Sunday, 30 January 2011

30th February

I finally found the famous "30th February" gravestone in the kirkyard of St Magnus Cathedral a couple of weeks ago, and went back today to photograph it (getting caught in the rain in the process....)

I was slightly intrigued by the fact that 2 out of the 3 gates to the kirkyard were padlocked shut - I don't recall ever noticing that before, and wonder if it's a new, and not very welcome, development?

I'm assuming that the stonemason had his mind on other things when he was carving the lettering on the grave. The deceased's actual death date was 30th January, not - of course - 30th February!

Saturday, 29 January 2011

A photogenic lighthouse

Rather than stay in a hotel or B&B in Aberdeen, I opted for the comforts of the bunkhouse at Rattray Head. Actually, it was extremely comfortable and I'd highly recommend it!

It's a couple of miles along a rather interesting road, but it's well worth the visit. The bunkhouse is in the old lighthouse keepers' accommodation on the shore behind the sand dunes, while the lighthouse is built on a concrete platform out at sea beyond the dunes.

Looking back across the dunes to the lighthouse buildings, now a bunkhouse.

I had the bunkhouse to myself. It was warm, comfortable, and well equipped and to my amazement it had wifi!


I went for a walk on the beach in the afternoon, and stayed for quite a while as it gradually got darker.

I found the lighthouse rather photogenic - and did take quite a few photos of it....

The Stevenson lighthouse was completed in 1895 (work began in 1892). It apparently cost £18,949 1/1d to build. It's possible to walk out to it at low tide - but it was pitch dark at low tide, so I didn't do that. The lighthouse keepers were heading out to do some maintenance at night while I was there - I think they were going to be staying out there for a few days until the work was completed.

Apparently in 1977 a mains electricity supply and telephone cable were laid under the sea-bed. Shortly after this, in 1982, the lighthouse was automated. This seems very early to me, considering that Fair Isle South, the last to be automated, was only automated in 1998.

I wonder what the first Scottish lighthouse to be automated was? There's a lighthouse museum in Fraserburgh, where I guess I would find out, but I didn't have time to visit it. Maybe another time...

Looking south along the beach to the St Fergus gas terminal. North along the beach is Fraserburgh and I think the beach itself is something like 11 miles long.

Crovie - and a more photogenic phone box

Crovie (pronounced Crivie) is definitely worth visiting. It's a former fishing village, now mostly (sadly) holiday homes I believe.

It's got an ever steeper road to it than Pennan has, and half way down there's a car park for visitor's cars, as only folk who are staying there are allowed to take their cars right down. There's not a lot of parking space at the bottom, and I can see why some folk have built garages up near the car park.

There's a viewpoint at the car park, and that's where these first 2 photos were taken from.

This one shows the path round the cliff base to Gardenstown.

The phone box in Crovie is definitley more photogenic than the one in nearby Pennan, even if the Pennan one is more famous!

These 2 cottages are new ones, but built in the old style to fit in with the rest of the village. I really fancied the one on the left, with that big window....  Actually, I really fancied at least a third of the cottages in Crovie!!!

The village is full of character, and seems more 'looked after' than Pennan. They also seem to be more inventive in their use of available space (of which there isn't much!) with little gardens carved out where possible, and houses generally having a sea view (and a great one at that - I can imagine it must be pretty impressive in stormy weather.)

The strip of land at the cliff base which the village is built on is even narrower than that of Pennan, so there is no room for a road down there at all. Instead there's a path along the front of the cottages - and most people seem to have wooden wheelbarrows to transport things like their shopping and bin bags in. Again, the wooden wheelbarrows were a picturesque addition to the village, unlike a lot of metal wheelbarrows would have been. I unaccountably managed to miss photographing any wooden wheelbarrows filled with bin bags though.... 

I'd really love to visit Crovie in stormy weather some day.

