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Karen and Tavi's Travel Diary
Chapter One: Stonehaven
Chapter Two:

Karen: Today is Wednesday. After seeing the green country town of Stonehaven yesterday, Tavi decided to show me the real countryside where she grew up.

Teaser Preview Pics:

Karen: The road to Fetteresso.

Tavi: Fetteresso is where I grew up from around six to fourteen, and the best place I remember. It's only half an hour's walk from the town, but the forests surrounding it make you feel hundreds of miles away.

Karen: Tavi was right. Stonehaven Market Square isn't country. This is country! It's about the same distance from the house (half an hour's walk) as the beach and harbour, but in the opposite direction. The place is called Fetteresso, and this looks like lovely grass, doesn't it? Well, it's not, as I soon learned.

Tavi: It's about half an hour's walk from the new town part of Stonehaven. You go over the bridge, past Kirktown of Fetteresso, and then through the old gate that, in centuries past, would have been manned with its own "South Lodge". Especially when the king was visiting. Fetteresso Castle is another five or ten minutes walk from this point, and it is here that we had James the Old Pretender here to stay. Legend says a secret passage exists, underneath these fields you see here, stretching from Fetteresso Castle to Dunnottar Castle, miles away on the cliffs towering over Stonehaven, so that the "king" could get to sea safely from his pursuers.

Karen: Wouldn't you like to look out your window and have a view like this?

Tavi: Our cottage is about ten minutes walk from here. The window in my room was very high, but I had bunk beds and so could see out. My view was of our back gardens and a golden field, which I would sometimes sneak into to play on the haybails.

Karen: There's that same green again, this time over my shoulder. It's a crop of young barley and Tavi and I will eventually be walking through it (not exactly by choice). Here, though, I'm pointing out a lovely Scottish thistle. They really are quite lovely when the flowers are in bloom.

Tavi: You won't believe how much she moaned! OK, the path was a little more overgrown than I remembered it being 18 months ago, but it was hardly mountain climbing!

Tavi: I did this recording of Karen coming down the path. To avoid walking through the barley, when I was on my way down to the field down by the river, I would go down this path. Karen found it slightly more difficult than I did! But I did go first to trample down nettles, give warnings for thistles, and make sure there weren't any sudden rabbit holes or drops! It's a pleasant country stroll!

Karen: *suffers*

Tavi: We wanted to reach the river and the bridge at the bottom, but unfortunately, by the time we finally made it to the bottom, the gate to that field had been closed with barbed wire wrapped all beneath it. If it were just me there, I would have gone a few steps to the right back to the barbed wire fence that bordered our path and crawled under the barbed wire. Which I did plenty of times in the past! Karen didn't fancy it for some reason, so we resigned ourselves to walking back up and reaching the river through the bullock field instead.

Karen: Getting back up there in the first place, though, was another problem. No way was I going back the way we came, so Tavi found a tractor track amongst the barley for us to walk on.

Karen: After trampling down as little barley as possible by following a set of tractor tracks out of the field, we stopped for a moment at the top of the next field to talk to the bullocks who called it home. Tavi tried to get them interested in eating grass out of her hand, but some of them had other things in mind.

Tavi: We did consider walking past them, as they are usually timid of people, but Karen refused to scale a simple gate!

Tavi: I am sitting on top of the gate in question (there's no barbed wire on it, so it was an easy climb!) , with my legs over the other side, and contrary to Karen's fears, the bullocks did not come and eat me up. They wouldn't even have the grass I held out for them. So I filmed them ...mounting each other...instead.

Karen: Clearly bullocks are good at finding creative ways to use their time! We could have had a better bullock sex tape than this, but Tavi was filming her grass-feeding quest instead and missed it.

Tavi: I'm not sure if they are actually all gay bullocks. There were at least half of them trying to mount their friends, so either we found the gayest bullock herd in Scotland, or maybe there's some tendancy of bullocks to mount each other non-sexually, for dominance or something. Bullocks were in the fields every year I lived here, in fact once right outside our east garden fence, but all I remember is their usual timidity, and the one time I was dared to run into the field, round their feeding trough, and back. On the way back, I turned my head and saw a bullock chasing me. That was the quickest time I've ever climbed a gate.

Karen: More cattle. As you can see, there's open land and forests as far as the eye can see.

Tavi: Because we couldn't get closer to take a better picture, I can't show you where that cattle field suddenly dips down into a large valley, with one solitary tiny mound accompanied by one solitary little tree. No one who sees it could believe it: this used to be a lake, and that small mound was an island. The farmer drained it years ago to make a grazing field. Before that, the bullocks in that picture, had they wandered over the slope we can see there, would have walked into a lake. But now it is all one large, albeit misshapen, field.

Karen: Past the bullock field, and down a slope, we saw this lovely building that Tavi says is a dovecote. The field in the background looks like it's been plowed.

Tavi: I spoke too soon: that golden/beige field you see here was part of the lake! The dove thingy is no longer in use. Back in the green field, further up the hill to the left, you can see a tree: this was the beginning of a copse that my cousin and I called "Sandslides". The trees are on the side of the hill, with slightly cliffy slopes that you could, with a rope, slide down. And we did. You had to be careful on one of them, because at the bottom there was what may have been another dove cote. Only upside down! It was the same shape, only a huge hole. We had to make sure to stop in time, otherwise we would have fallen down into it onto stones and nettles.

Karen: I have no idea what these flowers are, but I think they're lovely.

