Friday, 18 November 2016

Good Food and Great Scottish Cities

The second week of our holiday started a change in the temperature for colder more November-like weather, rain and threats of snow. There were also dramatic changes in America but I'm sure we've all read, seen and heard more than enough about it, so I won't dwell on it here. The wet colder days have been spent working in the house, cooking, baking, tidying, cleaning and sorting. Not much of a holiday you may think, but it helps clear my mind and help me feel more on top of things. 

I've been cleaning and tidying and sorting out on wet days, including
cleaning everything in my dresser, it's nice to re-connect with my collections
I haven't had time to enjoy for ages

There's not much gardening news these days, everything is disappearing under a carpet of leaves both at home and at the nursery. Until after the New Year it will all lie untouched then I will start the big tidy up in time for spring. The tunnels and greenhouses get watered when needed, usually once a week and I must must must get bulbs planted!

I even managed to make perfect meringues

The Quirky Bird Gardener is now on instagram and you can follow me through the link at the bottom of this post. Look forward to seeing you there.

Wintery morning, the field behind the house, you can't quite see the snow stuck in the furrows

Making chicken, leek and cider pie for dinner

On Thursday David and I headed in to Edinburgh for the afternoon, we are so lucky to stay only 40 minutes from our beautiful capital city. We took the bus in again, it's so much cheaper than parking and without the hassle of trying to find a space. We wandered up the Royal Mile, exploring the wee courtyards and closes behind, who knew there were so many interesting hidden places there, and great for photography too! I've never really taken the time to explore behind the scenes, as it were. We're going to come back in on a better weather day, it was a bit too gray for photos. From there we headed down to Princes Street for coffee, cake and some shopping, even ending up doing some Christmas shopping. For dinner we met up with David's daughter Becky and her boyfriend, it was good to catch up at last and we enjoyed some sushi overlooking the castle.

So many interesting closes running off the Royal Mile

Sometimes the entrances are more interesting than the closes themselves

The closes really lend themselves to black and white photography

Great planting for a shady stairway

The Writer's Museum behind the Royal Mile

Courtyards and Closes

Us outside the Camera obscura

The roof garden of the National Museum of Scotland

Ramsey Gardens, just below the Castle

A wee treat in Jenners

A cheeky chap in Princes Street gardens

Sunset reflections

Edinburgh Castle in the sunset

Christmas is coming

Sir Walter Scott

Looking over Waverley Station roof

On Friday we headed west to another great city, Glasgow. We've been talking for a while of going through and visiting David's old student haunts from when he studied at Glasgow University in the 1980's. The university building are diverse, spanning many decades and architectural styles but the main building in the Victorian gothic style are stunning. We spent a while wandering about and visited the Huntarian Museum, drinking coffee, enjoying the autumn colours in the grounds and exploring an old book shop David used to frequent, Voltaire and Rousseau. This amazing place tucked away down an alley holds a HUGE collection of academic books, fiction, reference and rare editions. As you can see in the photo blow the books are stacked everywhere! Finally we met up with my middle son Jamie for dinner. It was great to catch up with him over some good food and cocktails.

The Main buildings of Glasgow University

The big Beech tree helps soften the architecture

Exibits in the Hunterian Museum

Inside the Museum

Looking Outwards

Arches and doors

Always a great area to Photograph

David lost in books, Voltaire and Rousseau Glasgow

The weekend arrived, although with our crazy lifestyle and topsy turvy working week we don't really have a weekend and when we're on holiday it's so easy to lose track of what day it is. On Saturday I did the cafe flowers at Whitmuir and then we went to collect the greenhouse we'd been offered for the nursery. It needs some work on the wooden frame but we got it free so we are really excited to get it. The plan is to put it in the sales area for indoor and tender plants and make it a bit of a feature too. Watch this space as they say. Fortunately the weather stayed dry and David very cleverly got it all to the nursery with not one broken pane of glass.

This week's cafe flowers

Sunday was a murky cold day and ideal for being indoors catching up at home. I tidied and watered the greenhouse, watered the chickens (ok I filled their water bowl) and put away the garden hoses for winter. The rest of the day was spent keeping warm in the kitchen doing some baking, cooking and Christmas preparation as you can see below. I can't believe it's that time already, can you? Now that the mincemeat and cake are made they can marinate for the next few weeks until needed. This is just the start of my christmas traditions.

Aeonium magnificum in the greenhouse

The fruit and brandy for the christmas cake which will marinate overnight

Ingredients for the mincemeat

Monday was more of the same, house cleaning and putting the rest of the Christmas cake ingredients together with the soaked fruit and into the oven for a few hours. The smell of spices, citrus fruits and then baking cake were wonderful. I packed the mincemeat into kilner jars where it will marinate for a few weeks until I make the mincemeat pies. I'm enjoying doing my ingredient photos for instagram, it's become a bit of a thing, lol.

