The Highlands of Scotland Road Trip

Hello my little demons,

As most of you know, I moved to the Highlands of Scotland at the beginning of 2020 and was super excited to explore and share my travels with you guys. But then Covid-19 hit and I was pretty much confined to a single room with a very lovely family for about eight months and wasn’t able to get very far (I wrote two blog posts about this, I’ll leave the links at the end). The whole country; United Kingdom, went into lockdown in March 2020 and it eased for a few months before the majority of the country (at least England) going into lockdown again (and now we’re in another nationwide lockdown – including Scotland!). During those few months lockdown lifted, a friend of mine booked some time off work and decided to drive all the way up to Scotland to see me, and of course, see the Highlands of Scotland!

I firstly want to say, keep safe and don’t do any unnecessary trips, especially if you are in lockdown! If we all do our part, we can get out of this pandemic quicker.

On that note, I also want to say that this trip was done pre-lockdown. We also made a lot of precautions, including having hand sanitizer in the car, which we used very frequently, wore masks when going inside public buildings and kept 2 meters apart from other people. Luckily, the Highlands wasn’t very busy and the majority of it is wild and people-free. My friend also booked a hotel in Inverness for the whole week, we didn’t book any other hotels in the Highlands so as to avoid spreading the virus, so we explored the Highlands one day at time.

Now, I hope you enjoy the rest of this blog!

Day One – Packing and checking into the Hotel

The first day wasn’t that eventful, as my friend was driving over 500 miles from South West England to the Highlands. But, as I had finally found my own place, moving out of the single bedroom in a lovely family’s house into my own very first flat in the Highlands, I was packing my things – not that I had much to pack – and cleaning the room before he arrived.

As I mentioned in the little ‘disclaimer’ in the beginning of the blog post, my friend booked a hotel in Inverness city centre for the week, and had booked a twin room just in case I decided to stay so we could wake up early and set off straight away on adventures. I decided it would be best to just stay there, so I could clean the room before the adventure starts. Not having to go back to the house, clean, move my stuff into my flat half way through the adventure – no time was wasted!

When my mate did arrive, we bundled everything into the car, and because I am a massive motor-head, I have to mention he has a Mark 2 Ford Focus ST, which has been, err… ‘slightly’ modified. I won’t post any photos of it, as it is a little too easily distinguished. Once packed, we just went straight to the hotel, ordered a pizza, bought some beers/cider and chilled in front of the TV.

Day Two – The long way to the Isle of Skye

On day two, this is when the fun starts. We got up with the sole intention of driving to Bealach na Bà or also known as Applecross Path. The actual town of Applecross, at the end of the path, wasn’t the main attraction here, but the road to it, and it’s absolutely stunning!

But, of course, Applecross is a lovely little fishing village too, which deserves a mention. But as they say, it’s the journey, not the destination.

After a quick stop, having cold pizza left over from last night, a quick loo break, we then headed south to a little village called Plockton. I only really wanted to go because I thought the name was funny (and yes, I kept calling it Plonkton because I’m a child), and I quickly found it on a website of places to visit in the area… but I had no idea it was this pretty!

After a small walk about, and a stop in the local gift shop to get my obligatory postcards (it’s one of the things I collect), we got back into the car and decided Eilean Donan Castle wasn’t that far away and deserves at least a quick stop.

Now, this castle I have heard about and drove past at least twice before, once on the way to the Isle of Skye back in the summer of 2018 and back again only a month later – I had worked on the Isle of Skye for a few weeks, not being able to hack the job so ended up returning to my parents – I remember driving past the Castle and wishing I could stop to see it. The below photo shows you why.

Unfortunatley, it was a little busier than I had expected. We did visit in a Scottish school holiday, so there were a few people about, and it’s a popular tourist destination – well, it is on the way to the Isle of Skye!

Which brings me onto the end of the day, a quick trip over to the Isle of Skye!

Of course, there isn’t much in terms of photos, as we didn’t spend long there. We did, however, drive most of the Island, but the majority of it we were searching for a toilet! Word of warning, if you’re planning on touring about – make sure you empty your bladder as soon as you can! You don’t know when the next toilet will be!

By the time we did a loop and got back to Portree, the light started to fade not long after, so we stopped for a few minutes, enjoying the view of the harbor before heading back to the mainland.

Of course, we stopped by Eilean Donan Castle to see it lit up at night. We did, apparently, drive past Loch Ness on the way back, I did see it a little, but it was too dark to get any decent photos of it – plus, that was planned for another day!

Day Three – Oil Rigs, Lighthouses, Castles and Beaches

Day three and this one started off a little different. My mate told me about this area which holds a graveyard of oil rigs in Invergordon. Okay, so it’s not technically a graveyard, as they’re there to either be repaired or taken apart. But, in a weird way, I was impressed. Not your usual tourist stop.

This was our main point of call when we set off that morning. But as we knew it wouldn’t take all day to look at some oil rigs, we also had a bit of a wander about. We headed north after finding there was a lighthouse not that far away called Tarbat Ness Lighthouse.

We also had to stop off at this strange church and graveyard that we drove past to get to it – and had to drive past on the way back (on Google Maps it’s labeled as Tarbat Discovery Centre).

We then headed up the coast a bit more, to a castle that I had come across while researching places to visit; Dunrobin Castle. And I am glad we decided to stop, because it is absolutely beautiful! I actually had a couple of my photos printed and waiting to be framed!

Lastly, for the day, we also stopped at a beach a little further up as the sun was slowly setting, called Brora. Here we walked along the sand just soaking in the coastline for a bit, before getting a little cold – and worrying about getting stuck in the dark – and decided to head back to Inverness for an early night – we had a long day ahead the next day!

Day four – driving (part) of the NC500

Day four was the big one, the one we both were looking forward to doing: the NC500, or North Coast 500, if you didn’t know what that is, it Scotland’s “Route 66”. As the official website (northcoast500.com) says:

“Embark on one of the world’s most iconic coastal touring routes,
and discover the breath-taking beauty of the North Highlands;
a place where you’ll find white sand beaches, rugged mountains,
hidden gems and a wealth of unforgettable experiences.”

The route pretty much does the whole rim of the Highlands (see image below), although we didn’t do ALL of it – but we did most, in just one day. Most people go anti-clockwise, going north up to Wick first then round to the West coast, but as we were trying to do it all in one day (I don’t recommend this, but it goes to show that it is doable if you want to see if and are strapped for time) we went straight across to Ullapool to do the West coast in the daylight getting to John O’ Groats as the sun was just setting.

But, of course, we saw a lot of other stretches on other days, such as Applewood which you can see on South West of the map and Dunrobin Castle is close to Glospie on the A9 north of Inverness.

Image Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_Coast_500

We began our day being woken up pretty early (I think it was about 4 in the morning), because the fire alarm had gone off. We intended to get up early, hoping to hit our first stop just as the sun was rising but 4 in the morning was a little too early.

So, we had to rush outside in our PJs, the dark, damp, cold to wait for the fire engines to come and be allowed back into the building. I can’t remember what the issue was, but it was a false alarm, but luckily I managed to get back to sleep for a few more hours, finally waking up at 6ish.

We already had bought a few things from the shops the previous day, so we didn’t even stop for breakfast. We set off nearly right away (give me time to wake up and put makeup on!) and our first stop was Corrieshalloch Gorge.

Looking at the pictures of this bridge, and it looks harmless, but you get on it and wow, does it make your legs go to jelly! The bridge didn’t just wobble up and down like a typical suspension bridge would, but it also wobbled side to side! My mate even refused to get on it!

We only spent about 15-20 minutes there (feeling as if buying a parking ticket was pointless), but it is possible to walk around it a little, which I wish I did, but we were on a tight schedule to get to the top before sunset!

So, onwards to Ullapool.

I’m sure Ullapool has a lot more going for it than what we saw, but we only really stopped at Tesco’s to stock up on food/snacks, sit along the harbor front to have brunch (it wasn’t quite breakfast, but wasn’t quite lunch) and then set off again on our day trip.

We did stop quickly at Scourie Jetty, which we were extremely impressed to see the water was so clear! But, had to move on as yours truly needed to find a toilet again!

Our next stop was a little bit more north to Balnakeil Beach (Close to Durness on the map above). The one thing that I was hoping to see… and this might sound odd, but sod it… I honestly thought I might see some cows on the beach! I remember looking it up thinking it looks absolutely beautiful and then saw photos of these lovely black cows walking on the sand. Needless to say, I didn’t see cows on the beach, but I am glad I got to see such a beautiful beach… even if it was a little cold!

Before I tell you the next stop, I just want to throw in some photos of the view we had along the way, both between Ullapool and Balnakeil Beach but also after it.

Next was Smoo Cave (yes, you read that right!) and this was one I was really looking forward to! (Also close to Durness). Unfortunately, we weren’t the only ones who had the great idea to see it, as there were a few other people about – probably not as many as if it was peak season and no pandemic, but there was at least one that was a little loud, but I just ignored that one little annoyance and was impressed nonetheless. Although, I had hoped the cave went a little deeper, but that’s just me and my (weird) interest in caves!

The cave entrance is 50ft high, and is apparently the largest sea cave entrance in Britain (source link). One story I read is that it was believed to be the residence of the Devil, which I found pretty fascinating, but couldn’t find much about it online. If you’d like to read more about Smoo Cave, here are a few interesting and insightful links I did find: https://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/durness/smoocave/index.html
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smoo_Cave

The next stop was an unplanned stop, but as we were approaching it we saw how beautiful it was and had to stop – plus, the sun came out for us for a little bit which made it even more beautiful – and actually warmed up a little.

This is Ceannabeinne Beach…

And yes, if it wasn’t cold and it was open, I would totally have done that zip wire!

Our next stop was Melvich Beach, this one was at the request of my mate, and again, you can see why the west coast of Scotland is renown for it’s beaches! Unfortunately, as soon as we got there, it started to cloud over and most of my pictures are dark, and doesn’t do it any justice compared to the previous ones.

After Melvich Beach, the next stop was the most northern part of mainland Britain – No, not John O’ Groats! Dunnet Head! John O’ Groats isn’t the most northern part of Britain, it’s actually the end of the longest distance between two inhabited British points (Land’s End, Cornwall being the most southernly).

Dunnet Head is in fact the most northerly point of Scotland and Britain. Actually, if you want to be exact, Dunnet Head is the area, the tip is ‘known’ as Easter Head (or at least Wikipedia says it is, so it might be true?)

And NOW…. we have John O’ Groats…

As you can see, the sun was starting to fade and it was actually really pretty!

Now, we just had to drive back to Inverness to complete our very long day of driving almost the NC500.

Of course, we had to stop for some fish and chips in Brora (I recommend The Bear Den if you’re ever going that way!) and we had to stop to see the oil rigs lit up at night.

Day five – The last day around Loch Ness

The last day of my little Highland adventure, and we saved the monster hunting for last; Loch Ness Monster!

This might not seem as spectacular as the trip all the way around (almost) the NC500, but there are still some lovely surprises that I wasn’t expecting and just like the NC500, I would love to go back again!

Our first stop was around about Lochend, this was our first real view of Loch Ness.

We then stopped (well, I demanded we stop!) at a shop near Drumnadrochit, close to where Urquhart Castle was located as there was a shop on the side that I had to go in to get my obligitory postcards, and I… might have… got a few. We couldn’t see the castle unfortunately, as due to the virus (I think), they were operating on an appointment only basis. We couldn’t even get a sneak peak of it from somewhere, but our next stop kinda made up for it.

Above is Invermoriston Falls, and we caught it at probably the most beautiful time of the year, one of my favourites; Autumn. Okay, so I love Summer more because it’s warmer and I hate being cold, but Autumn is close second as it’s so pretty!

Next stop was Fort Augustus, we had a wander up the lochs and down to the view point (we did look out for Nessy, but couldn’t see her!)

We then drove back up Loch Ness on the other side, and I’m so glad we did! Although, for about half of it we weren’t driving next to the loch, hell, we couldn’t even see the loch from where we were, but it was absolutely stunning!

We then stopped at the Falls of Foyers. Hoods up… it’s a little wet!

We did manage to get back towards the loch and got some lovely shots before heading back to my flat for a well deserved take-away!

A big shoutout to my mate for driving all the way up to Inverness and putting up with my craziness! (Yes, that is a shell, she’s call Michelle).

Thanks for reading this rather longer post today! I’m hoping to go do the full NC500 in the summer this year (2021), fingers crossed the pandemic eases by then, and I will getting my motorbike licence (CBT first, then going straight to Direct Access for my big-boy licence). And then next year, I am planning to do the American version – the Route 66! (see below for a blog post on that!)

Here are the other Highland blog posts:

Moving to the Highlands
Six Months in the Highlands – Thanks, Covid-19!

Here are a few other travel posts:

Living in Australia – Part 1: Breakup from hell and Brisvegas
Douglas, South Lanarkshire – A Hidden Gem
A small trip to Reading – Wokefield Mansion
Living in Australia – Part 2: My first Christmas away from my parents (Christmas Special!)
Travelling Route 66 for Charity – Update

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6 Months in the Highlands – Thanks, COVID-19!

In one of my previous posts (here’s the link), I talk about moving to the Highlands. It was just a small ‘travel’ post really, with a few pictures, intended to be a precursor to future travel posts.

But it didn’t quite work out the way I planned.

And… I *might* be moving again!

Pre-Covid-19

On Feburary 24th, I had my first day at my new job – but it was in London. I travelled down to London from the southern part of Scotland where I had been temporarily living. I got to the hotel, realised it was the wrong one, so ordered a taxi to the correct one, and the next day was my induction training.

My induction training lasted two days; Monday and Tuesday, although I didn’t see much of London in that time, so no cool photos to show you guys (sorry!). By Tuesday evening, I was on a flight to Inverness.

Wednesday morning, I started my first day in the office.

I took with me, one medium/large suitcase, my laptop bag and a work laptop bag (which I collected from the induction day).

I have been living out of that suitcase for 6 months!

For the first few weeks, I had planned to get settled at work and get a feel for the area. Once I knew the best area to live, public transport routes (currently car/bike-less, don’t judge!) and how much I could possible afford, I was going to find a nice place to rent.

A few weeks in, I started looking at places, I viewed two flats, and contacted a lot more for other potentials…

Then Covid-19 hit.

Post-Covid-19

For the first few weeks before the UK was put into official lockdown, I was given the option to work from home, the last week before lockdown, I did. I found it cool and novel – I’ve always wanted a remotely working job!

Then lockdown officially started 23rd March. Shops started to shut (except for essential shops). People weren’t allowed out except for 1 hour exercise (this wasn’t set in stone, apparently, but it was ‘advised’ to limit to an hour). We had to have letters to say we were keyworkers if we got stopped by police.

I was classed as a keyworker, but was lucky that I had a company laptop so I could work from ‘home’. And, I was equally lucky that the host of the Airbnb I had booked was more than happy for me to stay with her until lockdown lifted. I pay her a small fee a month, instead of booking continuously through Airbnb – and it works out a lot cheaper.

The novelty of working from home wore off quickly. Especially since I couldn’t go anywhere! I was inside for work. I was inside on days off. Summer came, and I was inside for that too. The only time I could go out was for walks/exercise or shopping. That was the only time I could see bits of Inverness; the area I was really looking forward to exploring! When lockdown restrictions eased a little, I started to go a little further afield. Which is the next section…

University of the Highlands and Islands

This is something that is pretty close to where I have been living for the past six months. When I first moved, pre-Covid-19, I would walk through the grounds to get to the office. Post-Covid-19, I would either walk through to get to Tesco to do my shopping, or just go for a walk to get my hourly exercise.

Although it’s not exactly a destination to pack your bags to go see (unless you’re starting a course there!), it certainly is a lovely place to walk around when the sun is shining!

Culloden Woods and Battlefield

I went to Culloden Woods/Forest a few times, it was suggested to me by a colleague from work. I had no idea what to expect, I couldn’t find any information on it. But, to do something different to my usual walk around the University grounds, I went here on a day off instead.

First time I went, I was happily exploring; following the path, taking in the sights, smells and sounds, and I came across a sign that said ‘Culloden Battlefield Trail’. It didn’t tell me how far it was to the Culloden Battlefield, but I at least figured the walk might be intersting, even if I didn’t walk all the way there. But, I did end up walking all the way to the battlefield!

