At this time of year you have to grab the good days when you can, and last week found me exploring the ruins of Auchen Castle, near Beattock.
The castle (not to be confused with the nearby Auchen Castle Hotel) dates from the 13th century. The ruins are extensive and quite confusing. I had expected to find a tower house, but Auchen predates such structures. Deciphering its history has presented problems even for the experts, as you can see if you read the comprehensive archeological notes here.
But it was a wonderful place to visit, on a spectacular autumn day! The ivy covering the remains of the corner tower looks like a skull!
This area is described on old maps as 'fish ponds'.
The function of this underground passage/tunnel remains unclear, but it is rather impressive.
It seems to be home for this splendid frog, just waiting for his princess to come along!
Looking north. The West Coast Main Line, and the A74(M) following the valley of the Evan Water, are in the dip behind the trees. Coatsgate quarry is on the left of the pic.
I didn't have to go far for my 'steam fix' this weekend. And I wasn't the only enthusiast on the platforms of Lockerbie station at 09.00 this morning!
It's always pleasing when things run to time. The steam excursion I had come to see pulled into the passing loop just south of the station, to let this Virgin voyager service (the 06.20 from Birmingham) continue north unchecked on its way to Edinburgh.
A bit of huffing and puffing on the cold clear morning!
And here is 'The Caledonian', an excursion organised by PMR Tours for the Princess Royal Class Locomotive Trust, out of Wolverhampton at 05.23, and steam hauled from Carlisle, headed for Stirling.
You can see too in this pic that the repairs to the Lockerbie Town Hall clock tower have now been completed!
Star of the morning was the locomoive, LMS Coronation Class 4-6-2 no 46233 Duchess of Sutherland, which I last saw back in April at Dumfries, see here.
Always great to see steam on the West Coast Main Line.