Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Of Ruins and Full Moons

    We are just back from a  bright full-moon lit stroll to the sea and all along the coast.  We walked for almost three hours in the wind and seafoam roar, with the the strange undulations of bright light to dim night when clouds massed over the moon.

   Earlier this evening I thought I would start to write here, but now I am a little moonstruck from too much time watching the silver curls of the waves and the moon sitting full above powdery white clouds, so there will have to be two story lines running through this post.

Elgin Cathedral

The roads are glittering with ice and silver light tonight.  We met a fox in the street and passed a hill in a graveyard which looked like it had warmly lit windows looking out from under the ground.  It was only a trick of the light, the street lamps reflecting off the graves, but it put us in mind of stories of fairy hills and troll parties where the hills are raised on pillars and bright lights shine out from underneath them.

But what I meant to tell you when I started pasting photos onto this little piece of your screen, is that in the past couple of months we have gone a-wandering a couple of times.

Our little trips brought us inside the bellies of ruined cathedrals, where the last bits of walls stand like huge old bones, patterning the sky beyond.  We looked up into the worn-away faces of bishops turned to stone, or peered into little nooks in the walls where stone men stretched out in sleep, their arms folded across their chests.

In the centre of Elgin Cathedral we came across an old Pictish stone, its carved symbols just barely visible in the dusk.  On the other side of the stone there is an elaborate Celtic cross.  The light was falling out of the sky as we tried to take a picture, so I'm not sure how much of the carvings you will be able to see.  At the bottom is a hunt scene, and at the top there are some of the designs that are found on a lot of Pictish stones, the meanings of which remain rather mysterious.

Inside one of the church towers monster heads grimaced at us from above.  The wind whipped around outside and night fell.  But that was not our only visit to a skeleton cathedral.

Looking down the old pier into St. Andrews

We also spent a fine day in late December in St. Andrews, with its splendid ruins of a huge cathedral as well as the ruins of a castle that housed the area's bishops before the Reformation. 

That day was not so different from tonight: we spent hours on the wide, endless beach there in the wind and the twilight and the oyster catcher cries.


  1. These pictures are magical; the one with the stone ceiling lloks weirdly organic and the one with the broken rosace and the two doorways reminds me of paths through thorns and brambles i endured to get to a lost ruin in the rocks of Vercors.

    I'm happy that you share such beautiful images with us, and i'm sending you lots of thoughts from Lyon


  2. What an incredible place where you live, I can harly believe these pictures are real, yet I know they are!

  3. Woah, Samy, it's good to hear from you!!! How is life in Lyon? I think the last time I heard from you you were only considering moving there. Matthias must be so big and full of ideas now! I hope you all are having a wonderful time of it over there.... and that maybe there is even a chance of a bit of time in an etching studio someplace for you!

    Barbara, it is a very good place. Just to see, I looked up walking directions from Belgium to Aberdeen on google, and it's *only* a five and a half day walking trip. Though, for some reason, it is recommended that you stop on the Isle of Man and then continue over to Belfast on the way! :)

    1. Life in Lyon is currently a bit hectic, we're still getting used to everything new; it's been almost six months but we've had so many changes that it's taking longer than we thought.
      You should definitely come and visit us, you can jump to wonderful places from the Lyon Landing Pad :)

      Anyway, i'll try not to be a stranger and give more updates :) And congrats again, you really have a wonderful way with words and pictures. All our best to you and your husband

  4. Do you hear me sighing, happy in the knowledge that such ruined monuments of avarice still stand, and as wonderful as it is to step inside any preserved cathedral and marvel at all the crafted wonders from centuries past, there is something equally precious (perhaps more so), about the bare bones at one with the elements despite what man throughout history has already erased.

  5. wow, these photos are amazing, especially that last one--it looks like there's a little city down there. and the idea of the troll party! yes! the hill raised on stilts, singing and lights coming from somewhere underneath! i love it!
    thank you, thank you :)

  6. You're always welcome, just let me know, and if you walk all the way bring some lovely fish skeletons :X

  7. Beautiful buildings and images of once, 'fairytale castles'.
    Lovely sketches on your last post too!

  8. Samy,

    Every time we move I always convince myself that settling in will be a piece of cake, but actually it always takes at least a year to get properly settled, I think. I'd love to go to Lyon sometime. The closest I've been is Beaune where my father-in-law kept accidentally toasting to Lyon (we had been on the road forever... we drove from Paris, and were intending to go to Lyon but didn't make it in the end. It was a lovely trip though). Anyway like I said, I was so pleased to hear from you again, don't be a stranger!


    there is something so lovely about the wind blowing through these places, and the grass coming up through the paving stones, isn't there? Though, you said it much more eloquently.


    I guess that's what happens if you read too many Shetlandic stories, you can't even move about at night without the hills raising themselves up! Ah well! Glad you liked the photos.


    Wouldn't it be lovely to walk to a whole other country? Maybe someday!!


    Welcome! It's so lovely to hear you liked the photos and the sketches! Thanks!

    1. Elgin is my 'home' cathedral. We just took it for granted growing up there.

  9. Oh, it must have been lovely to grow up there!