Saturday, 2 July 2016

Arbroath and Dundee

Oscar the cat on the bed this morning

We’re one week through our three week stay at our lovely housesit in Arbroath and we are absolutely loving it. The house is just fabulous, Arbroath and surrounding areas brilliant and the two cats, Toby and Oscar and dog Angus are an absolute delight. Angus in particular I have absolutely fallen in love with, he is the most sweet natured dog I’ve come across and we’re loving every moment with him and the others. We couldn’t have found anywhere better. Colin and Louise, the house owners, if you are reading this, we hope you’re having as great a time in Phoenix, Arizona as we are here!

RRS Discovery, Captain Scotts vessel
Jackie has already spoken about the animals in her blog entry and since then there have been many more enjoyable experiences with them and the other wildlife nearby. The buzzards are still around in the trees and in the garden, we can hear them calling most of the day and we often see them sitting on the garden wall or in the trees looking out. Red squirrels we see running through the trees and there are so many rabbits running around in the garden and on the golf course through the garden gate along with lots of ducks on the little lochan just out alongside the golf fairway, it’s an absolute delight.

Not sure if Jackie mentioned the cinema room in the house or not, but there is one here, a whole room devoted to it with a large screen, projector and surround sound, it really does feel like we’re at the cinema! There are many DVD’s for us to watch and, so far we’ve seen two, going in there for the evening complete with a glass of wine and stopping halfway through for an ice cream (can’t go to the cinema without an ice cream!), it’s brilliant!

This photo shows the thickness and types of wood used in the construction of RRS Discovery. 66cm total thickness!
Dundee and the Tay from Dundee Law hill
The only thing we haven’t done much of is walking and that’s because of Jackie’s Achilles tendons which have been causing her a few problems for quite a while now. We’ve walked 6 or 7km on relatively flat ground and we went out for a bike ride together the other day, but each time she gets a lot of pain from her ankles.

The WWII monument on Dundee Law
Choosing less active outings we decided to drive into Dundee earlier in the week to go and take a tour round the RRS Discovery (Captain Scott’s ship that he went to the Antarctic to on his first trip) as it is permanently there in a dry dock. See:

On the way, in Dundee we passed a Podiatrist and decided to go in and book an appointment for her. She went back on Friday, was diagnosed as having Achilles tendinitis and now has lots of stretching exercises to do to try and loosen it off. She is going back on Monday week for a massage to loosen up her calf muscles and, as long as she stretches before and after walking, she can build up safely to do longer and longer walks. Good news, but perhaps she needs further consultations when we’re back in Birmingham just to make sure before we head off to South America in September.

Dundee and the Firth of Tay, looking out to the North Sea. The construction is an oil rig in for servicing. At the head of the darker peninsular of land on the left is Broughty Castle that we went to. Not visible in this photo (but we could see it through binoculars) is Bell Rock Lighthouse above Broughty Castle almost on the horizon, 11 miles out
Broughty Castle looking back towards Dundee
Anyway, back to the RRS Discovery visit, we spent over 2 hours there looking round the museum and touring the ship. It has had an eventful history. It was one of the last, three masted, wooden hulled ships to be built, in 1901 and was designed and constructed in Dundee specifically for scientific research in the Antarctic. Dundee was chosen due to its experience of building very strong whaling ships to operate in the frozen arctic waters and wood was chosen because of its capability of resisting the huge compressive forces on the hull when frozen in ice. Steel hulls are more likely to bend and distort.

The drawbridge at Broughty Castle
At the time the Antarctic was a relatively unknown continent and Sir Clements Markham, president of the Royal Geographical Society conceived the idea of scientific expedition to the area and appointed Scott to lead it.

Following that trip it had a chequered history including having its engine and boilers ripped out during the Second World War as steel was so scarce, it finally was bought and returned to its home port of Dundee where it is today.

A very interesting day and we spent so long there that we had no time left to see anything else of Dundee!

Dundee. See the road bridge over the Tay and, on the right Dundee Law hill
However, we were due to come back on Friday for Jackie’s foot appointment so we came a bit earlier to have another look round the city. This time we went up to the top of Dundee Law, which is a hill in the city centre that apparently is an old volcanic plug. The rest of the very old volcano has worn away by ice ages, just leaving a hill which offers a great view over the city.

From the top we could see the whole of the city, the river Tay, the Firth of Tay (river mouth to the sea) and the headland out to St Andrews and its famous golf course. We met a local couple at one of the lookouts, had quite a long chat with them and they admitted that they had lived there for well over twenty years and this was the first time they had been to the top! Why is it that we all see things in far off places but never the things on our doorstep?

The blue statue is an Oor Wullie. Over the summer Dundee council have located 55 of these round the city and you can download a map showing where they are and walk round to find them. We happened upon about 4 of them, this being one.
The view from the balcony of the house
Looking out to the Firth of Tay and the sea beyond, we could see a peninsular of land stretching into the Tay with a small castle on it. This is Broughty Castle, first built in 1454, but strengthened in 1846 due to fears of possible Russian and French wars. It is in a very strategic position at the entrance to the Tay for protection of Dundee, so we thought it worth a visit.

Also just in view almost on the horizon (But not visible in our photo due to the resolution) is the Bell Rock Lighthouse. It’s 11 miles out and, in the photo it’s almost on the horizon beyond and above Broughty Castle (but you can’t see it). Fortunately we had taken our binoculars and could just pick it out in the sunshine. The Bell Rock Lighthouse is the world’s oldest surviving sea washed lighthouse built between 1807 and 1810 by Robert Stevenson. 

Art? Seen on our walk today
We had two visits to Broughty Castle, one before and one after Jackie’s foot appointment, both pretty quick visits as it was just closing on the second visit. It was also packed with school kids who were celebrating having just finished school for their summer holidays, so in very high spirits! Interesting history and a good view back to Dundee and Dundee Law hill. and

Oscar and Angus on our walk this evening
Other things we’ve done is a 33km bike ride I did on my own using one of Colin’s road bikes. The garage is full of bikes and he had said we could use them if we want to but bear in mind they are very expensive, some of them costing almost as much as a small family car! I didn’t take out the full carbon fibre one as I was too scared, so instead took out one of the others, probably still worth a small fortune! It was very easy to ride, but I still got back pretty tired after 33km! Maybe I’ll try the full carbon fibre one next!

The two of them enjoying each others company
Took Angus out for a 7.5km local walk today, which was thoroughly enjoyable and certainly made him sleep this afternoon while I cooked a cake (sultana cake) and then wrote this. Planning on more walks (don’t forget your stretching Jackie), possibly venturing out to Glen Clova and other Glens leading out towards the Cairngorms and the Highlands. Will Angus manage longer walks or shall we leave him at home? More on that next time!

On the golf fairway together
Anyway, the sun is still shining, Jackie’s taken Angus out for a quick game of football and an early evening walk and dinner is not far off. Better go and open the wine…..

Before posting this I have one more thing to add…I left this for Jackie to read through and I took Angus out for his walk, Oscar the cat was sitting outside in the sun and I stroked him as I went past, got to the gate out onto the golf course and Oscar decided to join us. It’s the first time I’ve taken a dog and a cat for a walk together and it was an absolute delight. They were obviously enjoying each other’s company, staying together, sniffing things together and touching noses every so often and following each other around, each taking a turn to lead. For me it was hysterical and I couldn’t stop taking photos. Proof that cats and dogs can get on and, more than that, be the best of friends. For me it was a very special moment. Here’s some of my photos…
Angus the dog by the hedge and Oscar cat in the long grass

Angus sniffing the grass alongside the fairway, Oscar cat not far behind

Following each other on their walk together

Where Angus leads Oscar follows

Now its Oscar cats turn to lead and Angus dog follows

Come on slowcoach!

Trotting back together in the afternoon sunshine

Nearly home. They left the house together and returned together!

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