Tavi: Roses excepted, I prefer wild flowers to manicured lawns. Not because I think "natural" is better, but...I'm not sure, really. I feel at home here, much more than in a neighbourhood with tens of houses that all look similar and caging. In towns, I feel like someone whose mind or soul has been forced into the wrong body; something jars painfully.

Karen: A foxglove. We saw lots of these on our walk.

Tavi: A couple more pictures of Karen's favourite plant, a nettle, will be in part 2!

Karen: Another barley field. Pictures really don't do this place justice.

Tavi: I still feel slightly wrong taking pictures here, as if I'm a tourist like Karen.

Karen: This little grey cat has quite a hunting ground. This cat let me close enough to pet it, but a nice fat black cat walking down the lane wasn't having any strange humans get within reach.

Tavi: In Fetteresso, we had seven cats, which sounds like a lot, but our house was large, and they had the countryside to roam in. They would often go down into the woods or the copse next to our house and drag back their spoils of war: huge dead rabbits!

Karen: Now we're getting closer to Fetteresso Castle itself.

Tavi: This photo was taken on my Kitten HQ, which you will see more of in Part II, optimistically going up tomorrow. From here, if you turned the opposite way, you would look down on the castle. (Another note for next part: Karen says "we" are close to the castle here, but she was too scared to come up here to take the photo! "We" indeed!)

Karen: The castle of Fetteresso. Tavi can give you the history of the place; I'll just say that it's now luxury (I assume) apartments. I think I could be comfortable here, although the commute might be a bit of a challenge.

Tavi: Fetteresso Castle is officially called a "towerhouse". I know it once originally belonged to the Strachan family in the early part of last millennium, and I'm not sure it's a coincidence that there are Strachans living at "The Stables" still now. As with many of the old Houses, family seats were lost to newcomers, and Fetteresso Castle passed through many hands before eventually being sold to the local farmer. Sometime late last century, he blew the roof off it for some reason. When we came to live in its grounds, I knew it as a ruin, not as the castle you see here. We never dared to fully go inside, in case it collapsed, but I remember large caves of stone, in which bats and foxes lived. Fifteen years ago or so, the farmer sold it to a housing developer, who "rebuilt" the castle as you see here and turned it into flats for rent. Writing this now, it reminds me slightly of what we just read about Nicolas Sarkozy's alleged plans to rebuild himself the Tuileries. At the time of the plans for the rebuilding, there were many objections. My mother wrote to the local newspaper arguing against it for the sake of the wildlife there. But this was in vain. Years later, those who rent the flats there are still resented by people in Fetteresso who remember what the castle was really like.

Karen: Tomorrow, we hope to post the other half of the Fetteresso photographs: we go past Tavi's old house to see the farm, where Tavi finally feeds bullocks grass and climbs a tree. Without me.

Chapter 03: Fetteresso Part II


( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 12th, 2008 10:36 pm (UTC)
The pictures - still beautiful.
Me - still jealous.
Jul. 20th, 2008 08:48 am (UTC)
You really should plan a visit here sometime. The country is simply gorgeous, and the skies are amazing.

Btw, Tavi and I have been batting around the idea of a Hansel and Gretel adventure for the dolls (this came during our walk in the Dunnottar Woods; picture post still to come). Nico and Domi would be walking hand in hand through the woods, leaving a trail of croissant crumbs behind them, when suddenly they'd come to a clearing with a charming little gingerbread house in it. Can you guess who'd be cast in the role of the witch with a taste for whipping naughty boys who've been trespassing, and then eating them? ;-)
Jul. 20th, 2008 09:58 am (UTC)
Are you saying Ségolène's a witch?????
Jul. 20th, 2008 10:28 am (UTC)
If the high-heeled stiletto fits....
Jul. 20th, 2008 10:37 am (UTC)
Now that's a base lie. If there's one evil little wizard that's bewitched the entire country, it's Sarko, not her!

Plus, Hansel and Gretel are a boy and a girl, aren't they? I suggest she and Villepin walk in the woods (pretending the rest of the Voltaire year of the ENA is with them) until they arrive at evil Sarko's Elysean cottage. Jealous of their superior education and intellectual talents, he'll then capture them!
Jul. 12th, 2008 11:40 pm (UTC)
Jealous, too: the fields, the flowers, the cat, the gay bullocks, the 'new' castle.

Rebuild the Tuileries ? I didn't know that. Next year he'll crown himself Emperor. Carla would be a beautiful Empress, though. And I always liked Empire dresses.*g*
Jul. 20th, 2008 08:53 am (UTC)
The scenery here is just spectacular, and I can't get over the skies. The only time I usually see clouds at home is during the four or five months of the year when it might rain; otherwise it's typically just a hard, flat blue sky. Very boring compared to what you see here when you look up.
Jul. 13th, 2008 06:45 pm (UTC)
All the photos are gorgeous. When I lived in Heidelberg I remember learning about the town's decision to maintain the castle in a particular state of ruin. We had great fun exploring it!

Fetteresso sounds so Italian! How did that happen?
Jul. 13th, 2008 06:55 pm (UTC)
Re: castle
Hi! Karen is at the moment stuck in Edinburgh.

One theory seems to be that it is from the Pictish/Gaelic "Fothuiresach".
Jul. 13th, 2008 07:39 pm (UTC)
Stuck in Edinburgh? How did that happen?
Jul. 20th, 2008 08:58 am (UTC)
Re: Karen
My Sunday trip to the Edinburgh Zoo (2 hours down by train, 5 hours back by the same train) is going to be saved and included with the other Edinburgh posts we do.
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )