We’ve turned the corner from the shortest day and we’re now heading into a New Year of light.   Winter brings some magical weather, but it will be lovely to see the sun for a little bit longer!   2014 has been a great year, and I’ve been lucky enough to visit some pretty amazing places, so I thought I’d celebrate by choosing a post from each month.   Which did you enjoy most, and have I included any of your favourites?  I’d be interested to know.

Click on the photos for a link to each one!

JANUARY

Pitlochry CW 2

A drive up through Pitlochry and an impulsive stop at the Killiecrankie gorge inspired this feature, in which I discovered some fascinating and rather spooky stories about a 300-year-old battle site…

FEBRUARY

In February I took an in-depth look at one of my favourite trees – the Scots pine.  A much-loved feature of the Scottish landscape, these trees hold a special kind of beauty that speaks of wisdom, folklore and magic.

Scots Pine 9

MARCH

St Andrews – how come I’ve never been there before?   What an incredible place.   I was just blown away by the Cathedral and St Rule’s Tower.   I discovered a long history of worship that is tied up with the bones of a saint, a legend of shipwreck and an intrepid monk who was told to travel to the ends of the earth…

We returned in August, and the feature was updated with a video from the top!

St Rule's Tower (3)

APRIL

Looking at crannogs:   I’ve always been intrigued by those tiny little islands in a loch – often quite close to the shore, with a few tall trees jostling for position.   Many of them are man-made, and the buildings on them offered shelter and refuge for our Iron Age ancestors.

Crannog 3

MAY

A trip to the Isle of Lismore in May was just brimming over with happiness.   Castle Coeffin, St Moluag’s Cathedral (which I’ve yet to write about), and some outstandingly beautiful wild flowers.   This is the early purple orchid

Early purple orchid (3)

JUNE

My fun quiz, ‘Which Famous Warrior Are You?’ threw a flaming spear right into the heart of your inner Spartan.  Or did it?   Don’t blame me, I just wrote the clues!

Robert Bruce 2

JULY

No one can accuse me of willingly driving past a standing stone.   In this case, a 13-foot-high monolith at Kintraw, south of Kilmelford, lured me out of a warm car and into a muddy sheep field in the rain.  Complicated alignments with the midsummer sunrise and midwinter sunset made this a great place to research and write about.

Kintraw stone (3)

AUGUST

Purdey supplied the entertainment in this video, ‘Putting Small Things Under Chairs‘, which was filmed in a single take.   After all, she is an actress, darling!

SEPTEMBER

The site of an ancient chapel dedicated to St Bride, this lovely little graveyard beside the road just north of Callander sparked a journey of research that led me (metaphorically!) across the Atlantic to the USA.  I have updated this feature with an old photo kindly supplied by a reader, Mrs Moira Goodman, whose ancestors are buried there.   What a delightful place, and one of my favourite discoveries this year.

Grave Etive and Orchy - Jo 35

OCTOBER

A walk down Edinburgh’s Royal Mile took me past some of Scotland’s most iconic houses – and who wouldn’t stop at the World’s End?  In this case, it’s a pub, and there’s a ‘close’ or narrow passageway of the same name, with a long and interesting history.   I also had the pleasure of meeting fellow blogger Susan Abernethy at the World’s End for a couple of hours, as she toured Scotland on holiday.

The World's End Pub

NOVEMBER

One of my goals in 2014 was to visit Loch Leven Castle, and in November I wrote about our visit there, one very calm and still autumn morning.   A ruined tower house on an island, a Scottish queen held prisoner, and a daring escape… how much more romantic can you get?

Loch Leven Castle (Jo) 21

DECEMBER

Why do we really cut down mistletoe at Christmas?    I thought there might have been an easy answer.   I should have learned by now!

Mistletoe (3)

That brings me to the end… and to the beginning.   I’ve got some lovely new subjects lined up for you in 2015, and a long list of places to explore.  I hope you’ll join me!  Tantallon Castle, Dunfermline Abbey, Loch Dochart Castle, an excellent book review…. and watch out for the PAWS Awards (Purdey’s Awards for Worldwide Stardom), an annual red-carpet event to which the Hollywood glitterati would probably be invited if I had enough sausage rolls.   As usual, the nominations will be published in January!

Wishing you a very Happy New Year!