An account of the first part of Tuesday as I work through my Scottish holiday, from which I returned on Saturday just gone.
Welcome to the latest post in my account of my holiday in Scotland, from which I got home very late on Saturday (a combination of that, a long day of travel and poor internet connections at the hotel I stayed in on Friday are the reason I have not put a post up for a few days). Today I cover the first activities of the day after my birthday (See here for the main event of that day), when after a brunch we set off to visit Dunnet Head and the remains of St Mary Crosskirk, a 12th century chapel the burial ground of which is still very well preserved before going on a distillery tour in the afternoon.
Dunnet Head is the northernmost point of mainland Britain and is noted for its bird life, though I did not get to see much of the latter. There is an ordinance survey summit marker at the highest point of the head, a viewing area from which one can enjoy splendid sea views and a lighthouse designed by Robert Stephenson of the great engineering family which played a huge role in railway history (the novelist Robert Louis Stephenson was also of this family, being Robert of lighthouse fame’s grandson).
St Mary’s Crosskirk
The walk to access this ruin is in parts steep, including a staircase that looks more unpleasant to walk than it actually is. It also takes one past a wind farm, while there are some splendid views along the way. The chapel itself is missing its entire roof and part of its walls.
An account of a wildlife cruise on the afternoon of my birthday.
This post describes the main activity of the day of my birthday (Monday), a wildlife cruise. The route of the cruise was from John O’Groats harbour past Duncansby Head to Duncansby Stacks beyond and then back. There were a variety of sea birds on display, including guillemots, razor bills, shags and various breeds of gull. There are sometimes puffins in the area but I do not think we saw any that day. Also supposedly resident in these waters are seals and otters, but I saw neither. However it was a very enjoyable cruise.
The walk to the harbour starts along an open road with no footpath before one comes to the path that leads to the John O’Groats hotel, at which point you can access various locations, including the harbour. We boarded the boat with no problems, and by the time we set out on the cruise it was very full.
Although there were some signs of life in the open water it was only when we got level with the head and then the stacks beyond (for an explanation of what a stack is in this context visit this article which explains how they form) that we saw creatures in huge number. The guillemots predominated (they look a little like tiny penguins, although unlike the Antarctic’s most famous bird they can fly), but a few razor bills were in evidence, as were a number of shags (they look similar to a cormorant).
The boat arrived back at the harbour and after waiting for things to clear a bit we made our way back on to terra firma.
We took an exploratory route home, attempting to locate a route back which would eliminate the main road. This was unsuccessful, and we reverted to the route we knew. My mother’s shoes were causing her trouble by this stage, so my father went to fetch the van to the point where the path joins the road and I accompanied my mother to that meeting point. The problems with the homeward walk notwithstanding it was a very enjoyable day.
I have loads of photographs to go with this post and I hope you enjoy them:
An account of a visit to a ruined castle that nowadays doubles as a wildlife haven.
On the morning of my birthday we travelled to Wick to do some essential shopping, and on the way back as a warm up act to the main event of the day, a wildlife cruise which I shall write about in due time we called in at the ruins of Castle Sinclair Girnigoe.
RUIN AND WILDLIFE HAVEN
In it’s heyday this castle would have been an imposing sight (it was very obviously built to intimidate, and had little in the way of style), although its location is testament to the absence of any kind of field artillery – even Ballistae and scorpions as used by the Romans hundreds of years before it was built could have caused mayhem by targetting the rock formations around the castle and effectively subjecting those in the castle to a hail of rock fragments – in Scotland in that period. Nowadays it is an impressive ruin, and also home to many kinds of wildlife, both fauna and flora. There are some stunningly good views out over the sea. If you ever happen to be in this corner of Scotland it is worth a look, though it would not be the main event of one’s day.
My photographs begin with a few from before we got to the castle, cover the walk from the parking area to the castle and the castle itself:
An account of a journey to Scotland that almost went off the rails before it had really started.
Welcome to this first post in a series I shall be putting up about the holiday I am currently enjoying in Scotland with my parents. I am up here for a week which includes my birthday (the day itself is tomorrow, and it is my 46th). We are staying just outside John O’Groats. This post tells the story of my journey up here to set the scene.
The nearest the railway gets to to John O’Groats are the two northern outposts of Wick and Thurso, and these days the end of that line runs as follows: Georgemas Junction, Thurso, Georgemas Junction, Wick, so it made sense to arrange to travel to Thurso and from Wick. I booked from London to Thurso to incorporate an overnight journey, and then later from Wick to King’s Lynn. Thus I had to travel from King’s Lynn to London to connect with the overnight train from Euston. My plan was to get the 17:40 from King’s Lynn and have almost two hours in which to progress along the Euston Road from King’s Cross and on to the train (going onto the underground to travel one stop is in this case literally worse than useless – the interchanges between overground and underground at King’s Cross and vice versa at Euston are both lengthy. Probably the least bad way to do it by public transport would be to use the Circle/Hammersmith & City/ Metropolitan to Euston Square and cross Euston Road at surface level. However it is a fairly short walk along the Euston Road and that method is undoubtedly best…
BEST LAID PLANS O’ MICE AND MEN GANG AFT AGLEY
I boarded the 17:40 from Lynn to London without issue, but then the problems hit. First our departure was delayed because of power problems in the Finsbury Park area, then when we were finally cleared to depart our driver was instructed to run as a shuttle between Lynn and Cambridge, and those of us needing to get to London had to change to a Greater Anglia train. It was soon obvious from the stated timings of this service that staying on to Liverpool Street, from whence I would have to travel to Euston Square was a non-starter, so the only hope of avoiding a long delay, the cost of a night at the Holiday Inn on Euston Road and the cost a new single to Thurso the following day was to change at the last stop before Liverpool Street, Tottenham Hale, and get the Victoria line to Euston. Fortunately the problems between Lynn and London had used up my allocation of misfortune and I made it to my seat on the overnight train. Although this train was fractionally late into Inverness I still had over an hour and a half there before the final public transport leg of my journey to Thurso began. This, the sole purely Scottish leg of the journey, went absolutely smoothly and the train arrived in Thurso precisely when it was supposed to.
SOLUTION TO A TEASER
In my last post I included a teaser from brilliant.org and a little addition of my own:
A small additional question: can you identify the four mathematicians after whom Carl, Leonhard, Emmy and Sophie are named (answers to both parts of this question in my next post).
Here is Chew-Seong Cheong’s published solution to the main problem:
These photos comprise one taken en route to King’s Lynn station, two taken on the Victoria line train between Tottenham Hale and Euston, a number taken between Stirling and Inverness on the overnight train, a number from the Inverness to Thurso train and a couple taken at the house where we are staying:
An account of yesterday’s splendidly successful auction.
On Wednesday James and Sons had a small but very important auction featuring gold coins and proof sets. We were anticipating a very considerable success, because we knew that there were bids of sufficient size on every lot that everything would sell, and we also knew that some of the items had a very large number of watchers online (one had no fewer than 17). The rest of this post tells the story of a truly amazing auction.
TUESDAY – FINAL PREPARATIONS
In view of the high value of the gold the only items that were set out on display were as many of the proof sets as I could lay out on one large table. I also made sure that the IT was all fully functional, as the last thing we wanted was for a glitch to affect this auction. I was able to enjoy the NAS West Norfolk Steak Night at The Globe later that evening in the knowledge that all had gone as smoothly as it could have (I restricted myself to a modest two pints of Ringwood Fortyniner in view of the importance of the following day).
WEDNESDAY – A DAY OF TRIUMPHS
I awoke a few minutes before my alarm was due to go off (not uncommon with me – the alarm is more insurance policy than necessity) and left my flat precisely as intended at 6:45, ensuring that there was no chance of missing the bus. Arriving at the shop, I unlocked, deactivated the alarm, then relocked the door as in view of what was in the shop I did not want customers coming in while I was there on my own. I then began to set up for the day. The auctioneer arrived not very long after me, and I was able to complete the setup, verify that everything was working and take some photographs. Before nine o’clock customers started arriving, and by 9:30 it was standing room only in the shop, as no fewer than 16 potential room bidders were present, in addition to over 60 online bidders and not a few who had put commission bids in in advance of the sale.
Lot 139 on the big screen.
THE AUCTION STARTS
The first five lots were 1974 Krugerrands which were expected to make approximately £800 each and did exactly that. Then came lot 6, the James II Guinea which was one of two items that had been the subject of a query the previous day as a result of which it had extra images above the regular image gallery for such an item. Estimated at £500-750 the interest it had attracted saw the final hammer price reach exactly £1,000.
