Day 4 – Dufftown to Kennethmont

Dufftown to Kennethmont – August 14, 2013

Yet another gorgeous day greeted us. The further inland we travelled, the warmer and sunnier it became.

Today, our final destination was Kennethmont, the parish where my father was born.

Since it was only a half an hour drive we decided we would do some other things before making the short trip.

So, we started by going in the opposite direction and visited the Cardhu Distillery.

Cardhu distillery
Cardhu distillery

Here we sampled two of their own single malts (again, I could only take the very smallest of sips since I was the driver) – an 18 year old and a 12 year old, and one from a sister distillery back in Dufftown – Singleton.

Like The Glenlivet, not all of Cardhu’s whisky is stored on site. They have it at other locations throughout the country and store the amber nectar for others at their location. That way, heaven forbid, if there is ever a fire, a distillery’s stock isn’t completely wiped out.

Whisky warehouses at Cardhu
Whisky warehouses at Cardhu

Next we were off to the location of the former Ladysbridge Asylum. I found this place on a Victorian Ordnance Survey map when I was writing my novel and decided to use it. If I recall correctly, on the map it was labelled Lunatic Asylum. They certainly didn’t mince their words back then.

Ladysbridge asylum building
Ladysbridge asylum building
opening in the wall at Ladysbridge
opening in the wall at Ladysbridge
Ladysbridge asylum building back
Ladysbridge asylum building back

The main building has been converted to flats/apartments and on the opposite side of the street, a housing estate/subdivision is in various stages of development.

Building on the Ladysbridge site pre restoration
Building on the Ladysbridge site pre restoration

This is one of the original buildings that hasn’t been restored. There was another one between here and the main building in this same state of disrepair but the trees were too thick to be able to get a good photo of it.

On our way to Ladysbridge, hubby spotted a castle in the middle of a field so rather than go straight back to the main road, we took one of the minor roads and weren’t disappointed. This got us as close as possible to the castle without venturing on to private property.

unknown castle
unknown castle

I still haven’t found the name of this castle but I’ve not given up. It will be on one of the maps or in one of the books that I have here.

Gartly churchyard
Gartly churchyard

I’ve visited the Gartly churchyard more than once in the past, figuring I had ancestors buried here as I had seen Gartly in various documents but on those previous visits, I wasn’t far enough back in my family tree to be able to find the stone(s). This time, I did know.

Simpson stone in the Gartly churchyard
Simpson stone in the Gartly churchyard

Unfortunately, the stone is very difficult to read but it is definitely my great-great grandparents through my dad’s mother.

Since we still had plenty of time before we had to be at Earlsfield Farm, we decided we would check out yet another churchyard where I knew I had family (this time Robertsons) so back into the car and down to the Royal Borough of Insch – or just Insch for short.

Hubby and I prowled through a cemetery in Insch (in the pouring rain, even) on a previous visit only to discover later on that there was a churchyard at the other end of the village – a much older one.

St Drostans Kirkyard in Insch
St Drostans Kirkyard in Insch

Many of the old stones here were impossible to read – the stonework had flaked off the face of the stone entirely or the stones had toppled (or been toppled) and were lying face down. I was afraid that my Robertson stone would be in that state but luckily, even though it was lying on the ground, it was face up and in good condition.

Robertson stone in Insch
Robertson stone in Insch

By now it was getting late enough, not to mention the need for a WC (shall we say was getting rather urgent) that we could make our way back to Earlsfield farm.

Hugs and kisses from our hosts and good friends and we got the car unloaded and had a wee catch-up with them. Being a working farm, there was still work to do and it would be 6:00 or shortly after before we could have a proper sit down with them. Since we still had some time, I wanted to go and take some more pictures while the weather remained on our side.

I fell in love with this old heap the very first time I clapped eyes on it when the trees were growing through the confines of the walls and knew that it would play a huge role in my life.

Weetshill today
Wardhouse mansion aka Weetshill today

We parked outside the works entrance to the site and walked back along the road until we came to a vantage point where we could see the mansion without trees obstructing the view. The plan is to convert it into flats (seven luxury ones, if I recall correctly). After being derelict for so long, it will be wonderful to see it intact once again.

Once I got my photos, we went back to the car and found our way to the car park at the bottom of Dunnideer.

Dunnideer from the car park
Dunnideer from the car park
Approaching Dunnideer
Approaching Dunnideer

The first part of the trek up the hill was hard enough but after we got about halfway up, it got harder. The incline became steeper and it was riddled with rabbit holes.

Remains of Dunnideer hillfort
Remains of Dunnideer hillfort

The climb was worth every moment, despite me having to stop periodically to catch my breath. I took advantage of those breaks for photo ops and we tried to see if we could spot the steeple of the remains of St Drostan’s Kirk. Too many trees to be sure but we thought we saw it, or it was only a chimney tile.

Bennachie from the top of Dunnideer
Bennachie from the top of Dunnideer
Bennachie from the top of Dunnideer
Bennachie from the top of Dunnideer

The views from the top of the hill were breathtaking. Don’t you agree? It seemed everywhere we were to this point was quite windy, and on top of Dunnideer it was extremely so. It was hard to hold the camera steady.

Me at Dunnideer
Me at Dunnideer

Even within the confines of the remaining walls, way still taller than me (not that it’s difficult) the wind gusted. We stayed and admired the view for a bit longer before making our way back to Earlsfield Farm where we ordered Chinese from the takeaway in Kennethmont.

Each time we’ve stayed here at Earlsfield, we’ve had this room – even on my first solo trip back in 1993! The only difference back then was there was no ensuite.

Our room at Earlsfield Farm
Our room at Earlsfield Farm
Our room at Earlsfield Farm
Our room at Earlsfield Farm
Our room at Earlsfield Farm
Our room at Earlsfield Farm
Our room at Earlsfield Farm
Our room at Earlsfield Farm

We spent a truly enjoyable evening with the family in their dining/living room catching up on one another’s news.

Even though it was only a short drive from Dufftown to Kennethmont, we made a full day out of it. After all, the only other free day we would have whilst staying in the area would be the Friday and there was no guarantee the weather would cooperate.

So… let’s play SEEKING SARAH SHAND!!!

Seeking Sarah Shand
Seeking Sarah Shand
Seeking Sarah Shand
Seeking Sarah Shand

Tomorrow will be another busy day as we’re off into Aberdeen where I’ll be presenting a copy of my book to the library, doing a reading, and hopefully selling loads of books.

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