Monday, October 30, 2017

Dinner in Braemar Scotland

When it came time to go out for dinner, we followed the advice of our host at the Callater Lodge.  Julian confirmed my selection of the restaurant in Braemar Hotel…

The location was right, that’s for sure.  The Braemar Lodge Hotel and Restaurant with its adjacent Log Cabins and Bunkhouse is located just across the street from Callater Lodge.

This property offers 7 en-suite guest rooms in the Lodge itself plus it has 9 self-catering cabins with 1 or 3 bedrooms as well as a self-catering bunkhouse that sleeps up to 12 guests.

It was a gray day and evening…but like everywhere else in Scotland, there were plenty of flowers to brighten up the mood!

This wood paneled room is the Braemar Lodge Hotel’s Malt Whisky Bar.  They have a sign posted that this is not a pub!  The room with its welcoming fireplace is full of hunting trophies. 

It didn’t take much time for Bill and me to ‘belly up’ to the Malt Whisky Bar.  Despite Braemar Lodge Hotel’s selection of over 200 varieties of malt whisky, I had to pass, instead opting for a local beer.  I used to love single malt whisky but now it’s about the only food or drink item that my digestive system just can’t handle…sad...

Both Laurie and Bonnie decided to go for local Scottish gin based mixed drinks before dinner. 

The dining room at Braemar Lodge is open and airy with lots of windows along one side.  As you can see, they were quite busy and it was still early in the evening…

For her entrée, Laurie jumped out there ordering a dish that was never repeated in any other restaurant or by another other name during our trip…in either Scotland or Ireland.  This is the Highland Game Pie. (16.00 BP/$20.95 U.S.) It was a mix of venison, rabbit, pheasant and guinea fowl topped with puff pastry and served with mashed potatoes and vegetables.  Laurie loved her meal! 

Two orders of this entrée graced our table.  This is the Oven Baked Salmon with a mushroom, white wine and cream sauce and served with mashed potatoes and vegetables. (16.00 BP/$20.95 U.S.) This was a very nicely plated offering and it was well received by Bonnie and Bill…

Another interesting offering on the menu was the Balmoral Chicken…a chicken breast wrapped in bacon and stuffed with haggis and served with a whisky cream sauce.  The only problem is that haggis must be an acquired taste so we all opted out on this entrée as well as the Haggis Bon Bons appetizer…

This was my very attractive entrée.  I ordered the Three Rib Rack of Lamb with cheese and herb crust and accompanied with Dauphinoise potatoes, chef’s selection of vegetables and mint scented gravy. (19.00 BP/$24.90 U.S.)

I’m sorry to report that I didn’t enjoy my entrée…and I love lamb in just about any format.  The chops were tough and they lacked any real flavor.  I don’t really like mint (sweet) with my meat, but I made an exception in this instance just to give the meat some flavor.  Oh well!  Braemar Lodge Hotel’s restaurant scored well on 3 of the 4 entrees…

Then we went to the dessert menu… This was the Sticky Toffee and Banana Pudding with vanilla ice cream and a warm toffee sauce.  It was very nice!  All of our desserts cost the same… (6.00 BP/$7.85 U.S.)

This dessert was a bit unusual but it was good.  This is the Apple Pie topped with meringue and served with custard.

The other nice dessert ordered at our table was this Apple and Rhubarb Crumble with vanilla ice cream.  I was sort of surprised that no one ordered the Ferrero Rocher Cheesecake but we all wanted to try desserts that we don’t normally encounter in the USA…

With the exception of my entrée, our dining experience at Braemar Lodge Hotel’s restaurant was a positive experience.  Service was competent and the dining room was comfortable.  This facility is located at 6 Glenshee Road (A93) in Braemar.  To learn more about this hotel, its accommodations and the restaurant, you can go to

That’s all for now.  On my next posting, we’ll be moving north and west to the Atlantic Coast of Scotland.

Thanks for dropping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave 

Friday, October 27, 2017

Strolling Around Braemar

Once we’d checked in at the Callater Lodge for our overnight stay, it was time to wander around the village of Braemar…

The Cairngorms Mountains surround the village… They are part of the eastern Highlands and of the larger Grampian Mountain range. 

The views are pretty in any direction, even with a bit of fog and mist shrouding the mountains.  The Cairngorms are a major barrier that has historically restricted travel and trade across Scotland, contributing to the remote character of the Highlands that still persists today.

We noted this old house while wandering around Braemar.  This is the cottage in which author Robert Louis Stevenson wrote the first 16 chapters of “Treasure Island”.  That happened in the summer of 1881.  The name, “Long John Silver” came from the local meal miller, John Silver.

This row of classic Scottish homes is very appealing isn’t it?

The use of Braemar to specifically refer to the village dates to ca. 1870.  Before that, 2 separate hamlets existed on the banks of the Clunie Water…the river flowing through town.   One was called Auchendryne and the other was named Castleton.  The village’s current population is probably less than 1,000.  The cottage at the right of the photo is 300 + years old and it’s the oldest home in the village.

St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church was built in an English Gothic Revival style over an 8 year period beginning in 1899.  Its original purpose was to house a congregation of summer tourists, mostly from England, who began visiting the village in growing numbers after the expansion of the railway in the mid-19th century.  Due to a declining congregation, the church is now used by the community as an arts center.

The circular stone at the lower right of the photo is known as the ‘ringing’ stone.  It was used by the local blacksmith to form metal rings on cart wheels.

The area’s first meteorological station was donated to the village by Prince Albert in 1855.  Later on, it was once located in the top of the church tower… Speaking of weather, luck was on our side.  In September of 2015, the high and low temperature in Braemar went from 75.2 F to 29.7 F, a 45.5 degrees swing in one day!  The village also ‘owns’ the United Kingdom record low temperature, reaching down to – 17 F on 2 separate occasions. 

What a beautiful river!  This is the Clunie Water, a tributary of the nearby River Dee.  The River Dee originates in the Cairngorms and flows into the North Sea at Aberdeen.  The general area is called Deeside, or ‘Royal Deeside’ because Queen Victoria loved the area and built Balmoral Castle on the river near Braemar.  
The River Dee itself is a popular salmon fishing stream, with its succession of pools and sharp rapids.  Salmon fishing on the river contributes millions of pounds each year to the area’s economy.

We decided that it was time for an afternoon snack and some refreshments so we stopped by Gordon’s Tearoom and Restaurant.  It’s reputed to be one of the oldest establishments in Braemar.

Open from 11 AM until 5 PM daily, (closed on Thursdays), Gordon’s nevertheless serves breakfast, lunch and dinner items.  One breakfast option is Beans on Toast… As you can see, Gordon’s dining area is warm and relaxed.

In addition to tea or coffee, each couple shared a hunger sating Ploughman’s Lunch. (7.50 BP/$9.80 U.S.) It was the perfect size as we didn’t want to spoil our dinner.

For more information about Gordon’s Tearoom and Restaurant, go to

This memorial commemorates the residents of Braemar who were killed or missing in World War I and World War II.  Twenty are listed from WWI and 11 are from WWII.  It seems like a lot of sorrow for such a small community…

As we strolled through Braemar, I took this photo of yet another Scottish stone cottage…

We could have easily spent at least 2 full days in Braemar and the surrounding area, but time didn’t permit it.  Local attractions include: the ruins of Kindrochit Castle (built as a hunting lodge by King Malcom ca. 1059); Braemar Castle (built in 1628 by the Earl of Mar as a hunting lodge) (website: and; Balmoral Castle, Queen Elizabeth II’s royal residence, which is located nearby on the River Dee. (website:

Balmoral has been one of the residences for the Royal Family since 1852 when the estate and its original castle were purchased privately by Prince Albert, consort to Queen Victoria.  The Balmoral estate now encompasses about 50,000 acres and it is a working estate with grouse moors, forestry, farm land as well as managed herds of deer, highland cattle and ponies.

I love the look of the local pharmacy!  It’s a nice change from our cookie cutter Walgreen’s, Rite Aid or CVS and it beats the heck out of a Walmart! 

The really big annual event at Braemar is the Braemar Gatherings.  They can be traced back 900 years but its modern roots go back to 1832.  That’s when the Braemar Royal Highland Society took responsibility for organizing the Highland Games.  Royal patronage began with Queen Victoria in 1848 and it continues today with regular attendance by members of the Royal Family and Queen Elizabeth II.  The Gatherings took place only about 2 weeks before we arrived. 

To learn more about this annual event you can go to

Since I’m a major carnivore, I thought that I’d end our Braemar ‘walkabout’ with a view of the village butcher shop.  Almost every town we drove through in Scotland had one or more lovely little shops like this… N.G. Menzies of Braemar is a family owned butchers shop.  They are open from 7:30 AM until 5 PM Monday through Saturday.  This shop is on Facebook at

That’s about it for now… Next we will have dinner in Braemar.  Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them.

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave 

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

The Road to Braemar and Callater Lodge

Following our visit and tour of Glamis Castle, we drove northwest toward our final stop for the day, the town of Braemar…

The scenery was hilly but pastoral as we started this leg of our drive.

We passed many cute and fairly typical homes along the way, almost all of which had their bright fall flowers on display!

Highland cattle began to appear along the road as we headed toward the Scottish Highlands.

These cattle all have long horns and long wavy coats that can be black, red, yellow, silver or dun.  Highland cattle are raised primarily for their meat.  They originated in the Highlands and Western Isles of Scotland and they were first referred to in historical documents in the 6th century AD.

As we drove along, the countryside grew a little less occupied and we began noticing a lot of pheasants along the road…

From what we’ve learned, the beginning of November is the start of the pheasant hunting (shooting) season.  On many estates this is big business with guides and nattily dressed hunters teaming up for the event.  Shooters come from all over Europe and the United States for a traditional Scottish Highlands hunt. 

I was told that a hunt yielding a brace (2) pheasants cost 180 pounds. ($235.00 US) Many more than 2 pheasants are typically shot during a hunt but they are retained by the estate or guide and are sold for the market.

To get a feel for just how involved and formalized a hunt can be in Scotland, just check out this website from Pheasant Hunting Scotland:  

Sheep are everywhere in Scotland!  Laurie loves sheep and we took a lot of photos of them, both close-up and at a distance.


·        As of June 2015, the total number of sheep in Scotland totaled approximately 6,700,000.  They were being raised on about 14,900 farms.  By way of comparison, there are only about 5,500,000 people in Scotland…

As we drove toward Braemar, the landscape became hillier although most of it was still being used for grazing or farmland.  

Low mountains began to appear and the roads became more challenging…one lane in some places, a challenge when another vehicle going in the opposite direction is encountered. 

Note the castle-like structure at the center of the photograph.  I believe that it is a tower house.  These stone structures were built for defensive purposes as well as for habitation.  Tower houses appeared in the Middle Ages, especially in mountain or other areas with limited access.  They were used to command and defend strategic posts with limited forces while at the same time serving as a noble’s residence, around which a borough was often built.

As we neared the more mountainous section of the highlands on our approach to Braemar, we stopped for a short break at Glenshee Pottery along Route A93.  Glenshee Pottery is known for hand thrown pottery using red and white earthenware clay.   They also serve refreshments, snacks and light meals.

Glenshee Pottery is especially well known for their hand thrown ‘bothies’.  The one shown above cost 5.50 BP/$7.20 US.  A bothie is a basic shelter, usually left unlocked and available for anyone to use free of charge.  It was also a term used for basic accommodation, usually for gardeners or other workers on an estate.  Bonnie bought a few bothies as mementos of our trip.
To learn more, go to

As I was standing in Glenshee Pottery’s parking lot talking to another traveler, I spotted this ram giving me ‘the eye’ from across the road…

FYI…pulling out of Glenshee Pottery’s parking lot onto A93 is a bottom clenching exercise.  Visibility to the right (oncoming traffic) is very limited.

From our stop at Glenshee Pottery and on into Braemar, the countryside became much rougher, dominated by a series of mountains.  

I did appreciate this nice wide roadway!  The fog and misty rain set in as we neared our destination.

