Visiting art exhibitions

This coming week we’re going to Edinburgh to visit a couple of art exhibitions before they close, the time seems to go so quickly nowadays. So we’ll be going to the City Art Centre which is just at the back of Waverley Railway Station to see the    Exhibition, and then on to the National Gallery on Princes Street to see The Printmaker’s Art from Rembrandt to Rego exhibition.

But soonish we hope to be travelling further afield, weather permitting, maybe even down to England, so I’ve been doing some research. There are plenty of places we haven’t visited before. As a good Scot I like to get my money’s worth, and as a member of the Scottish National Trust and Historic Scotland I/we can get into the English versions free too.  I’ll be happy to get recommendations from any of you who have enjoyed days out in any of them.

English Heritage Collections

National Trust Collections 

 

Dumbarton Castle – info boards

If you want to see some photos of the castle, including the Georgian part which I took back in 2018 on a blue sky day have a look here.

Dumbarton Castle, info board

There are plenty of information boards to read if you visit Dumbarton Castle. If you want to read them more easily click on the photos.

Dumbarton Castle, info board

The photo below was taken from inside the guard room which has only fairly recently been opened to the public.

Dumbarton Castle, guard room

Royal Progress, info board, Dumbarton Castle

 

Mary's Cause, Dumbarton Castle

Dumbarton Castle has had famous prisoners over the years, including William Wallace and Mary, Queen of Scots.  I believe that it was one of the many places that she managed to escape from. In fact she escaped from so many places that I suspect that it was a bit of a cat and mouse game which was being played on her.

Held Captive, Dumbarton Castle

 

Dumbarton Castle and environs

Dumbarton Football Club ground

Back in September Jack wanted to go to Dumbarton to watch a football match there, he’s a loyal supporter of Dumbarton Football Club – through thick and thin and at the moment it’s quite thin! Anyway, I’m not a huge football fan so I opted to visit Dumbarton Castle which is situated right at the football ground. As you can see below the info board names it Dun Breatann, Fortress of the Britons. Over the years the town which grew around the fort became known as Dumbarton, it’s a bit easier to say I suppose.

Dumbarton Rock info board

Although it’s called a castle it isn’t anything like Stirling or Edinburgh, but in its day it was one of the most important fortresses in Scotland. Ships sailed from here to France and elsewhere. Mary Queen of Scots sailed for France from the castle, she was also imprisoned here, and of course escaped. There have been lots of drawings of the area over the centuries and in some of them the patch of grass in the photo below has a house on it, it was demolished long ago. Behind the wall to the right are steps, when I was wee they used to say there was a step for every day of the year but now they say there are over 400. As a wee girl I tried to count them, but I always got a different tally.

Dumbarton Castle, Dumbarton Rock

And here are some of the steps in the photo below, these ones are right at the beginning and are possibly some of the steepest. It’s not a good place to visit if you aren’t good with stairs! On the other hand it will keep you fit.

Dumbarton Castle stairs, Dumbarton Rock

The photo below is of a small part of the rock face. The whole thing is a volcanic plug.

Dumbarton Rock face, Dumbarton Castle

At the moment some areas are cordoned off. The building below is known as the French Prison because during the Napoleonic wars it was used to house French prisoners, it’s apparently going to be refurbished and will then be open to the public, it never has been in my lifetime.  The sunken area below with the metal bars in it is part of it too but is in much worse condition.

French prison, Dumbarton Castle

 

French Prison, Dunmbarton Castle

More rockiness!

Dumbarton Castle, Dumbarton Rock

There are still cannons in place. This has always been a very strategic place, at the confluence of the River Clyde and River Leven.  The Romans were here, and the Vikings and it’s amazing how often it’s mentioned in historical fiction.

Dumbarton Rock, Dumbarton Castle, cannons

It was low tide at the River Clyde when I was there.

Dumbarton Castle, Dumbarton Rock, River Clyde

 

Dumbarton Castle, River Clyde

Below is a photo of some of the stairs seen from above. The small white building is a guard house and that hadn’t been open to the public before. Looking at this photo it strikes me that you need a head for heights!

Dumbarton Castle, Rock

Below is the River Clyde again. It’s a pity it was such a grey day as the views are spectacular when it’s bright.

River Clyde, Dumbarton Rock

Looking to the other side of the river in the photo below is a small part of the town, Dumbarton. I lived close to this area and it was my playground when I was a wee girl, but all of these houses and flats are new, sometimes the rivers pay them a visit!  The Sunderland aircraft factory took up a lot of the land where these houses are now.

Dumbarton

If you cast your mind back to when Prince Harry and Meghan Markle got married you might remember thet the Queen bestowed the Scottish title on them of Earl and Countess of Dumbarton on them. It was supposed to be an honour for the town I’m sure but they were unimpressed. It was expected that they would pay a visit to Dumbarton soon after they married as that’s what normally happens, but apparently (if you can believe the tabloids) the couple took it as an insult instead of the honour it was meant to be – something to do with the word ‘dumb’ apparently. Honestly, how daft can you get!

 

Ring of Brodgar

Last week when I wrote a brief post about our fairly recent visit to Avebury in Wiltshire I wanted to link to my previous visit the The Ring of Brodgar on Orkney in 2022, for comparison. It was only then that I discovered that I had never got around to blogging about it, either in 2017 or 2022. Or if I did the posts have disappeared!

Ring of Brodgar, Orkney

So here are some photos that I took, the Ring of Brodgar in the distance.

Part of Ring of Brodgar

A bit closer.

Looking Towards Ring of Brodgar from Barnhouse Village

Looking across the Loch of Harray towards The Ring of Brodgar.

Ring of Brodgar, Part

And the standing stones from the other side of the ring.

Stones in Ring of Brodgar

The stone circle itself is large, as are the stones. Below is a photo of Jack beside one of them. They’re not as chunky and rough as the stones at Avebury.

Ring of Brodgar, Single Stone

You can read more about the stones here.

 

Avebury, Wiltshire, England

Avebury Stones , Neolithic, Wiltshire, standing stones

We had no intention of visiting Avebury during our fairly recent trip down to the south west of England, but when we saw a roadsign which indicated we were staying just seven miles from Avebury we obvioulsy had to go there. You don’t have to pay to get into the fields but if you are parking a car then you pay for parking, I think it was £7, however – if you are a member of the National Trust or Scottish National Trust parking is free. Below is a photo of Jack beside one of the standing stones so you can see how enormous some are.

Avebury, standing Stones,Wiltshire+ J

We’ve been to visit a fair few standing stones but none as massive as these ones.  They’re also very rough  and don’t seem to have been worn down by the weather. I was also struck by the difference in the situations in the landscape. In Orkney you can stand in one of the neolithic stone sites and see two others in the distance, but in Avebury it seems that they wanted things to be hidden. Massive ditches have been dug out around the fields, it looks like that might have been done to keep people in those fields, escape wouldn’t have been easy, probably impossible. You don’t really get the idea of how deep this ditch/rampart is from the photo below.

Avebury Rampart , standing stones, Neolithic, Wiltshire

Avebury Rampart ,Neolithic, Wiltshire

For me that added to an atmosphere of unease and danger. This could of course be my imagination running rampant!

But I must admit that when I saw a few women leaning against the stones with both hands – for ages, emulating Claire  from Outlander, obviously hoping for a similar experience, I found it really funny.

Avebury, standing Stones , Neolithic, Wiltshire

 

Avebury, standing Stones, Neolithic, Wiltshire

Otherwise, Avebury is a lovely wee village with a few shops, pub and church.

Avebury, Thatched Cottage

And some very quaint houses.

Avebury,Thatched Cottage 3

 

Avebury house

 

 

The Roman Baths at Bath – 2,000 years of history

Roman Bath, Bath

When we approached the entrance of The Roman Baths we thought there was an enormous queue to get into it, but as we got closer we realised that the queue was for something else, so we got in straight away. As I mentioned before it’s expensive, but the ticket price included the use of an audio guide which was informative.  As we had travelled all the way from Scotland we decided that we couldn’t NOT go in.

Below is a photo of Bath Abbey which we didn’t go into, we had been in several churches and cathedrals within a few days so we gave this one a miss, however you do get a good view of it from within the Roman baths, exactly from where I took the photo above.

Bath Abbey , Bath

The photo below is of the hot springs bath, you can see the water bubbling, it’s naturally hot and that amazed the Romans, they decided it must be a sacred place which is why they built the whole complex there. In Georgian times the water level was higher, right up to where you can see the orange sort of tide mark. People used to sit on the stone blocks within the arches with their heads just out of the water. This was not for the faint hearted as the water was not at all clean after so many people using them, many of them with skin problems. It must have caused more problems than it ever cured!

hot bath Bubbling Waters , Roman Bath

It was crazily busy in the baths, especially in the interior parts. There’s a lot more to see than I had imagined. Below is a gilt bronze  head of the godess Sulis Minerva which was discovered during excavations. She’s an amalgamation of the Celtic godess Sulis and Roman godess Minerva. The Romans liked to include parts of the local religions wherever they settled.

Minerva, Roman Baths, Bath

They’ve discovered lots of things which must have been lost in the baths over the centuries, including this lovely Celtic style brooch. Whoever lost it must have been really annoyed! You can read more about the history of the place here.

Celtic Brooch, Bath, Roman Baths

In places you can look down to what was the foundations of the baths.

Roman Bath foundation stones, Bath

Below is a big plunge pool with just a small amount of water in it but you can imagine people sitting around on the stone steps having a gossip, or maybe not, this was the Frigidarium, the cold pool.

Roman Bath Pool, Bath

There were various altars around the place and below is a reconstruction of one with just the corners showing the original Roman pieces. I imagine that they thought it was a good idea to be nice and clean if they were going to be praying to Minerva or anyone else.

Roman Stones  + Pediment, Bath

Below is the remains of a horse sculpture.

Horse Sculpture , Roman Baths, Bath

And there are more figures of horses in what remains of the mosaic below.

Roman Mosaic, Bath

We spent almost two hours there and by that time we were definitely ready for lunch before going on to the next places of interest in Bath. Although the entry price seemed steep it was worth it. The model below shows what the buildings would have looked like in their heyday. The baths were covered with arched roofs as you can see, it would have made it a lot cosier than being open to the elements as they are today. There were areas for massage and general pampering, all by slaves of course. For some reason the videos and photographs of pampering were all of scantily clad women!!

Roman Bath model, Bath

Elgin Cathedral, Moray Scotland

Below is a photo of a Pictish carving which is in the grounds of Elgin Cathedral, it’s in not bad condition considering it’s 1100 years old.

Elgin Cathedral Carving Pictish stone

Back above and front below.

aElgin Cathedral Carving Pictish Stone 1

The statues below were never correct dimension wise  as the heads are too big.

Elgin Cathedral  statues, Moray, Scotland

The carving below is of far better quality, this is one of the carvings which is on display inside the cathedral towers.

Elgin Cathedral Carving , gargoyle

The others below are also inside the towers, out of the weather.

Elgin Cathedral Carving,

 

Elgin Cathedral Carvings

The carved head below didn’t come out as well as I had hoped, it’s behind glass and is blurred, in reality it looks much better and it’s rare because it depicts the head of a lovely woman. Before this women were always seen as being evil harridans, because the Catholic church was run by men who thought that way, but that changed when ideas of chivalry and knighthood became fashionable in the 1300s.

Carved Woman's Head, Elgin Cathedral

Sueno’s Stone, at Forres, Morayshire

When we visited Elgin back in May one of the places on our list of places/things to visit was Sueno’s Stone on the outskirts of Forres. It’s enormous, 21 feet of ninth century stone, intricately carved with Pictish designs and possibly depicting a battle. The monolith has had a glass enclosure erected around it in recent years to protect it from the elements, as you can imagine the weather can be severe up there in winter.

Sueno's Stone, Forres

The designs are very detailed and are on all of the stone’s surfaces, so we were there quite a while taking photos and examining the designs.

Sueno's Stone Closer view

Apparently there’s a tale locally that the stone is where Macbeth met the three witches and that their souls are trapped inside the stone. It’s believed that the stone is in its original position, some Pictish stones have been relocated over the years apparently.

Sueno's Stone, Side View

While we were there a man arrived and quickly walked around the stone using his phone to video it, at no point did he actually look at the stone, apart from through his phone, and within 90 seconds he was off, no doubt to the next thing of interest and probably uploading it to Facebook as he went! That’s modern life for some I suppose!

Vindolanda – a Roman Fort, Northumberland, England

Fort from Gate, Vindolanda

It was way back in April that we visited the Roman camp at Vindolanda, as you can see from the photo above it’s still a very rural and scenic part of the country.

There are still excavations ongoing here but the photo below is of a replica gateway, to give an idea of what it would have looked like when the Romans were here.

Replica Tower, Vindolanda

Below is a model of the whole camp which is in the on site museum.

Model of Roman Fort at Vindolanda

Some of the remains that have been dug out look quite well preserved as you can see below.

Remains of Fort, Vindolanda

Below you can see the remains of a hypocaust, their heating system. They had all ‘mod cons’ those Romans in Britain, they needed it as it’s a really cold area of England, in the autumn and winter.
A Hypocaust at Vindolanda

Fort Ruins, Vindolanda

They’ve built a replica temple which is well situated by the wee river, a good place to rest and have a coffee.
Replica Temple, Vindolanda

You can read about Vindolanda here and here. The Romans were in this area of North East England (Northumberland) from around 85 AD to 370 AD.

Dyce Symbol Stones, Saint Fergus’s Church, Aberdeenshire, Scotland

We visited several standing stones and symbol stones while we were in Aberdeenshire recently, including the stones at the ruin of Saint Fergus’s Church in Dyce.

Dyce Symbol Stones  info board, Aberdeenshire

As you can see from the photo below it was a sunny day, the stones are just behind the front wall which you can see below.

Dyce Symbol Stones St Fergus's Church

They’ve built a wee canopy to keep the worst of the weather off them. The church itself dates from the 13th century, but the Pictish symbol stones date from the 800s and they’re in remarkably good condition.
Dyce Symbol Stones , St Fergus' Church, Aberdeenshire

Dyce Symbol Stones , Aberdeenshire, Pictish

Dyce Symbol Stones, Pictish, Aberdeenshire
Dyce Symbol Stones, Aberdeenshire, Scotland

Before the 13th century church there was probably a wooden church on the site which would have had these stones as decoration, there’s also part of a broken font. We weren’t the only people looking at the stones, there was a lovely man who was a retired stonemason and he had worked on the church years before, so he pointed out things of interest to us, incuding the ‘green mannie’ on the corner of the building which you can just see in the photo below, he had actually discovered it when he was repointing the church, you might have to click to enlarge it. I always think of the green man as being a Celtic symbol, but he was also popular in England I believe, supposed to be a good luck symbol.

Dyce Symbol Stones Green Man

They certainly chose a beautiful location for the church as just across the road from it is the River Don in the photo below, there are just a few houses in this area, what a great view they wake up to in the morning!

Dyce River Don, Aberdeenshire

Dyce River Don, Aberdeenshire

Dyce River Don, Aberdeenshire