There is a stone – the Craw Stane – up the hill from Rhynie that has incised on one face a salmon and what is sometimes called the ‘Pictish Beastie’ No-one has the foggiest what the purpose of these stones was. There used to be hundreds of them but farmers and builders used them, incorporated them into their byres and walls with little regard for what they stood for. Had these farmers and builders committed their sacrilegious acts when the Druids held sway, they would have been incorporated into the rituals that these stones were part of and their blood would have compensated for their insensitive lack of reverence.
FELIX MENDELSOHN (dadadididaadaaa[bis]) OR
VIRGINIA WOOLF (filled her pockets with stones and then walked into and under thewaters)
ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON ( like Rennie Mackintosh, an elegant dandy doomed to die tragically young) OR CADELL OR SOMEONE FAMOUS LIKE THAT THOUGHT ABOUT VISITING THIS PRETTY-AS-A- PICTURE, ART DECOISH, WHITER-THAN -WHITE LIGHTHOUSE AS THEY PASSED AMAZINGLY BUT UNKNOWINGLY ALL TOGETHER ONE FINE DAY ON THE TWO O’CLOCK OBAN – MULL FERRY EN ROUTE FOR THE SPIRITUAL AURA OF IONA AND THE WAGNERIAN MAGIC OF STAFFA.
We arrived in the dark at Oviedo Railway Station and wandered through a dull new town looking for somewhere to stay. A bit of a dump, we agreed. In the morning we left the hotel after b’fast, happy to be on our way and found ourselves in a lively old town parallel to the dull new town of the night before.
Years ago I went to Barcelona with no Spanish, no preconceived ideas, no guide book and the Barcelona I found bore no relation to the Rough Guide’s Barcelona which I read (wrong order of doing things) on my return to Scotland. Not that the Barcelona I found was all that wonderful – no Gaudi cathedral, no Art Galleries and I got my pocket picked – but it was my Barcelona and I felt part of it.
I still like the idea of not knowing what to expect but willing to discover for myself the night and day of wherever I find myself .
On my way up to the Recumbent Stone Circle I tried to see the skylarks singing high overhead but they were either too high or too small. Perhaps it was just one of them. Ascending.
Far below I could see field after green field all the way down to the conical hill of Dunideer where the sheep that fondly graze acquire golden teeth. Some chemical in the soil, some say.
And not too far away the 40ft. column that marked the battle of Harlaw. Red Harlaw:
“ As I cam in by Dunidier
And doon by Netherha’,
There were fifty thoosand Hieland men
Cam mairchin’ tae Harlaw ”
Only 40,000 at the end of the day however….
But all that was a long long time ago. 1411.
Big blue sky; fluffy summer clouds; a day that made you feel like whistling. A place that had something about it that brought a smile to your lips and a spring to your step. And I was going to the sacred place that marked the centre of all the strange things that had happened here where the river Gadie runs at the back o Bennachie.
Then I heard voices.
French schoolchildren had been organised by their teacher to play a sort of basketball game in the stone circle. They were clearly and loudly enjoying themselves immensely.
” Excuse me,” I called out to their teacher. ” Excuse me!” She blew her whistle and they stopped playing. ” Excuse me, ” I said again, lowering my voice and sweeping my arm to take in the ring of stones, ” but do you know this is a sacred place, the burial ground of brave warriors, not a playground for noisy teenagers. How can you be so insensitive ? “
I climbed here 3 times. Top of the world. Not even a fly. Still got money stolen from top hut while we were out climbingl Where every aspect pleases….
I was climbing Batian, the left peak, and looking down I could see an African plodding up the route to Point Lenana where the top hut was. My heart sank. We did the climb, descended, got to top hut and sure enough Donald’s camera had gone and my £50 holiday money ditto. I raced down to the Teleki valley and caught up with the African. Of course he denied everything. I searched him and found nothing. “Wewe mwivi!” I told him but he shrugged. So I picked up a rock and smashed his head in.
No, I didn’t but the impulse was there
This is the Undermilkwoody sort of town where George Mackay Brown once lived and wrote not about its dylanthomasy inhabitants but mostly about the Vikings (early incomers!) who came and saw and went away again but left their mark on the islands. You grow fond of this one-street town with its lively pubs and friendly people. I met a guy in a bar here who asked me if I was from Orkney and when I said I was just passing through he gave me a slow look and said, “Ye soond like wan o thae tropical diseases”
When we took the ferry to Hoy, I talked to the ticket collector(from Stromness) who was a very amusing and friendly guy and on the way back I told him about meeting Hoy’s celebrity, Jack Rendall, and how interesting a story-teller he was and did he (the ticket-collector) know him and he shrugged and said, ” A dinnae ken ony o thae hillbillies.”
The glen route through the gap in the hills leads on to the bay at Rackwick.
Anna and I set off for Rackwick from Northern Hoy past Sandy Loch (the one place on Hoy which Geoge Mackay Brown disliked) when the black cloud overhead opened and turned the path into a fierce little stream. I turned back but Anna pressed on to Rackwick where she was rescued from the cold and the wet and returned to North Hoy by a good Samaritan driving a Caravanette.
You can always rely on a good Samaritam passing by when you most need her ( I’ll bet you expected ‘him’ !) You, reader, are probably a pretty good Samaritan yourself when the opportunity arises.
Next day, the sun came out.