Monday, November 30, 2015

Skibo Castle

Executive summary by darmansjah

Skibo Castle (Scottish Gaelic: Caisteal Sgìobail) is located to the west of Dornoch in the Highland county of Sutherland, Scotland overlooking the Dornoch Firth. Although the castle dates back to the 12th century, the present structure is largely of the 19th century, and early 20th century, when it was the home of industrialist Andrew Carnegie. It is now operated as the Carnegie Club, a members-only hotel and country club.

According to William J. Watson, Skibo is the anglicisation of Scottish Gaelic Sgìobal, which in turn comes from an Old Norse name meaning either firewood-steading or Skithi's steading. It is also said that the name Skibo derives from the word schytherbolle, which is Gaelic for fairyland.

Construction of Skibo Castle was started by Gilbert de Moravia, the Bishop of Caithness, around 1186 at "Schytherbolle" in the southern area of his bishopric.[citation needed] Skibo Castle remained the residence of subsequent bishops until 1545, when the estate was, as a tactical measure by the church, given to John Gray in order to reinforce its alliance with a powerful family as the threat of a Protestant uprising spread towards the north.

In 1745, Robert Gray surrendered the estate. It was later bought by a relative who built a modern house before 1760.Its ownership changed frequently until 1872, when it was bought by Evan Charles Sutherland-Walker, who extended the house and improved the grounds. However, the condition of the building had declined by 1897, when wealthy industrialist Andrew Carnegie took a one year lease, with an option to buy. In 1898 he exercised that option for £85,000. However its condition had declined so much by this time that a further £2 million was spent on improvements, including an increase in area from 16,000 square feet (1,500 m2) to over 60,000 square feet (5,600 m2), plus the creation of Loch Ospisdale and an 18-hole golf course.

Skibo stayed with the Carnegie family until 1982.It was later purchased by businessman Peter de Savary and used as the foundation of a private members club, the Carnegie Club. Establishment of the club required restoration of the castle to recreate the luxury of an Edwardian sporting estate. Similar renovation was undertaken on the many lodges located amongst the castle grounds to provide additional accommodation for club members. De Savary sold the club to Ellis Short in 2003, for £23million. In 2007, Mr. Short allegedly threatened to shoot a retired couple’s dogs because they were walking across the estate; in Scots law, the concept of trespass on open land does not exist.[citation needed] In May 2011, a shoot manager on the Skibo Estate was convicted of possessing over 10.5kg of carbofuran, a pesticide  banned in the UK since 2001.

The Carnegie Club is a members-only hotel and club, with about 400 members. The Carnegie links golf course has fewer than 1000 rounds played on it per annum. The funds raised from membership fees are reinvested, including upgrading some holes of the golf course. The club has received planning permission for restoration of the swimming pool.

The Carnegie Club hosted Madonna's wedding reception to Guy Ritchie on 22 December 2000. In 1995, it had hosted the marriage of golfer Sam Torrance and the actress Suzanne Danielle. On 28 December 1997 it hosted the marriage of actor Robert Carlyle and his wife Anastasia Shirley.

On 3 December 2006, the BBC Television programme Landward featured the Burnett family who for several generations had been tenants of a farm on Skibo estate. The programme highlighted their search for a new farm following their eviction by the estate. The farm is now part of an off-road driving facility for the use of paying guests of the castle. In March 2008, Skibo became a "members only" club, with only members and guests allowed to stay ther.

The grounds include Lake Louise, a very small artificial lake, and one of only a few bodies of water in Scotland known as lakes.[10] The estate is listed on the Inventory of Gardens and Designed Landscapes, the list of nationally significant designed landscapes in Scotland.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

The Hebrides

Executive summary by darmansjah

The Hebrides comprise a widespread and diverse archipelago off the west coast of mainland Scotland. There are two main groups: the Inner and Outer Hebrides. These islands have a long history of occupation dating back to the Mesolithic and the culture of the residents has been affected by the successive influences of Celtic, Norse and English-speaking peoples. This diversity is reflected in the names given to the islands, which are derived from the languages that have been spoken there in historic and perhaps prehistoric times.

A variety of artists have been inspired by their Hebridean experiences. Today the economy of the islands is dependent on crofting, fishing, tourism, the oil industry and renewable energy. Although the Hebrides lack biodiversity in comparison to mainland Britain these islands have much to offer the naturalist. Seals, for example, are present around the coasts in internationally important numbers.

Modern economy

For those who remained, new economic opportunities emerged through the export of cattle, commercial fishing and tourism. Nonetheless emigration and military service became the choice of many[50] and the archipelago's populations continued to dwindle throughout the late 19th century and for much of the 20th century. Lengthy periods of continuous occupation notwithstanding, many of the smaller islands were abandoned.

There were however continuing gradual economic improvements, among the most visible of which was the replacement of the traditional thatched black house with accommodation of a more modern design and with the assistance of Highlands and Islands Enterprise many of the islands' populations have begun to increase after decades of decline. The discovery of substantial deposits of North Sea oil in 1965 and the renewables sector have contributed to a degree of economic stability in recent decades. For example, the Arnish yard has had a chequered history but has been a significant employer in both the oil and renewables industries.

Media and the arts

The Hebrides, also known as Fingal's Cave, is a famous overture composed by Felix Mendelssohn while residing on these islands, while Granville Bantock composed the Hebridean Symphony. Contemporary musicians associated with the islands include Ian Anderson, Donovan and Runrig. The poet Sorley MacLean was born on Raasay, the setting for his best known poem, Hallaig.

The novelist Compton Mackenzie lived on Barra and George Orwell wrote 1984 whilst living on Jura. J.M. Barrie's Marie Rose contains references to Harris inspired by a holiday visit to Amhuinnsuidhe Castle and he wrote a screenplay for the 1924 film adaptation of Peter Pan whilst on Eilean Shona Enya's song "Ebudæ" from Shepherd Moons is named for the Hebrides (see below). The 1973 British horror film "The Wicker Man" is set on the fictional Hebridean island of Summerisle. The experimental first-person adventure video game Dear Esther takes place on an unnamed Hebridean island.

Natural history

In some respects the Hebrides generally lack biodiversity in comparison to mainland Britain, with for example only half the number of mammalian species the latter has. However these islands provide breeding grounds for many important seabird species including the world's largest colony of Northern Gannets. Avian life includes the Corncrake, Red-throated Diver, Rock Dove, Kittiwake, Tystie, Atlantic Puffin, Goldeneye, Golden Eagle and White-tailed Sea Eagle. The last named was re-introduced to Rùm in 1975 and has successfully spread to various neighbouring islands, including Mull. There is a small population of Red-billed Chough concentrated on the islands of Islay and Colonsay.

Red Deer are common on the hills and the Grey Seal and Common Seal are present around the coasts of Scotland in internationally important numbers, with colonies of the former found on Oronsay and the Treshnish Isles. The rich freshwater streams contain Brown Trout, Atlantic Salmon and Water Shrew. Offshore, Minke Whales, Killer Whales, Basking Sharks, porpoises and dolphins are among the sealife that can be seen.

Heather moor containing Ling, Bell Heather, Cross-leaved Heath, Bog Myrtle and Fescues is abundant and there is a diversity of Arctic and alpine plants including Alpine Pearlwort and Mossy Cyphal.

Loch Druidibeg on South Uist is a National Nature Reserve owned and managed by Scottish Natural Heritage. The reserve covers 1,677 hectares across the whole range of local habitats. Over 200 species of flowering plants have been recorded on the reserve, some of which are nationally scarce. South Uist is considered the best place in the UK for the aquatic plant Slender Naiad, which is a European Protected Species.

There has been considerable controversy over hedgehogs. The animals are not native to the Outer Hebrides having been introduced in the 1970s to reduce garden pests, but their spread has posed a threat to the eggs of ground nesting wading birds. In 2003, Scottish Natural Heritage undertook culls of hedgehogs in the area although these were halted in 2007 with trapped animals then being relocated to the mainland.


Rollinson (1997) states that the oldest rocks in Europe have been found "near Gruinard Bay" on the Scottish mainland. Gillen (2003) p. 44 indicates the oldest rocks in Europe are found "in the Northwest Highlands and Outer Hebrides". McKirdy, Alan Gordon, John & Crofts, Roger (2007) Land of Mountain and Flood: The Geology and Landforms of Scotland. Edinburgh. Birlinn. p. 93 state of the Lewisian gneiss bedrock of much of the Outer Hebrides that "these rocks are amongst the oldest to be found anywhere on the planet". Other non-geological sources sometimes claim the rocks of Lewis and Harris are "the oldest in Britain", meaning that they are the oldest deposits of large bedrock. As Rollinson makes clear they are not the location of the oldest small outcrop.

