Friday, January 30, 2015

Findochty, Portknockie, Portsoy, and Fordyce

So! The last of the Scotland posts, though not the last of the photos. I helped Bea download all of the photos she had taken in 2014 from her camera to her computer (about 350 or so) and she was fairly astounded when I mentioned that that I took one-fifth of that number in one morning alone, at Elgin the week before. I think digital cameras are one of the best things about technology. Oh, and being able to sit in Norway and earn money for a client in Australia. And also being able to chat with my nephew on Facebook about the trials and tribulations of doing laundry. And Skyping with Mom and Kate and everyone else so that I don't always notice how much I miss them and wish they were here. Actually, there are a lot of good things about technology, especially how interesting it is to think about advances in society when traveling through small stone-built villages that show little sign of said technology other than the antennae on the slate-tiled roofs. The day before I left Buckie, Isobel took me up the coast - or down the coast, I suppose, since we were traveling what would have been south if the particular bend of the Moray Firth at Buckie went north-south instead of east-west. The opposite direction from Elgin and Spey Bay, in other words.

It was a nice afternoon for a drive.

We drove first to Findochty, the next small fishing village, and one with a more attractive harbor/marina than Buckie, which is why half the postcards I sent to people are of this village's waterfront, rather than Buckie's. It has been there longer than Buckie as well, with a history back to the 17th century instead of the 19th. It doesn't have the deep harbor that let the fishing boats dock at Buckie, the industry that built that town, but it's a nice place to keep a small boat for sailing around the firth, or anchoring offshore to do some diving. Sam goes diving up and down the east coast as well as to other places in Scotland, and he told me about the soft corals and the fish he sees, as well as the seal and dolphins in this area. There's a small beach on the Buckie side of Findochty that's a good diving place, I was told. Given that the North Sea is not exactly body temperature at any time of year, you'd definitely need to use a wetsuit for any sort of sea-based sightseeing.

I have been carrying around my wetsuit (drysuit?) top for two and a half years, and the only time I could have used it, swimming in the River Dart in August, I'd left it in London. Silly me. But I'll carry it around for another six months, because you never know. Maybe I'll go to Margaret Island and swim in the Danube.
We drove through Cullen, and I took a picture of a lovely semicircular slump in the cliffs across the inlet for Mom. The old railway viaduct, now a walking/biking path, goes over the town and complicates traffic immensely, as the road below wasn't designed for large trucks. We did not eat any cullen skink there, and I couldn't discover why this milk and potato and fish stew, variations of which are found all up and down the coast, was claimed by this particular village.

Cullen is older than Findochty, and Portknockie between them is older than both; they've found relics of Iron Age settlements on the high cliffs around the protected harbor. Portsoy, about twelve miles due east of Buckie as the seagull flies, has a modern history that dates back to the 16th century and a port built for ship-based trade under the auspices of Mary, Queen of Scots. In my research this afternoon I have discovered that there used to be a fair bit of green marble (serpentine) quarried near Portsoy, much of which was exported. Some of it ended up, according to the website I'm looking at, at Versailles. I wouldn't be surprised if there was some in Westminster Cathedral as well.

Left: The "cup and saucer", as locals call the remains of a windmill built over a prehistoric stone chamber.

We went inland then, to the small village of Fordyce, a medieval village with its own small turreted castle and a church that is falling into pleasing ruin. Isobel said that she knew I'd like it, since I'd been so taken with the remains of the cathedral in Elgin, and indeed I did have a very nice time wandering around the small churchyard, and peering into the narrow but very tall covered entrance, which is the only part of the older church still standing. The Fordyce church site, called Saint Talorgan, Tarlarican, or Tarquin Church, is at least seven centuries old, and possibly even older. There was a bishop in the area in the 6th century of that name (or one of them), and that's who the church was dedicated to when it was built.

Many of the buildings in the village that we passed seemed scarcely higher than my head, with small low doors. Down the main street most of the doors were barricaded with boards and sandbags, so the flooding must have been fierce earlier, perhaps during those gale-force storms I was glad to be inside for, in Beith.

There's a plaque on one of the standing walls carved with the name and arms of the Abercromby family, who took the name of Glassaugh in the early 18th century (there's a distillery of that name near the "cup and saucer"); the Abercromby family goes back to at least the 13th century, and were probably involved in the building of the original church at Fordyce.

We left the village and went back along the coast road to Buckie, and I got the chance to see the villages from both directions, both lovely. There were a few highland cattle in a field across the main road leading to Fordyce, and many sheep in other fields along the way home. Sometimes there would be a flock of gulls in a field instead, looking like very very small sheep.

There were more opportunities for photographs, but I'd already asked Isobel to pull over so many times I felt guilty about asking any more, especially since the sun was setting and it's not so much fun driving on those narrow roads in the dark. When I go back for my walking (and whiskey tasting) tour, it will be in summer, and I'll have more time.

Note: Don't Google "Fordyce" without adding "Scotland" or you'll get a window full of pictures of "Fordyce spots," which in and of themselves aren't so bad, unless you're not expecting them.

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