Pilgrimage to Strachan – Part Two

Two years ago, almost to the day, I embarked on a trip to the Scottish village where my surname originates. At the time, I wrote three narratives journaling my voyage, all of which I am in the process of editing. Below is an updated version chronicling the second part of that expedition…….

At the end of the first narrative on my road trip around Scotland, I had reached the picturesque Aberdeenshire village of Strachan. A visit to this enchanting village in north east Scotland, where my name originated centuries ago, the reason I’d travelled over 300 miles from my home in northern England.

To clarify, it’s where my surname originated; if I wanted to visit a place with the same Christian name I’d have to fly over the pond to Gary, Indiana.

After checking into the recently reopened Feughside Inn, with its white façade brightly reflected the early afternoon sun, I was pleased to see that I’d been allocated a room overlooking the River Feugh. A aesthetically pleasing close up scene with an equally pleasing panoramic backdrop of Mount O’Cairns.

They say that beauty is only skin deep. Well if that’s the case, what I was admiring out of my hotel room window had the epidermis of a rhino …. Not to mention my mother-in-law must have been born inside out!

After gawping a while at my splendid view, I moved from the window to consume a very average cheese and tomato sandwich. A culinary feast purchased from an Angus service station during my journey north; food I delayed devouring in my haste to arrive at my ancestral destination.

After finishing this unfulfilling dejeuner, I grabbed my camera and headed to my trusty Vauxhall Astra to drive to the nearby town of Banchory.

In Banchory, I briefly visited a friend who was busy helping out in a charity shop. During our relatively short chat she kindly invited me to join her family and friends that evening for a meal. Such a convivial Scottish welcome was heart warming, particularly as I hardly knew Linda, who I knew from corresponding via a Strachan family group she administers on Facebook.

After bidding her farewell until the evening, I took a short walk down Dee Street to wander around the aesthetically pleasing grounds of Banchory Lodge on the banks of the River Dee.

I took several pictures here of the well kempt lawns, tree lined paths and the rushing shallow current of the Dee. Halfway across the river a guy was fly fishing in his wading boots. He told me he hadn’t caught any fish, but had caught several flies …. That will teach him not to keep his mouth open when fishing!

Banchory Lodge 4

The Lodge itself is a recently re-furbished Georgian Listed building. Like the Feughside Inn (where I was a resident) it had a striking white façade, but was far grander than its smaller rival in the adjacent village.

After absorbing the charming scenery, snapping away on my camera like a demented paparazzi, I headed back towards my recently overworked motor in the car park behind Dee Street.

Prior to the short drive back to Strachan, I stopped at the Deeside Drinks Emporium to purchase wine for tonight’s hostess; a thank you for the cordial invite to dine with her family/friends.

I arrived at Linda’s at around 7pm, where her family and friends had already congregated. Her house, with splendid views of Mount o’Cairns and its adjacent hills, was on a quiet winding street set back off the main road through Strachan village.

She cooked an impressive and very appetising three course meal, including home made pate, Chicken Caledonian, and a rhubarb trifle. Like her family, her friends Linda and Ron shared a wealth of interesting tales, which added to the conviviality of the evening.

With my poor memory, the fact that both women were called Linda meant at least I should remember the people’s names at the dinner …. Well the women anyway!

After dinner we retired to embrace the majestic views. Whilst the sun set behind the hills of the Western Grampians, we chatted about Linda’s role within the Strachan clan group and tales of members she had met.

Enriched with good food and absorbing chat, I returned back to my hotel ready for some shut eye before tomorrow’s trip to Aberdeen. Foolishly, I’d lost track of time and with it being after 11pm the front door of the hotel was locked on my return.

As I was bereft of a key, this necessitated me banging on the front door to try and get attract the proprietors. I must have resembled Fred Flintstone in the closing credits of the Hanna-Barbera cartoon The Flintstones. Unlike Fred, though, I resisted shouting “Wilma!” as I hammered on the door!

Just as I thought I was going to have to slumber in the car, my knocks were answered, leaving me to retire to my comfortable bed, listening to what sounded like the distant roar of a lion……. Although, as lions aren’t often seen roaming Aberdeenshire, in reality I suspect it was just the guy in the adjacent room snoring.

After the splendid and filling meal at Linda’s the previous evening a light breakfast was the first order of the day. So I skipped the ‘Full Scottish’, instead plumping for a round of tea and toast.

I eventually left the ‘Feughside Inn’ heading towards Aberdeen at around 9.30 am. I tried to be a smart ass by entering the nickname of ‘Granite City’ instead of Aberdeen on my SatNav….. Unfortunately, I was distracted whilst doing so, entering the ‘Emerald City’ in error…… I didn’t realise my mistake until the GPS had taken me half way to Oz!

Anyway, it was not long until I was back on track, re-routing slightly after a recommendation I visit Castle Dunnottar at Stonehaven, some twenty miles south of Aberdeen …… Thanks for the tip Tin Man, you weren’t wrong!

Dunnottar Castle is a dramatic and evocative ruined cliff top fortress in a truly stunning setting overlooking the North Sea.

If anyone thinks that description is overly gushy, have a word with the castle official website administrator as I plagiarised it from there. To clarify, I don’t normally pilfer words from other sites, but the official website description pretty spot on, so I used that.

I enclose a picture I took during my visit to Dunnottar Castle, so you can make your own mind up. The surviving buildings are believed to have been built in the 15th and 16th centuries, with the initial fortification taking place in the early middle ages.

dunnottar

William Wallace, Mary Queen of Scots, the Marquis of Montrose and the future King Charles II, all graced the Castle with their presence. Most famously though, it was at Dunnottar Castle that a small garrison held out against the might of Cromwell’s army for eight months. This rearguard action saving the Scottish Crown Jewels (Honours of Scotland) from destruction.

Anyway, I spent an hour or two surveying this castle capturing numerous photographs, standing in awe of how these structures were constructed on such unforgiving terrain.

I’ll conclude this monologue now, with a view to share the third of my Scottish trip trilogy shortly. This will include a visit to Aberdeen, a hair raising journey back to Strachan in torrential hailstones and a stop over in Glasgow.

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