And, I was glad I went, as although I was only there for a little bit, it was a really interesting site. It’s the site where the Jacobite Rising came to and end in 1745. There is a visitor centre (which was closed due to the lockdown) which holds a cafe, museum and shop, there is an old cottage (Leanach Cottage), clan gravestones and memorial cairn (be careful not to walk on the grass on this bit, there are real remains there – I found that out afterwards and felt really guilty!) and then there is the battlefield itself with the different flags to represent the two sides of the battle, and there are markers dotted around with more information.

Second time I went, I visited more of the woods and forest, this time around it was really foggy and I got some really interesting shots in the fog.

Long walk to North Kessock

I add emphasis on the ‘long walk’ here, because I was out for six hours! I walked all the way from Cradlehall/Westhill, through Inverness City Centre, over the Kessock Bridge and into North Kessock and Craigton… then back again. I was sore for a few days afterwards.

Again, I got some really interesting shots. North Kessock is a lovely little place, right on the edge of Beauly Firth, I found a lovely little swing seat on the edge by some woods, there was a fog coming in which hid part of the Kessock Bridge. I saw a few sights walking through Inverness too.

Inverness Castle and the Islands

When lockdown started to ease, and the shops started to open, I decided to go back into Inverness to do some shopping. But the main part of my walk into Inverness was to see Inverness Castle! No trip to Inverness is complete without at least seeing the Castle!

Unfortunately, the Castle was closed, but not because of Covid, but because it’s undergoing some renovations, so I wasn’t able to go inside. When I get back to the UK after my contract abroad, and if I get my old job back in Inverness, I am looking forward to seeing it again, hopefully go inside this time!

As well as Inverness Castle, I also had a wander along the River Ness. A little further down is what’s called ‘The Islands’ or ‘Ness Islands’, which, as the name suggests, is a colletion of islands on the River Ness. There are a few bridges across them so you can walk along them, and they have a few trees and lights up along them (which I can only imagine look nice in the evening).

Motorbike Ride to Nairnshire

One day, I had the pleasure of catching up with an old friend from college. He was coming up for a tour of Scotland on his motorbike and decided to pop in to see me. He brought his spare motorbike helmet and we took a trip out to see Nairn, an area I had hoped to see when I first moved up, pre-Covid-19. And yes, I am aware there is still a Covid risk, but luckily he had already had Covid and had the anti-bodies. There was no risk of spreading.

We went to Fort George to begin with, it was closed, but we were still able to walk on the pebble beach and around the old Fort. We then got back on the bike and headed to Nairn Beach, where we wandered about, sat and caught up, had lunch and then headed back. We stopped at Sueno’s Stone – a 9th Century Picto-Scottish standing stone, Clava cairns and the viaduct close by.

My next adventure

I can’t talk too much about my next adventure. I have mentioned it a few times, so it’s not exactly a secret. But I don’t want to dedicate a whole blog post to it just yet, as it hasn’t been officially confirmed.

However, I will say; I was recently given the opportunity to go to anther country, with the company I work for!

At the moment there are a few issues with Covid-19; the borders being closed and, I have a few issues with my visa. But when things have been sorted, if I am still able to go, I will give you more updates!

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I’m moving to the Highlands!

Hello my little demons,

Some of you may know that I have been looking for work, and it’s been a tough few months trying to get back on the career ladder. But this week, all my hard work has paid off!

And, what better place to move to? The Highlands!

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(c) All photos are my own. Copyrighted to myself, Penny Hooper. Photo above: somewhere in the Cairngorms, Scotland.

I took a little trip up there for an interview, and from where I currently am, it was a long train journey, yet I managed to do it within a day. But what a long day that was!

I set off early in the morning, got on the train, headed for Edinburgh first, had a quick train transfer and then up through the Highlands, arriving just before lunch time.

82453141_2912592158967058_2641919286683107328_n(c) All photos are my own. Copyrighted to myself, Penny Hooper. Photo above: inside the train, somewhere in the Cairngorms, Scotland.

The train took overall just over 4 hours to get to Inverness, where my interview was. I took some sandwhiches I pre-bought the day before, and a load of sweets to keep me entertained. I forgot my magazine I bought as I rushed out of the door to get my first train but luckily took my charger for my phone, so I could prepare on the train for the interview and just watching the world go by.

82220002_2912592265633714_4537422305847934976_n(c) All photos are my own. Copyrighted to myself, Penny Hooper. Photo above: Dalwhinnie Train Station, Scotland.

As the stops when by, I wondered what the areas were like, and wondered about the possibility of one day getting off at one of them to go explore. Aviemore is high on my list of stops, and Dalwhinnie was certainly a possibility, being a fan of the whisky.

When I finally arrived at my destination, I was there a little early. Giving myself enough time to get off, stretch my legs, have a quick look around if the weather was kind to me, have a tea-break and then find the bus to my interview.

81752257_2912592322300375_7767083402854924288_n(c) All photos are my own. Copyrighted to myself, Penny Hooper. Photo above: Victorian Market, Inverness, Scotland.

I headed straight to the Victorian Market opposite the train station, after doing a small bit of research into the area before hand. I figured that was the best place to find a range of cafe’s and it was indoors so I could escape the cold and/or rain when I get off the train.

It was smaller inside than I was expecting, but it was a cute little place. There were a few cafe’s inside, I found one where I sat upstairs in a little section and relaxed on a comfortable sofa for a few minutes with a pot of tea while googling where to get the bus from.

81877693_2912592472300360_8765863633629478912_n(c) All photos are my own. Copyrighted to myself, Penny Hooper. Photo above: Pot of tea at a Cafe in the Victorian Market, Inverness, Scotland.

After a long break warming up with a pot of tea and finding where the street is to get my bus, I decided to get up a few minutes early and go for a wander around Inverness, at least down to the River Ness as it wasn’t that far from where I was.

But as soon as I got out of the safety of the covered market, I realised it was raining – was a little difficult to know that where I was sat!

But I decided I had already made the decision to go, so I was going!

82181985_2912592582300349_1512224243658522624_n(c) All photos are my own. Copyrighted to myself, Penny Hooper. Photo above: River Ness, Inverness, Scotland.

The weather was terrible, it was freezing with a bitterly cold wind going through the town and it was raining. But I still managed to get to the river to have a very quick look and snap a few photos.

I didn’t stay there long though, as I decided to go back, see if there was an earlier bus or find somewhere else to go get a drink and sit down, or at least find somewhere warmer!

In the end I decided to just get on the bus and head to my interview.

I didn’t see much else of Inverness, I literally had my interview, got back on the bus and was lucky to get on the next train back home. I didn’t even stop to have dinner (I had a left over sandwhich I ate on the train!)

But, my hard work paid off… the long train journey and the cold Highland weather was worth it… I got a call the next Monday saying they’d like to offer me a position.

Now I’m just waiting for my start date so I can book temporary accommodation.

Keep an eye out for future travel posts from the Highlands!

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If you liked this blog post, please do check out my others:

Living in Australia – Part 2: My first Christmas away from my parents (Christmas Special!)

A small trip to Reading – Wokefield Mansion

Douglas, South Lanarkshire – A Hidden Gem

Living in Australia – Part 1: Breakup from hell and Brisvegas

Best places to visit in South Lanarkshire

Rose Garden Sanatorium – Chapter 5

Happy Birthday! But why do we celebrate?

Remember, Remember, the 5th of November…

The HALO Trust: Safe Steps – Challenge Complete!

I won! I came first in the Earnesty Writer’s Awards 2018 Paranormal Genre!

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Douglas, South Lanarkshire – A Hidden Gem

On one of my previous travel blogs, I talk about the best sites in South Lanarkshire, Scotland. One of them, I talk about the hidden gem that is the village of Douglas. I feel that this needs it’s own blog post as I have a fair bit to say about it and that short insert wasn’t enough.

Read on to learn about Douglas, with ties to the Douglas Clan, including Black Douglas, their links with Robert the Bruce, the Cameronian Regiment, PM Alec Douglas-Home, Sir Walter Scott, the Polish Army, even a little gem of a man James Gavin a local tailor.

Plus, it’s a hidden gem that I feel needs to be recognised more. But I also will be telling you both the positives and the negatives of the place.

Douglas, South Lanarkshire

DSC_0343
Remains of the 17th Century Tower, Douglas Castle, South Lanarkshire. (c) Penny Hooper.

Douglas is situated just off the M74, 40 minutes South East of Glasgow with a population of approximately 1600. It’s a small village many people drive through on their way to Ayrshire, usually without a second glance. A thorn you pass on Ayr Road, but without realising that thorn belongs to a rose (well, in some respects). Douglas has it’s name for a reason, which, if you keep reading, you’ll find out why.

Douglas is one of those villages where you will be greeted with a mix of emotions. If you’re driving through in the summer, before you get into the heart of Douglas, Ayr road will give you a view of the Douglas Estate ‘Ponds’ to your right (if you’ve just come off junction 12 on the motorway). A little further you will be greeted with outstretched branches of trees as if high-fiving you into the village. But when you get into Douglas,  you will be greeted with old dark buildings on your left, stepping back into an industrial era, with an old crumbling hotel that has been left derelict for years on your right.

You’ll be partly right, at one point in it’s life, Douglas was a mining town. But we’ll get to that.

If you turn off Ayr road on the right onto Main Street, before the petrol garage, following the brown signs that signal tourist destinations, you’ll be swallowed by more industrial buildings.

However, catch Douglas at the wrong time of year, and it can be cold, dark, wet and miserable. And, unfortunately, due to where Douglas is situated, in-land and not far from the Borders, this can be a majority of the year. But, we’re not here for the weather, are we?

James Gavin Monument

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The stone cairn commemorating James Gavin, Main Street, Douglas.
Source: http://www.clydesideimages.co.uk/war-memorials-lanarkshire.html

First stop, on the Main Street, just opposite the local shop there is a round monument dedicated to James Gavin. Gavin wasn’t a very well known person, at least not outside of Douglas. He was a local tailor, but when he refused to renounce his presbytarian religion he had his ears cut off with his own tailoring scissors before suffering a life of slavery in the West Indies.

Gavin was finally able to return back to Douglas and the monument was erected on the spot where the ruins of his house stood until 1968. The monument holds an engraved lintel with a pair of tailor’s scissors. It’s said the monument stands where Gavin’s backgarden would have been.

But if you keep going up Main Street there’s a little hidden secret waiting to be found, a little secret that upon first glance looks like an average site in Scotland, but this little secret has more than you think.

After finally escaping the burden of the old buildings, the road opens up. The buildings in front of you, a large Georgian stone building with a painted house one end and a smaller house with large windows is hiding a little church. This little church is St Bride’s Church.

St Bride’s Church

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Remains of St. Bride’s Church, Douglas. (c) Penny Hooper.

This little hidden gem doesn’t get nearly as much attention as it should. St Bride’s Church is one of the oldest, probably arguably the oldest building in the village, having been built in the late 1300s.

But the interesting thing about this church is that it is the mausoleum for the Black Douglases or Clan Douglas, who were friends with Robert the Bruce, Sir James Douglas in particular.

That’s because Douglas Village was the home of the Douglas Clan!

Most people would have heard of Robert the Bruce, even if you’re not a Scottish History buff. He was King of Scotland from 1306 until his death in 1329, a month shy of his 55th birthday, and led Scotland during the First War of Scottish Independence against England.

Sir James Douglas was one of the chief commanders during the Wars of Scottish Independence, and a friend to Robert the Bruce, so much so that on Robert the Bruce’s death bed he asked James Douglas to carry his heart to the Holy Land in Jerusalem to be presented before God. However, James Douglas was called to fight against the Moors and the heart went with him.

Robert the Bruce’s heart was eventually laid to rest in Melrose Abbey in the Scottish Borders, his bones in Dunfermline Abbey in Fife, and his internal organs buried where he died in Cardross, Dumbarton (which, I believe, was the practice after a death in battle).

Sir James Douglas and his company joined King Alfonso XI of Castile to siege the Kingdom of Granada, which was where James Douglas died. His heart was brought back to the mausoleum for the Black Douglases; St Bride’s Church.

Today, the grounds of the church are open and free to roam, nestled in between houses which were built around it over the years. But to gain access to see Sir James Douglas’s heart and inside the chancel, you will need to ask for a key. Unfortunately this rests on whether the keyholder is available when you are in the village.

It’s also rumoured that the clock face on the tower was a gift from Mary, Queen of Scots and is the oldest working clock in Scotland. Supposedly to chime three minutes before the hour, a reference to the Clan Douglas motto “never behind”. It still chimes every hour, although quieter than it used to, so as to not upset the locals, and it’s not always three minutes before the hour as the clock has to be continuious wound. It also still rings on Sundays to call the locals in the village to church, although service isn’t held in the old St. Bride’s anymore, but instead in the newer church up on Colonels Entry.

Continuing our historic journey through Douglas, right next to the church, on Bell’s Wynd is another hidden gem, an old Chapel; St Sophia’s Chapel, which is now a museum.

St Sophia’s Chapel / Douglas Heritage Museum

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Douglas Heritage Museum, Douglas. (c) Penny Hooper.

Originally, this building was the Dower House of the Douglas Estate (a large house available for the widow of the previous owner of the estate, who is called the “dowager”, she usually moves to the Dower House after the heir of the estate marries).

The building has had many uses over the years, in 1706 it was a Parish School, a century later it was used as a poor house for vagrants (beggers/homeless people), then it was reverted to being a house until 1961 when it was an Episcopal Church to replace the chaple in Douglas Castle. Now, since 1993, it has been converted into a museum which displays various aspects of village life, the Douglas family and Castle, and the Cameronian Regiment (more on that later). Exhibitions are said to change annually.

It’s located on Bell’s Wynd, with the front door opposite St Bride’s Graveyard. However, it is only open from 1st Saturday of April and closes the last Sunday of September between 2pm and 5pm. Weekends only. Or by special arrangement, much like St Bride’s Church.

There is an inscription above the entrace of the building, which was from when the building was converted as a school. It is in Latin, but translated reads; “This building is restored for the foster children of the muses under the auspices of the high and noble Duke of Douglas for the perpetual use of the School and Schoolmaster 1706”.

If you continue past the Museum, further up Bell’s Wynd, you will be greeted with a beautiful view; a view of a football field, the Douglas Water river and the woods up on the hill. To the left there is an interesting statue pointing up over the panaroma.

James Douglas, Earl of Angus Statue
and Cameronian Regiment memorial

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James, Earl of Angus Memorial in Douglas. (c) Penny Hooper

For any history buffs, you may have heard of the Cameronian Regiment. Unfortunately, I don’t know much about the Cameronian regiment so I can’t give you much background (and probably not enough scope for this blog to delve too much into it anyway), but from what I have found with researching this, the Cameronian Regiment was founded in 1688-1689 by the Earl of Angus, James Douglas, originally called the Cameronian Guard or The Earl of Angus’s Regiment, which, of course, was raised near Douglas Village.

It’s worth pointing out here that James Douglas, Earl of Angus shouldn’t be confused with James Douglas the Black Douglas as these were two very different people. (I hate to admit it, but it confused me at first! Clearly James was a popular name!) James the Black Douglas was born 1286 and died 1330, not quite an Earl of Douglas as the title was created for William Douglas (the 1st Earl, of course) in 1358. James Douglas The Earl of Angus was born 1671 and died 1692, he was from the Stewart family line (the Red Douglases) who inherited Douglas Estate after the fall of The Earls of Douglas. Ironically the 1st Earl of Angus was George Douglas (c. 1380-1403) who’s father was William Douglas, he had an affair with Margaret Stewart, Countess of Mar and Angus (he was married to the sister of her husband).

The name ‘Cameronian’ was originally given to the faction of Scottish Covenanters (Presbyterian movement) who followed Richard Cameron (leader of the Covenanters). Richard Cameron was killed in the Battle of Aird’s Moss, Ayrshire, in 1680.

The begining of the regiment actually began in 1688 when William of Orange landed in England to seize the throne from his father-in-law, King James II. James Douglas gave his support to William of Orange. Ten companies were raised from the supporters of Richard Cameron to form the ‘Cameronian Guard’. The Cameronian Guard, however, disbanded in March 1689.

But in May of the same year, it was re-formed under James, Earl of Angus, in Douglas. It was thus known as The Earl of Angus’s Regiment or the Lord Angus Regiment.

Around 1749, the Regiment was described as ‘The 26th Cameronians’. But in 1786, the titled was officially changed to ‘The 26th (or Cameronian) Regiment of Foot’.

In 1881 under the Childers Reform (reoganisation of the infantry regiments) the regiment was amalgamated with the 90th Regiment of Foot (Perthshire Volunteers) to form the Cameronians (Scottish Rifles).

In 1968, it was disbanded due to Government defence cuts.

The statue of James Douglas, or the Earl of Angus, in Douglas is to commemorate the raising of the regiment in 1689. It was build in 1892 to mark the regiment’s two-hundred anniversary.

A little further down the road, on the grounds of the estate there is also a memorial to commemorate the disbandment of the regiment.

Cameronian Regiment memorial
(Disbandment memorial)

If you travel out of the Douglas Village and towards the lakes (or Ponds, known by the locals), just past Stable Lake (which used to see curling many years ago, a few curling stones can be seen in the village if you’re looking for them) towards the Castle remains there is a little memorial sat up on the hill with a view of the river cutting through the land – the river that has a permanent cold wind following it!

This memorial compliments the previous memorial, with one commemorating the founding and this one commemorating the disbandment. The reason for it’s location is because the Cameronians was disbanded at Douglas Castle on the 14th May 1968 by the 14th Duke of Hamilton, and the then Earl of Angus, Douglas Douglas-Hamilton.

On the 13-14th of May 2018 (50 years to the date), the village held a 50th Anniversary for the disbandment of the Cameronian regiment, with an afternoon parade, buffet and more.

For more information on the Cameronian regiment and links to the Anniversary Parades (including YouTube videos), click here: www.cameronians.org

Cameronian Regiment Memorial (for the disbandment of), Douglas. (c) Penny Hooper.

Douglas Castle

Douglas Castle, you may have already figured out, was owned by the Douglas family. Again, my history isn’t great, so again this is information I have researched myself. Also, this will be limited to the Castle’s history, rather than the Douglas family line.

The first Castle was erected in the 13th century and may have been wooden or stone. But it was destroyed and rebuilt many times over the years.

During the Wars of Scottish Independence the castle was captured by the English, and given to Lord Clifford. However, Sir James Douglas recaptured it on Palm Sunday, while the garrison were at chapel attending mass. The surviving English were dragged back to the Castle’s cellar and beheaded, put atop a heap of broken wine casks and food stores and set alight. Douglas then had the wells salted and poisoned with the bodies of dead horses and the Castle burned. The massacre became to be known at ‘The Douglas Larder’.

By the 15th century, the Steward monarchy was threatened by the ‘Black’ Douglases and the Battle of Arkinholm began in 1455. Douglas’s forces were defeated, Douglas himself fled to England the Douglas Castle went to the ‘Red’ Douglases (The ‘Red’ Douglases of Angus and Fife). The Black Douglases had ended. It is believed the castle was rebuilt soon after 1455.

In 1703/1707, when Archibald Douglas was created Duke of Douglas, the Castle was rebuilt again as a tower house and encloused courtyard with a corner tower. In 1745 the Castle saw damage after a rebellion led by Charles Edward Stuart (‘Bonnie Prince Charlie’) and the Highlanders in Charles’ army, after spending two ‘wild days’ around Christmas. The Castle was later destroyed by a fire in 1755, with the exception of the corner tower (which can still be seen today).

In 1757 the castle was again scheduled to be rebuilt by the great architect Robert Adam into a grand palace, which would have been the largest in Scotland. However, Douglas died before it was completed. The Castle would have been a five story building with round towers to the front and square towers to the rear, standing in an extensive park that would have spanned the valley of the Douglas Water.

The estate was eventually passed to his nephew Archibald Douglas the 1st Baron Douglas after the ‘Douglas Cause’ (a legal dispute between the 1st Baron and the Duke of Hamilton).

In the 1930s, Charles Douglas-Home, the 13th Earl of Home, (the family line of the Prime Minister Sir Alec Douglas-Home) allowed mining of coal in the park, adjacent to the Castle, to help with the local unemployment. But this unfortunately lead to the castle’s demolishment in 1938 due to dangerous subsidence.

Today, what remains of the Castle is the 17th century corner tower, remains of a cellar block underneath and raised earth that could potentially be from the old road into the castle. A little further out, right next to the Cairn Lodge Services is the remains of the Douglas Estate Gatehouse.

In 1831/2, Sir Walter Scott published the 4th in his series “Tales of My Landlord” called “Castle Dangerous”, the last of his novels. This novel was inspired by Douglas Castle. The Castle sometimes is now refered to as “Castle Dangerous”.

Here are some old photos I managed to find of the old Douglas Castle:

Collection of photos sourced from multiple web sources, including Douglasdale Real Group Facebook Page.

It’s also worth noting that the reason why the first lake is called “Stable Lake” is because this used to be where the Douglas’s Stable used to be, which can be seen on one of the photos above. Unfortunately the Stable was also demolished, I wasn’t able to find any information on when or how, but I imagine they were either destroyed at the same time the castle was in the 1930s, or years before during the many rise and falls of the castle.

Polish Memorial Garden

On the 11th June 1940, the Polish Government signed an agreement with the British Government to form a Polish Army and Polish Air Force in the United Kingdom. Douglas was one site in which the Polish soldiers (around 17,000) were housed temporarily in camps along with Crawford and Biggar (nearby villages) before being more permanently based in Fife, Angus and Perthshire.

Three memorials were erected to commemorate the Polish Army, one square memorial pillar was presented to Douglas by General Stanislaw Maczek, Commander of all Polish forces in the UK.

In 2002 the other two monuments were moved to Douglas to create a Polish Army Memorial Garden.

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Polish War Memorial Garden, Douglas. (c) Penny Hooper.

Walks/Hikes

If you’re an avid walker/hiker like I am, there are many walks around Douglas, from the obvious walks around the Lakes (Ponds) and the river Douglas Water, to longer wooded walks up on the hills either side of Douglas. Of course, bring your decent walking shoes and a warm waterproof coat, Douglas can unfortunately be rather wet, windy and cold almost all year round. If you’re going for a walk up in the woods, you might even want to bring your wellies!

For any dog walkers, please be careful around the Douglas Estate, it is now managed by the Douglas and Angus Estate and there are many farm animals around. Sometimes the farm animals escape! On certain times of the year, Royals have been known to go shooting in the grounds too and there is a house up past the red bridge. There are a few signs up near Stable lake that ask you to keep your dog on the lead. If you walk up on the wooded walks either side of Douglas, which can be a lot quieter, dogs are welcome off-lead, but be weary of farm animals in farm land near and the occasional horse rider and motorbike/push bike. Also be aware that these woodlands are usually logging sites.

Of course, you can’t avoid at least a small walk around the lakes if you’re visiting Douglas, it’s where some of the historical sites are! Up past the Main Street and towards the grounds of the Douglas Estate, you will go past the Polish Memorial Garden on your right and over a cattle grid. Stable Lake will be on your left, and if you continue up towards the end of the lake there is a small and rather muddy car park (if you can call it that). Follow the tarmac path around the hill and you will see both the Cameronian Regiment memorial of when it was disbanded and the remains of Douglas Castle.

When you get to Douglas Castle you can either go left towards the red bridge or right following the path around. You can follow the latter path towards the lake behind Castle Douglas which will mostly lead to farm land or double back towards Stable Lake.

The path left at Castle Douglas, over the red bridge, will lead to a house, but if you continue past it you will get to two gates. The gate straight ahead will lead you through farm land, which you are welcome to walk through just be weary of the farm animals and the gate on the left (which is usually quite muddy) will lead up through the woods. The walk up through the woods, if you follow the path at the top to the right, can eventually circle back round (past the M74 motorway), but the path to the left will follow along the hill at the top which you can follow all the way to Douglas West.

Somewhere up on the walk through the woods there is a small circular stone monument of sorts, it looks like an old sundial or henge, but I wasn’t able to find any information on it.

Not far from Douglas West is the old Railway tracks that used to be for the coal mining in the 1900s, the tracks are no longer there, but you can see where the line used to be, with the odd old bridge across it. This line appears to follow Douglas Water and past Glespin where it curves off.

Up round this way, there is a large windmill farm too, which I’ve heard is open to the public to walk around and has some spectacular views over Douglas and the surrounding areas.

On the other side of Douglas, crossing Ayr road, there is also another wooded hill which is suitable for general walkers/hikers, dog walkers and bikes. Known by the locals as Paigie Hill.

Paigie Hill is famous with the locals, as it’s a Douglas tradition to walk up the hill on the 2nd of January, usually just the men (although the women have their own walk, free of the men). It started 30 years ago when just a few men from the village decided to ‘blow away the New Year celebrations cobwebs’. But in 2013 68 men took part.

You can get there by walking down Springhill Road, which leads up a track past a farm as loose stones guide you up. When you get to the tree line, you have a choice of continuing on or turning right.

The path up will lead you past the treeline and up on the hill. As Scotland has a law called “Right to Roam” you are welcome to wander on this barren hill, which has a few views around the landscape where you can see for miles.

The path on the right will follow the hill through the trees, the majority of this is usually fairly clear of mud until you decide to wander off the track. Along the way there are little tracks that you can explore which I believe are for push bikes, but can be explored on foot, some are labled with yellow painted carvings in the trees or beer cans that have been cut and stapled to the trees. The path does eventually lead down the hill towards the A70, if you follow the path a little way past the tree line you can follow it to the right towards a farm house, and down towards the local cemetary, the road right will lead past the local School and back into Douglas.

It is also possible to turn off left when you get to the top of Springhill Road, one grassy/muddy path will eventually lead to an area which has a large tent made up and a very basic swing seat that looks over the view of the hill, but be careful if you have a dog, last time I was there there there was a little bit of broken glass.

There is also word that Mainshill near Douglas will also be redeveloped, it’s an old coal site and will eventually have a woodland including paths for pedestrians and cyclists and a carpark.

Collection of photographs of walks around Douglas. (c) Penny Hooper.

Douglas Wildlife

As well as the usual farm animal (mostly sheep, but some beef cows and of course the Highland cow just outside the village!) and horses that lives in the village, there have been many wildlife spotted in the area, from the common birds like Jackdaws, Dunnocks, Blackbirds, Robins, to the more uncommon such as Oyster Catchers, Spotted Flycatchers, Sandmartins and Whooper Swans. I also have heard a Tawny owl calling one evening.

Buzzards are also pretty common in Douglas, as they are in most parts of Scotland, having been dubbed the ‘Scottish Pidgeon’ for a reason. Even Sparrowhawks have been sited, in areas around Douglas Red Kites and Peregrine Falcon’s have been residents. It was also even rumoured that the very rare Osprey has been spotted in the area.

Other animals, as well as birds have been spotted, such as mice, badgers, foxes, deer and even weasles. I also wouldn’t be surprised if pine martins also live in the area and maybe even wildcats since they were introduced to Scotland.

A collection of animals photos, (c) Penny Hooper. (c) Adrian Hooper.

Douglas is a film set!

Only a few years ago, in the Summer of 2017, a film crew decended upon Douglas which was received with mixed emotions from the locals.

This film crew, Mammoth Screen, closed off roads, mainly the Main Street, to film part of the Agatha Christie’s Ordeal by Innocence three-part drama, aired, eventually, in April 2018.

Ordeal by Innocence had a cast of Bill Nighy, Catherine Keener, Matthew Goode, Eleanor Tomlinson, Anthony Boyle, Ed Westwick (although due to sexual assault accusations, his character Mickey Argyll was replaced by Christian Cooke), Luke Treadaway, Morven Christie, Crystal Clarke, Ella Purnell and Alice Eve.

The filming saw a small facelift to the Main Street of Douglas, with the Cross Key’s Pub been given a new lick of paint, two flats being turned into temporary shops complete with boxes of vegetables and homeware tools outside and a number of old vintage cars parked along the road. Of course, the temporary shops were dismantled and the cars disappeared, but the paint on the old pub remained (with a few minor tweeks for the landlord).

Not all the cast of the three-part series was seen in Douglas, unfortunately Bill Nighy wasn’t spotted, however, Luke Treadaway and Crystal Clarke were prominent stars on the Main Street.

The mixed reception with the locals was split between those in favour of Douglas gaining popularity (especially the local busineses such as The Cross Keys who got a new face-lift and The Scrib Tree), and those who had to endure the filming going on into the early hours of the morning – luckily it was on a weekend!

The three-part series was originally scheduled to air at Christmas, but due to the sexual assault accusations surrounding Ed Westwick at the time, the release date was pushed back and eventually aired at Easter in April 2018 with Ed Westwick’s scenes redone. Due to insufficient evidence, the case against Westwick was dropped.

Recently, another film crew decended upon Douglas once more, filming a few shorts in the St. Bride’s Graveyard and a small alleyway on Main Street leading to garages. Luckily the film crew had packed up just after night fall, but clearly the area is picking up popularity between the film industry! However, not much was said of this film crew, it’s unsure what the filming was for.

Collection of Photos from the Agatha Christie’s Ordeal By Innocence filming.
(c) Penny Hooper.

Where to eat and drink?

Douglas has a few places to drink, from the two pubs on the Main Street, The Cross Keys Inn and The Countryside Inn and a cafe which has just been granted a licence to sell wines and spirits; The Scrib Tree up on the Ayr Road.

On Ayr Road, there is also a recently opened Bakery where the old Post Office used to be, up by the entrance to Main Street is a local Indian takeaway and behind the Crossburn Services there is another little cafe; Crossburn Kitchen Cafe & Take-away. There are also a few other shops, including a local newsagents, which sells everything from your newspaper, milk, to cool drinks in the fridges.

Unfortunately the old Douglas Arms Hotel has been closed for many years now, after having been driven to dispare. There had been rumours that it had been bought in the last few years, but so far it has been left untouched. Which is a huge shame, as if this hotel could be brought back up to scratch and with the right marketing, the area could have a huge boost in tourism.

The Cross Keys Inn (known as ‘The Keys’ by the locals) is an old pub on the Main Street. It sells many drinks, from beers, ales, wines and spirits, and has a few TVs which air Sky Sports, At The Races and BT Sports, all can be watched by the old crackling open fire or a round of pool on the pool table near the back.

They occasionally have live music (TheWORDS, Billy Crawford, Midtown Riot, Hooch Hounds, Bracken and Losferwords), which can be very busy with the locals of Douglas and the nearby villages.

Unfortuantely, however, the pub doesn’t sell hot food as there is no kitchen available, but it does offer the odd crisps or pork scratchings!

The Countryside Inn is the other pub in Douglas, having been taken over by new management in the last few years, which not only is a place to drink, but also has a restaurant which can seat up to 50 people. The Inn also has a large function room for parties and weddings.

The Scrib Tree is another nice little place, selling mostly coffees, cakes and small things for breakfast and lunch. However, there have been a number of great reviews for their food. With freshly made soups and speciality sausage rolls and scotch eggs!

http://thescribtree.co.uk/home

Where to stay?

Unfortunately there aren’t many places to stay in Douglas, the only ones I were able to find were the Holiday Cottages on the Douglas Estate.

Click here to go to the Douglas Estate Holiday Cottages.

I was also able to find one property on lastminute-cottages.com, but it doesn’t seem to be available to book at the moment.

Otherwise, I would recommend staying somewhere outside of Douglas, such as the New Lanark Mill Hotel (another great area to visit in South Lanarkshire) or possibly somewhere in the Borders, such as Biggar.

Click here for the New Lanark Mill Hotel.

Getting Around

Douglas is one of those areas that is ideal if you drive. If you don’t drive, and you’re relying on public transport, be prepared for very limited means of travel around the area, especially getting to Douglas!

Unforutnately there is only two bus services that goes to Douglas. There is a Whitelaws bus that goes to Douglas from Lanark, the number 259 (to Glespin) which goes through Rigside, Sandilands (occasionally) and Kirkfieldbank (occasionally), which can be caught from Lanark Bus Station. It takes approximately 40 minutes, depending on what route it takes (whether it goes through Sandilands and Kirkfieldbank or not).

