Rampant Scotland

Scotland in Colour Week By Week

October - Week 1

"Scotland Week by Week" contains a selection of flowers, animals, birds and scenery typical of the time of year. The photographs were previously part of a regular "Colour Supplement" which ran for nearly four years as part of the original Scottish Snippets newsletter. While seasons do vary from year to year, this collection gives a good idea of the flora and fauna typical of central Scotland at each week of year.

Crathes Castle, Aberdeenshire

This is Crathes Castle in Aberdeenshire in the late autumn. The vivid red of the ivy on the walls is shown in close-up below.

Red Ivy

Autumn colours are begining to be seen on trees such as sycamore and rowan (mountain ash) and specially selected variities of ivy are now coming into their own. Crathes castle has a particularly good display every year (and so has Scone Palace in Perthshire).

Ruddy Duck

Just as the leaves are turning red, male Ruddy Ducks (so-called because of the red shade of their feathers) are about to lose their lovely russet colour for the winter. Their blue bill will also turn grey and the distinctive bright white cheeks will develop black speckles. Ruddy Ducks are often very shy and keep well away from humans, so getting this close at Hogganfield Loch nature reserve in Glasgow was lucky.


The bright yellow flowers of Helenium brighten up any autumn border - these ones were in the wonderful walled gardens (yes, plural) at Crathes. Helenium's common name is "Sneezeweed" (they were used by early American colonists to make snuff) but nobody would sneeze at these plants looking like a collection of little suns.


The swan population at Hogganfield Loch in Glasgow is much larger than it should be - thanks to the number of visitors who feed them with bread. But that means that the dependent birds crowd into the bank to get in prime position, creating a melee as they all try to get more than their share!


Unlike many clematis, this variety does not produce particualrly large or impressively coloured flowers. But when the flowers are over these attractive seed pods appear.

Tufted Duck

Tufted Ducks often look incongruous with that tuft of feathers sticking out if the back of their heads. The feathers are often flat against their heads, however, immediately after they have been diving under the water. This one, however, looks as though it having a "bad hair day"!

The rain clouds were rolling in as I took this photograph of the road and rail bridges over the river Forth. The view will get a bit crowded when a second road bridge is built here!

I'm sure central Grangemouth, overlooking the Firth of Forth, is very nice. But to get there you have to pass through miles of refineries and chemical factories, belching steam and other gases into the atmosphere. After dark, even from miles away, the flares from burning gases produced by some of the factories can be seen lighting up the night sky.

The House of the Binns, in West Lothian, is half way between Edinburgh and Falkirk. It was rebuilt in 1612 by Thomas Dalyell, an Edinburgh butter merchant, who had made his fortune at the court of King James VI in London. His son, the Royalist Sir Thomas Dalyell, (better known as "Sir Tam") defeated the Covenanters at the Battle of Rullion Green in the Pentland Hills in 1666. He also raised the Royal Scots Greys regiment at the House of the Binns in 1681. The mansion is still occupied by the Dalyell family. At this time of year, the ivy on the walls turns that brilliant flame colour.

One advantage of cloudy days is that there is not such a stark contrast between dark and light areas. That proved to be the case in the courtyard of Linlithgow Palace, where the recently refurbished fountain is usually in shade but the palace walls behind can be brightly lit by the sun. During the summer, the fountain has again been flowing with water, but only at weekends. I'm told that the sound of the running water, reverberating from the surrounding palace walls, is "magical".

The cormorants in this picture can often be seen feeding on the fish in Lochend Loch in Drumpellier Country Park in North Lanarkshire. The stretching of the wings by the bird on the right is a typical pose and it can sit like that for a long time - possibly drying out its wings after diving for its lunch?

This is a view of the Gare Loch and Garelochhead, Argyll. The sea loch is aligned north-south, with its southern end opening into the Firth of Clyde through the Rhu narrows. The deep water of the loch and its sheltered position has meant that its eastern shore is dominated by the Faslane Naval Base, the home of the United Kingdom's Trident nuclear submarines. Faslane is out of this shot, on the right.

The steamer Maid of the Loch was the last paddle steamer built in Britain. It is the last of a long line of Loch Lomond steamers that began about 1816, within four years of Henry Bell's pioneering passenger steamboat service on the River Clyde. It provided pleasure cruises on Loch Lomond until 1981, but has been laid up at Balloch since then. Enthusiasts began restoration work in 1995 and the aim is to (eventually) have her sailing again on Loch Lomond.

Loch Lomond has the largest surface area of all of Scotland's lochs and is now part of Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park. The island of Inchmurrin, the largest island in a loch/lake in the British Isles, blocks the view up the loch in this picture - Loch Lomond is 14 miles long.

Global warming - combined with the smoking ban in all public buildings - has encouraged the proliferation of pavement cafes in Scotland. This one is in Cochrane Street in Glasgow, with the City Chambers (Town Hall) behind.

Loch Long in Argyll extends from the Firth of Clyde at its south-western end and measures approximately 20 miles long, with a width of between one and two miles. The loch was used as a testing ground for torpedoes during World War II and contains numerous wrecks. The Finnart Oil Terminal is located on the eastern shore of the loch, linked to the Grangemouth Refinery, via a sixty mile long pipeline, with chemical tankers sailing up the loch on a regular basis.

The sun was sparkling on the water of Loch Long when this photograph was taken.

Newark Castle was built on the south bank of the river Clyde at Greenock, at a point where in medieval times ships had to berth because the river was too shallow to allow them to travel further up river to Glasgow. The estate on which the first castle was built passed to the Maxwells in 1402, when Elizabeth Dennistoun married Sir Robert Maxwell. It was one of their descendants, George Maxwell, who was probably the first to build a castle - a lofty tower house (largely the tower seen on the left in the picture above). Perhaps the most infamous of the castle's owners was Sir Patrick Maxwell, who became the laird in the 1580s. In an age where violence and cruelty were commonplace, he earned a reputation for ferocity against his neighbours and members of his family - while also adding a splendid Renaissance three-storey mansion to the tower house in the 1590s - the building we see today, extending from the original tower.

Common Toadflax is a member of the Foxglove family, but the clusters of pale yellow, snapdragon-like flowers, which are about 1" long, have long slender spurs which produce nectar. Being late flowering, it attracts bees - except sometimes the bees steal the nectar directly, by biting through the spur, thus failing to pollinate the plant!

The village of Muthill (pronounced "Mew-thill") is on the road from Auchterarder to Crieff in Perthshire. This pretty village is a past winner in its category of the "Scotland in Bloom" competition. Muthill was an ecclesiastical site of some antiquity, even before the present church tower was built with a community of Caldee monks and the foundations of the impressive church tower are thought to be even earlier than the one we see today. This impressive, 70 feet high Romanesque tower at Muthill, and another ten miles away at Dunning, may have been built by the same masons in the third quarter of the 12th century. The square-cut shape is also reminiscent of St Rule's Tower in St Andrews. The tower (which would also be used as a safe haven in the event of attack - the windows are a later addition) was extended, at least twice, into a fine parish church, as can be seen from the large arches in this photo.

Masses of Rosebay Willowherb have been producing spectacular displays of tapering spikes of pink flowers for many months. But now all the seed pods have burst open and the silky hairy seeds are being dispersed by the wind. On a dull day, they look like some ghostly apparition coming out of the gloomy hedgerows. Rosebay Willowherb grew in abundance in bomb sites after the World War II and were sometimes called "London's Pride" as a result.

Rudbeckia are popular plants in larger gardens where their brightly coloured, daisy like flowers create a splash of colour in the late summer and early autumn. The name was given by Carolus Linneaus in honour of his teacher at Uppsala University, Professor Olof Rudbeck the Younger (1660-1740), and his father, Professor Olof Rudbeck the Elder (1630-1702), both of whom were botanists. Rudbeckia come in a variety of yellow, orange and brown. They all have a distinctive, prominent cone-shaped centre that attracts bees and butterflies. A variety of Rudbeckia with yellow flowers is often known as "Black-eyed Susan". Rudbeckia are native to North American prairies.

Caldwell Tower is all that remains of Caldwell Castle, near Uplawmoor in East Renfrewshire. Records for the Caldwell estate go back to 1294. Gilchrist More (or Mure) acquired the lands and castle of Caldwell through marriage to the heiress of Caldwell of that Ilk and the estate remained with the family until the late 17th century. When King David II was taken prisoner at the battle of Neville's Cross in 1346, Sir William Mure of Caldwell was appointed as one of the twelve nobles who negotiated the terms for his release. A later William Mure was involved in the Pentland Rising by the Covenanters, which ended in defeat at the Battle of Rullion Green in 1666. He escaped and his estates were forfeited and given to William Dalziel of the Binns near Edinburgh - Sir Tam Dalziel had led the King's victorious army at Rullion Green. The castle fell into disrepair and only the tower (partially restored) survived.

If you want to look back at other editions of these photos of Scotland week by week, there is an Index Page

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