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Flowers of Scotland

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

This evening, I am embellishing my flowers theme by including cactus flowers from nearby Queen's Park Botanic Garden, Glasgow. These first two images were taken this afternoon and provide an interesting colour dimension to Spring.

The following two images are from a vast collection of daffodils at Greenbank Garden, a National Trust property south of Glasgow.

This is Narcissus Ellen
Narcissus Southern Bell

Elsewhere today:

  • Met up with my techie friend to discuss various aspects of the website and blogs going forward. Quite a few interesting ideas to implement over the coming months.
  • Responded to a wide range of tour enquiries from around the world for both this year and next.
  • Designed an itinerary for a private Scottish Highlands tour for later next month.
  • Posted information to my GlasgowAncestry blog on Hopper family history.
Looking at the bigger picture, main news item is the continuing effect of the volcanic dust cloud on air travel (and tourism). It appears that prospects for the U.K. are not likely to improve much until the weekend. In the meantime the airlines are bleeding cash. Fortunately, May tends to be a relatively quiet month and hence I have no cancellations as of today.


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Day Tour from Cruise Ship, Scotland

Monday, April 19, 2010

This morning I collected a group of guests who had just arrived from North America on a cruise ship at Greenock.

Our first stop was the quaint little heritage village of Luss on the bank of Loch Lomond. The main village was originally built to house workers at a nearby slate mine but the properties are now mainly occupied by seniors. Some of gardens are very colourful. After a stroll through the village we went to end of the pier to admire Loch Lomond and Ben Lomond.

View of Loch Lomond from the pier at Luss.

Viking 'hogback' gravemarker at St. Kessog's Church, Luss. This probably dates back about 1100 years and indicates the antiquity of this Christian site.

After Luss we drove down to Balloch at southern tip of Loch Lomond and then on to Aberfoyle and the Trossachs. The hills and mountains still retained the residue of the winter's snow. This is Ben Ledi.
After the Trossachs we drove on to Doune Castle with its Monty Python connection. The castle dates from then 14th century and for a while was used as a hunting lodge by the Scottish royal family who were at the time located just a few miles away at Stirling. The castle was restored by the Earl of Moray in 1883 and is an impressive building.

After Doune Castle we went to Blackford in Perthshire to have a spot of lunch and tour Tullibardine Distillery which proved a great success. The guide took us the through the process of malting, mashing, fermentation, distillation and maturation culminating in a couple of samples. This was a good tour providing a useful insight into this small, privately owned distillery which serves niche markets.

Tour group with guide.
Whisky Stills at Tullibardine

Sample of single malts at end of the Distillery Tour.

After Tullibardine, we drove down to Stirling for a short visit to the famous castle which includes the Great Hall, Kitchens and Royal Chapel with tapestries.

Finally, we drove back from Stirling to Greenock to return guests to the ship and fond farewells.


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Visit Pollock House, Glasgow, Scotland

Sunday, April 18, 2010

This evening, I decided to obtain a little exercise and cycled down to Pollock House with aim of obtaining garden images of emerging Springtime.

P0llock House is an impressive Palladian mansion dating from the mid 18th century which is built on an estate which for hundreds of years has been home to the Maxwell family. The house is now in care of the National Trust and is open to the public.

The gardens at Pollock House are interesting but hardly a riot of colour ad diversity. Image below shows a fairly new formal garden in the library parterre. Some interesting shapes and colourful polyanthus.

This is the White Cart Water (river) which runs in front of the house. In the early years of the industrial revolution this river provided power for a wide range of industries in the Glasgow area.

Front view of Pollock House which was begun by famous Scots architect William Adam and finished by his son, John.
Side view of the house with a sprinkling of colourful plants. These gave off some pleasant scents.
On the way home I stopped by and obtained image of a Highland Cow (see top of this post) which is part of a small herd owned by Glasgow Council. Very docile and photogenic animals.

Finally, the following images continue my recent theme of daffodil types at Greenbank Garden. I never realised there was search a diversity!

This is Narcissus Camparella.

Narcissus February Gold.

Elsewhere today,I have been busy with some business admin matters. Responded to an enquiry for a tour of the Scottish Highlands and posted information to my GlasgowAncestry blog on Meikle family history.

Main story in the news is the shutdown of British and European airspace due to the Icelandic Volcano. Lot of pressure from the airline industry for some relaxation which would no doubt be welcomed by some of the thousands of stranded airline passengers around the world. Be interesting to see how this particular event unfolds. If there is no relief in the near future then severe losses will continue to mount in a wide range of industries including travel and tourism. In a worst case the neighbouring volcano could also blow-and result in even more havoc and pollution.


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Spring Garden at House for Art Lover, Scotland

Saturday, April 17, 2010

This afternoon I went round to Charles Rennie Mackintosh's House for Art Lover, Glasgow, principally to view the garden which is usually kept in very good shape. As the images below show, I was not to be disappointed. Top image shows a notice above the entrance which reads:

The kiss of the Sun for pardon
The songs of the bird for mirth
You are nearer God's heart in a garden
Than anywhere else on the earth.

Image immediately above is a side elevation of the House itself with some seasonal garden colour.

Image below shows the central garden walkway with colourful plants and topiary.

The following two images are of colourful polyanthus.

Here is a colourful flower bed which gave off a wonderful scented aroma.

I took a fancy to this interesting shrub which could be a Tulip Tree.

Finally, I am tracking back to my recent visit to Greenbank Garden and it vast collection of daffodil varieties.

This is Narcissus Malvern City.

An interesting corner at Greenbank.

Narcissus February Silver

Narcissus Flower Carpet

Weather today was dry but a few degrees colder than yesterday.

Elsewhere today:

  • Posted information on Ferguson Ancestry to my GlasgowAncestry blog. One member of this family died in Colorado, USA in 1890. I wonder if he has any descendants there?
  • Worked on an extension to a small group tour scheduled for July.
  • Called a Canadian client to assist with a self-drive tour of Scotland and Ireland for August.
  • Had confirmation in of a self-drive tour for a couple from the U.S.
Skies remain deadly quiet due to the Icelandic volcano, no doubt causing much disruption to the travel industry. Will be interesting to see how this situation unfolds over the next few days.


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Spring in Scotland

Friday, April 16, 2010

This afternoon I took advantage of the warm, sunny weather and cycled into the countryside to obtain some images of young lambs, a couple of which are posted here. These animals are very cute frolicking in the sunshine.

Continuing the horticultural theme of last two days I have also posted images of daffodils from nearby Greenbank Garden.

This is Narcissus Comet

This is Narcissus Syn California

With Spring firmly entrenched and summer on its way I am busy with new tours and tour enquiries from all around the world. Today, I have finalised a small group, 3 day tour of the Scottish Highlands and am well advanced with a short two day tour for an Australian family. Late this evening, received an enquiry for a self-drive tour. Nice to be busy! Just hope the Iceland volcano, Eyjafjallajokull, calms down ( or the winds change) in time for the summer period, otherwise there will be a massive fall off in inbound tourism this year.


posted by Catswhiskers @ 12:21 PM  2 comments


Anonymous Janice said...

Hi Nigel!

Indeed, so cute they are those little lambs :-)and the flowers are gorgeous.

Thanks for sharing these great photos.Really a pleasure to view them.

Take care and talk soon.


April 16, 2010  

Blogger Janice said...

Hi Nigel !

I've just read on your site that Highlands and Islands have lost nearly 100,000 sheep annually for 5 years (total flock 8 million)... how many people whose ancestors have been cleared off their native land will return there,I wonder... What I wonder too, as I am passionate about traditional knitting, is whether there is also a decline in wool trade in Scotland ? There are so beautiful yarns there !

Bonne journée !


April 17, 2010  

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Spring Blooms in Scotland

Thursday, April 15, 2010

This evening, I am continuing my theme of Springtime which I think is apposite-its a sunny day with lots of emerging colours.

Images follow on from yesterday with examples of the wide range of daffodils found at Greenbank Garden near Glasgow.

This is Narcissus Pentwan

Narcissus Copperfield

Narcissus Golden Anniversary

Narcissus Cardiff
If anyone out there is seeking a dedicated Gardens Tour of Scotland or England then let me know!

Main news of the day here is the (invisible) volcanic ash cloud which is covering the U.K. and most of Europe at a height of about 30,000 feet. This has resulted in an unprecedented shut down of British airspace together with wide ranging airport closures around northern Europe. The culprit is an active volcano in Iceland which on its own has achieved what many 'green' eco protesters have long sought in the form of a shut down of air transport with resultant reduction in carbon footprint. It will be interesting to see how long the eruption continues and how such will affect the aviation industry. Another headache for airline management!

Elsewhere today, I have been working on a new tour enquiry and posted information on McIlraith family history to my GlasgowAncestry blog. If it were not for a guest's family bereavement I would be out touring in this pleasant weather.


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Spring Daffodils, Scotland

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

This evening, I am focusing on a horticultural theme as manifested in Spring Narcissus blooms. Earlier today I cycled up to nearby Greenbank Garden which is renowned for its collection of 350 named daffodils. During my short visit I was able to locate 21 different species a selection of which are provided below.

This is Narcissus Soestdijk

This is Narcissus Smiling Maestro

This is Narcissus Miss Muffet

This is Narcissus Lemon Silk

Elsewhere today, I have arranged private tours for a visitor in Inverness and Edinburgh, exchanged correspondence re a prospective Whisky Tour and received an enquiry for a tour in 2011. Sadly, a private tour of the Scottish Highlands which was in early stage discussion was cancelled when the clients changed their mind. As with most years, I find June extremely busy but May less so.

Posted information to my GlasgowAncestry blog on Stewart family history.

Weather here in Glasgow was dry and sunny if a little cool.


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Craigellachie, Speyside, Scotland

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

This evening, my focus is on Craigellachie. This is a fascinating small town (see above image) in the heart of the Speyside Scotch Whisky industry. The name Craigellachie was the battle cry of Clan Grant and translates as 'crag of the rocky place'. Below is an image of the River Spey near Craigellachie.

This is an image of the famous Whisky Bar at the Craigellachie Hotel which is home to some 700 malt whiskies, some of which are extremely rare.

To my mind, Craigellachie is indelibly associated with the whisky industry. Nearby can be found a host of famous distilleries including Speyburn, Glen Grant, Caperdonich, Glenrothes, Glen Spey, Macallan, Cardhu, Knockando, Tamdhu, Aberlour, Dulluaine, Benrinnes, Glenallachie, Glenfiddich, Balvenie, Glenfarclas and Strathisla. Close by can also be found (and visited) the Speyside Cooperage which produces the oak casks in which whisky is matured for 3 years and upwards.

Other visitor attractions in the area include:

  • Ballindalloch Castle
  • Strathspey Steam Railway
For the fit there is the 80 mile Speyside Way and for those interested in engineering look out for Thomas Telford's bridge over the Spey near Craigellachie which dates from 1812-15 and is constructed of cast iron.

Elsewhere today, I have occupied working on various Scotland tours including self-drive, private-guided (Inverness and Edinburgh) and a day tour from a cruise ship. Made a post to my separate GlasgowAncestry blog covering Davie family history one member of which was killed at Gallipoli in WW1.

Another busy day looms tomorrow!


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Visit Pitlochry, Scotland

Monday, April 12, 2010

This evening, my theme is Pitlochry, a prominent country town in Perthshire, central Scotland which is also popular with visitors. The name means 'Place of the Stepping Stones' which dates back to Pictish times, maybe 2000 years ago.

Pitlochry is very well endowed with visitor accommodation although perhaps skewed towards the coach party sector.The town is popular with shoppers. Close by there are many activities, attractions and places to visit, viz:

  • White Water rafting on the River Tay.
  • Fishing for salmon on the rivers.
  • Hiking and walking.
  • Stalking (deer)
  • Queen's View
  • Blair Castle and grounds.
  • Edradour Scotch Whisky Distillery which provides excellent tours.
  • Nearby Dunkeld and Birnam.
  • Fish Ladder (for the salmon).
  • River Tummel
  • Curling Rink.
Looking wider afield, Pitlochry's central location affords within the day access to Stirling, Loch Ness, Isle of Skye, Balmoral, St. Andrews, Glasgow and Edinburgh. When touring I find Pitlochry useful as stopover for refreshments and laundry. Parking can be a challenge in the peak tourist season during the summer period.

Elsewhere today, I should have been out touring if it were not for an unfortunate cancellation due to a family bereavement. However, I have plenty of tour enquiries to keep me occupied including two self-drive and various small group tours. Posted information on Loudon family history to my GlagowAncestry blog.


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Benromach Whisky Distillery, Scotland

Sunday, April 11, 2010

This evening, my focus is on Benromach Distillery, which is located on the outskirts of the ancient market town of Forres, east of Inverness and on the northern tip of Speyside. I came across this fantastic little distillery more by accident than design and it turned out to be a nice little gem. Being small Benromach is reminiscent of Edradour.

Benromach has a long and chequered history dating back to its foundation in 1898 subsequent to which it experienced numerous owners and even a period of mothballing. Benromach is now owned by Scotch whisky specialists Gordon and MacPhail which is perhaps an apt home for this niche operation.

I was very impressed by the distillery Tour Guide who provided a very full and enthusiastic tour when we (my tour group) descended on him at extremely short notice.

Relative to some of the other distilleries, Benromach's malt is relatively young and hence priced accordingly. A new and unusual product is an organic malt, produced from organic barley but which, crucially, is matured in new oak casks which have not previously been filled with Bourbon or sherry. An interesting experiment!

Benromach's other claim to fame is a maturing whisky cask signed by HRH Prince Charles to commemorate the re-opening of the distillery.

I will definitely be back to this little gem.

Here is the Visitor Centre

Malts for sale.
Cask signed by Prince Charles.

Maturing casks in the warehouse.

Stills and washbacks.
This allows visitors to bottle their own whisky.

Elsewhere today have been busy as ever:
  • Received sad news of cancellation of upcoming tour due to a family bereavement. Had to unwind the tour and cancel lodgings. Very disappointing as I spent many hours designing the tour to the specifications of a discerning couple. Regrettably, these things happen in life.
  • Worked on a self-drive tour of Scotland which has been long in gestation and now close to being given the green light.
  • Fine tuned a Speyside whisky tour for next month. I am beginning to get very fond of the Speyside area and its scenery.
  • Posted information to my GlasgowAncestry blog on Cruickshank family history.
  • Received enquiry in for an ancestry themed tour.
Nice to be busy but am sad about the cancellation.


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Balvenie Castle, Scotland

Saturday, April 10, 2010

This evening, my theme is Balvenie Castle, Speyside.

This substantial castle is located close to Glenfiddich Distillery and Balvenie Distillery.

Key facts:

  • There is believed to be a pit close to the castle walls which contains the bones of a Viking army destroyed by King Malcolm II of Scotland in the Battle of Mortlach (1005).
  • This castle had a relatively peaceful history with no sieges.
  • The castle's location is of strategic importance, sitting above the waters of the Fiddich, due to control of communications between Aberdeenshire and Starthspey.
  • Originally owned by the Black Comyns, then Black Douglas in early 1400s, then the Stewart Earls of Atholl and finally the Duff family until 1718.
  • Mary Queen of Scots visited in September, 1562.

Elsewhere today:

  • I have been busy planning whisky tours and related matters.
  • Posted information on Anderson family history to my GlasgowAncestry blog.
  • Weather in Glasgow warm and sunny (for the time of year).

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Scotland Whisky and Castle Tour

Friday, April 09, 2010

This evening, I am posting a record of today's Speyside whisky themed tour.

After departing our lodgings at An Cala, Grantown on Spey, we drove north for about 45 mins through Highland Grouse Moor and farming scenery to the country town of Forres to the east of Inverness.

At Forres we enjoyed a private tour of the distillery of Benromach, a small distillery owned by whisky specialist, Gordon and MacPhail. This distillery dates from 1898 and subsequently changed hands many times and was even mothballed for a few years until re-opened by Prince Charles in 1998. In the warehouse we viewed a cask signed by the Prince.

This proved a fascinating tour led by a guide with long experience in the whisky industry and a passion for the product. We were taken through the entire malting, mashing, fermentation, distillation and maturation process. Benromach produces relatively young malt whisky although some older expressions are also available. One notable feature is an organic single malt produced with organically grown barley and matured in new wood oak casks, i.e in casks which have not previously been used to hold Bourbon or Sherry.

After a tasting and some purchases at the Distillery shop we drove west toward Inverness passing, en-route, the famous Culloden Battlefield, site of last battle on British soil in 1746.

Here is the guide at Benromach explaining the importance of oak barrels in the maturation process.

Stills at washbacks at Benromach. This shot illustrates the compactness of this small distillery.

Tour in process.
Maturing whisky cask signed by Prince Charles.

Visitor Centre at Benromach.

Benromach Organic Whisky which is matured in fresh oak casks.

After Inverness, self styled 'Capital of the Highlands' we drove down past Drumnadrochit to Castle Urquhart on the banks of Loch Ness. The castle (see image below) is of interest in its own right but the location is popular due to the superb vistas and photo opps of Loch Ness which the site offers. We had a light lunch here and then moved on through Fort William, Glencoe, Rannoch Moor and Stirling arriving at Edinburgh about 7.30pm and fond farewells after conclusion of the three day tour.


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Private Speyside Whisky Tour Scotland

Thursday, April 08, 2010

This morning we commenced by availing of a Connoisseur Tour at Glenfiddich Distillery which lasted over 2 hours. This was very well delivered, taking us through the history of this famous and privately owned enterprise and the principal malting, mashing, fermentation, distillation and maturation processes culminating in a sample of 4 malt whiskies. A quality experience. Glenfiddich suffered significant damage to the structure of its buildings-and bonded warehouses in particular-during the recent harsh winter due to the weight of snow on roofs.

Mash Tun at Glendfiddich

See this video clip for an illustration of the veracity of the fermentation process in a washback.

Stills at Glenfiddich.
Tasting at Glenfiddich.
After the distillery tour we had a light lunch at Glenfiddich and then drove round the corner to photograph Balvenie Castle, an impressive edifice. The castle has experienced an unusually peaceful life notwithstanding its strategic importance above the waters of the Fiddich. This castle has passed from the Black Comyns, to the Stewarts Earls of Atholl and then the Duff family whereafter it was abandoned in the early 18th century. Mary, Queen of Scots stayed here in September 1562.

We next drove to nearby Macallan Distillery where we were provided with a 'standard' tour. The tour lived up to the image of this famous, premium, brand. The visitor experience is excellent aided by a new interpretation exhibition which aids understanding of the Macallan whisky making process with emphasis on the role played by the Spanish and American oak casks in the maturation process. Unfortunately, photography is severely restricted in this distillery.

After the Macallan tour we drove down to the large house which now features as the Macallan logo and took pics of this building, Easter Elchies House, which overlooks the River Spey and Craigellachie.

This is Craigellachie which sites in the heart of the Speyside whisky industry.

Our final distillery call was Glen Grant which is owned by Campari of Italy. We were provided with the standard distillery tour which was of good quality. The stills (see image below) feature unique condensers invented by a member of the founding Grant family.

Glen Grant produced a whisky which is light and very popular in Italy, often featuring as an aperitif. The malts here are matured for shorter periods than in most other distilleries and hence tend to be cheaper in price.

Inspecting the Mash Tun at Glen Grant.

Inspecting the washbacks at Glen Grant.

Stills at Glen Grant.
After Glen Grant we visited the famous whisky bar at the Craigellachie Hotel which is home to some 700 different malts.

Finally, we drove back to Grantown and a meal at the Craggan Mill restaurant which is famous for whisky themed meals.

This image is An Cala, our lodgings during our Speyside tour.


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Private Whisky Tour Scotland

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

This morning, I collected guests in Edinburgh and then, after navigating through the maze of road works in the city, drove north to Stirling and its famous castle. This is a very popular visitor attraction comprising a former royal palace (James IV and V) and military fortification dating back to the 14th century and earlier. We joined in a Castle tour led by a very competent tour guide which included visits to the Great Hall and Chapel Royal. As the weather was dry and sunny we enjoyed superb views over the local countryside, the Ochills and Wallace Monument. Stirling Castle was key to the control of Scotland in medieval times and close by were fought two critical battles affecting Scotland's independence from England: Stirling Bridge in 1297 and Bannockburn in 1314.

After Stirling, we drove further north to Tullibardine Distillery in Perthshire where we joined in a small group distillery tour led by Gavin, a good tour guide who clearly has a passion for the product of this privately owned distillery. We had a light lunch here in the distillery restaurant.

