Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Camping holiday 2016 - Part Four: Return to Glencoe

Our next journey was to my absolute favourite place, Glencoe.  I've always loved visiting this beautiful area and it's filled with memories of all my previous holidays.  It also reminds me of my granny who passed away when I was wee. She loved the west coast and I remember my holidays with   her to this area. Every time I return it brings forth all these memories. Here she is in the photo above, fishing in Glencoe with the cottage in the background that I drew for my most recent drawing, 'The Keeper's Cottage'. It really is a very special place for me.

Our first stop was to the Glencoe Lochan which I have walked around many times over the years.  It's an incredibly peaceful place full of wildlife including some ducks who gave us a friendly welcome.

It was a lovely still day and the water reflected the scenery around it beautifully.  I loved the reflections of the reeds in the water as they looked like scribbly pen drawings. 

The woodland here reminds me of the Forbidden Forest in Harry Potter.  Some scenes from the Harry Potter films were actually filmed in Glencoe and I remember being very disappointed having missed seeing the cast and crew by a couple of weeks when on holiday one year.  I very much wanted to meet my favourite character, Draco Malfoy played by Tom Felton and I was even more disappointed to hear that the staff from Glencoe Visitor Centre had met him! I still keep an eye out for the areas that I know they filmed in, including the hill where Hagrid's Hut was built.

I took lots of photos of the plants surrounding the walk for some drawing and painting reference.  I didn't alter any of these photos as all the vibrancy was natural and didn't need altered at all. I have so many ideas in my head for future drawing work which is a great feeling.

The lochan itself was created by Donald Alexander Smith who was the 1st Baron Strathcona and Mount Royal. He acquired the Glencoe Estate in 1895 and moved across from Canada with his wife.  Unfortunately she was incredibly homesick so he created the lochan and replanted plants brought from Canada to try and make her feel more at home. 

It's a really beautiful spot for a walk and I really recommend taking some time out and having a wander here if you're passing through the area.

We then headed to the mountains and sat taking in the wonderful views. I could sit and look at the mountains of Glencoe forever. The atmosphere is incredible, whether sunny or rainy.  To be honest, I love it when the weather closes in and the wind howls down the misty glen. The sunny day we had there was perfect for capturing photos though. 

The sun really brought out the detail in the rock face.  I took lots of photos  of the mountains for future drawings as I'm planning on doing more and this time even bigger! I better start ordering new pen refills...

Above is my favourite part of Glencoe as I've always imagined walking up the centre next to the waterfall. There is a path which you can see on the left and one day I'd love to do this walk.  I just need to get my knees fixed first as dislocating knees on a mountain wouldn't be a good idea.

I hope you've enjoyed looking at these photos and taking in the detail.  I'd be repeating myself if I kept telling you how beautiful I think Glencoe is. The photos don't even do it justice as you really need to be standing at the foot of these mountains to really feel the atmosphere. I hope to return again very soon.

If you missed out on my other holiday posts you can see part one here, part two here and part three here. Part five will be coming soon!

Monday, 1 August 2016

Camping holiday 2016 - Part Three: Dunstaffnage Castle

Our next trip was to head over towards Oban and on the way we stopped off at the Castle Stalker View Point to take some photos. Castle Stalker is privately owned but you can head over if you book one of their boat trips.  The history of the castle is pretty all over the place.  Lots of death, lots of taking it off one clan and then another taking it back.  When I was reading up about its history, all I could think of was Game of Thrones. It's seen a lot of drama.  If you fancy having a read yourself, head over to the Castle Stalker website to get a bit of background info.

We then headed over towards Oban to Dunstaffnage Castle. The castle sits on a rocky outcrop with views across Loch Etive.  It's one of the oldest castles in Scotland and was built before 1240 by Duncan MacDougall.  He was the son of Dubhgall, the Lord of Lorn who's father was the famous warlord Somerled who called himself 'The King of the Isles'. Somerled had mixed Gaelic and Norse parentage.

