Day 10 – Market Rasen to East Kennett (near Avebury) – August 20, 2013
See I told you it would be a long day, although it wasn’t as long as we expected it to be.
In the back of my mind, I thought we would do Stonehenge AND the Avebury stones the following day but we arrived early enough that we had time for at least the former and this was before we even found the B&B where we’d be spending the night!
The next two photos are of The Heel Stone. Don’t you think it looks like a face? A creepy face, but a face nonetheless.
After we left Stonehenge, we came up on a tailback for something. There was a road off to the right and I took it not having any idea where we would end up. Obviously, the others either thought I knew where I was going or they did because they followed me.
This detour from our planned route paid huge dividends because we came across this…
Next on our quest for the day was to find the Old Forge B&B. The first time we drove by, we missed it but once we turned around and came from the other direction, it stood out – especially the green B&B sign in the grass verge across the road from the house.
Like when we stayed at Fernbank House at Dufftown, we had a private bathroom. Not quite so close to our room but our own.
We walked to The Bell only to find it didn’t open until 6:00. This was about 4:30 so we walked back to the B&B by way of the back roads (much safer). One of the fields along the road was home to rabbits. We counted less than ten but think there were more.
After a short rest and WC stop, we wandered back towards the pub. This time we took advantage of a footpath that took a good chunk off the walk if you stuck to the road.
The pub still wasn’t open when we got back but it was close enough to 6:00 and we were parched enough that we waited. Whilst we ‘loitered’ about the car park, a family arrived so we waited together, although when the doors finally opened, they went to the restaurant while we were content to sit in the bar.
The menu we had seen at the B&B was the lunch menu so we couldn’t get any of the dishes listed on it. So, we had fish and chips and mushy peas. I had mushy peas. They were served in a small sealer jar. I ate mine and hubby’s as they didn’t do a thing for him.
After all the walking we’d done during the day but especially before and after supper, we were tired so had an early night.
Let’s play SEEKING SARAH SHAND!
If you think you know where the pictures were taken, leave a comment with your answers or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org You could win a 2014 A Shadow in the Past calendar!
Tomorrow is going to be another long day as we’re back north to Harrogate with a stop in Tewkesbury to meet another online author friend, Linn B Halton. Woo hoo!
Today’s the day I meet Nicky Wells. Squee!!! We’ve planned this for ages and I found a location near Whitby where we could meet for lunch that was convenient for everyone. But that’s getting ahead of myself. After all, we’ve got to get from Scotland into England.
Before breakfast this morning, we went out for a short walk. First to the Bank of Scotland in the square then dropped in to the newsagent’s on the way back for copy of today’s The Scotsman.
We sat in the lounge at Duncan House while we waited for breakfast to finish cooking. While we were there, the owner came in from his walk, although we didn’t meet him straight away, we did meet his black lab who charged into the lounge and practically turned himself inside out getting someone to pay attention to him. At one point, he did a backwards somersault.
Jeff, the owner, greeted us at the breakfast table where we were served yet another hearty start to the day. He felt bad about leaving the note on the door for me the day before but to us, that was part of the charm.
When we were finally ready to check out, not only did I get a handshake from our host, but also a wee kiss on the cheek.
At the Scotland/England border we stopped so I could take photos. There’s a huge lay-by with parking for cars and buses (and whilst we were there a bus filled with tourists pulled in).
Beyond here, you’re in England. On the small table that was set up beside the boulder marking the border, were CDs you could buy for £5.00 and a tray with a paperweight where you could put your money.
I crossed into England and got this photo of Scotland. The red car in the background was well and truly in Scottish lands as was ours although with it being closer, it got cropped out of the picture. Was it difficult leaving Scotland? Sort of, but I had a number of adventures ahead of me and I knew that I would be returning to Scotland before we came home.
While we were at the border, the piper arrived and soon he was playing. I bought one of his CDs and when I asked hubby to take a picture of me with the Scottish border sign, the piper turned so that he was facing the camera along with me. It was windy here as you can tell from my hair. I wonder if that’s why my Robertsons all had such wild curly hair?
After spending some time (too much) here, we had to get on the road. The plan was to meet Nicky and her family around 12:00 ish. Well that wasn’t going to happen and I texted or had hubby text and advise we were running late. I think it was about 1:15 when we finally blew in at The Cross Butts Stable Restaurant.
I really had no idea exactly how close to Whitby the restaurant was but as we crested the last hill before there, Whitby Abbey came in to view. We’d visited the abbey when we stayed in Whitby back in 2005 but this view of it was totally different than what we had seen on our previous trip.
I had brought two wee (not sure of the scale) die cast models for Nicky’s sons since they love “all things lorry” and the TV program Ice Road Truckers. They went down a real treat with the boys.
Really hoping that our hubbies had the chance to at least talk to each other because Nicky and I were so involved in talking writing, publishers and the like that we rather neglected them. I really like the phrase Nicky used over on her blog – “we talked nineteen to the dozen”.
It was so much fun finally meeting the entire family that it was sad when it came time to say our goodbyes and go our separate ways.
The initial part of the trip over the North Yorkshire Moors to Market Rasen was so familiar – partly because we had travelled these roads in 2005 and partly from watching the TV programs Heartbeat and The Royal.
When we reached Beechwood Guesthouse and checked in, we had the same room as when we stayed there in 2005. Other than Earlsfield Farm at Kennethmont, this was the first of two repeat accommodations from previous trips.
After getting settled in our room in Market Rasen, I gave my cousin who lives in Dragonby a call so we could go meet him. He gave me his post code so we could program it in to “Sat Nav Sally” and off we went. I knew this cousin existed but had only discovered where he was living in the last 3-4 years and made the initial contact. Since then, it’s been via email and/or Facebook that we’ve gotten to know each other.
One of the cool things that the hamlet of Dragonby has going for it is the Dragonby Dragon – a rock formation that resembles, you guessed it – a dragon.
After visiting the dragon, which is almost in my cousin’s back yard, we went back to the house for a cuppa and a chinwag. The photo albums came out and I was able to identify some of the people in the pictures that were taken on this side of the pond.
Since we had a long day ahead of us, said our goodbyes and hubby and I returned to the Guesthouse in Market Rasen.
Let’s play SEEKING SARAH SHAND!
As I said earlier, tomorrow is going to be a long day. We’re headed south to Avebury.
Day 7 – Launch Day at the Rannes Hall in Kennethmont! – August 17, 2013
The big day was finally here! Was I nervous? A wee bit. Mostly because I still had no idea how many people were coming.
Besides my book launch today at the Rannes Hall, I appeared virtually on two blogs – one is my author friend, Nicky Wells’ Romance That Rocks Your World blog and I did an interview with Peggy Stanton over at Famous Five Plus so I hope you’ll pop over to these wonderful sites.
Compared to other days (especially our ‘free’ day), we did nothing. We both think we went in to Huntly that morning but for what, we can’t remember. We’d been there the night before. Still, we did something/went somewhere nearby in the morning and for the life of us, we have no recall whatsoever.
Fast forward to the afternoon… we loaded the car with books, book swag, door prizes and my silver sharpie pen for signing and made the short journey down the road. We could have easily walked, but trundling a suitcase behind us and me in my ‘ruby’ slippers, it wouldn’t have been a very comfortable walk.
I’m not sure when this sign popped up. I don’t remember seeing it the day before when we walked to the Old Kirkyard and we walked right past here – trash day, wheelie bin in front of the hall. I guess it ‘grew’ overnight.
Here it is – the venue for my book launch. Isn’t it a grand looking building? It’s home to many a Robbie Burns night and other functions.
When we pulled in to the car park, I was gobsmacked to see my friend, Bill Dunbar, still sitting in the vehicle beside us while his wife chatted by the side entrance with David, my Rannes Hall connection (and owner of Earlsfield Farm). He and Helen made the drive up from Quarriers Village for my launch. I got a huge hug from him as did Don (who insisted on it, since they’d come so far).
So, let’s go inside and see what it looks like in there. I have an advantage having been to a dance here in 2000 and seeing photos from Burns Night celebrations online.
My table was set up in front of the stage with alternating Canadian and Scottish flags affixed to it and three rows of seats were arranged in a semi-circle.
With the hall empty, it seemed even bigger than it really was. It was between 1:30 and 2:00 pm and so far it was only Bill and Helen, David, and Don and me. Nail biting time.
Soon, it went from hardly anyone to almost every seat filled. The original plan of doing my reading, followed by a Q&A session, then signing and selling kind of went out the window as people wanted to purchase their copy right away, or if they already had one, get it signed. Who was I to argue? It worked.
I had three draws for the following door prizes.
David wanted one of these so it was sheer serendipity when it was his wife’s ticket number that was drawn.
If our murky memories are correct, Helen Dunbar won the tote bag.
And the calendar was headed off to Dubai with a teenaged cousin of mine. And speaking of cousins…
Ian’s and Norman’s fathers were two of my Dad’s brothers who remained in Scotland. And it was Norman’s great-granddaughter who won the calendar.
By the time the afternoon’s event was over I sold… drum roll, please…
copies of A Shadow in the Past! Yippee!!!
People mingled afterwards over tea/coffee and shortbread before gradually saying their goodbyes and heading homeward. Once everyone was out of the hall, we did the same and went back to Earlsfield Farm to change and relax before going out to supper at The Hunters Moon in Auchleven.
In the end there were ten of us who went to supper. The food was amazing!
After our meal, we went over to Rhynie for the dance at the gala. There was a dance the night before for the younger crowd but they were all back in full force. I got bowled over trying to get in when security couldn’t wrestle a drunk out. Not the most auspicious start to the rest of the evening.
It was well after 1:00 the next morning when we finally got back to Earlsfield farm and we would be back on the road that morning heading south to Kelso.
No SEEKING SARAH SHAND today… we all know where she was. It will resume on Day 8.
It wasn’t actually a “free” day but more a “what shall we do today?”. Better still – an “open” day. Earlier in the week, we had taken advantage of the gorgeous weather and visited the churchyards in Gartly and Insch that we wanted to visit.
We decided that after breakfast, we would walk down to the village and the Old Kirkyard where my grandparents were buried.
Before we reached the junction of the road our B&B was on and the B9002, this sign begged for a picture. I’d seen it when I drove past it but never had the opportunity to get a good look, until this morning.
In order to get to the footpath to the Old Kirkyard, we had to walk past the Rannes Hall where I would be launching my book the next day. I did take a couple of photos but as it was trash day, there was a huge wheelie bin out front. I decided then, I would try the next day or Sunday (depending on the weather) to get another photo.
Look who is in the Rannes Hall’s outside announcements board. You’ll likely have to click on the picture to get the full-sized image to be able to see, but my event is in there.
We continued on up the road to the footpath. It starts out as a lane up to a couple of houses, then becomes the footpath to the Old Kirkyard and on to Leith Hall.
From what I’ve read, this used to be the Old Kirk at Kennethmont. The door was padlocked shut but I was able to peek in the windows.
We continued making the most of our day and carried on along the footpath.
Despite being near the railway line close to train time, I missed being able to stand on the bridge and photograph the train as it approached. And there were two trains! One to Aberdeen and one to Inverness and I missed both of them.
As we still had other things we wanted/needed to do, we didn’t walk any further but turned and made our way back along the footpath, this time taking a different route and coming out at the B9002 at the opposite end of Kennethmont.
One of the things we needed to do was laundry, and even though the wash machine at Earlsfield was offered, with it being so close to when we’d be leaving, I needed a tumble dryer to ensure everything washed was dry by the time we packed up to leave. My luck, had I hung them on the line, it would have poured rain and there I’d be with a load of soggy clothes.
Laundry in the car, we drove up into Huntly to the launderette which had since moved from its location known to us (Bogie Street) right onto the main street going into the town (Gordon Street). This location was far more convenient. After our laundry was washed, dried and folded, we walked up to the square and the Brander Library. They were the only one I sent a book launch poster to that acknowledged receiving it. I asked if they would like to purchase a copy of my book for their branch and was told that all acquisitions had to go through the branch in Old Meldrum. She did take some of my postcards and bookmarks. I thanked her for her time and we went back to the car.
The rain that had fallen earlier had stopped. No bright sunshine yet but at least no rain. Since I had wanted to see Auchindoun Castle for years and it wasn’t too far from Huntly, that was the direction I pointed the car in.
When we arrived at the small car park (essentially just a wee lay-by) along the A941, it was spitting rain again. We grabbed our outerwear and started up the footpath which is actually a road up to two farms. If you look closely at the picture, you can see the steel beams running across the road at regular intervals to keep it from washing out in heavy rains. The photo doesn’t really show how steep the incline was but trust me, it was.
I think the fact there were some ominous, black cloud looming when we got to a vantage point where we could see the castle added to the atmosphere of the place.
Now that we finally reached the last of our journey up the hill, we still had some climbing to do. We didn’t realize it until we were leaving but if you walked along the fence line, there was a far less steep approach to the castle. Oh well, this was all part of the experience.
By now we had seen and done everything we wanted to at the castle, so we picked our way back down the hill to the road and our car. Our next stop was the Walker Shortbread Company where we picked up some shorties to bring home and some to have whilst we were away.
After getting stocked up, we headed to the Aberlour Distillery. Hubby had enjoyed the sampling the night before so we thought we would take their tour. It was a bit disappointing to find out they only do two tours a day and they had just filled the final two places for the 2:00 pm tour fifteen minutes before we arrived. Still, we were told we could walk about the property and take pictures… so I did.
The cemetery at Rhynie was one of the stops we wanted to make today since we hadn’t got there yet. We could have taken the main roads into Huntly and down the A97 to get there but what fun is there in that? Instead, we went down the A941, waving as we went past Auchindoun Castle.
I had an ulterior motive for taking this route even though the road in the middle section isn’t the widest or affords the best places to pull over when meeting traffic. The small Essie Cemetery is on this road and Essie is mentioned as places my ancestors came from. So I had to investigate, now didn’t I?
All along the road the heather was blooming on the hills and until this point never in a location where a body could pull over. Then, the opportunity presented itself and I didn’t let it pass.
When we arrived at the small Essie cemetery, we tromped around but found no one related. Or if they were, I’ve not come across their names in my genealogy – yet.
After our short prowl here, we carried on to the village of Rhynie and the cemetery (where I do have relatives).
This is my great-grandparents’ (on my dad’s mother’s side) grave and one of their children, although we’ve never been able to find a birth or death registration for him. Things that make you go hmm…
Probably the most interesting thing here at Rhynie is the Gordon vault built into the back wall.
Oh yeah, and a lean-to at the far end of the car park where three Pictish, sculptured stones are on display protected from the elements.
