Leaving Fraserburgh we took the B road coastal trail through Sandhaven and Pitulie which are contiguous and Rosehearty. My copy of The Fabled Coast describes some of the fishermen’s customs and superstitions in the area. These include naming certain kinds of wave and believing that a breeze could be raised by a sailor whistling or scratching the mast with a finger nail. Stormy weather in Rosehearty was said to be brought on by marriage so weddings took place at the end of the herring season. Certain items were not to be brought onto ships for fear of adversely affecting the weather e.g. eggs because witches were believed to use eggshells as boats. Just out of town is Mounthooly Doocot. It was built by a local estate owner in 1800 to house pigeons for meat and eggs.
Nearby is a mound called Gallows Hill and the Hanging Stone. We diverted along a single-track road down to Aberdour Beach.
It has sandstone cliffs with caves, some of which look through to the sea. Fortunately, it was low tide so we could explore them.
There is a memorial to Jane Whyte, a farm servant’s wife. In December 1884, a steamer left Fraserburgh heading for Burghead. Adverse weather conditions led to the captain having to run the ship aground in Aberdour Bay. Jane Whyte saw the boat and realized that the men would have difficulty getting ashore. She waded out to the boat, caught a rope thrown to her and tying it round her waist, belayed the 15 men to shore one at a time. She sheltered them in her home and with the help of the local minister, they returned home the next day. Later she received the RNLI Silver Medal for Gallantry. Close to the sea are the ruins of St Drostan’s church which was founded in 580AD making it one of the earliest in Scotland. Just above the beach is St Drostan’s Well. East of the beach is a remnant of the old castle. New Aberdour is a 19th century planned village inland. Further on is Pennan harbour and a house called ‘The Old Doctor’s House’. There is a RSPB reserve at Troup Head which has Scotland’s only mainland gannet colony as well as fulmers, kittiwakes, guillemots and razor bills.
After the small village of Crovie is Gardenstown. It has been a fishing town situated amongst the sandstone cliffs for centuries. In 1900 it had 92 boats fishing for herring and salmon. Most of the community was involved in fishing with boats being handed down to subsequent generations. Later on, fishing boats became larger and the trade moved to bigger ports. The workers and their families continued to live there and after a lull in the 1980s and 90s, leisure fishing has now increased and also smaller fishing boats and others. We parked beyond the harbour where there was some street art.
Walking through to the harbour, some just completed street art was on the wall of a building soon to open as a café. I had a chat with the artist and café owner.
On the hillside above the town in Gamrie, lie the ruins of St John’s Church and graveyard. It was probably founded in 1004 and granted to the monks of Arbroath Abbey from 1189-1198. It was renovated in the 17th century and abandoned in 1830 when a new church was built in Gardenstown.
We noticed that several of the houses down near the harbour were for sale but new ones were being built further up the hill. When I was at medical school Gardenstown, with its then rather isolated community was renowned for having a high incidence of Menkes disease, also known as Menkes syndrome. It is an X-linked recessive disorder caused by mutations in genes coding for the copper-transport protein ATP7A, leading to copper deficiency. Characteristic findings of the disorder include kinky hair, growth failure, and nervous system deterioration. Today I saw one local with kinky hair but I suspect that the community is now more genetically diverse and that this is less of a problem. We continued along the coastal trail to Macduff and Banff which sit on opposite banks at the mouth of the River Deveron. Macduff was the last place to build deep-water wooden fishing boats. Our campsite is right on Inverboyndie Beach, so I had a beach walk in between showers.
The ships we had seen at Gardenstown had followed us and were now moored in Boyndie Bay. I spotted some pink seaweed
…and some that might become an abstract painting.
Tomorrow we continue our journey westward.
We had to pop in to Anstruther for a repair to the van technology. Returning along the B road back to St Andrews, we passed the sign to ‘Scotland’s Secret Bunker’ which we had seen on various occasions but never visited so we decided to take a look. Construction began in 1951 and it opened in 1953 as part of Britain’s early warning radar chain ‘ROTOR’. The Royal Air Force occupied it for six years. As technology improved the range between stations could increase and some, including this one, became redundant and were mothballed by the government. From 1958 to 1968 the Civil Defence Corps operated it and afterwards it became ‘Central Government HQ for Scotland in the event of a nuclear war’. It remained in service until 1993.
The main tunnel to the bunker is 150 yards long and is encased in 18 inches of solid concrete.
Further on the solid concrete is 10 feet deep and reinforced with tungsten bars. The main switchboard room could connect 2800 external lines and 500 internal extensions. It was manned 24 hours per day.
There is even a consecrated memorial chapel which is still used.
And a resident MOD cat whom we met.
Outside there are various military vehicles
Leaving St Andrews, we passed the Eden Mill Gin Distillery and crossed the River Eden at Guard Bridge. RAF Leuchars is a little further on but our destination was Tentsmuir National Nature Reserve. We parked by the beach which on arrival was very quiet.
Walking on the windy dunes was reminiscent of walking on Indiana Dunes on a very windy day almost three years ago.
We had our picnic there and the car park was filing up. There is even a crepe shack.
Our overnight stop was at a Certified Location in farmland near Morton Lochs which are also a National Nature Reserve. The Lochs were originally created by the Christie family who were local landlords, in 1906 and stocked with fish. They became a nature reserve in 1952.
We had a walk down there in the afternoon. A sign noted that there had been a tsunami 7,000 years ago with a wave 70 feet high which would have destroyed the neolithic population there. I had heard some time ago about that there is geological evidence of it in some Norwegian Fjord and joked that living right on the sea front on the East Coast might not be a good idea in case it is replicated. Now, rising sea levels secondary to global warming are a more likely threat.
At the loch we saw some coots and their young, a heron fishing in the distance and a red squirrel on one of the feeders.
That evening saw the end of the good weather as rain moved in. The following morning, we picked up supplies in Tayport and then continued to Newport. They are both commuter towns for Dundee and St Andrews. Manna café in Newport sells good coffees and is a community venture run by the local Church of Scotland. The profits support a youth worker. The town sits between the Tay road and rail Bridges.
The first rail bridge collapsed in a storm December 1879 while a train was crossing it, killing all onboard. Across the river, oil rigs were being repaired and Saturday morning boating was in full swing.
Down by the waterfront I discovered some street art:
After crossing the road bridge, we turned east along the coast, past the port and into Broughty Ferry. It had become a popular resort by 1790, known as the ‘Brighton of the North’. The population increased 4-fold in 30 years due to the popularity of ‘taking the waters’. The castle sits on the shore and was built in 1496.
It was rebuilt in 1860 and the Forfarshire Artillery Volunteers were garrisoned there. Later, the Submarine Miners who were ready to lay mines across the Tay in the event of war, were housed in a nearby building. It last saw military service in the World War II and has been a museum since 1969.
The first floor tells the history of the castle, the second is an art gallery containing a small selection of the collection of James Guthrie Orchar who was a prominent engineer and businessman in Dundee in the 19th century.
and on the third floor is an armoury. At the top there is a viewing platform and displays devoted to the local natural history. Down at the windy beach there were only a few brave souls, lots of kelp and I found two pieces of sea glass. It was raining as we left. Driving along the esplanade we passed the Barnhill Rock Garden. In better weather I might have stopped and explored it as I am constructing a new one at home. Our campsite was just beyond the settlement of Lucknow. It is named after the city in India but I still have to discover why.
Our last morning in Port Lincoln saw us heading up the hill to Winters Hill Lookout for views over the town and Boston Bay.
Back in town we had coffee on the waterfront while waiting for the Book Bazaar to open. It is a secondhand bookshop which raises funds for local charities. It has a large selection of books which are very well organised and some antiquarian and collectors’ books. We found a couple to keep us going (one on the Camino de Santiago which I would like to do one day).
It was then time to get back on the road up the east coast of the Eyre Peninsula. This road is called the Lincoln Highway but is certainly not the one we drove two years ago from New York to San Francisco. I am not sure when this one got its name. After passing through North Shields, our first stop was Tumby Bay. Just off the highway is a silo mural created by Martin Ron from Argentina assisted by Matt Gorrick. There is a car park and path with picnic tables. Someone had helpfully written on the notice that the best view is from the end of the path.
Tumby Bay has a local art group and some street art has been created on various walls in the town by different people. There is also a 10km white sand beach which was almost empty when we arrived.
The most southerly mangrove stand is here with a boardwalk and there are other paths and a couple of museums. It was time to press on. The water main runs alongside the road for much of the route. We stopped for lunch at Arno Bay. The wide estuary here is mostly dry at this time of year except the creek amongst the mangroves.
There are also mudflats and areas covered with samphire. I heard a few birds, but fishing is more important here than wildlife. There are several jetties along the boardwalk and you are also allowed to kayak but not use motorised craft.
Further north is Cowell, a coastal town which was more 19th century buildings on the main street than most of the others on the peninsula. James wondered why they needed a pharmacy but as I had seen three mobility scooters in the short drive down the street, I suspect there is a large elderly population here. There is an agricultural museum with lots of old machinery outside and the Viterra grain silo every town here seems to have. The oldest and a large deposit of nephrite jade was found in nearby hills in 1965. The Jade Motel on the way back to the highway has souvenirs and jade jewellery for sale. After Cowell the land seemed drier and ranges of hills appeared west of the highway. Closer to Highway One is Iron Knob where the first iron ore in Australia was found in 1894. Current deposits in nearby mines supply the ore for the steelworks in Whyalla, our destination for that night. Whyalla is said to get 300 days of sunshine every year and the temperature climbed to 37 degrees before we arrived there. Prior to 1978 shipbuilding was a major industry but now it is steel production and mineral salt processing. The hotel we stayed in is owned by two former footballers and there was a big focus on drinking and betting. There were even betting slips on the restaurant tables. It was reminiscent of a hotel in Nevada we arrived at and could not find reception. Someone told us we had to go into the casino next door to check in.
Back on the road in the morning we had the water pipe again and the railway line alongside. Our first destination was Port Augusta which sits at the top of the Gulf with the Flinders Range behind. At the junction with the Stuart Highway to Alice Springs was the Standpipe Motel. I did wonder if it had any showers. The Australian Arid Lands Botanic Garden which is a short distance north of the town and has several trails among the trees and plants. We saw a few emus at a distance and a crested pigeon. The garden also has sculptures including this one by Warren Pickering.
It was very windy so I did not do much flower photography.
We had by now rejoined Highway One. We spotted a van parked at the side of the road with ‘men are like mascara: they run at the first sign of emotion’ written on the back. The road runs south with the sea on one side and the mountains on the left. At Port Pirie it turns inland. We saw communities named Bute and Lorne and at Lochiel, Nessie is on Lake Bumbunga, a salt lake.
Lunch was at Port Wakefield which has a memorial to Jack Brabham, a Formula One racing driver in the 1960s who won his first race there in 1955. The highway runs pretty far into Adelaide before any serious navigation is required so we arrived in good time. Over the last two days we have covered 422 miles bringing the trip total to 9,697 miles. The next day will be entirely on foot.
We spent one night in Tennant Creek in a motel at the edge of town. The town was originally built around gold mining but that was short-lived. Around half of the town’s population are of indigenous descent. Unfortunately, it has most often been in the news due to crime and alcohol problems, the most recent horror being the rape of a two year old girl. I had not read about this before I arrived but had noticed the active police presence on the streets and it is the first motel we have stayed which had prominent notices about CCTV at the reception and about not letting people you don’t know into your room. Our experience was very positive, and I was glad to read in the Guardian about moves to solve some of the community problems. The restaurant in our motel was closed so we had our evening meal at the sports club. Most of them will allow people living more than 5km away and who have photo ID to register temporarily and use the bar and restaurant. It is also a good way to meet some locals. Tennant Creek does have a museum and art gallery devoted to indigenous art, but we did not have time to visit them. I did appreciate this street art.
In the morning we carried on northward on the Stuart Highway, passing a manganese mine and still in dry country with little wildlife to see as much of it is nocturnal. Further on, as vegetation started to appear, we passed a group of cows by the road and then an Australian Bustard. I still have not managed to get a photograph of one despite spotting a few. Dressed up termite mounds continue to be found along the highway. The craze started around five years ago and is mostly done by tourists. The first town we reached, Elliott, had a big sign on entry announcing all the facilities in the store including coffee. However, that was not on offer when we stopped. We had our lunch in the shade of a tree opposite the Daly Waters Pub, mobbed by a flock of Apostle Birds. The pub claims to be historic having had a licence since 1893 and the place Amy Johnson landed in 1930 having flown from the UK to Australia. Inside there are huge amounts of memorabilia from visitors.
Nearby is The Stuart tree. He or one of his party is said to have carved the letter S into the bark on his journey from Adelaide to Darwin. There is no written corroboration of this in his journals.
Nearby is the site of the old telegraph station. As we continued our journey to Katherine, the temperature rose to 38 degrees. In the evening the almost full moon was framed by palm trees.
The following morning we had arranged to go on a boat trip up Katherine Gorge in Nitmiluk National Park. There are 13 gorges between Arnhem Land and the sea but boat trips only cover a few. We chose a two-hour cruise of the first two gorges but three hour and breakfast/sunset cruises are also available. Canoes can be hired and in the wet season power boats are used. Our cruise took us past 17 Mile Creek which flows into the river and is often used by the Jawoyn people for fishing
and then through the sandstone gorges:
There is a 400m walk between the first and second gorge where we boarded another boat. The path passes some rock art. There is a lot in Nitmiluk some only 150 years old, others thousands of years old. We saw one example:
Having cruised around the second gorge we returned to the first, keeping an eye out for freshwater crocodiles. Unfortunately, the water temperature is quite high at the moment so they do not need to lie on the rocks to get warm and we did not see any. Back at the Visitors’ Centre for refreshments I had a look at some of the local paintings on display and for sale. One local artist often works in the centre.
James also spotted this dragonfly sitting on a door. I have not identified him yet.
So for, the total mileage is 4,358 miles. We only drove 41 miles to the gorge and back today but the previous day’s total was 422 miles. Tomorrow we continue north to Darwin.
Today we woke before dawn and watched the sun rise over the sea in front of our motel room. After breakfast we had to drive back into the centre of Sarina for fuel and to see the Cane Toad statue in the middle of town. Back home, Moffat has a sheep and Rockhampton where we stayed the previous night, has several statues of bulls.
Cane Toads are native to Central and South America. They were introduced in 1935 to control insects which were detrimental to sugar cane production and to reduce the use of pesticides. They did not control the insects however and proliferated beyond Queensland where they were introduced. They exude poison from glands on their shoulders and can be fatal to domestic pets which eat them, although some birds have mastered the art of catching and eating them without triggering the poison. There have been debates about how and whether they should be eliminated but not all methods utilised have been successful. The Cane Toad has been listed by the National Trust of Queensland as a state icon of Queensland, along with the Great Barrier Reef, and past icons, the Royal Flying Doctor Service and the backyard mango tree (also an introduced species). Local school children gave this toad the name Buffy.
Continuing north on Highway 1 towards Mackay, I noticed on the map that a range of mountains southwest of the city are called The Blue Mountains. I am familiar with the Blue Mountains in New South Wales but did not know there were others elsewhere. Coffs Harbour has a big banana, but Bowen has a big mango, illustrating one particular variety introduced and grown here.
Bowen also has a number of murals in the town centre, reminiscent of some American towns we have driven through. However, they are not in such vibrant colours as some of the American ones but they do illustrate the history of the town.
A must in Bowen is a drive to the top of Flagstaff Hill which gives 360 degree views. The interpretive centre is closed having been damaged in the most recent cyclone to hit the area.
There were a number of birds hanging around, this magpie obviously regularly perches on this street light.
After Bowen the surrounding area is much drier. At 1pm the temperature got up to 30 degrees. After lunch at a rest area we continued towards Townsville and again entered sugarcane territory.
We had to stop at a level crossing for a cane train to pass and counted 216 trucks.
In Townsville it was pretty windy on the strand and the beach was quiet with the lifeguards hanging around with not much to do.
Walking along the strand I spotted this sculpture: Bazza and Shazza by Jan Hynes in 2004.
A large number of helicopters kept passing over during late afternoon and early evening. A couple of them were obviously military but there were several others. I hope they stop before we need to sleep. 280 miles today brings the trip total to date to 1957 miles.
As we landed at Funchal, one of the flight attendants said that it was the first time she had been on a plane that had landed on its first attempt. We had had a 100mph tail wind so had arrived 25 minutes early but did not experience any of the gusts of wind that Madeira’s airport is renowned for. These often lead to landings having to be aborted and re-attempted. Apparently after the third failed attempt the plane has to divert to Lisbon. The runway has been extended and now projects over the sea supported by concrete columns. Funchal is named after ‘funcho’, the Portuguese word for fennel which it is said, was abundant when Zarco landed here in 1419. Madeira means ‘wood’ which is somewhat ironic as the first settlers began burning and ultimately completely destroying the primeval forest and indigenous flora and fauna. Much of the current flora has been introduced from all corners of the earth.
We had dinner that evening in a restaurant specialising in local food. Dessert was strawberries from the restaurateur’s farm. On our way out, we noticed that the local cats and dogs were gathering, ready to eat the scraps they are given. Walking along a cobbled street back to the hotel, we passed lots of street art including these examples on a derelict building.
The following morning after passing through Machico, (the first place Portuguese explorers landed in 1419) we stopped at a viewpoint on the coast.
Feral cats were hanging around hoping for food. Just before we left, a local woman drove up and began to feed them.
Our first walk was an 8km circuit involving climbing the equivalent of 119 flights of stairs on the Ponta de São Lorenço National Park peninsula. By the national park centre, we spotted several canaries but none of them stayed still long enough for a photograph. The volcanic geology gives rise to many scenic views although it was very windy. It was busy, but it was a Sunday and in the Easter holiday season.
Afterwards we drove inland west to Porto da Cruz which is the first eastern town on the north coast. We had a tasting session of a local fish like tuna (Gaiado Seco) which is salted and dried in sand. It was served with olive oil, tomatoes and onions with bread. The sugar cane mill, ’Engenhos do Norte operates between March to May. In the 15th and 16th centuries Madeira was a major producer of sugar which was known as ‘white gold’. The current distillery makes rum. They have a machine used to pump fresh sugarcane juice up to the fermentation tanks which was manufactured by Jones Burton & Co of Liverpool. Another piece of machinery was made in Oakland, California.
Further on, Faial has a hill 598m high called ‘Eagle Rock’ where ospreys nest.
Nearby we had a madeira wine tasting session in a cellar, sampling 12 year old and 19 year old samples. Returning to the road we passed several people (some in national costume) returning to the church following the blessing of a house which often takes place after Easter.
The new road passes through the longest tunnel in Europe which is over 3km long. New road construction and tunnel building has expanded in Madeira in the last few years and has improved communications and transport. However, there is a feeling amongst some, that it is going too far. Our destination was Santana, our base for the night. It is renowned for the traditional thatched A frame houses in the area.
The weather was now deteriorating. The jet stream has diverted further south this year leaving northern Europe with a much colder spring but wetter weather occurring further south, including Madeira.
I have to confess, we have not walked the 24 miles of the Water of Leith from the source in the Pentland Hills, nor the 12 plus miles of the Water of Leith Walkway from Balerno to Leith. We did not have time to complete the full length of the Walkway so chose to walk to Leith from the point nearest to us.
As soon as we had returned from Ireland, friends were asking why I was not in Edinburgh enjoying the Fringe. We did come up in the middle of the month as we had some work which needed to be carried out on the flat and had selected a few samples of comedy, music and photography from the Fringe to enjoy as well. Some sensible residents stay away completely as getting around is more difficult and takes longer if you have to pass through the main tourist areas; fending off the flyers constantly shoved in your face. After enjoying Dan Willis, a UK comedian living in Australia presenting a ‘Whinging Pom’s Guide’ to the country, Ed Byrne, the Edinburgh Photographic Society’s Annual Exhibition and a great night with Lorna Reid at the Jazz Club, we were ready for a change of scene. We have walked a few sections of the Walkway in the past but fancied a bigger chunk today. It is a two mile walk to our nearest section and includes a bit of the Union Canal.
The Visitors’ Centre is at Slateford just next to where the river flows under the aqueduct carrying the Union canal. We had a coffee before hitting the trail just under the aqueduct where a sign told us it was seven miles to Leith.
There are currently a few diversions due to path closures. There has been a landslip and one section has been closed for six months while this is investigated and decisions made about action. Other sections are closed due to works on the Flood Prevention Scheme. Back on the path we enjoyed the greenery including trees and wildflowers but also spotted large clusters of an introduced problem plant: Himalayan Balsam. It is an annual but produces 800 seeds per year which are propelled huge distances and can be carried by water. It out-competes native flora and is very difficult to eradicate.
Other places have street art.
We passed the Balgreen Community Garden with raised beds made from sleepers like my own and an invertebrate hotel.
There are numerous places along the way where you can join or leave the Walkway and it connects with some of the cycle routes. Occasionally the path leaves the riverside for a short stretch for example, in the Dean Village.
It passes St Bernard’s Well, built on the site of an spring and which is open on Sundays in August. Here is an interior shot I took a couple of years ago:
Before we reached Leith we came across a family of swans having a grooming session. The swan’s partner was watching nearby.
After a succession of signs all saying Leith was 1¾ miles, we eventually reached The Shore. There is a Turkish Cafe and a pub, Salvation ready to restore you and for fine dining, Restaurant Martin Wishart is a little further along. After some refreshments it was time to catch the bus home. With all the diversions we had in fact clocked up 12 miles.
We spent our last morning in the south exploring Kilkenny and Carlow before dropping our friends off at Dublin airport and heading north to spend a few days with relatives in North Antrim. Kilkenny has a lot of history with a medieval mile starting at the castle. The castle dates from 1192 having been constructed on the site of an earlier wooden structure but has been remodelled several times, most recently by the Butler family.
We did not tour inside but walked around the park surrounding the castle and the garden around the Dower House.
The park was busy with the Saturday Fun Run so we walked over to the Castle Yard which hosts the Design Centre and several craft studios. One display in the Design Centre Gallery called ‘Lustre’ was of jewellery produced by students based on the Faberge egg concept. They explored this theme and produce their own works encased in the egg. I also looked at some copper plate etchings as this is something I have planned to do at some point.
We looked in at some of the studios and found some ceramics we liked. After a coffee in the restaurant upstairs it was time to leave the tourists gathering outside the castle and return to the hotel for a cocktail (non-drivers only) and to digest the Irish Times before beginning our drive northeast to Carlow.
This is another town I had visited many years ago while working but I could remember little about it. Just as we were getting out of the car I met an elderly gentleman walking up the hill who paused just to take a breath. He told me that he was 88 and knew everything that there was to know about Carlow. He was keen to tell me that the river used to be bigger and have ‘really big’ boats on it. Now rowing seems to be the main waterborne activity. We walked over to the ruined castle
and then along the river path to the Millennium Bridge. Swans and a rook were keen to befriend us in case we had any food for them.
In the park ‘Bridging’ an installation containing works by teenagers on a 14-week project exploring life as a teenager in Carlow was on display.
This is one of the panels.
Carlow does have an art institute and walking back to the car, we passed some street art entitled ‘Wall R Us: is it a wall or is it us?’.
Having dropped our friends off at the airport we continued on the motorway to the border. Just north of Dublin we noted that we had driven 700 miles on this trip so far. There were still tractors on the motorway and the six-lane road it becomes across the border. Summer seemed to be ending as we made our way to North Antrim in rain. Fortunately this did not last and the sun and blue skies returned for the remainder of our trip.
We had a leisurely start to the day as we left Dublin by the coast road. It passes through Dalkey and Killiney (I once stayed in the Castle Hotel here for a research project meeting) and to our first port of call: breakfast at Shankill Street Food Outlet. There is an Oscar Wilde quote on the wall in the toilet here and a map of a 47km walk which crosses over to Tallaght.
We then drove through Greystone which was voted the most liveable place in the world in 2008. It was not immediately obvious driving through why this might be as it did not seem all that very different from other places we could think of. I am sure there must be more under the surface, not visible to the passing traveller. After passing through Wicklow, driving and food meant that when we reached Brittas Bay, a beach walk was essential. I noticed a couple of nearby campsites which took tourers and made a note to return when we have our campervan. The beach was quiet but had lifeguards and a few families enjoying the sun. I found some sea glass and our friends picked up some shells.
We made a significant contribution to our daily 10,000 steps.
Beyond Arklow the road leaves the coast and diverts inland to Gorey, Enniscorthy and New Ross before reaching Waterford. We made use of the last sunshine exploring Ireland’s oldest town, founded by Vikings in 914 AD.
The tower near the end of the esplanade dates from 1003.
There are old fortifications, the oldest Catholic Church in Ireland and many other buildings of various ages and architectural style to look at.
