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Little Scottish Treasures

Who Dares Wins

As you head toward Doune Castle from the city of Stirling there is a statue not far from the road of a man striding toward the hills in the distance. The stature of the figure makes you aware that this man is on a mission and is serious about his journey.

The figure is Colonel David Stirling who in 1941 as a Lieutenant in the Scots Guards had a cunning plan to help the war effort. It was rather unorthodox, but why not parachute small teams of specially trained soldiers behind enemy lines to disrupt supply lines, gather intelligence and quite simply be a nuisance to the enemy.

Thus, this was the birth of the SAS (Special Air Service) the UK’s special forces, which later inspired other countries to develop their own versions of these skilled troops.David Stirling was captured in 1943, and after escaping four times, was eventually sent to Colditz Castle, where he spent the rest of the war. While he was a prisoner in Colditz his 'SAS' carried out at least 250 missions behind enemy lines.

The statue of David Stirling by Angela Conner was erected here in 2002, a location close to David’s ancestral home, nearby are plaques which are inscribed with the names of the members of the SAS Regiment who died in service.

There is a small family connection here too, as my late Grandfather ‘Duncan Cumming’, (himself a tank driver in the Fife and Forfar Yeomanry) was said to have been enrolled at times to take members of the SAS in armored vehicles and drop them off near to their targets, allowing them to carry out their attacks swiftly.

I leave this with the SAS motto normally credited to David Stirling – "Who Dares Wins"

AC/DC Rocks Kirriemuir

Kirriemuir, in Scotland is not a big place, in fact unless you are specifically heading to Kirriemuir there is little chance you will ever come close.

The town is well known as the birth and resting place of J.M Barrie, the man who created Peter Pan. However, Peter Pan was not our reason to visit on a cold January day, our reason was to remember another son of Kirriemuir… Bon Scott.

Born Ronald Belford, Bon Scott spent his childhood here in Kirriemuir before his parents emigrated to Australia, where his school pals started to call him Bon Scott (Short for Bonnie Scotland due to his accent).


Bon went on to become the lead vocalist and lyricist of AC/DC before tragically loosing his life after only 5 years with the band. He did however perform on AC/DC’s first 7 albums and the band's greatest album ‘Back in Black’ was a tribute to Scott. Every year a festival called Bonfest is held here and bands from all around converge to play AC/DC covers. In celebration of the festival’s 10th year a statue of Bon Scott by artist John McKenna was erected near the center of town.

Another Little Treasure, and reason to come off the usual tourist routes to walk paths less trodden.

Fingal's Cave - Isle of Staffa

Around 60 million years ago Scotland and North America were being pulled apart by a continental drift that created the Northern Atlantic Ocean. As the west coast of Scotland was stretched, large cracks appeared and hot liquid rock rose up through the earths crust. This activity continued over hundreds of thousands of years creating a layer of ash & lava over a mile thick.

The basalt columns which make up Fingal’s cave and some of the interesting landscapes of the Isle of Staffa are some of the very lowest and oldest of these lava flows. The amazing Basalt columns formed as molten lava cooled, hardened, and fractured into stone pillars. Fingal’s cave as well as many others here were created when the sea eroded the softer ash from below the harder columns.

To the local people who lived on nearby Mull, Fingal’s cave would have always been seen as a sacred place and mythical in origin, there are certainly imaginative folk tales about how it came to be.

In 1772 Joseph Banks introduced Fingal’s cave to the world by writing - ‘Compared to this what are the Cathedrals and palaces built by men! Mere playthings, imitations as his works will always be when compared to those of nature’.

Before long, Staffa and Fingal’s cave became one of the must-see sights on any Victorian grand tour of the Highlands, even inspiring Felix Mendelssohn to write the ‘Hebrides Overture’, a piece of music conjured up while Felix was standing in the cave listening to the roar of the waves.

International Football 'Soccer' is Born

If you find yourself in Glasgow, and you love Football then there is one place you simply must visit, if to just walk upon the grass and say you have been there. The place, Hamilton Crescent, home to the West of Scotland cricket Club.