There is aslo a number 9 bus (Stuarts Coaches) which does the same route but runs on weekends and week day evenings when Whitelaws doesn’t run.

Here are a few useful references to websites for more information:

Douglas History
Douglas Clan
Black Douglases and Red Douglases
Douglas Castle
Sir James Douglas “Black Douglas”
General Stanislaw Maczek
Cross Keys Inn, Douglas
The Douglas Heritage Museum
Douglas Paigie Walk

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Both my books are currently 99c!

Both of my books are currently 99c in e-book format on Smashwords!

The idea of putting them up for sale is to get more reviews and traffic through my sites. I don’t get a lot of profits from selling them so cheap, as Smashwords takes a good chunk, but it’s mostly to get my name out there.

And hopefully, when I finally get my other books finished (still waiting for free time around uni work and job searching!) I’ll have a fan-base already!

See below for links and synopsis for each e-book.I-Fell-in-love-with-a-psychopath-full30713453_2359540254272254_3615440063170609152_n

Here is I fell in Love with a Psychopath:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/893044

Here is It’s My Mistake:

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/744287

Synopsis for I Fell in Love with a Psychopath:

What would you do if you realised the man you fell in love with had a psychopathic personality disorder?

After getting her degree in history, Jo took the plunge and moved to Chicago. But one day a guy changes her life completely. And not necessarily in a good way.

When she first moved to the city, Jo met Liam. She had a small crush on him from day one. Along with his good looks, he was funny and charming. Maybe a little immature, but he never failed to make her laugh. Finally, one day Liam asks Jo out on a date and she is stupidly nervous and surprised he even likes her!

Jo meets Xander in a bar. He is handsome and confident. He holds himself tall and constantly watches her reactions with mild curiosity. She keeps bumping into him, sometimes deliberately. He seems to say all the right things and do all the right things and she finds herself craving more of him.

The problem was, however, one of them is a psychopath and he now has an obsession with Jo…

Synopsis for It’s My Mistake:

Alice wants a career change, especially after a terrible incident at her last job. Her dream job has always been to work in a hotel, maybe even own one. But after messing up an interview very spectacularly for a vacancy at a well-known hotel chain in London, she wasn’t expecting to hold the attention of the Global Business Manager; Daniel Jeffries. And in more ways than one. Does Alice take the risk and accept Dan’s offer or does she play it safe?

Who knew that that interview day would be the day that changed Alice’s life? But is it for the better? Is this alluring Global Business Manager as amazing as he seems? And who is that mysterious yet amazingly handsome man at the hotel?

**Mature Content** Recommended for ages 18+ due to sexual situations and language.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

If you want to read a part of I Fell in Love with a Psychopath, read it here.

If you want to read a part of It’s My Mistake, read it here.

Here are some links to my other works you might like:

Ender’s Love – Chapter 1

Butterfly House – Chapter 1

Rose Garden Sanatorium – Prologue

My Normal – A Short Story by Penny Hooper

Other blog links:

Best places to visit in South Lanarkshire

The HALO Trust: Safe Steps – Challenge Complete!

I won! I came first in the Earnesty Writer’s Awards 2018 Paranormal Genre!

Paying for Reviews – BEWARE!

My Book ‘It’s My Mistake’ available in paperback!

Ender’s Love – Chapter 1

Warning: Strong language!

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Chapter 1

“Oh, for fuck sake!” I grumbled, as a passing car drove through a puddle and splashed me. I looked down at myself, just as a fellow walker on the path shot me a disgusted look. Probably at my language. I didn’t care. I was instantly hurdled into a bad mood. But I was glad to see I wasn’t that wet; the water had mostly got my boots and—

“Shit!” I exclaimed. The reason I was mostly spared from the dirty puddle water was because the majority had splashed on my laptop bag. I had been carrying it in my hand as it had moments ago been hurting my shoulder. But I didn’t hold much hope that the bag was waterproof.

I wiped it down as much as I could with my bare hands and hoped and prayed to a God that I wasn’t even sure I believed in that the laptop tucked safely inside hadn’t gotten wet itself.

I sighed and looked up to see a bar just a few feet away, right next to a rather lovely Mediterranean restaurant with a few bamboo plants outside. I made a mental note to check it out one day. The bar itself was just as elegant—just lacking the plant-life—with a lovely bold black and red sign which read; Da Vinci’s, which looked quite new. I huffed and decided to go get a well-deserved drink and check my laptop was still working.

The door was a little too heavy, but I tried not to show how heavy I found it. I didn’t want any men to think I was weak and could take advantage. I then trudged up to the bar confidently. Fake it ‘til you make it, I had heard once. It was my new motto in life.

“Excuse me,” I said to the barman. He was quite a good-looking guy, with dark brown hair, a small stubble of a beard, and wearing a white shirt, black trousers with a black waist-coat. Although a little too young for me, so I tried my hardest not to smile or stare too much and give him the wrong impression. I had a habit of attracting men who got the wrong impression.

But just as he moved to wander over to me, I saw a guy behind him that instantly caught my attention. He was handsome. Very handsome. Much more my type. Although, he was undoubtedly way out of my league. His black raven hair short and slightly standing up, a little ruffled as if he’d run his hands through it in frustration, a strong masculine hand resting on his handsome clean-shaven jaw, propping himself up as his elbow rested on the bar top. He appeared to be frowning at the laptop in front of him.

It suddenly felt a lot warmer in this bar than the first two seconds of walking in.

My attention went straight to his hand. It was a habit I had started doing lately. I was looking for a wedding ring. Nothing. That didn’t mean he was single though. Not that he’d ever be interested in me.

“Hi doll,” replied the barman, breaking my attention away from the devilish handsome man behind him. I was trying to will him to look up at me; I hoped if he looked up, I’d might be able to find out if he found me even slightly attractive or not. Maybe find that strange spark I hear about in films and romance books. I had a short-lived dream that our eyes would meet across the bar and an instant spark come between us, my world slowing down as he came over to introduce himself. But he was too engrossed in his laptop to even notice me.

“Hi,” I said, smiling at the barman suddenly, feeling my voice getting a little louder as if I subconsciously wanted to attract the attention of the other guy, but being as nice as possible to the barman, so if he did look up, he’d see I was friendly at least. Although, deep down, I hoped the barman hadn’t caught me goggling at his only other customer in his bar.

“I, err—” I’d suddenly forgotten what I was going to ask for. My mind drew a blank.

Wet laptop, that was right!

“Do you have any paper towels? Some inconsiderate buggar just drove through a large puddle and got me wet.” I felt myself flush at my own comment. I had too many male friends who would have heard that comment and found a hidden sexual innuendo in it. I just hoped neither men at the bar; the one behind the bar and the stupidly handsome one still staring intently at his laptop with his frown creating a rather curious line on his forehead, would have noticed.

I had also noticed with a slight twinge of embarrassment that my voice not only was a little too loud, but my stupidly southern English accent had accentuated the way I said buggar.

“Oh, damn,” said the barman, looking genuinely remorseful. “Sure, let me get you some!” He suddenly took two steps away and drew out some green paper towels before he brought them over to me. I just tried to keep my eyes on him and not the guy behind him who was now typing away at something with an indifferent look on his face.

“You know, you can always use the hand-dryers in the ladies,” the barman continued, after passing me the towels, “my girlfriend is always spilling drinks on herself, she says using the hand-dryers is better.”

I mentally found myself sighing in relief at the thought of this guy already having a girlfriend—although hoping it wasn’t too evident on my face. An ex-boyfriend had once told me my face was expressive. He didn’t mean it in a nice way either. At least there was less chance of the barman trying to hit on me; the one man in the bar I didn’t want to hit on me.

Although, a small part of me wanted to challenge myself to that unspoken agreement I had with myself only a few days ago. I had told myself that it shouldn’t be up to the men to make the first move. Women should make the first move. More importantly, I should make the first move.

“Oh, thanks, but it’s for my laptop, not me.” I smiled, but I suddenly felt myself blush, as the handsome man staring at his laptop suddenly looked up. Our eyes met only briefly as he took a sip of a drink that looked a lot like whiskey. His eyes were back down on the laptop in mere milliseconds. It was over so quickly that I could have just imagined it. I didn’t even manage to get what colour they were.

I suddenly felt deflated. He didn’t even smile at me. His eyes didn’t even linger enough to suggest he was attracted. There was no Hollywood spark. Nothing. Well, there goes the idea that he might even be in to me.

“Oh, sure!” the barman smiled. I looked back at him, trying to keep my eyes fixed on this man instead, as well as trying to keep my face straight and not frown in my disappointment. He didn’t seem to have noticed, and he certainly didn’t seem interested in hearing my story about how my laptop got wet. “Do you want a drink?”

“Yeah, might as well!” I nodded and sighed, feeling tired and sore now that I thought about it. Well, I had just trudged from university with my laptop over my shoulder, heading towards my bus stop before I got splashed. “Do you have Dalwhinnie?” I asked, feeling a little defiant and wanting to drink something that might impress. I didn’t want either of the men thinking I was just a silly woman who also was a bit accident prone. Although, I didn’t really want a glass of Dalwhinnie, I actually just fancied a glass of coke. I felt a little thirsty after trudging out of my class and carrying around my laptop everywhere. A glass of whisky wasn’t going to quench that thirst. But I had somehow convinced myself whisky was the better choice in my situation.

I noticed the barman lifted a curious eyebrow at me and I felt a small inward triumph. Although for a split second, doubt creeped through me that that eyebrow signalled something other than being impressed. “Of course. You want a glass of that?”

“Please.” I nodded and smiled sweetly as I started to unzip my leather jacket and loosen my small black scarf around my neck. It wasn’t that cold outside. It was spring. Nearly summer. But it was the Scottish weather; it was a little cold for me. I preferred warmer weather.

“Ice?” the barman asked as he wandered over to the glasses and picked up a glass very similar to what the handsome man had. I noticed then that the handsome man was looking up at me again and I felt my cheeks flush again. My hopes skyrocketed, but my self-doubts kept them from going too high.

I just gave him a raised eyebrow and smiled at him before deliberately cutting off the eye contact myself this time and looked back at the barman, who I playfully frowned at and said, “And risk diluting it with water? No, thanks.”

The barman looked up at me curiously again but smiled when he noticed I was smiling at him. He nodded. “Good point. That’s three-ninety, please.”

After the barman placed the whisky on the bar top, I shifted my laptop shoulder strap over my shoulder and reached into my pocket of my leather jacket, bringing out my bank card to pay for it. “Thanks,” I muttered politely and was about to hand him my card when he spoke, and I stopped in my tracks.

“We only accept payments over five-pound, love, sorry.”

“Oh!” I felt panic rise in me. I felt instantly stupid. I should have asked that they take card first. As soon as my face fell into sheer shock, I noticed the handsome man was back to looking at me again, a small wicked smile on his face. I felt a little small compared to him as if he was mocking me. But I suddenly had a brilliant idea. “In that case, make it two Dalwhinnies.” I smiled triumphantly.

The barman raised his eyebrow at me again but held a strange frown on his face. This time I was sure he wasn’t impressed. Maybe he was worried I was going to get too drunk and needed to be escorted out of the bar. But I wasn’t going to explain and ruin the idea I had.

He seemed to reluctantly make me another Dalwhinnie and placed it on the bar top while watching my face curiously. It was as if he was waiting for the answer to appear on my forehead. But he finally passed me the card reader so I could pay for the drinks. I was grateful to pick up the two glasses, the paper towels shoved into my jacket pocket carelessly and walk passed the bar towards the back of the room.

I had deliberately aimed for the large booths at the back. There were three large booths with large built in seats. The deep red leather looked inviting and comfortable. Plus, more importantly, it meant having to walk passed that exceptionally handsome customer at the bar.

As I walked past him, smelling a wonderful masculine yet probably expensive fragrance, I stopped and placed one of the Dalwhinnies next to his hand. “That one’s for you,” I said, with the sweetest smile I could muster. He looked round at me in surprise, just as I caught a glimpse of an email account open on his laptop with what looked like a lot of unread business emails. But he frowned as if I had just invaded his personal space and I added quickly: “With that frown on your face earlier, you look like you need one just as much as me.”

I then wandered off while taking a sip of my own glass, without even waiting for him to say anything. I was sure I could feel his eyes staring at the back of my head in amazement. I didn’t want to give him chance to brush me off; I wanted him to know that I was just being polite and friendly, not coming onto him. I imagined a lot of women hitting on him, being as handsome as he was, and that was the last thing he wanted if he was busy with work stuff. But at the same time, I wanted him to take notice of me and not as the silly girl who didn’t carry change around with her.

It’s not like I was expecting him to be interested, I just wanted to feel a little in control. I knew a guy like that wouldn’t be interested in me. I was short, looked young for my age and always seemed to look like I was scowling at everyone. I didn’t even think I was that attractive. Not like most of the girls I’d seen in bars. Plus, guys seemed to like the girls with thick make-up and blonde hair. My hair was a dark shade of red—natural of course—one side would flick out while the other flicked in, and if it was too wet outside it would go frizzy. I had stopped dying or bleaching my hair a long time ago, realising that I should just love who I was, my unruly red hair, stupid button nose and all. I was a bit of a rocker-chick too, with my dark eye make-up and leather jacket, rather than a sweet girly-girl, and I was proud of that.

I had also made a promise to myself. After having terrible luck with men; having dated what seemed like only manipulative men or desperate men who just didn’t want to be alone. Then I had a deliberate two-year single spell. I realised that not only was I worth more than the low-life men I had dated in the past, but I wasn’t going to settle for a guy just for the hell of being in a relationship. I wanted a decent relationship. Hell, I wanted a best friend to spend my life with. If I couldn’t find that person, then I was happy enough just being single and making the most of life.

But in those two years, I had a lot of time to realise that I hadn’t really had chance to meet any decent men. I wasn’t sure why it was. Maybe it was because I was unattractive? Maybe it was because I looked too young? Maybe it was because I prefer to wear jeans and t-shirts instead of wearing a dress and getting uncomfortable and cold? I moved to Scotland, it was a little cooler than England. But I also thought that there was another possibility; after speaking to my male friends, a lot of them had admitted they don’t like to approach attractive women in fear of being rejected. So, somewhere in my head I decided that, why should it be men that approach women first? More importantly, why didn’t I approach men first? Rather than waiting for them to approach me? Not that I thought I was attractive! That was another problem; I was sure it was because I was unattractive that men didn’t approach me. But I was going to fake confidence and test it out.

That handsome guy at the bar; he was just a test to see if I could do it. Seems I could. Although, with a ridiculously fast beating heart, stupidly sweaty palms, the thoughts of doubt quickly creeped into my head as I settled into the seat.

Why did I just give a guy a glass of Dalwhinnie? What if he didn’t want it? What if he didn’t like Dalwhinnie? What if he thought I was stupid? Oh god!

Click here to read the next chapter!

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Don’t forget to check out my other works!

New Story idea! – Butterfly House

Rose Garden Sanatorium – Prologue

New Story Idea – “I fell in Love with a Psychopath”

Drumlanrig Castle – Photography

I have posted a lot about my writing, giving you a few chapters, even given the new improved updated version, I have posted about my struggles with WordPress and the issues of being an author. But there is two other things I am interested in that I have not yet blogged about here and that it; travel and photography.

I love travelling and photography. I don’t always get to go to exciting and exotic places, but I do try to get out to new places in and around the area in which I live; Scotland.

Here is an idea of where I have been recently; Drumlanrig Castle (the “Pink Palace”).

It’s a beautiful Castle located in Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland. It is/was the home of the Duke and Duchess of Buccleuch and Queensberry. The castle has 120 rooms, 17 turrets and four towers. Constructed between 1679 and 1689 from distinctive pink sandstone.

I haven’t been inside, as it was winter and it wasn’t open, but it is certainly somewhere I want to go back.

Here is a great page for it, if you’re interested in knowing more: https://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/thornhill/drumlanrigcastle/index.html

Even the grounds are great to have a walk around and maybe take some snaps with a camera (I have a Nikon D3200).

By the way, that tree, in full-frame second photo in, is a 300+ years old Sycamore Tree and the largest in Britain!