Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Well I got masel a

Check it oot!!!

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Autumn Bute-y!

Rothesay Town


 As the days are getting shorter and shorter, we are quick to complain about traveling to and from work in the dark. But there is a wonderful side to this time of year and my weekend in Rothesay reminded me of that.

Kim and her ride
Kim has long been promising me a trip to her home town of Rothesay on the Isle of Bute. We hired bikes from the main street and headed out of town towards Mount Stuart. Cycling along the waters edge was lovely and relaxing, even with my dodgy brakes that I had to squeeze ten minutes before I wanted to stop and the collision Kim and I had which resulted in tyre marks on my jeans!

Mount Stuart House

I loved exploring the grounds of Mount Stuart, I am sure it is exceptionally beautiful in the summer when in bloom, but in Autumn with masses of red, brown and orange leaves either side of the road lined with barren trees through which you can see the back drop of the Firth of Clyde, it is a spectacular sight. At the top of the hill (and I'm not ashamed to say I did get off the bike and push a bit - I was just taking in the scenery!), sits the house itself, the red sandstone walls compliment the seasonal surroundings. Mount Stuart House is believed to be the first house in Scotland to be purpose built with electric lights, central heating, a telephone and...a heated swimmingpool! Nice.
Unfortunately the house closes to the public in the low season so we didn't get to see inside, we had to get our bikes back to the shop and get ready for the bonfire anyway.

Did I forget to mention it was Guy Faukes weekend I was there? Well, we were off to Kims pals family house set above the town. The fireworks were amazing bouncing light off the promenade and the water below, not to mention the bang from the rockets echoing all around the bay. It set the alarm off on the ferry, which was pretty cool.

The cycle clearly tired me out!

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

A bonnie description of Islay

As I have not had the chance to get over to Islay this later part of the year I find myself reading about the island and enjoying some of the short stories written by Dougie MacDougall who is the late father of my friend Christine Logan otherwise known as the 'Lady of the Isles'. She runs a fantastic tailor-made tour guide service of the island.

I have just finished reading "Still Waters Run Deep" and I wanted to share a description taken from one of his stories, that I think describes the island in such a beautiful way, it really makes me smile.

"This Sunday morning, I am looking directly out across the Sound of Islay, and a bonnie day it is, with bright sunshine, a light breeze to the north, with a sparkling sea which is caused by dancing wavelets beating against the flood tide. The Paps of Jura look very clear today and give one the urge to cross the Sound and start walking on their tops, where one can sit down and gaze with wonder at the heartwarming vista which strikes the eye from below and all around. The Island of Islay seems to be right below you, like a map: you can practically pin point all the known places right round to the islands to the north, the mainland to the east, the Mull of Kintyre and Ireland are out to the southwest, what a revelation of beauty startles the eye."

Still Waters Run Deep

Dougie MacDougall 1996


For those of you who find this as inspiring as I do and would love to visit the magical island then Bowmore Distillery are giving you the chance! They have a fantastic competition running to give two lucky fans of Bowmore a five day trip where they will take part in a photography class, experience foraging for lunch, a VIP distillery tour and more. Visit to find out how you can win! Or enter the competition via facebook:

Monday, 15 October 2012

Largs Viking Festival 2012

 This year I visited Largs for the annual celebration of the Battle of Largs, which was the last Viking invasion on the British Isles, in 1263. When Scots King Alexander III and his troops repelled Norse King Haakon on the shore at Bowen Craig. From the 1st - 9th September the promenade is transformed to a traditional 13th century Viking Village. As soon as we entered the doors of the village to pay for our tickets they were selling CDs (ok so that part was not so authentic), but they were for my cousin's ceilidh band, 'Reely Jiggered'. Then as we started to walk inside there they were playing, so that was a lovely wee start to the day!

Reely Jiggered, me & some of the kids from the Viking Village

The village was full of little tents, each one with a different activity or skill to learn including how to make weapons, clothes and food, this was a great way to learn about the way of life and what was important to the people of Scotland at this time. While we were there the RAF put on an air show with the Typhoon which was amazing! The plane was so loud but the actors in the viking village did not come out of character, they were shouting about the 'dragon in the sky'. As you carry on along the promenade there was a farmers market and craft fayre with a number of stalls and amusements to enjoy.

Time for a fish supper by the shore before the battle reenactment at the monument, affectionately known as 'The Pencil'. I felt the commentary of the battle could have been better, but the costumes were excellent and the archers setting fire to the long ship with flaming arrows was pretty special, followed by a spectacular fireworks display at the pencil to bring the celebrations to a close.

The battle begins

Thursday, 6 September 2012

William Wallace Letters

The Lubeck Letter

The special delivery of two letters has been made to the Scottish Parliament. In association with the National Records of Scotland, the exhibition highlights William Wallace's involvement in the Scottish Wars of Independence and it is centered around the two surviving documents with direct links to Wallace.

Do all roads lead to Stirling?
The first letter, known as the 'Lubeck Letter' issued by William Wallace and Andrew Moray as guardians of Scotland, after winning the Battle of Stirling Bridge in 1297. Having bought Scotland's freedom (for a while) it became apparent that the next logical step was to reestablish confidence in trade so the letter was composed to inform European trading partners that the Scottish ports were open for business and no longer under the control of England. This important document is the only surviving letter issued by Wallace, it is written in Latin and bears an impression of the Lion Rampant on the front and on the reverse shows a bow and arrow with the inscription 'Wallace, son of Alan Wallace'.