Murray (1973) notes that "Western Isles" has tended to mean "Outer Hebrides" since the creation of the Na h-Eileanan an Iar or Western Isles parliamentary constituency in 1918. Murray also notes that "Gneiss Islands" – a reference to the underlying geology – is another name used to refer to the Outer Hebrides but that its use is "confined to books".

Thompson (1968) provides a more literal translation: "Fire played in the fig-trees of Liodhus; it mounted up to heaven. Far and wide the people were driven to flight. The fire gushed out of the houses".

The transitional relationships between Norse and Gaelic-speaking rulers are complex. The Gall-Ghàidhels who dominated much of the Irish Sea region and western Scotland at this time were of joint Gaelic and Scandinavian origin. When Somerled wrested the southern Inner Hebrides from Godred the Black in 1156, this was the beginnings of a break with nominal Norse rule in the Hebrides. Godred remained the ruler of Mann and the Outer Hebrides, but two years later Somerled's invasion of the former caused him to flee to Norway. Norse control was further weakened in the ensuring century, but the Hebrides were not formally ceded by Norway until 1266. The transitions from one language to another are also complex. For example, many Scandinavian sources from this period of time typically refer to individuals as having a Scandinavian first name and a Gaelic by-name.

There are two inhabited islands called "Grimsay" or Griomasaigh that are joined to Benbecula by a road causeway, one to the north at grid reference and one to the south east at grid reference

Saturday, November 28, 2015


Executive summary by darmansjah

Aberdeenshire (Scottish Gaelic: Siorrachd Obar Dheathain) is one of the 32 council areas of Scotland, and a lieutenancy area.

The present day Aberdeenshire council area does not include the City of Aberdeen, now a separate council area, from which its name derives. Together, the modern council area and the city formed historic Aberdeenshire – one of the counties of Scotland formerly used for local government purposes. Within these borders, the County of Aberdeen remains in existence as a registration county.

Aberdeenshire Council is headquartered at Woodhill House, in Aberdeen; the only Scottish council whose headquarters are based outwith its area's border. Aberdeenshire borders Angus and Perth and Kinross to the south, and Highland and Moray to the west.

Traditionally, it has been economically dependent upon the primary sector (agriculture, fishing, and forestry) and related processing industries. Over the last 40 years, the development of the oil and gas industry and associated service sector has broadened Aberdeenshire's economic base, and contributed to a rapid population growth of some 50%. since 1975, while the land covered represents 8% of Scotland's overall territory. It covers an area of 6,313 square kilometres (2,437 sq mi)

Friday, November 27, 2015

The Castle Trail

Executive summary by darmansjah

Scotland’s only dedicated Castle Trail lets you discover the dramatic stories of 17 of Aberdeenshire’s most famous castles.

This itinerary is organised into 4 broad areas of Aberdeenshire to group the castles around a main hub town. A visit to any of the castles makes an ideal day out or navigate your way along sections of the trail for a longer break.

Using Banff as a base, your first stop must be the town's Duff House, one of Scotland's architectural masterpieces. This Adam-designed historic house is a treasure house and cultural arts centre operated by a unique partnership of Historic Scotland, the National Galleries of Scotland and Aberdeenshire Council. With extensive grounds and woodland walks by the river Deveron you'll find a day is not enough.

Heading south on the A947, you encounter a series of enticing properties. Delgatie Castle at Delgaty dates from the 11th century and is steeped in Scottish history yet still has a surprising lived-in atmosphere. It has some of the finest painted ceilings in Scotland. A Best Visitor Experience award winner, the castle also boasts an award-winning restaurant and coffee shop.

Around 10 miles further south, Fyvie Castle at Turiff is an outstanding example of Scottish baronial architecture. Begun as a simple castle in the 13th century, five powerful families each added significantly to it until it reached its present form. Inside, the magnificent sweeping staircase is the most dramatic feature while many treasures are on display including a superb collection of arms, armour and paintings. You can also stroll around the loch or visit the racquets court and bowling alley.

The last two stops on this section of the trail are Haddo House near Methlick and Tolquhon Castle at Tarves.

Haddo is an elegant mansion house boasting sumptuous Victorian interiors beneath a crisp Georgian exterior. Noted for fne furniture and paintings, it also has a terraced garden and country park with lakes, walks and monuments.

Tolquhon is one of the most picturesque of the castles in the Grampian countryside. Largely built in the late 16th century by the Forbes family, it houses the Tolquhon Tomb, one of the best examples of Scotland’s so-called Jacobean ‘Glorious Tombs’.