about writing and life and God

Day Twenty: A day in the shire

on July 3, 2015

No. Not Tolkein’s shire. This is for real and it is gorgeous! ‘From mountain to sea’ (as the Aberdeenshire County Council motto puts it) the land stretches in rich variety. Where I’m staying is situated in rolling green and fertile farmland.

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view from the house

I woke to the call of a pheasant – and I’m told partridges visit the back garden too. Hares play in the field in front of the house and buzzards can often be seen circling above in the sky.

Huntly is the market town nearby – with castle ruins to inspire any historical novelist. The story is that Mary of Guise, Mary Queen of Scots’ Mum, visited the castle and declared that the Duke of Gordon, known as the Cock o’ the North, needed his wings clipped! The castle was originally built in 1190. Huntly Castle‘s South Front – a strikingly French makeover in 1602 – is topped by a heraldic frontispiece and inscription.

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Huntly Castle

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Huntly Castle

The call of coffee and shortbread took us to Dean’s where we were able to watch the shortbread being made –

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the smell of shortbread baking is utterly mouthwatering! Dean’s story begins in 1975 with Mrs Helen Dean, maker of delicious melt-in-the-mouth shortbread which delighted her family and friends. Her husband William was Drum Major of Huntly Pipe Band and he thought selling the shortbread would be good for fundraising for the band. The band toured – and the fame of the shortbread began to spread. The rest is history. In 1992 Dean’s moved to a purpose-built bakery where we had our coffee. It’s still a local family business.

The sun was still shining as we drove to Banff with its traditional small harbour, sitting opposite the bay from Macduff with its kirk prominent on the brae.

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Banff harbour

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Macduff from Banff

I took the pics from Banff Castle – a mansion house built on the site of a much earlier building.

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One of the buildings near the entrance sports a fine wolfhead on the side wall. Three wolf heads were the coat of arms of Sir Duncan de Frendraught, Sherriff of Banff and custodian of the Castle which played a major role in the Scottish Wars of Independence 1307-1310.

Nearby is magnificent Duff House, one of Scotland’s finest Georgian buildings – where we had lunch.

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The impressive frontage of Duff House

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Designed by William Adam and commissioned by William Duff, Lord Braco, later 1st Earl of Fife, the foundation stone was laid in 1735. It was built as a family home and is surrounded by miles of beautiful estate lands. A popular place for weddings, a wedding was taking place while we were there – with all the males in kilts, even the tiniest pageboys!


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