Americans in Scotland Part # 15 May 3, 2007 19:04:42 GMT
Post by mary ailean on May 3, 2007 19:04:42 GMT
Wednesday, July 5
We left at 10:00 for Laggan driving, through the countryside, over the River Calder, and into wee Laggan. I do mean wee! There are about 5 buildings in the little area, though cottages are scattered all around. My favorite postcard of Laggan store shows it from the air, and the store is really, itself, the center of 'town'. Monarch’s "McKechnie" Store and Laggan Parish Church are about it! We’d already visited Gergask School around the corner and down the street, so we gave that a pass on this stop.
When you visit 'Katrina's School' you'll be surprised how close it is to her cottage in the series.
We had purchased the Monarch of the Glen DVDs of Series Five, from Ian and Jo Hall, on a former shopping visit that week, but Ian was out of the Series Six-Part Two discs. These DVDs have been great because they have subtitles, and the U.S. region ones do not. This day Ian had the entire Series Sixs, and so we purchased the DVDs, and some little mementos: stationary, a laminated book marker with pictures of MOTG, and some nice stationery with a photograph of Ardverikie House taken by David Fallows. Monarch souvenirs at last!
We got back on the A86 heading to Newtonmore, and on the road we passed a woman with 2 Border Terriers. I wondered if these were the 'actors' who played Monty and Rommel, Hector's dogs. I know that the dogs were trained locally, but Borders are a popular dog breed in Scotland, and we probably weren’t seeing the ‘Stars’. We couldn't have wished for a more beautiful, dry, day for our outdoor adventures. We wanted to hit quite a few sites, and it was the perfect weather for it. There was a moderate amount of traffic on the Main Street, and we thought it must be the weather that brought them out. I was also told that many of the shops aren't open until mid-week and so Wednesday is a big day in Newtonmore. Things were bustling even more a few years ago during Monarch of the Glen’s run.
I read about the busiest time Newtonmore has seen in a Luath Press Ltd. book that I purchased on line. I bought the small book after seeing it advertised in 'Scottish Life' Magazine when we returned from the area last July.
“Easy Walks in Monarch of the Glen Country”, Badenoch and Strathspey, by Ernest Cross. Published in 2006. Luath Press, by the way, takes its name from Robert Burns Collie, Luath, who tripped Jean Armour at a wedding, and gave him a chance to speak to the woman who would become his wife. Burns borrowed the name from Cuchullin’s hunting dog in "Ossian’s Fingal".
Here is a quote from 'Easy Walks', “Nowadays, between May and September, the TV people seem to be everywhere. From the Falls of Pattack near Laggan, to Broomhill Station on the Strathspey railway near Nethybridge, there is a rash of yellow ‘MOG’ markers pointing to the current filming locations. The actors are frequently to be seen, in and about Newtonmore and Kingussie, and the local post offices have advertisements seeking extras for the crowd scenes. So it is now possible to combine a holiday with five minutes of fame, and an opportunity to rub shoulders with the luvvies.”
The film crews are gone, and you would never know that Newtonmore had often been a filming site for a major television program. I'm happy that the town’s citizens have escaped a row of tourist traps and tee shirt places, but I did wish for just one such shop! The same Landseer Stag, printed on a linen towel, kept popping up, but no cast pictures, no pictorial books (that's what I was really after), really nothing, until we came to David Fallows studio and gift shop. We parked the rental car and ducked inside the Newtonmore Gallery and Craft Centre.
David's paintings are displayed very modestly, and there is a small cafe in the middle of the centre. Bruce whispered that he was very sure that he recognized D.F. (from the website picture) standing over the stove in the back of the cafe. There were two waitresses and other than 4-6 people at various tables, it was quiet inside. I replied, "No, I don't think so." Then I recognized him, too!
Mr. Fallows wiped his hands, and came out to the front of the centre to greet us. I had worn my favorite of the hats I had along, my desert sand wool with the small floppy brim. It was my idea that an artist would care what hat I had on-ha! It was very hot by this time, around 80 degrees, but it felt like 90 in the sun. Fallows was perspiring and wilted, but very friendly and helpful. The artist has a small office in the back with a desk, copy machine, and wall racks filled with his prints. When I told Mr. Fallows how I knew about his paintings he brightened, and showed us his whole body of work that was reduced to small pictures in a 3-ring binder. I'd poured over the same small pictures on the David Fallows website, ‘Painted Scotland’, many times. Added: I'll have to find the new website because this one doesn't get there anymore! I'll be back on with it.
We chose four prints, the front and back of Ardverikie House, the Gate Lodge, and a Newtonmore street painting because the shadow of the trees was so nicely done. David was so welcoming that we felt comfortable to ask him for directions to two Monarch sites, Balavil (Kilwillie Castle) and Trium, where the MacPherson Monument seen in Monarch 4:3 would be found.
I cannot remember the owners name that David mentioned, now living at Balavil, but I think the word 'Provost' was a part of the longer designation. A few years ago the Fletcher family lived in the castle, and they are mentioned on line in association with grouse hunts in the area.
Fallows knew a lot about the ‘goings-on’ in Newtonmore, and I got the idea that his studio is a hub of the community. David Fallows was raised in Birkenhead, and has only been into his art full time for about 20+ years. Not only was he "Molly's" ghost painter on MOTG, he assembled the paintings of local artists to exhibit in the Glenbogle village hall for the art show that "Andrew" judged.
With the Newtonmore map and the instructions below you can easily find Balavil (Kilwillie Castle).
Here are Fallow's verbal instructions:
Take the Old Road through Lynchat Village and go beyond 2 miles. It is up on the hill to the left. The castle's back faces the road below but the road will wind around to the front.
Newtonmore is on the west side, on the A86. The instructions are from the main street in Newtonmore traveling N.E. The "Old Road" referred to becomes the B9152 on the map, but you don't need that information because the main street in Newtonmore will go right to the foot of the hill Balavil "reigns over". Keep looking up high and you'll see it perched up high. The "Castle" is clearly marked on the
Ordnance Survey # 402 map we used. (map for Badenoch & Upper Strathspey)
We thanked Fallows, and hoped that by visiting with us he was given a break from his kitchen subbing. I purchased a cast glossy for 5.00 lb. It is the picture of the family group in front of Ardverikie House at the Midsummer's Ball. 'Molly' is wearing the heather-colored, diaphanous gown with a veil. Lexie is not in her spectacular red ball-gown from the episode, but in a 'Lexie-tart' strapless, clinging dress. The photographer might have thought the full skirt of the gown would take up too much of the picture frame! Hector, Golly and Duncan are wearing kilts as you may remember.
There were about 10 different cast pictures available. Mr. Fallows told us that the reprint of the front of Ardverikie House that I purchased wasn’t yet offered on the web-site. It is the one with the autumn-orange shrub on the right of the house. I have read that someone won the original, signed by Susan Hampshire, in a charity auction. Fallows asked if we could come back because one of the reprints we wanted had to be copied. We said that we'd be in Newtonmore for a while, and that we would come back later for the reprint.
Back out on the street, I took a still picture of the funeral director across the street, recognizing it as the building that Paul Bowman and Amanda McLeish exited with her father's ashes.
We headed down the street to fulfil a promise that I made to one of the BBC America Monarch posters. I told Howard Parsons from the State of Virginia that when we were 'in country' we'd check out the Clan MacPherson Museum. As a MacPherson he has a special interest in this large, extensive clan collection.
The MacPhersons have their clan gathering in Newtonmore most years. Howard wrote that the story of the MacDonald Clan Gathering in Episode 2:8 was actually based on a MacPherson Gathering that he took part in. One of the 'MacDonald' men marching was playing Howard himself, he wrote on the BBC forum. I've saved all of Howard's Newtonmore reports to us, and I'll share them here very soon. He posted for awhile, and then started his own MacPherson site, and that took up his available computer time. He lives, as I have mentioned, in Virginia, and has served as a Clan Chieftain there. (you know they have these honorary posts in the U.S. American diaspora Scots are very proud of their heritage)
The UK posters may not be aware of the extent to which displaced Scots will go to keep the 'old ways' alive for future generations! I've often thought that you would shake your heads in amazement at an American Highland Games and Clan Gathering! I attended one in Seattle, Washington that had 12 Pipe Bands playing together in a finale. The games are well attended here, and many people arrive in tartan. At the beginning of most of the games the clans are piped in, and I've had the honor of marching in with my husband's Stewart Clan twice. Highland games in the U.S. are a very big deal!
The MacPherson Museum is worth your time when you visit Newtonmore. We know the large stone building at the end of the street as the ‘Glenbogle Tea Room’ and 'Post Office'. The Tea Room and P.O. signs are down now, and you enter the museum from the side. Just on the other side of the street is the "Glen Hotel". It looks like it would be a convenient place to stay if you don't want to stay on the Ardverikie Estate. It would position you in a strategic place while you look for your favorite Monarch sites.
We had a nice welcome at the museum. You could easily spend 2 hours there, reading all of the Clan information, and looking at the pictures and historical items. We saw the 'fiddle' that found fame in the song 'MacPherson's Lament' and other MacPherson items, and we looked at good area pictures.
After we toured the museum we had ice cream cones in a family-run shop, and kept walking around town. With more time you might want to see the waltzing waters theatre. It features light and water effects that move to the accompaniment of music. The other museum in town is the more widely advertised Highland folk museum at the North end of the village.
We strolled down the main street, and then dropped back in to the Art Centre to pick up our reprints. Mr. Fallows took care in packaging our things while we chatted, the man was altogether charming.
Three of the four prints we purchased that day are hanging on the wall in my den, and I often think of the artist who holds forth on the main street in Newtonmore. David, bundled up against the cold, at his painting easel, must have been a common sight to the locals for many years. There aren’t many scenic spots in the area he has missed. Golf club buildings to mountain peaks, they are all beautifully painted by the artist. Enjoy his nice web-site.
