Royal Birthday Greetings……


A Ladies age is supposed to be one of those ‘secrets’ that should always be observed, one should never ask, and if you do know, never ever tell….But if you are a  member of the Royal family it is never ever a secret.  So it is congratulations to-day to Her Majesty Queens Elizabeth II on her 88th birthday.

Location: Balmoral Castle, Royal Deeside, Scotland…….Her Majesties favourite Summer Residence.

21st April

© David Oakes 2014

I Wish I was THERE………(5)

Selecting your favourite places is not easy as there are so many to choose from. But as it is August my selection this time will be Royal Deeside. For those not familiar with the location it is a fertile valley in the Grampian Mountains, with the Cairngorms to the north and Lochnager and the Angus Glens to the south. The River Dee rises on the Cairngorm slopes below Ben Macdui and flows in an ever widening course to the sea at Aberdeen. Why Royal Deeside, well simply it has enjoyed Royal patronage for a great number of year.

It is Braemar that for me captures the true essence of Deeside…….

Braemar, Deeside

The Dee below Braemar

The open valley at Braemar with the Dee taking a wide and winding course below the Cairngorms with Ben a’ Bhuird and Ben Avon,  nearly always with a cap of cloud above, providing the perfect mix of mountain, river and glen.

The significance of August is that it is this month that Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth traditionally travels to her Deeside Castle for her family holiday.  I reckon that this year after all her Diamond Jubilee Tour and Celebrations, followed by the Olympics,  that she does deserve a very well earned holiday…… and where better once her Royal duties to the Olympics are over than the peace and open space of Deeside.


Balmoral Castle

Balmoral is her highland home, set on the banks of the Dee with views to the south over the mountain of Lochnagar*, and all surrounded by mile upon heather moorland and forest.

But Balmoral first became a Highland get away for the Royal family in the days of Queen Victoria, whilst it would be going to far to suggest that she discovered Deeside, she certainly took it to her heart and in so doing awoke peoples interest in exploring the Highlands and sharing in what she though was a great adventure.  Royal Deeside it became and has remained so with succeeding monarchs.

But it is Queen Victoria that enhanced  the ‘discovery’ of Deeside creating paths and tracks on which to walk and ride into the wilds. But travelling these ‘wilds’ (and it did seem wild in those days) required a degree of comfort to be provided for the Monarch so the valley became littered with buildings from substantial Halls and Hunting Lodges  to small cottages which the Queen directed to be built.  One of the simpler buildings is on a track into the Cairngorm alongside the River Quoich,  in Glen Quoich, just above a place in the river known as the Punch Bowl of Quoich.

Tea-House-3-Breamar-_0205Glen Quoich



This modest cottage, now no longer used, was once used as a retreat in which to take Tea and perhaps entertain guest for an afternoons picnic, perhaps for the brave a swim in the river or simply to laze and smell the pine.

In one of the larger Glens on the Royal Estate is a much grander Lodge. In Glen Muick and nestling on the shore of Loch Muick in the shadow of Lochnagar  below a waterfall know as Glas-alt-Shiel is a lodge of the same name.  It is still used to-day by guest to Balmoral. 


Loch Muick

I hope these images provide a little flavour of the area, with or without the Royal connection it is well worth exploring …..and yes, I wish I was there.

*  Lochnagar.  I have referred to Lochnagar as a mountain. For some years now that has become the norm.  But in fact Lochnagar is the Loch (lake) that nestles below the cliffs of the mountain and in English it translates as ‘The Little Loch of the Noisy Sound’.  The mountain itself, in Gaelic is named Beinn nan Ciochan or ‘Mountain of the Paps’,  Perhaps Princess Charles’s Book ‘The Old Man of Lochnagar‘ has resulted in the simple name now seemingly becoming the norm.

3rd August




At this time of the year I always collate together this years images.  This starts a process which  reminds me of the Favourite Places we have visited this year. I say ‘favourite’ but in truth we have enjoyed all our travels around the U.K. and it is sometimes hard to choose the best.  But here goes…………

Derwent-Water a

Derwent Water, Cumbria

Anytime, any year, this is my all time favourite location. Brandelhow Woods, Otter Bay, the shore below Cat Bells and the view across to Skiddaw just has to be the best.  AND in the Lake District that is saying something when you have so many great locations to choose from.  The Langdales, Wast Water, Tarn Hows…the list could go on.


The Langdales


Wast Water, Wasdale


Tarn Hows

Of course no visit to Cumbria would be complete in springtime without a glimpse of Daffodils….perhaps the best of which are here at Dora’s Fields near Rydal.



North of the border and into Scotland for our next brief review of places I love to linger. The first stop is the Cuillin Hills, on the Isle of Skye from the Sligachan. More often than not covered in cloud but occasionally offering a brief glimpse of the dramatic black ridges.


The Cuillin’s from the Sligachan

The Torridons, Wester Ross are the next stop with the mountain of Beinn Eighe towering above equally as great mountains such as Liathach at the head of Loch Torridon.


The Torridons from Shieldaig

The Castle of Mey we are told was HRH Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother favourite Castle and holiday home. Perched above the Pentland Firth  you can understand just how captivating its isolated location can be. During the season the castle is open for well informed guided tours and make any visit to the castle extra memorable.

Disc One

The Castle of Mey

A little to the south the Scottish countryside is just a touch mellower and Royal Deeside and the Balmoral Estate offer some spectacular scenery. We only discovered the Royal Glen Muick this year and without doubt we will be back to explore further.  Loch Muick, in the shadow of Lochnagar was one of Queen Victoria’s holiday haunts where she built a magically located Lodge.


The Lodge, Loch Muick, Glen Muick

But like all mountainous areas the weather in Deeside is often inclement but still spectacular……….


The Dee, Braemar, Royal Deeside

Deeside is on the southern flanks of the Cairngorms but to the north hidden in one of the many glens is this small but beautiful group of lochs.  Part way down Glen Feshie and hidden by woodland is this little gem…..


We head back south of the border to Northumberland a county overflowing with history and castles.  It is hard to choose my favourites but if forced to choose would have to select Bamburgh and Warkworth.  Bamburgh stands dominant on a crag above the North Sea whilst to-day Warkworth gives you the appearance of being some way from the sea but was once linked to the sea via the River Coquet.

Northumberland_00237_046 Bamburgh Castle

Warkworth Castle

In Part 2 of this little tour of Britain we will head to the south of England and also into Wales.  But before we close Part 1I have to include the location that has given me so much pleasure.  It is also an area that is not well visited despite its close location to Blackpool lying off Morecambe Bay to the south of Lancaster.  It is a favourite wintering site for waders and wildfowl but also a great birding site throughout the year…it is the Wyre Estuary, wild yet very accessible and well worth a detour if in that area…..

a Morning Feast, The Wyre Estuary @ Skippool Creek, Stanah

28th December… be continued


After what has been a great trip thru Northumberland to Forfar then onto Braemar, mostly sunny with occasional ‘gales’ it was for our last day rather wet.  Even so it didn’t deter us from tackling a circular walk from the Linn of Dee up Glen Lui to Derry Lodge, across Luibeg and back via the Larrig Ghru.  Rain was continual but the occasional break in the grey clouds allowed an odd splash of sunshine to brighten the way.

Looking up Glen Lui towards a cloud covered Ben Macdui.

But for the main part it was dark sky lines and silhouettes along the lower ridges.

Glen Luibeg was even wetter and Luibeg Bothy rather lost and unwelcoming with heather turning brown where it had very recently blossomed to brighten the now boggy river flood plain.


Luibeg Bothy

Pines that should have been thinned some years ago covered in lichen



The big surprise was just before we arrived back at the car glad of the opportunity to rid ourselves of the wet gear (and for Buster and Carla to be towelled dry) the sun did another of its surprise visits which we thought completed the day…………




……………………… But once we started our return to base the blue sky that had been so well hidden for the rest of the day made its appearance providing yet another couple of surprise views for us and a great end to what had been a wet but exhilarating day in the hills.

The Dee at Braemar looking towards Quoich Water

Up the Dee Valley towards Mar Lodge…the last of the days sunshine.

A great day to complete our trip.  Tomorrow the long trip home but great memories to take home with us.


Written 18th September.  To be posted when signal available.

Rain in the Glen

After yesterday surprised us with near Mediterranean weather we woke to-day to wind and heavy rain. So it was no surprise that Buster voted to have a day off from this walking lark, making himself a cosy nest in the corner of the caravan….if he had a “do not disturb” sign he would have deployed it!

It is a Dogs Life

Eventually a tramp through the woods, raining or not was called for and what a pleasure that was with the contrasting shades of pine and lichens  on a misty backdrop.

Now the mystery….. I am sure that if I had been a Boy Scout I would have been taught how to navigate without a compass.  Still I did pick up my bush craft by watching Cowboy films and took in every word that those ‘injun trackers’ shared with us all.  The most important being that you can always tell which way is NORTH.  Easy the moss and lichen only grows on the north facing side of the tree trunk.  Well NOT here in Northern Scotland……it grows all around the trunk which means that Scotland is at the North Pole or no one has told these pines and lichen….. and we are lost!

Written 16th September to be posted later when signal available.