Stepping Back in Time at House of Dun

Last week, my family and I headed up to St Cyrus, near Montrose for a well earned holiday. It was our first time in this area and I can say, we weren’t disappointed. It’s a very beautiful part of the Scottish coastline with stunning views and a crazy amount of stately homes and castles as well as a huge amount of history going back thousands of years.

St Cyrus beach from the cliff path.

There’s so much to see and do in this area and it’s ideal for a short break away.
Whilst on holiday, we visited House of Dun, near Montrose. This Georgian house is one of magnificence and grandeur and we’ll worth a visit.

View of the stable block and way in.

It was designed by William Adam and it was completed in 1743 to replace the draughty old tower house of the Erskine’s.

Rear view looking over the Montrose Basin.

The Erskine’s had lived on this land from the 1300’s up to 1980 when the house and it’s belongings were bequeathed to the National Trust for Scotland.

Courtyard view to the west of the house. The white building in the middle was a larder.
Entrance into the courtyard.

 I’ll not pretend to know the history of this house or family so I’ll leave it there, you can find plenty of information online if you’re interested.

The walled garden joined to the east of the house.
Rear view looking down to the Montrose Basin.

If you’ve not been here before, I’d highly recommend a visit. A guided tour of the house takes about 45 minutes or so then you’ve got the fantastic grounds to explore, all the way down to the Montrose Basin. If you take your time and wander down the many paths you’ll be sure to come across some really interesting things to see. As well as the house with all of its magnificent artwork, there’s two walled gardens, an ice house, cemetery and more. It’s a really great day out!

One of the falls on the woodland walk.
The family mausoleum.

Below, is a selection of images taken inside the house whilst on the tour. The tour guides were great, especially Louisa who plays the part of the Lady of the House, Violet Jacob. They’re dressed in period costumes and tell you the story of the house and the family, they helped to make it a really great day out. They were knowledgeable too, my kids asked questions as did I and a few other guests also. My only complaint, I wanted to go round again and take my time to admire the amazing furniture and artworks and photograph things at my leisure. Not much of a complaint though is it?

As always, thank you for taking the time to read this. Feel free to share it far and wide and if you’re in the area, stop by for a visit, you won’t be disappointed, it’s well worth the money!

All the best, Paul.

RAW Around the Ages. A Day at Loch Leven.

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Before I start, I’ll apologise for the lower resolution images used on this post. In this trip out I used only my mobile phone (LG G2) for photos. I recently unlocked my phone and have since installed a custom camera that allows manual settings and Adobe DNG RAW files. So all photos were taken as RAW then edited using Snapseed on my phone. I was curious to see how far I could push my phone and what image details could be recovered when editing. It’s certainly not going to replace my DSLR however most of the photos came out better than I expected especially the ones with blown out sky. Anyway, there ok viewed on a tablet or phone but not so good on a laptop or PC.

Now moving on to my lovely walk around the loch.

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Last weekend my wife and I had our annual night of freedom from the kids. We booked into the Green Hotel in Kinross for a night and were very much looking forward our day and a half of peace and quiet. After a nice afternoon at the hotel and a lovely meal that night we were well relaxed and rested. We had decided we would go walking the following day but had not decided where and spent some time looking at various places to visit. However, we finally decided that we had Loch Leven at our door so we should use it.

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This is Loch Leven in Perth and Kinross, the fresh water one, not to be confused with the sea loch up on the west coast of Scotland near the village of Glencoe. The loch has a heritage trail that you can walk round, its just over 13 miles (21km) in length and is fairly flat and easy to walk. It is a very pleasant walk although, it is a long walk if you do it all.

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There are plenty of benches to rest upon, I’d say you’ll find one every 10 minutes or so and there is some lovely spots for picnics too. The benches are lovely, they all have a phrase or saying carved into them, I really should have taken a picture of one of them. You don’t have to walk the full 13 miles, there are various points you may stop at and enjoy the view as well as a few places you can stop for a quick refreshment.

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We chose to walk it all and stop at Vane Farm, its an RSPB site with a nice little cafe where we refuelled with cake and coffee. image

If you start at Kinross and walk around clockwise it’s about 9 miles to Vane Farm. There’s a tunnel that goes under the road, you walk down the steps and it’s only 2 minutes on the other side. You can drive here and park up then take a walk around the reserve from here also. image

It’s a busy place, lots of walkers, joggers and cyclists however I was very impressed with how little rubbish there was laying around and there was not much dog mess either. The council are doing a good job of keeping it clean and tidy.
It has some beautiful view points and you have good views of the islands in the loch. There are 7 islands visible these days although this was not always the case, prior to the loch being drained it covered a far wider area and there were only a couple of islands visible.

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Loch Leven Castle sits on one of the islands, this was where Mary Queen of Scots was held prisoner in 1567. It can be reached by ferry at certain times of the year and is managed by Historic Scotland. Unfortunately due to it being a good distance away and with me using only my mobile I have no decent pictures of the castle, sorry. There is also St Serfs Inch which is the largest of the islands and was once the home of a monastic sect and had a priory built on it. The history of this area goes back a long way. Loch Leven is an RSPB nature reserve and a site of special scientific interest.

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If your in the area and are looking for a relaxing walk then I would recommend it. The whole walk is estimated to take around 5 to 6 hours depending on fitness however it can be walked quicker, we managed it in just over 4 hours, this was with a coffee stop included. As I said though you can shorten the walk if you wish and there is decent public transport options to help you with that.
If after reading this you feel the need to explore the area and decide to stay a night or 2 my review of the Green Hotel is on TripAdvisor from 27th February. All reviews for this hotel can be found here http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/194060?m=19905

As always, thanks for reading.
Paul

One Miserable Morning

I’ve made a decision to go out walking every 2nd Saturday morning (it’s my day off). Yesterday was that Saturday.
5:40am, up and out the door. Grey clouds and heavy rain, a real miserable morning to be doing anything. A quick look at the weather and over towards Edinburgh seemed dry (for the time being anyway). I drove over in that direction and headed towards Blackness Castle. I knew I wasn’t going to get any clear shots of the Forth bridges

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and I knew it would be windy and cold, as long as it wasn’t pouring down with rain I could live with this compromise. Well as you can guess, it rained! I was there less than 10 minutes and what little light there was vanished, the clouds got darker and the rain poured!

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I had driven 40 minutes so regardless of weather I went at it. My camera is a Pentax K-X, not waterproof and neither are my lenses so I was being very careful, no long exposures no slow shutter speeds. Just a quick snap before it got soaked!

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I was lucky enough that the tide was out so I managed to get some shots from out on the rather pebbly (and slippy) beach. Which was helpful as I had decided to only use my 50mm yesterday morning, I thought it would make my morning more interesting.

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I found this carved into one of the rocks out on the beach. (below)

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Well after a very wet 45 minutes I decided to get back into the car and have coffee and some chocolate. It was not the morning I had planned and the majority of my pictures were very dull but hey that’s how it goes sometimes. Let’s hope the next trip out in 2 weeks is better!

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Thanks for reading,

Paul