Friday, August 28, 2015

Day 10 - Aitkens Bakery, Aberdeen, Coull Kirkyard and Dunnottar Castle

Hubby went back to bed after waking too early and I’m obliged to wait for him to wake up. It’s after 9 am before we are on our way to Glenbervie Road in Torry and our first experience with their famous rowies. Our route takes us past the docks where some seriously impressive specialist ships, I’m guessing used in the oil/gas industry are moored. A stop at the lights gives us a chuckle as we see evidence of the local sense of humour (look closely). More streets of attractive grey stoned terraces and soon Billy’s asking for thanks, again. Bloody performers always wanting applause.
We need to look closely to find Aitkens because it’s currently got no name on it anywhere. No trouble parking I make a spectacle of myself with the camera and we wander in and ask for two rowies.  Rowies are also a species of kiwi and it certainly feels strange using the term for ordering our breakfast. I wonder if kiwis taste good. Anyway, the dour lady behind the counter packages up two from a large basket on the shelf behind and we pay the small sum requested and wander outside.  I’m at a loss as to why they are also called butteries, they seem to be made with large quantities of lard and salt, the texture somewhat reminiscent of a croissant. Interesting. With their strong salty tang, you certainly wouldn’t be wanting to add vegemite that’s for sure. They’d be good with a full Scottish breakfast though.  I've enjoyed one but any more would be excessive in one sitting we think.  We head back in to buy a couple more for Ron (translation: later on) and Hubby’s keen to try something else. The lady looks at me like she’s wondering what the hell she’s struck here when I ask what are those things in the basket on the higher shelf.  “ Pancakes….” We’ll have one of those too.  Hubby pays up and we leave… somewhat sheepishly I have to say.  The pancake was good. Nothing unusual about it. Well we had to ask they weren’t stacked like pancakes and some looked like they had dried fruit or something in them.
What shall we do next? As we’re already in the car we decide to go back to Harriet St Carpark and see if we can have a look around St Nicholas Church. We’re old hands now and pretty soon we’re meandering about the in churchyard checking out the ornamental stonework. The church itself is locked until daily prayers at 1:05 pm. We are particularly impressed by the work of the craftsman who made a celtic cross. The memorial commemorates events over a very long period, so our guess is that the work dates from early 20th century. It’s stunning.
That done, Hubby waits while I wander down towards Marischal College. It’s on a scale that’s hard to capture but I do my best and enjoy examining the statue of Robert the Bruce on his warhorse outside. 
The other thing I’ve read about the Aberdeen stone is that it is very hard and durable and consequently the buildings made from it age extremely well. Damn straight! Aberdeen looks pretty schmick overall and the lovely consistency of construction material is a big part of that.  They have done a good job painting the poles outside the library in a Scottish blue with flowers climbing. Touches like that or the flowers look brilliant against the consistent canvas of the stone buildings.
Before I head back to rejoin my patient spouse, I venture into the courtyard of the college and puzzle about the angle to go for. Hmm. How about symmetrical.
I’m intrigued by the references everywhere to Bon Accord, I find that it is incorporated to the heraldry on the statue and a little research reveals that it was apparently used as a password during the Scottish Wars of Independence when Robert the Bruce and his men laid siege to Aberdeen Castle. The City’s official toast is “Happy to meet, sorry to part, happy to meet again – Bon Accord”. I can second that. I’ll be happy to return to Aberdeen one day. That being the case and today’s weather being a tad damp and cold, we decide to prioritise the things around Aberdeen that we wouldn’t be able to do if we venture back here without a car sometime in the future. Let’s go for a drive and check out the Lyne of Skene and head on to Coull Kirkyard J
We meet up and head back to the car via the shopping centre. Joy of joys there’s a Pret just upstairs. That’s lunch sorted and we can take it with us. We supplement the sandwiches with some of the slightly flavoured water Pret sells as a fruit drink. First we have to do some money maintenance at home on the internet and then we’re off.
