Category Archives: Book Tour

Day 8 – Kennethmont to Kelso

Day 8 – Kennethmont to Kelso – August 18, 2013

There were likely faster ways of getting from Kennethmont to Kelso but they wouldn’t have been as much fun. I wanted to go the back way to Banchory then over to Stonehaven and down the coast – well at least as far as Dundee.

It was mid morning by the time we got away from Earlsfield Farm but we expected that and not just because of the late night. We had so much fun when we stayed here it was really hard to say goodbye.

We stopped in at Kildrummy Castle in the heart of Aberdeenshire – another Historic Scotland property – on our way south. It’s well-maintained, has a small, but well-stocked gift shop and WCs! The gentleman working there had a brother who used to live less than 30 miles from where we currently live. Talk about a small world.

Approaching Kildrummy Castle
Approaching Kildrummy Castle
Kildrummy Castle
Kildrummy Castle
Kildrummy Castle
Kildrummy Castle
Kildrummy Castle
Kildrummy Castle

The further we got away from Kennethmont, the more melancholy I felt. There were a couple of times that I could have pulled the car off the road and bawled my eyes out. Thankfully, we had an argument or two with “Sat Nav Sally” over where we were going which temporarily took my mind off things. I knew the route I wanted to take (been there, taken it before so knew where I was going) and she refused to recalculate and get on the same page… or perhaps I should say the same road.

We stopped briefly at Dunnottar Castle just south of Stonehaven on the North Sea, primarily for a photo op and maybe make a point. Long story…

Stonehaven war memorial
Stonehaven war memorial
Dunnottar Castle sign
Dunnottar Castle sign
Dunottar Castle
Dunnottar Castle
Piper at Dunnottar Castle
Piper at Dunnottar Castle

Okay, back to my long story. Some years ago, I started reading a novel set in Scotland (author and title shall remain nameless) and a castle on the North Sea south of Stonehaven was wrongly named Kildrummy Castle. Having been to both castles, I knew it was WRONG! The only castle fitting this locational description was Dunnottar. Try as I might, I couldn’t get past this glaring error. I might have passed up a good author but that was a chance I was willing to take. I mean, if the author didn’t want to use the ‘real’ name, then make up a fictitonal one, don’t just plunk an inland castle on the coast. Rant over now.

At Dundee, we agreed to “Sat Nav Sally’s” route and we continued on without her nagging “turn around when possible”. The rest of the trip to Kelso was quiet (well at least on the sat nav front). I was still sad but not so much as before. Now, I had new territory to get excited about. Yes, we’d been to The Borders before but not Kelso.

When we arrived in Kelso, I couldn’t remember the name of the street the B&B was on, only that it was a one way street. It seemed most of the way in to the town centre was just that. I wanted to stop in the square where the Tourist Information was located but I missed the turning and ended up going up yet another one way street. And guess what! It was the right one. Just at the top of the hill was the sign for Duncan House and their car park. How fortuitous was that?

The Square in Kelso
The Square in Kelso

There was a note on the door addressed to me, telling me where the keys were and how to get to our room so we began the process of unloading the car. On one of our trips to the car, we opened the front door at Duncan House to be greeted by a young couple wondering if we were the owners and was there a room going for the night, We disappointed them but told them to try the phone number on the note in the window. Making sure the front door was securely locked behind us, we got the rest of our loot from the boot of the car.

One of the first things I had to do was plug my laptop in and charge it as the battery was almost flat and I didn’t want to give it a case of “chargus-interruptus” before we left Kennethmont.

Our room at Duncan House
Our room at Duncan House
Our room at Duncan House
Our room at Duncan House
Our room at Duncan House
Our room at Duncan House

Once we were settled, it was time to go exploring but first we stopped off for a bite to eat at The Empress of India, just down the street from our B&B.

Roxburgh Street
Roxburgh Street

After a fantastic meal, an Indian beer (Cobra) and the best onion bhajias I’ve ever had, we headed to the abbey. Unfortunately, the gates were locked but I still got some great photos – likely even better than from within the gated part of the grounds.

Kelso Abbey
Kelso Abbey
Kelso Abbey
Kelso Abbey
Kelso Abbey
Kelso Abbey

Let’s play SEEKING SARAH SHAND!

Seeking Sarah Shand
Seeking Sarah Shand
Seeking Sarah Shand
Seeking Sarah Shand

Tomorrow will be another big day! We’re going ‘south of the border’ with our final destination being Market Rasen, but on our way we’re stopping near Whitby to meet my author friend, Nicky Wells, and her family and my cousin in Lincolnshire that I’ve not met in person before. How exciting!

Day 7 – Launch Day at the Rannes Hall in Kennethmont!

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.

Sign on the grass verge across from the Rannes Hall
Sign on the grass verge across from the Rannes Hall

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.

The Rannes Hall
The Rannes Hall
Rannes Hall corner stone
Rannes Hall corner stone

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.

Inside the Rannes Hall
Inside the Rannes Hall
Inside the Rannes Hall
Inside the Rannes Hall

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.

talking about A Shadow in the Past
talking about A Shadow in the Past
some of the guests
some of the guests

I had three draws for the following door prizes.

mouse pad
A Shadow in the Past mouse pad

David wanted one of these so it was sheer serendipity when it was his wife’s ticket number that was drawn.

tote bag
A Shadow in the Past tote bag

If our murky memories are correct, Helen Dunbar won the tote bag.

a shadow in the past 2014 calendar
A Shadow in the Past 2014 calendar

And the calendar was headed off to Dubai with a teenaged cousin of mine. And speaking of cousins…

3 1st cousins
Ian (back), me and Norman

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.

Me with my cousin Jill
Me with my cousin Jill

By the time the afternoon’s event was over I sold… drum roll, please…

17

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.

Day 6 – A free day?

Day 6 – A free day? (August 16, 2013)

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.

Tap O Noth from Earlsfield Farm
Tap O Noth from Earlsfield Farm
Ruins at Earlsfield Farm
Ruins at Earlsfield Farm

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.

pheasant crossing sign
Pheasant Crossing Sign

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.

Rannes Hall bulletin board
Rannes Hall bulletin board

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.

Scenery from the footpath to the Old Kirkyard
Scenery from the footpath to the Old Kirkyard
Approaching the Old Kirkyard
Approaching the Old Kirkyard
Robertson stone in the Old Kirkyard
Robertson stone in the Old Kirkyard

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.

The Leith-Hay vault in the Old Kirkyard
The Leith-Hay vault in the Old Kirkyard

We continued making the most of our day and carried on along the footpath.

Aberdeen-Inverness railway line from the footpath
Aberdeen-Inverness railway line from 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.

Leith Hall from the footpath
Leith Hall from the footpath

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.

Sign post for Auchindoun Castle
Sign post for Auchindoun Castle

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.

Footpath to Auchindoun Castle
Footpath to Auchindoun Castle

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.

Auchindoun Castle
Auchindoun Castle

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.

Auchindoun Castle
Auchindoun Castle
Auchindoun Castle
Auchindoun Castle
Me at Auchindoun Castle
Me at Auchindoun Castle
Scenery from Auchindoun Castle
Scenery from Auchindoun Castle
Scenery from Auchindoun Castle
Scenery from Auchindoun Castle
Farm at the end of the road to Auchindoun Castle
Farm at the end of the road to Auchindoun Castle
Guard ram
Keeping a watchful eye on the two-legged intruders

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.

Aberlour Distillery
Aberlour Distillery
Aberlour Distillery
Aberlour Distillery

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.

Heather along the A941
Heather along the A941

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.

The Essie cemetery
The Essie cemetery

After our short prowl here, we carried on to the village of Rhynie and the cemetery (where I do have relatives).

The Rhynie cemetery
The Rhynie cemetery

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…

The Macdonald stone in the Rhynie cemetery
The Macdonald stone in the Rhynie cemetery

Probably the most interesting thing here at Rhynie is the Gordon vault built into the back wall.

Gordon vault in the Rhynie Cemetery
Gordon vault in the Rhynie Cemetery

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.

Dalek
Dalek

Right after I took this photo, it came towards me shouting in its Dalek voice, “Exterminate!”. Not every nice…

Dr Who's Tardis

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.

The Welcoming Committee
The Welcoming Committee

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.

One of the ladies
One of the “ladies”
Earlsfield farm from the stone circle
Earlsfield farm from the stone circle
Me at the stone circle
Me at the stone circle
the stone circle with outer rubble pile
The stone circle with outer rubble pile
The stone circle
The stone circle
The stone circle from behind
The stone circle from behind

See, it really is visible from the stone circle if you know where to look.

Wardhouse mansion from the stone circle
Wardhouse mansion from the stone circle

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.

The "ladies" across the road from the stone circle
The “ladies” across the road from the stone circle

Now it’s time to play SEEKING SARAH SHAND!

Seeking Sarah Shand
Seeking Sarah Shand
Seeking Sarah Shand
Seeking Sarah Shand
Seeking Sarah Shand
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!

Day 5 – Day trip to Aberdeen

Day 5 – Day trip to Aberdeen

The idea of driving into Aberdeen didn’t thrill me even though I’ve done it on previous trips but not all the way into the heart of the city. It probably wasn’t so much the idea of driving as it was the idea of finding a place to leave the car relatively close to the library for the entire day without having to run back periodically and pay to stay longer.

Even before we left Canada, we had pretty much decided on driving from Earlsfield Farm to Insch and catching the train there.

The station isn’t manned but there was a self-serve kiosk outside where you could purchase your tickets (in 2000 we bought our tickets on the train) so we did then hung out on the platform while we waited for the Inverness to Aberdeen train to arrive.

Signal Box at Insch Station with Dunnideer in the background
Signal Box at Insch Station with Dunnideer in the background

If you look really closely at the mountain in the background, you can see the tip of the hillfort just poking up.

Platform bridge at Insch Station
Platform bridge at Insch Station

The train arrived a few minutes before its scheduled departure time to allow folks already on the train to get off and those of us waiting time to board and get settled. It appeared that seats were at a premium because the majority in the carriage we were on had reserved tags inserted in the slot in the top of the seat back. We found a couple of empty seats reserved for stations the train had already passed through and took them. Who would book passage on a specific train then not turn up at the station? I know I certainly wouldn’t.

We passed by Aberdeen airport and as we did, a helicopter was landing. Seeing that sparked me to look for Bond’s headquarters (used in another manuscript in progress) as I had Google street-viewed them before. Knowing roughly where they were located and the colour of their building made it easier and I spotted it almost immediately.

The Central Library was a short walk up from the train station so we made our way there. I wanted to soak in some Aberdeen atmosphere and didn’t want to cart books about with us. I had already made arrangements to drop them off on our arrival.

Poster outside the Central Library
Poster outside the Central Library

On our way to the library, we saw this street sign and I just had to take a picture of it. It would have been better with hubby in the picture, too, but this will have to do… for now. Besides with the steps and the railings, I’m not sure how well I could have framed the entire shot with him in it.

Donald's Way
Donald’s Way Close near the Central Library

After relieving ourselves of the bag of books and using the facilities, we went on a short tour of Aberdeen – across Rosemount Viaduct, which changes names to Schoolhill (where it passes over Denburn Road, and latterly Upperkirkgate. Schoolhill and Upperkirkgate were streets I mentioned in previous drafts of my novel. Then it was down Broad Street in front of the magnificent Marischal College building (now home to the Aberdeen City Council). Even on the opposite side of the street, the building was so massive I couldn’t get all of it into the frame at once, not to mention we were on a bit of a time constraint to see the things I wanted to and photograph them and get back to the library on time to go on our lunch date.

Marischal College
Marischal College
By TFDuesing (http://flickr.com/photos/tfduesing/457006873/) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
From Broad Street, we continued on Queen Street past the Grampian Police Headquarters then Shoe Lane where we reached King Street and turned right heading for the top of Union Street and the Castlegate.

The Salvation Army Citadel in the Castlegate
The Salvation Army Citadel in the Castlegate
The mercat cross in Aberdeen
The Mercat Cross in the Castlegate
The Town House from the Castlegate
The Town House from the Castlegate

Aberdeen in the sunshine is a truly, beautiful place. The granite buildings sparkle. After this brief photo session, we quickly returned to the library via Union Street and Union Terrace, alongside the Union Terrace Gardens.

We were a bit late getting back to the library, but not everyone who was going out to lunch was available. Once everyone was gathered by the main desk, we set out to this as yet undisclosed location. I remember we walked up Skene Terrace then kept going at the end of the street. I’m pretty sure we ended up on Huntly Street at Mi Amore (confirm with library staff) a lovely Italian, Mediterranean restaurant.

When we returned, I was given a tour of the local studies department which was the area that helped me so much with my research and will also play a role in the sequel to A Shadow in the Past.

My friend, 2009 Dundee International Book Prize winner, Chris Longmuir, came up from her seaside town by train to be there for me. We had a wee natter and I signed the copy of my book that she had bought from amazon.co.uk earlier in the year.

Another of my online writer friends, Bill Kirton popped in, too. It was brilliant to finally meet him in person. We chatted briefly before it was “show time”!

Only ten people had pre-registered for the event with the library so I was well chuffed to see more like twenty people filling the seats. I chose what I hoped was an enticing segment from early in A Shadow in the Past and began.

Reading at the Central Library
Reading at the Central Library

When I was finished my reading, I fielded questions and answers related to A Shadow in the Past and my friends, Chris and Bill, encouraged me to write a book on Home Children – possibly from the child’s point-of-view.

signing the copy for the library
Signing the copy of A Shadow in the Past for the library
Presenting the book to the library
Presenting the signed copy of A Shadow in the Past to the library

As if I hadn’t already been treated like royalty by the library staff, they presented me with a tote bag filled with books from their Local Studies Department and two Waterstones giftcards.

Receiving a gift from the library
Receiving a gift from the library

It was an amazing day. Everyone in attendance enjoyed by presentation but best of all, I sold and signed three copies of A Shadow in the Past.

When it was finally time to leave, Bill walked with us as far as Union Street where we said our goodbyes. Chris accompanied us as far as the train station where we parted company when she discovered there was a train home that she might be able to make.

Our train left shortly after Chris’s so we headed towards the platform and waited. It felt good to finally relax on the train and recall the day’s events. At the Insch station, we doddled about waiting for the car park to clear before we got in and headed for ‘home’ with a detour up to Huntly for a bite of supper (not that we needed it) so we grabbed a couple of sarnies and packets of crisps from the ASDA and a bottle of wine to replace the one mine hostess at Earlsfield cracked open when we arrived.

Later that evening, the guys cracked open mine host’s bottle of 18 year old Aberlour (after having our 18 year old Glenlivet the night before) and I carried on with wine. More than once, we toasted a successful day.

And before I forget… wait, I did forget… my bad. Anyway, better late than never, let’s play SEEKING SARAH SHAND!

Seeking Sarah Shand
Seeking Sarah Shand

Day 4 – Dufftown to Kennethmont

Dufftown to Kennethmont – August 14, 2013

Yet another gorgeous day greeted us. The further inland we travelled, the warmer and sunnier it became.

Today, our final destination was Kennethmont, the parish where my father was born.


View Larger Map
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.

Cardhu distillery
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.

Whisky warehouses at Cardhu
Whisky warehouses at Cardhu

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.

Ladysbridge asylum building
Ladysbridge asylum building
opening in the wall at Ladysbridge
opening in the wall at Ladysbridge
Ladysbridge asylum building back
Ladysbridge asylum building back

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.

Building on the Ladysbridge site pre restoration
Building on the Ladysbridge site pre restoration

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.

unknown castle
unknown castle

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.

