Saturday 23 August 2014

Scotland by Rail - Montrose, Scotland, August 2014

A family and art week in the caravan in Montrose. Me, mum, Roan, Ian. Walking and cycling and a good deal of sketching and painting - including Roan doing his first paintings for eight + years. Peterhead family coming to visit.

There are always loads of gulls and eiders and, in summer, terns, but only ever a few gannets, fishing far out or flying swiftly past. One morning the sea was far in and turbulent and gannets were all over, presumably following a shoal. In an undercount I got three hundred, a mix of browny-plumaged juveniles and white-black adults with their mustard heads. Most were close in and riding the waves or performing semi-horizontal gliding dives to cope with shallows.

gannet dive

lady's bedstraw

The same day there was a bi-plane over the airfield, marking a centenary. Loop-the-looping through grey wet haze.

Cousin and cousin's husband Gemma and Danny visited with the kids.


Cycle through Ferryden village to Scurdie Ness. Locked bikes below the lighthouse and walked along to blowhole point. Last visit Roan discovered it, a miniature cave has collapsed and sea pours in and out of the lidless pot - when tide and level of choppiness are right a plume of spray shoots up. This time it was definitely shooting. Mum was at the other side, taking photos of us. She retreated fast when a thick wave rushed around her ankles.

Scurdie Ness lighthouse


We cycled to Langley Park Gardens, 1 mile from Montrose. Extensive three-tiered walled garden with beautiful herbaceous borders; meadowland; woodlands; standing stone. Tea, coffee and cake by the fountain pond, served on fine china.

Langley Park horse head statue

standing stone, wildlife meadow


It's definitely a tree Roan.

Langley Park Gardens are open Saturday, Sunday, Monday during the season. You'll receive a very friendly welcome. Full details here and on Facebook here.

We returned via the Lurgies at west end of Montrose Basin. A little egret was on the mud and twenty or more grey herons.

count the herons


 A walk on the red cliffs between Arbroath and Auchmithie Harbour. Take a torch for Dark Cave and Light Cave, leading right through the width of a thick headland.

Dark Cave, south entry

kittiwake parents and young. The juveniles are those with streaks and stripes of black.

bird tracks

fossils? sea-worms?

fossils? sea-worms?

miniature world

cave face

Roan dematerialises

Roan rematerialises (eating a leaf)

A wildflower border around a long stretch of clifftop field, absolutely alive with bumble bees, hoverflies, many tens of butterflies - small tortoiseshell, red amiral, peacock, green-veined white, a grayling.

wildflower field margin - why doesn't everyone do this? Hundreds of insects, many tens of butterflies.

sunflowers, poppies, thistles, vetches, Roan's head

wild carrot - note the single purple bloom at the centre of so many white

We stopped and painted - Roan too. Perhaps soon we'll have to think about a Mother & Son & Son exhibition.

mother & son (photographed by other son)

 Brother Roan:

courtesy of Roan du Feu - watercolour

courtesy of Roan du Feu - Boddin Point drawing

 Mother Susan:

courtesy of Susan Smith - Boddin Point mixed media

courtesy of Susan Smith - mixed media

courtesy of Susan Smith - Langley Park horse head

See mum's work at

Read Roan's words at


A cycle to the graveyard above double-sea-arched Elephant Rock. Explored the stones in the bay there and painted a view towards the limekilns.

Boddin Point limekilns

As Calvin and Hobbes say, there's treasure everywhere.

the trunk

Elephant Rock - a rock that looks like an elephant

All the seabirds were around, plus a kestrel, house martins, linnets.



Before breakfast I'd stood on the dunes and watched a group of 12 or more dolphins swimming south, up down up down up down, jumping full clear of the water.


terns on the shore, mostly common

adult feeding young


the Bell Rock lighthouse, taken through binoculars

Waiting for my return train at the end of the week I watched an osprey fly high above the Basin. It was constantly mobbed by agitated terns and swallows and martins at the same time as I was constantly divebombed by a territorial pair of lesser black-backed gulls. I stood by a lamppost so they couldn't have any effect other than to give me really good views. Everyone else kept at the other end of the platform.


caravan self-portrait, to be continued


 How to get there

Montrose is easily reached by rail. It's on the Glasgow & Edinburgh - Aberdeen rail lines and trains are frequent.