18th February – Cairn Holy in Dumfriesshire

Fine weather drew us out towards the south-west last Saturday, to Dumfriesshire, a county which we have not really explored very much as yet.

We wanted to get to Cairn Holy, a Neolithic burial site just off the A75, to the east of Newton Stewart.   This meant driving past at least three ruined castles or tower houses which took quite a lot of determination!

Snowdrops in the woodland verges and banks had fully opened out in the sunshine.  There’s something very precious about carpets of snowdrops – spring isn’t here, but life is returning.

Snowdrops at CarsluithJust before Carsluith, a brown Historic Scotland sign marks a turning onto a minor road which winds its potholed way up into the hills for about a mile.  This takes you to a small grassy car park, and in the field is Cairn Holy I – the first of two burial chambers, guarded by standing stones.

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We spent quite a while at Cairn Holy I, getting the feel of the place and talking to an American guy called Joseph who is making a detailed study of the shadows of the stones as they progress across the site;  he also knows the position of the sun and moon as they rise and set over Cairn Holy through the seasons.

Then, just a couple of hundred yards up the track is Cairn Holy II…

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I shall certainly have to tell you more about these amazing places on The Hazel Tree!

This is the view from the path as we walked back down, looking south across Wigtown Bay…

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Having re-joined the A75 we stopped to wander on a beach that we could see from the road, but in fact it was a bit too marshy to get there.  Curlews were calling from the shore, the breeze was gentle, and it was – dare I say it – even a little warm.

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But as we approached the M74 again to head back up north, the hills around Moffat were still wearing the last remnants of snow.

Now those old tower houses are calling me back!

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Photos copyright © Colin & Jo Woolf

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29th January – Linlithgow in the snow

This morning I was really meant to be working but we had about four inches of snow overnight, and I wanted to get some photos of a castle in the snow.   (For next year’s calendar, of course!)   So we sneaked off to Linlithgow Palace, which is pretty much the nearest!   And it was well worth it…

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Roe Deer!

Roe Deer!

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Jo 3 LinlithgowJo Linlithgow (11)

Jo Linlithgow (1)Jo Linlithgow (3)Jo Linlithgow (2)Colin Linlithgow 5

Jo Linlithgow (6)Jo Linlithgow (5)Photos copyright © Colin & Jo Woolf

If you’d like to find out more about Linlithgow Palace, take a look at my feature on The Hazel Tree.

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7th January – a day of sunshine

AmulreeWhat a beautiful day yesterday!   It had been wet and windy all night but the forecast promised an afternoon of sunshine, so we decided to trust it and motored off into Perthshire.

Luckily for us, the forecast turned out to be spot on, and by the time we were turning up into Glen Quaich from Amulree the sunlight was streaming across the landscape, casting the north-facing sides of the mountains into deep shadow.  The sun was still quite low in the south, but it was nearly midday and I had to remind myself that this was as high as it would be getting.

The views, after the rain, were crystal clear, and we saw quite a bit of wildlife, including a covey of grey partridges which settled in a field and chuckled at us politely before moving off in search of food.

Glen Quaich 2015 205Grey Partridges

Glen Quaich 3Glen Quaich 1Glen Quaich 2Passing Loch Freuchie, the road winds along the glen and then veers steeply up, twisting around two tight hairpin bends, and takes you over a mountain pass that eventually drops down to Kenmore on Loch Tay.  To the west, the Ben Lawers range wore a dusting of snow and looked like a distant and forbidden land.   But the sunlight was deceptive – when we got out of the car, the icy wind hit us like a train and seemed to go straight through our layers of clothes.   How do the grouse survive up here?   It always amazes us.

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Red grouse

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Glen Quaich 2015 145Glen Quaich 2015 25 Glen Quaich 2015 144From Kenmore, Loch Tay stretches south-west for about 15 miles in a long line down towards Killin.  We didn’t go that way, but instead we turned north-east towards Aberfeldy, and discovered a stone circle called Croft Moraig, right by the side of the road. Wow, who wouldn’t want to be walking around a stone circle on a day like this?

Looking down on Kenmore

Kenmore and Loch Tay

Loch Tay - Crannog (2)

Croft Moraig

Sunlight seen through Scots pines in the Sma' Glen - about 3 pm

By 3 o’clock we were heading back over the top, and down through the Sma’ Glen where the shadow of the mountains was creeping up the opposite hillsides.  I loved the contrast in lighting, and quickly snapped the view through some Scots pines (above).   

Today the sunshine has given way to wind and rain, but I’ve got hundreds of wonderful photos to look at – and a new stone circle to research!

Photos copyright © Colin & Jo Woolf

Footnote, 8th January:

Croft Moraig, stone circle 52I’ve just published a feature about Croft Moraig on The Hazel Tree.  If you love stone circles, please take a look!

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