After Tullibardine we drove north again, to join in a tour of Edradour Distillery, Scotland's smallest.See image below. It was interesting to observe the owner wearing a boiler suit assisting with some manual work on the access path. Apart from its own niche output, Edradour is part of the Signatory Group which specialises in rare and unusual whiskies which can be purchased in the Distillery shop.

Finally, we headed into Speyside and Grantown-on-Spey and our lodgings for the night at An Cala Guest House. En-route we stopped for images of the Spey valley which was flooded, no doubt as a function of the snow melt arising from one of the worst winters on record.

This is the flooded Spey Valley near Grantown on Spey

Stills at Tullibardine
Tullibardine Distillery
Gavin, genial host at Tullibardine.

Inside Chapel Royal at Stirling Castle. Note tapestries which were specially woven.

Great Hall at Stirling Castle
Royal Palace at Stirling Castle

Entrance to Stirling Castle.
Edradour Distillery, Scotland's smallest.


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Doulton Fountain, Glasgow Green, Scotland

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

This evening, my theme is the Doulton Fountain in Glasgow Green.

This is the largest terracotta fountain in the world. It was made in 1887 to commemorate Queen Victoria's golden jubilee of that year and was unveiled at the Empire Exhibition in 1888. The structure was moved to its present location in 1890.

The structure is full of carvings and sculptures representing the British Empire which at that time was approaching its zenith. Not surprisingly, a statue of Queen Victoria sits atop the structure.

The fountain measures 46 feet in height and 70 feet in width. It is usually visited in conjunction with the nearby People's Palace and is a popular visitor attraction.

Elsewhere today:

  • I transferred recent guest to Glasgow Airport after a successful 4 day tour of Edinburgh and Glasgow.
  • Finalised a new Whisky Tour for visitors from Canada.
  • Posted information to my GlasgowAncestry blog on McApine family history from an old memorial stone in St Andrews in the Green.
Weather in Glasgow has been very poor today due to incessant heavy rain which has eased off this evening.


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Day Tour of Glasgow, Scotland

Monday, April 05, 2010

This morning, collected guest at Carlton George Hotel, central Glasgow. It was raining, so we elected to join the double deck tour bus for our tour of Glasgow.

First stop at which we alighted was for Glasgow Cathedral. This is an impressive, Gothic edifice dating from the 12th century on a site of religious significance dating back to the 5th century. The earliest part of the present building dates from 12th century with main period of building starting around AD 1240.

Here is the tomb of St. Kentigern ( aka St Mungo), patron saint of Glasgow.

This is the Blackadder Aisle, part of the lower church.

Rain prevented us from visiting the nearby Necropolis (City of the Dead). Because of the public holiday both Provand's Lordship and the St. Mungo Religious Museum were closed, which was disappointing. However, we jumped back on the tour bus and travelled down to Glasgow Green via Glasgow Cross and St. Andrew's in the Square.

Glasgow Green is awash with history. This is where inventor, James Watt had inspiration for improving the steam engine which proved a major contributor to the Industrial Revolution. This was also a site for public executions and military activity during the Jacobite uprising.

This is the (teracotta) fountain known as the Doulton Fountain which dates from Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee of 1887.

This image shows the Templeton Carpet Factory with its unusual design based on the Doge's Palace in Venice. In the foreground are poles along which were strung lines to dry the laundry of the local populace in bygone days.

We walked over to the nearby River Clyde and watched some ladies sculling (in the rain).

After refreshments we rejoined the tour bus and travelled along to the Science Centre.We crossed the Clyde via a footbridge and photographed the Waverley, a paddle steamer which still provides trips up and down the Clyde and out to Arran and West Coast. Image below is of the Waverley.Here is a view which includes the Waverley, 'Armadillo' conference centre, Finnieston Crane, and 'Squinty' Bridge.
We then re-joined the bus and alighted next at Glasgow University, a very old establishment dating back to the 15th century. Here is an entrance to the University which dates from medieval times and transferred to present site from previous location. By this time the rain had begun to ease.

After the University, we walked down to Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery. Here we enjoyed a spot of lunch (Haggis!) and then viewed the Charles Rennie Mackintosh section which includes this piece of furniture from the Hill House.

Here is the entrance to Kelvingrove Museum and Art Gallery.

We rejoined the tour bus and alighted in central Glasgow.Here we viewed some more of Mackintosh's work: Glasgow School of Art and Willow Tea Rooms.