From Glenshee Pottery on, travelers are in Cairngorms National Park. (Gaelic: Pairc Naiseanta a’ Mhonaidh Ruaidh) The park was established by the Scottish Parliament in 2003.  The park covers an area of 1,748 square miles or 4,528 km.  Unlike National Parks in the USA, Cairngorms is a Category 5 protected landscape (sustainable development area) that has farmed and managed landscapes.

The Cairngorms features the highest, coldest and snowiest plateau in the British Isles and they are home to 5 of the 6 tallest mountains in Scotland.  Ben Macdhui is 1,309 meters high. (4,295 feet) To learn more about Cairngorms National Park, go to

For the most part, the rain and mist had stopped when we arrived in Braemar.  This is the Callater Lodge, our overnight abode in town.  The lodge is the highest rated bed and breakfast in Braemar and it is accredited by Visit Scotland with a 4-star rating.

Like most bathrooms we encountered in Scotland, this one was a bit tight.  The shelves did provide enough room for our health and beauty products and the glass wall in the shower is much preferred over a curtain… The heated towel bar is always welcome.  It was a feature in most bathrooms during our trip.

Our room was a family room with a double and a single bed… Everything was spotless and the beds were comfortable although they were a bit more firm than we are used to.

Bonnie and Laurie relaxed in Callater Lodge’s comfortable sitting room… FYI…the Lodge is licensed and they stock over 55 varieties of malt whisky as well as a selection of Scottish gins and they also serve Caringorm Brewery beers.  Callater Lodge was recently named by the good Hotel Guide as one of the top 10 whisky hotels in the United Kingdom.

Julian and Katy Fennema own the Lodge.  They’ve operated Callater Lodge for over 3 years now.  Katy’s ancestors came from Braemar and she visited family here as a child.  They had dreamed about owning a guesthouse for many years.  Julian was an academic specializing in energy economics and Katy was an oboist with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra…and later a chef in Edinburgh.  After an extensive search, they closed on this property on their wedding day...

In the morning, juice, fresh fruit, cereal, yogurt granola and a nice assortment of terrific jams awaited us in the breakfast room... 

White tablecloths and china with flowers on the table…not a bad start for breakfast!  Bonnie, Bill and Laurie look happy don’t they?!

Yes…here it is!  A full Scottish breakfast was served complete with what I believe was a toasted oat cake, a fried egg, Scottish bacon (ham in the USA), roasted tomatoes, mushrooms, baked beans, black pudding and a couple of nice sausages.  Pair all of this with lots of buttered homemade toast and jam, coffee (French pressed) and you have a breakfast that is hard to beat!  Note how orange the egg yolk is…that’s because the eggs are really fresh… Callater Lodge has their own hens at work!  In addition, the sausages and bacon are provided by a local butcher…  

Callater Lodge was a great place to stay.  The accommodations and the breakfast were very nice and Julian was a ball of energy, helping us with our bags and generally providing great service.  We would recommend Callater Lodge to anyone visiting Braemar and the Cairngorms National Park.  Bonnie and Bill’s Twin Room cost 95 BP/about $124.50 U.S...a real bargain!  Our family size room was 125 BP/$163.75 U.S.

Callater Lodges is located a 9 Glenshee Road (A93) in Braemar, Aberdeenshire Scotland.  Phone: 01339741275.  Their website is found at:

In my next post we’ll wander around Braemar a bit.  For now, just click on any of the photos to enlarge them.

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave 

Monday, October 23, 2017

On to Glamis Castle!

After leaving our hotel in Glenrothes Fife, we headed north toward Braemar and the Scottish Highlands.  We’d determined that Glamis Castle would be a key stop along the way…but first we had to navigate the roads along the way!

The roads across Fife to the Firth of Tay were decent and we made good time.  This is the bridge across the Firth to the city of Dundee Scotland.  Historically, Dundee is part of Angus, one of 32 local government council areas of Scotland.
With a population of about 150,000, the city is Scotland’s 4th largest metropolitan area after Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen.

Dundee’s early growth and success as a seaport probably came as the result of William the Lion’s charter which granted Dundee to his younger brother David, later the Earl of Huntingdon in the late 12th century.  William the Lion was the King of Scots from 1165 to 1214.  The town and its castle were occupied by English forces for several years but was recaptured by Robert the Bruce in 1312.  If my math serves me right, Dundee is approaching its thousanth birthday sometime this century…

The ‘fun’ began after we crossed the bridge into the city.  Road improvements, a confusing temporary traffic layout, the usual 'roundabouts' and a GPS that was also confused or confusing, led to my crossing back over the bridge and then back to Dundee again before we could navigate our way out of town…

I suspect that part of my traffic woes were the result of Dundee’s ongoing 1 billion pound ($1.31 billion US) master plan to regenerate and reconnect the city’s waterfront with the city center.  This project started in 2001 and is expected to take another 14 years or so… 

·        Dundee has 2 football (soccer) clubs, Dundee United and Dundee F.C.  Their stadiums are situated right next to each other…

·         Dundee accounts for 10% of the United Kingdom’s digital-entertainment industry.  Rockstar North, the developer of “Lemmings” and “Grand Theft Auto” was founded in Dundee as DMA Design.

·         The oldest building still extant in Dundee is St. Mary’s Tower which dates back to the late 15th century.  Dundee’s older structures were mostly destroyed during a war between Scotland and England between 1543 and 1551 that is often referred to as “The Rough Wooing”.  

Once we cleared Dundee, the drive to Glamis Castle was a breeze.  This is the public entrance to the castle.  Visitors buy their tickets for the visit at the blue ticket booths shown above.  Prices were 10.50 BP/$13.75 for seniors and 12.50 BP/$16.38 for adults.  The castle is open to visitors from 10 AM until 5:30 PM with the last tour at 4:30 PM.

This is the view of the castle as you drive to the parking area.  It’s very pretty and very impressive!

Glamis Castle is located near the village of Glamis in Angus, Scotland.  The castle is the home of the Earl and Countess of Strathmore and Kinghorne.  The castle has been the home of the Lyon family since the 14th century.  However, most of the structure dates from the 17th century. 

Glamis castle was the childhood home of Queen Elizabeth - The Queen Mother and the wife of King George VI.  Queen Elizabeth II’s sister, Princess Margaret, the Countess of Snowdon was born here…

This aerial view of Glamis Castle that I borrowed from a postcard that I purchased, gives you an idea of the size and scope of the structure…  The castle was first occupied in 1372.  Today the estate encompasses over 14,000 acres.

This is a view of the back of Glamis Castle from the visitor center and gift shop near the parking area.

In addition to the castle with its parks and gardens, this working estate produces several cash crops including lumber and beef.  Two streams flow though the property.  An arboretum on the property features trees from all over the world.  Many of them are rare and hundreds of years old…

We walked around to the front of the castle to get a good look.  Workers were taking down a huge tent at one side of the castle following some kind of big event.  The castle’s website provides information on gala dinners, weddings, product launches and other event possibilities.

I took this photo of Laurie with her sister Bonnie and Bonnie’s husband Bill on the castle grounds.

It’s believed that Glamis was a royal hunting lodge at the time of its first grant.  It wasn’t until the first part of the 15th century that any part of the current structure was built.  Many legends and myths abound.  King Malcom II was said to have been murdered here in the 11th century.  King James V had Lady Janet Douglas, the widow of Lord Glamis, burned at the stake in 1540 as a witch. 

Laurie then took this photo of yours truly with Bonnie and Bill…

Another fact of interest is that Glamis Castle is the setting for Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” and it’s referred to numerous times in his play.  “Glamis thou art”, “and yet woulds’t wrongly win: thou’dst have great Glamis”.  It is generally believed that Duncan was murdered here by Macbeth.  

Our guide, who was very friendly and knowledgeable, straightened us out on one fact right at the start of our tour.  Glamis is pronounced ‘GLAMS’. 
Unfortunately…but understandably…no photos were allowed inside the castle.  Consequently, I’m sure that the gift shop sells a lot of postcards!  Of the many, many rooms in the castle, the tour is limited to only 10.  However, it is enough rooms to capture the ‘feel’ of life in a castle. 

This is the dining room with the table set for a party of 12 but the room can seat up to 40 guests.  The woodwork, furniture and paintings throughout the tour are exceptional. 

This is the 46 seat family chapel at Glamis.  It is still used regularly for Lyon family functions.  According to the tour guide, one seat in the chapel is always reserved for the “White Lady”, a ghost that allegedly inhabits the castle.  It’s thought to be Janet Douglas, Lady Glamis who was burned at the stake.

After Janet Douglas, widow of the 6th Lord Glamis, was burned at the stake by James V, the lands and castle were pillaged by royal forces and John Lyon, Janet’s son, was also sentenced to death.  However he was too young for the sentence to be carried out.  Consequently, when James V died in 1542, John was released.  He later recovered the property and the title.

The chapel features paintings by Dutch artist Jacob de Wet.  The most famous of the paintings is partially covered by a curtain at the right of the photo.  It shows Christ wearing a hat, one of only 6 such paintings in the world.

This room is called the Crypt…and you can easily see why.  The crypt was the lower hall of the 15th century tower house where the lord’s retainers would dine.  Chain mail hanging here dates from the 19th century.  There are numerous big game heads, weapons and armor as well as a saddle, a relic of Oliver Cromwell’s occupation of the castle.  This is one of the oldest and most impregnable parts of the castle.     


·         A legendary secret chamber is thought to be located deep in the thick walls of the crypt.  In this room it is said that one of the Lords of Glamis and the Earl of Crawford played cards with the Devil himself on the Sabbath.  A series of resulting disturbances and events caused the room to be built up and permanently sealed 300 years later.  However, some claim that the players were sealed in the room...

This is the drawing room.  It looks ‘just like’ my living room in East Tennessee and I’m sure it ‘closely resembles’ the same room in many of your family homes.  The furnishings and decorative items are just a bit over the top…but I think that the room is still warm and welcoming. 


The castle and its tour are not handicapped friendly.  There are lots of stairs along the route but it’s worth the effort if one is able.

This was The Queen Mother’s sitting room.  Her desk is in the window at the center rear of the photo.   The nice thing about this room is that since the Queen Mother visited Glamis regularly throughout her life, in many ways the sitting room was like that of any other family home.  It is filled with family photos and other personal items. 

Elizabeth Angela Marguerite Bowes-Lyon (1900 – 2002) was the wife of King George VI and she was Queen Elizabeth II’s mother.  She was Queen of the United Kingdom and the Dominions from the time that her husband acceded the throne in 1936 until his death in 1952.  After Elizabeth II became Queen, her mother was known as Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother…popularly referred to as the ‘Queen Mum’.  She was the last Empress of India.

To learn more about the Queen Mother’s life and times, go to  

I’m guessing that this is the wing of the castle where the family of Simon Patrick Bowes-Lyon, 19th Lord Glamis and 6th Earl of Strathmore and Kingshorne resides for at least part of the year.  The Earl was born in 1986 and he is the first cousin twice removed of Queen Elizabeth II and a great-grandnephew of the late Queen Elizabeth…The Queen Mother.  Our guide told us that the family has 80 private rooms in the castle.   

One final view of Glamis Castle… As it turned out, this was the only occupied and intact castle that we visited during our adventures in Scotland and Ireland.  We would recommend the visit and tour to anyone interested in history and royalty…


·         Mary, Queen of Scots stayed a Glamis Castle in 1562.

·         The castle has a total of 125 rooms.

·         One stairwell leading from the basement to the battlements has 143 steps…

·         Then there is the legend of the ‘Monster of Glamis’, possibly a deformed heir that was locked up in a secret room.  For that story, go to

…One final photo from Glamis, or at least the Glamis Castle/Lyon family estate.  The estate has a large number of residential properties, ranging from 2 bedroom cottages to larger 4 bedroom farmhouses.  This classic beautiful thatched roof dwelling is one of them.  The demand for let (rental) property is high as the estate is a popular place to live and turnover is low.

In addition to housing, the estate includes a number of commercial properties.  These include radio towers, the Glamis Corner Shop and Post Office, Strathmore Arms Public House and Hotel, workshops and garages, a sand and gravel quarry as well as a wind farm that is under development.  Finally, about 7,500 acres of agricultural land is leased out.

That’s it for now… Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them.

Thanks for stopping by to keep up with our tour of Scotland!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave