Kilchurn Castle, Loch Awe, Scotland

In 2016, I ticked a castle off my wish list, Kilchurn Castle, one of the iconic castles of Scotland.  We have passed by so many times, and each year I wanted to visit, but I wanted a nice sunny day.  Well I got the sunny day in 2016, we parked in the small car park and then walked to the castle.

The closer we go to the castle, the bigger my smile got, finally I was going to explore one of my favourite castles.  We walked up to the door…….it was locked, we tried again, and still it remained firmly locked……no it was suppose to be open, more people turned up, a discussion follow, but still it stayed well and truly locked.  I did find a window to hold the camera up to, to get a shot of inside, as there wasn’t really any other way of seeing the interior, I got a little glimpse, which will have to do until we go back.



A little history ………Kilchurn Castle is a ruined structure on a rocky peninsula at the northeastern end of Loch Awe, in Argyll and Bute, Scotland. It was first constructed as a five storey tower house with a courtyard in the mid-15th century as the base of the Campbells of Glenorchy, who extended both the castle and their territory in the area over the next 150 years.

By the 17th century, it was a military barracks and in 1760 it was damaged by fire and abandoned. Kilchurn fell out of use and was in ruins by 1770. It is now in the care of Historic Environment Scotland.

After exploring in the sunshine, we made our way back to the car, a little disappointed, but it was still a good visit.  The following photos show you how most people first see the castle from the road, the second is a close up of the same photo, but I have changed it to b&w.

Splendid Pickering Castle, Yorkshire


In 2015 we made a visit to Pickering Castle, situated in Pickering, a small ancient market town in North Yorkshire.  Pickering is famous for being the home of the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, which we had travelled on in the past, but ran out of time to visit the castle.  You catch intriguing glimpses of the castle from the train station, but it took two years to make a return visit and this time we ran of time to see the church……. Anyway back to the castle and a wonderful visit.

A little history………A splendid castle with a rich history, Pickering Castle served as a Northern base for a succession of medieval kings. Originally built after the Norman Conquest, the motte and bailey fortification were extensively developed throughout the 12th, 13th and 14th centuries. 
Largely unaffected by the Wars of the Roses and the Civil War, it remains in excellent condition, 
offering stunning views across the Ryedale countryside.

There are two unusual features to Pickering Castle. The first is simply that it has been so little altered since the original wooden castle was rebuilt in stone. The second unusual feature is the layout of the site. Most early Norman castles followed a similar motte and bailey plan, with a timber pallisade atop a high mound, or motte. The base of the motte was surrounded by a large earthwork enclosure, usually with a further timber pallisade on top of the earthen banks. This enclosed area was called the bailey. At Pickering the layout is different; there is not one bailey but two, and the motte with its stone keep stands between the two. The motte is striking, standing 20 metres high, with a base 60 metres in diameter.

Throughout the late medieval period no construction was carried out – and not much in the way of maintenance. In fact, just the opposite occurred, one castle constable, Sir Richard Cholmley, robbed stone from Pickering to build himself a fine new house at Roxby. The castle served no defensive purpose and was used as a prison and local courthouse. Since it was in no fit state as a defensive structure it played no part in the Civil War. The castle was sold into private hands under Cromwell’s Commonwealth government, but returned to the crown when Charles II was restored to the throne. It remained in crown hands until 1926 when it passed into government care. It is now looked after by English Heritage.

Valley Gardens, Harrogate, Yorkshire

In 2015, we had the chance to visit the Spa Town of Harrogate a couple of times, on one occasion, along with Eddie, my smallest dog, I spent an hour exploring ‘Valley Gardens’  We did’nt get to see the whole of the gardens, as Eddie has little tiny legs and has to walk really fast, so we just pottered along the walkways.  I could have carried him, but trying to take photos while carrying a little dog, is a complete no no, so we just ambled along while I took photos one handed.  I remembered visiting many years ago as a child, and was so glad the pavilion looked the same.

A little history…….The Valley Gardens Harrogate are English Heritage Grade II Listed gardens situated in regal Low Harrogate, which along with woodland, are known as The Pinewoods covers 17 acres.

The Valley Gardens Harrogate contain a greater number of mineral springs than any other known place – visit the area known as Bogs Field where 36 different mineral wells were discovered.

Valley Gardens was developed as an attractive walk for visitors to the Spa town, part of their health regime between taking the waters, and as a means of access to the mineral springs of Bogs Field. The waterside walk with flowers and trees became a place for promenading, socialising and taking exercise. Photographs of the gardens in the early 20th century testify to their enormous popularity with crowds around the tea room, boating lake and bandstand. The Sun Pavilion and Colonnades were built as an added attraction and facility for the spa, intended as the first phase of a covered way linking the Pump Room and Royal Bath Hospital. Visitors to the mineral springs declined but the horticultural reputation of the Gardens grew with the staging of the Northern Horticultural Society’s Spring Flower Show in the Gardens and the addition of special garden areas.

The Cherub Fountain
In 1972 a leading Harrogate Councillor was visiting the Chelsea Flower show, where he saw a sculpture created by a young Australian called John Robinson, the Councillor took it upon himself to order the piece, which was presented to the then Director of Parks, Mr Alan Ravenscroft, on the 23 May 1972, where it was installed upon a circular stone surround in the centre of the Valley Gardens.


To The Lighthouse, Ardnamurchan, Scotland

After travelling along the long narrow twisting road to Ardnamurchan Point, in the Highlands of Scotland, May 2017, we were suddenly at the gates of the imposing lighthouse.  Well not really gates now, but the posts remain, and it was quite interesting watching quite a large motorhome squeeze past them, thinking to myself….please do not get stuck, its the only way out.  This is quite a tower and we went up to the top……still quite amazed that I did that, but it is a Stevenson Lighthouse, so it had to be done.   The building on the left of the tower, has been made into a lovely cafe and gift shop, so after the long trip, you can at least get a drink and a bite to eat, if needed…..we did and the coffee was excellent….but back to the lighthouse……

The Lighthouse is still operated and maintained by the Northern Lighthouse Board and it one of over 200 located around Scotland’s wild coastline and The Isle of Man.  In joint partnership with the Board and the Lighthouse Trust you can now climb to the top of the tower, for a small fee….worth every penny, just wish there were more than you could climb.

Egyptian Influences

Standing 36 metres high and 55 metres above sea level the lighthouse was built by Alan Stevenson in 1848.  This is the most westerly point on the Scottish mainland, so the light plays a vital role in the safe keeping of sea vessels. 

The site for the lighthouse was chosen in 1845 and 20 acres of land was purchased for the sum of £20.00.  It took three years to complete the building, which was built of Ross of Mull granite.  It stands secure on the surrounding dark coloured gabbro (meaning smooth) volcanic rock.  Egyptian influences  can be seen in the entrance to the tower, the chimneys of the cottages and the top of the lighthouse tower beneath the balcony.

On our visit, we met some four legged friends, the lighthouse dogs, a pair of very friendly collie dogs, in fact one was so friendly, that she would try to bite the tyres of any cars that were leaving ……lucky for us, she was worn out from the heat to stop us.

We stopped to look at the exhibition, before we started our mammoth climb and had a good look at the lens which had been removed when the tower became automated in 1988.  Prior to this there would have been a Principal Lighthouse Keeper and two assistants, with their families living at the lighthouse.  The families were almost self sufficient and would have kept cows and sheep at the station.

The original lens was a Fresnel lens, so named after its French inventor, Augustin Fresnel.  The lens was made from a series of perfectly polished crystal glass lenses set in a bronze structure.

On entering the tower the first thing you see, is the lovely sign dated 1786 and then the stairs, which were a bit boring, so husband modelled  for me.

On and on we went, stopping and starting, then finally we made it to the top.  We did’nt get to see outside at this point, you are shown where the lighthouse keepers went about their duties and then an interesting talk on the history of the lighthouse.


Of course this is not the original workings. I think the guide said they were from the automation, but soon these will be replaced, but hopefully they will find a place in the exhibition.  After the talk it was time to crawl out on to the balcony and I do mean crawl through a very low door opening, but even for someone who has a fear of heights, it was worth it.  I’m must admit I only did half way round the balcony, but I am proud that I did that, the guide said it had taken him quite a few hours before he could make himself go through the door, let alone walk around the balcony, so yes, very pleased with myself.

And then the views.

Back inside the light to have a look at the modern day lens, an array of sealed beam electric lamps which look like car headlights to me, but soon they will be updated and then there are hopes of putting the original lens back, hopefully.  There are some nice brass lion heads and I did a b & w version of the glass, as I liked the reflections, but it was time to leave and make the trek back down the stairs, as it was the turn of someone else to see these wonderful views.

We had learned a lot about Lightkeeping, it was a remote, lonely and hard existence.  At night each keeper was required to keep watch in the lightroom (the room where we had listen to the talk) to ensure that the light flashed correctly.  During the daytime the keepers were kept engaged in cleaning, painting if necessary and generally keeping the premises clean and tidy.  

We were now going to make our way to Sanna Beach as suggested by the guide, who is a bit biased as he lives there….but he was right, more to follow.






In Search of a Lighthouse, Ardnamurchan, Scotland

This year 2017, we explored a part of Scotland that was new to us, Ardnamurchan, which is a peninsula, on the west coast of the Highlands of Scotland.  We did the trip twice, once in fog and the second in sunshine, this turned out to be quite normal on this holiday.   On the first trip we were looking for a new whisky distillery, which we found and the second a lighthouse, which we climbed.  The first photo is of the caravan site which we were staying at, just outside of Onich, opposite Corran on the map, and we had the most wonderful views across Loch Linnhe.  The rest are of our road trip searching for the lighthouse at Ardnamurchan Point and on the last photo you can just see the top poking out of the landscape.  Next stop is the lighthouse…..

May 2017

Window View

Last year, 2016, we went to Minehead in West Somerset and travelled on the train to Washford Station, this was so we could visit Cleeve Abbey.  The Abbey is beautiful and was on my bucket list to visit.  We thought it would be a lovely idea to incorporate the visit, with a trip on the steam train.  Unfortunately the train going was pulled by a diesel engine, but coming back we did have a steam engine.  I took some photos through the front window of the diesel train and just liked they way they are framed, a little different from the normal ones I take.