After seeing my posts about Arran, the pictures of Machrie Moor standing stones prompted Lynn Otty to post two poems on her Buffalo Pound blog. The first one, Standing Stones, beautifully complements my photos of the stones.

Buffalo Pound

It certainly has been awhile since I’ve been here. It could be a resurrection but I suspect  it’s more like getting back in the saddle. For over a year now I’ve been ignoring the little voice in my head that keeps repeating “Get back to your blog, will you?” And now here I am attempting to do just that.

The prompt that has stirred me out of my malaise is a recent blog by my friend Mary Smith who has been relating  stories about places she visited and what she did while on a  Spring break to the isle of Arran. She reminded me of a magical weekend  that I was lucky enough to spend there with a wild(ish) group of like-minded folk a few years ago.

When she mentioned Machrie Moor it instantly brought back memories of that ancient and very special place and the strong powers we felt…

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MarySmith’sPlace – #HolyIsle #Arran

When we were on Arran recently, this was the view of Holy Isle from our rented accommodation in Lamlash.

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We couldn’t not go.

In spring and summer, a small ferry takes people on the ten-minute (if that) trip to Holy Isle from Lamlash. The timings of the crossings are dependent on tide and weather. When we were there, sailings were on the hour-ish.

We were met on Holy Isle by one of the volunteers who welcomed us, gave us a brief introduction to the island and asked us to keep to the pathways, to respect the privacy of the nuns who are on closed retreat in the south of the island and not to feed the animals. There are Eriskay ponies, Soay sheep and Saanen goats. The goats are believed to have been on the island for 700 years, possibly left there by the Vikings. The ponies and sheep were introduced by Universities Federation for Animal Welfare who at one time owned the island.

The DH and I decided to walk up the hills, Mullach Beag and Mullach Mor and walk back along the coastal path.

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I like the sign for the path up the mountain.

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Looking back to Arran and Goatfell – a climb for another day

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Ailsa Craig in the distance – home of the granite for making curling stones

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Coming down Mullach Mor looking down onto the closed retreat centre and the lighthouse

The earliest recorded name for Holy Isle was Inis Shroin, which is old Gaelic for Island of the Water Spirit. In the 6th century Molaise (later Saint Molaise) came to the island from Ireland. Despite being offered the throne of what is now called Ulster, he chose to live in a cave on Holy Isle, near a well whose water had healing properties. The island became known as Eilean Molaise, Gaelic for Molaise’s Island. Later, Molaise went to Rome to be ordained as a priest and back in Ireland he became abbot of the monastery in Leighlin.

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St Molaise’s Cave – sorry it’s a useless photo.

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Information boards at the cave.

In 1263 King Haakon of Norway brought a fleet of ships to the shelter of Lamlash Bay, before fighting the Scots at the Battle of Largs. Vigleikr, one of his marshals, went ashore at Holy Isle and cut runes with his name on the wall of St. Molaise’s cave. It’s also likely there was a monastery on the island in the 13th century or 14th century.

Lama Yeshe Rinpoche is the founder of the Holy Isle Project. He is a Tibetan Buddhist meditation master in the Kagyu tradition and is Abbot of Samye Ling Monastery in Dumfriesshire. Holy Isle is home to the Centre for World Peace and Health which runs a full programme of courses and retreats. Visitors are welcome to stay at the centre provided they accept the Five Golden Rules: To respect life and refrain from killing; to respect other people’s property and refrain from stealing; to speak the truth and refrain from lying; to encourage health and refrain from intoxicants including alcohol, cigarettes and drugs (have to admit I cheated and had my nicotine replacement mints with me); to respect others and refrain from sexual activity that causes harm.

Once safely back down from Mullach Mor, which is quite a tricky scramble in places followed by interesting roped off areas and warnings about crevasses, we walked back to the visitor centre. It was along here we found St Molaise’s cave and lots of beautiful art work on the rocks.

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Free tea or coffee, and biscuits, are served at the visitor centre (donation box available), which is also a shop selling books and crafts.

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These little lovelies were enjoying the sunshine near the visitor centre

There was no sign of the two-ish ferry arriving. The sign post at the jetty indicated something called Red Rock was 0.6 of a kilometre further along the path. As we could keep an eye out for the ferry approaching we wandered off. We saw gulls sitting on eggs on the rocky shore, eider ducks in the water but no sign of a red rock. We did come across this.

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Gorgeous display of rhododendrons – and a television?

We were debating whether to carry on or turn back when we noticed a figure in robes and hooded jacket standing with their back to us. On closer inspection we found the person was staring silently and pointedly at a sign respectfully asking visitors not to proceed beyond this point. We turned around immediately. When I looked back the figure was sitting in front of what looks to me like a small burial cairn.

Holy Isle

Perhaps they had come to meditate? Or, perhaps someone stands watch when visitors are about to ensure they don’t wander where they shouldn’t. It was clear the person was not going to speak – or I’d have asked about the meaning of the television.



MarySmith’sPlace – #The Giants’Graves #Arran

Graves where giants were buried or where giants buried their victims? Neither, it turns out, and I still haven’t discovered how these Neolithic burial cairns on Arran came to be associated with giants.

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These two chambered cairns (there are over twenty others on Arran) are in a clearing on Forestry land above Whiting Bay. Built around 5,700 – 5,000 years ago they’re of the Clyde type – so called because a separate group of burial cairns found in the Firth of Clyde region were identified. They are considered to be the earliest chambered cairn tombs in Scotland, and their construction technique was probably carried from Scotland to Ireland.

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Holy Isle in the background

The burial chamber was usually located at one end of a rectangular or trapezoidal cairn, while a roofless, semi-circular forecourt at the entrance provided access from the outside. Forecourts are typically fronted by large stones and it is thought the area in front of the cairn was used for public rituals. The chambers were created from large stones set on end, roofed with large flat stones and often sub-divided by slabs into small compartments. They were intended for the community’s ancestors and not for individuals – and it would have taken considerable community effort to construct them.

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Before being placed in the cairn, bodies would be left outside for ravens to strip away the flesh from the bones and different parts of the skeleton may have been placed in different parts of the chamber. The chambers were not permanently sealed and were used again and again over many years.

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It all looks a bit of a jumble and quite hard to picture how they would have looked over six thousand years ago. Many of the stones have been removed and incorporated into local buildings and dry stane dykes and many other stones lie below the turf. The Giant’s Grave (North) is the larger with the main axis north-south while the smaller grave (South) is at right angles to the northern cairn with its east-west axis. As I don’t know my right from my left never mind east west, I took these details from the information board on the site.

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Excavations in 1902 recovered pottery shards, flint knives, and leaf-shaped arrowheads in the larger cairn but only soil and stones in the smaller. During a later excavation in1961-2 nine shards of a round-based vessel and fragments of burnt bone were found.

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Much more information about Arran’s Neolithic chambered tombs can be found here which is also where I found this image of how the chambered cairn would have looked.






George Harrison, James Ray : Got My Mind Set on You

I loved this post on the immortal jukebox – imagine George Harrison travelling around, unrecognised, in America shortly before The Beatles first tour there! And the story of the man behind Got My Mind Set on You. Fabulous stuff.

The Immortal Jukebox

‘It’s gonna take time, a whole lot of precious time ….’ (Rudy Clark/James Ray)

‘A true message always gets through – sometimes it just takes a while’ (Immortal Jukebox)

On 7 February 1964 Pan Am Flight 101 took off from London’s Heathrow Airport bound for New York City.

Thousands of young women, barely controlled by massed ranks of British Bobbies in blue, screamed and sobbed as the plane took off.

For this was no ordinary flight.

No, for Pan Am 101 was carrying a very special group of passengers whose arrival in America that day would change the course of History.

Those passengers were John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr – The Beatles!

When they touched down at JFK they were greeted by scenes of pandemonium as fans and the media pushed and shoved to get their first glimpse of the Fab Four.

The ‘British Invasion’ had…

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MarySmith’sPlace – Walking in sunshine #HoddomCastle

When my friend Rachel and I go walking it often rains, as it did when we did this walk. I’m pleased to report that this time we walked in sunshine all the way round the Hoddom Castle and Repentance Tower walk. And a very nice walk it is, too, partly alongside the River Annan, through farm and woodland with great views from Repentance Tower – not forgetting an excellent lunch at the Hoddom Castle Caravan Park.

We started the walk from the car park just south of Hoddom Bridge and the entrance to Hoddom Castle Caravan Park. The path took us along the riverside.

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River Annan

We must have missed a detour to the Hound’s Monument but I’m not really sorry about that. Apparently it’s a monument erected in 1898 in memory of an otter hound called Royal, who is said to have perished having spent too long in the water pursuing an otter.

The riverside path skirts the edge of a golf course until we went through a gate and over a footbridge across the river. Here we found the Salmon Pole – one of four installations illustrating the life cycle of the salmon.

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We also met some cute lambs.

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After Hoddom Mill, deserted and a decidedly creepy the path brought us to the banks of the Water of Milk, a tributary of the Annan. Here a stone wall with orange floats represents the salmon eggs in the gravel riverbed.

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The path meets the River Annan and continues downstream to a wooden carving of a salmon and its predators, an otter and eagle. Further on is a sculpture of a salmon fly before the path brought us back to the footbridge we’d crossed earlier.

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Rachel smiling in the sunshine

From there, we carried on through the wood to Hoddom Castle Caravan Park and lunch at the café.

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Hoddom Castle – would love to explore inside!

Hoddom Castle was built in the 1560s by Sir John Maxwell of Terregles, probably as a barracks and defensive structure against English invaders. It was invaded several times, blown up by the English, repaired and expanded in the 17th century and in the 19th century was given a Scots Baronial makeover. The army used it during the second world war after which it was in a state of disrepair and some of the Victorian additions were demolished. The old uninhabited tower can still be seen but it is all fenced off. Still, it makes an impressive backdrop to the caravan park.

After lunch we headed uphill to Repentance Tower, which was built as a watchtower on top of Trailtrow Hill at the same time as the castle. It had a clear view across the Solway Firth and had a bell and a beacon platform to warn of approaching enemies.

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One story for how it came by its unusual name is that Sir John Maxwell was trying to atone for some act of treachery. He had pledged allegiance to Henry VIII of England during the 1540s and, when he dramatically changed sides at the Battle of Durisdeer, hostages, mostly members of his family, held as assurance of his loyalty were executed.

Around the tower is a small graveyard containing family graves of the Murray family who bought Hoddom Castle in the 17th century.

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One story which I found most fascinating was that Sir John Murray went to America and brought back a slave called Moses. They were close friends and Moses became a free man, taking the Murray name and is buried next to the family. Now, I have to find out more about this Moses Murray.

We headed back down the hill, and were soon back at the car park – and the sun was still shining.

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Looking down on Hoddom Castle – the caravan park completely hidden by the trees.


MarySmith’sPlace – National Bunion Day


It’s April 25 – it’s National Bunion Day.

National Bunion Day has been established to remove the stigma surrounding bunions, encourage sufferers to contact healthcare professionals and provide practical advice and information to help with the problem.

What is a bunion? It’s a misaligned toe joint which manifests itself as a bony lump at the base of the big toe. It’s an extremely painful condition. Ask Meghan Markle, Victoria Beckham, Naomi Campbell, Jennifer Lopez or Amal Clooney and they’ll tell you how painful it is. Or, ask my sister. She may not be an A-List celebrity but she can tell you how painful it is to have a bunion. She’s had it for a long time and she’s still dithering about whether or not to have it operated on.

Over ten million women in the UK have bunions. Seventy five per cent of women with bunions are embarrassed by their feet. Ninety-seven per cent of women with bunions have bought shoes for a special occasion – and never worn them again.

Media personality Dr Dawn Harper (a bunion sufferer herself) has joined forces with Sole Bliss, makers of stylish shoes for women with bunions, to raise awareness for National Bunion Day 2019. Given her wealth of medical expertise and personal experience of the condition, Dr Harper, who hosts Channel 4’s hit series ‘Embarrassing Bodies’, is the perfect ambassador for the campaign and the brand.

She said: “I’m honoured to be involved with Sole Bliss for a second year. As a sufferer of bunions, I am so pleased to work with a brand whose shoes are not only gorgeous but also provide women the guarantee of comfort. As a GP, I often have people in my clinic who are embarrassed and unsure about how they can manage the condition. This is exactly why I believe National Bunion Day is crucial – so we can inform the public that millions of people have them, they are not something to be ashamed of, and there are solutions.”

Surgery is the only solution to get rid of bunions.  It can take a while to recover from surgery. You’ll usually need to:

stay off your feet as much as possible for at least 2 weeks

avoid driving for 6 to 8 weeks

stay off work for 6 to 12 weeks

avoid sports for up to 6 months

Bunions sometimes come back after surgery.

You can understand why my sister is still dithering about surgery!

Some of the other solutions to ease bunion pain:


hold an ice pack (or a bag of frozen peas wrapped in a tea towel) to the bunion for up to 5 minutes at a time

try bunion pads (soft pads you put in shoes to stop them rubbing on a bunion) – you can buy these from pharmacies

take paracetamol or ibuprofen

try to lose weight if you’re overweight

wear wide shoes with a low heel and soft sole


wear high heels or tight, pointy shoes

Where’s the fun in not having pointy shoes?

Sole Bliss, who introduced National Bunion Day, was launched in 2017 by designer Lisa Kay following five years of research and development. Elegant, yet deep and spacious at the front, they provide stylish shoes for women with bunions. Lisa said: “I hope we can continue to remove previous stigma and let women who currently suffer in silence know that there is a brand new range of on-trend, stylish shoes designed especially for them.”

I never use this blog for promotions (other than my books, and I’m so useless at that – did you even know I wrote books?) but for some reason – maybe my sister’s bunion – this National Bunion Day appeals to me!


Published Bloggers (1)

Here’s a very generous offer from Pete to promote bloggers’ books.


As some of you know, I am always happy to promote the books of bloggers who have published books. Whether they have self-published, or managed to get a deal, it doesn’t matter.

I made a similar offer to this in 2017, and thought it was about time to try again.

But I don’t have time to trawl the blogs of my followers for them, and rely on them letting me know. So I have decided to offer a no-strings promotion on my blog. If you are part of this community, and struggling to get readers for your work, then I will help by adding your links to a series of blog posts. To be included, just choose from the following options.

1) Add your link or links to the comments on this post.
2) Send me a cover photo and a brief synopsis by email to
Then I will…

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