Thursday, January 29, 2009
Here now is a picture of the great man. Many thanks Suzanne Tedeschi.
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
A little of the ancient Caledonian Pine Forest (and three generations of cocker spaniel):
Cadha na Coin Duibh:
Approaching the summit of Mullach Clach a'Bhlair:
Sunday, January 25, 2009
I have written already of how Abraham Lincoln used to carry a volume of Burns around with him. Indeed I wrote then that Burns' passion for social justice fuelled the US leader's crusade to emancipate African-Americans.
Has President Obama read any Burns? I suspect not, but I think he would enjoy it...
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
The talk of slavery set me thinking for some reason about that great English anthem, 'Rule Britannia', (sung with great gusto each year at the Last Night of the Proms in London):
- When Britain first, at Heaven's command
- Arose from out the azure main;
- This was the charter of the land,
- And guardian angels sang this strain:
- "Rule, Britannia! rule the waves:
- "Britons never will be slaves."
Mind you, this had already been going on for a hundred years or more:
Saturday, January 17, 2009
Dunnottar, on a windswept clifftop south of Aberdeen, is about fifteen minutes walk from the road and there is no shop, no tea room, no electricity, and normally only one member of staff in the place. And yet this is one of the most significant of Scotland's castles - William Wallace, Mary Queen of Scots, the Marquis of Montrose, Charles II, they have all been here and added their stories to this extraordinary cluster of buildings. Dunnottar also saw the dramatic saving of Scotland's crown jewels, the oldest in the United Kingdom, from under the nose of Oliver Cromwell who hoped to destroy them.
At the moment Dunnottar is a convenient cash cow within a business whose main interests lie elsewhere. To be fair, much has been done in the last ten years - there is now an exhibition, there are benches and the rock doves have been denied access to at least some of the buildings. But this is not enough. Back in 2001 I researched the opportunities for grant funding to allow Dunnottar to become a modern, welcoming, visitor attraction. No doubt rules have changed but if government ministers are expresssing concern, then money will be found and if Dunecht Estates are not able to embrace such an initiative, then I hope Maureen Watt gets her way.
The owners of the castle point out that visitor numbers are rising. But Dunnottar should be seeing 60,000 visitors per annum, not the present 40,000. More importantly, the visitor experience is not nearly as good as it could be. Government administration is not necessarily the answer: some of the most exciting visitor attractions in Scotland are privately owned castles - Glamis, Cawdor, Inveraray. But these have been in the family for 50o years or more; the last Keith Earl Marischal of Scotland left Dunnottar in 1651 and the castle fell to Dunecht Estates, the present owners, almost by accident in 1925.
PS. The stunning shots in this post are by Jim Henderson whose photos also account for the great success of the castle guidebook.
Thursday, January 08, 2009
I was there yesterday with three of my Scottish Clans and Castles colleagues and can report that Aldourie is now embarked on the most amazing rebirth. Furniture, fittings and thousands of books are all in store whilst the castle is gutted and reorganised as a dramatic 'exclusive use' venue. Quite unusually, the English owners are passionate about restoring the castle to recall its Victorian glory - the time when the Fraser Tytler family entertained with great style in their very fashionable Scottish Baronial castle, recently created from a traditional laird's house, built by the Dunbar family in the 17th century.
We stood on the battlements and looked at Loch Ness through diverging vistas of mature trees. We went through a lychgate to see the private graveyard in the woods. We admired the arboretum and three massive dilapidated greenhouses flanking an enormous kitchen garden. All of this is being restored.
There is no doubt that the revitalised Aldourie Castle will again see entertainment in great style. If you would like to book Aldourie for a family or business event, just let us know.