Wednesday 25th May, 2005
Thursday 26th May, 2005
Friday 27th May, 2005

Wednesday 25th May, 2005

Drop Cap ell, here we are in Huntly, in yet another individual B & B.

Drop Cap ut first, we left Crail in fog which continued to Dundee and made crossing the Tay Bridge...interesting. Then it turned to rain, unfortunately, as we fought our way around closed roads and diversions until we reached Balmoral, Queen Victoria's Highland Home, set in the glorious Deeside country.

Balmoral castle photograph

Back and Side, Balmoral Castle, Scotland

Drop Cap e wanted to visit Balmoral Castle to complete our royal flush - Mac and I have visited Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle, Holyrood House in Edinburgh and Sandringham. So this completes it.

Drop Cap e parked outside and walked in, bought our tickets and a guidebook and caught the tractor pulled train up to the castle. We had not planned to spend half the day here as we had to get on, so we didn't do the audio tour, just looked around on our own.

Balmoral castle photograph

Balmoral Castle, from the Garden

Drop Cap e had a light lunch in the Cafeteria, then wandered around the castle, looking at the exterior and gardens, which were lovely. There was an exhibition in the ballroom which was quite interesting. We looked at some carriages and an exhibition of local art, then caught the tractor train back to the gates. I can quite understand Queen Victoria's love for Balmoral and if Prince Albert had lived here more he might not have succumbed to the typhoid caused by London's terrible drainage system (or lack of same).

Drop Cap e then headed to Huntly through gorgeous highland scenery (we even saw a deer dash across the road) as the weather was trying to clear up.

Drop Cap rs. Ingram's directions were admirably clear and she was able to greet us by name, as we have the place to ourselves. There are only two rooms, ours is the double with ensuite, Geoff has a twin with a private bathroom. They are decorated in old fashioned style, scrupulously clean and with every surface covered with knicknacks.

Drop Cap rs. Ingram has a lovely soft accent and a way of speaking just like a character from John Buchan. And our papers had arrived from David and Lorraine Wolsey in Derbyshire! That is very quick. We must send them a note and the Sydney picture book which I brought to thank them.

Drop Cap e explored Huntly for somewhere to have dinner and only found a couple of pubs. Mrs. Ingram says there is an Indian further up the town which we may try tomorrow. Tonight we had dinner at the Gordon Arms, Mac's and mine were alright but Geoff's fried chicken he described as totally tasteless. Oh well.

Drop Cap e have a private guest's sitting room where Geoff and I had slightly laboured conversation with Mr. and Mrs. Ingram, after which I am writing my journal and he is reading.

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Thursday 26th May, 2005

Drop Cap t was a lovely day today, for the most part, sunny and bright and very windy with only a little rain on the way home, which has not yet reached Huntly.

Drop Cap ur sightseeing today was quite different from previous days. We started off, (after leaving two bags of washing at the laundry) for the North-East Falconry Centre.

American Eagle photograph

American Bald Eagle, North East Falconry Centre, Scotland

Drop Cap his was amazing. They had quite a collection of working birds of prey, owls, hawks, falcons and eagles. They had golden eagles, bald eagles from America and white tailed sea eagles, the biggest eagles in Europe. We saw a TV programme a couple of weeks ago about how some naturalists re-established this huge bird in Britain when it was nearly extinct.

Eagle Owl photograph

Geoff with Eagle Owl

  Drop Cap e were the only visitors this morning and we had a private display. The handler worked a Harris Hawk, an eagle owl and a peregrine falcon.

Hawk photograph

Mac handles a Harris Hawk

  Drop Cap t was wonderful stuff. Mac and Geoff were thrilled to put on the glove and have these marvellous birds land on their wrists to take some food. Geoff was on a high all day! They were all very handsome birds, my favourite was the eagle owl, the one with ear tufts sticking up like horns. It was a great morning.

Harris hawk photograph

Geoff on a High, With Harris Hawk

Drop Cap e drove from here to Dufftown, ten miles from Huntly, where we had lunch, posted a thankyou to Lorraine and David Wolsey, caught up with our email at the local library, and visited the Tourist Information Office.

Picardy Stone photograph

Picardy Symbol Stone, near Huntly

Drop Cap here I picked up a leaflet for "The Stone Circle", the same sort of thing as "The Whisky Trail" and "The Castle Trail". It had its own special symbol to mark the sites, just like the others. We went off to find some and, despite being somewhat off the beaten track, we did find several, quite accessible.

Drop Cap he first was the Picardy Stone, very weathered, but you could still see some of the typical patterns we discovered at Pictavia.

Maiden Stone photograph

Maiden Symbol Stone, near Pitcaple

Drop Cap ext, we found the Maiden Stone near Pitcaple, a very large pink granite slab, very weathered on one side but the other side had very easily seen "Mirror and Comb" and "Pictish Beast" carvings.
From here we could see a Vitrified Hillfort, a stone arch on a high hilltop. There was a footpath but I was not going to try it.

Daviot Stone Circle photograph

Loanhead of Daviot Recumbent Stone Circle

Drop Cap o we went on and found the Recumbent Stone Circle of Loanhead of Daviot. This was incredible - four to five thousand years old and most of it was still there!

Drop Cap ll in all we had a great day.
It started to rain as we headed for home but it had gone by the time we got back to Huntly.
We had a very nice Indian meal in Huntly, had a quick squiz at Huntly Castle (practically in the town), and came home replete.

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Friday 27th May, 2005

Drop Cap ain today! At least the afternoon and evening, probably the most we have had for a while.

Fishing Village photograph

Moray Coast Fishing Village, Scotland

Drop Cap e went on a Coastal Trail crawl along the northern part of this area. We saw little villages clinging to the edge of the sea, some built of the local granite, looking at one with the cliffs.
They all had little man-made harbours, some very old, 1500-1600s. They were all at one time fishing villages, some still seem to be, one has survived by making a harbour into a marina for yachts.

Bow Fiddle Rock photograph

Bow Fiddle Rock off Portknockie, Moray Coast

Drop Cap ome of the names escape me, they tended to merge into one, but some stand out, like Portknockie, with Bow Fiddle Rock just offshore, Cullen, with its massive disused Railway Viaducts and a tearoom where Geoff sampled Cullen Skink, a local smoked fish soup, which he enjoyed.

North east coast photograph

By the Sea, Moray Coast, Scotland

Drop Cap t one of them was a lovely wildflower laden beach, with sand and rocky cliffs. At Whitehills was the marina and we also posted an anniversary card to Neil and Radha here.

Pennan photograph

Pennan Village, Scotland

Drop Cap he most spectacular was tiny Pennan, at the foot of a massive gorge. This village opens its doors practically on the shingle. It was used as the background for the film "Local Hero" and still gets quite a few visitors who remember the film.

Pennan Beach photograph

Geoff Relaxes on Pennan Beach, Scotland

Drop Cap nfortunately it provides nothing for the casual tourist, not even a pub or teashop, in fact no shop of any kind. We liked it though, including the sandy beach (see photo).

Drop Cap e made it as far as Fraserburgh, then turned for home. Dinner at the Huntly Hotel was very nice.
Off to Wick tomorrow!

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