My Heart's in the Highlands(Bountiful School Choir) - On the Trail of the Finlayson's in Knockbain and Contin and Then Onto Auchnarrow - 11th August 2016


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August 11th 2016
Published: August 17th 2016
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Yesterday as we had been driving up towards Munlochy we passed at least half a dozen fixed road signs warning that heavy rain was due in the Inverness area on Thursday (today).

Opening the curtains this morning the light rain that was falling last night seemed to have all but stopped and away to the west the sky looked lighter and we had hopes of a reasonable day to do some ancestry searching of the Finlaysons,Gretchen’s forebears from the Ross and Cromarty area.

Audrey, our host, had a breakfast ready for us downstairs and we spent another hour or so chatting to her and husband David about Gretchen’s connection to the area. David gave us some information on where the locations were that we were looking for to help us on our way.

Our final destination for the night is at Auchnarrow, one of the highest villages in the UK, not that its height compares to many places in New Zealand.However, when you consider that when it snows in the Cairngorms some places can be isolated for up to a week by the snow drifts.

Our first location to look at is Knockbain which is mentioned in one of the census that records the Finlayson family before they left Scotland.

The locality was quite close to Munlochy but the road took us a roundabout way to get there.

The locality was farmland and there were a couple of cottages that may have been there at the time the Finlayson’s lived in the area.

We then went onto Contin and found the only church in the area down a farm lane by the river. The church itself didn’t look that old but it may have been changed at some time by being rough casted. The cemetery that surrounded the church had graves going back to the late 1700’s so there had been a church on the site during the Finlayson’s period when they lived in the village. According to records we had found on line the Finlayson’s were married in Contin so it is very likely that it would have been in the church.

The church was locked and although we called at the community centre to see if anyone had information on another site we were looking for and the woman we spoke to directed us to the Minister’s manse just along the road to see if there were any records held on marriages in the mid 1850’s.

We were running out of time but we have the minister’s name and will contact him either by email or writing when we get home to New Zealand and pick up the threads of the Finlayson’s again.

At least Gretchen now has some idea of what the locations look like from where the Finlayson’s had lived and worked.

We only had a relatively short distance to the chalet at Auchnarrow but we needed to have a bit of time on our side just in case we had difficulty in finding the right road, not that there are many roads in the area according to Google Maps.

Heading up the A9 from Inverness towards the Cairngorm National Park we noticed signs every so often warning drivers that pedestrians cross the 4 laned highway at various points where there was some population in scattered houses.

We thought that any pedestrian would be taking a risk crossing the road, even though there was a refuge to wait between the up and downhill lanes, with cars whizzing by at 100kph!

We moved from the A9 to the A95 and followed the Spey River before turning onto the even more rural A939 and away from what was an already sparsely populated area.

Then we arrived on the outskirts of the town of Tomintoul.All the houses and businesses were located down the one main street and we were to discover later that this is the place we would come back to if we needed any supplies that we didn’t already have in the car.

It was a further 10km further on before we turned right onto the road where the chalet was located.

We were now on the Glenlivet Estate which is owned by the Crown.There are a number of whiskey distilleries in the area including one just up the road from where the chalet is located.

Our hosts were out doing some work around their stone cottage which is located next to the chalet and they gave us a warm welcome and showed us around the well laid accommodation. The chalet has a separate spacious bedroom, kitchen with table, bathroom/toilet and a cosy lounge just big enough to fit a two seater settee along one end with a TV set at the other end.

Our host Wendy showed us a brochure on walks in the area and went on to tell us that a German couple who were guests recently had done one of the walks that finished across the road from the chalet and what should have been a two hour hike had turned into a seven hour marathon when they had missed one of the crucial markers on the trail. She was just making sure that we follow the markers on the trails carefully and on some trails those markers were not always obvious.

The weather had cleared as the light started to fade and the prospects for tomorrow look dry if windy but we will leave choosing a trail until we see what the day is actually like before we make a final decision. We are hoping that the sun shines for a while tomorrow as the heather on the hills is in full bloom and the light on the purple flower will enhance its beauty.

PS:enjoy the Youtube video of a poem by Robbie Burns that has been put to music to get the feel of the isolated beauty of the Scottish Highlands

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