Sunday, 23 September 2018

Newtonmore, Scotland

We stayed three nights in the delightful small town of Newtonmore in the Highlands. In the centre of the town, there's a small lake.... called a loch in Scotland. Loch Imrich. The loch is a kettle-hole formed by glacial action during one of the ice ages. For many winters the pond was used for the sport of curling, but now there's curling rink in the village.
We walked the trail around the edge of the loch.... a lovely place to spend a quiet hour.

Digitalis purpurea. Foxgloves can be either purple of white. The flowers are always growing on one side of the stem on the wild plant. If the flowers surround the stem, then that is a garden variety.

The leaves and flowers of foxglove contain the spiro-steroid, Digoxigenin, used in biochemistry and immunohistological diagnosis. The compounds digitoxin and digoxin are used to make the drug digitalis, used as a heart stimulant. When I was little, I put the flowers on my fingers, but the flowers were traditionally known as poisonous, and Mum made sure I always washed my hands thoroughly afterwards.

Iris pseudacorus, or otherwise known as Yellow Iris or Yellow Flag. Lots of them growing along the edges of the loch.

I think this is Caltha palustris, Marsh marigold, also known as Kingcup. This plant contains a toxin that the old time herbalists used to remove warts. I'm not sure about this identification.

Saturday, 15 September 2018

Elgin Cathedral

Elgin Cathedral is known as "The Lantern of the North" and is one of Scotland's most ambitious and beautiful medieval buildings.
Begun in 1224, Elgin was the principal church of the bishops of Moray. The cathedral was damaged by fire in 1390, following an attack by Robert III's brother Alexander Stewart, Earl of Buchan, who was also known as "The Wolf of Badenoch".
The cathedral lost its roof shortly after the Protestant Reformation of 1560, and later its central tower fell. 
But the cathedral’s fortunes began to change when it became a visitor attraction in the early 1800s. There are guided tours around the ruins but I just wandered around enjoying the atmosphere.

Wandering in a graveyard may sound gruesome, but I loved seeing all the old grave markers and trying to imagine the lives of the people who lived in this community and came to this cathedral to worship. The tombstones tell so many stories.

 This saucy little fellow was found hiding behind a wall when some restoration was going on. Make sure you read the explanation in the next photo. And before you ask.... yes, I looked, of course I did, and yes.... anatomically correct!

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

Images of Scotland

Of course, any trip to Scotland always involves the sounds of a true Scot playing the bagpipes. This piper was busking on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh.
 The Royal Mile is the main tourist destination in Edinburgh so of course, there are all sorts of shops selling Scottish "stuff". Woolly hats and scarves, Scottish flags, whisky flavoured chocolate, fluffy toy lambs and highland cattle. Lots of these whisky shops, with many different single malt Scotch products for sale. I'm not much of a drinker, and I don't think I have tasted Scotch at any time during the last 30 years.... however visiting Scotland meant that I had to try a sample (or two!), and you know what? The stuff's not as bad as I thought it was going to be!

Scotch doesn't simply come in bottles.... here's a glass stag full of the stuff. You can take this home for 300 pounds. Good luck carrying it on the plane though.
And here's the real thing. The Monarch of the Glen by Sir Edward Landseer, painted around 1851 and currently on display at the Scottish National Gallery in Edinburgh. Magnificent!
The Monarch of the Glen is one of the most famous British pictures of the nineteenth century; for many people it encapsulates the grandeur and majesty of Scotland’s highlands and wildlife. Here Landseer depicts a monumental and precisely defined ‘royal’ or twelve point stag – a reference to the number of points on its antlers. Many of his paintings show interactions between humans and animals, but in this, his most well-known work, a single emblematic creature is viewed in a moment of exhilaration. It became widely admired in nineteenth century, when it was reproduced in prints, and achieved even greater renown in the twentieth century when it was employed as a marketing image for various products, so endowing it with global recognition.