts the graves.

On a rainy day we discovered that Duone Castle near Sterling was one of the main sites used for the filming of the Outlander TV series, as well as Falkland Palace, Aberlour Castle, and Blackness Castle.

Blair Castle in the foothills of the Highlands has Europe's only private standing army.  A piper plays in front of the castle every couple of hours.  The castle also has a lovely walled garden, and although the flowers weren't plentiful when we were there, the birdlife was.

Oyster catcher and chick.

Swan and cygnets.
Another garden which was very much in bloom was the two acre Branklin Garden in the middle of Perth.  It's a place we often visit and it has never disappointed us.
Himalayan Blue Poppy

     The small villages of Scotland are a main draws for me.  It's like stepping back 50 years to a much more simple lifestyle.
Comrie is about seven miles from our home in Crieff.

Crail's harbour is one of several along the edge of the Kingdom of Fife, the county of St Andrews.

Most of the villages host Highland Games--traditional sporting events with a county fair type atmosphere.  The Blackford Games (about 15 miles from our home base in Crieff) are held on the last weekend of May, usually just before we come home from our spring trip.
Girls and boys of all ages compete in traditional Highland dances.

One of the main "heavy" events is the caber toss where the competitor attempts to throw a 140 pound pole end over end.   Distance isn't a factor, but the toss is judged on how close to straight the toss is--a straight up 12:00 toss is perfect.
The people in the villages are a big reason for our travels.  They are now family and friends.  The Scots are genuinely friendly and we find very few remain strangers long.

Jacky Clifford (our Scottish sister) opening a birthday present from America.

Our friend, confidant, and whisky guru, Andrew Cuthbert at J.L. Gill Whisky Shop in Crieff.

Yannick Grospellier, chef and owner of Yann's, the best restaurant in Crieff.

Met this gentleman on the streets of Nairn on the Moray coast.  He started a conversation as I was photographing village scenes.  We chatted about village life, and of course, he asked if Donald Trump were for real.

     One of the biggest draws to Scotland is the land itself--it has some of the most beautiful and dramatic geography of any place on earth.  Moors and mountains grab our attention every trip.
Lone tree growing out of a rock on the edge of Rannoch Moor.

Two views of Rannoch Moor and Black Mount.

Glen Etive.

The mountains of Glencoe. Glancoe is know as the Glen of Weeping because of tragedy which befell the McDonalds of Glencoe at the hands of the Campbells and British.  For more information about the Glencoe Massacre see

     Ancient sites as well as modern sculpture are intriguing and provide great photo opportunities.
The Dupplin Cross in St Serf's Church in Dunning is a Pictish carved cross from about the 9th century.

The Croft Moraig stone circle between Kenmore and Aberfeldy is an example of the type of stone circle found throughout Scotland.

The Loch Earn Mirror Man is a sculpture by Rob Mulholland set in the loch. The sculpture represent one of the seasons of the loch.

     While we spend most of our time in the villages and small towns, we enjoy some time in Edinburgh at the end of every trip.
Stairs going up to the Royal Mile.

Anne at the end of a close (pedestrian alley).

The park, Princess Street Gardens, between Princes Street and the Royal Mile, is always full if the weather is nice. 

A tradition for us to have our last meal in Scotland at the Mussel Inn on Rose Street in Edinburgh--a fish stew that is outstanding.

       A final adventure for me on this trip was celebrating newly found Scottish ancestory by getting fitted for my McAllister Clan kilt at McNaughton's in Pitlochry.  The kilt is being shipped this week.  It will have an honored place with my Welsh National and Jones of Wales kilts.

The tartan on the right is my Ancient McAllister tartan.

      We are already well into our planning for our fall trip.  Hopefully there will be many more adventures and many more photos.
Got a good view of the mountains of Greenland on the flight home.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Scotland Spring 2016: To the Golf Course

With apologies to my sane friends, those who aren’t bitten by the golf bug, this post is about the wonderful and often unknown or unheralded golf courses we played on this past trip to Scotland.  Even if you are not a golfer, you might enjoy the photos and the scenery around the courses as well as some of the details about them.  I’ll present the courses in approximately the order we played, and while this wasn’t the only golf we played, they do represent a fair sample of Scotland’s golf tracks which don’t belong to The Donald.
St Fillans GC in St Fillans, about 12 miles from our home base in Crieff.  The 9-hole course, nestled between Scottish mountains (nice sized hills to us) and at the south end of Lochearn, was built in 1903 by famed Scottish golf architect Willie Auchterlonie of St Andrews.  We are members of the club and it has become our go-to golf home when in Scotland. It was the first course we played on this trip and in late April we played in the cold and sometimes blowing snow.
Locals on the Course

Teeing off on the second and dressed smartly for the weather, I might add.