It was here on this Cricket pitch that the first official international Football Match was played, on November 30, 1872, when Scotland hosted England on a Saturday afternoon with 5,000 people watching a match that had been organized by the English FA to encourage the game north of the border. 

The Scotland side, wearing dark blue shirts and a hooded cowl, featured a team entirely comprised of players from Queens Park, while the English side (playing with white shirts and caps) had players from nine different sides in its starting 11, with the University of Oxford fielding three players.

The team formation makes us laugh today, as Scotland lined up with two at the back, two in midfield and six upfront, while England went for a formation of one defender, one midfielder and eight forwards, with a formation like this you would expect plenty goals, but in the end the game finished a 0-0 draw.

This forgotten, little footballing treasure is usually open and free to enter seven days a week, the club even permits members of the public to walk their dogs across the grass provided there is no game taking place at the time.

Scotland may see Football as their second sport and continually struggle to qualify for the World Cup, but when it comes to history, we are always winners.

The Dogton Stone

This heavily weathered carved stone or Pictish cross slab, from possibly the 9th century stands in the middle of a field in Fife. What we see today is just a fragment of the original stone, decorated with faded carvings. Historic Environment Scotland, which cares for the Dogton Stone, describes it as an independent cross.

The inscription reads, "This stone is a free standing Celtic Cross, probably 10th century AD. The top and arms of the cross have been destroyed, but the center boss is still visible on the east side. A horseman is carved below it and there are entwined serpentine animals on the south face."

The Dogton Stone could commemorate a battle between the Picts and the Scots, or a battle between King Constantine and the Danes. What we see today is only the base and bottom of the transverse axis, the stone still stands in its original place, although it is not known why it was erected here.

The 9th century date makes the Dogton Stone a late Pictish carved stone, from a time when many Picts were moving from pagan beliefs to Christianity and it is one of the few independent Pictish crosses that are known to exist.

Pitfirrane Castle

When driving along the A985 toward Rosyth on a sunny day, one landmark stands out like a large yellow beacon to the north. This building is Pitfirrane Castle, which sits in the center of Dunfermline golf course at Crossford. The castle is in fact currently the club house for the course.

The oldest part of the building dates back to the 15th century, when the Halket family built the castle and lived here for centuries, holding the title ‘baronet of Pitfirrane’. The Halket family were heavily involved in the politics of both Scotland and the United Kingdom. One of the household, ‘Sir Peter’, was a distinguished officer on the Hanoverian side during the Jacobite uprising of 1745, he was taken prisoner by the troops of Prince Charles Edward Stuart, and then later released on parole, when ordered by the Duke of Cumberland to re-join the fight, he refused, preferring to resign his military rank than break the parole that was given to him. In 1754 Sir Peter was sent to America as Colonel of the 44th regiment and was killed in battle along with his son at Monongahela a year later.

One of these pictures below shows Dunfermline Golf Clubs 'heritage wall' and its link to America. The artwork on the wall remembers the 'Apple Tree Gang' who came from Dunfermline and took golf to America in 1888. They played golf in a pasture in Yonkers which eventually became Saint Andrew's Golf Club NY, the group gained their unusual name because when they were playing they would hang their jackets on an apple tree in the pasture.

The Battle of Inverkeithing & Clan MacLean

In 1651, the new modern army of Oliver Cromwell found itself prevented from continuing its march North by a Scots army which was firmly entrenched at Stirling Bridge. These armies faced each other for about a month until Cromwell grew tired of inaction and sent a large detachment of troops along the south bank of the River Forth to South Queensferry.It took three days for the whole detachment to cross the river, during which time a small Scots army at Inverkeithing had been joined by 1000 local men from Dunfermline, with news that a large group of Highlanders were on their way.

The battle started just east of Castlandhill (next to the present M90 motorway) and raged for about six hours. The 800 Highlanders made up mostly of the Clan MacLean arrived in time to meet the Scottish army in full retreat, they were all driven back until the last remnants, some 500 strong Highlanders, found themselves fighting with their backs to the walls of Pitreavie Castle.

