Tour de Trust

Last weekend on the 23rd August I joined our Property Manager Andrew on his attempt to cycle around 10 National Trust properties in one day. Suffice to say I was not cycling, instead I was in the support car and over the course of ten hours we managed to cover nine properties and over 155 miles!

Once the sun came up, a mere five hours into the ride, the day was gorgeous from the car with brilliant sunshine but on the bike the relentless winds and afternoon heat were a little more challenging. Now, I can’t comment on the ride because firstly I didn’t actually do it and secondly I am not a cyclist and therefore would talk about nothing remotely technical or interesting to any cyclists. So, instead I decided this week to write a blog about the places we visited.

The great thing about the National Trust for Scotland is the variety of places it looks after. Some people think the NTS is all about castles, but this is totally wrong. Our trip took us to a garden, two mountain areas, a cottage, one countryside estate, an island, a towering gorge, a battlefield and yes a castle, but one is allowed.

KODAK Digital Still Camera
A dark start in Kintail

We started at Kintail which is spectacular. It hosts the Five Sisters – a mountain ridge incorporating three Munros – and the Falls of Glomach, Britain’s second-highest waterfall, as well as lochs, glens and coastline. It also has two Scheduled Ancient Monuments: the site of the 1719 Battle of Glen Shiel, and Cill Fhearchair, a 2,000-year-old standing stone and burial ground. All very impressive, unfortunately, when we arrived it was midnight and pitch black so all we saw was a vague outline of the mountains around us. We did however take photos with the bikes with the flash on and laughed about the reaction we would get if anyone came across our strange group and at how crazy we all must be.

kintail
How the Five Sisters at Kintail look in daylight.

Just down the road from Kintail we headed through Blamacara Estate which is a traditional Highland crofting estate and covers some 2,550 hectares. There are 84 registered crofts on the estate, using traditional crofting agricultural methods such as rotational cropping and cattle rearing which are directly supported by the Trust through its Traditional Croft Management Scheme. The towns of Drumbuie, Duirinish and Plockton are exceptional examples of traditional croft management and if you get the chance you should definitely stop and talk a wadner along some of the woodland walks. Whilst we didn’t stop we certainly enjoyed the drive. With the cool night air speeding us along and very few cars to get in the way we were able to enjoy the winding roads without the normal worry of encountering the dreaded motorhome coming the other way.

As I said we did hit one castle and this was Strome Castle. I have to admit before this ride I had never been to Strome, terrible I know, but I am really glad I got the chance. Its one of the NTS’s little gems and sits on a little promentary jutting out into Loch Carron making it a beautiful little viewpoint. From here we also visited Sheildaig to cycle past Sheilaig Island. Another little gem the island is almost entirely covered in Scots pine, thought to have been planted over 100 years ago to provide poles for drying the nets of local fishermen.

strome
Strome Castle

Finally as the sun began to rise we hit Torridon. This place is gorgeous and offers some of Scotlands finest mountain scenery. Five of the Trust’s 46 munros can be found at Torridon and the site is a magnet for walkers. At this point I feel I should apologise for using so many adjectives but we are really lucky in the Highlands to have adjective worthy scenery everywhere so whilst it may sound like I’m just saying everything is amazing for the sake of it, I’m not, it truly is a beautiful landscape with every corner giving you new and exciting scenery. Driving through as the sun rose was a special way to see the area, even though it was still a bit cloudy, and I think we were all pleased to have the daylight to guide us on towards Inverewe as the winds began to pick up.

KODAK Digital Still Camera
The sun coming up at Torridon

Inverewe Gardens is a unique place. Despite the northerly latitude the area is full of colourful and exotic plants. Thanks to the warm currents of the Gulf Stream and the foresight of Osgood Mackenzie, who planted over 100 acres of woodland to shelter the area the garden can grow species of plants from across the world. This was our first major stop of the day so that we could stretch our legs and have some breakfast, which felt very strange considering we had already been awake for hours. Also fun was providing a slip stream for Andrew. I like to think we were really important and also very good at not running Andrew over, though that’s probably because it wasn’t me driving.

