October 27, 2010

Day Five: The Royal Deeside

On this day we headed east and toward the Royal Deeside.  It is called the Royal Deeside because Balmoral is in the area (hence the Royal) and it is alongside the River Dee (hence the Deeside).  The scenery is breathtaking and David took us some incredible, unspoilt places - whimsical bridges, charming castles, and stunning landscapes!  But rather than prattle on about them, let me show you some of the sites of our day:

Another lovely bridge along the way

Crathie Kirk where the Queen attends church when at Balmoral. 
The inside is impressive, but no photographs - it IS a church after all.
Corgarff Castle, very far away, but still delightful!

In Ballater, Alice shows Queen V how to do haughty

Joan welcomed us to Delgatie Castle and allowed us the privilege
of playing in the Chapel - a fantastic experience

We weren't this relaxed in the Castle Chapel,
but we did learn a lovely tune!  Don't you wish you were there?
At the end of the day we enjoyed a drive through the Moray Coast
which is so beautiful people should write tunes about it.  Oh, Wait!  They do!!
We had the typical tourist fascination with sheep...
just couldn't get enough of them
After another full day of sites, history, stories, meeting real people where they live, and learning another tune, we headed back to the Dowans for another delicious dinner, a sampling of their impressive collection of single malt scotches and then to bed - tomorrow promised another delight!

October 20, 2010

The Interval

We'll get back to more about our amazing Harp the Highlands and Island Tour next week. 

This week is sandwiched in between judging gigs at the Stone Mountain Highland Games "The Friendly Games" Harp Competition in Atlanta and the

US National Scottish Harp Championship
at the Meadow Highland Games and Celtic Festival at Richmond, VA

I hope you'll join us there - enter the competition or volunteer.
Sue Richards and I will be judging and are looking forward to seeing you there!  Richmond is a lovely games - and the Harp Competition is held indoors!

If you'd like to compete or to help, contact Jo Morrison harp(at)triharpskel.com 

October 13, 2010

Day Four: the Amazement doesn't stop - all day!

As captivating as Skye is, sadly, we had to leave and continue on our trip.  But we weren't sad for long because from Skye we went to that most recognizable castle - Eilan Donan.  It is recognizable because it has become iconic but it is also incredibly beautiful.  Of course, it has incredible history.  And the fantastic views help build the atmosphere.  And the castle has featured in so many movies - you could love it as a movie star too. But the best bit is that it has a space especially for harpers in the great hall.  Clearly they were expecting us!  And THAT is what made me fall in love with ths castle.    Unfortunately, no photography inside.  So if you want to see this little harp spot, you'll have to come with us!

The beautiful harpers at Eilan Donan

However, no photos inside doesn't mean no photos outside!  We had a great time taking this photo.  And apparently a lot of other people did too.  Don't be surprised if you see this photo in other places - people from all over the world stopped and took this photo too - tourists from Japan, Korea, Germany and Canada all seemed to be captivated by the harpers - who were clearly having a great time!  And we weren't even playing!

From Eilan Donan we traveled on past some delightful sites on to Strathpeffer, the old Victorian Spa town where we had a lovely lunch.  And what did we find above the bar?  A reel written for the restaurant.  We will have to go back, just to learn that tune! 

Zan shares the harps, the lore, and more with us
in the "showroom" at Ardival Harps
But we couldn't linger over lunch - we were on our way to our next stop - at Ardival Harps!  Ardival makes a number of different kinds of harps and we were privileged to see, hear, feel and play all the different types!  We started out with Zan telling us all about the intriguing back story on the harps - Wire, Gothic, Bray, and Lever.  She shared history and stories, and we played all the different instruments.  We played new tunes on old style harps and old tunes on the types of harps for which they might have been written.  We were all clearly smitten!

Graham shows us the steps to making a wire harp. 
He made it look so easy we might have,
for a moment, thought we could do it as well as he -
but we'd be wrong!
And then, while we were all still in the fantasy land of "... maybe I should have one of these too, just to improve my harp playing and to be more fully involved in the history of majesty of the harp - and owning just one more harp wouldn't be bad...but they're all so wonderful, why stop at one..." (the stupor one finds oneself in when there are so many harps at hand!) we moved on to the workshop to meet Graham and see how a master craftsman brings a harp out of a chunk of wood.   We learned about the process (and the pitfalls) of making harps from natural materials as well as the secret of the bray pin!  I'll never look at a harp the same way again.  Nor will I ever forget the aroma of the workshop - the tantalizing smell of wood - can you smell the wood of your harp when you sit to play?

We were sad to leave Zan and Graham and all those captivating harps, but we eventually did go on to our accommodation for the rest of the trip, the Dowan's Hotel in Aberlour.  Who knew what adventures would await us in the Spey Valley...

October 7, 2010

Day Three: Skye

Skye is beautiful.  Any time of year it is breathtaking and wonderful.  David organized our day to take best advantage of the day and the weather and we moved from one amazing site to another - sites of geologic beauty, historic significance, and just cool stuff.  We went to Dunvegan Castle and after lunch we toured its lovely gardens and really, I should stop writing and just show the photos:
Let me say we were certainly glad not to be this guy - instead we were whisked everywhere in a wonderful vehicle that carried us, our stuff - and the essential tea and biscuits - everywhere we wanted to go!  

We got on immediately and we clearly enjoyed the
close contact of the trip!

They say you can never get too far away - and this phonebox - on the side of the road made us feel that we were in contact - and yet not!

David stopped on request for photos or just to gaze on the scenery.  Here we stopped to have some of that tea (and a biscuit or 2!).  We were only part of the way around Skye and we had already seen so much - we were constantly exclaiming about the sites.

We had a wonderful day on Skye and returned to the McKinnon Country Lodge.  We learned a new tune that was tied directly to what we had done that day (you'll have to come along if you want find out what it was!).  We then went in for a delightful dinner - all three courses of it!  After dinner a little more playing, talking and coffee, then off to bed - the next day was going to take us on to our next adventure!