Packing the mincmeat into kilner jars

Ingredients for the christmas cake

Ingredients for Sticky meatloaf which we had for dinner on Monday evening

Tuesday and my last day off and while David was off flying Bracken and I headed off to do a walk I've wanted to do for a while. You can read about our hill walk up to the Covenantor's grave in the Pentlands here A Walk to the Covenantor's grave in The Pentlands






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Thursday, 17 November 2016

A Walk to the Covenantor's Grave in the Pentlands

Dunsyre Hill

The doglet and I ended our holiday with a hill walk that I've been wanting to do for a while. The walk takes you from Dunsyre up to the Covenanter's grave at the south end of the Pentlands. From there we walked back via Mid Hill and lastly Dunsyre Hill which dominates the valley we live in. In all it was a 8.5 mile circuit, the longest walk I've done in a while but it was so good to be back in the hills again. Walking over the heather, bogs and tracks with only the sound of the grouse, the breeze and my heavy breathing, ha ha, reminding me how hill walking unfit I've got over the last couple of years. Life has just been so busy and I've been really enjoying doing other things, but I do miss the hills too. The views were great from the tops and we were both exhausted and sore at the end but I know Bracken will recover long before I will.

West Water

My walked started in the tiny village of Dunsyre where I parked my car next to the old railway line. From there I walked along the road heading east following the public foot path signs towards Garvald. Eventually the tarmac road turns into a track before ending at a ford. Here I turned left and crossed over the bridge and up to the sign post at the top of the banking. This is where we left the path and headed over the moorland towards Black Law and the coventanter's grave. The first part of this section takes you along the side of West Water before climbing up onto the open moor.

A different view of Dunsyre Hill

Bracken enjoying the view

It's a gradual climb up to Cairn Knowe over rushes and mosses which Bracken just skips over. Several years ago I tried to find the Covenantors grave from the north but the signage wasn't as good as it is from this direction. The signs are tall posts and most of the time you can see the next one from the last, helping keep us in the right direction without referring to the map. Eventually we reached a track and another sign post. I like how this one leaned at the same angle as the hill behind it!

A weathered and leaning sign post keeping us right

From here it's a short walk up Black Law following a quad bike path, it was a bit slippy after recent rain, but 4 paw power on the end of a lead helped me up. The grave stone is on the west side of the hill just below the top. Such a lonely beautiful place for a burial and a reminder of a violent and turbulent time in Scottish history.

The Covenantor's Grave

The grave marks the resting place of an injured covenantor who had fled into the hills after escaping the battle of Bullion Green in Penicuik in 1666. He was trying to return to Ayrshire but only made it as far a the house of a shepherd, Adam Sanderson. You can still see the ruins of the house just south of the bridge over the Medwyn Water. The covenantor knew he was fatally wounded and asked Sanderson to bury him within sight of the Ayrshire hills. Finding him dead the next morning Sanderson did as he'd been asked, at great risk to himself. From the grave on the west side of Black Law you can see the hills of Ayrshire on a clear day.

Looking East from Bleak Law

After catching our breath and enjoying the views Bracken and I headed back down to the track and sign post and turned west. I planned to do a circular route, my favourite kind of walk, to make the most of our afternoon in the hills. I struck lucky as the track continued in the direction I had planned, although it is not marked on the map, so it meant our walk was easier and quicker for a time. We followed it headed up between Bleak Law and Mid Hill. From here there were great views west over South Lanarkshire and I could see the clouds gradually building forming the rain that was forecast for late afternoon. Here we took another rougher track that took us around the west side of Mid Hill.

Looking north from Bleak Law

Tinto in the distance and some unwelcome cloud, but a great atmospheric photograph

South Lanarkshire from Mid Hill

Reflections of reeds in B&W

Dunsyre Hill from Mid Hill

From the top of Mid Hill we could see our final hill Dunsyre Hill, thankfully as we were getting a bit weary. We walked down towards the fence line over the deep springy heather. Poor Bracken was a bit overwhelmed with his wee legs and was glad when we reached the shorter grass. After negotiating a couple of fences and a short climb we reached the cairn on the top of Dunsyre Hill. It was pretty breezy and Bracken's ears were flapping in the wind. We had great views in every direction, including White Hill across the valley that we walked up last week. We didn't linger as it was starting to get chilly with a few spots of rain.

Looking east from Dunsyre Hill

Bracken says, right that's the last hill, time to go home Mum

Looking west, home is over there somewhere

White Hill to the left, last weeks walk and Blackmount to the right which we climbed last year

You can read about our walk up Blackmount here and White Hill here. From the top of Dunsyre Hill we headed down the west side, avoiding the craggy side and coming down over a field to the farm track along side a plantation of trees. It was an easy walk from there past some cows which thankfully were very well behaved, down through the farm and onto the main road. Five minutes later we were back at the car just as the rain got heavier.

Dunsyre Kirk

Part of the old railway line


Late afternoon sky





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