KODAK Digital Still Camera
Andrew at Inverewe Gardens

From Inverewe it was a big push to Corrieshalloch Gorge. With the traffic picking up and the wind against us all the way it was a struggle to stick with Andrew but what was great was all the encouragement we got along the way. Everyone we spoke to was keen to hear about our crazy challenge and were wishing us luck in reaching Culloden to finish the day. We didn’t actually stop at Corrieshalloch, mainly because from the road you don’t get to see all that much. Instead you have to walk out, preferably onto the suspension bridge, to get a true view of the largest waterfall, the Falls of Measach, as they drop 46m drop the slot gorge.

corrieshalloch
Corrieshalloch Gorge

Our last stop before Culloden was Hugh Millers Birthplace on the Black Isle. This small cottage tucked into the streets of Cromarty celebrates the life of Hugh Miller – a 19th century geologist, writer and social commentator. Here the sun picked up which made for glorious views across the isle and made you wish for an ice cream to cool down, even for those of us not cycling.

KODAK Digital Still Camera
Hugh Millers Birthplace

I wish I could say we then cycled to Culloden but with the wind still pushing us backwards and the heat reaching 31 degrees we had to admit defeat. It was five o’clock and in ten hours Andrew had cycled over 155 miles. Safe to say it was a massive achievement and even if it wasn’t quite what we had aimed for I think everyone was amazed we’d managed to get as far as we had in one day. So, since we had to finish at Culloden we all got in the car and drove the last little bit to be met by our colleagues who were impressed we were still awake and forming coherent sentences.

KODAK Digital Still Camera
Cycling along the coast on the Black Isle towards Cromarty

Overall the day was great fun and utterly exhausting! Whilst a great effort by Andrew that served to raise money for all the properties we visited the day also highlighted the amazing work the National Trust for Scotland does. I think sometimes people forget that it is a charity and as such only runs because of the amazing generosity of our visitors. As the third largest land owner in Scotland the Trust has a lot of ground to care for but it’s is worth it when you get to see the spectacular scenery that they protect.

Hopefully this little blog has inspired you to see more of the NTS world and as always please like, follow, share, comment, tweet and help Andrew raise even more money by donating at https://www.justgiving.com/TourDeTrust2015/

All the best. D

Advertisements

The Raising of the Standard

This week saw the 270th anniversary of the raising of the Jacobite Standard at Glenfinnan on 19th August 1745.

Last time we looked at the Princes journey as he made his way from the continent to arrive in Scotland but now we thought we’d share what happened as he made his way to Glenfinnan.

Here at Culloden Battlefield we find a lot of people believe that all of the clans joined Prince Charles Edward Stuart when he arrived in Scotland and united to form the Jacobite army but this is far from the truth. In actual fact most clans were sceptical of the Prince. Having arrived in Scotland with very few men, thanks in part to the loss of his convoy ship the Elizabeth, Prince Charles was not in a particularly strong position when he first arrived. He did however have a very strong belief in his cause and a persuasive personality.

Thanks to the Prince landing in such a remote part of the Highlands the Government were unaware of his presence for over a week giving the Prince time to unload his supplies and begin to make his way to Kinlochmoidart. The first authentic account of the Princes arrival did not reach Sir John Cope, Commander in Chief of the Scottish forces until 8th August.

Whilst Prince Charles tried to convince men to join his cause Duncan Forbes, the Chief Justice of Scotland, went to Culloden House where he began the crucial role of organising government support in the North East and setting up independent companies, disrupting Jacobite recruitment.

The first major action of the ’45 Rising occured on 16th August 1745.  The Government sent reinforcements to Fort William to prepare for the Jacobite threat but Prince Charles heard of the plan and informed his supporters and 60 men were captured by the MacDonnell’s of Keppoch. Two companies of Royal Scots government soldiers were taken prisoner at High Bridge over the River Spean. Keppoch MacDonald Highlanders later joined by some Cameron’s and MacDonald’s terrified the soldiers, who it is said were mainly raw recruits from Ireland who were not used to the Highland terrain. They fled until they reached Lagganachadrom where 50 Glengarry Highlanders met them with volleys of gunshot. Donald Cameron of Lochiel then arrived and took charge placing the soldiers in Achnacarry Inn. Royal Scots wounded in the skirmish were treated by Jacobite doctor Achibald Cameron, brother of Cameron of Lochiel. The Government prisoners were then taken with the clan to Glenfinnan where they would meet the Prince.

highbridge_phil
The ruins of the Highbridge today

On the 19th August Prince Charles landed at Slatach having rowed up Loch Shiel with a guard of fifty men from Clanranald and made his way to Glenfinnan. There was no one waiting for him. He began to despair but then the Highlanders appeared.

Soon there were 1,500 men. Cameron of Lochiel arrived with about 600 clansmen, MacDonald of Keppoch with about 350, and MacDonald of Morar with about 150. Satisfied that he had enough support to mount his rebellion, he climbed the hill behind where the Visitor Centre now stands and raised his father’s standard. James II was proclaimed as King and Prince Charles appointed Prince Regent. The 1745 Rising had truely begun.

An autumn view of the Glenfinnan Monument by Loch Shiel.
An autumn view of the Glenfinnan Monument by Loch Shiel.

Today, the site is marked by the Glenfinnan Monument whichw as erected in 1815 by Alexander Macdonald of Glenaladale to commemorate the Jacobites who fought and fell during the 1745 uprising. Designed by James Gillespie Graham it shows a lone kilted highlander surveying the lands around him. There is also a visitors centre with a new exhibition which opened in 2013 to fully tell the story of the history of Glenfinnan.

glenfinnan2
The Highlander at the top of Glenfinnan Monument

Hope you enjoyed a bit more of Prince Charles’ story and as always please like, share, tweet, comment, follow and if you have the chance head to Glenfinnan to see the monument!

All the best. K & D

 

The Brodie Sword.

brodiesword
The Brodie Sword

This week we thought we’d take the chance to highlight one of the artifacts on display in our Culloden Exhibition and have chosen the Brodie Sword.

Reportedly commissioned and gifted by the Duke of Perth it is one of two swords and targes made for Prince Charles and his brother Henry. The sword would have been a symbol of power and used for display only, not as a weapon. The sword came to the Brodie family through the marriage of Elizabeth Brodie to George, 5th Duke of Gordon in 1813 with the tradition that it had been taken from the Princes baggage train after Culloden.

The sword is a basket-hilted broad sword from the 18th Century. The hilt is unmarked silver most likely of north European origin whilst the blade is German. The basket is a conventional shape outlined with rococo scrolls and is made from numerous small pieces cast in low relief and soldered together. It is highly decorative, and includes many symbols of Jacobitism, including the Medusa head.

The symbology on the basket is based on Greco/Roman mythology suggesting an intellectual owner. Symbols include two serpents forming the wrist guard for wisdom and guardianship, a lion  for royalty and a dolphin on the pommel to represent power of earth and sea.

The labrys or doubled headed axe (later used as a Fascist emblem) is a symbol of power and appears in the centre of faches (pronounced fatch-ey), a bundle of birch rods tied with a leather strappins. Faches were dipped in pitch and lit for use as a flaming torch. Their symbolic meaning is of power through unity and civilization/enlightment by force if necessary. Interestingly this is also where the term fachism comes form.

The medusa head was to strike fear into the enemy and was also a Jacobite symbol, in Greek myth if the medusas’ head was cut of the body would die but the head would continue to live, The Stuarts used this metaphor to infer that Britain would suffer without its natural head of state i.e. the Stuarts.

Hopefully, you’ve enjoyed learning a little more about this piece and you know where to come to see it in real life! As always please like, share, follow, tweet, comment and let us know if you’ve seen this sword or its brother, which is on display in Glasgow.

All the best, K & D

A Tale of Tartan

The name ‘Tartan’ would be unknown to ancient Highlanders as the true Gaelic word is breacan which derives word breac meaning chequered. By changing the colours; varying the width; depth; number of stripes, different patterns can be formed. Tartan patterns are called “setts”; the sett being the complete pattern and a length of tartan is made by repeating the pattern or sett over and over again.

cull tart
Culloden Tartan

To form a tartan pattern there were normally six main stages: gathering the wool, preparing the fibres by combing it to the desired texture for soft or hard tartan, and spinning by a method involving a drop spindle, or distaff and spindle, in which the yarn or thread was spun by the fingers and wound round the bottom of the spindle. (This was later replaced by the spinning wheel, and ultimately by modern machinery.) The wool was then dyed, woven and finally stretched. This last stage, also known as waulking, was often accompanied by singing, during which jokes would be made about friends, frequently in impromptu verses; a tradition that has continued into modern times in the Harris-tweed industry.

Tartans were originally often distinctive within a geographical area and were thus territorial. It is said that a man’s plaid with its unique pattern of colours and stripes would tell you where he was from. Tartans for everyday wear were often brightly hued so for hunting and similar pursuits a duller brown-hued tartan would be worn. These hunting tartans were typically created by substituting the red of the dress tartan for brown. However, in some clans the everyday tartan was already a dark hue e.g. Mackenzie and thus the same sett was worn for hunting. In some clans there was also a special ‘chief’s tartan’ worn by the chief and members of his family only.

fraser3
Dress and hunting tartans for Clan Fraser

After the Revolution of 1688 when the Stuarts were driven from the throne, tartan and the wearing of tartan plaids became symbols of Royalist and political principles. Tartan plaids were often worn in the Lowlands of Scotland as a protest against the Union of 1707 and some believe shortly before the rising of 1715 a special sett of tartan was invented and worn by sympathisers of the exiled Stuarts known as the ‘Jacobite Tartan.’

In 1747 after the Battle of Culloden the act of wearing tartan was banned under the Act of Proscription in an attempt to crush the clan system of the Highlands and prevent further uprisings. Penalties for wearing Highland dress included imprisonment for six months for a first offense and if caught again the possibility of being transported.

It wasn’t until the act was repealed in 1782 that tartan began to re-emerge and during the 1822 visit of King George IV to Edinburgh Sir Walter Scott popularized tartan for the masses. During the visit Highland Chiefs were persuaded to attend in their Clan tartans and the King himself wore a red tartan outfit which later became Royal Stuart tartan. Tartan suddenly became fashionable and families, who probably had never before worn tartan, became the proud possessors of family tartans as they looked to connect to romanticized history of their past.

georgeiv
George IV in his tartan outfit

Tartan along with clan cap badges now became an ideal dress for instilling traditional pride in each clan and helped preserve the clan as a tribal community at a time when modern and industrial changes were tending to minimise tribo-familial activities. Typically it would be the chief’s tartan that would become the clan’s tartan with the simpler designs dying out. The types of garment also changed. Originally men would have worn a traditional plaid (a single long piece of cloth belted at the waist and wrapped over the shoulder) but the kilt worn today is the little kilt, the feiledh bheag (meaning the ‘little fold’), from which the anglicised word ‘philabeg’ derives. This garment originally had large box pleats that were stitched; while the neat tight pleats of today’s kilt are the result of military influences in the nineteenth century.

plaid
Traditional Scottish plaid

Hopefully you’ve enjoyed this brief spiel about tartan, we haven’t covered it all by a long shot but hopefully it’s piqued your interest. As always please like, share, tweet, comment and maybe even find your own family tartan.

All the best K & D