From here we went on a bit of a cross-country adventure where we drove past the restaurant in Auchleven (The Hunters Moon) where we would be having supper the next night and before we knew it, we were in Alford. Unfortunately, we were too late to tour the Grampian Transport Museum properly as they were closing in fifteen minutes at 5:00 pm, we did get to see a Dalek in the Tourist Information and museum gift shop.
Right after I took this photo, it came towards me shouting in its Dalek voice, “Exterminate!”. Not every nice…
For a day that was free, we managed to do a great deal – and we weren’t done yet! We went back to Huntly, this time by way of the two main roads – the A944 and the A97 where we stopped in at the Tesco for an Indian takeaway, bottle of wine, another poncho and a long-sleeved sweater for me. When the sun was out, it was lovely and warm but when it wasn’t it got cool and long sleeves were nice, especially in the evenings.
After eating our supper, we decided to take advantage of the fact that the sun came out and we walked up to the stone circle on the farm. Our hosts gave us each a pair of wellies and off we went up the road to the top of the hill and through the five-bar gate at the top.
The cows were at hoot on our way up. When we got what they thought was too close they ran off, but it wasn’t long before they were hanging around and following us – the nosy parkers.
They scattered shortly after this picture was taken.
See what I mean about being nosy? Had to see exactly what we were doing up there.
See, it really is visible from the stone circle if you know where to look.
We started back towards the gate and the cows closed ranks between us and it. As we moved closer they parted – slowly – and allowed us passage. Even the bull didn’t move any faster than need be and we didn’t see him at all on the way to the stone circle. I think before he got bored with us, I was only about four feet from him. When he sauntered off, the rest of the herd took their cue from him and off they went.
The gate might not have been chained quite the same way, but I made sure it was secure and we started down the road, this time to be greeted by the “ladies” in the field across the road from the stone circle.
Now it’s time to play SEEKING SARAH SHAND!
Tomorrow is a big day for me, not because we’re travelling but because it’s launch day for A Shadow in the Past at the Rannes Hall! Wish me luck!
Since it was only a half an hour drive we decided we would do some other things before making the short trip. So, we started by going in the opposite direction and visited the Cardhu Distillery.
Here we sampled two of their own single malts (again, I could only take the very smallest of sips since I was the driver) – an 18 year old and a 12 year old, and one from a sister distillery back in Dufftown – Singleton. Like The Glenlivet, not all of Cardhu’s whisky is stored on site. They have it at other locations throughout the country and store the amber nectar for others at their location. That way, heaven forbid, if there is ever a fire, a distillery’s stock isn’t completely wiped out.
Next we were off to the location of the former Ladysbridge Asylum. I found this place on a Victorian Ordnance Survey map when I was writing my novel and decided to use it. If I recall correctly, on the map it was labelled Lunatic Asylum. They certainly didn’t mince their words back then.
The main building has been converted to flats/apartments and on the opposite side of the street, a housing estate/subdivision is in various stages of development.
This is one of the original buildings that hasn’t been restored. There was another one between here and the main building in this same state of disrepair but the trees were too thick to be able to get a good photo of it. On our way to Ladysbridge, hubby spotted a castle in the middle of a field so rather than go straight back to the main road, we took one of the minor roads and weren’t disappointed. This got us as close as possible to the castle without venturing on to private property.
I still haven’t found the name of this castle but I’ve not given up. It will be on one of the maps or in one of the books that I have here.
I’ve visited the Gartly churchyard more than once in the past, figuring I had ancestors buried here as I had seen Gartly in various documents but on those previous visits, I wasn’t far enough back in my family tree to be able to find the stone(s). This time, I did know.
Unfortunately, the stone is very difficult to read but it is definitely my great-great grandparents through my dad’s mother. Since we still had plenty of time before we had to be at Earlsfield Farm, we decided we would check out yet another churchyard where I knew I had family (this time Robertsons) so back into the car and down to the Royal Borough of Insch – or just Insch for short. Hubby and I prowled through a cemetery in Insch (in the pouring rain, even) on a previous visit only to discover later on that there was a churchyard at the other end of the village – a much older one.
Many of the old stones here were impossible to read – the stonework had flaked off the face of the stone entirely or the stones had toppled (or been toppled) and were lying face down. I was afraid that my Robertson stone would be in that state but luckily, even though it was lying on the ground, it was face up and in good condition.
By now it was getting late enough, not to mention the need for a WC (shall we say was getting rather urgent) that we could make our way back to Earlsfield farm. Hugs and kisses from our hosts and good friends and we got the car unloaded and had a wee catch-up with them. Being a working farm, there was still work to do and it would be 6:00 or shortly after before we could have a proper sit down with them. Since we still had some time, I wanted to go and take some more pictures while the weather remained on our side. I fell in love with this old heap the very first time I clapped eyes on it when the trees were growing through the confines of the walls and knew that it would play a huge role in my life.
We parked outside the works entrance to the site and walked back along the road until we came to a vantage point where we could see the mansion without trees obstructing the view. The plan is to convert it into flats (seven luxury ones, if I recall correctly). After being derelict for so long, it will be wonderful to see it intact once again. Once I got my photos, we went back to the car and found our way to the car park at the bottom of Dunnideer.
