Weekly Photo Challenge: Ascend

What remains of St John’s Church sits on on a hill overlooking Gamrie Bay and the fishing village of Gardenstown in Scotland. The walk up from the beach winds through reasonably steep and rough grazing land, there is evidence of recent slips but that doesn’t seem to bother the cattle.

St John’s Church is said to have been originally built in the 1190s and it has a long and bloody history. The ruins are visible from Gardenstown and celebrate a victory over the Danes in the 11th century. It was once known as the ‘Kirk of Sculls’ because of the three skulls (supposedly Danes) that decorated the church interior. The skull and other symbols adorn many of the headstones in the graveyard.

Three people walking up to the ruins of St John's Church
Ascending to the ruins of St John’s Church.
The ruins of St John's Church, Gamrie
The ruins of St John’s Church, Gamrie

I plan to make my contribution to this week’s photo challenge: ascend the return of more regular posts. New challenges are posted every Wednesday at The Daily Post Photo Challenge should you wish to join in the fun or you just need blogging inspiration ūüėä

Travel theme: Paths (of Scotland)

My posts are few and far between at the moment¬†as I struggle to find focus and¬†think of things to write about. Thank goodness for Ailsa’s latest travel theme on Where’s my backpack? as I have some paths to share from my 2016 trip to Scotland.

Woodland path through flowering wild garlic
Wild garlic in flower almost conceals this path through the trees at Dairsie Castle.
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A well worn path past holiday homes at Crovie in the Scottish Highlands
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A path of daisies leads you up the hill for fabulous views of Gardenstown
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Pittenweem pathway from St Fillan’s Cave
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The ruins of St Andrews Cathedral
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The Fife Coastal path, St Monan’s
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Up the garden path

Wordless Wednesday: Castle rock

Edinburgh castle
Edinburgh Castle, historic fortress built on volcanic rock

Iconic photo tour of Edinburgh

My flight from Australia arrived early morning and to help my body get used to the different time zone I was determined to keep busy until the sun set. A walking tour of Edinburgh combined with photography advice seemed like the perfect¬†way to adjust to UK time¬†and enjoy the sights. My art teacher was also arriving that day so she and I¬†had signed up to join¬†a small walking tour of Edinburgh’s old town¬†led by local photographer Will from¬†Iconic Tours.

We met Will outside the main entrance of St Giles Cathedral where he took us through aperture and shutter priority, two settings that would make taking photographs easier without relying on auto. The clouds above us were ominous, the tour would go on regardless and Will had a plan if the weather really turned to shite. The technical aspect is not all that we learned, we were encouraged and guided to look at potential subjects from a different perspective.

The¬†Royal Mile forms the main thoroughfare through Edinburgh’s old town, popular with tourists it is home to many shops selling whisky, fudge, tartan scarves, kilts and various other souvenirs.¬†Groups of tourists following guides in kilts¬†compete for prime position in front of the main sights, the sound of bagpipes being played fills¬†the air and attracts the interest of happy snappers as does the various street performers now using the pedestrian zone as their stage. The red phone booths are perfect for experimenting with shutter speed, stopping people in their tracks with a fast shutter speed¬†and¬†creating a feeling of movement with a slower one. Here we also try using manual mode, previous experiments helps me understand the theory however the time it takes for me to capture the shot is longer and the experience a little frustrating.

As the main square fills with people we venture to quieter parts of town to hone our skills, such as the Council Chambers carpark, Advocates Close and Parliament Square. Will shows us a series of golden handprints in the footpath, recipients of the Edinburgh Award and we listen to him tell the tale of John Knox and his final resting place which is now a carpark near St Giles.

Getting off the Royal Mile and exploring the other parts of the old town is a must, Victoria Street is a colourful and beautiful part of the city lined with popular restaurants, bars and cafes. It is easy to see why it is so popular with photographers on instagram. Will recommended a few places for dinner and some cheap eats for lunch, sadly we never got there but it is something to look forward to on my next trip to Scotland, whenever that may be.

The Princes St Garden is a beautiful place to take a walk in spring, the tulips are in bloom and the garden beds are filled with vibrant colour. Viewing the castle from below the rock will give you an appreciation of the effort and engineering that went into creating such a formidable looking and enduring structure, Edinburgh Castle dominates the skyline.

Three hours well spent, the tour only cost $100AUD and in addition Will emailed a document containing all his tips and advice. Had I not signed up for the tour I probably would have found myself wandering aimlessly all afternoon and I would have missed all those wonderful photo opportunities.

Wordless Wednesday: Pink sky of Scotland

Gardenstown sunset, Scotland
Pink sunset over Gardenstown Harbour, Scotland
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Glorious pink sky for our last night in Gardenstown

Wordless Wednesday: Delights of Pittenweem, Scotland

Sunny afternoon in St Andrews Botanic Gardens

One of the many paths that lead through the Botanic Gardens, St Andrews Scotland.
One of the many paths that lead through the Botanic Gardens, St Andrews Scotland.

