Category Archives: Travel-Scotland

Travel Light!

In September/October of 2014, my 2 sons and i spent a month in Scotland.  Travel light is my mantra – above is my wardrobe for the month.  With the exception of key pieces, ie the new Ecco walking shoes ( have never spent so much on shoes, but arthritis and old age are requiring me to make investment in quality shoes now) and the 100% Shetland wool ponch we had made from our own wool, the remaining total investment was about $40, including the suitcase.  Since then, i’ve given away the old style suitcase (it’s wheels were too close together and it was a fight to keep it from toppling over on uneven surfaces) and purchased a new one with four wheels.  Looking forward to trying it out on the upcoming trip to Scandinavia – leaving tuesday and meeting my daughter in Copenhagen.



Live for the moment……

“We alway try to get something out of each day. Even if it’s enjoying a cheap lunch together in a nice little cafe or a walk in the park. Something simple that makes you smile and leaves an imprint on the memory. Life’s short. Sometimes far shorter than you expect. ”

Oh, wow, well said my blogger friend….

Scotland with the Wee White Dug - A Scottish Travel Blog

On Wednesday the weather man got it wrong.  Not one of those spectacular wrongs where he promises sunshine and along comes a hail storm to strip the skin off your face, or a hurricaine to blow your roof off, but he was pretty confident of rain and our plans for a fun afternoon outdoors with the Wee White Dug looked set to be doomed.

Hell bent on making the most of our precious free time together despite the forecast Mr G and the wee dug collected me from the office at midday.  After a quick conflab we decided to head to East Lothian for lunch and a rainy walk on one of the many beautiful beaches in the area.  We chose Gullane for lunch and Seacliff for our beach walk.

Lunch was at a dug friendly favourite of ours, The Clubhouse in Gullane. The food is always excellent and the…

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Shetland Bus

Hey guys!  Once again, it’s Nathan, guest writing here as I’m too lazy to make my own blog.  Today we have an effect essay I wrote analyzing the effect of the Shetland Bus on the Norwegian Campaign in WWII (roll credits).  With just one more paper to write and one sitting in the queue, we have nearly reached the end of my planned contributions to the blog, but never fear, I plan to continue writing throughout the summer, though less frequently.  As always, enjoy, and please feel free to leave your thoughts and comments below.  Thanks!

On June 9, 1940, after 62 days of fighting, Norwegian forces surrendered to their German invaders and the Norwegian monarchy was forced into exile in Great Britain.  This was only the beginning of the resistance in Norway as the remaining armed forces, with Allied support, carried out a guerrilla campaign against the German occupation for the next 5 years.  In December of 1940, the Secret Intelligence Service and the Special Operations Executive sent Major L.H. Mitchell to the Shetland Islands to arrange a system to deliver supplies and men to the Norwegian resistance.  Named Operation Shetland Bus, this system’s brave volunteers had a strong effect on the Norwegian campaign by shuttling refugees, spies, and munitions between the Shetland Islands and the resistance forces in Norway, and serving as a symbol of hope to the Norwegians still under Nazi rule.

Aksel, one of the first fishing boats used during Operation Shetland Bus
Aksel, one of the first fishing boats used during Operation Shetland Bus

One of the ways in which Operation Shetland Bus affected the campaign was by helping fugitives running from German arrest escape to safety in Great Britain.  Many Norwegians had already fled for Great Britain by the time their government capitulated, and as author Brenda Ralph Lewis notes, “These refugee Norwegians proved an ideal source of recruiting for the arduous undertakings Operation Shetland Bus was going to involve” (Lewis 20).   The ships of Operation Shetland Bus would often sail at night in the winter, braving choppy seas to deliver their precious cargoes, Norwegian citizens fleeing the Gestapo, and the experience of these Norwegian fishermen proved invaluable in navigating the dangerous waters.  Despite tremendous odds and the ever-present danger of being intercepted by German warships, over the course of the war more than 350 refugees would be rescued and transplanted in Shetland, many of whom would find a way to contribute back to the war effort.

Operation Shetland Bus also affected the campaign by aiding Allied espionage in the region, establishing radio transmitters, and landing agents in Norway.  In fact, on August 30, 1941, the operation’s first mission was completed by the Aksel, a fishing ship recruited for the service, when they successfully landed an agent carrying information for the local resistance corps in Bergen, Norway (Lewis 20).  These agents relayed information which allowed for large-scale coordination of resistance activities throughout Norway, and by ferrying these agents back and forth across the stormy North Sea, Operation Shetland Bus served as a vital link between the resistance forces and their exiled monarchy.  Operation Shetland Bus would eventually deliver 60 radio transmitters and nearly 200 agents who would establish a network that sent a continuous flow of information about German movements back to Great Britain.

The most obvious effect Operation Shetland Bus had was the way in which the munitions they delivered were used.  According to Lewis, by the end of the war, almost 400 tons of munitions had been landed, much of which was carried in the holds of the so-called “buses”(fishing ships requisitioned by the operation for their ability to blend in with common fishermen) which could carry as much as 10 tons of explosives at a time (Lewis 20).  With these munitions, resistance forces were able to raid strategic targets and sabotage German efforts, such as the strike on the heavy water plant at Vemork, in which Norwegian commandos were able to destroy both the facility and the entire stockpile of heavy water, which is used in the creation of atomic weapons.  Although there were no major battles during the conflict, Allied and Norwegian commandos and saboteurs also raided German installations along the vast Norwegian coastline and destroyed German ships and supplies throughout the war.

Perhaps, however, the most important effect of Operation Shetland Bus was the hope it inspired in the Norwegian citizens.  It was a beacon for partisans and patriots, giving them a cause to which they could rally, and rally they did.  From circulating an underground newspaper filled with transcribed Allied radio broadcasts to wearing paper clips to show that they were bound together, the entire Norwegian people flocked to the cause of their nation’s freedom and that of their exiled government, and in the process, they denied the legitimacy of the puppet government established by Vidkun Quisling.  The Germans issued severe reprisals for the action of the resistance, but the limited number of Norwegian collaborators hampered these efforts to break the spirit of the Norwegian citizenry.

Operation Shetland Bus ran until May of 1945 and its ships sailed 90,000 miles over the course of their service (Lewis 20).  Despite brutal odds, Norwegian sailors and Shetland civilians continued to contribute to the war and eventually, on June 7, 1945, King Haakon VII of Norway landed in Oslo, five years to the day since the German invasion forced him from his throne.  Thanks to the efforts of the brave individuals involved with Operation Shetland Bus, the Norwegian resistance was never repressed, and their rightful government never deposed.

Works Cited

. “Operation Shetland Bus ferried spies, supplies and refugees to and from Norway under the Germans’ noses.” World War II Jul. 99: 20. Print.

Shetland Bus Memorial.  These pictures were kindly sent to be by David W. Earl, who took the pics himself. The long, narrow plaque says "The Shetland Bus 1940-1945". The small plaques have the inscription "Alt for Norge" (All for Norway), with some names of casualties underneath. I'm unable to read the names on the picture on the left (see external link below), but the picture on the right has the following: Harald Dye, Arthur Byrknes, Nils Horgen, Olav. L. Kinn, Olav Melkevik, Ole Strandkleiv, Kåre Støbakvik (all from Sandøy I), Bård O. Grotle, Schander Berg, Ivar L. Brekke, and Tore Frøysa (boat's name for the latter 4 was Aksel). The oldest was 27, while most of them were in their early to mid 20's, except for O. Strandkleiv, who was 19. All of them died in 1942. The plaque next to it has 12 more names, for whom the boat also looks like Aksel.
Shetland Bus Memorial. Photo by David W. Earl.  The long, narrow plaque says “The Shetland Bus 1940-1945”. The small plaques have the inscription “Alt for Norge” (All for Norway), with some names of casualties underneath.  Harald Dye, Arthur Byrknes, Nils Horgen, Olav. L. Kinn, Olav Melkevik, Ole Strandkleiv, Kåre Støbakvik (all from Sandøy I), Bård O. Grotle, Schander Berg, Ivar L. Brekke, and Tore Frøysa (boat’s name for the latter 4 was Aksel). The oldest was 27, while most of them were in their early to mid 20’s, except for O. Strandkleiv, who was 19. All of them died in 1942. The plaque next to it has 12 more names, for whom the boat also looks like Aksel.

Blog note: We learnt about the Shetland Bus whilst visiting the Scalloway Museum in Scalloway, Shetland Islands, Scotland.  We highly recommend this first rate museum!

More information at the Shetland Bus website.

Help from America:  In the autumn of 1943 the Shetland bus operation received a major boost in the form of the arrival of three small American ‘sub-chasers’ (submarine chasers). They were named the HESSA, HITRA and VIGRA and were under the command of Petter Saelen, Ingvald Eidsheim and Leif Larsen. Each boat had a crew of 26 men, of whom three were officers. They were fast and efficient.

Scotland and Steak

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Orkney Scotland

“Scotland is a pretty country.  The roads are so winding that they seem designed to ensure a maximally scenic experience, and the fields are greener than in most other places by orders of magnitude.  They are also pleasantly irregular, having been parceled off in an age before right angles, and are separated by fences hewed out of rock or long and commendably trim hedges.  A knight in armor on horseback would look less out of place on a Scottish road than a car does.  But what would look most natural of all is a golf cart.  The entire country is a vision of the golfing afterlife, with epic stretches of fairway and rough, and the odd clump of forest for texture.  Fields stretch out to the horizon, covering the rises in the land the way a taut blanket covers an uprise of toes.  Looking skyward, you have the feeling that the hand of God might plunge through the cloud cover to stroke all that dewy pasture like an old woman patting a cat.”

an apt description by author Mark Schatzker in his book, STEAK.

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Orkney, Scotland
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Shetland Scotland
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Longoe Farm – part of the Castle of Mey estate, Thurso, Caithness, Scotland
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Kingston Farm – Dunlouise Angus – Forfar, Scotland

Heading Home!

Saturday morning (11 Oct 14) was the beginning of our trek back home.  Although our stay in Scotland has been wonderful, after a month, it’s time to go home – we are ready.  After cleaning and straightening our West Gallaton Farmhouse, (a tie for the best two places we stayed whilst in Scotland) we headed to Aberdeen.   We drove downtown Stonehaven to fuel up the car – it was a bit more expensive, but I knew where the station was and hoped that Saturday morning traffic wouldn’t be as bad as i assume it would be in Aberdeen.  I paid £2.29 per liter at this BP station  which translates to $13.85 per gallon.  Although that is really high, all their cars regularly rate at 50-60 mpg.  If we could buy these cars in the States, our gas (petrol) prices would go up I suspect.  Our last car, a Toyota Auris, was the nicest car we hired – didn’t hurt that is practically brand new with only 839 miles on it.  I managed to tack on over 300 miles during the 5 days we had it.   I didn’t check my mpg, but it is purported to have a combined 52 mpg (US).

Even though we chose a circuitous approach to the Arnold Clark car hire location, the traffic was still quite thick.  About a bazillion hectic roundabouts and a couple wrong turns that threw us into the thick downtown crush later, we arrived unscathed to the car hire car park.  Whew!

A young man from Hungary who is attending uni in Aberdeen and working at Arnold Clark, took us to the rail station.  Really friendly young man – he is enjoying school and work in this Scottish city.

We had time to waste before our train departure, so we ate at Pizza Hut at the Union Station mall.  Best Pizza Hut pizza and service we’ve ever experienced anywhere!  I’ve never entered a TripAdvisor review for a fast food restaurant before, but this deserved that effort.

Arrived in Edinburgh, grabbed a cab, then off to our final hotel – Budget Ibis.  Having never stayed at one of these before, i was taken aback by the small, stark, and sparse accommodations.  But it was new and clean and since it was only one night, we managed to stumble around each other for the short duration.  Did I mention it was tiny!?  Still had to take a cab to the airport although it was very nearby – it wouldn’t have been safe to walk since there really wasn’t a pedestrian pathway.  But, it was 2/3rds the cost of the Hilton and had free Wi-Fi.

Early Sunday morning, we were on our way to Edinburgh airport.  We had good flights – six hours to Newark, 2 1/2 hour layover, 3 hours to Kansas City.  Since so many people were sick on the flights home, I began a regiment of Sambucus Black Elder Berry extract.  Allen was there to whisk us away home.  It did feel odd riding on the right side of the car as a passenger instead of the driver.

Dunnottar Castle

The morning broke with a few overcast clouds, but we’ve learnt that in Scotland, the skies and weather change quickly.  Sure enough, by the time we got around (Dunnottar Castle didn’t open until 10am), the sky was clearing and by early afternoon, we could not have asked for more perfect weather.

Senior Pictures  - Nathan turned 18 today!  October 10, 2014
Senior Pictures – Nathan turned 18 today! October 10, 2014

Today is Nathan’s 18th birthday and here he is, exactly where he wanted to be on this day and great day for his senior photos.  We took a lot and a few turned out pretty good.  Some fell through the cracks due to operator error (that’d be me) and for some the lighting was just not right.  But we certainly could not have asked for a more unique and historical back drop.

So why Dunnottar Castle?  Dunnottar is best known for hiding the Honours of Scotland and fending off Oliver Cromwell and his army during the 17th century.  But, closer to home (which is really not very close at all), the castle was the seat of Earl Marischal up until the 18th century.   My 13th great grandfather was William Keith Third Earl of Marischal, born at Dunnottar 24 July 1506, Kincardineshire, Scotland.  His daughter was the grandmother to Alexander Falconer born in Halkertonne, Angus, Scotland about 1545.  Falconers are a sept of the clan Keith and, although they share the Keith tartan pattern, Falconers do have their own Coat of Arms or family crest.  The motto is:  Vive Ut Vivas (Live that you may have life).

Dallas and Nathan being goofy at Dunnottar Castle
Dallas and Nathan being goofy at Dunnottar Castle

After extensively touring the castle grounds, we hiked the path along the North Sea coast and up the hill to the Stonehaven War Memorial with its stunning views of the harbor town of Stonehaven.  By this time, we were maybe 25 minutes walk to to the harbor, so on we went.  With the warm weather, despite being the off season, the streets were buzzing with people eating and drinking outside the hotels and restaurants enjoying the sunshine.  We explored the area for a bit, bought some ice cream and headed back.  All in all, about six miles of walking – some of it pretty strenuous, but most was easy to moderate.  But there was no reason to hurry, so the pace was leisurely.

Stonehaven War Memorial dedicated on Sunday, 20th May 1923, at 3 o’clock
Stonehaven War Memorial dedicated on Sunday, 20th May 1923, at 3 o’clock
The beautiful harbour town of Stonehaven - voted best seaside town in Scotland in 2010.
The beautiful harbour town of Stonehaven – voted best seaside town in Scotland in 2010.

Aberdeen-Angus Cattle

We saw some good cattle across the country – mostly 7-9 frame Continental breeds in Shetland, Orkney, and the mainland.  .  Nearly all in excellent, fat condition – a nod to excellent grass and forage management and the occasional feed wagon.  All the cattle on the islands are stabled for the rainy winter season and, rightly so.  Cattle that large and heavy would not be able to walk in the paddocks if the ground became any soggier than what we saw – they’d sink into mud to their knees.  They are then fed hay and silage primarily with the subsequent manure being hauled out and the barn cleaned sometime the following year and spread back out on the grass paddocks.  We saw NO evidence of confined animals on feed (CAFO’s).  However, there may have been a few since we learnt later on the mainland, that grain finishing (barley and oats) would be done inside a barn.

Although there is a special breed that has been adapted for the conditions on the Shetland Islands.  The Shetland Cattle, like the Shetland sheep,  are considered primitive (unimproved) and smaller than more conventional animals.  We actually did see maybe a dozen head of these cattle all over the island – most of those at a farm whose specific purpose is to preserve native Scottish livestock.  The Shetland cattle are fine looking cattle, but smaller carcasses don’t fit the box.  The Shetland Sheep are increasing being crossed with Cheviots for a crossbred ewe, then covered with a Texel ram for fast growing, larger terminal lambs.

Wednesday the 8th, we spent the entire day on a farm walk and enjoying a lovely lunch with Geordie and Julia Soutar on a sunshiny warm day on their Aberdeen-Angus Farm, Kingston Farm,  just outside Forfar. Geordie and Julia have spent 20 years searching out the old genetics of Aberdeen Angus and producing them enough to help move them off the endanger of extinction list! These Angus cattle are like nothing i’ve ever seen in the US unless they are of these bloodlines. Yes, we were in the same pasture with the famed Jipsey Earl!

Most all the hay is finished being put up since we’ve been here.  Here’s an interesting note – although the round bales here are slightly smaller than ours, they are very compact – we guess them to weigh around 800-1000 lbs.  Anyway, Geordie Soutar put up 300 bales off 18 acres!  He also ended up with 95 bales of silage (individually wrapped). Although we saw a LOT of silage bales from Shetland to Orkney, and all around the mainland, Geordie doesn’t like them because of too much plastic packaging to deal with.  The reason he did was the late cutting of hay and it has just been raining too much of late and it simply wouldn’t dry.  Instead of having all his animals in one mob (he has about 50 cows), he has them in separated in paddocks for various breeding reasons  SO, he manages to not ever deworm because he changes the pastures every 4 years. Vining peas, potatoes, turnips, perennial rye.  He plants, then harvests the peas and potatoes, then ploughs down and seeds to clovers and ryegrass.

Wild cattle! Not!
Wild cattle! Not!

Geordie is planning his paddocks to be ready for a sale put on by the American Angus Association in 2017 – it’s the first time the American Angus Association has had a sale off the North American continent.  He will only have about 40 animals for sale – it will mostly be semen and embryos.  Plus, he can only sell live animals in the UK.  Kingston Farm cattle are 4-4,5 frame score and mature cows weighing 1500!  They are meat machines.  No grain is fed and the photos show them in working clothes with calves by their sides.  It is interesting to note that he does not expose heifers until 18-20 months as he believes that yearlings are too young to breed and he gets the return back on the other end.  His cows regularly produce every year until ages 15-16 and animals finished on grass alone have excellent marbling and cover in 18-20 months.  So, whether it’s genetics, good feed, or waiting ’til later to breed or a combination of all, he’s got a great programme going here.

No, she isn't in a feedlot - there has been torrential wind and rain the previous three days.
No, she isn’t in a feedlot – there has been torrential wind and rain the previous three days.