Sunday, April 29, 2018

The Journey to Inverness ~ Kelpies of Falkirk, Lochs and a Swan

Of all the small nations of this earth,
perhaps only the ancient Greeks surpass the Scots in their 
contribution to mankind.
~Winston Churchill

On our 5th day we headed North from Edinburgh. Doune Castle (my last post) was not actually our first stop but a place called Rotho. 

I was bound and determined to find a can of SMIDGE to ward off the midges which are famous for eating people alive in the Scottish summers. Okay, that was a little dramatic but they are like mosquitos but smaller and they can swarm you and make life a bit miserable.

I tried to order some online from the states but couldn't swing it. The best place to find Smidge is at sporting goods places and select pharmacies.

Edinburgh International 
Climbing Arena

Looking on the internet I found a climbing arena that carried it. I had no idea where we were really headed but it turned out to be the largest indoor climbing facility in Europe! It's called the Edinburgh International Climbing Arena. 

It's enormous!!! The climbing area was incredible. On top of that, there were shops, a gym, a pool, a cafe, offices, play areas for kids and a huge sporting goods store with climbing equipment ... and Smidge! 

Smidge is non toxic and doesn't smell like a freshman science class. They also have a midge tracker on their website for those planning on venturing out on a Scottish trail in the warmer months.

I also got some homemade soap at a highland games with an herb that is supposed to protect against midges. They also don't like wind, so if you are going out hiking, a good breeze is also a help. Other than a few bites ,when we weren't wearing the stuff, we were not eaten alive and all was well. 

Here are some quick video clips from my iPhone leaving Edinburgh and on our drive up north! 
It'll preview this post and show you a video clip of this arena.

Can you believe this place? 

A little Scottish Music for you ...

Helix Park
Falkirk, Scotland

Helix Park is beautiful. There are 26 kilometers of paths (some of which sit above ground so you don't sink if it is muddy) and there are all types of native flora and fauna. You can also rent bikes which would be a blast in May or June! Helix North is the greener part of the park.

There is a canal that runs through it with a lock which you see below.

The main reason we were there was to see the Kelpies of Falkirk!!

The Kelpies!
built 2013

My travel journal ...

I was on a mission to see the Kelpies! 

The Kelpies are the largest equine statues in the world and each one weighs 300 tons! These beautiful 30 meter high sculptures were created by Andy Scott. Kelpies are shape shifters who often take the form of horses. These pay homage to the work horses who helped build modern Scotland.

"During the conceptual stages, I visualised the Kelpies as monuments to the horse and a paean to the lost industries of the Falkirk area and of Scotland."
"The original concept of mythical water horses was a valid starting point for the artistic development of the structures, but from the original sketches of 2006 I deliberately styled the sculptures as heavy horses. In early proposal documents I referred to Clydesdales, Shires and Percherons, of the fabled equus magnus of the northern countries.
"I wrote of working horses. Of their role in the progress of modern society, as the powerhouses of the early industrial revolution, the tractors of early agriculture and of course, the first source of locomotion for barges on the Forth & Clyde canal, which The Kelpies now inhabit.
"Falkirk was my father's home town and that inherited association to the town has been one of my driving inspirations. A sense of deep personal legacy has informed my thinking from the outset, with old family connections anchoring me to the project." - Andy Scott

There is a visitors center, a cafe, a coffee kiosk where you can grab a cappuccino and of course a small gift shop.

The Kelpies were definitely worth the trip to Falkirk. With all the things we did that day, my mom said our visit to the Kelpies was her favorite. They really are magnificent! Next time I'd like to go at night when they are all lit up! You can also take a Kelpies tour where you can go inside and they explain how they engineered these incredible sculptures.

This sweet swan was on his own. I was so high on the Kelpies I didn't realize he had a problem. I guess I thought he was molting. Later as I looked at the photos one of his wings looked like it was hanging a bit low. I guess if I'd known I would have been upset not knowing who to call for help!


Hope someone helped this sweet laddie!

Falkirk Wheel
Opened in 2002 by Queen Elizabeth
The worlds first and only rotation boat lift.

1,200 tones of steel!
15,000 bolts hand tightened 

In the 1930s there were 11 "staircases" of locks that linked The Forth & Clyde and Union Canals. This took almost a day to get through so they were dismantled in 1933. In 1994 a new concept was presented. A giant wheel as a boat lift! Work started in 1998 for the 84.5 million pound project to link the canals.

"The final design is claimed to have been inspired by a Celtic double headed spear, a vast turning propeller of a Clydebank built ship, the ribcage of a whale and the spine of a fish."

My dad, being an engineer, loved seeing how this thing worked! It's true that this place is pretty incredible but in truth I was ready for lunch.

Fortunately, it has a great visitors center with a cafe. I must admit I was skeptical. Art museums in the States generally have good food and bathrooms but other tourist attractions can be a bit on the crappy side. Scotland? Nice CLEAN bathrooms everywhere we went and great food at the tourist sites! Over and over I was impressed. Remember, we were on a road trip and I was never grossed out with the facilities. Anyway, the food here was great.

Back to the wheel. As my dad pointed out, the engineering is pretty incredible. He read that to run a full cycle of the wheel it only takes the energy you would use to brew a pot of coffee.

Here's how it works

There are many different canal trips you can take on various routes in Scotland. How fun would that be?! 

Here is an arial film by the "Hovering Scotsman" of the Kelpies and the the Wheel. Don't get confused by the mini version of the Kelpies next to the wheel. They are probably less than the height of an L.A. Laker.


Fun stops! After Falkirk, we stopped at Doune Castle. Then we headed up the hill to Stirling Castle and had dinner in the lovely town of Pitlochery. That will be my next post.

Blessings and light!

Friday, April 20, 2018

Doune Castle (Castle Leoch!)

A good tale 
never tires in the telling.
~Scottish Proverb

Doune Castle 

We left the beautiful city of Edinburgh on day 5 of our journey. As we drove past Edinburgh Castle I thought I might burst into tears. It happens when I fall in love with a place and I'm not sure when, if ever, I'll be back. 

Of course, what makes things much easier is when you're excited for your next adventure!

Music for this next adventure is (no surprise) the "Castle Leoch" theme. Anyway, press play!

My spirits brightened quickly as we headed for Doune Castle. If you are a fan of the TV show Outlander you know it as Castle Leoch, the home of the Laird of Clan MacKenzie! I was beside myself. I'm sort of an Outlander fan geek! 

My boyfriend calls this the Mona Lisa Smile photo. I was beyond pleased. Can you tell?

This castle was also used in Monte Python and the Holy Grail and Game of Thrones. I read on one website that Doune Castle was in the Elizabeth Taylor version of Ivanhoe with her husband Robert Taylor as well but I haven't confirmed that.

My travel journal ...

A recognizable exterior from Outlander!

Doune Castle was built for the Duke of Albany, Robert Stewart, in the late 14th century. He was the third son of King Robert and became ruler of Scotland from 1388 until his death in 1420. His son succeeded him but that was only for a few years because James I returned from England (where he was held captive) and then he took over. 

After that, the Kings and Queens of Scotland, for the most part, were using Edinburgh Castle and the Palace at Holyrood. Doune Castle was used as a retreat.

Residents were given the title of Earl of Moray in the late 1500s and Doune was in their possession until it was given over to Historic Scotland. 

***Speaking of Historic Scotland, you can buy a pass from them which worked out to be a great deal for us. Many of their various destinations were on our list including Doune, Edinburgh Castle, Stirling Castle, Elgin Cathedral and Urquart Castle! You also skip the line in many of these places!

Outlander used this "courtyard" space and put up temporary set structures. You can see on the left side of the photo that there is some restoration going on.

Mrs. Fitz' Kitchen! (Outlander reference!) Actually, they made a full size replica of this kitchen on a sound stage. Often it is not a good idea to bring a huge crew in to film in an old and possibly fragile historic place! 

I took this photo from inside the big kitchen fireplace!

Panoramic of the kitchen ...

The Great Hall

There was an audio tour narrated by Monty Python's Terry Jones and there were a few times the audio commentary was done by Sam Huegan (Jamie Fraser)!

I think this next photo was up another set of stairs. Another huge room!

Below, looking out to where Jamie and Claire rode up on horseback and she saw Castle Leoch for the first time. The audio commentary explained how cold it was filming there for hours and that her wardrobe was only a little white shift! Brrr! I needed my Patagonia jacket and a scarf!

 The Lord's Hall
Renovated in 1883 

Little nooks and crannies ...

The music they used in the background of this video is terrible but it's a good little clip of the producer of Outlander talking about filming at Doune Castle.

Here are two of the scenes from Monte Python and the Holy Grail filmed at Doune Castle.

It was an awesome day! We had about 3 or 4 stops to make on our way to Inverness but this was definitely a highlight!

 For those that haven't seen Outlander ... the season 1 trailer!

Doune Castle
Historic Scotland EXPLORER PASS

 Blessings and light
Lang May Yer Lum Reek!

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

The Scottish Borders ~ Searching for Ancestors in Crailing, Eckford and Morebattle

My heart lies in the land of my ancestors.
Where the thistle grows on the heath, Bonnie Scotland.
~ Scottish Proverb

The Scottish Borders

A few years ago my sister got on and it opened countless doors to the past. In part, that is what led to my art show "Memory Creating the Self" as well as a passionate desire to head to Scotland. 

My matrilineal line goes back to Scotland. My great grandmother who we all just loved and adored, Thelma Weatherstone Black, was in my life until she passed away during my junior year of high school. 

Thelma "Gongie" Weatherstone Black, 1895-1987

This is her tree on her father Robert's side. He was born in Edinburg, New York in 1845. It's his father Henry who came to the United States from Scotland as a young man. His father William, mother Agnes and siblings all came over from the Scottish Borders, as well (Her mom's side were Grants and Camerons whose origins come from the Scottish Highlands).

For years my grandmother and great grandmother tried to find out where exactly the family had come from but in the days before the internet it was much more difficult. My sister made the connection between Henry and a William Weatherstone but we didn't have physical documentation that we had the correct lineage between the two as father and son.

I was Googling family history in the Scottish Borders and found the Borders Family History Society. I wrote a nice lady named Barbara through Facebook and asked if they had records for the years we were looking for. They did.

I sent her the information we had and for a small fee ... Documentation! They'd found it! Old parish records with the birth and baptismal records for both Henry Weatherstone and his father William. We now had the information of where they were baptized and the records provided documentation that William had been a farmworker in nearby Primside! It was so exciting! 

Here's some instrumental music for the trip! Both the English Guitar and Scottish Music are from the 18th Century so I thought it was perfect for this post! Press play!

I did Google maps between the little towns and Barbara at Borders FHS gave us an idea of how long this little day trip around the Borders would take. There was supposed to be a deluge that day but our grandparents must have been looking out for us. It didn't rain until after our last stop!

Crailing, Scotland

Henry, my two times great grandfather, and all his siblings were baptized in little Crailing, Scotland. My sister's research had been correct! 

If you aren't paying attention you'd pass by the sign and the whole town of Crailing. We were headed to the old parish kirk (church). It's closed during the week but it still exists! I think you can get an appointment to meet someone to let you in, but I really didn't know when we would get there and I had visions of some poor little old lady waiting around for hours.

Anyway, we headed up this tiny road with a family of geese leading the way.

The Crailing Kirk
Redesigned in the 1800s

Henry Weatherstone was baptized here in 1809!

My mom and I on the land of our ancestors. I love this photo! Isn't my mom beautiful?

Scottish thistles ...

This little stream runs along the tiny road that leads to the church. I imagined the whole family walking that road every Sunday, hearing the sound of the birds and water, with that same cool Scottish breeze in the air. Why did they leave? Today it is so peaceful and lovely.

"The Border Land Scotland ... a people remarkable for personal courage and warlike spirit, for a proud feeling of independence, a stern strong individualism of character. Withal, they had hearts capable of being finely stirred by song; warmed to enthusiasm by the simple tale of local prowess; again touched to softness by the love strain, or by the story of widowed grief; again awed by glimpses of that weird and super-senible world, which their fancies and their fears created for them, and which whey believed lay bordering so near this world of common life and everyday experience, that at any moment it might flash on them in the form of fairy pageant in the green glen, or weird wraith on the moor, or water-spirit mingling its wail with the sough of the flood."

~from The History and Poetry of the Scottish Border by John Veitch, 1878

How difficult life must have been, to choose to leave your homeland and risk a trip across the ocean to an unknown land? I can't even imagine. For centuries the Border territories were a lawless place, with families of raiders and violent land border disputes.

But, it is also a land of poetry and ballads. There are countless stories and legends of fairies and elves, of heroic battles and tragic love set to song.

At Beltane, 
when every bodie bownis (makes ready to go)
To Peblis to the play,
To heir the singin and the sounds,
The solace, suth to say ;
Be firth and forest furth they found,
They graythit (dressed) them full gay ;
God wot (knew), that wald they do, that stound (time),
For it was their Feist Day,
They said, Of Peblis to the Play.

All the wenchis of the west
War up or the com creu ;
For reiling thair micht na man rest,
For garray and for gleu (light or foolish) ;
And said my curches (kerchiefs) are nocht prest ;
Than answerit Meg full blue ;
To get an hude (hood), I hald it best ;
Be Goddis saull that it true,
Quod scho
Of Peplis to the Play.

~Attributed to James I of Scotland

My travel journal with Crailing Kirk on the left and the Eckford Kirk on the right.

Eckford, Scotland 

The Eckford Kirk

The church was built between 1665 and 1668, 
to replace an earlier building burnt by the English army in 1544. 

‘Fragments of 1668 and aisle (Burial vault, laird’s loft over) of 1724. Alterations 1848 and porch added ... Many fine 17th century gravestones.’

This church had such a different feel to it. It's much more a wide open space but even the clouds somehow felt different. The energy was different too, but I can't really describe why that was. It was beautiful and it had a lightness but it also felt exposed and made me feel a bit unprotected I suppose.

Our first glimpse of a Highland Cow (Heilan' coo!) was not in the Highlands but down south in the Borders (Bordering England of course). How cute is he with his long wirey coat? 

Note to self. Must paint a coo!

Henry Weatherstone of Crailing married Agnes Robson in Ogdensburg, New York October 25, 1834.

Though they married in the United States, my two times great grandmother Agnes and her family were from Eckford which happens to be two miles up the road from Crailing! Did they know each other from back home but ran into each other in New York? Did they reunite? So many questions!

Agnes was baptized in about 1809 in Eckford. Her parents Henry Robson (b. 1778) and Margaret Blackadder of Edrom (b. 1775) were married in Eckford presumably at this church on January 18, 1805.

The Parish church at Eckford is now closed. I was told by a lady who I'd written through an Eckford website that it had been purchased by someone. She also told me that it was under renovation and was going to be a private residence.

The writing above is a photo of what was written on the side of the old church. I tried google translate on the part of it that I could make out. It's Latin and this is the literal translation-

"This moment, but if you and I, who were well him who deserves it, to place on and healed them.
Lord William Bennet, my night ... "

Anyone take Latin in school? I looked up Lord William Bennet. Lots of history with that guy. I'll put the link at the bottom.

From Eckford we drove to the larger town of Morebattle. Larger but not large. One website said there are 200 residents.

Morebattle, Scotland

You know a town is blessed with copious amounts of charm when it has roads named "Teapot Street" and "Thimble Row!"

The name Morebattle has origins in a place that is quite different than it would seem. It takes its name from the Anglian mere-botl, meaning 'lake dwelling.' So, basically nothing to do with battles. Sadly the lake they were referring to was Linton Loch which at one time was 5 miles long! As the years past it became marshland and in the 1700s it was drained.

This was my favorite of the three churches and it is where my three times great grandfather William Weatherstone was baptized February 28, 1776! 

Seriously, how cute is this church?? I love the red stones against the green grass and blue grey skies.

Morebattle Kirk
(Additions made in 1899 and 1903)

It is said that there has been a church at Morebattle since before 1116. It was part of the Diocese of Glasgow back then but burned down in the 1500s. It was rebuilt and perhaps rebuilt again in the 18th century? There are huge gaps in the histories that I've read. Basically, they are just very briefly written blurbs. It's difficult to piece it all together.

There are still services on Sundays, except for the 1st Sunday of the month which is in nearby Linton. 

I wished I'd had more time there. I could have spent hours in prayer, meditation and sketching the beautiful landscape and church. I really want to go back. I want to return to this place and have the time to connect with it. It's hard when you are trying to do so much and see so much in such a short time.


My travel journal again, with the little church on the left and St. Aidan's Church on the right.

St. Aidan's Church
St. Cuthbert's Coffee Stop

I had read about this beautiful and kind of groovy place on Trip Advisor. This lovely couple, Margaret and Richard Pedersen, are renovating this beautiful old Victorian church. They've been working on it since they bought the building for 165,000 pounds in 2010. Many thousands of new slate tiles on the roof, major plaster removal, shoring up doorways and filling in holes in the floor and on and on!

While doing that, they've opened a little Coffee shop in that little right hand front corner of the church. (above) It's right where you see the door open in the photo above!

Richard is a minister and Margaret is becoming a minister as well. Perhaps she is by now. They are hoping to have a mixed use space where they will have crafts, a cafe and an area for church services. They can change the configuration as needed. Isn't that cool?

They are along St Cuthbert’s Way which is a marked route for walkers running from Melrose to Lindisfarne. That journey was taken by St. Cuthbert during his lifetime. It passes through the village before taking to the hills en route to Yetholm. Since they are on a main walking path, walkers can stop in for coffee, conversation and comfort.

We sat and chatted with her and told her we were there looking for our ancestors. Well, the places of our ancestors.  She wanted to see the baptismal records when I told her that William Weatherstone was baptized in Morbattle. I emailed her and received the loveliest reply back.

She told us that the  Morebattle church we visited was definitely where he was baptized. Apparently, there was a congregation that met in a field for years but they wouldn't have been in those official records that I had. If I'm remembering correctly, the folks that met in the field eventually built the church they were renovating. St. Aidan's.

Richard gave us a look at the inside. I think they've done the majority of the renovation on their own, with perhaps some volunteers. Most of the photos I've seen online of the roofing are of him up there by himself! 

Lots of work ahead, but I wish them all the blessings to carry on their project and mission. They were so kind and giving of their time and stories. If you are ever in the neighborhood, please stop in for a coffee and chat! Tell them we said hello!

I told them that William Weatherstone worked at Primside Farms and they directed us up the road. We had to turn around when we got to the next little town and realized we'd right blown past it!

200 years later Primside Farm still exists! My ancestor William Weatherstone actually worked this land! I'm sure it was not an easy life but it's beautiful place and just what you'd imagine of a farm in the Scottish Borders.

This is the map that was emailed from Barbara at the ancestry place. Morebattle is down left and if you follow the road east and north, if you squint you'll see Primside at the Y in the road.

You can tell I was over the moon excited that we'd found it! I joked on Facebook about finding where your ancestors spent their lives. "It may smell like manure but it's home!" Or words to that effect.

Just as an aside, the hat above is one of the two I bought the day before in Edinburgh at the little hat shop in Grassmarket. (link in the previous post!)

Look at this land! I don't know how long William worked this land but as I said, he and his children (including his adult son Henry) eventually made their way across the Pacific and lived out their lives in Lisbon, New York.

Just as when I was painting their portraits, I wondered what my ancestors would think of us traveling all the way to Scotland searching for clues to their lives ... Searching for a sense of connection. 

I've begun to feel a pull back to the place more strongly after the fact. 

It's like there is an invisible cord tugging at my heart and trying to lead me back. I loved it. I loved it not in a "it's a perfect place" kind of way but in a way that you love those closest to you. You see all the beauty but the imperfection too. Somehow that makes it all more special, all the more wonderful.

After visiting Primside we headed north to the town of Galashiels. It's where the lady worked on our ancestry at the Borders Family History Society. We walked in and I gave her a hug, thanking her for all of her help. She led us into a little room with at least 6 ladies on computers. They were all doing research for folks just like us! 

We told them about all the places we visited. All were so lovely and asked us if we had any questions. 
"Well," I said, "Is there a good place to eat around here?"

There was.

It was called the The Salmon Inn and it was filled with locals and (apologies to the vegetarians!)  
a meat pie as big as my head. What is difficult to see behind the giant puffed pastry resembling my hat is the extra large mountain of French fries on the platter. Er, um chips. I also had an extra large beer and mom a great local Scottish gin. 

I felt great that night. A feeling of Mission Accomplished! I felt grateful too. And full. 

Eventually after we'd filled our bellies, with what turned out to be one of our best meals in Scotland, we headed out into the rain and back to Edinburgh.

The next day, we headed for the Scottish Highlands.

Julie Fowlis is a beautiful Scottish singer who sings in Gaelic. In this video her one month old daughter sleeps in her lap. It's so lovely and it made me all weepy. Even though the words of the song don't have much to do with this post, the mother and daughter sweetness seemed to fit perfectly. Enjoy! 


Many Blessings and light!
See you in the Highlands!