Lot 7 was a William III Half Guinea, which in relative terms fared even better since with an estimate of £300-500 it actually went for £900!
Lots 8 to 24 inclusive were half sovereigns, and all sold well, most going for around the £100 mark. Lots 25 to 90 incluisve were…
SOVEREIGNS FROM VICTORIA THROUGH ELIZABETH II
These we knew would sell respectably, because a major and long standing client whose job is to sell gold items had put in commission bids of £180 a time on the whole lot, confirming our auctioneers valuation was on the mark. Most of the sovereigns actually sold for more than that, £190 being a common figure and a few of them going to and in some cases beyond £200. Then came…
LOTS 91-5 – THE HUGE SUCCESSES
The first four of these lots were high value gold proof sets which we were expecting to be on or around the four figure mark. Actually, and barely believable they went for £1,600, £2,000, £2,000 and £1,600 respectively!!
Lot 95 was a sovereign in a gold mount with a gold chain and 8 1mm diamonds (in otherwords a very fancy necklace). Estimate at £300-400 it eventually sold for £550.
After these it was time for…
THE REGULAR PROOF SETS
Of course after what gone before the proof sets were a little bit “after the Lord Mayor’s show”, but there were still a handful of highlights to come.
LOTS 113 AND 114
These were respectively a Scottish and Welsh proof set (hence the split colouring of the heading) each expected to make £8-12. The Scottish set went for £20 and the Welsh for £18
These were a mere curtain raiser for…
A 1992 proof set featuring an EEC 50p coin the rarity of which turned a £10-15 estimate into a £50 hammer price!
The next big success was…
This 1999 proof set featuring a Diana Princess of Wales £5, a bimetallic rugby £2 and Scottish coins from £1 down to 1p had an estimate of £15-20 and ended up going for £32.
Then came two successive monster successes with…
LOTS 135 and 136
Lot 135, a 2009 proof set, featuring as it did the highly prized Kew Gardens 50p, the Henry VIII £5, and the Darwin and Burns £2 coins was estimated at £100-120 but ended up going for £220!
Lot 136 was a 2010 proof set featuring a Restoration of the Monarchy £5 (350th anniversary thereof), A Florence Nightingale £2, a London £1 and a Girl Guiding 50p. Estimated at £20-25 it sold for £100!!
Not long later came…
LOT 139 – A BITTERSWEET IMAGER’S TRIUMPH
This London Underground 150th anniversary proof set had been badly misdescribed, with one of the £2 coins mentioned as featuring trains, and the roundel coin not even mentioned, but the imager’s efforts more than compensated for this. Estimated at £25-30 it attracted sufficient interest to push the final price up to £52 (and inter alia out of the imager’s reach, hence the heading of this section).
That was the last of the yearly proof sets, but there were still a few lots to go, and two of them provided noteworthy results.
LOT 148 – A SENEGALESE STUNNER
This 1975 Senegal Triple Crown, solid sterling silver, Euroafrique 150 franc coin, boxed and with a certificate was estimated at £15-20, but a lively bidding battle pushed the final price up to £48.
A STRONG FINISH
Lot 151, the final lot in this small sale, was an accumulation box containing a few good bits and some ordinary stuff. Estimated at £40-50 it ended up going for £95.
Once the auction setup had been dismantled and the last room bidders had gone it was time for me to attend to other matters. You can view a catalogue for the general collector’s auction we have next Wednesday here.
THURSDAY – PUTTING TOGETHER A PRESS RELEASE ABOUT THIS AUCTION
Yesterday morning I produced a PR piece about the success of this sale, going big on the images as well. I conclude this piece with a link and a screenshot:
Seeking reader participation in the selection process for the 2018 wall calendar.
When I began covering my holiday in Scotland I brought up the subject of my plans for a 2018 photographic wall calendar, which will be my third such. This post now takes the story forward, and seeks to bring my followers in on the selection process.
Some of these pictures were nominated by Oglach (“Oglach’s Selections“), a couple by my aunt Celia, and the rest are others that I consider especially worth sharing. Most of the selections are Scottish for obvious reasons.
MY AUNT’S PICKS
My aunt Celia nominated two from the return journey from Scotland:
MY ADDITIONAL SCOTTISH SELECTIONS
These are the Scottish pictures that I have selected as possibles on my own:
I have of course shown these before, but for completeness sake here they are again: