Despite good intentions I have fallen behind posting for the trip. After a couple of days it becomes difficult to sort out what we did so this missive may be slightly out of order.
Monday April 16
The day dawned clear and bright on Monday so we took the opportunity to drive up Cairngorm mountain. We drove as far as we could, which was to the car park for the ski area and funicular railway. Coming back down we stopped for the view across the loch. There are ducks swimming in the breakwater. We stopped at the reindeer center but we were too late to catch the tour to meet and pet the reindeer so we pushed on.
We were headed in the direction of Newtonmore on a B road and crossed the River Spey here in Feshiebridge. We all took photos of the bridge, the river, and the stones and, I think, a largish spruce tree. Had a bit of chat with a couple working in their garden. Julia and Regina recommended rosa rugosa for their situation. We got an earful about the ugly American in the adjascent house (not from Maine!) and then moved on to have lunch.
Frank Bruce Sculpture Garden
I had picked up a brochure about an outdoor sculpture exhibit (which is why we were on the Feshiebridge Road) The sculptor, Frank Bruce, died in 2009. His large wood sculptures were sometimes accompanied by his writing. Most were about serious themes like war, hunger, imortality. This is one of the more whimsical pieces called The Walker. Sadly many of the sculptures are being destroyed by insects and woodpeckers. There is an organization, www.frank-bruce.org.uk, that is raising funds to build a gallery on the site for his smaller works.
Highland Folk Museum
This museum in Newtonmore is incredible! We went pretty much straight to the 18th century exhibit, skipping the 1930 farm exhibit, the black house, the saw mill and several other area and buildings, each of which deserved at least an hour to appreciate. As it was we spent the whole afternoon in this section. There were a couple of sheilings on the way over the hill to the Baile Gean township. There were houses for a cottar, a weaver, a stockman and a tacksman, a kiln barn barn used to dry grain and an exhibition barn. The interpreters were excellent and gave us a good understanding of the living conditions in villages like these, which were the way the highland folk lived from at least the late 17th century up through the mid 19th century, when the railroads brought tourists and increased economic opportunity to the area.
This is the living space. There were a couple of sleeping platforms, the dresser and stools, as you see. There was a box bed as well - literally a bed in a big wooden box which could be closed for privacy and warmth. There is no chimney or windows. The peat fire, which was never let go out, provided all the heat and light -- not much of either! The other end of the house was the byre, where animals were kept at night and in the winter. That helped a bit with the heat, but not the light. As many as fifteen people would live a house like this.
The biggest and best appointed house belonged to the tacksman. We couldn't go in because the roof was being rethatched. All of these buildings are constructed with the methods and materials used in the originals. Thatching has to be repaired periodically and they use whatever is convenient - in this case broom.
After seeing this village and the living conditions of the highland folk it made us think how the American frontier must have seemed like a paradise. The living conditions were certainly no worse and the abundance of game and better soil would have been a marked improvement over conditions in Scotland at the time.
We left the museum to be home by 6:00 to have a visit, dinner and music with our friends Trish and Gaye. The singing and stories went well into the evening - this was a day well spent.
Tuesday April 17
Today we went hunting for cairns and Pictish stones
Our first stop was the Clava Cairns just south of Inverness. These are about the same vintage as the Egyptian pyramids. There are three cairns open to the public. Several others are nearby on private lands and have not been excavated. This cairn was never covered. The stones are in bands of different colors. This was somewhat difficult to see because of the moss and lichen, so we're trusting the archaeoligists a bit on this.
The other two cairns had passages aligned to the mid-winter solstice sunrise. The northern cairn at one time was roofed with corbeled stone to a height of three or four meters. The southern cairn was not roofed as the midwinter sunrise would have been blocked from the other cairn.
And of course there were standing stones!
We drove on to the Culloden battlefield and had our lunch in the car park. We found a thermos in the lodge with nesting cups, so we always had hot tea available. How civilized!
The sun came out and we had a lovely drive along Loch Ness.
|You can't drive past Urquart Castle without taking a photo or two!|
As we were coming down Loch Ness we were looking for a holy well that Julia had note of. We stopped and took a walk in a lovely (if somewhat damp) wood along Moriston River to see the falls. We came across this stone summer house on a high ledge overlooking the river.
Not one but TWO arched bridges. If you look carefully you can see a second bridge through the arch of the "new" bridge. The further bridge was completed in 1813 as one of the thousand bridges built in Scotland between 1801 and 1819. The guarantor for this particular bridge lost £2000 due to "an inattentive contractor" who took over two years to finish the project.
We drove home over the mountains on a single track road (scarey!!) and got back just in time to miss closing time at the pool.