Karen (aswanargent) wrote,

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Karen and Tavi's Scotland Travel Adventures Chapter 06: Into the Woods

Previous Chapters of the Travel Diary:
Chapter One: Stonehaven
Chapter Two: Fetteresso Part I
Chapter Three:Fetteresso Part II
Chapter Four:Kirkton Village and the Ceilidh
Chapter Five:St Andrews

Chapter Six: Into the Woods.Here we planned to spend an hour or two exploring the secrets of Dunnottar Woods, which is the third beautiful place within walking distance from Stonehaven, alongside the beach and the countryside. We certainly took our time exploring and appreciating its size and mysteries by getting lost and spending four and a half hours inside!

Teaser Preview Pics:

Tavi: To get to Dunnottar Woods, we first walked all the way into Stonehaven for lunch at the Crown Hotel and then turned off a road from the harbour way. This barometer in a little church was one of the things it passed, telling us we were finally in for a sunny day at last.

Karen: On our way through Stonehaven to the start of Dunnottar Woods, we passed by this device tucked neatly into a niche in the outside wall of one of Stonehaven's public buildings. I don't think it would be called a barometer, but I'm at a loss to know the proper name for it or how to read it. I'm not sure what those upper two hands that look like they're pointing to 1:00 on a clock indicate, but the arrow pointing to "Fine" was quite correct. It was a beautiful afternoon.

Karen: Everyone in Scotland seems to have a green thumb. We walked by this garden on the way to our forest walk.

Tavi: I love this photo for the striking contrast of all these colours.

Tavi: It's quite a different sight when we finally get to the entrance for Dunnottar Woods: a sea of nettles which were taller than me. A definite change from the walk here. It's actually quite an interesting entrance: you have to leave the main streets to go into what looks like the average Stonehaven cul de sac and then go down into what you think will be a path for someone's back garden, but then it opens out into the woods.

Karen: Nettles also seem to thrive here. Shortly after entering Dunottar Woods, Tavi pointed out this mass of head-high nettles. We kept a respectful distance.

Karen: We differed a bit on what constituted a proper forest path. Tavi favoured something like this.

Tavi: For much of the first part of the path, heading southwards, we walked alongside a slope with the river at the bottom. I liked to get off the path and walk sort of sideways along the slope, getting closer to the river.

Karen: My idea of a nice forest path looked more like this.

Tavi: I find this slightly boring, but maybe it's because the forests and copses I walked through in Fetteresso never had proper paths or trails like this, and I'm used to walking through grass or nettles or on hillsides. A wood doesn't feel like a proper wood to me unless you have to struggle through it a little. This is perhaps better described a tame, domesticated wood. But still very enjoyable. It surprised me how we were only a short walk from the main streets of Stonehaven, and suddenly we found ourselves here, as if we were already into the countryside.

Karen: Tavi balancing on a log. We're looking right now for some of the points of interest marked on the tourist map.

Tavi: We were only a couple of minutes into the woods at this point but were already lost, as you can see in the clip below.

Tavi: Here is the first part of our Lost in the Dunnottar Woods Video Diary. You can see the view down the woodland valley from my log vantage point. This is still really close to the beginning of the woods, but we were nervous about seeing three paths when the map only showed a fork. We took the path to the left because that fit geometrically best with the map, although we were more tempted for the one going upwards, which had a sign for a place we wanted to see. But actually at this point, we were going the right way. For now.

Karen: The map-maker should have been forced to come into Dunnottar Woods and try to find his way out using only his own map. Clearly imagination and reality didn't mesh completely.

Karen: Success! We found the Walled Garden, which has now been turned into a garden centre selling plants.

Tavi: I think that's what it is now, anyway. I do remember being left outside here in a car with my cousin for absolutely ages years ago.

Karen: Just a few yards away from the Walled Garden, down a little slope, you come to a small, beehive-shaped building called the Shell House. We couldn't go inside (you'll see why in a moment), so Tavi took this photo looking in from the outside. You're looking at walls intricately decorated with shells.

Tavi: It looked only a "few yards" away on the map but was tricky to find because the map doesn't show height, and this was down a hill, not visible from the main path. But we took a guess and found it.

This was built by the Lady of Dunnottar House, Lady Kennedy, for the "amusement" of her ten children. Apparently there was a shell house for each of them.

Karen: Here's the Shell House from the outside. There's an iron gate serving as a door; the gate was padlocked shut. It's said that this was built as a playhouse for Lady Kennedy's ten children.

Tavi: But apparently it also served as their prison: she would lock them up here and leave them if they'd been naughty. This made us think slightly of the Gingerbread House rather than the Shell House.

Karen: We had to be careful where we walked, as many of the trees had roots near the surface, reaching out to trip the unwary hiker.

Tavi: Or anyone who is too busy looking around at other things than the floor. These roots made me think of a scene in the "novel" Karen and I were working on a while back.

Karen: We ran across fungi like these several times during our walk. I'm not very fond of mushrooms, so I can't tell you whether or not these are edible.

Tavi: Why do people pronounce fungi as fun-guy? If it's not fun-gee, they might as well say funguses. Still, whatever way you say it, it doesn't make it less icky. We took photos of almost every fungus we saw, and here we managed to pick out the one we thought was the most disgusting for you to see.

Karen: We were never very far from water.

Tavi: I had thought it was the River Carron flowing through here, but the map called it the Glasslaw Burn. We followed it along the path past the shell house and the walled garden, and then turned westwards to look for where it pools in what is supposed to be the al-fresco bath of Lady Kennedy. Following the river ought to have made reading the map and not getting lost easier...but it didn't.