Watching the snow shower come in on the seventh.

Montrose Medal GC in Montrose on Scotland’s east coast north of Dundee.  Called the Medal Course, meaning the championship track of the two courses at Montrose, it is listed by several sources as one of the Top 100 golf courses in the world.  Golf has been played on this ground since 1562, at least 450 years.  The present course is about 130 years old and again we struggled with snow showers scattered between periods of warm sun—an on-and-off day for rain gear. 
Beautiful when not snowing.

Teeing off during a sunny period.

Durness GC in the far northwest corner of Scotland.  Just a baby, having been built in 1988, Durness is one of the truly great small courses in the world.  Laid out over ancient sand dunes, Durness GC is sited along Balnakeil Bay with spectacular views—some of the most dramatic vistas in all of golf.
Cold and windy as always in the far north.

View south from the course.

The ninth hole and eighteenth play over the sea.

Stromness GC on the main island in the Orkneys, called Mainland, north of the mainland of Scotland. When we first saw the course from the ferry over to Orkney we thought it wasn’t going to be much of a course.  We were pleasantly surprised at how wrong we were.  The design, fairly modern but I don’t have dates, is interesting and challenging even on calm days which are rare in this part of Scotland. 

The second is a lovely but tough par 3 at 210 yards.

The land in the background is another Orkney Island, Hoy --- only accessible by ferry.

The mounds left and right are World War II defensive bunkers.

Nairn Dunbar GC in Nairn on the Moray Firth and the North Sea.  Listed as one of the Top 100 Courses in Scotland, the 1899 track plays in the linksland and dunes.  During World War II the beach beside Nairn Dunbar was really out of bounds, since it was fully mined in case of invasion. 
The yellow bushes are gorse and very unforgiving.  Ask Winnie the Pooh.

Anne gets out of the sand well...lots of practice.

Muir of Ord GC in Muir of Ord north of Inverness.  Designed by James Braid, famous Scottish golf architect and winner of five Open Championships, the course plays on two sides of the railway and next to the Glen Ord Distillery.
A foggy start to our round.

The sixteenth heads right for the distillery.

Maverston GC in Urquhart village near the Cathedral city of Elgin.  This eight year old moorland/parkland course will one day be a real stunner.  It just needs a little maturing.

Moray Old GC in the village of Lossiemouth next to the Lossiemouth RAF station. Another Top 100 in the World course, Moray Old was designed by St Andrew’s profession Old Tom Morris in 1889.  The gorse-lined course is a challenge even under the best conditions.  We love to play this lovely course and take every chance we can to visit with the club’s pro John Murray and his assistant, Derek.
Lossiemouth Lighthouse in the background.

Several holes play along the sea.

NATO jets practice take-offs and landings directly over the course.

Carrbridge GC in Carrbridge near our second home in Scotland, Aviemore in the Highlands.  This 9-hole track offers plenty of challenge and this year presented some interesting wildlife as well.
Oyster Catcher on her nest on the course.

We heard several and saw one fly before I got this photo of an elusive Cuckoo.

Cairngorm Mountains in the background.

Arbroath GC in Arbroath just north of Dundee on the east coast.  Playing in the flat linksland off the North Sea, the course is an easy walk, but it’s not an easy course.  Burns cross numerous fairways and the rough can be score damaging.

The east coast commuter train (between Aberdeen and Dundee)  runs next to the course.

Near the course is Arbroath Abbey where the Declaration of Arbroath was signed in the 1300s establishing the nation of Scotland.

Crail Balcomie Links in Crail on Neuk of Fife about 10 miles from St Andrews.  Golf has been played on this ground since 1786 and the club is the 7th oldest in the world.  Old Tom Morris designed the World Top 100 course in 1895 and it’s stayed fairly consistent to his design since.  We love this venerable course and play it so often that we are well known to the pro Graham Lennie and his assistant David Snodgrass. 

The green of the fourteenth hole.

Back to St Fillans GC.  We always like to end our trips with a round at our home course, St Fillans.  This trip if our last round wasn’t darling, it was at least deer.

Teeing off on the third.
On the third.

Red deer.

Our clubhouse, humble but comfortable.

NEXT: The Best of the Rest