This image shows entrance to the School of Art.
This is the Mackintosh designed Willow Tea Rooms in Sauchiehall Street.
Finally, after a visit to the nearby shopping centre, the tour finished at the hotel in George Square. We covered a lot of ground in the one day, notwithstanding closures of some venues due to the public holiday.


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Day Tour from Glasgow

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Today, we started Glasgow about 9.30am and then headed to Dumbarton which was the centre of an ancient, Welsh-speaking Kingdom around the 5th-10th centuries AD. The name translates as Fort of the Britons. Here we visited Dumbarton Castle which is built on a volcanic plug. Towards the end of its military life the fort was used as a defensive gun battery in the wars against France and many cannon are in situ as a reminder of this era. There are many steps to climb, but for the fit a rewarding visit as the elevation offers stunning views over the Clyde estuary and surrounding landscape.

Here is a view of the Clyde at very low tide.
Antipodean visitor atop Dumbarton Castle.

After Dumbarton, we motored on to Balloch at the southern tip of Loch Lomond which is Scotland's largest loch (lake) in terms of surface area. Here is an image of the loch featuring the paddle steamer 'Maid of the Loch' which is in process of restoration.

After Balloch, we drove on to Port of Menteith and Lake of Menteith. Enjoyed a pub lunch in front of an open wood fire at the lakeside hotel featured in this image. Not so long ago, this lake was frozen over. See this video clip of curling on the ice.

After Menteith, we headed to Doune Castle, the finest surviving medieval castle in Scotland. It dates from the 14th century and was built to a simple and sound plan which incorporated robust defensive features. In recent times the castle became famous when it featured in the film 'Monty Python and the Holy Grail'

After Doune, we visited another castle, this time at Stirling which in its day has been a military establishment, royal palace and British Army base. The former royal court features fine Renaissance work but was treated with little respect after King James VI of Scotland moved to London to assume the English throne. This image shows the royal palace.

Main entrance.
View from Stirling Castle of the snow-capped Ochill Hills and the Wallace Monument.

Here is the restored Great Hall basking in the sunshine.

After Stirling, we returned to Glasgow arriving about 5.15pm. A good day with weather relatively dry.


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Haddington, East Lothian, Scotland

Saturday, April 03, 2010

This evening, my theme is the town of Haddington, which lies about 20 miles from Edinburgh.

Haddington is situated in the midst of the region known as East Lothian which is strong on agriculture.The town once held the biggest grain market in Scotland and today boasts many fine buildings including a working mill as evidence of its past.. Traders concluded deals by the goat shaped Mercat Cross. Criminals were hung from the Nungate Bridge.

The town has been engulfed by various catastrophes including:

  • Repeated flooding by the River Tyne which reached a peak in 1948 flooding the town centre to a depth of one foot.
  • Devastation caused by English armies which three times burned the town over a span of 200 years.
Famous People: The Protestant reformer, John Knox was born in Haddington and Robert Burns' brother, Gilbert moved to Haddington from his native Ayrshire.

Overall, Haddington impresses and pleasant and prosperous town, although perhaps not somewhere to go for a vacation.

Elsewhere today:

  • I have been busy arranging various tours including whisky themed and ancestry themed.
  • Posted information to my separate GlasgowAncestry blog on Madden family history which seemed to involve reverse migration in that the deceased were born in the U.S. but died in Glasgow.
Weather here in Glasgow has been relatively dry and cool. It seems a good day is in prospect for tomorrow.


posted by Catswhiskers @ 12:53 PM  0 comments


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Walking Tour of Edinburgh, Scotland

Friday, April 02, 2010

Today, we had enjoyable walking tour of Edinburgh, capital of Scotland. Weather was incredibly benign with an unseasonal combination of blue skies, sunshine and snow capped hills in the distance.

We commenced at the Grassmarket and then walked up to the Royal Mile. En-route we encountered this gentleman collecting for charity. He proved to be a former WW2 soldier with experience in the North African desert attached to an Australian unit.

Here is a view from the castle looking over Edinburgh to the snow covered Pentland Hills to the south.
This is the entrance to Edinburgh Castle and location of the world famous Edinburgh Military Tattoo.

Edinburgh castle is built on the plug of a volcanic plug. The current castle dates from the 11th century but on the site of fortifications which date back much earlier. We joined a guided tour which took us around the key aspects of this famous monument, finishing in the centre where we went to visit the Scottish National War Memorial and the Crown Room where the Honours of Scotland (regalia comprising crown, sceptre, sword, other items and the coronation Stone of Scone can be viewed.
Re-enactment period actors in the Great Hall

Another view from the castle with the Pentland Hills in the distance.

After visiting the Castle we strolled down the Royal Mile looking at key sites before visiting St. Giles Cathedral which is also known as the High Kirk of Edinburgh and dates form the 12th century. Inside, in addition to the stunning features and contents we also visited the chapel dedicated to the Knights of the Thistle, Scotland's chief order of chivalry. The chapel was opened in 1911 and is richly endowed with carved wood panelling.
Inside St. Giles Cathedral
About half way down the Royal Mile is the World's End Pub. In medieval times Edinburgh was a walled city and this is where the boundaries of the city were established. To the inhabitants of the day, this is where their world ended.

This is Chessel's Court which dates from 1748, so named because it was built by Archibald Chessel. The building on the right was the first real hotel in Scotland. The buildings were restored in 1958-67.
This is the debating chamber of the Scottish Parliament. This building was constructed to house the devolved Scottish Administration and opened in 2004. Eventual cost was some 8-10 times original budget and the exterior architecture (designed by Enric Miralles of Spain) has proved somewhat controversial.
Here is the National Monument on Calton Hill with some choreography in process. This was modelled on the Parthenon in Athens and intended as a tribute to the dead of the Napoleonic wars but was left incomplete when funding dried up in 1829.

Our final visit was to Charlotte Square at the end of George Street. Charlotte Square is part of Edinburgh's New Town which, as a concept, dates from 1766. Charlotte Square was completed in 1820 to designs by famous Scots architect, Robert Adam. Queen Charlotte was wife of King George III. In Charlotte Square we visited the Georgian House, a building dating from 1796 and fully restored to its original Georgian grandeur by the National Trust for Scotland. There is a good introductory film providing a useful insight into daily life in the Georgian era.
After this visit we walked back to the hotel in Grassmarket via the New Town.This concluded a rewarding day exploring Edinburgh.


posted by Catswhiskers @ 1:17 PM  0 comments


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Tour from Edinburgh, Scotland.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Today, the weather in east of Scotland was bright, clear but still relatively cold after taking into account the windchill.

Collected guest at the Grassmarket in Edinburgh Old Town. Here is an image of the Grassmarket which lies in the shadow of Edinburgh Castle.

After a quick shopping trip in Princes Street, we drove a few miles south to the village of Roslin. Here is the famous (especially post Da Vinci Code book and film) Rosslyn Chapel which dates from the 15th century. This incredible, intensively carved structure, took some 40 years to complete under sponsorship of the St. Clair family under whose control the building remains to this day. We were able to climb up the walkway to the roof to observe the repairs in process and admire the snow covered scenery reflecting in the sunshine.

Here is a view of the village of Roslin taken from the roof of Rosslyn Chapel

Masons at work repairing the fabric of the Chapel.

After a spot of lunch in Rosslyn we drove on, to Glenkinchie Whisky Distillery (see image at foot of this post). At Glenkinchie we joined the standard tour explaining the malting, mashing, fermentation, distillation and maturation process of the product which is Scotland's national drink and leading export product.

At Glenkinchie there was still evidence of the recent heavy snow falls in the area some of which had started to melt resulting in localised flooding.

Next we drove on, first to the historic town of Haddington. At one stage Haddington held the biggest grain market in Scotland. The town boast fine buildings and a working mill.

Next we drove to the pretty village of Dirleton with its famous castle. After some photo opps we headed back to Edinburgh tracking the coast of the Firth of Forth and observing the snow capped hills in Fife across the Firth.

This image shows the village green at Dirleton.
This is the Dovecote connected to Dirleton Castle. In medieval times pigeons were an important source of food.

Perhaps the key memory from today will be the unusual (and unseasonal) combination of sunshine and snow covered scenery.

Weather forecast bodes well for our tour of Edinburgh tomorrow.

Here is Glenkinchie Distillery.


posted by Catswhiskers @ 11:28 AM  0 comments


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