Scotland 2021: Castle Mey

The latest post about my Scottish holiday looks at Castle Mey.

I resume my account of my Scottish holiday (28 May to 5 June) with an account of the Thursday which featured a visit to Castle Mey.

THE CASTLE ITSELF

We started our visit to this landmark with seeing what we could of the castle itself. Unfortunately only a tiny fraction of the building was open to the public, and just as unfortunately they had a no indoor photography rule which annoyed me. They also focussed their information purely on the building’s last private owner, the Queen Mother, completely ignoring its prior history as one of the Sinclair family (earls of Caithness for centuries) seats.

THE GARDENS

The gardens are spectacular, although our exploration did not begin well – we tried to enter the walled garden through an entrance that was clearly signed as being the way in only to be snapped at by an overly officious attendant who did point us to the correct way in – they had instituted a one-way system round the walled garden due to Covid but had not bothered to update their signage. Once we had cleared that hurdle however all went very nicely.

THE ANIMALS

After the gardens it was time to go and look at the animals. These were quite remarkable, including a variety of birds ranging from finches to geese, as well as sheep, piglets, pygmy goats and a donkey. There was also a lot of information available about all the animals we encountered there.

After we had finished looking at the animals we had some food and drink at the cafe before heading off.

DUNCANSBY HEAD

After Castle Mey we paid a quick visit to Duncansby Head, to see the view from the top (see wildlife cruise for another angle on this location).

PHOTOGRAPHS

I have plenty of photographs of everything save the inside of the castle…

Scotland 2021: Wildlife Cruise

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.

OUTWARD BOUND

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.

HOMEWARD BOUND

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.

PHOTOGRAPHS

I have loads of photographs to go with this post and I hope you enjoy them:

Scotland 2021: John O’Groats

A look at John O’Groats and its environs – pics from my first full day of this Scottish sojourn.

This post looks at my first full day of this Scottish sojourn, and at a walk we did from John O’Groats to the beginning of Duncansby Head. Duncansby Head is most north-easterly point of the British mainland, while a few miles down the road is Dunnet Head, the most northerly point of the British mainland.

THE END OF BRITAIN

Other than it’s geographical location John O’Groats itself has rather little to recommend it (the name derives from a 15th century Dutchman Jan de Groot – the dutch Groot being pronounced the same as groat, which way back when was a small silver coin worth fourpence), but the walk out towards Duncansby Head is interesting though rough in places. There is a lot of bird life in these parts that one would see no where else in Britain – birds that are mainly creatures of the arctic but which sometimes come south.

I chose some beers from the John O’Groats brewery (I opted for an oatmeal stout which in a quite dreadful pun is named ‘Deep Groat’).

Today as you will find has been much busier,but yesterday I was not fully recovered from being in transit for 23 hours.

PHOTOGRAPHS

Here some photographs from yesterday: