Whereas I make an effort to stick to my stated themes at Rivertop Rambles when considerating a new post, I like to keep an edge on the subject matter, too, remaining flexible when it comes to defining “rivertop” country. Yes, the tops of river systems tend to be places of cold water springs and beauty, places inhabited by the likes of wild trout. Riverbottoms, on the other hand, are often associated with warm, muddy water, and the habitat of our human masses. But if we look closely around the globe, we notice more than the stereotypes. There are plenty of riverbottoms around the planet where the waters empty out in a wild and “uninhabited” seascape. And very often these are places where our notions of wildness, natural beauty, and romance would feel right at home.
Please welcome the northeastern coastline of an “old country” known as Scotland.
Viewers of the recent “Scottish Ramble #3” may have noted that my daughter Alyssa, studying for her graduate degree at Glasgow University, has an opportunity to ramble a bit through Scotland while on break. Selections from her photo essay, “Dunnottar Castle,” reflect a February class visit to the headlands south of Stonehaven. Hopefully these photos of the site will give you a sense of “riverbottom beauty,” of a place where streams drop to the sea. Here the headlands capture the spirit of distant sources. Here the coastline beckons the imagination. And here the wild earth walks with human history in all its tragic glory.
Here the cliff top with its ruined fortress is displayed with stunning effect. During the first battle of the Civil War in 1639, a Coventry army of 9000 was imprisoned at Dunnottar, where many of the soldiers died.
In 1296, Edward I of England took the castle. William Wallace took it back a year later, burning the church with the English garrison still inside. In 1650, Oliver Cromwell sacked the castle to find the Crown Jewels following an eight-month siege. The jewels were smuggled out by women in a boat.
Out on the edge of it all, Alyssa suddenly found the scene to be “surreal and extremely peaceful.”