Saturday, 27 August 2016

Captivating Castles

Eilean Donan Castle - Picture by Aurora B&B in Shieldaig
You may wonder why Scotland has so many wonderful castles. Maybe we just liked building them, or maybe they were built to defend our land, or maybe to show off power and wealth. Whatever the reason, everywhere you go in Scotland there will be a castle not too far away. Sometimes ruined, sometimes still lived in, big or small, whether it's called a Keep, a Tower, a Palace or a Castle, Scotland has plenty to choose are just a few of our favourites.

Edinburgh Castle - Picture by Arden Country House in Linlithgow
Edinburgh Castle is probably the most well-known castle, sitting on the top of a volcanic plug above the city and open to the public every day except Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year. Edinburgh Castle houses the Scottish Crown Jewels and has three wonderful military Museums within its powerful stone walls. The esplanade in front of Edinburgh Castle is the venue for the Edinburgh Military Tattoo every year during August at the time of the Edinburgh Festival.  Click here for our website and more castles in Edinburgh and The Lothians

Glamis Castle - Picture by Castleview B&B in Dufftown
Glamis Castle is the family home of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother and the birthplace of Princess Margaret. Glamis Castle has been the home of the Lyon family since the 14th century and is the seat of the Earls of Strathmore and Kinghorne. Glamis is also famous for being the setting of Shakespeare's play Macbeth. The history and royal connections make Glamis a fascinating place to visit. Glamis Castle is located near Forfar in Angus.  Click here for our website and more castles in Angus and Dundee

Linlithgow Palace - Picture by Arden Country House in Linlithgow
Linlithgow Palace is a spectacular ruin. Only 15 miles from Edinburgh, Linlithgow Palace was one of the principal residences of the kings of Scotland during the 15th and 16th centuries. The Palace is famous as the birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots. Linlithgow Palace is open all year round and hosts a wonderful jousting event during the summer. 
Click here for our website and more castles in Edinburgh and The Lothians
Hermitage Castle - Picture by The Waterside Rooms in Dornock
Hermitage Castle is huge. Located in Roxburghshire in the Scottish Borders Hermitage Castle is a ruin whose forbidding appearance shouts “Go away!” to all who approach it. Hermitage was originally built by the de Soulis family and was key to controlling the Scottish Middle March. Mary Queen of Scots visited her secret lover the 4th Earl of Bothwell as he lay on a sickbed at Hermitage Castle. Click here for our website and more castles in The Scottish Borders

Threave Castle - Picture by The Waterside Rooms in Dornock
Threave Castle near Castle Douglas in Dumfries and Galloway is located on an island in the River Dee. Threave was the home of the Black Douglas who were Earls of Douglas from the late 1300s till 1455. Threave Castle is a traditional rectangular Keep which was annexed by the Crown in the 15th Century. Famous for the wonderful gardens attached to it. Threave is a must see destination in for any visitor to the Dumfries area. Click here for our website and more castles in Dumfries and Galloway

Eilean Donan Castle - Picture by The Heathers in Glenmoriston
Eilean Donan Castle is on the road to the Isle of Skye, Eilean Donan is regularly photographed and filmed for its romantic setting with the little hump backed bridge leading to the Castle. Built in the 13th century as a stronghold for the Clan Mackenzie and their allies the Clan Macrae, the castle was destroyed following their support for the Jacobite uprising. Situated on a small island where three lochs meet, Eilean Donan Castle is very picturesque and has been reconstructed during the 20th Century. A very popular venue for weddings Eilean Donan Castle is open to visitors every day except Christmas Day and the whole of January. Click here for our website and more castles in The Highlands

Stirling Castle - Picture by Garvally House in Alloa
Stirling Castle was strategically very important, guarding the furthest downstream crossing of the River Forth and the gateway to the Highlands. One of the largest of Scotland's Castles, Stirling was important from the 13th century to the 16th century and even beyond. Some buildings within the walls date back to the 14th Century. Recent renovations have included the total refurbishment of the Royal Apartments, and the hanging of the 7 replica tapestries of the Hunting of the Unicorn. Click here for our website and more castles in Argyll, The Isles, Loch Lomond, Stirling and The Forth Valley

Blair Castle
Blair Castle in Perthshire has for many centuries been the chief stronghold of the Earls and Dukes of Atholl. With history dating back to the 1200s there's plenty to see at Blair with 32 rooms of the Castle open to the public presenting a picture of Scottish life from the 16th century onwards. Blair Castle is the venue for horse trials during the summer months. Open from May till the beginning of October. Click here for our website and more castles in Perthshire

Urquhart Castle - Picture by Home Farm B&B in Muir of Ord
The ruins of Urquhart Castle are on a promontory overlooking Loch Ness. A fabulous location for the dramatic history that has taken place within its walls. The present ruins date from the 13th to the 16th century though the site has been occupied since the early medieval period. Granted to the Clan Grant in 1509 a continuing conflict with the Clan MacDonald meant the Castle was continually attacked and strengthened. It was finally abandoned in the 17th century. Click here for our website and more castles in The Highlands

Dunnotar Castle - Picture by Duntrune House in Dundee
One of the most dramatic sites for a Scottish Castle must be Dunnottar Castle. The ruined medieval fortress is perched on a rocky headland on the north east coast of Scotland. Dunnottar Castle played a significant role during the Jacobite Uprising s in the 18th century and is the place where the Scottish Crown Jewels were hidden from Oliver Cromwell's invading army. Dunnottar Castle was the property of the Clan Keith from the 14th century. Click here for our website and more castles in Aberdeen, Grampian and Moray