Friday, 28 January 2011

Pilgrimage to Pennan

As I was in the Aberdeen area for an interview and was going to have the best part of a day to fill the day after it before the long ferry journey home, and as Local Hero is one of my all-time favourite films, it seemed like a good opportunity to visit Pennan and "the" phone box. I've always fancied visiting Pennan, but to be honest I found it a little disappointing.

It's a nice enough wee village but the Pennan Inn (which was the inn in Local Hero) was closed and the phone box wasn't sitting nicely (and photogenically) by the shore but was now hemmed in by a large wooden shed and a pile of picnic tables.

The village is accessed by a steep road down the cliffs, where there was a landslide in 2007. People had to leave their homes, and then I think some work was done in 2009 to try to prevent further landslides. As the village is perched on a fairly narrow strip of land below the cliffs, the houses have no gardens, so washing is hung on the beach...

There's some cute wee buildings too - I think this one is a very picturesque shed.

How many ropes does one wee boat need?

I'm glad I've finally been to Pennan - but I probably wouldn't go a long way out of my way to visit again. Might well pop there if I was in the area again though, as it is quite photogenic.

However I was also advised to visit Crovie, the next village along, and I'm so glad I did...

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Troup Head gannets

I hadn't realised until very recently that gannets started returning to their nest sites as early as January. Puffins don't return until later, so I had somehow assumed that gannets were the same, yet I sat in Arran at Christmas watching gannets (from Ailsa Craig) diving for fish - so I *know* there are at least some around all year. Something I need to find out more about I think.

Anyway, some photos here from a trip to Troup Head, near Fraserburgh in Aberdeenshire. A good way of 'drowning my sorrows' after yet again coming 2nd in a job interview...

"I wish my upstairs neighbour would hurry up and finish his housekeeping"

 Time for a snooze

Ok, I know this last photo isn't gannets - it's fulmars. This pair spent the whole time I was there apparently arguing with each other!

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Retrospective on Shetland

Looking back over my blog, I see that the entries for the trip to Shetland are rather hard to read as they're in reverse order. Which was no doubt fine for anyone following it as I wrote it, but not so good for anyone reading it now. So, taking a leaf out of Douglas Wilcox's book (or rather his blog), I'm attempting to link all the blog entries here in the right order.


Shetland part 1 - the adventure begins...

Shetland day 2 - a campsite with a view

Shetland part 3 - into the heart of a volcano

Shetland part 4 - kayakers at Eshaness

Monday - Yell ahoy!

The Muckle Flugga Experience

A bus shelter with character!

Exploring Unst

First impressions of Fetlar

Fetlar part 2

Return to Yell

Back out west

Whalsay ahoy!

The Shetland Bus connection


Gannets galore

The return journey

If anyone has managed to read their way through all of these, congratulations! Or should that be commiserations?

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Boxing Day Dips & Dooks

As I was in Arran over Christmas, on Boxing Day I headed along to Lamlash Pier to see the annual Boxing Day Dook. The brave (or foolhardy??) dookers were raising funds for the RNLI.

The lifeboat crew were on hand to provide safety cover.

It was rather cold; although the snow was mostly gone there was still slush underfoot, and the sleet started whilst we were watching the swimmers, but they didn't let the weather hold them back!

In fact, after swimming out from the slip, several of them jumped in from the end of the pier more than once, with a few participants then swimming back in to the slipway again. I was very surprised not to see more goose bumps in evidence!!

Go, Shonagh!

Meanwhile, in Orkney, the annual Dip with a Nip was held at Scapa, in aid of CLIC Sargent. It's always a great fundraiser (somewhere in the region of £10,000 this year I think, if I'm remembering correctly what I read in the paper last week.) This year for the first time there were also 2 offshoot dips - in Hoy and Stronsay - as they can't join the main dip for logistical reasons.

Photos courtesy of Acorn Concepts who was helping by providing safety cover with other sea cadets staff.

Note the snow on the beach! Brrr.

Both dip and dook were great efforts for good causes. Maybe one day I'll be brave enough, or foolhardy enough, to join them...... or maybe not!

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to all my readers - yes, all 6 of you!

It's been pointed out to me that yet again my blog is very out of date, so I've decided that one of my New Year's resolutions has to be to try to update it a bit more often!! Hopefully I'll find the time to do this, and keep it at least a bit more up-to-date. I'll also do a bit of a retrospective on last year and blog about a few things which haven't yet made it onto here.

It seems appropriate that my first blog entry of 2011 should be about the 2011 New Year's Day Ba games in Kirkwall.

The Ba has been going in its present form since around 1850, but the history of it dates back much further. There are 2 games held every Christmas Day and New Year's Day - for boys (under 16) and men. At Christmas 1945 and New Year 1946 there was a Women's Ba as well (I think it was to do with equality after the war.) Apparently it was rather more vicious than the men's game (think fingernails and hair pulling...) and the men didn't like their womenfolk being involved in something that violent. There's never been a women's game again since!

The Boys' Ba is now thrown up at 10am (it used to be at 10.30am), in the hopes that it's finished before the Men's Ba starts at 1pm. On Christmas Day the Boys' Ba didn't finish until after the Men's game had started, and this happened again yesterday. In fact, the boys' game didn't finish until around 3pm, and the fight for the Ba was the longest I've seen, lasting around 1 hour 20 minutes.

We spent most of the afternoon watching the Men's Ba, but the Ba was stuck in one place for quite a while and it got so cold that a walk seemed like a good idea, and when I heard that the Boys' game was still on we decided to go up and watch the finish. The Ba had already touched the wall by then (an Uppie win) but the fight for it was ongoing. Fists were flying, and feet .... and we even saw a flying shoe!

Uppie Aiden Drever is raised aloft with his Ba.

The Men's game started, as always, with the throw up at 1pm. The scrum moved around Broad Street a lot, but unusually didn't go 'up' of the mercat cross; I don't think it even made it as far up at Judith Glue's. It spent a fair bit of time moving between the mercat cross, OTE, in front of the war memorial and Ola Gorie's and was very exciting to watch. We spotted a few 'off the ball' incidents too!

 The most exciting part was when there was a break, and I saw the ba. That's only the 3rd time I've ever seen the Ba during the game - the spectators (and probably most of the players too) only usually see the ba at the throw up and then again at the goal (Mackinson's Corner or Kirkwall harbour.)

I hadn't really intended to get quite this close to the action, but as I was moving back away from it I was snapping away! Unfortunately I then got shoved and went backwards onto the steps of the mercat cross, but I have to say that the bruise was probably worth it, for the photos I got!!

The action then moved down Broad Street towards The Reel, before turnning down Castle Street.

The Ba was stuck behind a wall on Castle Street for a while...

... before ending up going round the back of Tullocks.

At this point we went up to the Boys' game, but when we came back down an hour or so later, it was only just round the corner from here - maybe about 100 metres away.

There was then a break, which I now know was a Doonie break which went up the street! It then went through the bus station and into the water in front of the Ayre. However, such is the nature of the game, that not everyone knew where the Ba was, and most of the spectators and players were still outside the post office, thinking that the Ba was in the middle of the scrum which was still there and that it had been a false break (as there had been a few of those.)

It became clear it wasn't there, and everyone ran down to the harbour, where the Ba was already in the water and the fight for the winner was underway down the Shapinsay slip.

It started snowing - it's a poor photo but the snow is just visible blowing in the light. It was a very wet snow, and didn't lie. Earlier in the afternoon there were hailstones too - perfect Ba watching weather!!!

The winner, Norman Kelday, was soon raised aloft. I was a bit far back to get a good photo (I think I'd already had my fair share of being close to the action!) but if you look closely you can see a lot of hands raised up clapping, and towards the right Norman is up out of the crowd holding his Ba up.

This is the first time I've seen a Doonie win (as I missed the last one, on New Year's Day last year.) In fact, this is only the 3rd Doonie win in the last 26 games, so I'm really pleased to have seen it. It was definitely an exciting, if cold, afternoon and a great way to start the new year.