The first part of the trek up the hill was hard enough but after we got about halfway up, it got harder. The incline became steeper and it was riddled with rabbit holes.
The climb was worth every moment, despite me having to stop periodically to catch my breath. I took advantage of those breaks for photo ops and we tried to see if we could spot the steeple of the remains of St Drostan’s Kirk. Too many trees to be sure but we thought we saw it, or it was only a chimney tile.
The views from the top of the hill were breathtaking. Don’t you agree? It seemed everywhere we were to this point was quite windy, and on top of Dunnideer it was extremely so. It was hard to hold the camera steady.
Even within the confines of the remaining walls, way still taller than me (not that it’s difficult) the wind gusted. We stayed and admired the view for a bit longer before making our way back to Earlsfield Farm where we ordered Chinese from the takeaway in Kennethmont. Each time we’ve stayed here at Earlsfield, we’ve had this room – even on my first solo trip back in 1993! The only difference back then was there was no ensuite.
We spent a truly enjoyable evening with the family in their dining/living room catching up on one another’s news. Even though it was only a short drive from Dufftown to Kennethmont, we made a full day out of it. After all, the only other free day we would have whilst staying in the area would be the Friday and there was no guarantee the weather would cooperate.
So… let’s play SEEKING SARAH SHAND!!!
Tomorrow will be another busy day as we’re off into Aberdeen where I’ll be presenting a copy of my book to the library, doing a reading, and hopefully selling loads of books.
We woke this morning to sunshine and blue sky – a wonderful start to the day. However, the low hanging clouds loomed nearby shrouding the tops of the mountains. After the first day, we knew all too well what that meant. However, we didn’t come to Scotland for the weather.
As we got further inland, the skies cleared even more and it became a gorgeous day for travelling. Not too hot, not too cool. Just right. We stopped just past the town of Laggan at the dam since the sun was out so bright at the time.
Something else I had wanted to see for some time after seeing it online was the old bridge at Carrbridge. Since we had plenty of time, we made the side trip into the community in search of the bridge but even more importantly, the much-needed WC, which was easier to find than the bridge – thankfully.
For us, no trip to Scotland would be complete without a visit to an old churchyard and some sculptured stones. We got both at the Inveravon churchyard. The sculptured stones were secured away from the elements inside an alcove in the church.
Once we arrived in Dufftown, we stopped at Balvenie Castle even though we had visited there in the past. We rejoined Historic Scotland (after letting our memberships lapse a few years ago) before we came over so it was time to start using it to our advantage.
After we established the location of our B&B – Fernbank House – we decided to take a distillery tour since we had plenty of time before we had to check in. We waffled at bit on which one we’d go to, Cardhu or Glenlivet and for today, the latter won.
At the end of the tour we got to sample the product. We’ve both had the 12 year old Glenlivet so I chose the 15 year old and Don the 18 year old. I could only have the smallest of portions since I’m the driver when we’re in Scotland so I had not even a full mouthful of mine and an even smaller taste of Don’s but man was it smooth. We enjoyed it so much we bought a bottle. Will it make it home with us? Not likely, but that’s another story. After our distillery tour, we checked in at Fernbank House.
The upstairs window on the left is our room and the smaller one in the middle is our ‘private’ bathroom.
Once we were checked in, we walked back into Dufftown (about a 20 minute jaunt) where we had chicken curry and sticky toffee pudding for dessert at The Stuart Arms Bar & Restaurant. Good thing we were on foot. We needed to walk off all those calories… LOL!
Let’s play SEEKING SARAH SHAND!
Tomorrow we’re off to Kennethmont but are hoping to do a few other things before our arrival there since it’s so close. The Cardhu Distillery is one our stops, possibly up to the location of the asylum in A Shadow in the Past, Auchindoin Castle, the Gartly and Insch churchyards. But that’s another day.
We woke to bright sunshine this morning in contrast to the mostly grey, dreich weather after our arrival. Before leaving Oban, since the weather wasn’t suitable yesterday, we decided to make the trek up the ‘hill’ to McCaig’s Tower.
It’s a good thing the views from up there are spectacular, because the drive up to the tower were far from it. Narrow streets, stone walls, parked cars. I might be 50 shades greyer after the drive.
I offered to take a photo for a young couple since he was taking pictures of her. It’s not often on holiday you get photos of you together. They were very appreciative of the gesture. Afterwards, the guy thought he would try to walk along the narrow ledge on the wall to the next opening. He succeeded but not without a helping hand.
We went our separate ways for a bit. We went out onto the observation platform outside the tower for some photos. It was considerably cooler out there without the stone walls to protect you from the wind.
Shortly after coming back within the ‘warmth’ of the tower, we met the couple from earlier. This time they returned the favour and he took a picture of Don and me together.
Before we left, I took one last photo from within the confines of McCaig’s Tower.
Next it was off to Fort William as we had a date with the Jacobite Steam train that we didn’t want to miss.
I’m not sure why yesterday I was convinced our rental car was a Skoda. Perhaps only functioning on a couple of hours’ sleep on the plane? Once I got a good night’s sleep in, I clearly realized that the car was, in fact, a Vauxhall. Still a six speed manual and the driving today went even better than yesterday. Again, maybe because I was better rested?
There was no parking available at the train station so we came back to the B&B we had booked for tonight to see if we could leave our car there since we were checking in tonight. Well, they bent over backwards to accommodate us – brought us to the house adjacent to the main building where we’d be staying and we were checked in straight away.
A couple from couple from the continent sat in the seats opposite us on the train. We were all quiet until he got a phone call and then pronounced loudly “they’re idiots!”. Well that cracked us up and from that moment on, we visited with them.
As the train approached the Glenfinnan Viaduct aka Harry Potter’s Bridge, it slowed allowing us to get some wonderful photographs.
We stopped at the Glenfinnan Station a short ride up the tracks for about twenty minutes where we could get off the train, stretch our legs and take photographs. Then it was back on the train to continue our journey to Mallaig.
It was really hard to tell if this church was still used or not because of its remoteness to anything and the plainness of the structure. What’s your call judging by the photo below?
The heather grew in clumps along the rail line but in places way too close (I thought) to be able to get a decent photograph. But I was wrong. Still, the mountains weren’t as purple with it as I had hoped. Maybe we have to get a bit further north?
The end of the line at Mallaig, and I mean the end. After the train stopped everyone rushed to the street to get a photo of it. Me included. I waited a few moments and as soon as a free spot appeared next to the stone wall, I squeezed in and got this picture.
We decided on our way to Mallaig that depending on the size of the bottle of champagne on offer (for a fee, naturally) we would get a bottle for the ride home.
After a poke around Mallaig, we stopped at the fish and chip takeaway, got an order of fish and chips each, then sat on a bench on the platform and ate them. After all, we didn’t want to get pished (as they say here) and fall off the train when we got back to Fort William.
On our return journey, our seats were on the opposite side of the train and our carriage was closer to the back due to the way they turned it around. We got different views this time, but our friends from the continent were our seat mates again.
Once the train got rolling, the bottle of champagne and two glasses were brought to our table. Don asked for two more and after they were brought to us, he opened the bottle. It had been shaken enough with the jostling of the train, being picked up and sat down that when it was opened, it sprayed all over everything and everyone – including people across the aisle!
On the way to Mallaig, we saw a herd of about ten deer on the mountain. We were hoping we’d see some on our way back and we weren’t disappointed although there weren’t as many this time round.
After sharing our bottle of champagne (what didn’t get sprayed away) – and yes, it burns your eyes – our companions bought us each a beer and we continued our journey in convivial company.
Just outside Fort William, we crossed over the Caledonian Canal and the locks known as Neptune’s Staircase.
As we were getting ready to detrain, a young couple across the aisle asked us which part of Ontario we were from (as they had overheard our conversation) and come to find out they were from Ottawa – basically in our own backyard.
We said goodbye to our companions and made our way back to our B&B.
Let’s play SEEKING SARAH SHAND!
At 11:00 pm last night I still hadn’t got all the pictures I wanted for this post downloaded. I was a bit bleary-eyed from being up so late so decided to finish up this morning.
After our breakfast, our next destination is Dufftown. will post more tonight.
My plan is to blog every day (dependent on Internet connectivity) but the majority of the places we’re staying all boast having wi-fi on their websites. So we’ll see how well it goes.
For fun, I’ve come up with a game to play throughout our travels. It’s called “Seeking Sarah Shand”. The idea is, I’ll post a photo of my book at various locations – sort of like “Where’s Waldo” but different. You try to guess where the photo was taken and either email your answer to me (for those of you who aren’t comfortable leaving comments on blogs) or leave it in a comment. There will be clues in the written part of the blog post since I couldn’t be that mean… or could I?
This is the route we plan on taking to get from Glasgow to Oban where we’re spending the night at High Cliff Guest House.
Despite not leaving Toronto on time, our flight got in to Glasgow Airport fifteen minutes early, which was quickly eaten up waiting to get off the plane and then at the car rental desk. Our booking couldn’t be found so they gave us an even better car – a silver Skoda Astra diesel with a six speed manual transmission. It took me a bit to get used to shifting but the driving bit on the wrong side of the car and road came back straight away. Hubby isn’t comfortable driving here so he navigates and lets me drive.
We didn’t go the route we originally intended and in a way, I’m glad we didn’t. The A82 was narrow and bendy enough in stretches and it was always at the most inopportune moments that we met traffic on a bend crowding into our lane.
The intended route was longer and the A816 was much narrower (according to google street views) so despite running into some heavy rain showers (the heaviest rain always seemed to hit when we were in a bendy, narrow stretch of road just to add to the fun).
On arrival at High Cliff, we couldn’t check in right away but were able to leave the car there, so we walked down to the town to get a late lunch/early supper so we could have an early night. Being up since early the morning Saturday, we needed lots of sleep tonight.