Gartly churchyard
Gartly churchyard

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.

Simpson stone in the Gartly churchyard
Simpson stone in the Gartly churchyard

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.

St Drostans Kirkyard in Insch
St Drostans Kirkyard in Insch

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.

Robertson stone in Insch
Robertson stone in Insch

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.

Weetshill today
Wardhouse mansion aka Weetshill today

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.

Dunnideer from the car park
Dunnideer from the car park
Approaching Dunnideer
Approaching 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.

Remains of Dunnideer hillfort
Remains of Dunnideer hillfort

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.

Bennachie from the top of Dunnideer
Bennachie from the top of Dunnideer
Bennachie from the top of Dunnideer
Bennachie from the top of Dunnideer

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.

Me at Dunnideer
Me at Dunnideer

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.

Our room at Earlsfield Farm
Our room at Earlsfield Farm
Our room at Earlsfield Farm
Our room at Earlsfield Farm
Our room at Earlsfield Farm
Our room at Earlsfield Farm
Our room at Earlsfield Farm
Our room at Earlsfield Farm

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!!!

Seeking Sarah Shand
Seeking Sarah Shand
Seeking Sarah Shand
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.

Day 2 – Oban to Fort William

Oban to Fort William

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.


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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.

Walking up the hill to McCaig's Tower
Walking up the hill to McCaig’s Tower

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.

Don lending a helping hand
Don lending 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.

View from McCaig's Tower
View from McCaig’s Tower

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.

Don and Mel at McCaig's Tower
Don and Mel at McCaig’s Tower

Before we left, I took one last photo from within the confines of McCaig’s Tower.

Inside McCaig's Tower
Inside 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.


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Loch Linnhe on the way to Fort William
Loch Linnhe on the way to Fort William

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?

Our rental car at Loch Linnhe
Our rental car at Loch Linnhe
The Ballachulish Hotel
The Ballachulish Hotel

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.

Our B&B in Fort William
Our B&B in Fort William
Loch Linnhe at Fort William
Loch Linnhe at Fort William

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.

Glenfinnan Viaduct
Glenfinnan Viaduct

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.

waterfall on the mountain
Waterfall on the mountain

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?

church
Church

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?

Heather along the rail line
Heather along the rail line

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.

Jacobite at Mallaig
Jacobite at Mallaig

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!

Loch Eil shrouded in steam from the engine
Loch Eil shrouded in steam from the engine
Mountains on return trip
Mountains on return trip

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.

Deer on the mountain
Deer on the mountain

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.

Caledonian Canal - Neptune's Staircase - at Fort William
Caledonian Canal – Neptune’s Staircase – at Fort William

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.

Our room at Myrtle Bank
Our room at Myrtle Bank
Our room at Myrtle Bank
Our room at Myrtle Bank
Our room at Myrtle Bank
Our room at Myrtle Bank

Let’s play SEEKING SARAH SHAND!

Seeking Sarah Shand
Seeking Sarah Shand
Seeking Sarah Shand
Seeking Sarah Shand
Seeking Sarah Shand
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.

Day 1 – Glasgow to Oban

Glasgow Airport to Oban

 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.


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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.


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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.

High Cliff B&B
High Cliff B&B

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.

McCaig's Tower from the harbour
McCaig’s Tower from the harbour

In the end, we went for a fish tea at The Caledonian Hotel (the large beige coloured building with the tower).

The Caledonain Hotel from the harbour
The Caledonain Hotel from the harbour

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.

Our rental car
Our silver Skoda outside High Cliff

These next pictures are of our room…

Our room at High Cliff
Our room at High Cliff
Our room at High Cliff
Our room at High Cliff
Our rom at High Cliff
Our rom at High Cliff
View from our room at High Cliff
View from our room at High Cliff

And now it’s time to play SEEKING SARAH SHAND!

Seeking Sarah Shand
Seeking Sarah Shand
Seeking Sarah Shand
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 (melanie@melanierobertson-king.com).