Travel Day One and Two: Arrival and Departure

October 2, 2020 – approximately 6:00 p.m.

The end of Day One arrived at around 6:00 p.m. when I rolled into High Level. Overall a very pleasant drive, with wildlife sightings that included Bison. Many Bison. Nothing else, just Bison. And all of them before the Deh Cho Bridge. I’m staying at the Best Western Mirage, which I have always found very comfortable and affordable, and I’m confident they are following pandemic guidelines.

I contemplated going for a walk because I noticed on the way in (hard to miss, frankly) that the community has installed a new intersection meridian at the north end of the highway providing for a turning lane. It threw me off because I wasn’t expecting it. I didn’t go for the walk though because by the time I settled in and did my exercise routine it was already dark out. I was ready to call it a night. I ordered supper in this evening to avoid any undue contact, and then did a little work-related emailing before reading and turning in.

October 3, 2020 – approximately 10:00 a.m.

I had a pretty good sleep last night, but still managed to move a little slower than I would have liked this morning. I was hoping to get on the road shortly after 9:00 a.m., but didn’t actually until nearly 10:00 a.m.

The High Level Esso station is one of my favourite stops on this drive. It’s a quite literally full-service station that is kept in excellent condition. Wait — not full-service in the sense of they will pump your gas; that part is entirely self-serve — I mean full-service in the sense that they provide more than just gas. They have a wonderful cafeteria, fully stocked convenience store, and pay-at-the-pump options. Plenty of room for lots of traffic to move around. They also have a draw for trips that is ongoing, I think you enter with your receipt. I’ve entered it a few times, but didn’t today. The trips are awarded often, so there are lots of winners. And you’re guaranteed to see at least one familiar face from home passing through.

Travel Day One: Leg Four

October 2, 2020 – approximately 5:00 p.m.

Forgot about the train tracks … Yes, it’s true, we do have train tracks that go up into the Northwest Territories. I don’t know how far up, but at least to Hay River, I think to Fort Smith, and maybe (???) towards Fort Simpson? Maybe? I don’t know. But I do know they go to Hay River, and I’m fairly confident there are actually trains that still use it. Not that I’ve ever actually caught a train on those tracks north of High Level or into the NWT, but that doesn’t really mean anything. Besides, for the most part there’s a buffer of trees between the highway and the tracks, so it’s not entirely unlikely that I wouldn’t have noticed when a train was there. Right? Sure. At the point where I made this stop the tracks had not crossed the highway yet, so I had managed to forget — again — that there even were any tracks there. Rest assured, later on when I did cross the tracks I lifted my feet and made the required wish.

What’s that? You haven’t heard of making a wish when you cross the tracks? When I was a child my parents told us during our drives that if we lifted our feet off the floor or ground and made a wish while going over train tracks our wish could come true. It was clearly a way to pass the time in the car back in the day, but as I like to say, you can’t win if you don’t even play. So on the off chance that there’s anything to this making wishes business, to this day I still lift my feet off the floor of the car and make a wish when I go over train tracks.

Travel Day One: Leg Three

October 2, 2020 – approximately 3:00 p.m.

I know, I know, these section titles are really boring. Sorry. Dan’s not with me to provide his unique ideas for such things…

Oh, hey, look! I just noticed I can change the border styles…cool…

This stop ended up being in Enterprise. I was not expecting that because it never really registered that Enterprise is about an hour and a half away from Big River at Fort Providence. I think even if it wasn’t I might have stopped here anyway, for the reason mentioned in the video. As I was driving by and actually paying attention to the scenery on the side of the road I realized, oh, hey, there’s a ravine with a river there, I should take a closer look! So I did. Then I noticed the time and realized it fortuitously was my time to stop anyway.

