Within 20 miles of Stirling… So much to see and experience!

On Sunday morning, October 6th, after we left the Fords of Frew and visited the lovely Easter Frew Farm, we tossed a coin to decide which way to go when we arrived back at the crossroads. We turned right and started driving in a northerly direction and soon noticed a sign pointing the way to a village by the name of Doune.

I asked Lindsay, “Isn’t there a castle called Doune? Have you ever been to it?”

He said, “Yes, I think I’ve heard of it but don’t recall ever visiting it. If there is a castle, then my guess is that it would be in or near the village of Doune, let’s see if we can find it!”  So we turned up the road to Doune, and we did find the Castle, which wasn’t difficult at all and only about 5 miles away!


As soon as we arrived in the village, there were plenty of signs pointing the way. The Castle was near the edge of town on the far side and quite easy to find.

When we got out of the car and looked at it, it seemed familiar, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on why. It wasn’t long after entering and buying our tickets that I figured it out. They had signs and information all over the place boasting that the Castle was used as a stand-in for the fictional “Castle Leoch” in the TV adaptation of the Outlander series.  (Here’s a link to the Outlander filming locations interactive map if you’re a fan. Kind of fun to look at! Outlander Filming locations at Visit Scotland )

In Season 1 of the series, Castle Leoch served as the home of Jamie Fraser’s uncle, Colum Mackenzie, and his clan. So! That’s why it so looked familiar to me!


It’s also been a filming location for other films and series such as ‘Winterfell’ in the series Game of Thrones…


…and the British comedy film, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, a parody of the legends of King Arthur, was also filmed here in 1974.

Besides its popularity as a set location for famous films, I soon learned that historically it formerly was built and owned by one of the Stewarts.  Since I have many familial connections to the Stewarts, I figured I must be related somehow to the person who built this Castle. However, I didn’t have access to Wifi at the time to check it out. As I often do, I knew I could always investigate that later…

The Castle was built around 1362 – about 658 years ago – by Robert Stewart, the Duke of Albany, and it remains pretty much intact to this day.

When Robert became the Earl of Menteith after his marriage to Margaret Graham, the Countess of Menteith, he was given the title of Earl and the lands that Doune Castle stands on. The building of the Castle started sometime soon after their marriage.

Robert was pretty well connected:

  • He was the second son of King Robert II of Scotland (1316–1390), the first monarch of the House of Stewart
  • His grandfather was Walter Stewart, 6th High Steward of Scotland (1293–1326) and
  • His great-grandfather was Robert the Bruce (1274–1329), legendary victor of the Battle of Bannockburn.
  • His older brother, John Stewart (1337–1406), would later be crowned King of Scotland under the name Robert III.

He was right there in the middle of all the royalty, and there is quite a bit of history written about him in particular! He’s rather infamous. We will not, however, get into that long story here!

As I was beginning to explore, I wondered how I might be related to this Robert Stewart, whose Castle I was wandering around in centuries later. When I did have time to investigate, it turns out he is my 18th great grandfather through the Campbells in Argyll! Well, I’ll be darned!  I stumbled upon yet another ancestral castle quite by chance.

IMG_6932I also discovered in my research that during the Jacobite rising of 1745, Doune Castle was occupied by Charles Edward Stuart, “Bonnie Prince Charlie,” and the Jacobite Highlanders. Doune was used as a prison for government troops who were captured at the Battle of Falkirk.  Evidently, legend has it that several prisoners who were held in the rooms above the kitchens managed to escape by knotting together bedsheets and climbing down from the window.

The escapees included the author John Home, and a minister, John Witherspoon, who later moved to America and was one of the men who signed the United States Declaration of Independence! That was an interesting little tidbit of historical information to discover!

The site of  Doune Castle was quite strategic since it is close to the geographical center of Scotland, and only 5 miles from Stirling Castle at the “crossroads of Scotland.”


After buying our tickets in what used to be the room used by the Castle Guards, the tour began in the courtyard at ground level. There was a lot of restorative work being done, so it wasn’t safe to walk around the courtyard and out to the well.

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The fenced-off pathway in the courtyard led us to and up the stairs below, where we entered the tower through another large wooden door. From there, we began exploring the rooms inside, starting with the Inner Hall with its lavish double fireplace sitting in its prominent position at the head of the Hall right behind the table that Robert Stewart would have sat at to conduct business.


IMG_6837Off in the left corner near the fireplaces, there were a flight of stairs that curved steeply upwards, leading to suites just out of sight. These stairs led to the Dukes and Duchesses private rooms.

The tour through the Castle lasts quite a while and has excellent interpretive signage all along the way. You can choose which way you want to explore. You don’t have to follow a designated route. They also provide an excellent audio tour device that explains everything as you progress. It guides you through the various parts of the Castle effortlessly, through the great halls, kitchens, bedrooms, and cellars at whatever pace you feel comfortable with and has interesting historical information and stories about the Castle and its inhabitants to listen to.

I usually particularly enjoy visiting the lower levels where the kitchens are. This Castle’s kitchen was exceptionally large with massive fireplaces and ovens in comparison to a lot of other castles I’ve visited. From the size of the kitchen alone, I could tell that at one time, some opulent festivities were occurring here and a lot of food being served through these pass-throughs and corridors. You could almost smell it on the walls!

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IMG_6901It was fun to climb up a few flights above the kitchen and look back down below to Lindsay, waving at me near the window below.

Above the kitchens are other private rooms, and evidently, Mary Queen of Scots spent time here during her reign and stayed in the suite above the kitchens. The tour ended as we descended from the kitchen tower on this stairway below.IMG_6822


In one of the cellar vaults under the Castle, as you’re leaving, there is a lovely gift shop to wander through. Naturally, because this is such an iconic Outlander filming location, there were all manner of Outlander paraphernalia – clothing, mugs, jewelry, books – that one could purchase as a souvenir…


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We still had quite a bit of daylight left in the afternoon, so we said goodbye to the village of Doune and traveled about 20 miles southeast toward Dunfermline to visit another village, Culross. It is an ancient village with old buildings and cobbled lanes that are lovingly restored from medieval times.

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We entered the village from the top access road off of the A985 and stopped at the Culross Abbey before we finished driving down the hill to the central part of the old village.


It was deserted, and we were the only visitors wandering around this ancient abbey. They had several exhibits set up that we could read and look at as well as admire the stained glass windows, organ, and carved woodwork throughout.

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One of the displays talked about some silver coins called Merks that I thought was of interest.

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One particular young man in Culross in the late 1500s made quite a difference in the village of Culross. His name was Sir George Bruce. He developed a coal pit and harvested salt in the area.


We will learn a bit more about this guy a bit later. Here’s a painting of him for now.


In a side chapel, we happened upon the memorial aisle for Sir George, his wife, and their eight children all carved out of what looks like marble. Quite elaborate!

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We finished walking through the church and then headed back outside…


To save Lindsay a whole lot of walking, we climbed back in the car and drove slowly through the narrow cobbled lanes of the village to the town center.

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In 1932, there was a very unique program launched in Scotland called “Little Houses” to restore historic homes. Over 165 houses have been restored since then, and Culross was extremely lucky to have 40 of their historical houses restored under that program. What is unique about the “Little Houses” project was that they not only wanted to restore and maintain the old historical buildings, but they wanted them to continue to be lived in supporting the community and its culture. They didn’t want to just create museums out of these houses for people to tour.  They sincerely wanted to maintain the community because it was threatened as a target community for slum clearances. All throughout the village, you see the plaques on the outside of various buildings that designate it as a ‘Little House’ that got special treatment under that grand scheme.



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Down near the edge of the water, we came to the center of town and parked near the Town House built 1626.  Our next stop would be the Palace, which is that dark ochre-colored building down the lane in the slideshow below that Sir George Bruce and his family built and lived in.  The Palace is a National Trust Property, and you can tour its interior.

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There are so many fascinating old buildings in this town, they’ve even included a handy map with a brief description for each unique treasure.  You could spend the whole day in this town wandering around and getting acquainted with all 40 of them!


Because this beautiful little village has been preserved so well, it also serves as an authentic and well-suited set location for films. Most recently, it also appeared in several scenes of Outlander.


The Palace is a National Trust Property and you can tour its interior. It also has extensive gardens in the rear of the Palace that you can also wander around and enjoy.

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The Palace is well worth visiting and is filled to the brim with authentic period furniture, artwork, fine examples of needlework, exquisite wood paneling, and artifacts. It is set up as if the family were actually living there and it feels like they have just stepped away for a walk or something.

IMG_7126It isn’t precisely a Palace, but rather, an impressive house for its time. You aren’t allowed to take pictures, however, so I don’t have many to show you.  You’ll have to come to see it for yourself or check out some images at the National Trust website: National Trust for Scotland.

One small bit of information I gathered about this place was how they treated their windows. Glass would have been expensive back then, so they only put clear panes on the upper part of the window. The bottom was a wooden shutter that could open from the inside to allow fresh air to enter the room. Now that’s an ingenious way to save some money yet maintain function!