We set off via Auchmill Road, happy enough to just pass through the general area where some of the dead rellies lived for a while. We’re glad we’ve mastered the Bluetooth so we can have music along the way when we choose.  Our first impromptu stop is at a Forestry Commission reserve called Tyrebagger. This is an old mixed woodland area where there are a couple of walking tracks.  Hubby’s resting his foot today. All the walking seems to be catching up with him, but he’s happy enough for me to take a little wander and get some photographs. The trees are fascinating. They are exotic things like larch, and spruce and Scots Pine. All trees we don’t get at home.  There’s a real nip in the air and it’s constantly threatening rain in that way that feels like tiny tender pin pricks as minute drops of water touch your face.  It’s exhilarating.  Perhaps we’ll explore somewhere like this on our guided nature day up in the Cairngorms. It's only a few days away now.  Finding myself drawn further into the woods to see what’s around the next little corner or over that next rise, with great reluctance I drag myself away and turn back.  I give the inevitable report to Hubby and tell him my concerns regarding a man who is lying in his car, seat reclined way back with the engine running.  I hope he’s not dead in there, with some sort of carbon monoxide tube pumping toxic fumes into the car. The ground is dry under the car and it looks like he’s been there some time. As I say this Hubby laughs.
We’re passing the car and the bloke has just moved his arm in the air. Phew! Haha.
We pass through the Kirkton of Skene without record. I hope I’m remembering correctly that rellies were at Lyne of Skene! We take the turn when it comes up and spend a little while checking out the few buildings. There’s a couple of places called Old Schoolhouse 1 and Old Schoolhouse 2. Not a huge leap to guess that this is a conversion and by the look of the building it’s pretty old. So I suppose that the kids must have spent some time in there.  There’s not much in the area even now. Perhaps the village has shrunk. Perhaps the habitations people were living in back in the day weren’t that solid.
For days as we've been driving around everywhere we go there's these beautiful purple flowers growing in drifts by the side of the road or at times even across embankments but I've never really had a good go at photographing them. Well now's my chance. On a quiet road with space to pull over safely there's a thick clump of them that I am hoping will photograph well. Hubby parks and I hop out and do my best. 
We’re just enjoying the drive when we come across a sign for Queen’s View, Hubby is intent on following the plan though and despite my exclamations that we need to see that view we head on to the Coull Kirkyard.
It’s a delightful little stonewalled drive into the parking area for the church. The weather is clearer here than down near the coast where we can still see dark brooding clouds. We pull up in the carpark and have our picnic lunch of delicious Pret sandwiches and the coloured water they sell as juice drinks, then it’s time to explore the kirkyard.
I’ve found records that suggest that my 5th Great Grandfather may have died in Coull in 1835. He had property so I was wondering whether there might be a gravestone here to do with him. It doesn’t really matter if our William Donald died around here or was buried in this kirkyard though . I’m glad we came out here in any case. This place is utterly charming. Time to go I get hubby to follow me slowly down the church lane while I go ahead and photograph some little things I noticed on the way in. 

Our next stop is that Queenly lookout the signs promised and we find it’s not far to go. We pull up in the small lay by and duck across the road where there is a very small alcove that is partly consumed by a post and a puddle. The view is certainly worthy of royal patronage and takes in the Howe of Cromar, with its fertile valley and the peaks of Craig Dhu and Balnagowan Hill in the distance. There’s a sense of space and fertile promise in life that the photographs entirely miss. 
The next sightseeing item for the day is Dunnottar Castle and to get there we are supposed to turn our entire car around when possible, but the scenery where we are is so lovely we can hardly bear to change what we’re doing. After a while though it seems like we had better pull back and we correct our course and head for the coast. As we have travelled today, patches of flowering heather adorn the hillsides and I belatedly realise that the beautiful marbling visible from so far away is in fact the heather in bloom. Amazing
It’s only a short drive down to Dunnottar Castle and there’s ample parking. There’s a house that is in a position where it’s natural to assume it would be a visitor centre or ticket office but signs are posted telling us we buy our tickets at the Castle. To get to the castle it’s quite a distance and it involves a lot of stairs. We make a start, Hubby seems to be doing OK but if a rest is called for there are seats along the way.
Near to our destination I am distracted by a small moth on a post and I fuss about trying to get a clear picture until finally Hubby sings out that he’ll just get a ticket for himself. Oh. Yeah. Sorry. I race up the cobbled pathway and up the final flight of stairs. Or so I thought. There’s a series of cobbled stone tunnels and then another narrow entrance way. I imagine the slaughter that would take place if any invader were foolish enough to emerge in single or double file or whatever out into the open from the security of the tunnel. It wouldn’t be pretty.
The buildings on the site are largely ruined. Naturally there are views up and down the coast but the most awesome view draws our eye across to the war memorial on a distant hill.  It’s in a spectacular location. The British certainly know how to place a feature in a landscape for maximum effect!
Obviously among the derelict buildings are all those that any community would have required in the days when the castle was in active use. We particularly enjoyed the dining room which was restored to celebrate a milestone anniversary not so long ago. It’s amazing what an ornate ceiling will do to make a space look regal! I’m sure seeing it completed must have made the owners of this place wonder as we visitors do whether it might be possible to gradually restore other parts of the castle complex. 
There were also less cheerful elements in our exploration. Down a dark corridor we come to a dark and brooding space where covenanters were imprisoned having been relocated from Edinburgh to make room for other offenders.  Their time at Dunnottar Castle just one slice of the ongoing abuse of what we would now think of as their human rights. Presbyterians refused to acknowledge the king as head of the church, supported a rebellion in their defiance and rapidly came off second best in the argument.  One way or another over half of the covenanters held at the castle perished before the king was done with them. The survivors working, presumably, as prisoners in the West Indies.
I spend a little time in the 17th Century garden where a birdfeeder has some customers who I guess are probably hedge sparrows. It really doesn’t take long to explore what’s here and we start to make our way out. Hubby moves steadily homeward as I just take a quick detour up some stairs to check out the information panel about the war memorial and on to another area where I find another restored room via somebody or other’s lodgings. This one is not so ornate and contains some information panels, some of which duplicate those elsewhere on site, and a scale model of the castle showing the layout of all the buildings. As I’m nearing the top of the stairs I see a sign saying lion’s den. It’s amazing to find that the sign is referring literally to what is being pointed out. They actually kept a lion here for a while. Poor creature. You have to wonder about a time when people must have so completely lacked imagination that they could live apparently so completely without empathy for other living creatures whether human or animal.
We take our time heading up the hill and I catch up with Hubby at a seat provided along the way. We relax for a few more minutes taking in the scene.  Back at the top there’s still a fairly long path bordered by vegetation which includes a couple of thriving white rugosa roses.  We’ve seen some lovely cerise pink rugosa roses around so the white really grabs our attention as something a bit different.
We’re pretty tired and footsore by now, just one more stop as we detour to Chapel St for a better look. Chapel street is much shorter now than it was when it was home to a great stack of Begg and Donald rellies. Following the death of prosperous shipping agent William Donald in the mid 19th Century, his widow, sons and daughters lived at 10 Chapel Street which presumably gave his son John, a druggist, the opportunity for some “sport” with young Catherine Leslie who lived down the other end of the street. Catherine and her mother Janet Begg lived at 109 Chapel for decades with Catherine’s two sons surrounded by Janet's siblings, Dickies, Keiths and Beggs who had all found their way to the inner city. The younger of Catherine Leslie’s two sons, George Leslie Donald, a wool mill worker, ultimately married Mary Dey, daughter of a mason from a family of quarriers and stone workers from up around the Lyne of Skene. They emigrated to far north Queensland in 1883 soon after they were married, during the latter part of the gold rush, taking their two small kids Kate and George Jnr with them (yep, that's right they didn't marry until they had two kids and George Snr had turned 21). Unfortunately neither George Donald the elder, or Mary Dey had long lives. George died of pneumonia aged 34 when he was working on the construction of the original rail bridge over the Burdekin River leaving Mary with children ranging from 15 to 2 years old. Mary remarried and died of a septic miscarriage in 1898 aged only 39. The story goes that she had been living in the small community of Queenton some distance from Charters Towers and she travelled by buggy into Charters Towers for the birth at the hospital there. Unfortunately the baby was still born and she started the journey home only to find that she was carrying twins, the second of which was making its entrance far away from any skilled assistance. Mary and the second baby both died as well. Ultimately I guess people emigrate to give themselves and their kids a better life so the risk they took leaving their home and family in Aberdeen paid off in some measure in that their kids did OK in the end though it must have been tough for newly married Aunt Kate and her husband to take in her young siblings when they were orphaned.
George and Mary Donald’s son, also George, was born in Upper Denburn Street where Mary was living with her parents. He was an infant when he emigrated with his parents and went on to be my Mum’s grandad Donald.
Well, it’s time for our evening meal and we’re inclined to a simple, early night. A little online checking and we decide to go for Efes Kebabs right here in Chapel Street and eat at home. Hubby orders an Efes King Kebab which has beef, chicken and doner meat and I order a small chicken kebab and chips which we then take home to eat and relax. The kebabs were huge. If that chicken kebab is small I cannot imagine how enormous the large size version is. The chips were awful though, which was something of a consolation seeing as neither of us could finish our kebabs.  Some journaling and then goodnight. 

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