I went on between hawthorn hedges until I came to an arched bridge over the little stream of Sark. At the far end of the bridge was a metal post which held a yellow disc bearing, most dramatically, one word – ‘Scotland’. I paused there. How happy I was to stand once again on the hospitable doorstep of Scotland! A few yards and I would be over the threshold. I got out and sat on Sark Bridge, watching with amazement how many people dash over the frontier without a thought. ‘Scotland’ declared the metal post; and in that word were stored up for me all kinds of new adventures and experiences. It was good to be back…
I still can’t believe we’ll soon be in Scotland! YES, and very soon indeed for we will be there in September and for a whole month. As we are enthusiastically preparing this new trip to the country we love so much, I would like to share with you these hectic moments.
This time around, we’ll see the end of summer and the beginning of autumn falling on the breathtaking Scottish landscapes. Will the hills be still in their magnificent purple mantel? I wonder and hope…
(If you look carefully at the above photo, you’ll discover in the forefront, the figure of a wild cat…can you see it?)
I’ve found an answer to my question about the heather season in Scotland on ‘Seeing and believing’, a very interesting website which gives information about Loch Ness and Inverness.
“A number of people over the years have asked “when does the heather bloom in Scotland?” so I will try to answer the question here”.
I’m all the more happy to have fallen on this site than we’re going to visit Inverness and its surrounding area in September!
The early sunlight flung those strange shadows which are known only to milkmen. Everything looked snug and languid, and here was a man in a small car isolated by an adventure from his recumbent fellows going on alone into Scotland. What would he find there? What new friends would he make? What new songs would he sing? Over what graves would he stand a moment in thought?
(H.V. Morton – In Search of Scotland - Methuen & Co. Ltd 1929)
Planning being integrant part of a travel, our 7th journey to Scotland has already begun, so let’s get going
Janice will arrive at Merignac airport, near Bordeaux, at 12 a.m on August 28th and we’ll immediately set off on a 10-hour drive journey to Dunkirk, in the north western coast of France. Our ferry to Dover (Folkestone, to be more precise) leaves at 9 a.m the following morning. It will be a long road before we reach Scotland but though we’re eager to reach its mythic border, we shall stop at a few interesting places on our way to the north.
First we’ll try to locate ‘Undershaw’, one of Conan Doyle’s favourite residences in Surrey, where he lived from 1897 to 1907. It is in this house that the Scottish father of Sherlock Holmes wrote many of his works including The Hound of the Baskervilles ).
Undershaw is located close to the A333 road in the village of Hindhead in Surrey, near the larger town of Haslemere and is about 40 miles (64 km) south of London. The name refers to the sheltering flora; ‘shaw’ is an Anglo-Saxon word that means ‘a nearby grove of hanging trees’. The house is situated with a view of an undeveloped valley extending to the South Downs.
The location was chosen to cater to the medical needs of Doyle’s wife Louise, nicknamed ‘Touie’, who suffered from tuberculosis; doctors of the era recommended healthy air, for which Surrey was known. Writing to his mother Mary in May 1895, Doyle lauded the building site because “… its height, its dryness, its sandy soil, its fir trees, and its shelter from all bitter winds present the conditions which all agree to be best in the treatment of phthisis. If we could have ordered Nature to construct a spot for us we could not have hit upon anything more perfect. … I have bought 4 acres under £1000 and I don’t think it will prove to be a bad investment.”
In the same letter Doyle extolled the pleasures and convenience of the location. “As to my own amusements there I am within an hour of town and an hour from Portsmouth. I have golf, good cricket, my own billiard table, excellent society, a large lake to fish in not far off, riding if I choose to take it up, and some of the most splendid walks & scenery that could be possibly conceived.”
After serving as a hotel until 2004 the property remained vacant and was very neglected, even vandalized. Without the action of a very motivated and active group of fans and preservationists Conan Doyle’s house would have been redeveloped into several residences and definitely disfigured and lost for future generations.
Below is the website of the people who took action to save ‘Undershaw’ in creating ‘The Undershaw Preservation Trust‘. You’ll find there some very interesting videos .
To support the action of ‘The Undershaw Preservation Trust’ one can buy the two books published recently by MX Publishing. We’ll buy them very soon.
After a visit to the last resting place of Conan Doyle at Minstead, in Sussex, we’ll set off again on the road to the north, taking some time to visit Oxford and probably planting our tent in the area of the Lake District, a place of outstanding beauty, loved by a number of artists and writers who settled there. Beatrix Potter is one of the most famous ones with William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, the great English poets.
Then, at last, we will be back in Scotland! Just try to imagine, five long years have passed since our last journey there! It will be an extremely moving moment and thus, whatever the weather
There are certain views in all countries which must quicken the heart of the man who sees them again after a long absence. Such is the sight of Scotland from Carter Bar (..)
The heathery moors slope down to a distant valley. The sun is setting. The sky above the Lammermuirs is red and troubled. The wind drops. The autumn mists far below are creeping from wood to wood. The smoke from chimneys hangs motionless in the air. Thin veils of grey wrap themselves round the foot-hills. Faint white serpents of mist twist above the greenwood, outlining the course of stream and river. It is a study in blue. In the foreground, like a promise of the Highlands, and as notable as a ship at sea, rise the tall peaks of the Eildon Hills, blue as hothouse grapes, standing with their feet among the woodlands of the Tweed. To the far sky lie hills, always hills, fading in graduated subtleties of blue; ahead the long slopes of the Lammermuirs merge westward in the outline of the Moorfoot and the Pentlands. And it is quiet and so still. I can hear a dog barking miles off in the valley.
I am alone at the Border, one foot in England, the other in Scotland.
(In Search of Scotland H.V. Morton Methuen 1929)
H.V. Morton is one of my favourite travel writers. His love of Scotland can be felt at every line of his incomparable descriptions of the country.
From Carter Bar, to Birsay in Orkney, the road will go on following the long itinerary which is now being carefully pinned on our map of Scotland, hoping to add many new pieces to our Scottish mosaïc,which is becoming more colourful each year!
Itinerary 7 has been mapped out after our favourite themes:
Scottish landscapes: breathtaking from the Southern Uplands and Highlands to Orkney…
Big cities: Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness, Stirling, Dunfermline …
Castles: Caerlaverock Castle, Drumlanrig Castle, Hermitage Castle (a very gloomy place not to be visited at night, also Walter Scott’s favourite castle in the Borders), Tantallon Castle (with a view on Bass Rock in the distance), Kellie Castle, Dunrobin Castle, Stirling Castle revisited after a big work of restoration (the renovated royal apartments, the extraordinary work on the seven great hand-woven tapestries, the last one due to be finished in 2013 and the famous Stirling Heads)…
Festivities: Pitlochry Highland Games – Saturday 8th September
James Hogg (Ettrick, the native town with the author’s grave and memorial)
Hugh Miller (Cromarty, the native town in Fife)
and of course George Mackay Brown, ‘the bard of Orkney’ and my favourite Scottish author.
I would have liked to go and put a little bunch of wild flowers on Iain Crichton Smith’s grave but our road doesn’t pass by Taynuilt this time…
Artistic Trails: the Mackintosh Trail in Glasgow, the Scottish painters in Kirkcudbright…
The Clearances Trail: Bettyhill and its very moving little museum – the ruined village of Rossal which serves as a background in Consider the Lilies, my favourite book by Iain Crichton Smith…
The Pictish Trail: when writing my article about the Picts in the French magazine Keltia, I realized that photos of a few important Pictish stones were still missing in my Scottish album.
The Antonine Wall in Scotland: in 2004 and 2005 we followed the Hadrian Wall in England but what about the Antonine Wall, which is situated further in the north, in Scotland ?!
Orkney : Kirkwall, Hoy, Skara Brae, Maeshowe, Ring of Brodgar, Pictish stones, the Italian Chapel, Distillery…
We’ll purchase our visiting Passes as soon as possible for they allow good savings when one intend to visit a number of places in Scotland.
Historic Scotland Explorer Pass
National Trust for Scotland Discover Ticket
Mackintosh Pass: One day unlimited travel and free access to all Charles Rennie Mackintosh attractions in Glasgow with the Mackintosh Trail Ticket.
As we initially did not intend to go to Scotland before May-June 2013, we are now in a hurry to prepare this journey and today I can only give you the broadlines of Itineray 7, but we’ll tell you more in our next posts, with detailed programme and a map. So keep tuned.