I did look it up and confirmed that the river in question is indeed the Hay River snaking it’s way past the community. Alexandra Falls are on this river further south. We normally would try to stop and see Alexandra Falls on this drive, but I will not be doing that this time around. Maybe on the way back up, if I’m allowed. Honestly, Dan and I should consider a camping trip near the Hay River to do some kayaking…not anywhere near the falls or any rapids, of course, we’re way too new at the sport for that.

Travel Day One: Leg Two

October 2, 2020 – about 1:30 p.m.

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Stop number two on day one is a must-do at Big River gas station on the highway near Fort Providence. The tank in my car is not quite big enough to get me to High Level in one go, so we always stop at Big River and top up the tank. Big River is about a three-hour drive from Yellowknife, which is just about perfect timing for a bathroom break and lunch. Of course, today I did not stay for lunch and only stopped long enough for the mentioned bathroom break and gas tank top up.

I clearly have kayaking on the brain in the below video, probably because we finally actually used our kayak’s this year and still didn’t get out in them as much as I would have liked.

The above photograph was taken on a rest stop closer to the Deh Cho Bridge, which is what connects the north side of the river to the south side of the river. This bridge is still pretty exciting for me, even though it’s already several years old. Why? Well, because it arches so high and seems so narrow once you’re on it, but also because before this bridge was built we would have to take a ferry to cross the river in the summer and drive the ice road across in the winter. This also meant we would be unable to get across the river during the spring break-up and the fall freeze-up. That is all in the past now, and while the ferry/ice-road were unique experiences that I value, as a resident of Yellowknife I appreciate having the bridge now.

Travel Day One: Leg One

October 2, 2020 – about 11:30 a.m.

All right then. So, as I said in the below video, I decided to break up my driving days into hour and a half legs, just to keep from getting too bored. Also, to give me something to try using the GoPro for. At first I thought I’d just take photos, but then I thought, what the heck, why not video? So, yeah. No script, just, well, narrating or thinking out loud.

My first stop was in the middle of nowhere, between Edzo and Fort Providence. I stopped a short ways after seeing a herd of about 10 bison, including a calf, in the ditch. While I didn’t really observe anything else of interest, I did note that the condition of the highway so far had been significantly improved. I was really impressed! It’s been a great drive so far.

First stop on the Mackenzie Highway southbound

Round-trip Road Trip

October 2nd to 8th, 2020

Well, hello there! What’s that? Not the trip you were expecting? Where did Scotland 2020 go? Excellent question, but I’m pretty sure everyone in the World can figure out the answer to that question. Regardless, I will provide a brief explanation: COVID-19. Oh, you need more? Okay, but it’s really not a long story. We did plan to travel to Scotland in September. We had reservations made and flights booked and an itinerary pretty much finalized. We were going to be on Orkney Island for my 50th birthday. And then COVID-19 hit so everything got cancelled. We will not be travelling outside of Canada until a vaccine is available and the border restrictions are lifted. See? Short, probably familiar, story.

The Northwest Territories also has border restrictions in place which have successfully (so far) limited our exposure to COVID-19 — We have not had an active case since May (April?). But the border restrictions remain in place, which I fully support, and they require that when anyone enters the Northwest Territories they are required to self-isolate in designated centers for 14 days before they can go out and about. Which means we have to account for that if we want to do any travelling outside the Northwest Territories.

Now, I had to go to Edmonton for an appointment that’s been rescheduled twice already because of COVID-19. I really didn’t want to reschedule it again, so I decided to give myself a little bit of a break with it. I decided to drive to Edmonton and spend a couple of days visiting my mother (respecting social distancing requirements and recommended mask wearing procedures) while there. When I get home I will work from home while I self-isolate for two weeks. It’s all doable.

In the meantime, Dan and I purchased a GoPro Hero 7 camera a few months ago. I’m still figuring out how it works, but it occurred to me that maybe this road trip would be a good opportunity to use it more than we have. And I thought, what the heck, why don’t I do a little travel blog for this little trip, too? The camera’s been working great, I’ve got some video and some photos. But now that I’m sitting in front of WordPress I realize I have COMPLETELY forgotten how to use it to make my travel blog. Particularly since WordPress has introduced a new editor format thingy. So I’m sort of starting over and wracking my poor memory and trying to find things. This would be why this first page is so regretfully boring visually. At least for now. I’ll revamp and re-publish it as I figure out how to do things again.

So, stay tuned! It’s getting rather late in the evening now, so I’ll sign off for the time being.

Good night, all!

Adelle

Woo-hoo! I figured out how to add photos … This is the chip-sealed highway somewhere between Yellowknife and Fort Providence.

Lessons Learned

We had breakfast and said our farewells to Martin and Amanda at The Gordon Guest House in Ballater. We had a marvellous stay there and definitely recommend it should you come down this way.

The Gordon Guest House

So between Google saying it should take about two and a half hours to get to Edinburgh Waverley Station and everyone else saying it would likely be closer to three and a half to four hours, and our rental car scheduled to be returned by Noon and our cross country train ticket pre-purchased for a 1:13 p.m. departure, we thought we’d play it safe and leave Ballater around 8:30 a.m. We actually got on the road around 8:45 a.m. It turned out that Google was closest, only being out by about 15 minutes, and that only because of traffic and a missed turn in central Edinburgh.

First lesson learned today: always, always, always take a photo of any — and I mean ANY, no matter how small or cosmetic it seems — pre-existing damage to your rental car before you leave the garage.

Second lesson learned today: never, ever, ever trust your rental car customer service agent when he says, “oh, yes, here’s some scrapes, but don’t worry about it, it’s all good.”

Third lesson learned today: always, always, always demand to see the rental car company’s record of damages to the rental car and verify for yourself that it actually documents any and all damages, not matter how small or seemingly immaterial they may be.

I won’t elaborate further, except to say that we will be disputing our liability for a pre-existing cosmetic scrape to the front right bumper.

A brief pit stop at — of all places — Burger King for lunch, followed by a one-hour train ride to Glasgow (during which I contacted our insurance company), and a 20-minute taxi ride brought us to our B&B for the night at Muirholm B&B in Paisley.

Fourth lesson for the day: when you need to get a ride from downtown Glasgow to Paisley, never, ever flag a street cab for the ride. They will fleece you. Phone a cab to pick you up.

We had supper at a place called The Red Onion. I picked this place a while ago for a couple reasons: at the time I thought we were going to have time to go to the Kelvingrove Museum before supper and The Red Onion was within walking distance; and the chef who opened the restaurant used to be one of Bryan Adams’s personal chefs. That’s all I needed.

Now we’re back at the B&B getting ready for bed. A cab has already been booked for our airport transfer tomorrow morning at not quite zero dark thirty this time, although still earlier than I’d like.

So I guess this is it! Our Scotland 2018 trip is over. It’s in the bag. There’s nothing left to report. We again had a spectacular time on this trip, and yes, there will be one more to come.

Adelle and Dan

P.S. Muirholm B&B is really nice, by the way. I think we’ll probably try to stay here when we come back in 2020.

It All Started With Breakfast…

This is what you get at The Gordon Guest House for breakfast when all you ask for is toast and tea…

Yeah, and those croissants, they’re filled with chocolate. That’s right.

The plan today was to go to Dunnottar Castle and Castle Fraser, with a stop at the Bridge of Feugh. We did not end up doing two out of three of those things, but made up for it with another castle and what ended up being a garrison.

We started out as planned and went to Castle Fraser. Castle Fraser was closer, and it closed earlier in the day than Dunnottar so we figured it made sense to go there first rather than last.

The earliest part of this building was constructed some time in the 1450s, with subsequent additions being added in what is referred to as a z-plan construction. The Z is formed by starting and ending at the opposing towers.

The property was the home of the Frasers for 400 years. The first upgrade after the original tower took 61 years to complete, from 1575 to 1636. It was modernized in the late 1700s, and interiors were entirely reconstructed between 1820 and 1850. The last Fraser to live in the castle, Theodora, sold the property in 1921. (I am in love with this painting of Theodora. It was painted by Maurice McIvor in 1921.)

The new owners restored the Castle and gave it to the National Trust for Scotland in 1976. The Trust has kept the castle designed to represent various periods, and most of the contents are originals from those time periods.

We followed the self-guided tour markers, passing through the Michael Kitchen to the Great Hall. The trunk kept in this room has some wild kind of locking mechanism. The fire backer is original.

The dining room has been the dining room since the mid-1600s.

The headmistress’s (?) room. Pretty sure my mom still has a version of that sewing machine.

The cradle in the Green Room was last used by the 14th (and last) child of Charles and Jane Fraser in 1836, Caroline. Tragically, she died at 18 months old.

The Green Room also housed a bathtub, and a fancy-schmancy coal scuttle to hold the coal to use in the fireplace. You can just see the coal scuttle behind and left of the bathtub.

The Smiley Sitting Room is actually decorated for and dedicated to the last family to own the castle before it was given to the Trust.

The top of one of the towers has spectacular views of the area, and would actually be a very nice place to have tea and read a book. Apparently there are standing stones about 200 yards from the Castle, but they are inaccessible to the public because they are in the middle of a farmer’s field.

The courtyard as viewed from the tower. There is a lovely tea room and a gift shop there.

Always my favourite room anywhere, the library. The oldest books here are from the early 1500s and they’re written in Latin.

The Victoria Sitting Room, also known as the Red Turret Room (are you seeing a theme yet?) used to be the Master’s Chamber and Study in the 1600s, but by the 1800s it was being used as a sitting room. It is currently decorated in the sitting room style.

The Worked Room was traditionally the Laird’s Chamber, and is the only room left with carved door cases dating to the 1600s. It also contains the Laird’s Lug, which is a small secret room connected to a hidden chamber from which the Laird could spy on his guests in the Great Hall to see if they were plotting against him. Sound familiar?

The North Bedroom still has the original Jacobean door frame. It also houses a 19th century commode (which I apparently did not take a picture of).

In the 1600s, the Charter House was used to store important papers, and this one in fact has a hidden compartment by the fire place with a trap door for those especially secret documents. By the 19th Century it had been turned into a bathroom. For whatever reason, they now keep the oldest item in the castle in this room: a wooden carving of the Agnus Dei (Lamb of God) from the 1500s.

The Bailiff’s Room included a spy hole in the wall where he could keep an eye on what’s happening in the Great Hall.

Ground view of the courtyard.

During lunch in the tea room we discovered that Dunnottar Castle is not included in either our Explorer Pass or Discover Scotland Pass. So we decided to look for someplace that was. We came up with Kildrummy Castle.

What a fantastic choice! The place was huge, and must have been gorgeous in its day. It had a draw bridge with a pit underneath it.

It had four towers, two on either side of the gate for the guards, one for the earliest residence, the other with the prisoner cells and guest chambers.

The courtyard was huge. After the residence tower fell over in the 18th century it was replaced by a tower house within the castle walls. The Great Hall overlooked the ravine, which borders the back of the castle.

The prisoners cells actually had a latrine, which was unusual.

They had their own church within the walls. Look at those windows!

The Earl of Mar probably ordered the castle built, and it was built in 1250. In 1306, Robert the Bruce sent his family to Kildrummy for safety, but the British sieged the castle and all of his family escaped except his brother Neil, who was captured and hanged.

In 1404, Isabel, Countess of Mar, married Alexander Stewart in front of the castle gates. Apparently there’s a romantic story about this, something to do with her handing the estate to Alexander under duress, and then him turning around and giving them back, at which point she announces her agreement to marry him. I didn’t quite catch it all, and the information book we bought is already packed away as I write this.