Sir George was very instrumental in bringing a strong economy to Culross through the coal, iron, and salt industries. The tour of the Palace includes some very informative displays and exhibits that explain the unique way they harvested salt for curing and coal for heating. The coal pit Sir George developed had an opening in the middle of the Firth of Forth! It was quite amazing how they tunneled under the water and then built a mound of earth and a tower up to the level above the waterline so they could load the coal straight up from the pit below directly onto boats!


By the time we toured the whole Palace, it was getting late in the afternoon, and we were ready to call it a day.  We managed to fit a lot into just one day!  We visited the village of Kippen, explored the Fords of Frew territory, toured an ancestral castle at Doune, and wandered about in a well-preserved medieval town!  Fun!

We finished off our beautiful day of exploring with a nice relaxing dinner. We spent the night nearby in the town of Bo’ness at the Richmond Park Hotel. It is located almost directly across the Firth of Forth from Culross.  The hotel had a very nice onsite restaurant where Lindsay enjoyed a proper Sunday full carvery dinner with Roast Beef and Yorkshire pudding; while I enjoyed some fried prawns with crunchy onion rings and a crisp fresh salad.

Afterward,  I had one more surprise in store for us.  We got back in the car and drove a few miles into the darkness to visit the Kelpies at night! What a treat! 

The Kelpies are 30-meter-high horse-head sculptures depicting shape-shifting water spirits, in The Helix, a new parkland project. They were designed by Andy Scott and completed in October 2013.


The Kelpies’ name reflects the mythological transforming beasts possessing the strength and endurance of 10 horses; a quality that is analogous with the transformational change and endurance of Scotland’s inland waterways. The Kelpies represent the lineage of the heavy horse of Scottish industry and economy, pulling the wagons, ploughs, barges, and coal ships that shaped the geographical layout of the Falkirk area.

They are quite the sight to see! Especially at night when the changing color of the lights uplight them and reflect upon their surfaces. After you park your car you have to approach them on foot following a wide pathway through the park and near the canal. They are so impressive. Whether you’re just beginning to approach them and they come into view or if you’re standing right underneath them – they are amazing sculptures that keep their eye on you as you walk around them to admire their stunning beauty.

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We will come back to see these magnificent creatures in the light of day in the morning, but that’s another story about another day of exploring around Scotland. Next time, we will visit several other interesting Royal Palaces within close proximity to Stirling and Edinburgh and also visit an utterly amazing engineering feat you won’t want to miss!


‘Oot ‘n Aboot’ in Edinburgh & the ‘Fords of Frew’ Revisited

Lindsay and I hung out at his house for about a week after our trip to the Western Isles. By the end of the week, we were getting antsy and were more than ready to head out of town to explore some more. On Friday, October 4th, we left Aberdeen and headed south to Edinburgh. […]

map to EdinburghLindsay and I hung out at his house for about a week after our trip to the Western Isles. By the end of the week, we were getting antsy and were more than ready to head out of town to explore some more.

On Friday, October 4th, we left Aberdeen and headed south to Edinburgh. We planned on visiting several sights along our proposed route for the next few days. The sites included a couple of castles and palaces, a quaint and well-preserved medieval town called Culross, some fantastic engineering feats, such as the Falkirk Wheel, and a visit to a particular place I visited a few years ago – the Fords of Frew.

Our first stop was Edinburgh. Once we got checked into our B&B, ‘The Alison,’ we were able to park the car there for free. Parking is a premium in Edinburgh so we were extremely grateful to have unlimited parking as long as we were guests. We caught the bus to the old part of town about a mile up the road to visit The National Museum of Scotland. After traveling south from Aberdeen earlier that morning, we still had an hour or two to explore at least part of the museum in the late afternoon before they closed for the day.

The museum is free and is absolutely enormous, with several floors and various sections. We couldn’t possibly see all of it in one day. They finished remodeling it in 2011 and upgraded their exhibits, so it had all of the very modern conveniences and yet retained its Victorian traditions making it a pleasure to visit. After traveling around Scotland and visiting various historical sites these last 5 years, I’ve been looking forward to seeing the unique ancient treasures and artifacts from those sites. The treasures have been preserved and stored in the museum for safekeeping where everyone can see them as opposed to being scattered about in private collections.

In the main mezzanine of the 3 storied, glass-roofed central hall, there were some very different and interesting pieces on display such as this Victorian drinking fountain, a printing press, and a fresnel lens from the InchKeith lighthouse on the Firth of Forth.

Nearby on the main floor in another section was another huge room with all kinds of examples of various modes of transportation, including full-size airplanes! They had old cars, motorcycles, steam engines, bicycles, balloons…you name it!

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We explored one of the art exhibits on an upper level and finished up our tour for the day by going up the elevator to visit the rooftop. At that level, there are lovely 360-degree views of IMG_6142old town Edinburgh, including the castle, which is close by. It also provides several interpretative panels so you can identify the buildings on the skyline by their spires or rooftops.


For dinner that evening, Lindsay took me to a really cool old pub he used to go to years ago when he lived in this area called “The Old Bell.” It was just down the street from our lodging and was teeming with a lot of local folks who appeared to be ‘regulars’ at their favorite hang out spot. It was cozy and welcoming, and just what we were looking for. On top of the wonderful ambiance and charm, they also served really great food at very reasonable prices.

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The next day we headed straight back to the museum when they opened in the morning. We spent quite a few hours exploring many more of its vast number of exhibits and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.  I was particularly interested in finding anything related to Scottish history, and I wasn’t the least bit disappointed. IMG_6165They had 4 separate floors relating to all things Scottish, starting with the first inhabitants, the Picts during ancient history, on the first floor.

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Each subsequent floor featured a different portion of history right up to the present day. The displays were well lit, with easy-to-read labeling, and the multitude of artfully crafted artifacts was a delight to see with my own eyes. Exquisite workmanship!

One section contained superb specimens of native species in the natural environments around Scotland…

IMG_6431…Lindsay even found an exact copy of the first car he had ever owned as a young man; a plethora of youthful memories flooded his head, causing him to grin from ear to ear!

Although we spent most of the day exploring the museum, we barely put a dent in it. We could have probably spent another couple of days to see everything. It is so full of beautiful treasures. I will definitely return time and time again until I have enjoyed them all!

However, for the time being, we had seen all we could possibly muster that day. We also needed to retrieve our car at the B&B and spend the rest of the afternoon driving west about 40 miles to the town of Stirling, where we had reservations for the night.

We checked into the YHA hostel, which is located just a few doors down the lane from Stirling Castle. Once we were settled, we headed down the quaint winding cobbled roads to the center of town nearby to a delightful little pub called ‘Nicky-Tams’ for supper.  We each enjoyed a very delicious serving of “Balmoral Chicken,” a tall cold brew, and we were also pleasantly surprised to have live music to enjoy with our meal as well. What a perfect way to end the day!

The following day, October 6th, we spent the IMG_6746morning exploring several different sites near Stirling after a hearty and filling breakfast. Lindsay was so surprised by the abundant traditional Scottish breakfast he received at the hostel. I suspect he was expecting it to be a bit skimpier because it wasn’t a full-scale hotel or restaurant or something, and even made the comment that it was the best breakfast he’s had for a very long time! The Chef literally beamed with pride when he personally went up to him to thank him.

We didn’t have any particular plans for the day and decided to just wing it, see what we could find, and possibly fit into the allotted daylight hours. We started driving in a westerly direction as we left Stirling and headed out into the countryside to visit a charming little village perched upon a hill called Kippen. Nearby are some farms and other various landmarks that are related to our shared ancestral surname – Frew.

The first time I visited these places was a few years ago. I wrote a blog about it called “The Fords of Frew” & the Village of Kippen. As an avid follower of my blog, Lindsay has read every single one of my many blog posts over the years; therefore, he already knew about the places we were headed to, but he was also quite curious to see them for himself.

IMG_6747 town mapThe small village of Kippen was still and quiet on a Sunday morning, and nothing was open. We drove around the little village while I pointed out the Cross Keys pub in the center of town and the Parish Church that I had visited the last time I was here. We parked the car in the village center and noticed a signboard posted in the little park nearby. The sign displayed a map of the village, and also provided some tidbits of historical value.



As we read about the village, I realized there were a few historical sites I had previously overlooked. So we walked around and explored them. Although volunteers have already spent many hours cleaning up and beginning the refurbishment of the ancient grounds, the decrepit old graveyard with a bell tower dating back to 1691 is still unsafe for the general public to enter. All we could do was peek over the fence to have a look.



Nearby were several other historical buildings such as the old ‘smiddy’ (blacksmith shop). We peered through the windows and then followed the winding cobbled lane and found the old hotel for cattle Drovers called the “Black Bull Inn” from 1729.

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Next, we got back in the car, drove back down the hill the village is perched upon, and headed toward the River Forth, which runs through the valley below. I had something else I wanted to show Lindsay – the Bridge of Frew! Of course, this is a newer and more modern bridge, and I’m almost positive there used to be an older one in the vicinity, but just the same…

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We continued to drive down the road until we came to the fork that leads out to the various Frew farms. I explained to Lindsay that we wouldn’t be able to get out of the car to access the Fords of Frew near the end of the road, but I thought he might enjoy seeing them from the side of the road in the distance and the various Frew Farm signs along the way.

Just before we reached the Lindsay’s farm, called ‘Easter Frew Farm’ we were able to see the river winding its way toward the ocean and possibly catch a glimpse of the Fords of Frew in a narrow spot along its banks in the distance.

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He asked if I was going to stop to say hello to the Lindsay family I had met on my previous visit. I told him, “No, I hadn’t planned on it. I don’t want to bother them again, especially on a Sunday morning.  We can just drive down the road so you might catch a glimpse of the fords and then turn around to go back the way we have come because the road ends at their farm. Besides, I doubt they would even remember me.”

Soon after that, we arrived at the Easter Frew Farm, where the road widens, and I could turn around. The place was tranquil, and no one seemed to be about anyway, so I backed up the car to make a 3-point turn to head back in the direction we had come. Just as I was about to pull forward out of their driveway entrance to head back the way we came, a big semi-truck and trailer, (called “Lorries” in the UK) appeared around the corner of the barn. He stopped when he saw me in his driveway and waved hello.

I couldn’t be rude and just drive away, so I shut off the car, got out, and walked over to the driver to say hello and explain why I was in his driveway.  Boy, was I ever wrong when I made a comment to Lindsay earlier about them not remembering me! He certainly did, and we proceeded to have a great conversation. I asked how his family is, and he brought me up to speed about all of them, including all the news about his new granddaughter that evidently is the apple of his eye!  Lindsay wandered over, and I introduced them. It was a nice, yet unplanned reunion, and I have to admit it made me feel good that they did remember me, and fondly.

After visiting for a short while, Mr. Lindsay apologized and announced that he needed to get the truck delivered somewhere by a specific time, and therefore, had to run.  We told him it was no problem, but that it was great that we had the luck to see him in his busy schedule. Just as he was leaving and we were about to walk back to the car to go ourselves, his lovely wife, Leslie, came around the corner from the fields with their two friendly canines running along beside her. After her husband drove off in the truck, we had another lovely visit with Leslie, too, and it turned out that she had a pleasant surprise for me.


Allow me to explain…

I have written a total of 203 blog posts (including this one) in my three blogs at WordPress over the last 5 years. The blog posts cover a lot of territory. The places I have visited range from very iconic to completely trivial in nature. One of the fun features of WordPress that I enjoy as the writer is that WordPress provides statistics about my blog posts for me. For instance, it tells me how many people have looked at or read any of my posts. It doesn’t identify the people by name, but it does tell me what country they are from. It’s enjoyable to see that people from all over the world have visited my site. It also tells me which posts have been viewed the most.  This is where the blog post, The Fords of Frew & the Village of Kippen, come in.

I would have thought that a more well-known sight that I have visited and written about would have drawn a lot of attention, but again I was mistaken. When I first visited the Fords of Frew and wrote about meeting the lovely Lindsay family quite by chance, it wasn’t a very long post with lots of cool pictures or anything that would perhaps make it stand out. It was just kind of a short story of a day in the life of this traveler who was searching out a site that bore her surname, and kind of an obscure name at that! But it never ceases to amaze me when I view the statistics about my blogs.

Go figure! Since I posted that particular blog post about the Fords of Frew, someone from somewhere has looked at it almost every day since it was published! It has been viewed more than any other blog post I have written, and amazingly has been seen twice as many times and the next most popular blog post that is in second place!  I have also received the most comments on that particular post than any other as well! Who would’ve guessed? Certainly not me!

Here comes the lovely surprise –  the best part as far as I’m concerned…

While I was standing there talking to Leslie, the conversation turned when she asked me about my blog. I shared with her what I just shared with you. Then I asked her if she had ever seen it or read it and if so, what did she think? I wanted to make sure it had met her approval.

She IMG_6803whips out her smartphone from her pocket, and by golly shows me that she has the blog post already open in one of her windows! I was so touched, it almost made me cry right there on the spot. I think I did, at the very least, have to wipe a tear from the corner of my eye. As a writer, I am naturally always hoping someone will find my stories interesting, informative, helpful, or inspiring, as you might imagine. To have someone whip out their phone and have one of my stories open at any given moment was like receiving nectar from the gods! Thank you, Leslie, for making my day! I will never forget that.

With those lovely thoughts, this is where I am going to end this post. Lindsay and I visited several other sites later that day. Those sites include another famous and iconic ancestral Stewart castle nearby called Doune Castle. It also served as a filming location for both the Outlander and Game of Thrones series. We also visited a completely restored and preserved medieval town, Culross, several miles away, and we enjoyed a nighttime visit of the Kelpies!  You can look forward to hearing about those places in my next post. Until then, keep on traveling and exploring, and I encourage you to consider sharing your stories with others as well.







Our 6th & Final Week of Our European Holiday

It was hard to believe that we had been traveling around for 5 weeks already. Where did the time go? We only had 6 remaining days before the girls would board a flight in Aberdeen to head back home to Oregon. I still had several places I wanted to share with them before they left. Luckily, they were all located nearby in Aberdeenshire, so we had just the right amount of time to fit them all in comfortably.

IMG_2978On Saturday, August 24th, we rose early, enjoyed a good hearty breakfast that would sustain us for a while, and then piled into the car and drove out to Strathdon to attend The Lonach Gathering. Out of all the Highland Games, this is my favorite. I was so glad I had the opportunity to take the girls and show them what authentic Highland Games are all about.

Early in the morning, the Clansmen gather together in full highland dress and assemble to begin “The Lonach March.”  With banners flying the Clansmen march down the road behind their police escort (a Bobby on a bicycle) carrying their pikes, playing their bagpipes and beating their drums through the village, past the arena where the games take place, culminating their march at the Lonach Hall where they enjoy a private lunch before the games begin.

This tradition has been passed on from generation to generation.  Unfortunately, we didn’t leave early enough to arrive in time to see the men actually marching down the road. Still, we were able to see them gathered together afterward, hear the speeches, and watch them toast their society with a dram of whisky.


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IMG_4442The Chieftain of the clan is Sir James Forbes of Newe, Bart (pictured at right), and serves as Patron of the Lonach Highland & Friendly Society. He wrote the Patron’s Welcome Message of days’ event,

“Welcome to the home of the Lonach Highland & Friendly Society. Lonach was founded in 1823 by my Gt-Gt-Gt-Grandfather, Sir Charles Forbes, 1st Baronet of Newe & Edinglassie. The Society was born in the afterglow of his son’s 21st birthday celebrations to keep the good fellowship of that night going. Little surprise then that almost 200 years later, the Lonach Gathering is recognized as Scotland’s friendliest games.

In 1823 Scotland was on the cusp of monumental change, finally emerging from the bleak post-Culloden years to resume her rightful place in the World. With so much change in the air, our ancestors saw the need to preserve their heritage whilst still embracing the new. The Lonach March represents an unbroken link from our forefathers to the 21st Century: encountering the Lonach Highlanders for the first time takes you back to pre-1745 Scotland, but this is no historical re-enactment.

That spirit of continuity drives our commitment to our founders’ goals throughout the year. On Lonach Day all roads lead to Strathdon, but once the crowds have departed and the Lonach field has returned to its primary role as pasture, the Society continues in its year-round commitment to the “preservation of Highland garb and the promotion of social and friendly feelings among the inhabitants of the district” as well as “supporting loyal, peaceable and manly conduct.” Ho Ho Lonach!.”

After the speeches, the men fell into line again and marched the rest of the way up the hill to the Hall to enjoy their lunch. The girls got their first chance to hear pipes and drums and marching boots passing by just inches away!

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Grace also enjoyed meeting the horse firsthand…

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We then made our way down to the pasture, where the games were taking place. We walked around the stalls where they sold all sorts of Scottish ware and eventually found a spot to watch the games.

They featured the usual running races for all ages, including the significant Hill Run that takes them around the arena and then out into the woods to the top of a nearby hill and back again.

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Grace found a perfect spot with an excellent view of the Heavy-weight competitions such as the hammer throw and caber toss. She stayed in that spot all day, taking it all in and never tired of the spectacle before her.


Errin and I walked around a bit more, taking in the sights, and we also managed to see a nice variety of examples of both historical and contemporary highland dress scattered amongst the attendees.


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Near the end of the day, Grace even got in the action! She joined the ‘women from around the world’ team for the tug-of-war!  She had great fun and gave it her all as their kilted coach spiritedly encouraged them on!

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It was an absolutely fantastic day at the Highland Games, but we were slightly tired the following day. We decided to recharge our batteries and relaxed at home.  Grace made gluten-free lemon curd tarts with raspberries, a Scottish favorite that she had noticed in shops, and wanted to try to make herself. She was quite pleased with the results and rightly so! They were gorgeous to look at and tasted even better than they looked!


On Monday, August 26th, we headed back out into the countryside to visit another Stone Circle. Grace wasn’t with us when we visited Midmar, SunHoney, and Cullerlie Stone circles the week before, so she got her first experience while visiting East Aquhorthies near Inverurie.



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The path to the circle is well-marked and is an easy walk. There it was, just as I had remembered – very well kept and protected and looking very distinct and important.



Errin entered the circle, found its center, and once again, sensed the powerful energy within its circumference. She heard the horn again, and it actually sounded louder, clearer, and closer than the other sites she had visited before. She sensed that this circle was more powerful or significant somehow than the others.


