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The day calls for a short hop over to Billings, Montana where we are scheduled to meet up with Texas relatives, which means we’ll have a relaxing day needing to travel less than two hundred miles without any major destinations.
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In fact, it’s not pouring rain and practically a heat wave at almost 60°F (15°C). Getting the chance to linger around in the morning is a little unusual for us, wonder what’s on TVnever mind.
After a rip-snorting raucous time in the big city of Bozeman, we head east where we try to catch up with the rain that left, earlier than we did, Mother Nature not expecting us to play around Bozeman wasting daylight got a head start.
When the shell of Kirkhill House was sold for private restoration, the stones of the pillar were taken into safekeeping by the West Lothian History and Amenity Society, and it was decided to rebuild the pillar, with bell tower and cross, in front of the Visitor Centre at Almondell. And there it is today. The Visitor Centre (opened in 1981) is a lively, friendly place with interesting historical and wildlife displays, and an attractive small aquarium. It is the base for the park ranger service. Soft drinks, tea, snacks, etc are on sale if you need refreshments – with garden benches outside and a snug conservatory within. Walk on up the drive through the disabled car park. There are some fine specimen trees, including chestnut, copper beech, cypress, red cedar and sequoia, but most eye-catching are the lime trees with great bunches of suckering growths round their bases – good shelter for wintering birds! Most garden birds will be seen, and perhaps wren, tree creeper, woodpecker, robin, wagtail, dipper and mallard, with goosander, cormorant and herons fishing in the river, on occasion a kingfisher. Bats, roe deer, fox, badger, squirrel, rabbit and even otter have been noted. The small Dell Bridge on the drive was built in 1784 by Henry Erskine, his first piece of landscaping here. Then there’s a large, ornate, double-arched bridge across the River Almond which was designed by the portrait painter and garden landscaper Alexander Naismith and built about 1800.
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