It rained on our way into the town center so we didn’t walk up to McCaig’s Tower. We would have gotten drenched had we attempted it. Maybe the weather tomorrow will be more conducive to an up close and personal trip (by car on our way to our next stop.
In the end, we went for a fish tea at The Caledonian Hotel (the large beige coloured building with the tower).
While we ate our fish, chips and salad, the rains teemed down. We were glad we were inside where it was dry. There was more than one poor soul walk by looking like a drowned rat.
We waited until it let up and made our way back to the B&B. Rather than lug two heavy suitcases upstairs, we only took out what we needed and put those things in two cloth shopping bags I had packed.
These next pictures are of our room…
And now it’s time to play SEEKING SARAH SHAND!
So leave me a comment with your guesses where Sarah turned up for these photos, and if you’re not comfortable doing that, drop me an email (email@example.com).
Yup, we’re leaving on a jet plane but our bags aren’t packed and we’re not ready to go. I’ve not even started packing yet. I know what I’m taking so that’s all that matters. The last of the laundry is in the wash machine and after it comes out of the dryer, the packing game will commence.
Most important of all, the house and dog sitting are all arranged and have been for sometime. The boys will be staying with ‘the boy’ so everyone and everything will be secure.
The car is fuelled up and ready to go when we are. The only downer so far has been someone broke the driver’s side wing mirror on my car. But get this, whoever did it whilst it was parked on the street minding its own business (just like hubby’s car was doing back in April when someone hit it) cleaned up the broken glass. It was an expense we didn’t need in the week before our departure but what can you do, you can’t drive without it.
One necessary item when travelling to Scotland is an umbrella and looking at the weather forecast for the first week of our journey, we’re going to need them. The forecast shows rain every day. If it holds true, we might not be popular with the locals, although the farmers would probably thank us for. Still, I don’t mind the cooler temperatures. July there was as hot and humid as here and when you’re wanting to go hill walking and be outdoors, you don’t want it to be like that. We have our brolleys and will be carry them with us all of the time. Maybe, they’ll help keep the rain at bay.
When you travel abroad, how far in advance do you pack? Or are you like me, a last minute packer?
I’m thrilled to be part of Sheryl Browne’s cover reveal/blog tour for her latest novel A Little Bit of Madness. So without further ado, take it away Sheryl.
Thank you so much for inviting me along today and helping me launch A Little Bit of Madness, my fourth book published by Safkhet Publishing!
Rather than waffle on – as I tend to, with Melanie’s kind permission, I’ve included a blurb and brief excerpt below. I do hope you enjoy!
A Little Bit of Madness
No rest for the wicked
Saving Charlton hall will burrow into your heart.
Celia Summers, intrepid mother of two, is too cuddly for sweatpants, she suspects. But then, her class at The Harbour Rest Home are similarly clad. Celia loves her work as an art therapist. She’s proud that she gives her elderly independents something to look forward to, even if her partner, Martin, disapproves of her efforts. He also has other things on his mind – telling complicated lies to Celia so he can sell Charlton Hall, his mum’s house, to pay off his debts.
Meanwhile, Celia fights to secure gallery space for her geriatric charges’ artwork, and to keep The Harbour from being closed. She’s even ready to abseil from a church steeple to bring attention to the plight of her old people, no matter that she might fall and end up splattered all over the flagstones. When she does fall, however, it’s much more painful – in love with PC Alex Burrows. Will he be her white-knight-in-blue and ride to her rescue?
Alex wasn’t listening. He was off, at a run towards the church. She wasn’t bloody well stuck. He knew it. Her shoulders were hunched. Her eyes would be clamped shut. He didn’t have to see her up close to know that. Her palms would be sweating. He wiped the sweat from one of his own as he took the steps to the roof two at a time. Her mouth would be dry and her heart beating fit to burst.
‘It’s okay, I’m a policeman,’ he said, pushing past an instructor with a stock-of-the-trade reassuring statement. ‘Alex,’ he introduced himself to the lead instructor. ‘What’s happening?’
‘Robert.’ The instructor shook his hand, looking relieved. ‘I’m not sure. She was doing okay. Scared, but doing okay, until that last slide and then—’
‘Air to base,’ said the colonel behind them, holding his mobile walkie-talkie style. ‘Air to base, over. Ah, Alex.’ He caught sight of his son. ‘Bit of situation, hey what? Lorst her bottle, I’m afraid. Happens to the best of us.’ He tsked sympathetically. ‘Now what I suggest is that one of us stays up here and keeps in touch with the ground troops and one of us goes over the edge.’
Alex sighed. ‘Dad. Go down.’
‘Ah, yes, well, I would, of course. Bit of a dodgy heart though, don’t y’—’
‘Dad, for Christ’s sake, this is no time for war games! Go down the bloody steps, will you?! The, er, women are on their own.’ Alex noted his father’s deflated look and softened his tone.
‘Great,’ he muttered, as the colonel nodded sadly and about-faced. As if bellowing at an old man was going to help the situation. Dammit, he’d have to apologise—later. Right now, as Celia might well be in considerable danger, he needed to do his job.