The second letter was dated 7th November 1300 and was wriiten by King Phillip IV of France to his contacts in Rome requesting they ask Pope Boniface VIII to support Wallace and Scotland. The document suggests it was Wallace's intentions to make an ally of King Phillip. It is not known if he reached Rome but the letter suggests that it was his desire to visit. It was concluded that the letter was likely to have been in Wallace's possession, although it is unknown who it was given to or how it ended up in the Tower of London, where it was discovered in 1830.

Me at the exhibition
It is fantastic that these important pieces of Scottish history are available for all to see at the Parliament free of charge. The presentation of the exhibits with a timeline flowing through a map of Scotland on the floor is a fun way to explain this section of our history. definitely worth a visit and I heard that Pope Boniface was a bit of a cutie :)

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Linlithgow Palace: Spectacular Jousting

Carrying on from our visit to Stirling Castle, Lorna, Louisa and I decided to visit Linlithgow Palace. As most of the Stewart monarchs lived here it made sense that this was our next stop. The palace was the Stewart family's link between Stirling Castle and Edinburgh Castle not to mention that James V was born here in 1512 followed by his daugher Mary Queen of Scots who was also born here thirty years later. 

The palace and the park surrounding was a hive of activity as this was the weekend of Historic Scotland's annual event 'Spectacular Jousting'. When walking up the hill to the palace enterance the wall on the left has plaque's placed up of the monarchs starting from Mary Queen of Scot's to present day Queen Elizabeth II. Once reaching the top of the timeline you will find the magnificent St Michaels Kirk set on the left with the Palace infront. The park and loch make a picturesque backdrop, so peaceful and fitting to the scene. Although today it is far from peaceful with tents pitched, a battle ground and knights on horseback ready for todays event.

Typical Costume
Inside the Palace is an open square with a grand fountain in the centre. The fountain is so intriquete in detail and looks fantastic especially on sundays when you can see the three teired masterpeice in full flow. Exploring the palace is fun as there are four spiral staircases linking the four sides of the palace together and one you can climb right to the top and get wonderful views of the grounds and down into the courtyard with the fountain. The castle is now a ruin after the royal family relocated to London in 1745 there was a fire and the palace was never lived in again. If you have visited Stirling Castle you can get a feel for what the rooms will have looked like as they would have been decorated in the same fashion with heavy drapes and colourful ceilings. The present day Great Hall still impresses despite being roofless, you can view an artists impression and imagine the fire places in ablaze with rows of tables, full of people.

Weapons Display
Today there were workshops inside the castle with a weapons display which was fantastic, they discussed battles at the time, commonly used weapons and explained a few phrases still used today such as 'bite the bullet' which is derived from the soldiers having to bite the cap from the bullet to expose the gunpowder before shooting. There was also a workshop put on to explain the dress of this period as women and apparently every lady in the audience was dressed very inappropriately!!

The Battlefield

Blue Knight

Out in the park the tents were used to showcase typical living conditions, games that were played and jobs the people of the 15th century would have been employed to do.When entering the castle we were given red or blue flags to determine which team we were on in both the battle and the jousting. The children loved the battle as there were lots of fighting, shouting and cheering from the actors in the battle reinactment. The day was topped off with the jousting which was indeed spectacular. The Knights entered the arena before staging an amazing display of skill and horse play! I'm already looking forward to next year.

Stirling Castle

Stirling Castle

 My favourite Scottish castle has to be Stirling Castle, I grew up nearby so it has a special place in my heart. But I had not been inside the castle for years so I decided to go with my sister Lorna and niece Louisa. And I finally joined Historic Scotland ~ about time!!

I want one!
We went along as there was an event on called 'The Kings New Clothes' linking up with the excitement of our present day Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee. But as soon as you enter the castle you are transported back to the 16th century when King James V and Mary of Guise are residents.
When we arrived there was a weapon's display in the gardens. This was a reenactment of two boys being trained to fight using weapons of that time. The actors were brilliant and really bring the castle to life. I was completely distracted by the Scottish Deer Hunters which were the loveliest dogs despite being the same size as Louisa. Apparently these are the original Scottish dogs (at some point crossed with a jackle? Scary!) They are gentile creatures and were enjoying the sunshine more than anything!

The characters of the castle

Mary of Guise & Louisa
The castle is very interactive with actors playing James V, Mary of Guise, ladies in waiting, jesters and many other characters who really know their history, so you can ask them about their way of life etc. While speaking to Mary of Guise she was discussing the chain which hung from her belt at the end of the chain there was a large pendant called a Pomander, this held perfume inside so as if talking to any stinky castle staff she would smell the fragrant pomander. All the characters were approachable and were extremely knowledgeable and they would wander about the castle explaining their role within it. This interaction made the experience really fun and they even invited everyone into the great hall to welcome the king and queen... we had to shout 'HAZZAAAR HAZZAAAR!!' when they entered the room. It was really funny and all the children sat at the front and got the chance to speak to the actors again.

Dress Up!
There were plenty of rooms to explore with different interesting displays in each. The kitchens has an interesting exhibit, an actor who is playing the part of the king's cook explaining the delights of his store cupboard. He had lots of typical food of this time on display and lots of the children were most shocked by the hog's head and swan on a plate.
Other rooms were more interactive, including costumes for dressing up, we were able to make crowns which was excellent fun, we left laughing and covered in glitter!

The view of the Wallace Monument from Stirling Castle