The castle was occupied at this time by the Wardlaw family, who sympathized with the Cromwellians and rained stones and other missiles upon the Scots army. Sir Hector, the young Chief of Clan Maclean died in the fighting, but not before seven of his clansmen had each stepped forward to defend him, shouting “Fear eile airson Eachainn!” (Another for Hector), before being cut down. This saying became proverbial within the Clan MacLean.

When the fighting was over, the Wardlaws refused to shelter to the wounded, and in consequence of their infamous conduct that day, it was prophesied that they never again would prosper. and so, it happened – within 18 months, the first baronet died, and within 50 years the family fortunes perished and the estate was eventually sold.

Lady Winifred Maxwell

"The secret of happiness is freedom, the secret of freedom is courage" - Thucydide.

Lady Winifred Maxwell, Countess of Nithsdale, lived from 1680 to 1749. A courageous Jacobite, she is remembered for helping her husband, William Maxwell, 5th Earl of Nithsdale, escape from the Tower of London in 1716 the day before his planned execution. Winifred’s Jacobite parents accompanied James VII into exile in 1688 and Winifred herself became a lady-in-waiting at the Jacobite Royal Court. On 2 March 1699, at the age of 19 she married William Maxwell, 5th Earl of Nithsdale, a member of a prominent Scottish Catholic family.

William Maxwell came out in support of the Jacobites in the 1715 Uprising, but was captured with others at Preston and sent to the Tower of London., where he was found guilty of treason and sentenced to death. Winifred traveled to London to ask King George I for clemency, but none was forthcoming, so on the night of 23 February, the eve of the date set for her husband's execution, Winifred, her maid, and two friends visited William at the Tower of London and put into action a brave and daring escape plan.

Winifred wrote her own account of the escape, she had her husband dressed in female clothes belonging to a tall friend Mrs Mills, applied make up to her husband, shaved off his beard and dyed his thick black eyebrows. The tall Mrs Mills was instructed to enter with her handkerchief up to her face as if grieving and the four women came and went often so that the guards were confused as to how many were in the cell at one time. Another friend had worn extra clothes under her own for Mrs Mills to change into, leaving her own for William to wear.

When It was getting dark and before the candles had been lit, Winifred led her supposed weeping friend out who still had the handkerchief up to her face and down the stairs to be led away by a companion. So as not to arouse suspicion Lady Nithsdale then went back to her husband’s cell and conducted an imaginary conversation with him, in order to fool the guards outside into believing he was still there before leaving and asking that he should not be disturbed.


After hiding out in London for a few days Lord Nithsdale was smuggled into France, his Lady had returned to Scotland, joining him later in France, with their daughter to live the rest of their lives as members of the Jacobite court in exile.   

Caiplie Cove

The Caiplie Caves or Cove are made up of multi-coloured weathered sandstone feature situated on the Fife Coastal Path between Cellardyke and Crail,

The red sandstone has been carved out by waves from ancient seas in post-glacial times, forming a web of caves, holes, pillars, passages and arches. The striations, layers and banding seen on the rocks is extraordinary, and the colours, particularly on the western side, are wonderful.

As well as being a curious Geological feature, this site also has historical connections. It has been associated with Iron Age settlements - previous excavations within the caves having revealed many cattle bones, boars tusks and deer horns. During Early Christian times, monks and pilgrims travelling to St Andrews carved crosses in the caves where they likely sheltered during the journey one notary Christian, 'St Adrian' is thought to have lived in the largest cave. 

In more recent times at least one of the caves was used as a residence for a hermit who lived here for several months in the first half of the 20th century. When visiting you can still identify where he fixed his door lintel into the stone. A walking tour of the Fife Coast will throw up many wonders, both natural and man made.

Cockburnspath Castle

There is not much is left of the 15th century Cockburnspath Castle, the remains of its outbuildings and a walled courtyard, all of which is being slowly claimed back by nature.

Cockburnspath Castle's ownership passed through several noble Scottish families, the Dunbars, Homes and Sinclairs before being sold to the Douglases then annexed to the crown in 1593. Sometime in the 17th century the castle was abandoned and eventually its stonework started to be removed for other nearby projects like many of Scotland's Castles.

Historically this was an important fortress, guarding the bridge that crosses a deep gorge, the fortress once said to have stationed 3,000 men during the conflict between the Dunbar and Douglas families. Cockburnspath was also mentioned by Oliver Cromwell, saying the Scots held the pass preventing any retreat of his men into England.

A large section of wall fell down in early 2012, and by the look of the roots which have become part of the structure, the rest of the building and the structures around it are on borrowed time. This is one of those little treasures hidden away and almost forgotten by all. 

Clan Mackie & the story of the ravens.

The Mackies were a very prominent and powerful family  in Galloway during the 16th and 17th centuries, possibly being descendants of the Royal Celto-Pictish house of Moray.

The arms of the principal Mackie family have a rather interesting story.  It is said that Mackie of Larg was a skilled archer and liked to make sure all around him were aware of his skill. During a spell when he was in the company of Robert II, the king grew so weary of his boasting that he invited Mackie to demonstrate his skill, and pointed to two ravens in a distant tree. Mackie managed to skewer both raven with a single arrow, much to the king’s delight. King Robert II then granted the right for Mackie to bear on his shield the two ravens pierced by a single arrow, and a lion, alluding to the royal witness to this remarkable feat.

Another Mackie, 'Sir Patrick Mackie of Larg' was one of fifty Scots granted lands in Ulster, Ireland in the 17th century but was not enthusiastic about the colonisation of the North of Ireland and sold his lands (around a thousand acres) there soon after. In Scotland, the Mackie family went on to prosper around Kirkcudbrightshire and Auchencairn, near Castle Douglas, where you will still find many Mackies to this day.

Also, it's a well known fact Mackie's make the best ice cream in the world (not biased). Don't just visit the country of your ancestors. Walk upon the very paths, look upon the same views, visit the specific castles and hear the stories of the people who shared the blood within your veins with a Clan specific tour.

Rosyth Castle

If ever there was an example of an ancient fortified structure looking out of place, this is it.

Rosyth Castle’s original tower was built in the 15th century but heavily extended over the following 200 years, at the time it was built on an island connected by a causeway to the North shore of the River Forth when the tide was low, this was one of a multitude of defenses dotted along the banks of the River Forth.

The Castle is claimed to have been the birthplace of Oliver Cromwell’s mother and was occupied by Cromwell’s troops in 1651, after the battle of Inverkeithing. Unlike many of the other castles that litter the shores of the River Forth, Rosyth seems to be rather short of stories, be them historically significant of merely local legends.

In the early 20th century, the castle became property of the Royal Navy, as the Dockyard nearby started to rapidly expand. This meant it was lost to the general public for decades behind high fences and tight security. In the 80s many residents of Rosyth didn’t even know the castle even existed.

Today the fences have gone and this ancient structure stands within an island once more, not surrounded by water, but surrounded by a busy industrial estate and looking rather out of place.

Rothesay Victorian Toilets

When on tour, there is a certain places everyone has to visit at least once a day and this is beautiful example of that  place.

These are the Rothesay Victorian Toilets, a remnant from the days when Rothesay, in Argyll and Bute, was full of wealthy 19th century holiday makers. Near the end of Rothesay's Pier sits this beautiful block of Victorian lavatories.

Commissioned in 1899, they are the finest survivors of their kind in Britain, with the interior walls covered in decorative ceramic tiles, and mosaic designs on the floors, incorporating the Royal Burgh of Rothesay's crest, with fittings made in Glasgow by Twyfords.

The lavatory is still in use as a public convenience, but only the male toilets are decorative and can be viewed after spending the modern day equivalent of a penny, by either sex.  When the block was in use in the early 1900's, ladies were shockingly not expected to use public lavatories, so there was only a male section. During this period of time in Britain it was thought that a lady should simply visit the loo before leaving the house, then hold it in until she returned.

Rest and Be Thankful 

Scotland is a dream to walk but be warned, do your homework before embarking on a long journey.

In 1818 John Keats, the celebrated English Romantic Poet forgot to do his research before going walking in Argyll. On his map he mistook the 'Rest and Be Thankful’ to be an Inn rather than a viewpoint, he wrote “We were up at 4 this morning and have walked to breakfast 15 miles through two tremendous glens – at the end of the first there is a place called Rest and Be Thankful which we took for an Inn – it is nothing but a stone and so we were cheated into 5 more miles to breakfast”.

'Rest and Be Thankful' were the words the soldiers constructing the first road through this glen, inscribed on a stone at this viewpoint in 1740. The current stone commemorates the road's repair in 1768. The roads built by these soldiers were part of a series of military roads constructed throughout the Highlands in the 18th century to make travel easier for troops, who were involved in suppressing anti-government revolts.

Even better than planning for all eventualities, why not let us do all the work for you. A guided tour by locals who know Scotland well, and of course where to get breakfast.

Schiehallion: the mountain that weighed the Earth

The year 1774 was a decisive year in the American Revolution, the year before the Military phase began, and meanwhile, in Scotland a group of men were busy scratching their heads and scribbling notes at the bottom of this mountain.

Schiehallion translates to 'Fairy Hill of the Caledonians', and is a superb Quartzite mountain, which was chosen in 1774 as the site of a famous experiment to weigh the Earth. This experiment involved measuring the deflection of a plumb line, resulting from the gravitational pull of a nearby mountain. Schiehallion was considered the ideal mountain, due to its isolation and almost symmetrical shape. The tiny deflection of a plumb-line from the vertical must be measured relative to the fixed background of the stars, which requires extremely careful measurements on either side of the mountain. The mass of the mountain can then be worked out from its volume and the density of its rocks. These values can be used to find the gravitational pull of the Earth, and thus its mass. The final result was less than 20% lighter than the modern figure, but even today this is considered relatively close due to the technique and equipment used.

There is a cairn with a plaque celebrating this event, just before the car park, very close to the fictional 'Craigh na Dun' standing stone site from the Outlander series. The series also used the cairn in the show as a sign post for Craigh na Dun. 

A great deal of work is currently being carried out on and around Schiehallion by community members, landowners and organisations to restore the native woodland, among other projects, thanks to donations by the John Muir Trust, People's Postcode Lottery and European Union Funds.

Donibristle House - Dalgety Bay

Donibristle House is now a lovely residential area, but how many know of a true horrific story that took place here.

In 1592 James Stewart, 'The Bonnie Earl O' Moray' had been accused of plotting against King James VI and was to be arrested, although there were also rumours that the king was jealous of the interest his Queen was showing the handsome Moray. The Earl of Huntly 'George Gordon' sent a band of Clan Gordon men to hunt down Moray, they caught up with him at Donibristle House, which they then torched. The house had been burning for some time when Moray burst out and past the men surrounding it, he made it to the bay but it is said that the tassels on his helmet had caught fire and their glowing gave his location away in the dark bay. The Gordons cut him down and his last words spoken, after William Gordon slashed Moray across the face were "You have spoiled a better face than your own".

The killing of Moray was widely condemned by the public, his body was brought to St Giles Church in Edinburgh to lay for months as his mother and friends refused to have him buried until someone was punished for the murder. His mother also had a painting commissioned of her dead son, showing his wounds, she wanted it to be publicly displayed but the king withdrew permission. Huntly was eventually punished, suffering a mere week long house arrest for instigating the killing.

Donibristle House was rebuilt in 1700 but burned down again in 1858, eventually what was left was converted into apartments when the town of Dalgety Bay grew up around it. Over the years there have been reports of the ghost of The Bonnie Earl of Moray appearing in the bay and always with the glowing from his burning helmet tassels.

Destitution Wall

We done an article about Suilven, the iconic mountain in Sutherland, but felt that the wall which crosses it deserves space of its own.  One of the strange things about Suilven when you get to the top is a seemingly pointless wall built not far below the summit. This is a 'destitution wall', built about 170 years ago. In the 1840s and 1850s, during the Highland clearances, when the people were forced from their lands by rich landowners to make way for sheep farming, many leaving for America, Canada ,& Australia.


When the potato famine struck, it hit Scotland as well as Ireland, so those that were left behind were starving. Too proud to beg for charity, which the rich landowners had refused anyway, they were forced to work with little or no purpose, building roads and walls in the middle of nowhere in exchange for food. These were the 'destitution' roads and walls that still exist across the Highlands to this day, a sad reminder of a blighted history.


Sadly many of the projects were deliberately designed to be pointless; the Victorian "Christian work ethic" idea was that people couldn't just be given subsistence money or rations for ‘nothing’. Some of the stones here weigh over a ton and the climb up Suilven is incredibly steep so just imagine the sheer effort to quarry and move around such stones. It's hard enough carrying a small rucksacks when we climb Suilven.

This is a mountain which stirs the emotions, with this wall, a  reminder of the suffering and hardship people endured, adding yet another emotional moment when you get close to the summit.


Scottish mountains don't come any more iconic than Suilven, a mountain which has inspired writers, poets and even film producers. Instantly, recognisable, this small but mighty peak rises up as if from nowhere to dramatic effect.

When the Vikings came to their 'South Land' - Sutherland - they saw Suilven from the sea and named it 'Pillar Mountain', so much did it dominated the landscape. Today geologists refer to it as an inselberg, or island mountain, as it is an isolated peak rising dramatically out of moorland, Suilven is formed of Torridonian Sandstone capped with Cambrian Quartzite. This tougher quartzite cap protected the sandstone beneath during the ice ages, creating the inselberg shape, as the rocks all around were eroded away, as the surrounding landscape was worn down and scoured out to leave hundreds of little lochans and hummocks.

The human history of the area is pretty groundbreaking too, sitting above the fishing village of Lochinver, Suilven forms part of the Glen Canisp Estate, in an area of Scotland hardest hit by the Highland Clearances, this estate was long held in private hands, but in 1886, the Lochinver branch of the Highland Land League agreed to demand the restoration to the people of the deer forest of Glencanisp 'where there is plenty of provision for ourselves and our families, it extends twenty-one miles... and the land of our fathers lying waste'. In 2005, their demand was met.The Assynt Foundation, formed by a group of local residents, managed to secure a community buy-out of the Glencanisp Estate and neighbouring Drumrunie Estate, under the 2003 Land Reform Act.


You may notice a great wall running over the mountain, the peculiar story of this wall and why it is here will follow in its own post shortly, as it too deserves recognition.

Clan MacLaren & Creag an Tuirc

Here at Little Scottish Treasures, we love conducting Clan specific tours so that you can truly walk in the footsteps of you ancestors.

These are the traditional clan lands of the MacLaren which included the parish of Balquhidder, with its Kirk at the centre.


Overlooking the Glen not far from Balquhidder is a hill called 'Creag an Tuirc' (meaning 'The Crag/Rock of the Boar) with a fine cairn and a bench on which to sit and admire the magnificent views. This point was the ancient gathering place of the clan in times of trouble. Runners would alert clan members to arm themselves and gather here, so it is no surprise that "Creag an Tuirc" is the MacLaren rallying cry and appears on their crest. The plaque on the cairn celebrates the Clan MacLaren Society's 25th anniversary in 1987.

This area was MacLaren country as far back as the 1200's  and the now ruined Balquidder Kirk has been  the place of worship for generations of MacLarens, where within its grounds their chiefs are buried. The MacLaren's would have been present at the Battle of Bannockburn, and later rubbed shoulders and clashed claymores with some of the greatest Clans of the Highlands. Though plagued by the power of the Stewart's, the cunning of the Campbell's and the ferocity of the MacGregor's, Clan MacLaren manged to hold onto their lands until their support for the Jacobite uprisings, after which Balquhidder was ravaged by Hanoverian troops.  However, Creag an Tuirc came back into the possession  of the clan Chief in the 20th century and we hope it will forever stay that way.

So... who are you? Who were your ancestors? And when do you want to gaze upon the lochs and mountains like they once did?

The Pudrac Stone 

This standing stone called the 'Pudrac Stone' is a Little Scottish Treasure with a tradition thought to date back at least 400 years. It sits near the area where the annual Angus Fair was held at Balquhidder, and is what we in Scotland  call a 'lifting stone'. Very similar to the modern Atlas Stone competitions. 

Men would come from far off areas to lift a large stone (the Puterach) onto the Pudracs flat surface, demonstrating their great strength, no doubt one of these men testing their strength would have been Rob Roy MacGregor who came this way often.  At this site, we know that the original stone has long since vanished after being declared a dangerous pastime by a local minister in the 1800's, in fact the actual stone may have been used in construction of the wall around his manse. 

A suitable local replacement stone was acquired in 2011 and now takes pride of place in front of the Pudrac, weighing in at roughly 100kg (220lbs), this has been used as a test of strength by many people recently, including, not too long ago, the Outlander star Sam Heughan. Sam decided to try to lift it during one of his 'Men In Kilts' episodes, and after a couple of attempts managed to place the stone on top of the Pudrac.

In the picture he is posing with fellow actor Graham McTavish and Peter Lawrie.

When we visited during a tour I was going to place the stone back myself  but it was a bit dirty, well that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.

General George Wade 

It’s rare that you hear pleasant words spoken in the Highlands about a British General from the early 1700’s but there is one exception, an Irishman called George Wade. He is remembered here with a little verse that goes “If you had seen this road before it was made, You would lift up your arms and thank General Wade”.

In 1724 George Wade became Commander in Chief of North Britain, and he had sound plan of how to ensure security in the Highlands of Scotland after two failed Jacobite uprisings. Wade set to work constructing major fortifications, with a network of roads and bridges throughout the land, which until then had no real roads. He also commissioned local militia, creating a regiment, that later under his supervision would become The Black Watch.

By 1736 there were 240 miles of roads and 40 new bridges substantial enough for wheeled carriages (some of which are still in use today).

The irony of this achievement was that it was in fact Wade’s enemies, the Jacobite forces led by Prince Charles Stuart who ended up using the roads to great effect during the next uprising of 1745.

You will often find sections of Wade’s original roads in rural areas as a long wide ridge running close by modern roads. There is the occasional stone bearing Wade's name and magnificent bridges like the one in Aberfeldy  standing testament to the Great General Wade, a man who was replaced in 1745 by Prince Willam ‘The Duke of Cumberland’, but that’s another story. 

The Watchers & A Moment in Time

When driving over the snow road north of Ballater there are two strong pieces of advice 1) Take a moment to stop 2) Sit and take in your surroundings for a short period. As if to emphasise the importance of this advice there are two art installations located in a bend on the road high above Corgarff castle, itself an isolated testament to the Forbes Clan who built it in the 1550's.

The first sculpture is ‘A moment in time’ by Louise Gardiner which is a large standing stone with a poem carved onto it, reading “Take a moment to behold as still skies or storms unfold, warm your soul before you go, in sun, rain, sleet or snow.” The stone itself has three holes drilled through it to mimic looking through a telescope toward three very different views.

The other installation is called ‘The Watchers’ by John Kennedy of Landlab. This consists of four seats shrouded in folded steel facing west to the rolling expanse of the Cairngorm mountains. Although abstract and modern in design, the watchers fit into the landscape perfectly almost mimicking the neolithic standing stones scattered around this part of the world. When sitting cocooned within one of the sculptures silence envelopes you and you instantly feel alone, at peace and one longs to linger a little while more.

The Watchers and A Moment in Time are not mere sculptures; they are invitations to surrender to the present moment, and to feel the connection between your inner self and the natural world. So, the next time you find yourself on the A939, take a moment to stop, sit, and let the beauty of the Cairngorms National Park wash over you. Allow the Watchers to inspire you, to awaken your soul, and to remind you of the profound beauty that exists in the world around us.

Blue Pool of Torwood

Today we were off to visit a ruined castle but our adventure also took us to a mysterious pool located in the forest nearby.


This is the ‘Blue Pool’ of Torwood which has been known of by locals to the area for decades, as many of them had been known to have taken a dip in it. The pool of bright blue water is roughly 6m across and thought to be about 4m deep. When you look in you can see old tree trunks at the bottom through the crystal-clear waters & when the sun comes out like today it really is a wonderful site.


Now in this land of Elves, Fauns & Fairies you would expect me to tell some fantastic tale of otherworldly encounters taking place here, but no such story seems to exist, possibly because in the grand scheme of things this site is relatively new in Scottish standards.


The reason for building the pool and the people who built it have been lost in time, but there have been many theories about its purpose and why it feels rather magical within its forest setting, however, the real purpose we believe, is either an old air shaft from the colliery sunk in 1865 a mile away and closed down in 1910, or an old break pressure chamber in the water supply line which fed the town of Grangemouth.


That’s not to say something otherworldly is yet to take place here, as the setting feels just right for such an occurrence.

Jack the Giant Slayer

Three ancient stones lie along the road between Fruid Reservoir & Tweedsmuir, these stones are linked to the legend and death of ‘Jack the giant slayer’.

The largest of the three stones which together may have been part of a druid stone circle, is according to tradition known as the Giant's Stone.

Legend has it that a giant once terrorized this area, until one day he was confronted by an archer called Jack, and in some cases is known as ‘Jack the Giant Slayer’.

During the fight Jack used the ‘Giant Stone’ to hide behind, although he killed the giant Jack received a fatal blow that claimed his life just as the giant died.

The three stones were said to mark the place where Jack was buried and at the end of the 18th century a tomb was found near the largest stone, it was covered with a large slab. Inside the tomb were the remains of a funeral urn.

Like most legends here in Scotland there is truth behind the tales we tell, just some get slightly exaggerated over the centuries.

The Carrick Stone

Carrickstone is a housing estate in Cumbernauld that sits atop a hill, but what many may not be aware of is where it gets its name from.

Behind the houses are two objects that you’d never expect to find here, a Roman altar (The Carrick Stone) and a trig point.

The Roman altar has a small fence around it but has been here for almost two thousand years. Legend has it that Robert the Bruce planted his standard in the hole in it, before The Battle of Bannockburn.

The stone takes its name from him, the ‘Earl of Carrick', continue a short distance along the path to find a trig point, which must have been erected long before the houses appeared in the early 1990's.

The Howff, Dundee

It is rare to go on a tour with us without a walk around at least one ancient cemetery, and everyone seems to enjoy the beauty and tranquillity of these places, whether out in the middle of the countryside or right in the centre of a busy city, Scottish Cemeteries are a wonderful place to visit.

This is ‘The Howff’ (howff simply means meeting place), it is located within Dundee City centre and was originally part of Dundee’s Greyfriars Monastery, where the church clergy met to recognise Robert the Bruce as King in 1314.

In 1564 Mary Queen of Scots granted the land to the council as use for a graveyard, and it was also used as a meeting place for the nine trades of Dundee to do business, which is the reason it was given its peculiar name.

Each trade had its own badge and banner, some of these can be seen carved into the graves, as well as the united trades 'Masonic symbol', these symbols join the popular symbols of death found all over our cemeteries.

A common myth is that a grave with skull & crossbones is a plague grave, this is not true, in fact most plague graves are unmarked and often not located within cemeteries.

The most famous resident of The Howff is 'James Chalmers’, the inventor of the adhesive postage stamp.

When you visit Dundee get away from the rush of the city centre by stepping into The Howff for a little reflection and to admire the work of ancient stonemasons, and when booking a tour with us, include a cemetery as one of your ‘must see locations’ and we will find a special one on your route.  

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