 Robert the Bruce went on to capture the castle in 1308 in the Wars of Independence. It was then passed to the Campbell earls of Argyll in the 1460s. The Campbells made changes to the castle and by 1796 they mainly stayed in the 'new house' section and tower. There was a huge fire in 1810 but a tenant continued to stay in the new house until 1888. The Duke of Argyll at this time wanted to rebuild the castle to its former glory but only succeeded in restoring the gatehouse in 1903.  When the keepership passed on to the 20th captain in 1908, he wanted to have the castle restored so he could live in it. The duke didn't want this to happen and it ended up in courts in 1923.  They ruled that even though the duke owned the castle, the captain was the hereditary keeper so had a right to live there. Unfortunately during the First World War, the captain spent many years as a prisoner of war and while away the roof of the 'new house' collapsed. Repairs were carried out when he returned but his original plans of full restoration faltered. When the 21st captain then succeeded in 1958 both himself and the duke agreed to entrust the castle for State care.

 Once you climb up the steep worn steps into the castle interior, you are met with a ruin but at the same time are overawed at the length of time it's continued to stand through centuries of battle, weather and fire. This wall really made me want to draw it. The detail in the stonework is amazing.

I loved this ornate fireplace which would have heated the first floor of the 'new house'. This house was built for Aeneas Campbell, the 11th Captain and his lady, Lillias Campbell, in 1725. With the detail still sitting there now it's amazing to think what it must have looked like at the time.

From when I was a wee girl, I've always loved to stand in castles like these and try to really imagine the people that would have walked through these rooms. You can see from the walls that there were different levels to the castle. The castle once housed a great hall which was the main part of the original castle. This was thought to have been linked with the north west range where the lord's accommodation was. He could easily wander out of his private chambers right into the great hall to deal with the business of the day. There would have been great feasts and entertainment within these walls, as well as tenants coming to pay their rents and also criminals standing trial.

A seal matrix which was made from lead in around the 13th or 14th century was found on the beach near the castle and by the inscription, it was thought to have been used by the Lord of the Isles within these walls. 

We were able to walk along the restored wall-walk which existed around the top of the castle walls from when it was built. This was perfect for defending the castle on its more vulnerable side. I have to say, my knees were feeling a bit wobbly up here. The view from the top was amazing though but I saw no advancing armies, just my dad and the dog waiting patiently below.

 We had such a good day for taking in the views over the marina. It was then a careful descent back down the stairs. Dogs were actually welcome into the castle but on looking at the stairs we didn't think Keira would manage them.  We also had visions of her pulling us off the side which was the bigger deterrent.

After having a walk around Dunstaffnage we headed towards Oban.  We drove around the streets but didn't stop as Keira was in a bit on an excitable mood.  We did however end up having a walk around a quieter place which was the Oban Cemetery.  It's not a proper holiday for us unless we've visited the odd cemetery! We had a look for some family graves we know are there but the graveyard was so big so unfortunately we didn't find them. On entering the graveyard though, something bizarre happened. My parents had wandered off to another area but my eye had been caught by a big black object sitting on a gravestone. I just stood staring at it and I couldn't properly focus on what it was.  It was hunched over, larger than your average cat including its long ears.  The only feature I could focus on was its big yellow eyes.  I stood staring at it staring at me while  saying to my parents, 'can you see this? Is that real or a statue?', but they'd moved on.  I decided to walk up the hill towards it.  I wasn't too far away and it wasn't moving to I figured it was a statue.  As I grew nearer, still not able to focus on any detail for some reason, it leapt to the side and completely disappeared. I stood calling on it, and searched the whole area but it was gone. So there's either a large black cat with lightening speed living in the graveyard or something spooky. Or I need my eyes tested.

My holiday posts continue tomorrow but if you missed out on the previous parts you can fine part one here and part two here.