Castle Campbell - Picture by Garvally House in Alloa
Castle Campbell sits above the village of Dollar in Clackmannanshire. Built to guard the drovers road across the Ochil Hills into Perthshire, its location offers stunning views to the south. Castle Campbell was one of many castles owned by the Clan Campbell and the Dukes of Argyll and it was their lowland stronghold. Originally called Castle Gloom with the two hill streams running either side of it called Sorrow and Care. The site was easily defended and there was an early motte on the site from the 12th century. Click here for our website and more castles in Argyll, The Isles, Loch Lomond, Stirling and The Forth Valley

Drumlanrig Castle - Picture by Torbeckhill in Lockerbie
Drumlanrig Castle is owned by the Duke of Buccleuch and Queensferry and is located on the Queensferry estate which is in the northern part of Dumfries and Galloway. Drumlanrig is a magnificent building built in the late 17th century and nicknamed the Pink Palace as it was built of red sandstone. Unlike so many of Scotland's castles Drumlanrig is not a defensive building, though it is built on the site of what was once an ancient Stronghold of the Douglas family. It is built in the renaissance style. Drumlanrig houses the Buccleuch art collection which include a Da Vinci and Van Dykes, some of which were stolen in 2003 and were luckily found and returned in 2007. Click here for our website and more castles in Dumfries and Galloway

Inverness Castle - Picture by Home Farm B&B in Muir of Ord
Inverness Castle like both Stirling and Edinburgh is built on a rock and overlooks the city below. However, the present building is quite modern, built in 1836 on the site of an earlier 11th century building. It is used today to house Inverness Sheriff Court and is not open to the public.
Click here for our website and more castles in The Highlands

We hope you have enjoyed our whistle stop our of our favourite castles.  If you want to read about lots more, visit our website and see what you could visit on your next trip to Scotland Website
Thank you to Naomi McMahon at Garvally House B&B in Alloa for researching and writing this blog

Sunday, 7 August 2016

The Serentity of the Solway Firth

Our B&B owners are lucky enough to live in some of the most beautiful places in Scotland.  None more so that Julie and Nic Pearce who run the Four Star Gold Waterside Rooms in Dornock on the Solway Firth, Dumfries and Galloway.  In this Blog, Julie shares her passion for photographing the ever changing scenery literally on the doorstep. 
Nic and I have been running our B&B for years now and we love meeting new people and sharing our part of Scotland with them. In the summer months when we are busiest, there is little time for hobbies, but our situation here on the shores of the Solway Firth means I can always indulge in my passion for photography.
Our home sits on a bank close to the shoreline and has views right across the firth to the Lake District and Skiddaw Mountain, Port of Carlisle and Bo’ness.  The firth is 2 ¼ miles across and our home faces due south meaning we enjoy terrific sunrises and sunsets. The light and wide open spaces are what excite me most about photographing the Solway firth….you can literally stand in the same spot for an hour and take 50 different picture.
The meeting of freshwater and seawater means that we get a wide variety of land and seabirds.  This, coupled with the huge expanse of shoreline which appears every day provides a fertile feeding ground for Oyster Catchers, Shellduck, Heron, Curlews, Lapwing, Redshanks, Dunnocks, Dunlings, Egrets, Crested Grebe, Black Headed Gulls, Red Shanks, Terns….the list is endless and ever changing.   We are lucky to have large flocks of starlings and are frequently treated to impressive murmuration displays. As the firth sits on both the Gulf and jet Streams it is a popular route with migratory birds, particularly huge flocks of Barnacle Geese.   

Traditional wildlife photography does not excite me, whereas the way the birds fly in and add a new dimension to an already beautiful scene really does.  I love the way the birds skim the surface of the water, creating ripples in the calm surface….the way they dance and create patterns in the sky….the way they can make a sunset even more spectacular.
There is so much to inspire here and the sense of history around fishing and the traditional methods that are used provides opportunities for atmospheric and unique pictures you just could not get anywhere else.   
I particularly like photographing the Stake nets which are briefly revealed during low tide, before they disappear again.  There is something quite ancient about seeing the nets emerging from the water either as the sun goes down or in the mist of dawn.   

Even more eerie are the remains of stake nets from the past….their nets are long gone, but the wooden stakes that held them can still be seen.

With the encouragement of my husband and friends I have started to exhibit my work in local galleries and businesses.  The positive reaction to my pictures persuaded me to invest in a 44” Epson large format inkjet printer, which allows me to print my work on to cotton canvas.   I now accept commissions from local businesses wanting to showcase the local area and scenery, sell my work on line and of course to the guests who have stayed with us.

I also love to help our visitors with their photography and advise them on where the best shots might be had, when the light might be just right or even alert them to something I just spied out of one of our windows…..although it might be a race for who grabs their camera first!  For those that get the perfect shot, I can print their work on to canvas for that one off souvenir of their stay in Scotland.

The Solway Firth really is a daily inspiration and I don’t think I will ever run out of ways to photograph it.

You can read more about the Waterside Rooms and book a stay on our website
You can also learn much more about Dumfries and Galloway with the many things you can see and do there.