dorothystewartblog

about writing and life and God

Second bite

Yes, I know I’ve posted something today, but this afternoon’s excursion offered such amazing pics, I couldn’t keep them to myself!

We’ve been to Thrumster House, just a few miles south of Wick. Th estate now offers country pursuits, self-catering and bed and breakfast accommodation.

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The gardens were open today, the sun was shining, and we were ready for a nice walk. My sister had been speaking about celandines – some of her favourite flowers – but nothing could prepare me for the blankets of yellow covering the ground under the trees.

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Another highlight was the broch: enough remains to show just what a substantial stone-built place it was. Originally it would have been a bottle-shaped tower several stories high, built during the Iron Age.

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You can see the double-skin walls and the steps of the spiral staircase that wound up inside the walls.

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Just to prove we do get lovely weather in Scotland, I’ll mention that when we came home, we sat outside with our tea!

 

 

 

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A northern Sunday

Sunday, so we go to church. Not such a nice day so I need my warm coat – and definitely not bare feet! My sister’s church family meet in the Episcopal church hall which is a cheerful, welcoming place, just like the Free Church of Scotland congregation that meets there.

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It takes me a few moments to get in gear with the beautiful unaccompanied singing of metrical psalms but soon find the concentration required enhances my absorption of the wonderful words, and the sense of reverence that pervades this service.

Sunday afternoon means walking, and so after lunch we headed off along the road south for Latheronwheel, a purpose-built village established in 1835. Originally called Janetstown after the owner’s mother, the name never caught on and the old Gaelic-derived name remained.

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First, we took a walk from the old road up the strath to the weir. Wonderful brown peaty salmon river underneath trees cobwebby with grey lichen:

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Then we crossed the main road and followed the course of the river through the Fairy Glen. This entrancing place is basically an estate of  fairy houses:

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Following the river took us to the harbour. Built in 1835 by D & T Stevenson – David Stevenson was Robert Louis Stevenson’s father – at the peak of the herring fishing, the harbour provided safe haven for 50 vessels.

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We rounded off the afternoon with tea and cake at Forse House. The lovely house was built in 1753 to provide more modern accommodation for the owners of Forse Castle. Now it is a luxury B&B, with craft shop and tea room.  And now, boots off, my sister and I are both yawning and relaxing!Another lovely day.

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On the road again: day one

It’s been five months. And now, like a newborn wobbly calf,

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I am struggling to my feet and setting off back into some kind of a life again. The spring weather has encouraged me to spread my wings and I’m halfway to John O’Groats for the first Book Festival there. I have a ten-minute slot as a local author tomorrow night when I can promote the new book, Necklace of Lies, and then my sister and I can relax and enjoy all the other speakers on Saturday.

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I set off at 9.15 this morning and arrived at my chosen destination – the Day’s Inn hotel at Annandale Water – six and a quarter hours later and 351 miles into my journey.

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En route, I found good places for comfort breaks and lunch, and arrived at one of my favourites – Mainsgill Farm Shop and Cafe – in time for afternoon tea. And there to my delight the first things I saw were camels. Not what you expect in the north of England!

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I have a soft spot for camels so I had to go and talk to them. Two were busy grazing but one was prepared to pose for the camera. They paid absolutely no attention to the heavy lorries roaring past on the road above them

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I wondered had they ever been used as beasts of burden, Camel Logistics Inc., as used by the three wise men?

Now time for a peaceful walk round the lake and a quiet evening before I set off on the next leg of the journey.

 

 

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Getting Ready

I have rearranged my study. I have sorted out the books on the shelves that face me when I’m at work at my desk and I’ve packed away the non-writing books, replacing them with relevant writing books and book files.

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Books packed away

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Research and admin folders

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Books to inspire!

And I’m beginning to feel better – ready to get down to work again on the novel.

I popped out to the supermarket to stock up on food and met my next-door neighbour as I was going in. I had come home from a meeting on Tuesday afternoon to discover that she had cut her own front lawn and then cut mine. She is slightly over eight months pregnant. Her last child weighed in on arrival at 10 lbs and she reckons this one will compete – so cutting grass astounded me. Just as well I was out! I’m sure I’d have scolded and protested!

She wouldn’t accept a lift home from the supermarket either. Walking, she said, would do her good. She preferred to be doing things. She was ready for the birth, she said. It’s time this one arrived.

And as I sort my study and lug heavy boxes of books into the storeroom, I recognise myself in my pregnant neighbour. I’m getting ready for the labour of getting Book 2 of the Mizpah Ring birthed and into the world. And like my neighbour, I’m impatient. Because it’s time!

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Day Nine: Serious snow, and evening sunshine

On the road again – and by 5.30p.m. I had clocked up 330 miles – and I’m not out of Scotland yet!

It’s been an interesting and challenging drive. I left Wick in sunshine but by the time I reached Berriedale, it was clear that there had been significant snow, and it was still falling.

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Looking back towards Berriedale

And the snow continued all the way, varying from white-out to pretty fluffy showers.

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Temperature dipped to 1 degree Centigrade

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At least the sheep have warm fleeces!

Even the hills of Perthshire were topped with snow, but down in the sunshine the temperature managed a balmy 9 degrees – very briefly!

I was glad to arrive at Annandale Water in sunshine and had a relaxing walk around the lake before tea.

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The prettiest service station in the UK?

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The terrace will be brilliant in the summer

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Day Three: A Scottish Sunday

It’s Sunday so today’s activities are church and a walk with my sister and her friends. The weather is grey and not warm – unlike the glorious sunshine I left behind in Suffolk! But this does not deter us. We wrap up like Arctic explorers and set out for Keiss.

What surprises me is how much of the old World War Two tank traps are left lining the beach.

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Clearly the threat of invasion was taken very seriously, and as we walk along, I’m thinking about the effect of the war on local people – and this section in the new book. All useful research!

I love little harbours so we drove round to Keiss harbour

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and found some lovely splashy waves coming in round the harbour wall!

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And then it was time for tea! And home in good time for evening church.

 

 

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Day Fifteen: Sunday afternoon walk in Caithness

Yes, it rained. On and off. But the sun also shone, beautifully. So my sister, her friends and I were able to have an excellent walk at Dunbeath, south of Wick.

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I remember Dunbeath as the place with the amazing hairpin bends on the way to my grandparents in Berriedale. Now a wonderful swoop of modern road cuts across the old road. Today my sister and I first took a look at the restored watermill by the wonderful peat-brown river at the start of Dunbeath Strath.

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Then we parked by the harbour and met up with her friends.

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With Tipsy the dog, we walked along the shore towards beautiful Dunbeath Castle.

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And then the batteries in my camera gave up so no more pics! But we walked all the way along to the huge rock to the right underneath the castle,and then all the way back and up the hill, over the bridge and back to the cars parked at the harbour. And then we went for tea. Of course.

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Day Fourteen: Caithness: Visiting the ancestors

The sun came out today! And it was so warm I took my jacket off!

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Proof positive!

My sister is a family history enthusiast so this afternoon we went out for a drive to some special places. First we went to Thrumster where my maternal grandmother lived for around the last ten years of her life. We visited her there regularly and both have happy memories of the place. From there we went to Sarclet. The name derives from Norse words for a bad wet slope and there is a very bad slippery path down to the harbour.

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Next we went to Ulbster and climbed over a gate to walk through the ruins of Ulbster Mains and down to the Ulbster Burial Ground and the Sinclair Mausoleum.

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Ulbster burial ground

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Sinclair Mausoleum

The mausoleum was built in 1700. Broad stone steps lead up to the first-floor main room with its wonderful roof interior.

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There’s a trapdoor which gives onto a D-shaped vaulted burial chamber underneath. (We got into the first-floor bit but not the vault!)

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Trapdoor?

Walking back up past the ruined mill, the old mill-race is filled with flag irises, bordered in frothy cow parsley.

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Last we took ourselves to Thrumster cemetery where my sister showed me the gravestone of my great-great-grandparents Donald and Helen Miller.

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And tonight? Ah, serious stuff: a pudding tasting – for charity!

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Day Twelve: John O’Groats

There is a certain mystique about far away places. In our own small island of Britain, Land’s End and John O’Groats entice with promise – something about extremes, a sense of the end of the known world. I’ve been to both Land’s End and John O’Groats, but for me, only John O’Groats fulfils that promise.

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A long narrow road winds between croft-scattered fields and peaty moorland where fluffy white bog cotton blows in the wind. And then, suddenly the road tops a rise. There is a straggle of houses, hotel, car park, tiny harbour – and the end of the British mainland. Cold and blue-grey the Pentland Firth laps on rocks and white sand.

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Close enough almost to touch is Stroma – the island in the stream – now populated only by sheep. And beyond, island upon island, rocky-coasted and hummocky. Orkney.

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My sister and I both love this place so even though it was very cold we wandered around so I could take photographs (and have mine taken).

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And then my day was brightened even more when the owner of two of the shops that serve the thriving tourist trade bought in copies of my novel, When the Boats Come Home. And even nicer, the teashop welcomed us into the warm with tea and a yummy chocolate brownie!

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Day Eight: Sunday in Scotland

When I was a child, Sundays were days with strictly limited possibilities for entertainment. Once a local minister was discovered to have played football with his children on the beach on a Sunday and there was a terrible scandal!

What we were allowed to do on Sundays included going to church and going for walks. My sister and her friends have continued this tradition, so this morning we went to church in Wick (Free Church of Scotland where we sang psalms unaccompanied) and then in the afternoon went for a walk at Geise (close to Thurso and Halkirk).

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There were five of us – four adults and Tipsy, the collie dog who kept us moving along the winding paths.

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Whenever I stopped to take a photograph or otherwise strayed from the little flock she came to round me up and bring me back to join the others. All the while she was enjoying the walk, sniffing intriguing smells in the bushes, splashing in the peaty-brown burn, yet still have an eye on us, her charges!

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‘The Lord is my shepherd’ and Tipsy’s gentle sheepdogging of her little flock today was a lovely reminder of how my Heavenly Father always has His loving eye on me, providing for my every need – and yes,there was cake with our tea at the delightful Ulbster Arms in Halkirk.

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There was also a rather nice salmon – but not for our supper!

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