I FREQUENTLY get nice readers’ bouquets (and occasional brickbats from stay at home types) when this page periodically changes from one almost exclusively about food and drink to focus more sharply on travel.
One old duck said she’d vicariously travelled great lumps of the world through words and pictures here…enjoying the trips. As I must leave a few stories “in the pipeline”, while I’m off travelling again, we’re off on a trek to historic Angus, on Scotland’s east coast.
I stayed there twice fairly recently, at my son’s in-laws, former Zimbabweans, in a nice old rambling Scottish mini-mansion at Kirriemuir. Also known as the “Wee Red Toun” (due to its red stone, not local communist-inspired politics!) and Gateway to the Glens, Kirriemuir was birthplace and home of Sir JM Barrie, who wrote Peter Pan, immortalised in books, panto and Disney cartoons. (On this adventure, I’m planning to get to Moffat, at the other side of Scotland, via Lockerby — scene of the jumbo jet outrage — for among many other reasons, to witness the annual Sheep Race!)
Barrie’s grave, shared with several kith-and-kin, his name, without the knighthood shown, is undistinguished but well signposted in the sprawling, beautifully manicured council-run cemetery. It is near the grave of my daughter-in-law’s grandpa, a former bank manager, apparently an Irishman of note named Prendergast, who settled happily for many years in this friendly little town.
The war memorial there is mainly devoted to local men of the valiant Black Watch (now sadly disbanded) who died in two World Wars and minor skirmishes the British Empire involved itself in. Numbers of local men emigrated and died fighting with the Canadian forces and Australia and New Zealand Army Corps (Anzacs). Their names appear, too, below the statue of a kilted Scottish soldier.
Barrie’s home is open to the public as a museum and there’s a splendid little general museum with helpful staff. A Peter Pan statue is prominent in the market square and, although a local pub is called the (Captain) Hook Hotel, the town doesn’t go over the top about its most famous son. Peter Pan-ism isn’t in your face constantly like, say, the Bronte sisters are at Haworth, Yorkshire or the orgy of Flopsy Bunny-ism found at Beatrix Potter’s former home village in Cumbria. The splendid Museum of Aviation is also in the neighbourhood.
I left a bus from Glasgow in Dundee, city of the three Js: jam, jute and journalism. There you’ll find RSS Discovery, the ship built to take Capt. Robert Falcon Scott to the South Pole. With tremendous sound effects and exhibits you almost feel as if you were on the perilous voyage. At Broughty Castle, a 15th century fort, there are exhibitions of local history, wildlife, armour and the whaling industry.
Cairngorms National Park is in Angus, with hiking, climbing, cycling, fishing, fly-fishing, ski-ing, wildlife and the great bird-watching available in most of the county.
I talked to a guy in a pub who, in three mornings of poking his digital at rivers, waterfalls, the sea, cliffs, mountains and purple-clad moors, snapped Manx shearwater, black-necked grebe, bar-tailed godwits, ospreys, red-tailed divers, water rails, peregrine falcons, glaucous gulls, whoopers, shovellers, puffins and the gob-smackingly graceful golden eagle, amongst many others and, while twitching clear wintry skies, had also seen majestic roe-deer, a pair of otters and a pod of common seals on the rugged coastline in a tidal lagoon near Edzell.
Wonderfully designed golf links abound, including Carnoustie, where the 2007 Open tournament was held.
Castles are everwhere, the best known being 15th century Glamis, where Princess Margaret was born and the Queen Mother, spent much of her life. Open to the public, it appears in Shakespeare’s Macbeth and is called Scotland’s most haunted building. Aberdeen Angus cattle — arguably the world’s best beef breed — were developed in these parts; there’s a prize-winning herd in the grounds. Angus Folk Museum is close by. St Fergus Kirk was first built in 710, re-built in 1242, then again in 1790
Arbroath is home to the eponymous Arbroath Smokey, a delicious smoked haddock and was scene of the Arbroath Declaration of 1320 in which 37 Scottish lords declared their wish for independence from England. Arbroath Abbey, where this happened, was built in 1178.
County town, Forfar, is ancient. Tribal kings met there to plan how to repel invading Roman legions, but they came four times between 83AD and 306AD and it wasn’t clear to me which particular wave had these royal Scots cross!
Montrose was made famous in Sir Walter Scott’s novels. It’s one of the few places around with no castle. There was one: Edward I occupied it in 1296, but Sir William “Braveheart” Wallace (1272/76-August 23, 1305) razed it after something upset him!
Angus has a lot going for it: not least scenery, dramatic purple heather moors sweeping down to the cruel iron-grey North Sea where — I hear — people actually swim, scuba-dive and spear fish, presumably in the summer.
I was previously in the area in late spring 2007 when the Bluebells of Scotland rang out clearly to anyone with a soul to hear and swallows, swifts and martins, which had left southern Africa before me, courted.
Accommodation varies in style and price from glamorous five-star establishments complete with relaxing hydros and spas and world class gourmet cuisine to humble, friendly b&bs and pubs with rooms where cooking is substantial, solid and designed to keep out the worst of Scottish
winters (or its wet “summers”): internal central heating!
(If you are planning a journey to Scotland, do get competitive quotes from your travel agent, but don’t forget you can currently fly direct to Glasgow from Dubai with Emirates at the moment and to several Scottish airports from Schipol (Amsterdam) when KLM (Royal Dutch Airlines) re-commence direct flights there from Harare — or via Nairobi — in October this year.)