Kildrummy was abandoned in 1715.

We really enjoyed our visit here, so much so that we asked the attendant if he could recommend one more nearby place since it turned out we had time. He sent us to Corgarff Castle.

Its really more like a tower house that ended up with a star-shaped perimeter wall around it.

The castle was built in the 1500s by the Forbes of Towie, but was burned down by Adam Gordon of Auchindoun in 1571, killing 24 people in the process including the lady of the house.

It was rebuilt sometime after 1645, but then again burned down twice by the Jacobites in 1689 and 1690.

It was rebuilt again as a barracks by the Redcoats after the 1745 Jacobite rising, until it was abandoned again in 1831. During their 95-year tenure, the British hunted Jacobite sympathizer, and then helped excisemen try to stamp out the illegal production and smuggling of whisky.

The soldiers apparently were bored silly during their time here, because they had time to write graffiti on the walls and ceiling.

According to the placards on the walls, the soldiers were also used to build the old military road in the area during the summer months.

We were really pleased with this last minute addition to our itinerary. But we leave Ballater tomorrow to make our way to Glasgow, so we had to get back to pack our things.

We did make reservations for supper though at the Rothesay Rooms Restaurant, which it turns out is a Michelin rated establishment. That’s a first for us.

It turns out the restaurant is only a couple of years old, created when His Royal Highness The Prince Charles, Duke of Rothesay, pledged financial support to the community after the disastrous floods in 2015.

The food, service, ambiance, and the food were hands down the best across the board of this entire trip. Yes, I said the food twice on purpose. It is expensive, but oh so worth it!

Rothesay Rooms

Adelle and Dan

Katniss and Hawkeye

It doesn’t seem like we did a lot today, but boy am I tired anyway.

Our first of two stops was at Clava Cairns, just outside of Inverness and not far from Culloden. We did both of those the last time we were here, but did not make it to Clava. Now, this is a bit out of the way from where we intended this trip to focus, but there is a reason for that.

The Cairns are surrounded by standing stones, and have been dated as old as 4,000 years. Now this pre-dates the Picts, but the Picts are believed to have used the Kerb Cairn for their own cremations. So to my mind this still falls within our sub-theme of Pictish Stones.

There are four cairns — three large and one small — and the three large are surrounded by circles of standing stones. The stones and entries to two of the cairns are aligned with the midwinter sunset.

The central ring cairn has no identifiable entry point, but is open in the centre and has three cobble paths linking the outer edge of the ring to the standing stones that encircle it. It is believed this ring cairn might have been used as a temple when the outer cairns were used to house the dead when they were originally built.

While fire is believed to have been an important element of the ceremonies of the ancient people’s who built these monuments, it is not believed that cremations were done here. Cremations were not yet practiced, but would be in much later times, and it is believed that the Picts may have placed cremated remains in the Ring Cairn.

The fourth, smaller cairn previously mentioned is the Kerb Cairn, and it was made about a thousand years after the three larger cairns. This is when newcomers to the area started reusing the cairns for their own burials. It is in this Cairn that there appears to be evidence of the Pictish cremation burial, which occurred in about 500-600 AD.

And yes, of course this stop was partially influenced by Outlander. Craig Na Dun was based on the Clava Cairn Stones.

Our second stop was a surprise for Dan, and the real reason we went so far out of our way today. I booked us a two-hour introductory archery session at Bowhunter Archery. Yes, I did!

Bowhunter Archery

This was a fantastic experience that Dan and I enjoyed very much. We spent the first hour with Andy teaching us proper technique and practicing it until we got it reasonably correct.

We used recurve bows, we were taught how to string them, and we were kitted out with forearm protectors and quivers.

Andy first taught us how to target shoot, which involves using pins on the bows as sights to aim for the target. He explained that teaching target shooting technique is usually the easiest for beginners to learn and develop the proper technique. The technique involves pulling the string to the chin, and then a little more until it touches the tip of your nose.

It took three quarters of an hour of doing adequately before Andy suggested I try bow hunting instead, which means don’t use the pins, just aim from the tip of the arrow and pull to your cheekbone instead of your chin. He said most people don’t start out with bow hunting. It turns out I’m naturally inclined to bow hunting, because there was a noticeable improvement once I started using the technique.

The second hour was spent on the wilderness course they have set up in the forest. It was sort of like mini-golf for archery. You go around to different targets on uneven ground and with trees and bushes in somewhat distracting places. It tests your ability to gauge distances and where you need to aim to hit the target.

The end of the course was at the 3D site. They’ve got lizards, alligators, pigs, wolves, dinosaurs, and deer placed throughout the area for you to shoot at. We finished with a mini competition between Dan and I that we ended up tying. He got one kill shot and one wound shot to my three wound shots.

I may not have mentioned this, but despite Dan recently having purchased a recurve bow and arrows neither of us had actually ever used it. After today’s experience I think we’ll be calling our local archery club…

A couple hour drive back to Ballater followed by a short nap before supper at Clachan Grill brings us to the end of our day.

Adelle and Dan

Monkey Puzzles, Spiky Nuts, and Redwoods, Oh My!

Back to chronological order today…

As much as we’ve loved every breakfast we’ve had so far, we had to call today’s the best just because of the fresh thick cut toast. And when I say thick cut, I don’t mean Texas cut, I mean thicker than that. So yummy!

Our theme today was meant to focus primarily on Pictish Stones, and we did see them, but we got distracted on the way with two castles and a wrong turn…and various species of trees that did not look like they fit the area.

First stop was meant to be The Maiden Stone, but when we saw the sign for Craigievar Castle on the way we diverted.

As you can see, Craigievar is a pink castle. It is made of stones, but the outside is plastered with pink-coloured lime harl. Why pink, you may ask. Well, originally it was a cream colour, but in 1825-26, after Sir John Forbes inherited the title and properties, he hired an architect by the name of John Smith who directed that the harl should match the colour of the granite mouldings; so, pink.

No interior photographs are allowed, and the only means of viewing the interior is to take the 45-minute tour. While we were waiting for our tour to start we walked a little around outside. Dan was looking at the foliage, and suddenly walked right up to a rather large tree to read the plaque in front of it. Even I noticed then that it was a suspiciously large tree. A tree of a suspiciously familiar nature. One that we thought we were on the completely wrong side of the Atlantic Ocean to be seeing in Scotland. Sure enough, the little plaque identified this large tree as a Giant Sequoia. You know, the ones we’ve only previously seen along the west coast of northern North America. Yes, those ones. We figured, well, this must be a one-off, because sequoias are indigenous to North America…aren’t they?

Back to the castle, which was built some time between 1575 and 1595 during the Mortimer of Craigievar’s occupancy. At that time it was only a four story tower house, but made to specifications befitting a baron. In 1610, William Forbes of Menie purchased the Craigievar lands. Wanting to show off how rich he was, William replaced the uppermost parts of the castle with turrets, dormer windows, and viewing platforms. Sculptural ornaments are displayed throughout. The inside ceilings are all molded plaster, and this was one of the first castles in Scotland to display them.

There is what appears to be a priest hole above the hall, which would not be unusual given the Mortimers were discreetly Catholic after the Reformation. Of course, it is also possible the hole was used by ‘Red’ Sir John Forbes during his tenure as Baron as a way to spy on his guests in the hall to find out if they were planning to attack him. Apparently he was called ‘Red’ John not only because he was red-headed, but also because he was a mean, paranoid, asshole.

The tour took us all the way up to the viewing platforms at the top of the castle, which is where the above photo of Dan and I was taken.

