Sunday, 31 March 2013

Lochindorb, The Wolf and Frozen Fingers

Much of the UK has been struggling with snow but here in Moray we've been incredibly lucky. Yes, we've had the grey dreich misery but we've also been blessed with blue skies and light from that mythical yellow hot thing in the sky. The sun, I think it's called. The air has been crisp and cold but that golden orb has, on occasion, had some pleasant warmth.

Now, this blog post is not about writing, but I'd just like to insert here that one of the many rules of writing is don't open your story with the weather. Hmmm, I wonder if that is true of Blogs too...


The Other Half, Teen 2 (Teen 1 was off gallivanting in Aberdeen celebrating the 18th birthdays of two of her friends), myself and the two dogs decided to take advantage of the lovely weather and we headed out for the afternoon across the regional boundary into the Highlands to our destination of Lochindorb.

Now for a wee bit of history... forgive the liberties I've taken with the telling - for more detailed historical information I shall provide links/references at the bottom of this blog. 

Lochindorb Castle Ruins
Photo by OpalFire
Lochindorb is a loch (not as huge as Loch Ness but big enough) with the ruins of a castle on an island in the centre of it. This castle was once the lair of the infamous Wolf of Badenoch, Alexander Stewart (1343-1394), fourth son of Scottish King Robert II.

Elgin Cathedral -
an artist's impression
It is said that the Wolf was a bit peeved (my words) at being told by the church, namely Bishop Alexander Bur of Moray, with whom Alexander had a difficult relationship, to live with his wife and not his mistress Mariota de Athyn with whom he had several children. This interference by the bishop and their frequent clashes as well as other political issues at the time contributed towards the Wolf's bad behaviour. (It's worth delving into in more detail if you're interested - see links). As a consequence the Wolf went on a terrible rampage of revenge and arson. He destroyed the town of Forres, Pluscarden Abbey, and then moved on to Elgin to burn the Monastery of Greyfriars, the Hospital of Maison Dieu and finally, the ultimate act of revenge, the magnificent Elgin Cathedral, known as The Lantern of the North.
Elgin Cathedral as it is today
Photo by OpalFire

Of course, these treacherous acts did not go unpunished. Bishop Bur excommunicated him but in due time Alexander Stewart made a plea of forgiveness, paid suitable remuneration and was given absolution by the Bishop of St Andrews. 

That's the history bit done! Do go and check the links - it's a fascinating history and I haven't done it justice by glossing over it.

The scene at Lochindorb when we arrived was pretty - blue skies, snow on the distant mountains and a layer of ice on the loch itself. It was cold and got progressively chillier by the time we left as the sun was setting - minus 3 degrees C!!

Photo by OpalFire
What struck me when we got out of the car was not how cold it was - we were still well insulated from the warmth of the car - but the stillness and the incredible silence and how it wrapped itself around you. The sky was huge, the water barely moved, there wasn't even so much as a breath of wind. At one end of the loch you could see the rugged mountains in the distance and at the end where we were the heather and bracken covered moor stretched with just the occasional tree breaking the undulating brown-ness. 

Then you noticed the sounds - the unfamiliar birdcalls, voices belonging to other visitors carrying across the distance. Ever heard the ting-ting sound of a stone bouncing across ice? At first it's like listening to a bird but then you realise what it is.  But over-riding the sounds and the silence is a sense of place, historical significance, atmosphere. Fanciful? Probably. Yet, there are places whose pasts are ingrained in its very fabric: Glencoe is amazingly atmospheric, Pluscarden Abbey has a holiness and tranquility that reaches out to you.

The trip was a chance for me to play with my new ND8 filter and practice my landscape photography techniques, and also for Teen 2 to have a go at using the camera she got for her birthday the previous month. So far, I think she's doing better than me at the wildlife photography as she managed to snap a grouse we'd disturbed. All I got was a blur because I'd forgotten I had the ND filter screwed to the front of the lens and that the camera was still set to two second timer delay. Over two hundred photos were taken and very few of them are noteworthy but it was a great few hours out and worth the frozen fingers.

Sunset at Lochindorb
Photo by OpalFire


"The Wolf" by Charles Mackie - 
"Mariota" by Charles Mackie -
"Blood of the Wolf" by Charles Mackie - 
"Elgin Past and Present" by HB McIntosh
The Heritage Centre in Moray is a useful source of information especially for genealogists -
Both Elgin Library and the Heritage Centre have a superb collection of local history books


  1. Beautiful photography Alexandra. Love the sunset :-)

  2. Thank you, Tracey. Photography is my other creative pursuit. So glad you like the photos. :o)