And, this time, he needed to do it right.
Quelling a sudden queasiness, Alex pulled in a breath and walked to the edge.
‘She won’t budge.’ Robert nodded towards where Celia dangled, looking neither up, nor down, and hearing nothing it seemed, including the other instructor who’d lowered himself and was reaching towards her. ‘She could have her rope caught. It does happen, but personally I think she’s—’
Petrified, thought Alex grimly, as Celia’s terrified tones reached his ears, causing the other instructor to draw back. ‘No-o-o!’ she screamed. ‘Don’t! I can’t!’
The instructor looked up, shaking his head as Celia clung tight to her rope, determined to stay where she was. Unable to do anything but, Alex knew. She was frozen. Literally unable to move, bar an involuntary shaking of limbs. The same debilitating shaking he’d once experienced.
A frightening compulsion to jump. Far from forcing you back from the edge, vertigo forced you forward, the void below sucking the will to resist from you—and you into oblivion.
And if you tried to tackle it, tried to cross that slatted bridge, climb that ladder, abseil … Total shut down. Sheer immobilising terror.
That’s where Celia was. And Alex had been there.
He swallowed hard, and sucked in another deep breath. ‘Let me try,’ he said. ‘I’m trained, don’t worry. Tactical Police Training Centre: Abseil tower, climbing course … I know what I’m doing,’ he didn’t lie, but left out the cognitive therapy course he’d also taken to overcome a fear that had cost him dearer than anything else ever had in his life.
‘She’s a friend,’ he said, as Robert hesitated. ‘She might listen to me.’
Robert debated a second longer, then signalled the other instructor to clear the way. He helped Alex into his abseiling gear, finally fastening the karabiner to the rope, which would stop him plunging to the ground.
Alex swallowed again. It would work, he reassured himself.
The figure of eight piece of metal, which acted as a brake, might not look very impressive, but it worked.
He’d done that damn abseil tower over and over. Until he could do it with his eyes closed … and without the crippling fear in the pit of his stomach.
‘Kick off against the wall once you’re over.’ Robert instructed. ‘Then you’ll need to kick off two, maybe three times before you’re level.’
‘Got it.’ Alex gave him a tight smile, then nodded to indicate he was ready. Right, okay, he could do this. And he would damn well get it right. This time there would be no indecision. No hesitation. Not this time.
Alex gritted his teeth and kicked off.
Christ, where did that come from?
Alex breathed deeply and tried to still a nauseating flashback.
He closed his eyes and breathed out. Concentrate. He told himself.
It’s too late! Something screamed in his head.
He panted out another breath. It’s not too late.
No fucking voices. Not this time.
You can’t reach her.
Alex wiped his forehead against his arm. He tried hard not to look down.
Don’t. He willed himself.
You can do this. You have to. For Christ’s sake … just do it!
He willed himself on. Willed the fear he’d tried so hard to forget from clutching at his chest. The same paralysing fear had gripped him when his wife needed him most. The fear that turned to out-and-out dread as he’d attempted to talk her down, his heart pounding so loud he could hear it.
Or was that his heart beating now?
Useless, said the voice in his head.
Christ, he was so fucking useless.
There was no point talking to anyone, raking things over, looking for reasons. Not to Celia. Not to anyone. That one single word summed him up.
All he’d had to do was hold on, take one more step toward Nicole—hold all of her. One step and he’d faltered. Jesus. He dropped his gaze, and the ground beckoned and swayed below him.
‘Shit!’ he said out loud, sucking air deep into his lungs as his foot slipped, sending him slamming into the wall. Oh, Jesus … He twirled and dangled, closed his eyes and prayed.
‘Alex?’ came a small voice beside him. ‘Alex?’ Celia repeated. ‘Are you all right?’
Alex clung to his rope and tried to focus on the simple act of breathing.
‘You’re not, are you?’
‘Uh-uh.’ He shook his head, indicating he was very much not all right.
About the author…
Sheryl Browne grew up in Birmingham, UK, where she studied Art & Design. A partner in her own business, a mother and a foster parent to disabled dogs, Sheryl has also been writing for many years, the road along the way often bumpy. She was therefore thrilled beyond words when Safkhet Publishing loved her writing style and commissioned her to write her debut novel.
RECIPES FOR DISASTER – combining deliciously different and fun recipes with sexilicious romantic comedy, is garnering some fabulous reviews and was shortlisted for the Innovation in Romantic Fiction Festival of Romance Award. Sheryl has since been offered a further three-book contract under the Safkhet Publishing Soul imprint. SOMEBODY TO LOVE, a romantic comedy centering around a single father’s search for love and his autistic little boy, launched July 1. WARRANT FOR LOVE, Blackmail, lies, adultery, entrapment – three couples in a twisting story that resolves perfectly – released August 1 and A LITTLE BIT OF MADNESS -White Knight in Blue rescues the Harbour Rest Home – releases Valentine’s Day 2013.