This was taken in the museum which is situated next to Culloden field. Culloden was where the last big battle between the Scots and English took place. Although James VI ofScotland became the King of England as well in 1603 his direct decendants did not remain on the throne. A number of Scots wanted Bonnie Prince Charlie on the throne and they were prepared to fight for him. Scots fought the Crown at Culloden. The Crown was George II and he had British and Scots fighting for him. Prince Charlie's men suffered a horrific defeat, after which it was forbidden to Scots to wear their tartan kilts or speak Gaelic!






This is what the actual field of battle looks like today. Apparently it was a bit more swampy in 1745.

In the books I am reading, the Outlander series, the hero James Fraser was nearly killed in this battle and sheltered in the cottage that stood where this cottage stands today. History is really bringing my books to life!




Here is Donald. Behind him on the wall are names of the Scots who fell in the battle of Culloden.





Fort Augustus

Fort Augustus

Fort Augustus is at the Southern end of Loch Ness. Loch Ness is enormous and hugely deep. It holds more water than all the other lakes of the UK put together. It is part of the Great Glen, which almost cuts Scotland diagonally in two. Considered from a water, rather then land point of view it is part of the Caledonian Canal, which at its deepest point in Loch Ness is 200m deep, while the highest point of land, Ben Nevis, nearby is 1343m high, being the highest point in the UK.



This is where we are staying. It is an old Abbey built on the site of the original fort. The last monks left only 16 years ago. It is now the Highlander Club.








It was interesting to watch the system of locks being operated here in Fort Augustus, especially as we shall be doing a canal trip in France later, involving locks.

The locks here were built in 1818 – 1821. Boats have to negotiate 5 locks to rise 12 metres and attain Loch Lochy on the way to Fort William and eventually Glasgow. The purpose of the locks is to allow boats to proceed inland through Scotland rather than having to brave the North Sea between Scotland and Iceland and the Atlantic Ocean to the West of Scotland, a safer and faster trip, always provided that you don't run into the Loch Ness Monster!


This is another view of the Abbey, taken from Loch Ness. We went out in an orange rib (rigid inflatable boat) like the one in the photo. It went at about 40m.p.h and that felt very fast. Don and I had the seat up front so we became airborne at times, coming back down and hitting the water so that it felt like trotting on a horse!


Prepared for the boat ride.

This is Swampy, our cruise guide. He really loved revving the boat. He also stopped,at various points to talk about points of interest, such as his favourite tree. It is a sort of naturally bonsai'd oak tree growing out of a rock.








We went as far as Urquhart Castle. It is in ruins, having been deliberately destroyed by the Crown. Although joined with England in 1692 at the time of its destruction the Scottish Islesmen held onto Urquhart Castle as a military stronghold. It had changed hands many times and at last the English had had enough of having to recapture it!






From Fort Augustus we drove to Foyle Falls. We had a couple of spectacularly sunny days. Don says we must tell people that we were here for the Scottish summer. It was from 10am to 12am on the 26th August this year.





Along the way we admired the bonny hills of Scotland. Here Don demonstrates the use of a style!







A huge toadstool!




A woodland walk following a babbling brook.





The rowan tree. These are everywhere, a lovely spot of colour in the greenery.



We are in Edinburgh. The most amazing thing about Edinburgh is that the whole city is heritage listed! It wasn't bombed like London and it also had Sir Patrick Geddes who had the foresight to replan the city, using the old buildings rather than pull them down in the name if progress, as happened in so many other parts of the world. Everywhere you look there are quaint turreted buildings. The castle is visible through so many of the alleyways, called Closes or Wynds and can be seen standing high above the city from many vantage points.

Here is the castle seen through the thistle. This nasty weed ( Don took exception to my saying that!) is the national emblem of Scotland and it seems to have been cultivated in this park.

Which is the real Hogwarts's? I took the photo of the George Heriot school before I realised that it was just around the corner from the Elephant cafe where JK Rowling wrote the Harry Potter series. Combined with the rock from Edinburgh Castle and Arthur's Seat scenery from Holyrood Palace, I think we are getting close. Edinburgh is full of magic!

Now here is a story. In this,area, called the Grassmarket, is a Square. You can see the rondel here in the middle of what was once a bustling market area. Today it has a body bag on it. I am happy to report that the bodies in these bags are alive! Once though, hangings were performed in this spot and as the inhabitants of the day were not able to watch bodies being realistically shot, hung or knifed to death in good quantities on TV, as we can, a good crowd would gather to watch the performance. One Of those hung was Maggie Dickson, for disposing of the body of her 3 day old child without having advised the authorities that she had been pregnant in the first place. The pub named after her is right here in the Square. Strangely Maggie lived to serve in her pub, as the hangman's noose had not finished her off after all, and when her kinsfolk stopped for a wee drink after the morning's thirsty work, they heard young Maggie clamouring to be let out of her coffin. After due consideration the authorities declared her rescuscitation an act of God and Maggie was allowed to live.

Today's body bags? This was a demostration in favour of more liberal government in Belarus. In Belarus there are many political prisoners and executions of political prisoners. Often the families can find out nothing about their loved ones and are not even able to reclaim the bodies for burial. You can sign a petition on


I spotted this obelisk and had to find out what it was all about. It is in the Old Calton Cemetary near the Governor's House that you can see here. The reason that someone has had an obelisk erected in their memory is that this person, Maurice Margarot fought for the vote in old Edinburgh town. This so outraged the power brokers of the day that they had him, along with four others, charged with treason and transported to Australia for a double sentence of 14 years. Maurice was the only one to return, all the others having died, and as his mate said at the time, which is recorded on the obelisk, “history will rejudge these …days”. Charged in 1793, these martyrs to the cause were pardoned in 1838.


Hi Nathan, these two are for you. You told me to look out for Andy Goldsworthy sculptures and lo and behold I found these on top of the National Museum of Scotland. Look a bit Anish Kapoor to me. I wonder which was first to do this size blocks with holes in them?


One of the best places to get a good view of Edinburgh is on the roof of the National Museum. The rooftop garden border adds to the scene too.

Edinburgh festival

We are here while the Festival is on. It is actually 4 festivals in one; the Book Festival, which dates back the furthest, the Classical Music festival, the Edinburgh Tattoo and the Fringe Festival. The latter is for comedians, musicians, circus, theatre and anything else. There are, I think, 379 venues around the city. we went to see Mugenkyo taiko drumming, John Hunt in a jazz bar and Claude Bourbon playing guitar. They were all fantastic. We have also done a Castle tour, a walking tour (really worthwhile, called a tale of Two Cities), spent many hours int he National Museum, been to the National Art Gallery and visited Holyrood Palace. Oh yes, and we saw Craig Hill, the comedian. He was terrific and high energy, would have been better for us if we could understand his accent better and local references.

Actually he was wearing a black leather kilt with silver sporran, which was pretty sexy!


I love taiko drumming and have seen it a few times in Australia. This is the first time I have seen it performed by an all Caucasian group. Pictured here is one of the two girls in the troupe. Unlike the Japanese troupes, the girls were given a chance to play the big drums. Altogether they made a great sound. Apart from ninja costumes they also dressed in a sort of army camouflage gear. I want to be a taiko drummer!


Here he is, another tribute to a loyal dog. In Australia we have the dog on the tuckerbox at Gundagai and the statue at Balmoral Beach and in Japan there is a statue at Shibuya Railway Station. I suppose there are many more around the world.



I particularly wanted to visit this pub, which is on the Royal Mile, because I read about it in Diana Gabaldon's series of books, the Outlander. Her character visits the pub in about 1766. Gabaldon talks about a bit of old wall that sticks up in the cellar of the pub, which was a remnant even then of Flodden's Wall which had been built after the battle of Flodden (1513) to define the limits of the city and mark the end of the civilised world. I asked one of the bar staff who said that it is still there. Outside in the street are some brass cobblestones to mark where the Flodden Wall used to stand.





Those pictures were taken inside the World's End.


This is to show that the sun did shine in Edinburgh. Just ignore those clouds in the background. This was taken through the window of Costa's cafe where we regularly got connected. It is the National Art Gallery. Have you noticed that I have learnt to put the writing beside the picture? Yay.







We are leaving Edinburgh now. Here is another picture of the Thistle in full bloom. It is lovely isn't it?



We are in Dubai. It's our first port of call and the main purpose of our visit was to break the journey from Sydney to Edinburgh. People have told us to see this and that in Dubai but we are unashamedly staying put in our not so shabby hotel, the Atlantis Palm. Instead of going to the top of the world's largest building we have swum with dolphins. Instead of watching amazing fountains and light displays we have sat on the balcony of our hotel at happy hour, eschewing the air conditioning for a taste of tropical heat, just bearable after sunset. Instead of going shopping we have been on the water slides and queued up for the death defying Leap of Faith.

Here I am giving Dennita the Dolphin a hug and Don getting a kiss from her.
Hugging Dennita DolphinBeing kissed by Dennita

This is the entrance foyer to the Atlantis Palm. The glass sculpture in the centre is a Chihuli.

Atlantis Palm foyer with Chihuli glass sculpture

Overheard in the changeroom this morning was this dialogue between a tired mother and her little boy.
Child “Can I turn the tap on?”
Mother “No, it goes on by itself”
Child “How?”
Mother “It's magic.”
Child, wondrously “Is it magic?”
Mother “Yeah, come on”


This is a view of our hotel.



These are views from our hotel room.


Isn't this wonderful. It is the lost city of Atlantis in our hotel foyer. There are also Hidden Chambers where the theme of Atlantis has been realised on a lavish scale. Superb!


Living Art in one of the Hidden Chambers.


This view from our dining lounge shows the tower with the Leap of Faith ride. It is the slide that you can see on the right of the building. I swear it felt as if it was completely vertical when we dropped down it!

Here is a middle Eastern gentleman taking a photo of his wife. Or is she? We saw a number of women in similar garb being proudly photographed by their menfolk against the stunning architecture of the hotel. Hmmm?



imageThis is Rigel. He is a spoodle. I got him from Animal Welfare earlier this year and I am going to miss him on my travels. People think I have called him “Wriggle” but “Rigel” is the name of the brightest star in the constellation of Orion so we (Don and I) thought it was a good name for our dog.

The big trip has begun but I couldn't start to tell you about it before introducing you to Rigel.

Of course we shall also miss our children. Each of them has interesting and exciting changes happening in their lives so there are five more ties to Sydney town that means that part of us remains there.

Looks like something interesting is going on out there!



This is the Weavers Cottage where we are staying in the Scottish Highlands. It is in the 'village' of Fearnmore, which boasts 6 little houses. One or two may have permanent residents.








I took this photo to show the lamb's wool caught on the wire. There is a Rayburn stove on the other side of the wall that houses the hot water system. Looks like the sheep have learnt about it.

Below is the harbour of Fearnmore. There is one little boat there that floats at high tide.


Highland Sheep. We haven't seen a sunrise or sunset, the sun, the stars or a stag but the sheep are pretty cool. Having become interested in Highland history I have another interesting tale to tell. After the battle of Culloden (previously mentioned) when Bonny Prince Charlie fled “over the seas to Skye” and then beyond, there was no further recourse for the Scottish Highlanders. They were a minority group in Great Britain, overtaxed and under-represented. What happened next was the great Clearance. This was to make the Highlands more productive by using it to graze sheep. I presumed this meant that they had to clear the forests but no, it had been remarked that the thing that was wrong with the Highlands that there were too many Highlanders and not enough sheep! During the great Clearance many Highlanders emigrated to Canada, America and Australia.


Driving home yesterday. This indicates the sort of weather we've been having! This is a colour photo!


Thought I'd take a photo of the sign in case we don't actually see a stag. This afternoon we went to the Heritage Centre in Applecross, not far from where we are staying. We spoke to the man on the desk, who spoke an almost incomprehensible Scottish. We learnt that here in Applecross you can pay £2000.00 to stalk a stag in season. This actually means to shoot a stag. Having shot it you cannot keep the beast so,I suppose you have to just take photos. It is actually stalking season right now and we are having a glass of wine at the Walled Garden in Applecross and lo and behold, there are stalkers here. I know because they are wearing camouflage gear and deerstalker hats! We expressed our disappointment to the man on the desk that there are no stags around Fearnmore. We were told yesterday that the stags stay up in the mountains until it gets so cold that they have to come down to forage but as well as that it seems that there are fences between Applecross and Fearnmore to keep the stags out! That is because of a reforestation attempt near Fearnmore. Apparently the stags come down from the heights and love to eat the shoots of new trees. I suppose they are not worried about the health of the stag community if they allow stalking. If we sit here drinking wine long enough the stags should appear if the stalkers have not scared them off.


This is me and Mary. This meeting was one of those things that absolutely make your day!

Yesterday we drove to the Isle of Skye as one must. On the island we went to see Armadale Castle, a rather lovely old ruin in beautiful gardens.

As you all know I lived in the Highlands of NSW in Glen Innes, where there is a strong Celtic tradition. As I returned from the Castle through the gift shop I saw Mary swathed in a familiar blue tartan. I did not know Mary so I assumed it must be a Scottish tartan and could not resist asking her what it was. “Glen Innes from Australia” was her reply and I just had to give her a hug. Can you believe that she was touring with the Armidale (Australia) pipe band. She had made the coat herself. We chatted and found several people we know in common. A new best buddy.


We are back in our cottage now with our bottle of South African wine and some little souvenirs that we bought. These little cups are called quaiches (pronounced quakes). We have seen many old ones in museums but they are still being made. They are a welcome cup for serving whiskey. The handles are interesting on our quaiches, made from compressed and laquered reeds. We drank some wine before reverting to wine glasses. We were not sure to believe that they were sterling silver but they had a smell of Silvo , ugh!



I am looking pretty happy here. Don bought me this beautiful tartan jacket. It is more mauve than it looks here. When we got home from Skye yesterday I modelled it against the heather around our cottage.


Just a few more shots of the Scottish Highlands



our little house again


Played around with the colour a bit. This waterfall was all the more spectacular for the walk that we did to be able to see it. After climbing a steep track we went out on a narrow outcrop over tree roots to take this photo. Sheer drop all round!

I call this the cup of blood toadstool.


Another one where I adjusted the colour to adjust for lack of sun….



My Back Yard

garden before photos (11)Australian hibiscusPhilosophers and travellers tell us that happiness is to be found in your own back yard. Voltaire’s Candide had to travel the world first before he came to this conclusion. De Botton more recently shows that the path to happiness may be a travellers mind set, just as easily applied in your own neighbourhood , or even your own bedroom! I am not on the path. I am not searching. This is my backyard. I am sad to leave it but my desire to see more of the world outweighs my sadness. I don’t believe that people want to live in high rise so that they need not look after a home and garden. There is so much pleasure to be had among the plants, watching things grow and feeling the sun on one’s back. So, see you later backyard. I look forward to returning to you.