Month: September 2015

Culross Village Centre

The Royal Burgh of Culross

Hey guys,

Finally got round to posting this one, as I’ve spent all week in Glasgow for Fresher’s Week.

Last Sunday Mum and I headed to Culross for the week’s wander. A fairly short walk, this leisurely walk was still packed full of sights to see, and was wonderfully completed by quite possibly the largest meal I have ever eaten in the Red Lion Inn.

The beginning of our walk was interesting, because the sat-nav led us astray, and so finding the car park that marked the start of our route took a little bit of work. Once found, the start of our walk was pretty easy, as the path was flat and paved. We were treated to views out over the Firth of Forth, and a glimpse of Dunimarle Castle through the trees.

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Our route then took us up the driveway of Blair Castle Memorial Home for Miners, a sheltered walk surrounded by Rhododendrons. A fairly steep climb, this was a bit of  a shock to the system after our easy, flat path. We passed a field of unusual looking cattle who didn’t seem to impressed by our walking past their field. At the top of the hill Blair Castle came into view. Now this is not the same Blair Castle which featured in the previous post, and I admit I have no idea why there are two castles in Scotland with exactly the same name. This Blair Castle reminded me more of Merchiston castle where we spend the NYCoS residential course.

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After snapping a few photos we headed through the trees along a farm track up towards Blair Mains Farm. Our directions told us that after the farm we would reach a metal gate which would mark the point at which we would turn off the farm track and cut through the woods. It later transpired that we passed about 6 metal gates before we found the correct one with a signpost directing us along our way. The directions we were following were quite old so I guess the farm has just undergone some renovations since then.

Our route left the farm track and headed along a rough woodland path that bordered farmland. A short way along this woodland path we came across a stile on the fence we were following, and realised this was the way to a hidden plague grave we had been told about in the village. The grave was the resting place of three siblings who all lost their lives on the same day when Culross was decimated by the Plague. Much as this was fascinating and I was curious, we decided to move on without further investigation, as this kind of thing creeps me out like nothing on earth.

The path opened out onto a flatter grass path which was easier to follow than the rough woodland path. We came across the ruin of Culross West Church, which had been the main place of worship for the people of Culross until this duty was taken over by Culross Abbey. We spent some time nosing round the ruin and the surrounding graveyard and mausoleum. Graves here mainly range from the seventeenth to the nineteenth centuries, with some from the 20th century, and one very modern grave from 2014 in the top corner. It was interesting to see the evolutions in gravestones, with the older ones being sunk and more macabre in design. There were also a number of famous people and War Graves in the graveyard. The church itself is now a complete ruin, with no roof and collapsing walls.

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After our investigation of the Church we continued along the path, eventually ending up on the road we had originally driven into the village on. I have to admit I was glad our walk was nearly over, as my stomach was making more noise than I do when I’m singing on stage. However, I did have to stop and photograph Culross Abbey and read the tourist plaque outside to learn a little about the history of the building. Most of the once enormous building is now gone, but what little remains is still truly lovely.

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Our walk was ended with a lovely visit to The Red Lion Inn, which I would seriously recommend. I wolfed down as much as I possibly could, but there was still enough left to feed another person. Below is halfway through my meal just to put it into perspective.

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All in all, our trip to Culross was highly educational, and I would love to do more walks full of history like this one.

If you want to check where else I’ve been in Scotland so far you could check out:-

Longines FEI European Eventing Championship 2015 Blair Castle

Family in Forfar

A Wee Wander Down To The Boathouse

Blair Castle, Scotland

Longines FEI European Eventing Championship 2015 Blair Castle

Hey guys,

Sorry it’s taken so long to get another post up. I’ve been finishing some last minute details for uni. Can’t believe I start in less than a week!

Anyway, this Sunday I forced an at first reluctant Mum up to Blair Atholl for the annual horse trials. I love going every year, just to have a nose around and watch all the different classes and events. As a bonus, there’s also a bit of shopping to be had as well.

I do have to say a MASSIVE Thank You to Joanne Fairbrother of Avonmill Equestrian  for our last minute tickets.

The journey up to Blair is always so spectacular, as the views and sights are just stunning. There’s a particular bend of the A9 which sits in the middle of a valley, and to just round that corner and see these great, imposing green conifers towering over the road-it just takes my breath away every time. However, it always takes me by surprise, and I am therefore yet to take a photograph of this scene.

Upon arrival at Blair, I was reminded that it had been raining heavily on Saturday as the ground was just mud, even our 4×4 was sliding about all over the place. One woman was making a futile attempt to push a Mercedes through the parking field to the grass and getting nowhere. Walking anywhere was a struggle, people sliding and squelching everywhere. Through the gate was the worst bit, as everyone had to walk there.

Once through the gate we headed straight to Mum’s one stop shop for coffee. She discovered this stall the year we were up for my 16th, and sticks by her belief that this is the best coffee at Blair. I would have to say it is the best on-the-go hot chocolate I’ve come across, so I’m not complaining.

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Whilst waiting in the queue for our drinks we met Missie’s former owner Abby, and chatted to her and her mum whilst watching the ex-racehorse class, and who did I realise was handing out prizes but Clare Balding! Couldn’t get any decent photos though as we were sitting at a funny angle to her.DSCN1020 DSCN1022

After watching until the end of that class, Mum and I got up for a wander, as we were staring to turn to icicles. We only got as far as the far end of the ring before I realised that it was a side-saddle class up next. I love side-saddle riding. I think it looks so elegant and classy, and would absolutely love to learn to ride side-saddle with Missie, but a decent side-saddle is absolutely extortionate, as its a dying art. I think Missie would be a great side-saddle horse though, as she’s so comfortable to ride.

In the class there were several stunning horses, I in particular loved a stunning black Fresian, but the judge didn’t agree with me, as it wasn’t placed very highly. Such is the world of showing.Whilst watching the class Mum’s friend Bernadette found us and stopped for a chat. She’s had a great Blair with her young gelding Cayro Spring.

By this point Mum and I were eyeing up every food stall in the place in search of lunch, but I couldn’t resist stopping ring-side of the Clydesdale Championship. I absolutely love the thundering, ground-shaking of these gentle giants galloping past-what a feeling!

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We settled on some pasties and a shared brownie from the Just Baked stall, Mum being adventurous trying the Blair Special Venison and Chocolate Pasty. Whilst eating we wandered around the show jumping arenas before heading out to have a wander round the cross country course.

Those cross country jumps are terrifying! How do people jump them? They are really high, really wide and some have almost vertical drops after them. Cross country jumpers and eventers are mad! Many of the jumps are very well decorated though, and also very pretty.

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We wandered quite a distance out, and I commented on the fact that we could still hear the Queen’s Piper’s away out there. How bizarrely terrifying must a Scottish army have been in the past? On our wander back Mum and I walked past a small convoy of parked Range Rovers, and thought nothing of it until we noticed the Royal flag attached to the nose of one-we wandered past the Queen’s car! She wasn’t anywhere to be seen though, just a very bored driver sitting in his car.

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Some photos taken by the mini-kelpies, it was time for some shopping! Wandering in and out of different stalls I spotted a beautiful blue tartan blanket scarf in the Joules clothing tent, and then got slightly distracted by the leather hats. After learning that we already have a real leather cowboy hat up the loft somewhere, I chose the scarf, and can honestly say I’ve not taken it off since. It’s so comfy! Mum bought herself a lovely fur ear warmer, and we headed in off in search of coffee.

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Coffee and hot chocolate in hand, we sat and watched the pre-veteran in hand class and enjoyed our brownie. After this, we decided it was time to head for home, as did everyone else at Blair it would seem. It was slow the entirety of the A9, and it’s quite a long road. We did however choose the right time in the sense that the heavens opened just as we left, so at least we didn’t end up soaked.

All in all it was a very enjoyable day, and I look forward to returning to Blair next year.

Traditional Cob Horse in Stable

Here Comes The Sun

Hey Guys,

Yesterday Mum and I headed out with Missie for a wee hack, as there was work being done on the arena, and the weather was just so stunning there was just no way we could pass it up.

In an unusual turn of events, when I went to bring her in from the field I managed to get Missie to pose for a few photographs without fidgeting or wandering off. She however made me pay for it by dragging me into the bushes for a snack 3 times on the way up the hill, much to Mum’s hilarity. The walk from her grassy field to the hay filled stable is only about a minute long! Yet we needed to stop for sustenance 3 TIMES! It’s times like this that make me wonder why I have a horse.

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I am reminded of why once we finally reach the stable, and Missie becomes the sookiest horse on the planet. I get kisses and cuddles and general loveliness. I then get completely ignored in favour of a hay net. Ah, the fickle love of an eternally hungry horse.

Anyway, after grooming and tacking up, we head out on the road.

I remember noting the moment I got on that Missie was in a fizzy mood, and boy did that mood not disappoint. We had ears forward, bouncy steps, walking sideways all over Mum-Missie was really going for it. Being such a novice rider, I usually get absolutely terrified when she does this, but I am slowly beginning to realise that this is all it is-maybe a wee runny or explosion if she’s really spooked-but she really is just a daft, nosy mare, and so I am getting better at ignoring her over-excited tendencies.

Missie is really not a great fan of cattle, which can be great fun considering the yard neighbours a cattle farm, but she is improving. In one of the fields there was a young cow standing right next to the fence bordering the road. A few weeks ago Missie would never have just walked past, We’d have had emergency stops, runs past it and dangerous spins into the middle of road. Now she just has a wee look, tenses up a bit and walks past a little quicker. What a quick learner my girl is!

Encountering new distractions on our hack can be hit or miss for us-sometimes she has a total freak out, others she barely notices. You would think, given that she never stops eating the stuff, that walking past hay bales in the field would not be an issue for our hoover of a horse. Think again. Missie went into her “Zorro’s Stallion” mode, as Mum calls it-high knees, curved neck, don’t get me wrong, it looks amazing! It’s just terrifying to ride. Thankfully this is all we got, no explosions, and so our hack continued up the hill.

This is one of my favourite parts of the hack, as the views are just magnificent. You can see for miles, and given that it’s a dead end, the road is usually completely empty besides us. Below are some photos taken in the style of “Through the horse’s ears”, a style of equine photography which is incredibly popular with equestrians worldwide.

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Once Missie has walked past a hazard once without it eating her, she will normally walk past it without issue on the way home. This cannot be said for our hay bales. “Zorro’s Stallion” returned as we headed home, but this was quickly met with a sharp telling off from Mum, which was more or less acknowledged by our mad madam.

Lucky Missie was very excited on the way home to realise that her favourite new friend, a young lady with a never-ending supply of apples, was waiting for her at one of the cottages along our route. Whilst stopped for a snack and a cuddle, we were passed by one of the horse boxes heading home. I am extremely proud to say that our large-traffic skittish horse was almost completely unfazed by this. Go Missie!

Once home, Mum suggested we give our sweaty girl a hose down to cool her off. This is a job which requires two people, as our mad madam is also a wee feartie when it comes to water. However, after trying to fight Mum for a few moments, she gave in, and I actually think she quite enjoyed herself.

I have to say, I may be absolutely terrified at the time when “Zorro’s Stallion” makes an appearance, I do find it exhilarating, and secretly look forward to the next time it appears. And I do love my horsey cuddles with some of the other boys and girls on the yard too.

Mischief Managed

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Figured I should introduce you guys to one of my-ahem-assistants. This is the beautiful Missie.

Missie joined the family earlier this year after the loss of our previous horse Georgina, and has quickly become part of the family. Bought to be a safe, sensible ride, this horse is so full of character she has had to grow a lot of fluff to contain it! Seriously, those feathers, although very beautiful, are the bane of my life. Trying to keep them clean is a nightmare.

She is perfect for nervous riders such as my mum and I, as in the arena she is more likely to stop and refuse to move than she is to bolt, as, like me, she can be prone to a wee bit of laziness. On the road however she can be a bit of a handful, as she has a dislike of cattle and is nervous around large traffic. She is a quick learner though, and we hope we can soon have her out exploring and wandering with us.

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A Wee Wander Down To The Boathouse

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Hey Guys,

Well, today Mum and I went on our first “proper” cross-country wander.

Our daily walks around Cumbernauld are usually around about 4 miles, but of various difficulties depending on our routes, but we have decided to walk a little further at the weekends to allow us to up our distances and fitness. After all, we did start our walking venture, however long it may last, in order to improve our health and fitness, and to tone up.

All in all, we walked 7.9 miles, which is almost double our usual distance! No wonder my legs are killing me! Starting in Dullatur, we followed the marked route along Croy Hill to the Antonine Wall and Ruined Roman Fort, and then down the hill towards The Boathouse at Auchinstarry, which is one of our favourite places to eat. After stopping for wee naughty Chocolate Fudge Brownie Sundaes, we carried on along the Forth/Clyde Canal path back towards Dullatur. Thinking we had found that too easy, we fearlessly decided to continue back up the hill, eventually finding our old route, and doubling back on ourselves as we headed home.

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The walk down through Dullatur was pretty easy, as it’s all down hill. The biggest problem with this section of the walk is trying to ignore the serious envy you feel walking past the houses down there. Seriously, they are ridiculously big. Mum and I had a tourist moment when we stopped to pose for pictures next to the Roman Statue, before continuing on our way.

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After locating the first signpost for our route, we wandered down past Dullatur Tennis Courts, and arrived at a choice. We could choose to follow the road round a bend, or head down a seemingly never ending staircase. With no signpost to guide us, I decided that, as we had to reach the bottom of the hill to find the main trail, we should use the stairs. About halfway down, we discovered a signpost which told us that we were on the right track-hurray!

Our real walk began at the bottom of that staircase. The terrain changed from paved paths to gravel tracks through the woods alongside Dullatur Golf Course. Keeping an eye out for stray balls, Mum and I admired the scenery, and noted on how wonderful it would be to bring a horse here to hack out. As the path looped round, we discovered a small-for lack of a better word- lagoon beside our walk. Getting closer to have a better look, I couldn’t help noticing how serene the location was, and how much I just wanted to find a good book and waste the days away just sitting doing nothing much at all.

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Crossing the railway line, our gravel paths turned to narrow grass paths, and I must say, I am glad I decided to wear my walking boots and not my trainers, as the paths became quite damp and muddy in places. Someone, I know not whom, had placed large branches and planks of wood down at the worst points, in an attempt to make the crossing easier. I thank whomever this was, as these were a godsend.

At the end of one little trail, we were again confronted with a signless fork. However, at this fork we were also greeted by a small herd of cattle to make up for this obstacle. After consulting a map, we decided to head left, following the train tracks for a time before heading uphill along a cattle track. What a hill! A few breathers were required on our ascent, let me tell you. However, relief was found when at the summit we discovered the Old Roman Fort, a historical site I had hoped we would find but doubted we would.

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After a wee snoop around the Fort, we rejoined the path and headed up another ridiculously steep hill. However, my ire at this was quickly dispelled as I realised that the path we were on was a section of the John Muir Way, a long-distance walk I would love to one day walk along. We stopped at the top as Mum spotted a gentleman out with his sons sitting eating their lunch surrounded by some beautiful heather. The sight was a perfect picture opportunity, and we stopped to take a photo of them on the man’s phone. I wish I had also taken a photo for this, as the whole setting was idyllic. Unfortunately, the thought did not occur to me until the boys came racing past us on their way home. Mum and I did take a few selfies at the highest point of the walk. (Please excuse the highly obvious bra straps, my more modest attire had been removed early in the walk.)

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Also visible from this point was our pit stop, the Auchinstarry Marina and The Boathouse.

I was sad when I realised that our route would take us away from the John Muir Way. I had enjoyed feeling like a real hiker following the waymarkers along our route.

As steep as the hill had been on our way up, the hill down was just as bad, and made worse by the fact my muscles were starting to feel the strain. However, I soldiered on, knowing that there was Brownie Sundae out there with my name on it.

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We arrived at our pit stop just in time, as poor Mum ended up with a migraine trying to rear its ugly head. If it had succeeded, our adventure would have ended there and then, as her migraines put Mum out of commission for at least the rest of the day. Thankfully, due to a wee rest and her favourite dessert, Mum was good to go.

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After stuffing down a hearty helping of delicious chocolate ice cream, we set off once more along the Forth/Clyde Canal path, which was largely uneventful, as the path is fairly flat and even. We did however nearly have a moment when Mum couldn’t quite process that she had heard a bicycle bell, and when I moved out of the way of the oncoming cyclist, she got very confused and moved into the way! She did realise her mistake in time though, or things could have been very interesting indeed.

At the end of the canal path we had a choice to make. As it was our first distance walk, we had agreed with Dad that we would phone him when we reached this point and he would come and collect us by car. However, as the walk along the canal had been so easy, I suggested that we continue back up the hill. If you asked my legs, they would tell you that this was the wrong decision, but I am glad that we did so. I had not realized how steep the path we would follow would be, but had been seduced by the fact that we would once again be following the John Muir Way, and that I could once again feel like a real hiker.

Our path did flatten out at the top of the hill for a time, and I was able to enjoy the wide open spaces around us. I realised that we were looping round, and were soon to meet up with our earlier path. We passed our friendly herd of cattle once more, and headed back along the grassy path back towards Dullatur.

Passing the lagoon, our peace was disrupted by Mum’s phone as Dad phoned to find out what was happening. This was a godsend, as we were both starting to struggle quite a bit, and asked him to meet us at the tennis courts to take us home. Upon reaching the gravel path, Mum’s feet were clearly getting tired, as she nearly faceplanted quite spectacularly, but regained her composure quickly enough to save herself too much embarrassment. A small deviation from our earlier route took us by a few more mansion style homes in Dullatur, before our tired, sore feet carried us up the hill towards Dad and his waiting car.

Much as my legs are screaming out in pain right now, I am really glad Mum and I went our wander today. It’s always great to spend some quality time together, and I am glad that we are both comfortable walking together as silent companions, as I prefer to wander in silence, listening to the sounds of nature around me.