There is also a fair amount of street art. One of the hotel staff said that every year, various artists arrive in the town to add more during the annual Spraoi Street Art Festival. In 2017 this takes place on August 4-6th. I spotted some art down an alley:
You can visit the Tower, the museum, Bishops Palace and other sights but it began to rain so we escaped to the comfort of our hotel which is in an old building.
Café society was on the pavement, students were sunbathing on the Meadows and sunglasses required on our first morning in Edinburgh. We had 36 hours there for business and pleasure: seeing our solicitor, picking up supplies and having a very enjoyable dinner with a friend before and early start to drive to Aberdeen the next morning. We had hoped to be driving over the Forth on the new Queensferry Crossing which was originally scheduled to open in May but has been delayed so that will have to wait for another trip. There were several signs on the A90 warning that deer might be crossing the road, even in the middle of Dundee. However, it was not until we were on a minor road to Fettercairn that a Roe hind ran across in front of us and disappeared into the forest. The diversion to Fettercairn was to photograph another distillery for the photobook of all those in the British Isles.
The unicorn comes from the Ramsay family crest: they founded the distillery. Noticing signs to the arch I had to ask about that and was told that it had been erected to commemorate a visit to Fettercairn by Queen Victoria in the early 1860s. The arch is dated 1864.
Just south of Aberdeen there are extensive roadworks as a city bypass is being constructed. Looking at the map I could see that its route might be contentious especially through Deeside and the friends we met for lunch in the city confirmed this. Interestingly Aberdeen also missed the chance to develop the waterfront with historic buildings behind it and instead has an enormous shopping centre. Our friend also showed me some street art which is in a small back street and I would never have found it without her help.
Pottering around the city centre before we had to board the boat I discovered a good-sized Oxfam book and music shop on Back Wynd, just off Union Street. I added a volume to my New Naturalist collection and James found some music. A little while later we were on the ship. It was built in Finland and the harbour had boats registered in Bergen, Panama, Limassol and Monrovia that I could see. We cast off and as Aberdeen disappeared in the mist, the pilot boat left us and we sailed past the last light on the harbour wall.
We arrived into Lerwick on time and after picking up more supplies at the Co-op, stopped at a coastal espresso bar. They directed us to the nearest petrol station more reliably than the car’s satnav and James was given a free can of Irnbru after filling up there. While he was doing that, I noticed Clickimin Broch across the road. It was built over 2,000 years ago and no-one knows whether it was a fortress or merely a residence. It remained partially submerged until 1874 when the loch water level dropped. various excavations have taken place since the 1860s.
Driving north on the A970 we passed abandoned crofts and Voe where the last clearances took place in 1799. The residents farming the land were removed so that larger scale sheep farming could be introduced. We reached Mavis Grind, just south of Brae. The name means ‘gateway of the narrow isthmus’ and the just over 100m wide strip of land separates St Magnus Bay and the Atlantic Ocean on one side with Ell Wick, Sullom Voe and the North Sea on the other. Until the 1950s it was used as a boat drag to enable rapid travel from one sea to the other. On our visit locals were trying to clean up the shore, disentangling plastic from seaweed. A lot of it comes from fishing nets and creels. I spoke to one of the women who said that as a child she would pick broken glass from the net floats off the beach but that now it was all waste plastic. There is a path around the area but as it was extremely windy and the car thermometer was reading 1 degree, we decided to leave that for another day. A little further on we stopped for a picnic lunch. We stayed in the car as the thermometer now read -1 degree. This did not last as we continued into Northmavine but as the thermometer rose, the rain fell. A small diversion from our route took us to the St Magnus Bay Hotel in Hillswick where we ensconced ourselves in the bar until we could get into the lighthouse. Renovation was under way and the proprietor told us that this was the first time for 50 years. He explained that the building was listed and this was delaying work. The toilets have already been re-vamped and I have never seen a sparkly toilet seat before. We eventually reached Eshaness Lighthouse which was ready for us. It is the last Northern Lighthouse constructed by the Stevenson family and was automated in 1974. The light keepers house fell into private hands and in 1999 an American author Sharma Krauskopf bought it. She wrote a book about living on Eshaness called ‘The Last Lighthouse’. I must try and find that. In 2005, the Shetland Amenity Trust purchased the cottage and now rent it out as holiday accommodation. They do not have access to the tower. We settled in hoping that the mist would lift later.