We noticed the neighboring herd of cattle had become quite curious and had come over to look at the tourists. They were such a friendly lot allowing us to pet them. One of the cows particularly enjoyed licking the palms of Errin’s hands, making her giggle!

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As we strolled back to the car, I pointed out the nearby mountain top called Bennachie (pronounced – Ben/a/hee), where at least one of the unique large flanking stones of the circle had originally come from. If I remember correctly, the rock is red Jasper.


In the vicinity, there are also several other circles, stones, and archeological sites to visit.

We didn’t visit those other sites but instead drove back to Aberdeen and spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around and exploring the David Welch Winter Gardens at Duthie Park. We started in the section that is arid and desert-like filled with all manner of cacti…

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…worked our way through the tropical section, the flowers, the fern house, the Japanese garden, and enjoyed the little turtles under the bridge.

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IMG_2975It had been a fun day exploring, but I could tell Grace was a bit spent afterward as she relaxed on a lovely round stone sphere outside in the courtyard.

She was still feeling a bit tired the following day and decided to stay home again while Errin and I went to explore another ancestral castle, Huntly, and some beautiful gardens at Leith Hall.



As I mentioned previously, this magnificent ruinous castle is also another ancestral site for us.  My 12th great grandparents, George Marquess Huntly Gordon and his wife, Lady Henrietta Stewart, even have their names plastered across the front of the upper stories, and there is other evidence of their presence inside on the fireplaces and mantles!



Errin and I had a lot of fun wandering around this old and significant ruin together, and she learned a lot about our ancestors through the excellent signage and interpretive panels scattered throughout.






We walked around the grounds first until we arrived at the site of the first wooden castle on this site around 1190, which was located on the grassy motte (hill) with the bailey below. From the grassy mound that the original castle sat on, we had an excellent view of the newer castle built by my ancestors.


Next, we walked back over to the new castle, approached the front door and all of its elaborate heraldry, and begin exploring the many rooms on many levels in this magnificent building.

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Once we made it to the top, we had excellent views of the surrounding area. Look, you can easily see the top of the motte where the original wooden castle once stood in the 2nd century.

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In the uppermost rooms, we found more evidence of our ancestors in the suites where they would have spent most of their time entertaining guests and where they had their sleeping quarters. They definitely left their mark and made it so it would last for a long, long time!


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We finished our tour and started back toward the car.

“Well, that was fun and extremely interesting! What’s next on our itinerary today?” Errin inquired.

We drove out into the countryside about 7 miles or so to visit Leith Hall Gardens.  The house is only open for tours one day a week, and today was not that day, but we enjoyed walking around it and admiring it from the outside just the same.



We walked over to the gardens and wandered amongst the flowers and herbaceous beds full of color, over to the Moongate, and through the vegetable beds until we found a perfect spot to enjoy our picnic lunch.IMG_3095



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Our last stop for the day was about 10 miles away on the way back to Aberdeen. Sitting right next to the road, literally, is a very ancient Pictish stone called the Maiden Stone. It’s definitely worth veering off the main highway for a mile or so to see it. This stone was carved by the Picts 1,200 years ago!


The next day, in preparation for their flight home, the girls managed to repack all of their belongings back into their suitcases once again.  Lindsay’s kids and grandkids stopped by for one last visit before the girls left and at the close of the day we finished off their vacation in the same way we had started it -enjoying a ‘proper’ fish supper at another of our favorite chip shops, The Ashvale!

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We enjoyed such a terrific time during our 6-week European Holiday. I am so grateful the girls could accompany me on an adventure this year and that we were able to create so many fantastic memories together that we will long cherish. IMG_3117

Early on Friday, I drove them to the airport, and I am happy to report that they had a very uneventful flight back home to Oregon, and, that their luggage also made it all the way with them, unlike at the beginning of the journey!

I stayed in Scotland with Lindsay for another couple of months. Initially, I was only going to stay about 1 month longer, but I was having so much fun that I extended it for another month! Subsequent blog posts will feature all of the adventures that Lindsay and I experienced during September and October. Stay tuned – there’s more fun and wondrous sights yet to see!

Kildrummy & Craigievar – Two More Castles and One of Them is Ancestral!

On Thursday, August 22nd, we drove west out into the sunny countryside about 30 miles from Aberdeen to visit a couple of two very different castles.
kildrummy and craigievar castle map from Aberdeen
The first one we visited was Kildrummy Castle.
In its medieval heyday, this colossal castle dominated Strathdon as the seat of the mighty Earls of Mar, and it was built by and belonged to yet another one of my ancestors.
According to the timeline above on the interpretive sign, William Erskine, Earl of Mar, began working on this castle in 1250. He is my 20th great-grandfather through my dad’s side of the family and one particular great-great-grandmother of mine,  Elizabeth Holiday, who I affectionately call ‘Princess Lizzy’ since she leads to oh-so-many noble ancestors such as this one.
William Erskine 1274-1331
20th great-grandfather
Robert Erskine 1310-1385
Son of William Erskine
Thomas Erskine 1340-1405
Son of Robert Erskine
Robert Erskine 1368-1452
Son of Thomas Erskine
Thomas Erskine 1418-1493
Son of Robert Erskine
Alexander Erskine 1436-1508
Son of Thomas Erskine
Robert Thomas Mar Thomas Erskine 1458-1513
Son of Alexander Erskine
John ERSKINE 1487-1555
Son of Robert Thomas Mar Thomas Erskine
Margaret Erskine 1513-1572
Daughter of John ERSKINE
Son of Margaret Erskine
Lord Archibald Campbell Marquis of Argyll Earl of Argyll 1606-1661
Archibald “9th Earl of Argyll” Campbell 1629-1685
Son of Lord Archibald Campbell Marquis of Argyll Earl of Argyll
David Daniel Campbell 1675-1753
Son of Archibald “9th Earl of Argyll” Campbell
Charles Campbell 1699-1767
Son of David Daniel Campbell
William Campbell 1728-1803
Son of Charles Campbell
Jeanette Campbell 1770-1851
Daughter of William Campbell
John Holliday 1803-1872
Son of Jeanette Campbell
Elizabeth “Lizzie” Holiday 1842-1872
Daughter of John Holliday
Nancy Anne Brundage 1867-1948
Daughter of Elizabeth “Lizzie” Holiday
William Rose Frew II 1885-1976
Son of Nancy Anne Brundage
William Kenneth Frew 1917-1997
Son of William Rose Frew II
Claudia Louise Frew
You are the daughter of William Kenneth Frew
Throughout this mighty castles’ long and turbulent history, it has seen siege and counter-siege, forced marriage, treachery, historical drama, and even treason. The castle, although a ruin now, was once a mighty fortress situated in a strategic location along the old main road. It has a very complicated past, and it has passed through many historic hands and has seen many famous visitors, including Edward I King of England.
In 1435, about a hundred and seventy-five years after it was built, James I annexed the earldom of Mar and took ownership of Kildrummy. He made two large fortress type round Barbican Towers at the entrance for extra protection and fortification. The castle passed through several Kings and other noble families until, eventually, it went back to the Erskines in 1626.

As the interpretive sign above states, there is a sad story about a woman who inherited Kildrummy Castle and became Countess. Her name was Isabel Douglas, Countess of Mar (1360-1408). Just outside these gates in front of the castle, a terrible injustice took place.

Isabel was the sister of the famous James 2nd Earl of Douglas and Earl of Mar, who died leading the Scots to victory at the Battle of Otterburn. He died without any legitimate children, and Isabl inherited most of his property, including Kildrummy.

After becoming Countess, she became the most sought after bride in the land and was soon married to Sir Malcolm Drummond, brother-in-law of King Robert III. She was unable to produce any children, however, and soon the Countess became the focus of several plots to usurp her lands by scheming noblemen.

Isabel and Malcolm lived at Kildrummy Castle, but Sir Malcolm was frequently away on royal business since he was one of King Robert’s close advisors. In 1402, while he was away at one of his other castles, he was suddenly attacked by a large group of highlanders led by the infamous Alexander Stewart, the illegitimate son of the Wolf of Badenoch.

Alexander captured the castle and put Sir Malcolm into one of his dungeons, where he soon died. King Robert III was sick and infirm, and real power was in the hands of his younger brother, the Duke of Albany. Isabel could no longer access the King and was now completely isolated and easy prey for her husband’s murderer.

In the summer of 1404, Alexander Stewart and his gang of highlanders descended on her castle at Kildrummy. They captured the castle along with the Countess. He extorted from her a signed document promising to marry him and give him all of her lands, including the earldom of Mar and lordship of the Garioch. Under normal circumstances, this incident would not have been allowed. Still, Isabel had the misfortune that these events took place during the regency of the Duke of Albany, who was, in fact, the uncle of Alexander Stewart.

Because of his relation to the Royal Family and the close friendship with his uncle, Alexander was saved from any actual punishment. Isabel was forced to marry the man who murdered her husband and lived the last four years of her life as his captive. She died in the year 1408. That poor woman!

With all that in mind, we were grateful we live in a different time when women have rights and then we crossed what used to be the drawbridge and entered the castle’s inner courtyard to start exploring its interior in a clockwise manner. Poor Isabel. Once she walked in here she never got to leave ever again.