There also is the Eilan Shinty field and Pavilion where matches take place most Saturday afternoons from September to June. Golf and tennis courts and a bowling green are to be found in Newtonmore. Birdwatching is exciting at the nearby Insh marshes and pony trekking, and off road vehicle are for hire. Newtonmore may look quaint and quiet, but there is plenty to do.
For cyclists, the town is on the Sustrans route 7 to Inverness.
I made another friend in Newtonmore that day. There is a retirement home just to the right of the MacPherson Museum. Many of the residents were sitting out in chairs, sunning themselves that Wednesday morning. A gentleman spoke to me both times that I went by. He wished to know where I was from, and if I liked the weather. He told me that he liked ‘my accent’ after I replied. I was on my way over to photograph the ‘Glenbogle Gentleman's Hairdresser's’ building. The edifice was erected for the show at the side of the Main's hotel. It's nice to see that the Glenbogle telephone number is still up on the side, but the paint is getting to be a bit chipped and faded.
On the first Saturday in August, Newtonmore has its own Highland Games, and the big annual Gathering of the MacPhersons that I have mentioned, as well as the Creag Dhu hill race. Its not the hill race in the first series of MOTG. Creag Meagaidh high over Loch Laggan was the location for the filmed race. We're quite sure we didn't give Newtonmore its due, but we did enjoy ourselves. You can see lovely Glen Banchor, that David Fallows has often painted, on this
website. Look at the bottom right picture.
We used David Fallows instructions and easily found Balavil Castle. The estate and its grounds were often used as Kilwillie Castle, the home of one of our favorite characters, the MacDonald's neighbor, Lord Kilwillie. You can see the gray stone building in the trees from the bottom of the hill before you wind your way up the road to the front side.
Bruce, the shy one when it comes to intrusions, decided to stay in the car until I had further investigated the front of the house. I marched up to the door, having decided that I must ask if I could photograph the outside of the castle. The housekeeper can probably spot a tourist a mile away through the windows, and I have been told that if you have a camera slung around your shoulder, or you are wearing a waist fastened purse, you especially stand out. I seem to shout AMERICAN, anyway, and I'm not sure which of many signs most advertise this fact.
There is a regular white enamel buzzer on the right side of the front door, and one on the left that has 'staff' on it. I rang the staff buzzer… Nothing. I rang again...Nothing. The staff may have decided not to answer the door unless someone is expected. I peeked inside the front window (just for a second), and saw the red and blue couches that show best in the scene when Dorothy is interviewing Lexie's Dad for a personal Chauffeur’s job in 5:10. You could tell that the castle is being lived in so I backed away. I saw mail on the table inside, and sweaters were thrown down on chairs.
I took several pictures while doing a quick look-see in the back. Balavil is situated in a beautiful park at the end of a long drive. It's quite private all around the estate, but they do have to look out to the busy A9 highway, down below, from the back windows. I could hear the cars and lorries while I was standing near the back. There is a wonderful Italian patio with tables set up for outside dining. It is located at the right side of the mansion. After pictures at the front, side and back, I scurried back to the car.
Bruce commented on my ‘chutzpah’ (yiddish for: extreme self-confidence), and I muttered something about this being my sole chance to see Balavil. He thinks that I missed my true calling in paparazzi journalism. Well, it was goodbye to lovely Balavil, and I have to remark about something less than perfect to squelch the green-eyed monster of envy. "Kilwillie, Dorothy and Hermione" really do hear more vehicle noise in their backyard than we do in ours. There, that is settled. I don't want to live there.
I have read some of the paranormal web-sites that I found while researching Balavil. There are some very interesting sites to ponder...ghostly events have happened at "Kilwillie Castle"!
We used a detailed map of Kingussie to plan our tour of the area, and could easily see how to find Greystones B&B on Acres road. You take the A86 that becomes High Street and turn at the road that leads to Ardbroilach Road and turn right at Acres Rd. You'll find the B&B because you'll look at every possibility.
It is best to get the ‘Welcome to Newtonmore and Kingussie’ brochure given out at the Kingussie Folk Museum on Duke St. off High St. (main street in town) or Newtonmore Gallery on Main St. Kingussie. It is a big fold-out with maps of both of these towns on one side, and a map of the entire Cairngorms National Park on the other side. Within the Cairngorms National Park are 1/4 of Scotland's woodlands. Kingussie, by the way, is Anglicanized from: Ceann-a-Ghuibhsaich, gaelic for: head of the pinewoods.
Please click on Monarch Country to the left to read:
The charming handwritten letter from Julian Fellowes on the above site... Don't miss it!!
The link below shows 'Rowan House', a 'Bed and Breakfast' on Newtonmore Road where Julian wrote most of "Gosford Park".
(note that David Fallows designed the website)
We learned to pronounce the town's name while in Scotland. The locals say Kin-yoo-sie leaving out the 'G'.
(Continued in the next post)