Hello again 😊
In my last post I shared my experience running the 10k Dramathon trail run. I don’t often write about my runs, except on my my peak challenge pages. I’m thinking of trying to cycle more as I can travel further, faster and carry my camera with me. Cycling also seems to be a little less stressful on my knees. I’ll need to try a mix of both though as I want to run the Dramathon again next year. I’ll see how it goes.
Camping at Braemar
I mentioned that we booked a camping pod at Braemar Caravan Park in the Invercauld Estate.
Braemar sits in the heart of the Cairngorms National Park, a perfect base to explore the area.
I’d read a blog post about Braemar from my online blogger friend Mel from Full Stop Next Chapter. She visited Braemar this year and I loved the look of the area and the campsite. When I realised it was near where my Dramathon trail run would be I thought this would be a perfect base.
Mel and I met only once in real life for a few minutes in May 2017 when I finished my first half marathon in Edinburgh. Mel was one of the official photographers at the event and I made sure we met at the end and got my photo taken by her.
Possibly not the best time to meet someone for the first time… I’d just pushed myself through 13.1 miles, I was hobbling along with weak, sore legs and feeling very teary. I still managed a smile for my photo though.
Watch my video
I’ve created a video you might like if you don’t have time to read more.
We arrived at the campsite around 2.30pm. Check in was 3pm. The owner was happy to let us check in early so that was great.
I was amazed at the size of the fog pod. This was the biggest one I’d ever been in and it was cosy and clean.
The pod had a heater, USB charging points and sockets, small microwave, kettle and mini fridge. There was also two camping chairs under the beds as well if you wanted to sit outside. Like camping, you still need to bring your own bedding, towels and cooking stuff.
The view was so pretty looking out to trees, an open field and some hills. I was wishing I could sit outside and chill for a few hours reading but we usually always go for a walk to explore.
We unpacked and I wandered around taking photos. I loved this little tree in the field. I said to Alan that I’d like to see what’s over that hill, but we didn’t get time to look.
The facilities at Braemar campsite were excellent an
d all indoors to keep you warm from the unpredictable elements. These included a sitting room, drying room, laundry room and even your dish washing area was inside. I was impressed.
This pretty tree caught my eye as it was covered in bright red berries. Birds were landing on it enjoying a berry feast, the next day the tree was bare. That was some feast I thought and I wondered if there would be lots of plump reddish birds flying around.
We knew there wouldn’t be much light left in the day to go for a longer hike, so we walked into Braemar village. It was only around five minutes away. The village is so pretty.
Braemar is known for a very important gathering every year. The Braemar Gathering. The Patron is Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II who attends every year keeping the long tradition of a royal presence since Queen Victoria first attended in 1848.
We wandered around admiring the buildings in this beautiful wee village. I saw lots of lovely unique shops that I would have loved to visit, but I was too late.
Kindrochit castle was built in 1059, wow! In the 14th century King Robert II was said to have used the castle as a royal residence. Sadly, there’s not much left of this medieval castle, only part of the walls. You’re not allowed to climb on the walls, best to keep your feet on the ground.
Legend tells us that the castle fell into ruin because of the plague. It was destroyed by cannon, with people still inside, to make sure the illness didn’t spread. How awful. However interesting and romantic the past always sounds to me, it must have been difficult times for the people trying to survive.
As I walked through the remains of the castle walls it felt like a little maze. I was drawn to the sound of water and admired this beautiful view towards the Fife Arms. What a beautiful Victorian Coaching Inn. I wish I could stay there for a night, or even two.
We walked closer towards the bridge and took a few photos looking down the Clunie water. The sun was setting behind the hills with its moving glow highlighting different parts of the golden trees now and then.
I walked towards what looked like a tower sitting on the Clunie water. There before me sat a huge gorilla looking at me strangely.
A couple were standing looking at the gorilla too. We smiled at each other and said hello. The gentleman said something like: “I wonder how long it took to knit?” I replied: “I didn’t even know gorillas could knit.” We all laughed out loud.
It was an amazing piece and his two friends hanging around were helping with the knitting. We found a few others monkeying around the village too.
They weren’t knitted by the gorilla of course, but the Deeside Knitwits, who are a community group based in Royal Deeside. The group knit to raise awareness and funds for local charities. I love it!
We walked a little further to another stunning church building. I read later in my history of Braemar leaflet that the building, known as East Church, has now been converted to flats. Wow, I wonder what the spire is like inside.
It was time to walk back to the campsite and get settled for the night. The next day was my trail run which I’ve already blogged about in my previous post.
The little leaning tree on the hillside was settling down for the night too. It was too dark now for me to explore over the hill.
After our second night in the pod it was time to leave. I was wishing we could have stayed another night but funds were running low. We didn’t book anywhere else and there was no urgency to go home until the next day. Car camping was a possibility but we hadn’t decided yet.
It was dull and rainy when we left the campsite. I was keen to explore the Balmoral Cairns walk but I was wishing for some sunshine. I know that woodland walks are most atmospheric and photogenic when the sunlight peeks through and shines its golden torch.
The Met Office, my go to place for the weather, predicted that it would be sunny in the afternoon, yay! We decided to wait until later in the hope that it would clear. As we needed to pass some time, we stopped off at Braemar Castle. I’m so glad we did!
Braemar castle was built in 1628 by the Earl of Mar and used as a hunting lodge. The Jacobites burned it down in 1689 so that the government couldn’t use it. It was then rebuilt as a government Garrison in 1748 after the Battle of Culloden.
The Farquharson family took over the castle and used it up until 2008, not that long ago! They left a fantastic variety of furniture and old items that are still in the castle to this day.
Today, the castle is cared for by Friends of Braemar Castle. The villagers love their castle and are fundraising to repair the exterior, build new visitor facilities and develop the grounds.
I was only intending walking around the outside of the castle, then I thought, let’s just go in and see it. We had to pay, as the local community look after the castle, not a Trust where we are members.
Knowing that what we paid helps fund restoring the castle makes it feel very worthwhile though.
We took the individual audio tour with extra fun stories and facts about the castle and its previous visitors and residents. There was a great variety of facts and tales to listen to. I said to Alan we’re not going to have time to listen to every room because of our planned walk later.
I don’t remember all the stories but a few have come to mind as I was looking through my photos. I could have easily spent more time here. The rooms were accessed by a spiral staircase with wood panelled walls. There were so many interesting items in each room.
The morning room was set up for breakfast. I was feeling quite hungry but there was no food to be had. It looked like the owners had just up and left for the day.
The Paisley Daily Express newspaper was sitting on the table, dated Tuesday 1 September 1874. Breakfast time in this castle looked very relaxing to me. Eggs, tea, toast and reading the newspaper before you even start your day.
The dining room was very red, as you can see, with beautiful paintings and furniture. The audio guide told us to look under the table … mmm, tis not what it seems.
I loved the views from the windows. It was like a framed scenery picture. Some of the wood panels had names carved into them. I later read that these were carved by the government troops that stayed here.
A small cairn was built by the troops (Red Coats) on the north-west shoulder of Creag Choinnich. You can hike up the hill and enjoy views of Braemar Castle and the surrounding mountains.
There was a beautiful collection of seashells with an inspiring quote from the author Robert Louis Stevenson.
“It is perhaps
a more fortunate destiny
to have a taste
for collecting shells
than to be born
Robert Louis Stevenson
One of the audio stories told me that Robert Louis Stevenson stayed at a cottage in Braemar in the summer of 1881.
The Scottish weather was so dreich when he stayed. There’s not much to do outdoors when the weather is like this so he started writing his novel Treasure Island, 16 chapters.
Our Scottish rain must be magic and an inspiration to writers past and present.
I must admit, the setting with the old worldly rooms was giving me goosebumps. My mind could have easily conjured up a story here. I was wishing I could stay the night.
The wind outside was getting quite blowy. I could hear a whistling sound coming down the chimney through the fireplace. It was quite a haunting sound but calming at the same time. I could imagine sitting beside a cosy fire, looking out the window now and then as I was writing or reading a book.
The phone numbers on the list beside the telephone only have three digits. The Butcher’s shop number was listed as 206. To this day the Butcher still uses these three digits, but the full number is now 741206. How times have changed.
When I was a young, I often wondered how the telephone worked. I remember dialling a five digit number, making sure I turned each number as far as it would go.
As if by magic I was speaking to my friends. I can still remember the sound of the dial as I type this. The ringing sound of an incoming call could easily give me a fright though. I still don’t like it very much.
We both saw so much more around the castle and I wish I could have stayed longer. We chatted to some of the staff who helped us where to park for the Balmoral Cairns walk. Thank you, this really helped us. It was, and is, the most beautiful woodland walk.
We signed the visitors’ book then looked down at the dungeon … The skeleton in the pit reminded me of the movie The Goonies when they found the pirate ship with one-eyed Willie and his crew, holding all the treasure. I still love that movie, it never dates for me.
It was time to drive on to Balmoral and find the cairns walk. I was excited, but I wondered if my legs would carry me another 10k after my run the day before. The rain stopped, the clouds were breaking, so fingers crossed for some sunshine magic to spur me on.
In my next post I’ll show you how we got on with the Balmoral Cairns walk in Royal Deeside. Walking in the footsteps of royalty indeed.
Thank you, as always, for reading my wee stories.
Love, Dawn-Marie x