Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Splendour of St Andrews Festival Weekend in Scotland 2011

We have just returned home to Speyside from a wonderful weekend of street entertainment and almost non-stop live music ~ all part of the now annual St. Andrew's Festival weekend.

St Andrew's is such a bonnie, welcoming town at any time, with it's quaint historic buildings, cobbles, archways and wee closes producing a wonderful Olde-Worlde feel. It's lovely town centre, unsullied by massive, fluorescent supermarkets or plastic shop-fronts, is made particularly attractive to locals and tourists alike by the tasteful plethora of lovely eating places and independent, well appointed, pretty shops of quality ~ well stocked, offering something for everyone.

However, the town's-folks certainly let their hair down in celebration of its patron Saint during the weekend leading up to St Andrew's Day ~ 30th November. As well as daytime entertainment, on the Friday and Saturday evenings there was fantastic entertainment for all in a large marquee erected on the lawn of St Andrews very own Hogwarts School ~ Madras College. (I hear tell the present headteacher comes complete with beard; dark, flowing robes and, at his castle in Strathkinness, has several cats ~including at least one black one!)

The Friday evening musical line-up included the local 'Black Sheep Band', followed by the very energetic red hot Chilly Pipers ~ complete with their line-up of world class pipers and drummers. On Saturday evening, following the 6pm switching on of the Christmas lights, the parade round the town centre was led by the excellent Madras College pipe band. Thereafter, the wonderful three piece Sandy Smith Ceilidh band had the temporary tent-flooring flexing with hordes of energetic dancers dashing as white sergeants and stripping willows. 

Great to see so many young people, especially students ~ many from abroad ~ keen to take part. Some were doing 'their own thing', whilst others, keen to learn, were being gently coached by fellow dancers. The marquee was to capacity for the grand finale ~ a massive 'Orcadian Strip the Willow'. A very entertaining blue grass band comprising 5 enthusiastic University lecturers and professors then paved the way for the famous Skye-based 'Scot-Rock' group the Peat-Bog Faeries. 

All in all a great weekend, including two nights of wonderful live entertainment. The St. Andrews Festival weekend is well worth putting in your diary for next year ~ by all accounts this festival will be even bigger and better in 2012.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

The Magnificence of Creag Dhubh in Scotland.

Following an overnight frost and early morning valley-mist, it has been yet other magnificent autumn day in Badenoch ~ the upper Strathspey flood plain of the majestic River Spey. Our local hill, Creag Dhubh serves to shelter picturesque Newtonmore from any strong westerly's bringing adverse weather. However, today the mighty form of Creag Dhubh looked magnificent in the morning sunshine ~ its dark, autumn-coloured summit standing out against the clear-blue, cloudless sky. In and around the village it was wonderful to witness so many folks ~ incl. bikers, walkers, joggers getting out into the beautiful sunshine and cool, clean air in this part of the picturesque Cairngorms National Park. www.visitcairngorms.com

Creag Dhubh (black crag/hill) is the venue for the ever-popular Newtonmore Hill Race, organised annually as an integral part of the historic Newtonmore Highland Games. For many years, patient Highland Ponies and their riders were strategically placed along the route to ensure the hardy runners found their way to the stone cairn which marks for the athletes the turn-around point on the Creag Dubh ridge back down to the Games-field, The Eilan ~ Newtonmore's hallowed shinty ground ~ where the Games have been held annually since 1950. The tradition of Highland Games can be traced back 1000 years. It is said that the Celtic king Malcolm Canmore called for young men to partake in competition involving strength, speed and agility ~ the best to then be recruited to serve the crown. Now purely for recreation, the Newtonmore Highland Games are always held on the first Saturday in August. http://www.newtonmorehighlandgames.co.uk/

Thursday, 10 November 2011

From Shetland Isles to the Canaries for R & R.

Very much enjoyed most recent Phil Cunningham & Ali Bain concert in Eden Court Theatre, Inverness.  Having met with him briefly on a flight to the Islands, very glad to know Ali is presently taking time, following their long tour, to enjoy some well earned R & R in the Sunshine - having swapped Shetland Isles for the Canaries!

Highly recommend an evening with Phil & Friends incl. Eddie Reader, John McCusker, Karen Matthieson with their most excellent, annual celebration of Christmas - Queen's Hall Edinburgh on December 22nd & 23rd.  See website for more details http://www.philcunningham.com/gigs/