Moving north

posted in: Serendipity, Sheep, Travel | 5

Before leaving for the north, we washed one of the Ryeland fleeces from the Scottish Smallholder and Grower Festival. It will dry while we're traveling. It's a good thing we had a nice bottle of Power Scour handy.

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Clouds and no-clouds: parts of the day varied, but as we drove north the sky did tend to clear up.

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Just like at home, there was road construction and we had to wait for alternating one-way traffic.


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Here's a portion of a map of northeastern mainland Scotland, with some of the locations about to figure into this post.

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The plan was to have lunch at Dornoch, but as it turned out, on a weekend (especially one with beautiful weather, I suspect), reservations were required at every tempting place in town. Fortunately, we'd had a good breakfast.

We did walk around town and I learned that the stepped stones along the rooflines are a particularly Scottish architectural detail.

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As we proceeded north, we stopped for a view looking across toward the North Sea. This particular spot may be at the opening end of Dornoch Firth or perhaps the wider portion where it's opened out into the sea. I'd have to look up its specific location to tell; it was by the Wolf Stone, Brora, East Sutherland.

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Ah, Berriedale. When I was in Scotland the only other time, for UK Knit Camp, I had some fantasies of traveling a bit farther north. That didn't happen, but in the process I learned that a few days before my arrival, Clan Gunn was having a gathering. The Robsons are traditionally a sept of this clan ("from the fifteenth century . . . the Robson Gunns had their seat in Braemore in south east Caithness"), although there is apparently an unrelated line of Robsons elsewhere. As many Americans are, I'm a mix of heritages, among which the Scottish and Norwegian portions have made the most indelible (or at least family-memorable) marks. In terms of direct connection, the Robsons to which I'm related have been traced to mining communities in England. Some time we may trace them further—or someone in the family may already have done so. Regardless, I grew up knowing what the Gunn tartan looked like (exactly) and knowing what the clan motto was ("aut pax, aut bellum"). The links may be tenuous (or not), but at the very least they offer morsels to entertain curiosity.

From the exploration-of-possibilities component of that earlier trip, I had on my computer a few notes. Because we had skipped lunch, we had all afternoon to travel a relatively short distance to Thurso. Thus we enjoyed the opportunity to wander among the places named in my notes. I couldn't access the maps for which I had collected links (no internet connection), but we had enough for an enjoyable ramble.

My notes suggested that the Braemore to which they referred might be the one located some distance off the main road, between Berriedale and Dunbeath, and that there was a clan museum in Latheron, all towns arranged along the sea and directly on our route.

Berriedale had a lovely church and associated multi-century graveyard with abundant and varied surnames, a few of which were Gunn.

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The road past the church, leading off away from the sea. This was a road not taken.

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An observation from a William Steven, a crofter and joiner who died in 2007 and seems to have had the right idea:

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Here's another view from the churchyard:

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And in another direction:

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As we headed toward Dunbeath, we saw a sign leading to the left toward Braemore, possibly the "correct" one, located about six miles down a paved but narrow road.

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At the end of the road, there was a splendid valley . . .

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. . . a small bridge . . . 

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. . . and a means of modern communication, possibly due to the lack of mobile (cell) phone coverage.

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The roads in all directions became private.

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So we looked around,

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. . . and turned back.

Now we reach the fiber content of this episode. While retracing from Braemore, I stopped to climb across a narrow ditch and up into the heather to get a photo of bog cotton.

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And not long after that, these friends were on the road, but quickly skittered off.

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After rejoining the main road, we went along to Latheron, where my notes suggested that the Gunn clan had an interesting museum.

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We found it, with a big OPEN sign.

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It was the last day in September, but unfortunately the OPEN time did not include a Sunday at 4:30 p.m.

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So we browsed around the churchyard . . .

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. . . which had splendid views . . .

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. . . . and neighbors on the other side of the wall.

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We neatly made it it to Thurso in time for a superb dinner at the Pentland Hotel. I had spaghetti con aglio, olio, e peperoncini. Delicious.

___

I'm quite far behind on posts versus adventures. Tomorrow I head to North Ronaldsay with Liz Lovick. I'm not sure I'll be able to take my laptop: extreme weight restrictions on the flight, and I may want to bring back some fiber.

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5 Responses

  1. Ooooh, I like the drying rack!

  2. Nancy Nordquist

    Wonderful photos! Thanks for taking us along on the journey.

  3. Well I never. We Jamiesons trace our family back to the Gunn clan as well. So … Take care, cousin!

  4. I’m glad you had some time to follow your whims from past explorations. Enjoy your time. There’ll be some moments to process & send later — after your journeys! OX

  5. Oh. So wonderful.
    I am living vicously (as my friend once said to me and meant “vicariously”) through you.

    Love Liz Lovick – look forward to your post!

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