Floors Castle, near Kelso in the Scottish Borders, is a magnificent old stately home sitting in splendid grounds. It has an excellent tearoom, garden centre and adventure playground, and the gardens round the back of the house are a delight to wander round. The archway shown below is one of the many attractive features of Floors: a profusion of greenery cascading over a stone wall leading into a paved courtyard.
Today’s choice of photo was inspired by the book mentioned in my previous post. The garden shown below is Glenwhan, a beautiful retreat in the quiet area of Galloway, on Scotland’s south-west coast. To my mind, a peaceful garden features a predominance of green, enlivened with small splashes of colour. There’s something soothing about green foliage, in its vast array of shades and textures. Benefiting from a relatively warm, wet climate, Glenwhan is a haven of lush, restful greenery: a refreshingly peaceful garden.
There are three bridges across the Firth of Forth on the east coast of Scotland, linking Edinburgh to the south with Fife to the north. Of these three, one (the iconic red Forth Rail Bridge, opened in 1890) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and another (the bright white Queensferry Crossing, opened in 2017) is the world’s longest three-tower cable-stayed bridge. Sitting between these two impressive structures is the Forth Road Bridge, opened in 1964. It may not be as striking as either of its more visually stimulating neighbours, but the Forth Road Bridge has its own graceful greyness.
A variety of cloud types floating above Wigtown Bay in the south-west of Scotland, with a stripy field of grass and a dry stone wall in the foreground.
Like many other parts of the UK, eastern Perthshire has had quite a bit of snow this week, being driven in on strong easterly winds from Siberia. In between frequent blizzards, we’ve been fortunate to have some blue skies and sunshine. Scotland’s gritter lorries have been kept busy clearing the major routes, leaving quieter roads, like Keay Street in Blairgowrie, white and powdery.
Fellow blogger and editor of The Hazel Tree, Jo Woolf is also Writer in Residence at the Royal Scottish Geographical Society (RSGS). During her investigations into the society’s archives, she came across a wealth of fascinating material relating to explorers and adventurers, some of which has ended up in her wonderful book, “The great horizon”.
The book, meticulously researched and extremely well written, contains 50 biographies of remarkable people associated in some way with the RSGS, dating from the society’s inception in 1884 to the present day. Many of those featured received medals from the society for outstanding contributions to geography, and all of them have inspirational stories to tell.
The 50 individuals are organised under five category headings: Ice, Voyagers, Heaven and Earth, Missionaries and Mavericks and Visions for Change. Each category contains ten personalities, a mixture of the well known and not so widely recognised. Famous names such as Ernest Shackleton, Roald Amundsen, Edmund Hillary, Neil Armstrong, David Livingstone, Thor Heyerdahl, Ranulph Fiennes and David Attenborough sit comfortably alongside people I hadn’t heard of such as Børge Ousland, Sven Hedin, Robert Ballard, Joseph Thomson and Marion Newbigin.
The world of exploration was dominated by men in the Victorian era, but there were notable women whose adventures were just as astonishing; women such as Isabella Bird, who was born in 1831 and became the first female Fellow of the RSGS. Having trekked through remote mountain ranges and travelled through hostile foreign territory, at a time when such behaviour must have seemed scandalous for a well-bred western woman, her story particularly stood out for me. Having said that, each of the biographies is unique and noteworthy and I would find it impossible to pick a favourite.
Although many of the explorers detailed in the book displayed amazing feats of endurance, determination and courage while conducting their daredevil adventures, they must have been quite difficult to live with at home. As Jo describes, it’s easy to imagine them struggling to accept a mundane daily existence that failed to provide sufficient challenges for their restless spirits. This side of the adventurer’s character came to mind quite a few times as I read through the book.
Every generation needs its mavericks and heroes, and despite the lack of ‘big firsts’ left to achieve on terra firma, there are plenty of modern day adventurers desperate to push the limits of what’s achievable. In some ways the world has become a smaller place since the 1880s, but there’s still a great deal to discover, both on Earth and beyond. I like to think the Royal Scottish Geographical Society will still be here in another 130 years, encouraging new generations of geographers, and providing inspiring and uplifting tales of adventure to fill future editions of “The great horizon”.
This picture shows the effects of rotational heather burning on a moorland in the county of Angus. The purplish patches on the hillside are areas of heather that have been burned in different years. Burning heather gets rid of older plants and encourages new growth, and burning small areas in successive years creates a patchwork of plants of different heights. Moorlands like this one support a variety of wildlife, including several species of ground-nesting birds that prefer to nest in recently burned areas.