St Andrews, Scotland is well known for it’s golf course however there is plenty for a visitor to do if they’re not interested in chasing a little white ball around a paddock. There are castle and cathedral ruins overlooking the sea, as well as delightful little cafes and cobblestone streets.¬†After a morning sketching a church¬†and doing a little shopping in the centre of St Andrews we headed out of the centre to the Botanic Gardens for a picnic lunch and a few hours of quiet in the gardens.

The Botanic Gardens aren’t huge however they are full of brilliant¬†coloured blooms in Spring, some of which I had seen before such as Rhododendrons. The sun was shining and local students appeared to be making the most of the warmth, lying on the grass studying or just ‘hanging out’. As a small group we scattered quickly after lunch, each of us going our own way and doing whatever we wanted. I chose not to sit and draw, and instead kept my camera at the ready because there were so many flowers to see and paths to explore. A couple of ducks caught my attention at one stage, the female splashing around in the water while the male seemed more content to strut around the pond. A heron also became the focus of my attention, I stalked him/her all around one pond trying to capture them in flight however I didn’t not have a fast enough shutter speed and most of the action shots are fuzzy. Big fat bumblebees are always a delight to see although the most amusing creatures in the gardens were not alive, they were carvings and sculptures dotted among the trees. The red squirrel sculpture was as close as I got to this endangered¬†creature, I didn’t even see the more common grey squirrel during my time in Scotland.

As I wandered around the gardens I ran into several of my fellow travelling artists, most of them thoroughly enjoying the peaceful surrounds and the opportunity to draw something other than a church or castle. Hopefully the many photographs I took will serve a inspiration for my artwork in the future. In the meantime I hope you enjoy my walk through the garden.

 

Eating in Scotland

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Seatown houses, Gardenstown Banffshire Coast

Some¬†might think that it is difficult to¬†eat well in Scotland, but I’ve got the ‘now too tight pants’ to prove otherwise. Not to mention the numerous photos that I am sharing with you. The availability of good¬†wines from all over the world didn’t help with maintaining a balanced, healthy diet nor did the clotted cream fudge or¬†the divine chocolates from the Cocoa Tree in Pittenweem and¬†Iain Burnett, Highland Chocolatier in St Andrews.

In Fife we stayed at Dairsie Castle¬†and enjoyed¬†gourmet evening meals provided by Christopher Trotter, a local chef and Fife ambassador. Meals were prepared using local, seasonal ingredients including¬†nettle, wild garlic, seafood and lamb. Scottish¬†cheeses such as Crowdie and Clava were served with oatcakes and fresh fruit, the wines chosen by individuals at the Cupar Tescoe. Day trips to seaside villages such as Crail, Pittenweem and St Monans gave us the opportunity to try more local specialities in spectacular settings. Surprisingly, I did manage to get some painting and sketching done in between all the tasty food stops, there is only so much one person can eat ūüėČ

Gardenstown is a fishing village in the highlands, located on the Banffshire Coast not far from Macduff and Fraserburgh. There is no supermarket in the town apart from a small convenience store and only three choices of places to eat: Teapot One, a nice little cafe serving homemade soups and cakes; The Garden Arms Hotel, a cozy little pub open for dinner a few nights a week; and the Harbour View Restaurant, for fine dining near the pier. We ate regularly at the Garden Arms, the atmosphere was cozy and congenial and the owners looked after us well. The Teapot One was the perfect spot for grabbing fresh fruit scones as a snack or an afternoon pick-me up hot chocolate, and the Harbour View Restaurant was a nice change and they served a most delicious sticky toffee pudding with vanilla ice-cream. On one wet and misty day we ventured into Macduff to wander around the woodlands near Duff House, it was the perfect weather for sitting down to a bowl of delicious Cullen Skink, a soup of smoked haddock, potatoes and onions. The smell reminded me of the smoked fish my family in New Zealand served up, one of the few fish dishes I ate as a child.

When staying in¬†Edinburgh I¬†ate at the Cafe Rouge and at the restaurant in The Place Hotel, I couldn’t resist the charcuterie¬†platter or the duck or the mussels or the snails so I tried a bit of everything.¬†There are plenty of great places to eat and drink in Edinburgh, so why¬†a French restaurant? After a couple of weeks of enjoying traditional Scottish fare and ingredients I was looking¬†for something a little different and I’ve always been a sucker for french food. It wasn’t only the food I enjoyed but the coffee, it was relatively easy to find a decent macchiato or espresso although the service was a little hit and miss in some places, much like here in Australia.

Enjoy!