Karen: Another little clearing.

Tavi: But still no sign of the bath. We twisted the map around to try to figure out which path we should be following: difficult when you come to a fork, and it doesn't look like the map's fork.

Karen: There was open land running along one side of the woods.

Tavi: At this point, we knew we were lost and at the wrong point. The map showed a field at the south and west ends of the wood, but that didn't help us much. But then, further down the path, we happened upon the miraculous sight of a signpost telling us which way to go...

Tavi: We are very lost here, as you can see. And the woodland sign did not help. One advantage to Fetteresso's forest is that, although there are no trails or paths or maps to follow, there are no stupid, annoying signs! So if you get lost, it's entirely your own fault. We tried to follow the stream to Periwinkle and Lady Kennedy's Bath but after about an hour ended up near that field. I wondered if we were to the top or the left of the forest, but we wandered a bit more only to then realize that we were on the other side: we had gone round in a circle and were near the Walled Garden again.

Karen: You're looking at a tree trunk several feet off the ground. For some unknown reason, the trunk suddenly split into two parts.

Karen: After splitting, the twin trunks continued to grow, parallel to each other.

Karen: There were some spots where a misstep would have meant a nasty tumble. Here's Tavi courting danger.

Tavi: Not as dangerous as it looks from here.

Tavi: Karen preferred to stand on the bridge to get the shots of the water. There were quite a lot of these bridges, all very close together. Closer together than you would probably find pedestrian crossings on a long main shopping street. I suppose the woods must have been used much more back centuries ago than they are now.

Karen: A nice little wooden bridge across the stream. Look at the previous picture to get an idea of how far below the water is.

Karen: After wandering through the woods for a couple of hours, we came to a picnic area. We had a snack, and on our way back to the path, Tavi stopped to pose on the top of a wooden fence.

Tavi: Actually reading the map to figure out how we can get back without the extra hour spent in retracing our steps in a circle for pleasure this time.

Karen: This shot was taken from within the woods, looking out.

Tavi: This really made us feel like we were in the country. No sign of the town whatsoever. At this point, we are probably a bit high above the town, maybe halfway up the height of the cliffs further along. Dunnottar Castle is near here.

Karen: More nice scenery.

Tavi: Not so nice! This is Gallows Hill. We first accidentally stumbled close to it on our way earlier, even though we planned it on the way back. Now, after our little picnic, we finally had the chance to go up it. You wouldn't guess it used to be the site of the public hangings. But when you know it is, it feels very sinister and sad. One person hanged here was a woman named Agnes, whose husband had stolen a sheep and then fled, leaving her to be executed in his place.

Karen: We actually saw 3 or 4 bunnies in the field, but by the time we'd started filming, all had gone but one. Ducking under the barbed wire at least gave Tavi some practice for her trip to the Witches Pond later.

Tavi: This is a little embarrassing...sadly all the bunnies had gone by the time I came into the field to film them close up. So don't watch this clip.

Karen: Dunnottar House used to stand on this site. The house is gone now, and rabbits have taken up residence on the site. After Tavi crawled under some barbed wire in search of said rabbits, we discovered that if we'd walked just a little further we'd have come to this nice, unfenced entrance to the Bunny Field.

Tavi: Going under barbed wire is a lot more fun than it sounds. I preferred my way.

Karen: This church is just a stone's throw away from the woods. We were looking for the Witches' Pool, and decided to take a quick look at the church.

Tavi: Another creepy graveyard. But we were thirsty pilgrams, and it was worth going in for a glass of water or three.

Karen: The interior of the church was fairly plain, but it did have this striking timber work high on the walls near the ceiling.

Karen: A series of tiny waterfalls.

Tavi: We abandoned the designated "helpful" trail on the map to go in search of the Witches' Pool. This was marked on the map round the side of the church, but no path was shown. So we walked downstream trying to find the entrance.

Karen: Ducks. The female is off to the left, being completely ignored by the two males.

Tavi: Dominique, Nicolas, and Sego? You will see that from when we meet peacocks of Perthshire that Karen and I suffer from an affliction of naming animals and objects after politicians.

Karen: While Tavi was off looking for the Witches' Pool, I made friends with a horse.

Tavi: As we walked along, we came across a man walking his dogs with a camera up past the church on the hill to take pictures of horses. He knew the area and so showed me to the witches' pool path, warning that it was slightly difficult to get to. Karen took one look at it and decided to stay with the horses. Watch the clip I filmed of my descent down there, and you'll see why!

Tavi: This was where those accused of witchcraft were dunked and possibly drowned. It's down the side of the church, which probably ought not to be surprising. No one apparently goes to see this anymore, because the path was nothing like the rest of Dunnottar Woods. Though it really wasn't as bad a track as it looks from this video. The only really bad part was that gate. You can't see from the video, but it was swinging slightly when I was on it, making a nettle-avoiding jump more complicated. Watch out for the in your face shots of the nettles as I jump.

Karen: You'll hear Tavi mentioning my name a lot in this clip, and her comments about my reaction to this journey to the Witches' Pond are completely correct. I much preferred petting the horses, watching the black labrador Polly who was chasing rabbits in the field (with more success than Tavi had), and sticking to the safe, happy, level paths of the woods.

Next chapter, however, we trade woods for the choppy waters of Loch Ness. Sadly Nessie declined to put in an obvious appearance, unless she was behind the crashing tidal waves that drenched Tavi on the boat.

Tags: dunnottar woods, karen and tavi's scotland adventures, lost, scotland, stonehaven, travel, woods

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