The Snow Tower was a fascinating part of the castle. It was the architectural centerpiece and served as the residence for the Earls of Mar. The tower had a system of pully’s which hoisted buckets of water up through the center of the tower from the ground floor to the uppermost floors. That way, heavy buckets of water didn’t have to be carried all the way up the narrow spiral stairs! Now that’s clever!

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About halfway around the ruin, we came to the Great Hall, as seen above. The sign reminds me to tell you another story about this castle. Because it was the hub of activity and lots of various people came and went, several other historical figures play into the castles’ past as well, such as Robert the Bruce, for example.

Evidently, the Earls of Mar were closely allied to the Bruce family, and when Robert the Bruce launched his fight for an independent Scotland in 1306, he sent his second wife and his daughter to Kildrummy for safety. It wasn’t safe, so the royal court members were forced to try to flee further north when an English force under the Earl of Pembroke and Prince Edward (later Edward II) besieged Kildrummy.

When repeated attempts to take the castle failed, the English resorted to treachery. A paid informer among the defenders, a blacksmith named Osbourne, set fire to the great hall, where grain was temporarily being stored. The castle was taken, and then Nigel Bruce, brother of Robert the Bruce, and the rest of the garrison who stayed behind to defend Kildrummy, were executed by hanging.  Did the traitor get his reward? Oh, you bet he did! Osbourne was rewarded with much gold – poured molten right down his throat. Ouch!

The English partially destroyed the castle so that it could no longer be used by the Scots. Bruce’s wife and daughter were captured and harshly imprisoned, the 12-year-old Lady Marjorie was held in a cage at the Tower of London and forbidden to speak. Can you imagine?

After the Great Hall, we walked through the kitchens and then the Warden’s Tower in the corner. There is a steep ravine on the backside of the castle. The ‘back door’ of the castle was located near the bottom of the Wardens tower. I walked out of the castle through the back door entryway by the Wardens Tower and walked around to the outside of the castle to see the view from its northern side.


You could also really see the dry moat as well that was there for added defense.


Back around to the inner courtyard again, we explored the section of the castle that used to have the chapel on the upper floors with large arched windows on the north wall.

The castle passed back to the Clan Erskine before being abandoned in 1716 following the failure of the Jacobite rebellion of 1715 led by John Erskine, the 6th Earl of Mar. After the collapse of the Jacobite cause, Kildrummy was deliberately dismantled and used as a quarry. In 1951 it was put into the care of the State after a man named Colonel James Ogston had done a lot of work to repair and maintain the remaining structure in the late 19th century.

It’s a fascinating castle to visit and in a lovely location. Behind the castle, down in the ravine where the rock quarry was and where they got the stone to build the castle initially, James Ogston planted a Japanese Garden and transformed the quarry into something quite beautiful. He also made another small castle nearby. It is now the Kildrummy Castle Hotel. I had hoped to take the girls to the garden to have lunch and see the lovely ponds, waterfalls, and plantings, but unfortunately, the castle hotel was currently up for sale. The gardens are connected to the hotel; therefore, the gardens were also closed. I was quite disappointed because it is one of my favorite gardens and I had hoped to share them with the girls.
Instead, we piled back in the car and headed about 10 miles further down the road to another one of my favorite castles, Craigievar!


We arrived in plenty of time before the next guided tour began, so we found a picnic table and enjoyed our lunch while we took in the beautiful views.


Craigievar is a castle that the National Trust for Scotland maintains. Unlike Fyvie castle that we visited the day before it still does not allow any photography once you’re inside on tour. I did find a couple of photos from NTS that show what you can expect to see inside, however.

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The tour is excellent and takes you all the way up to the rooftop. There are lots of beautiful paintings by famous artists and some very ornate and well-preserved intricate molded plastered ceilings to admire. Each tour group is kept small because of the narrow staircases and modestly sized rooms. This castle is built on a domestic scale. Even the Great Hall, the largest room on the lower floors, is dinky by the standards of most castle halls. Still, it is unique because when you enter the Hall, you do so through its original screened off passage with the original Jacobean carved woodwork, which is exceptionally rare. The guides are also quite informative, friendly, and well versed in the castles’ history.

When we got up to the top, I couldn’t resist looking out over the ramparts to the ground far below. Oh look, there are the picnic tables we ate at! The views from up there were outstanding!

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This elegant pink castle nestled on a picturesque hillside is spellbindingly beautiful; its exterior is virtually unchanged since William Forbes completed it about 1626.

It’s very authentic, and artificial light has not been installed on the upper floors. This means that the castle’s extensive collection of historical artifacts and art is seen in the shifting light from the sun, precisely as they would have been when they were made. The interior probably looks much as it did when the castle was visited by Queen Victoria and Albert in 1879. You really get a sense of how dark the rooms would have been. Imagine what they are like in the wintertime!

The Craigievar lands were held by the Mortimer family from 1457. The Castle was begun in the early part of the 17th century. However, in 1610 William Forbes of Menie bought the property and the unfinished Castle. A year before William’s death in 1627, the Castle was completed and has remained more or less unaltered ever since.

We had a great day exploring two very different castles.  We only had one week left to spend in Scotland so we were trying to fit in as many places as possible without being in a mad rush but we managed to fit in the perfect amount and variety. In subsequent blog posts, we will be visiting some Stone Circles, Pictish Standing Stones, a couple of more castles and we’ll be attending one of my favorite events, the Lonach Highland Games in Strathdon! Stay tuned and until then, happy traveling!

A Fun Day Visiting Two Ancestral Castles in Aberdeenshire – Tulquhon & Fyvie

Wednesday, August 21st, we piled into the rental car and headed about 20 miles northwest from Aberdeen to our first stop, the small village of Tarves.

tolquhon and fyvie castle

The church in the center of town has a churchyard with some extremely old gravestones in it. In fact, there is one ancient monument, in particular, called the Tolquhon Tomb, which dates back to 1596 that I definitely wanted to show Errin and Grace. It used to reside inside what was once the south aisle of the medieval parish church. Protective glass structures now surround this ancient tomb from the eroding elements of the weather.

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This tomb is a particularly excellent example of medieval carvings. It displays an interesting mixture of Gothic and Renaissance forms. According to the interpretive signs onsite,

“The general scheme is medieval, but much of the detail is pseudo-classical in character. This is seen on the arcade front of the tomb chest and in the balusters on either side.

The grotesque animals on the external curve of the tomb arch are fashioned in the whimsical and vigorous style found in sculptural work of this period in northeast Scotland.

On the left spandrel is a shield bearing the arms of Forbes, a helmet, and the motto Salvs Per Christvm (Salvation Through Christ). On the right, a similar shield with a gentleman’s hat for a crest bears the arms of his spouse, Elizabeth Gordon of Lesmoir. Portrait statues of the Laird and his Lady support the tracery on either side. “

tolqhuon monument

It’s an outstanding example of a Laird’s medieval tomb, and it is mainly of interest to us because it just so happens that the Lord and Lady are a couple of my 10th great grandparents! (See the lineage below.)


Naturally, I wanted to get a picture of Grace standing in front of her 12th great grandfather’s burial tomb. It’s not very often that one comes across such an ancient ancestral headstone and in such pristine condition!

Sir William, 7th Lord of Tolquhon Forbes 1530-1596
10th great-grandfather
Son of Patrick Forbes
John Forbes 1568-1635
Son of Sir William, 7th Lord of Tolquhon Forbes
John Fobes 1608-1661
Son of John Forbes
Lieut William Fobes 1649-1712
Son of John Fobes
Mary Fobes 1689-1712
Daughter of Lieut William Fobes
Fobes Southworth 1710-1755
Son of Mary Fobes
Pvt John Southworth 1743-1832
Son of Fobes Southworth
Hannah Southworth 1796-1842
Daughter of Pvt John Southworth
Hannah Mae Case 1828-1898
Daughter of Hannah Southworth
Daniel A Clapp 1853-1913
Son of Hannah Mae Case
Hannah Elizabeth Clapp 1897-1977
Daughter of Daniel A Clapp
William Kenneth Frew 1917-1997
Son of Hannah Elizabeth Clapp
Claudia Louise Frew
You are the daughter of William Kenneth Frew


While we were visiting the churchyard, we also noticed some strong young fellas working in the churchyard nearby straightening up a large headstone that was about to tip over.  They were jacking it up and refortifying its base on level ground once again to preserve it and keep it from becoming destroyed. What great work these guys do to protect history and the integrity of old burial sites. It is absolutely admirable what they do. So many headstones have been lost over the ages because of tipping and toppling. It is fantastic that they can save so many from a similar fate with modern tools and technology and a bit of human elbow grease and expertise!

We wandered about the churchyard looking at some of the other old grave slabs scattered throughout while Lindsay helped explain to the girls what a lot of the symbols meant carved into the ancient stones. He also pointed out the little rocks embedded between the blocks of the church building, adding a little touch of specialized decoration to the mortar.

Our next stop was only a couple of miles back down the road. We were headed to the castle where our Forbes great grandparents lived – Tolquhon Castle!

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We were so excited to explore the impressive ruins of this fairytale castle in the stunning Grampian countryside. Tolquhon has been described as one of the most beautiful castles in Scotland. It was our ancestor, Sir William Forbes, who commissioned it in 1584,  and intended it to be an impressive residence.


The first structure built on this site was “Preston’s Tower.”  This tower was a typical Norman type square tower found in the early 15th century and built by Sir Henry Preston. The main feature was a Tower House, which was surrounded by a ‘barmkin’ (curtain wall) enclosing the auxiliary buildings such as a brewhouse, bakehouse, and stables. Sir Henry died in 1420 without leaving a male heir, so his estates were divided between his daughters. Tolquhon Castle passed through his second daughter, Marjorie, to her husband, Sir John Forbes. The castle would remain with the Forbes family for almost 300 years.

Sir John Black Lips Forbes 1332-1446
16th great-grandfather
Baron Alexander 1st Lord Forbes 1377-1448
Son of Sir John Black Lips Forbes
James “2nd Lord” Forbes 1425-1460
Son of Baron Alexander 1st Lord Forbes
Patrick Forbes 1446-1476
Son of James “2nd Lord” Forbes
David Forbes 1478-1509
Son of Patrick Forbes
Patrick Forbes 1516-1554
Son of David Forbes
Sir William, 7th Lord of Tolquhon Forbes 1530-1596
10th great-grandfather
Son of Patrick Forbes

Six generations later, John’s descendant, William Forbes, 7th Laird of Tolquhon (who died 1596 and is buried in the tomb we just visited), began work on a new part of the castle in 1584. He kept the Preston Tower that his 5th great grandfather had built, but he also added new and more comfortable accommodations.


He also improved the gardens and parkland around the house. It was quite the place in its day.  He had a lot of important and noble friends to entertain. In fact, King James VI was entertained here at Tolquhon in 1589 just after its completion. The new buildings were arranged around a central courtyard and included an elaborate gatehouse and a first-floor gallery.

A carved inscription on the gatehouse’s rock exterior records that “AL THIS WARKE EXCEP THE AULD TOWR WAS BEGUN BE WILLIAM FORBES 15 APRIL 1584 AND ENDIT BE HIM 20 OCTOBER 1589”.

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The home of a ‘Renaissance man,’ Tolquhon was designed for show rather than defense and was the work of the mason-architect Thomas Leiper, who converted the site into a compact palatial residence. While the castle’s overall footprint didn’t significantly change, the buildings surrounding the courtyard were completely rebuilt. After William’s death, his descendants continued to occupy Tolquhon until 1718, when they were forced to move out following support for the Jacobite rebellions.

Parliament declared his estates forfeited in 1716, but Forbes refused to vacate and had to be forcibly evicted in September 1718. Tolquhon Castle ceased to be a high-status residence at that time and was eventually purchased by the Earl of Aberdeen to use as a farmhouse and continued in this role until the early nineteenth century when it was allowed to drift into ruin. Luckily, it is now in the guardianship of Historic Scotland and is open to the public. 

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We enjoyed exploring the castle, the grand hall, bedrooms, galleries, and kitchens alike. So many rooms to discover and stairs to climb to various levels and sections. It was a lot of fun, and the views from the uppermost levels didn’t disappoint on such a lovely morning.

As we made our way to leave and were back at the main entrance, we had to turn around for one last look at another magnificent example of an ancestral castle we get to add to our list!


IMG_4327We got back in the car and headed back down the castle road to the main highway to return once again to the village of Tarves. We had worked up quite an appetite, and I knew just the place to satisfy those hunger pangs – The Murly Tuck Cafe! We enjoyed some delicious home-cooked soups and sandwiches. We replenished our energy levels to be able to continue our explorations further out into this beautiful countryside to yet another castle on the horizon about 20 miles away.

Our next destination was Fyvie Castle. We drove through the outer gates, up the long drive that follows alongside a beautiful lake teeming with wildlife and flora, and which ends at the castle entrance.

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We timed it just right. The next tour would soon begin, and we had just enough time before it started to wander around the castles’ exterior to see what it looks like from all sides.

Afterward, we entered the front door and began making our way through the entry hall filled with armorial displays and hunting trophies to the room where the tour would begin.

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I’ve been to Fyvie a couple of times before and never tire of its tour. There are so many things to look at, you can’t possibly see them all in one visit anyway. During past visits, we were not allowed to take any photographs inside. Much to my surprise and delight, the tour guide announced that they have changed their policy, and photography is now allowed, so I have lots of photos of its beautiful interior to share with you.

We started in the dining room with its table beautifully laid with china and beautiful crystal, and its many stunning portraits gracing its walls.


As we visited each of the main rooms, the tour guide started to relay the complicated history of the castle bit by bit, introducing various historical figures in the beautiful portraits that we were looking at adorning the walls.

Formerly, the castle served as a Royal stronghold until 1390, shortly after the Battle of Otterburn. It was then passed down to a succession of 5 clan families: Preston, Meldrum, Seton, Gordon, and Leith, respectively.

Evidently, each of the families constructed a new tower onto the castle after they took possession, and the castle began to grow.  The first of these towers was the Preston Tower. Dated between 1390-1433, the tower remains to this day.  The impressive Seton tower forms the entrance, and it was erected in 1599 by Alexander Seton. Seton also commissioned the grand processional staircase several years later. The Gordon tower followed in 1778, and lastly, the Leith in 1890. The descendants of Alexander Leith, who owned the castle until the early 1900s, sold the castle to the National Trust for Scotland in 1984. The castle is now open to the public to admire its architecture, art collection, and family history.

It’s important to note at this point that one of these families includes some of our own ancestors. Alexander Seton mentioned above, and his wife, Lilias Drummond were another set of my 10th great grandparents, like the Forbes from about the same time from Tolquhon!

Alexander Seton Earl of Dunfermline 1555-1622
10th great-grandfather
& his wife,
Lilias Drummond 1580-1601
10th great-grandmother
Margaret Seton 1599-1630
Daughter of Alexander Seton Earl of Dunfermline and Lilias Drummond
Anne Mackenzie 1627-1707
Daughter of Margaret Seton
David Daniel Campbell 1675-1753
Son of Anne Mackenzie
Charles Campbell 1699-1767
Son of David Daniel Campbell
William Campbell 1728-1803
Son of Charles Campbell
Jeanette Campbell 1770-1851
Daughter of William Campbell
John Holliday 1803-1872
Son of Jeanette Campbell
Elizabeth “Lizzie” Holiday 1842-1872
Daughter of John Holliday
Nancy Anne Brundage 1867-1948
Daughter of Elizabeth “Lizzie” Holiday
William Rose Frew II 1885-1976
Son of Nancy Anne Brundage
William Kenneth Frew 1917-1997
Son of William Rose Frew II
Claudia Louise Frew
You are the daughter of William Kenneth Frew

Knowing this ancestral connection makes looking at the crests and heraldic symbols and the various items in each room that much more exciting and relative – literally! To think my ancestor could have been sitting in this library, at this desk, and looking at this very book hundreds of years ago! Fascinating!


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The castle (like many places in Scotland) is said to be haunted, the odd tale of a ghost or two is commonplace, and with Fyvie Castle, it certainly is the case, with a little added for extra emphasis. For instance, when Lady Meldrum died sometime in the 13th century, her body was sealed in the wall of a secret room within the Meldrum Tower as she had requested. She had cursed disaster on anyone who entered the room. During the renovation of the castle in 1920, workmen discovered her remains. From that day on, the castle has been plagued by strange noises and unexplained happenings. The ghost of Lady Meldrum was seen frequently after that. Her spirit is referred to today as the ‘Grey Lady.’

Another ghost, known as the ‘Green Lady,’ also frequents Fyvie Castle. She is thought to be the wife of Sir Alexander Seton, who starved her to death because she hadn’t produced a male heir and so he could marry her cousin. Folklore states that after her death, the ghost of Dame Lillias Drummond scratched her name upside down on the window sill outside of the bedroom being used by the newlyweds. Her name can still be seen there today.

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It is reported that the ‘Green Lady’ also leaves the scent of roses wherever she goes. To think that my 10th great grandfather murdered my 10th great grandmother because she didn’t produce a male heir! I’m not so proud of him, after all! Geez! It’s no wonder she haunts the place; I probably would too if I was her!

The tour took us through many rooms, and we ended it in the beautiful and stunning Gallery whose walls are lined with exquisite old 17th-century tapestries. The massive organ at the end of the room is fascinating, and they even allow you to play the grand piano if you’re so inclined! A beautiful setting for a special occasion, such as a wedding. I understand that if you plan a wedding there, you can rent out a whole suite of rooms and spend the night there as well.  That would be something, wouldn’t it?

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IMG_2510We finished up our tour and exited through the Tea Room, where we bought some ice cream and enjoyed it out on the terrace outside. A very friendly little Robin had joined us and was hoping for some crumbs to drop perhaps. 

Fyvie Castle also has some beautiful gardens associated with it in the walled garden, and a hike around the lake, especially in June when the rhododendrons are blooming, is a real treat. The castle has a lot to offer.


We certainly enjoyed it. It was getting late in the afternoon, and we still wanted to drive over to the coast at Collieston about 20 miles away to see the ocean before we headed back to Aberdeen. When we got back to town and went to the grocery store to buy something to fix for dinner, we came across these delectable fruit tarts and cakes and some absolutely darling animal-shaped cookies that made us giggle.

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I hope you’ve enjoyed our visit to two more meaningful and beautiful ancestral castles. There will be more to come! Stay tuned! Next time we’ll be visiting Kildrummy and Craigievar – another couple of ancestral castles in Aberdeenshire!

The Majestic and Iconic Dunnottar Castle

IMG_9303Our whirlwind 3-day trip to visit ancestral sites in Dingwall and witnessing the beautiful landscapes along the scenic by-ways of the Highlands was terrific. However, we were quite tired, so we spent the first part of the day on Thursday, July 25th, resting and hanging out with Lindsay at his house in Aberdeen. We also busied ourselves with domestic duties in preparation for embarking on the next leg of our journey to The Netherlands and Germany bright and early the following morning.

We did, however, also managed to squeeze in one more excursion to a nearby historical and breath-taking site in nearby Stonehaven – the majestic and iconic Dunnottar Castle!


Although the sun was shining brightly inland, the sea mist insisted on shrouding the promontory that the castle sits upon promising a bit of magic and mystique to our tour.  The trek down the steep path from the top of the bluff and back up again on the other side to approach the castle’s gates also added a certain amount of intrigue and anticipatory excitement.

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According to the castle’s website: “This dramatic and evocative ruined cliff-top fortress was the home of the Earls Marischal, once one of the most powerful families in Scotland. Steeped in history, this romantic and haunting ruin is a photographer’s paradise, a history lover’s dream and an iconic tourist destination for visitors the world over.”

The castle’s history dates back to the 13th Century with the Picts. From the 14th Century onwards Dunnottar Castle was home to the Keiths, one of the most powerful families in Scotland.

Robert the Bruce

Sir Robert Keith commanded the ‘Keith Cavalry’ at the famous Battle of Bannockburn. Stirling Castle, occupied by the English, was under siege by the Scots. The English king, Edward II, assembled a formidable force to relieve it. This army was defeated in a pitched battle by the smaller army commanded by the King of Scots, Robert the Bruce.


IMG_2420It’s fascinating to learn about a castle’s history while visiting it, especially when it plays such an important in Scottish history. However, it becomes exponentially more interesting when it involves one of your very own ancestors!

Robert Keith is my 19th great-grandfather and therefore, Errin’s 20th, and Grace’s 21st!  How cool is that to visit a castle together that we share DNA with its inhabitants of long ago? Our ancestors played an integral part in the shaping of its history!


“Sir” Robert – Marischal of Scotland DeKeith (1262 – 1332)
19th great-grandfather
Robert DeKeith (1280 – 1346)
Son of “Sir” Robert – Marischal of Scotland DeKeith
William DeKeith (1315 – 1407)
Son of Robert DeKeith
Robert Keith (1363 – 1430)
Son of William DeKeith
William “Earl Marischal of Scotland” Keith (1389 – 1463)
Son of Robert Keith
Gille Egidia Lady Keith (1424 – 1473)
Daughter of William “Earl Marischal of Scotland” Keith
Patrick Forbes (1446 – 1476)
Son of Gille Egidia Lady Keith
David Forbes (1478 – 1509)
Son of Patrick Forbes
Patrick Forbes (1516 – 1554)
Son of David Forbes
Sir William, 7th Lord of Tolquhon Forbes (1530 – 1596)
Son of Patrick Forbes
John Forbes (1568 – 1635)
Son of Sir William, 7th Lord of Tolquhon Forbes
John Fobes (1608 – 1661)
Son of John Forbes
Lieut William Fobes (1649 – 1712)
Son of John Fobes
Mary Fobes (1689 – 1712)
Daughter of Lieut William Fobes
Fobes Southworth (1710 – 1755)
Son of Mary Fobes
Pvt John Southworth (1743 – 1832)
Son of Fobes Southworth
Hannah Southworth (1796 – 1842)
Daughter of Pvt John Southworth
Hannah Mae Case (1828 – 1898)
Daughter of Hannah Southworth
Daniel A Clapp (1853 – 1913)
Son of Hannah Mae Case
Hannah Elizabeth Clapp (1897 – 1977)
Daughter of Daniel A Clapp
William Kenneth Frew (1917 – 1997)
Son of Hannah Elizabeth Clapp
Claudia Louise Frew
You are the daughter of William Kenneth Frew


Sir Robert Keith staunchly defended Scotland against the English in the time of John Baliol and supported Robert Bruce. He was a principal player in winning the battle of Inverurie and commanded 500 horses in victory at the 1314 Battle of Bannockburn. Sir Robert was awarded for his valuable service – a large tract of lands forfeited by his cousin, The Earl of Buchan. His cousin had supported the English. Sir Robert was confirmed in the office of “Great Marischal of Scotland” by Robert Bruce around 1324. The role of the Marischal was to serve as custodian of the Royal Regalia of Scotland and to protect the king’s person when attending parliament. This duty was fulfilled by the 7th earl during the Wars of the Three Kingdoms, who hid them at Dunnottar Castle. Eventually, Sir Robert Keith was killed at the battle of Duplin in 1332.

While exploring the castle, I didn’t think it would be wise to bother the girls with the details of exactly who our ancestors were that are relevant to this castle. I did let them know we were related somehow just the same and left it at that.  At the time, I couldn’t exactly remember the details. I knew it was a bit complicated and challenging to explain, so I let it be at the time. Besides, the interpretive panels scattered throughout the castle could supply plenty of historical facts. The girls would get the general idea of who the people were and why they were significant in Scotland’s historic past.

We had fun wandering about the various ruinous buildings of the castle. I had been there before, so I let the girls take the lead to discover its secrets as they saw fit. Leading the way we began exploring the different levels of various buildings and what their contents had to offer.

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Eventually, we arrived in the bedroom of the 7th Earl Marischal, Sir William Keith. Next door was the bedroom of his wife, Elisabeth Seton – The Countess.  I remembered at that point that we were related to them in particular and let the girls know of their significance in our lineage.

It was difficult for me at the time to remember all of the sorted details of how we are related to the Keith family. I now have the luxury of accessing my family tree in Ancestry while I write this blog post.  I can take the time to piece together the complicated web of puzzle pieces our ancestors left for us to unravel.

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I mentioned above that Sir Robert Keith is my 19th great-grandfather. If you look at how I am related to him through each generation, you’ll notice that his third great-granddaughter, Gille Egidia Lady Keith (1424 – 1473), is in that lineage. Gille had at least one brother named William who was in line to inherit the title of Marischal as well and whose bedroom the girls were standing in the picture above next to the fireplace.

When I looked at William’s profile on Ancestry, I expected him to be listed as a great uncle. He was, after all, the brother of Gille Egidia Lady Keith, who was one of our great-grandmothers. Much to my surprise, instead, he was listed as my 14th great-grandfather! “How can that be?” I wondered. So I clicked on the relationship to discover why and how.

Sir William Keith Marischal (1457 – 1526)
14th great-grandfather
Robert Keith (1483 – 1514)
Son of Sir William Keith Marischal
William Marischal Keith (1506 – 1581)
Son of Robert Keith
Lady Anne Agnes Keith Countess Moray (1530 – 1591)
Daughter of William Marischal Keith
Archibald 7th Earl of Argyll “gruamach” Campbell (1575 – 1638)
Son of Lady Anne Agnes Keith Countess Moray
Lord Archibald Campbell Marquis of Argyll Earl of Argyll (1606 – 1661)
Son of Archibald 7th Earl of Argyll “gruamach” Campbell
Archibald “9th Earl of Argyll” Campbell (1629 – 1685)
Son of Lord Archibald Campbell Marquis of Argyll Earl of Argyll
David Daniel Campbell (1675 – 1753)
Son of Archibald “9th Earl of Argyll” Campbell
Charles Campbell (1699 – 1767)
Son of David Daniel Campbell
William Campbell (1728 – 1803)
Son of Charles Campbell
Jeanette Campbell (1770 – 1851)
Daughter of William Campbell
John Holliday (1803 – 1872)
Son of Jeanette Campbell
Elizabeth “Lizzie” Holiday (1842 – 1872)
Daughter of John Holliday
Nancy Anne Brundage (1867 – 1948)
Daughter of Elizabeth “Lizzie” Holiday
William Rose Frew II (1885 – 1976)
Son of Nancy Anne Brundage
William Kenneth Frew (1917 – 1997)
Son of William Rose Frew II
Claudia Louise Frew
You are the daughter of William Kenneth Frew

On the first lineage chart relating to Sir Robert Keith, it indicates that the lineage goes down to my father, through his maternal line. Robert’s 3rd great-granddaughter, “Gille Egidia Lady Keith” is significant.

The second lineage chart connecting me to her brother, William, ironically, it goes up through my father, as before, but instead goes through his paternal side of the family through my immigrant great-grandfather’s wife’s family. My immigrant great-grandfather, William Rose Frew (from Dingwall) married Nancy Anne Brundage in Dillon, Montana after he immigrated to America. Nancy Anne’s mother, Elizabeth “Lizzie” Holiday, often pops up in the line-up of ancestors whenever I discover how I am related to oh-so-many notable Scottish Ancestors. I have affectionately dubbed her “Princess Lizzy.” 

I knew our ancestral ties to the Keith family was complicated. I didn’t realize just how complicated it was until I started writing this blog and began tracing the roots down through the generations. It just amazed me that a brother and sister in one generation long ago would both be great-grandparents to me through my dad on both his maternal and paternal lines of his family heritage!

Tracing ancestral lineage is a fascinating and engaging process. I have enjoyed the process of building my family tree and discovering my roots. I am also especially grateful for the ability to travel, visit historical sites, such as Dunnottar Castle, learn about its history and connect its account and its inhabitants to myself through my own ancestral ties. It makes it so much more exciting and relevant on so many different levels!

Let’s get back to touring this fascinating castle through pictures, shall we?

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IMG_2443After exploring the Keep, we discovered that we had worked our way all around the castle grounds and found ourselves back at the beginning at the gate where we had started. We left the castle and made our way back to the car, enjoying the views along the way.





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It had been a lot of fun exploring Dunnottar Castle that our ancestors once inhabited. The saga of those ancestors isn’t quite finished, however. We will pick up the threads of that story in regards to various descendants in the lineage once again in future blog posts. Stay tuned! The plot thickens! The complicated web they weave down through history has quite a few stories yet to tell and lots of dots to connect.

When we left Dunnotter, we headed back to Lindsay’s house to finish packing for our flight in the morning. As a final treat for the day, later that evening Lindsay’s son, Steve, invited us over to his house for a barbeque! Yum.  We had the pleasure of also meeting his girlfriend, Penny and her two kids, Tristan, and Nicola who immigrated to Scotland from South Africa a few years ago. We had a delightful time visiting, exchanging stories and getting to know one another. The food was outstanding too! Tristan should be proud of his culinary achievements on the grill!

We fell asleep that night with full stomachs and beautiful images of an iconic romantic castle perched on a cliff-top dancing in our heads. It was mixed with a bit of excitement as well because the next day would provide even more adventures and more sites in more countries across the North Sea on the European Continent.  The first stop will be the fun and exciting city of Amsterdam!

Until the next time… ~ Claudia.




Younger Generations Experience More Ancestral Connections in the Scottish Highlands

On Wednesday, July 24th, we awoke to yet another beautiful, sunshiney day in Dingwall. I enjoyed sharing some of the unique ancestral sites in Dingwall with Errin and Grace the day before. I hoped it would help them connect with their ancestral roots in the Scottish Highlands. Showing them tangible examples that they could touch, see, and feel with their own senses might help them set the experience in their own memories. It certainly helped me when I first visited these same sites many years ago.

Before we left Dingwall to head back to Aberdeen, I still had a couple of more examples of connections to share with them. Perched upon Mitchell Hill above the town of Dingwall is another cemetery where several more members of our family are buried. I took them up there to see their headstones as well.

The first headstone we visited belonged to James MacDonald Frew, who was a brother of William Rose and John Rose Frew. James was the Chemist in Dingwall. His Chemist Shop occupied the building of what is now the Reception Area and entrance to the Dingwall museum we visited yesterday. Notably, after James’ untimely death at the young age of 33, his wife, Willamina, became the first female Chemist in Scotland. She was then able to carry on with the family business they had established together!

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IMG_2198A little further along, we came to Lindsay’s great grandfather’s headstone. John Rose Frew, who served as the Provost of Dingwall, also had a business in town just down the High Street from James’ Chemist shop. IMG_1938John was a jeweler and also made high-quality watches and clocks.

We continued on wandering about the graveyard, pointing out various other headstones of more distant cousins until we reached the headstone for Daisy Frew and her husband, Neil Gunn.


As you may remember from my previous post, we visited the Neil Gunn monument on the hill above Dingwall the day before. I thought it was relevant to show the girls their final resting place as well.

Left to right: Neil’s nephew – Dairmid, Jessie Dallas “Daisy” Frew, Neil Gunn






As we made our way back to the car through the cemetery, we also passed the Mitchell Monument, and the old canon’s on display.

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We piled back in the car and headed back down the hill into town, catching one last glimpse of the clock tower on our descent.


We took one last drive through town to show them a few more sights. We showed them a number of remaining sites: the house John Rose Frew lived in, the only remaining remnant of the Dingwall castle from days long past, the National Hotel, the town’s War Memorial, the Sherriff’s Courthouse (where our ancestor, Thomas MacNaughten I, worked as the Sherriff’s Officer), and the Dingwall Canal where it meets the Cromarty Firth.

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Although we hated to leave Dingwall, it was time to begin our journey back to Aberdeen. I chose a different route back to Aberdeen than the way we had come. I wanted the girls to experience a different part of the beautiful countryside, and therefore, have the opportunity to enjoy a variety of Scottish landscapes.

Our first stop, Inverness was only a short distance about 20 miles away.

Dingwall to Aberdeen through the Cairngorm National Park map

In the center of Inverness is another ancient and historic cemetery dating back to about 1164! (See more interesting historical details on the interpretive panel below.)


IMG_9286Another one of our direct ancestors is buried in Chapel Yard Cemetery. Her name was May Naughten – my 3rd great grandmother.  She was Thomas MacNaughten’s mother.  She died before the invention of photography, so, unfortunately, I don’t have a picture of her, but I always enjoy visiting her gravesite whenever I’m in the neighborhood.

Naturally, being so close to Loch Ness, it was imperative to let the girls see it while we were in the vicinity.


IMG_2225We drove south through Inverness. At the first opportunity to pull over and park, we stopped so the girls could see Loch Ness firsthand. They could touch it’s colorful pink and grey rocks, and of course, dip their tootsies in the cold clear water below.

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Our next stop was about 50 miles southeast of Inverness nestled in the Cairngorm Mountains at the scenic village of Aviemore.

I had hoped we would arrive in time to catch a ride on the old Strathspey Railway Caledonia Steam Locomotive at the train station. Alas, when we arrived, it had just left the station for its last run of the day just minutes before we got there. Drat!

IMG_2253We were hungry by this point, so instead, we walked across the street to the Cairngorm Hotel & Restaurant and enjoyed a delicious bite to eat before traveling on.

We still had about 100 miles to go to get to Aberdeen by nightfall. The route I was following took us over the mountains via “The Lecht Ski Area” on the scenic old military road through the moors. We piled back in the car and continued onward. It was a gorgeous drive, and we enjoyed the beautiful scenery.

Where the road over the Lecht ends, near the River Dee back in Aberdeenshire, there is a lovely viewpoint to stop at, and it’s a great spot to take a break.

IMG_9297From the viewpoint, you can see Corgarff Castle off in the distance on the opposite hillside and across the River Don running through the valley below.

Also, there are metal seats you can sit in, out of the wind, where you can enjoy the stunning views.


Our last stop of the day was near the Cairngorm National Park boundary – Glenbuchat Castle. It’s a ruinous castle and is all fenced off for safety reasons. One can’t get any closer to explore than what the pictures portray below. It is, however, a lovely spot to take a break from the car and stretch your legs. It’s a short walk from the car park up to the castle, and it doesn’t cost anything to enter either.

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According to Historic Scotland, “Glenbuchat Castle was built in the late 1500s with a Z-shaped plan for John Gordon of Cairnbarrow to mark his wedding. It shows how sophisticated tower houses had become by this time, with it’s round and square corbelled turrets. Like the castles at Auchindoun and Huntly, Glenbuchat belonged to a branch of the Gordon family. These castles demonstrate the dominance that the Gordons held over north-east Scotland in the late-medieval period.”

That concludes my tales about our jaunt over to Dingwall from Aberdeen and back again and all of the ancestral sights we enjoyed visiting.

The next day we all took it easy in the morning while we rested after our whirlwind of activities. We did some laundry and began packing our bags in preparation for our flight early the following morning from Aberdeen to Amsterdam. We would start the next leg of the journey; exploring Germany’s Rhine River Valley and Bavaria for the next three weeks!  We also encountered a bit of luck!

Errin had called the airport to see if Grace’s luggage had arrived while we had been off galavanting across the countryside the last couple of days. Unfortunately, the woman who answered the phone said that she didn’t know of any unclaimed baggage that fit her description.

Consequently, we were about to go to a few more charity shops to buy Grace some more clothes. However, when we got in the car to go shopping, Errin had a hunch. She suggested we drive out to the airport and have a look for ourselves just to be absolutely sure.

When we arrived, I dropped Errin and Grace off at the front door while I went to park the car. I  barely got the car parked and was walking over to where I had dropped them off when here they came with Grace’s suitcase in tow!  Errin’s hunch had paid off. Sitting right in front of the desk of the woman who she had talked to on the phone earlier, was Grace’s bag sitting all by its’ lonesome! The woman didn’t even look up from her computer terminal when they approached so they just gleefully grabbed her suitcase and walked out!  Tra-la! We were so happy we had heeded Errin’s hunch and investigated for ourselves!

Besides making preparations for starting the next leg of our journey over to The Netherlands and Germany,  we still managed to squeeze in one more visit later that day to a distinctive and breath-taking Scottish historical site – Dunnottar Castle. More on that in my next post!  Stay tuned!