During our walk back to the car, we spotted yet another oddly out of place seeming tree, which we didn’t think could possibly belong here. Of course we had no idea what it was called, and we had actually seen it at the Robert Burns Gardens, so the only reason we didn’t think it fit in Scotland was because it was so weird looking. It turns out it’s called a Monkey Puzzle tree because the branches look like monkey tails. This picture was taken at the Robert Burns Garden a few days ago, not Craigievar Castle.

Our next stop was The Maiden Stone, which is a Pictish Standing Stone believed to have been carved by the Picts over 1,200 years ago. The placard seems to suggest the Stone is in its original location, but I’m not sure that’s true. Either way, it is believed to be placed there to mark a place of prayer for travellers on the road between Aberdeenshire and Moray. Frankly, scholars acknowledge that there is not remotely enough information available today about the Picts to actually understand the meanings of their symbols and the purposes of their stones. The Picts did not have a written language, other than the pictographic symbols that they used. The Picts were completely subsumed by the Scots by about 900 AD.

What is really fascinating is the amount of detail that remains visible on the stones after more than a millennia. Most of the remaining stones found have Pict symbols on one side and Christian symbols on the other, indicative of the transition of their faith at the time.

However, as can be seen in the above partial stone pieced back together in Brandsbutt, other cultural influences can also be found — in this case by the Irish runes on the left side. Others, like those we saw in Whithorn, and yesterday at the Meigle Museum, have geometric shapes influenced by the Vikings.

To reinforce just how ignorant we are about the meanings of Pictish symbols, while we may certainly recognize those symbols like the salmon and cauldron on one side of the stone at the Kintore Churchyard (above) and the beast (dolphin? swimming elephant?) and broken arrow (V shape) on the other side (below) nobody has been able to decipher the sideways crescent moon shape with the three round balls and curved lines.

Our final stop for the day ended up being much quicker than the place deserved at 40 minutes before closing. Crathes Castle is one of the best preserved 16th century castles in Scotland, and was lived in by a single family for over 350 years. Fourteen generations of Burnett’s lived there, right up until 1951 when the 13th Baronet made over the castle and part of the estate to the National Trust for Scotland.

Unlike Craigievar, we were allowed to take pictures inside the castle. Good thing too, considering how quickly we went through the place…we’re going to need them to remember what we saw!

The lower kitchen.

Another Downton Abbey moment: Crathes Castle was used during both World Wars for a convalescent hospital.

These large windows were installed in the hall after the 11th Baronet returned from California, where he made a butt load of money as a successful rancher and sold off the land where the LAX airport now sits.

Also in the great hall is this feature wall with the fireplace and the armour displayed in the painted domed ceiling alcove. In other rooms in upper floors the ceilings are painted with characters and scenes, and the joists have various quotes.

Like I said, we went through this castle very quickly…

The Long Gallery is gorgeous! It runs the full length of the top floor of the castle, and was originally used for exercise in bad weather (really? Huh). In later years until comparatively recently it was used as a library, and it still holds many classic, old, and down right ancient books. We weren’t allowed to handle the books, but boy did I want to!

I have to admit that the needlework that would have gone into creating this pillowcase (I think it’s a pillowcase…) is really impressive.

And, well, the weapons room…

And that was all we had time to see and learn. Good thing we picked up the information booklet.

Of course, when we wandered the grounds briefly what did our wandering eyes see? More sequoia…

And a tree with a prickly fruit (?) that we had noticed at Scone Palace as well, which we discovered from the placard here is a Horse Chestnut and is actually indigenous to Northern Europe…so it actually belongs here.

That picture was taken at Scone Palace, not Crathes Castle.

A little surfing when we got back to our room confirmed that the Giant Sequoias are indigenous specifically to the west coast of North America, and were brought to Scotland in the 1850s, where they did very well in Scotland’s climate.

A little more surfing confirmed that the Monkey Puzzles are indigenous to Brazil and were brought to Scotland around the same time that the sequoias were.

So, how’s that for a day full of new information?

Adelle and Dan