Leo du Feu

Scotland by Rail

To Ailsa Craig from Girvan shore, a good place to watch birds. The curling-stone island comes and goes in mists and rains. A crow from the train. Ivy covered trees bend in towards one another. Where a bridge once was, approaching Girvan. Evidence all along the route of other railway lines, now closed. To Ailsa Craig, as the railway steeply rises into hilly country.
Through a railway window. Regular rail users will recognise this cosy feel, sitting inside, relaxed, looking out. Leaving Girvan, the rails start to rise steeply, winding into the hills and offering views to Ailsa Craig. Oystercatchers on the shore, red legs, black jackets. Wherever one travels there will be wildlife to be watched. A view to the hills. Buzzards overhead and a crow on rocks. Blue sky and green hillside enticing.
Stumpy Tower, jackdaws perching. A light flashes on the horizon and a weather-vane ship rides the darkening sky. River crossing, Scottish Highlands. Incredibly still, reflecting water. My first painting from the West Highland Lines. The remains of a cottage, glimpsed from the train. A steep forest clearing south-east of Elgin.
To the Hill of Noth. Reflective water and fence posts that mimic the railway sleepers. Two silhouetted crows match two silhouetted trees. Alone in a landscape trees can seem like spindly giants stalking the hillsides. Childhood memories -  walking north of Huntly I encounter a tree house. My own gang-huts were never as impressive. Out-buildings at Huntly Lodge Farm. Glimpsed through a gateway.
Overgrown tracks at Keith. One of many scenes along the line that tell of times past. Oystercatcher at Nairn, flying low and emitting its piping call. The Black Isle beyond. Black on their fence-post perches. A whole field away so not disturbed by the passing of our train. So many hilltops to admire from the train. This one surrounded by dense dark forest.
Inverurie graveyard, a peaceful jumble of graves, trees, grasses and flowers. Leaving Elgin, the railway bends under several bridges. Later I painted from this sketch. Wildlife marshland, Elgin rooftops beyond. Reed bunting, mallards. The smell of shortbread baking! A kiln near Huntly, between an old estate and farmland.
An interesting view of lines in a landscape. This later became a painting. Huntly Castle, atmospheric and grand. A tree-lined avenue lit by Narnian lamps. In the graveyard in Inverurie. An interesting combination of grassy mounds and mature beeches. Insch signal box & level-crossing. Sketched through rain-streaked windows as I sheltered in the waiting room.
Insch station and Dunnideer. Climb the station bridge steps to look up at the ancient hill fort. Details, Inverurie graveyard. A host of golden daffodils. Dunnideer, wind blowing, clouds speeding, buzzards circling, Jennifer reading. A miniature valley, spotted yellow with gorse. Scrubby grassland behind and a platoon of towering pines.
Forest, glimpsed from the train. A track leading up towards the darkening scene. From Dunnideer. A perfect vantage point to watch rainclouds storm across the land. The moon soft in the daytime sky. Looking up to Dunnideer. Another day I was up there looking down. On a walk from Keith. A cloudburst turned this country road into a streak of silver that flowed amongst the green.
Rolling stock at Inverurie. I loved the chunky rusty look of wagons and rails. Greenery emerging as it always does. Signal box, Huntly. Something rarely seen on the more major lines. The hill fort of Dunnideer. A place to sit and read and watch the train passing far below.
The Hill of Noth. Often semi-obscured by mist, landscape lightens as it recedes. A Huntly shed, signs of age, contrasting earthy reds and moss greens. A ruined building, glimpsed from the train, so much gorse. A station building at Nairn, smartly painted to fit with this seaside town.
A tumble-down cottage, trees taking over. By the River Bogie at Huntly. By the sidings in Keith, dark window-panes like eyes. A view from the train - sentinel trees form a gateway. A view from the train - a meeting of trees, buzzards above, forest and mountains beyond.
A view from the train - a pair of walkers were below a heavy sky. Crossing the Don at Inverurie. I walked by ploughed field to the meeting point of two rivers.
Elgin bridges. In my explorations I crossed both, meandering through the outskirts of the town. Elgin Cathedral. Stained-glass long gone but a beautiful view to replace it. Flowers at Nairn. One of many examples of disused station buildings being used for new ventures. In the Bin Forest, by Huntly. An erratic that formed an island in a forest clearing.
Old graveyard, Inverurie. The peaceful stillness disturbed only briefly by a passing train. And many birds calling.