Today we are travelling eastwards to Huntly. This stop is not in aid of finding anything earth shattering in the way of scenery, wildlife or heritage and indeed our journey along the A96 is not especially inspiring. This is the family history part of the trip as my children have ancestors from the area. We ponder how and why their great great grandmother made her way to south London in order to marry there in 1879. I suspect the railway would have been here then but it still seems a very long and unlikely journey.
Today’s equipment failure was the jockey wheel (that’s the little wheel at the front of the caravan that helps to hold it up when it isn’t attached to the car.) I am not quite clear as to the nature of its malfunction but it didn’t seem to go up when required and the next thing I know it is detached from the caravan and in the back of the car. The good news is that Chris appears to have fixed it.
We are on site for 12.15, along with many rabbits. This is my first internet access for four days and even this is only courtesy of Chris’ phone. Three hundred emails arrive on my computer, deep joy. Nothing features on our to do list for this afternoon. Our map indicates that there is a National Trust for Scotland property nearby so we head off to Leith Hall. Leith Hall itself, it turns out, is shut however we can follow the Kirkhill trail rounds the grounds and look at the gardens, which we do. A collapsed bridge means that the pond trail is impassable but we see a Dule Tree. This we learn is a large sycamore, allegedly used as a gallows. Dule is from the Gaelic for grief and sycamores on mounds may have been used as sites of mourning. Today is overcast and the wind is chilly but we complete our walk without getting rained on.
We are now only a few miles from the ancestral village of Insch that was ear-marked for tomorrow’s itinerary so we can’t resist a preview. The trouble with Leith Hall being shut was that there was no access to its facilities. Fortunately Insch subscribes to an Aberdeenshire scheme to make toilets that are not actually public toilets accessible to the public. This means that we traverse the corridors of the local leisure centre, trying to look like we are regular frequenters of gyms and the like, in search of relief.
We fail to find the addresses where the family I am seeking used to live, although I do identify a likely pub that may have had a previous existence as the Wight Inn. This is often the way with such searches but at least the church is a banker and I can photograph that. Or, in this instance, I can’t; it was demolished in 1882. We look round the graveyard of St. Drostan’s without expecting to find anything of relevance. We do see a grave marker for Radulphus who was chaplain to the bishop of Aberdeen in the late twelfth century but nothing for the families on my list. Maybe we will have better luck tomorrow.