Brantwood – John Ruskin’s home at Coniston

Following on from my previous post – below is a side view of John Ruskin’s house Brantwood at Coniston. As you can see it goes quite far back. The rather ugly grey blocks to the right of the photo are now loos but I think originally they were workshops.

Brantwood

I took the photo below so that you could see the view of the lake from it, the room itself is a small museum which features artefacts that Ruskin had collected, especially geological samples, the white object on the table is a huge piece of rock crystal. He seems to have been fond of that as it features in the garden too.
Brantwood
The drawing room is below.
Brantwood

Brantwood

And now a sort of study which has the same wallpaper, I didn’t notice that when we were there!
Brantwood

Brantwood
On to the dining room which is quite sparse looking in the photo below.
Brantwood
But from the other end it’s a bit more homely looking. The portraits are of members of his family.
Brantwood
Below is his bedroom which looks very much like it belongs to a single man but he did marry again eventually. The watercolours on the walls are of landscapes.
Brantwood
Below is a photo of a tiny turret room, really it’s just a bay window off the bedroom but it has a wonderful view of the lake – a favourite spot for Ruskin to sit in I believe.

Brantwood turret
Brantwood  turret room

Looking at the photos now I’m quite confused, mainly due to the same wallpaper featuring in two and possibly three rooms. Were there two pianos in the same room? Possibly there were, I used to have a boudoir grand and an upright in the same room after all – which makes me sound posh I suppose – but I’m not!
Brantwood

Brantwood is in a lovely location and must have been comfortable in its day. John Ruskin was a great champion of the Pre-Raphelite Botherhood of course but there’s not a great deal of evidence of any of their paintings here. Ruskin was definitely not good husband material going by his poor wife Effie’s experiences.

Effie Gray eventually married the artist Millais and they had eight children. Click on the link to read a bit more about the background of the marriage.

Coniston Water and Brantwood

After visiting Grasmere we drove on to Coniston Water on the way to our next overnight stop in Derbyshire. It was a lovely day and thankfully Coniston Water wasn’t nearly as busy as other places in the Lake District – such as Ambleside which always seems to be heaving.

We were making our way to Brantwood which is the lovely house that the writer, art critic, philosopher, philanthropist and environmentalist John Ruskin bought, it is situated high above Coniston Water and these photos were taken from the grounds at the front of the house.

Coniston Water

Coniston Water

Coniston Water

You can see in the photo below that there are lots of wee boats and yachts in the lake. This lake inspired Arthur Ransome to write his Swallows and Amazons series.
Coniston Water

And below is a photo of Brantwood, it has marvelous views of the lake. Ruskin bought this house unseen as he had often holidayed at Coniston and at a time when he was ill he thought that if only he could lie down in the water at Coniston he would get better. It must have worked as he lived here for many years.

Brantwood, Coniston

I suspect that the one thing that everyone knows about John Ruskin is that his wife had to go to court to get an annulment for non-consummation of the marriage. That harmed his reputation for a long time but that was just a small part of a long life which included many interests. He was interested in educating ordinary working people, at this time education in England was in a very poor state compared with in Scotland. He was involved with progressive schools for girls, and he also set up workshops that trained and employed people who would probably otherwise be unemployed and destitute.

I’ll show you some photos of the inside of the house soon.

Around Grasmere, Lake District

The photos below are of the view we had from the window of our hotel room just outside Grasmere in the Lake District. I took these ones in the morning, but I was so annoyed when I looked out of it because when we arrived the night before it had been full of unusual grey fleeced sheep, and I didn’t take a photo of them as I thought the light wasn’t good enough.

farmland, outside Grasmere
I’m not great at getting to sleep when I’m away from home and I wasn’t helped by the sound of an owl hoo-oo-ooting. It must have been sitting on the roof directly above our bed, but it sounded like it was sitting on the bedhead, and it was one of those spooky sounding owls. It went on for quite a while only stopping now and again when I imagine it must have flown off on a hunting expedition, before alighting above us again. It was definitely a different experience.
farmland, Grasmere

Very early in the morning I had been woken up by some dogs barking outside and I did think in a woolly way that they must have been sheep dogs and my brain just didn’t click to the fact that they were rounding the sheep up, taking them to new pastures – I hope.

The view of across the road from the hotel is really quite different as you can see.
hills outside Grasmere
It’s much more mountainous although maybe I should say craggy as by Scottish standards these are really just hills. I love the stone built farm buildings they have in this area.
scenery outside Grasmere
The Lake District does seem a bit like a mini Scotland – with loads more tourists. It’s not really that far from the ‘debatable lands’ of the Scottish Borders which were always being fought over.
hills outside Grasmere

I took some photos of the types of houses that are in Grasmere. The one below is so wonderfully craggy and solid looking and I’ve never seen chimney stacks like that before. This house is close to Dove Cottage.
House + chimneys

In complete contrast whitewashed houses like the one below always seem quite fragile to me and remind me of iced cakes. I’ll be completely un-pc and say that as I often think of houses as having characters then the top craggy one is definitely male whilst the whitewashed one is veering towards femininity!

typical Lake District house

The burn/stream below edges the graveyard that the Wordsworths are buried in. I did take a photo of the lovely wee bridge over it but sadly it came out all blurred.
Burn, Grasmere

If you want to see more images of the village of Grasmere have a look here.

Dove Cottage, Grasmere, Lake District

Dove Cottage

By the time we reached Grasmere last week dusk was beginning to fall, and as our hotel was a mile or so outside the village we drove into Grasmere and parked outside Dove Cottage, the home of William Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy to begin with and then after he got married they had to eventually squash five kids in there too.

Dove Cottage
When the Wordsworths lived in the cottage there were none of the buildings around it that you see now, and they had an unrestricted view of the lake.

Dove Cottage
I was really glad that we decided to have a snoop around after the cottage was closed as we had it to ourselves and were able to look around the garden in peace.

Dove Cottage
The garden is situated on a sloping site, it’s a bit neglected at the moment, I think they must be in need of some gardening volunteers, it’s a pity I live too far away!
Dove Cottage back garden 1
Steps lead up to what was a favourite spot with Wordsworth, this refurbished summer gazebo.
Dove Cottage back garden 5
Back down close to the cottage some vegetables are being grown in the area where apparently an outhouse had stood in Wordsworth’s day. As it’s only a few steps from the cottage it must have been the earth closet. That would have been particularly handy as originally the cottage had been a pub and William and Dorothy were the first people to live in it as a home.
Dove Cottage side garden 1

It’s a tiny cottage and it’s very dark downstairs and would have been even darker in Wordsworth’s day as the windows have been enlarged since then. We didn’t manage to get any photos of the downstairs but it consists of a small kitchen, a buttery which is a teeny wee room where they stored perishable food and a small living room which must have been used as a bedroom when all the children began to arrive. It feels a lot colder than the kitchen and you can hear the stream which flows underneath it. When it was in use they probably prised one of the slates up from the floor so they could place a container of milk in it to keep it fresh. They must have got their water from there too. There’s a small living room, quite cosy really.

Upstairs there are three small bedrooms. The one below was William’s, it was very cold upstairs as the fireplace couldn’t be used, the room quickly filled with smoke apparently.
William Wordsworth's  bedroom 1
Dorothy chose thie tiny room below. In her day she papered the walls with old newspapers, presumably in an effort to insulate the place. It has been repapered since then but as you can see the damp is coming through badly. There is no fireplace in this room and it is directly above the cold buttery. I can see why she chose it though as it’s at least private, you have to walk through the other bedroom to get into this one.

inside Dove  cottage  Dorothy's

The upstairs sitting room is lovely and bright and the furniture and china did actually belong to the Wordsworths.
inside Dove Cottage  sitting room 1

inside Dove  Cottage sitting room

Normally the cottage housed eight people, the five children, William, Mary his wife, Dorothy his sister and another female relative and Dorothy wrote in her diary that at one point there were fifteen people staying in the house, it’s one way of keeping warm I suppose!

Sir Walter Scott visited them and I can just imagine his astonishment at the size and simplicity of the place. But Wordsworth was very happy here and although they did later move to a house in nearby Rydal, in the end they all came back to Grasmere to be buried.

Wordsworth graves

Wordsworth graves

There are lots of Wordsworths in the graveyard.

The entry charge also includes a visit to the nearby Wordsworth museum which is very interesting and contains a lot of personal things, including Wordsworth’s dental ‘pokey’ things and some of his clothes.

We were really glad that we had visited the exterior of the house earlier as by the time we got there just before the cottage opened in the morning hordes of foreign students turned up just behind us, luckily we managed to get in just before they did, otherwise we couldn’t have taken any photos at all. They were Dutch I think, so surprising as I wouldn’t have thought Wordsworth would be well known there.

Random photos

I must have walked past this window in St Andrews hundreds of times but I only noticed it recently. The buildings are generally very old but this is obviously an Art Nouveau/Arts and Crafts window, somebody did a bit of refurbishment over the years.

Art Nouveau Glass Window

Across the road I noticed the stone owls sitting on the edge of the portico. I think that like many buildings in St Andrews this one is owned by the university, so presumably the owls are symbolic of wisdom and learning.

Owls

It’s rare to see an empty street nowadays, they’re usually full of parked cars on both sides of the street, but on their Open Arts Festival in Cellardyke, a coastal village in Fife, the place was deserted of cars for once. The clutch of red balloons being the only evidence of modernity, denoting where an artist was exhibiting work.
Cellardyke

I took the photo below in the fair city of Perth, the hanging baskets and window boxes were looking so lovely. I think the rather grand looking building was a bank originally – remember them?!
hanging baskets

I have visited the small town of Dunkeld hundreds of times as it’s one of my favourite places, but I had only ever been into the cathedral ruins there. The photo below is of the newer cathedral which is obviously still in use as a place of worship.
Dunkeld Cathedral Stained Glass

The photo below is the view of Dunkeld that you get as you drive over the bridge.
Dunkeld From Bridge over the River Tay

After visiting the cathedral I walked over the bridge to get a photo of the River Tay. I’ve never seen it so low before, there were actually people walking out to the ‘islands’.
River Tay From Bridge at Dunkeld

I bet it was still cold though!

Cellardyke

A couple of weeks ago we visited the Bowhouse craft and food/drink fair near St Monans in the east neuk of Fife. They are a fairly regular occurrence, no-doubt a product of farmers having to diversify nowadays as the venue is a group of barns. Anyway, we had a nice time there and bought a few things. It’s a fair trek from where we live though so as it was a lovely afternoon we decided to drive on a couple of miles along to through the coastal fishing villages and ended up at Cellardyke. Below is a photo of the Firth of Forth with the Isle of May in the distance. It’s a haven for birdlife of course.

Isle of May

There are some really old houses, some of them are quite pretty I think and they seem to stand up to the icy blast of the North Sea well, but I wouldn’t want to live in one.

Old House

I’ve been told that the ground floor of these houses used to be used just to store the fishing gear, which would make sense as I suspect the sea comes in to visit them now and again, so I would much rather have my living quarters upstairs.

Old House

If you walk along to the end of the village and go up to the war memorial you are high enough to get a good view of the rooftops and sea.

Houses and Sea, Cellardyke

The houses on the left hand of this street back onto the sea, this photo was taken on an earlier visit, when we went there to see the local art exhibition. The red balloons in the distance mean that that house has artworks on view and for sale.

Cellardyke

And below is the view from behind those houses. The big pole is one of only a couple that are left now, they were for hanging the fishing nets on in the olden days, so they are historic really. I find them quite obtrusive but people seem to like them.
Cellardyke
But the place to hang your washing/laundry is at the harbour as you can see from the photo below. These washing lines are well used by the locals although if it blows too hard your washing is likely to end up in Norway!
washing

Lastly a close up of Isle of May. We had intended taking a boat trip to this island, mainly to see the puffins, but so far we haven’t made it. It takes a couple of hours to get there. Last year we really didn’t fancy being stuck out on a boat in what seemed to be endless rain last so-called summer. This year we didn’t fancy getting roasted by the sun on the trip, not that I’m complaining.

Isle of May

Balgonie Castle in Fife

Balgonie Castle

Way back in June we visited Balgonie Castle for the first time. The local history group was having its last talk of the season before breaking up for the summer, and that talk is always at the castle apparently.
Balgonie Castle
It’s a wee bit touristy for my liking but as you can see by one of the signs on this door it has been used as a film location for Outlander – as has just about everywhere that we’ve visited recently! Balgonie Castle is over 700 years old.
Balgonie Castle
The owners do live in the castle and it’s a popular venue for weddings, but quite a lot of it is a ruin.
Balgonie Castle
It all adds to the atmosphere I suppose.
Balgonie Castle

Balgonie Castle

I have to say that I’m quite glad I don’t live in a castle, it was freezing inside although it was a lovely mild June evening.

The history talk was about William Wallace, quite interesting but when you get right down to it – there’s very little known about him.

Apparently Balgonie Castle was used as MacRannoch’s home, where Dougal and the MacKenzies rest ahead of attacking Wentworth Prison. I’m sure I’ve seen that bit but I can’t say I recognised it.

You can read more about the castle here and see more photos, particularly of the inside of the chapel which we didn’t take any photos of.

Collessie in Fife – again

The photo below is of a very unusual architectural detail at Collessie Church. I don’t think the church is open but I must admit I didn’t try the door handle. It would be good to be able to see it internally some day.
Collessie Church
But the photo below shows a very unusually angled thatched roof, some extending must have gone over the years I think, but it looks like it has been renewed fairly recently. I know that in England you have to put your name down on a thatcher’s waiting list long before your roof needs to be re-thatched. I’m wondering if they have to come up especially from England as there’s no way that anyone could make a living from thatching in Scotland, there are just too few such roofs.
Thatched Cottage

The pan tiled roof of the cottage in the photo below is the more usual material for cottage roofs in Fife, the tiles were brought over from Holland as ballast in ships.
pan tiled cottage

Below is a close up of some thatch and a wee keek at a back garden.
Thatched Cottage
The cottage below is actually up for sale, I think it has seen better days though. It’ll need a lot of work done on it. The windows of most of these houses are very small. Builders are going back to that way of designing now as they try to make new houses more economical where heating is concerned.
Thatched Cottage

Below is thatch and the more traditional slate roof which must be a Victorian addition I think.
Thatched Cottage

The structure below is partially built into the churchyard wall. It has words carved into it but it’s very difficult to make out. It’s a family tomb for the local high heid yins – the Melville family.
Crypt at Collessie, Fife
Luckily there’s an information board on the stone wall.
Melville Tomb information
And below is the tomb from the other side – within the churchyard.
tomb of Melvilles, Collessie

The surrounding countryside is lovely, the crops are all just about ready for harvesting. Collessie is a lovely village but I imagine it’s a bit of a nightmare living there in the winter – unless you can hibernate!

countryside at Collessie, Fife

Collessie, Fife

One beautiful day last week we decided to visit a nearby estate garden which is open to the public. We had never been before but the address in books was given as Collessie, so we drove to that small village, a place we had never been before despite it being just a few miles from where we live. We never did find the estate garden that day as it’s actually on the rode to another village. I was enchanted by Collessie though so we spent an hour or so walking around the very historic village. Below is a photo of what had been the post office and is now someone’s home. Post Offices have been closed down all over the country which is a tragedy as they were often the hub of a village. In fact this place has no shops or anything, just a church and a community hall.

Old Post Office, Collessie

It’s like stepping back into a sort of Brigadoon. I’ve only seen a few thatched houses in Scotland, they’re much nore common in the south of England, so I was amazed to see several of them in Collessie. The village apparently has the most thatched roofs of anywhere in Scotland.

Thatched Cottage
They look lovely but we have friends who lived in a thatched cottage down south and they said that as soon as the weather turned a bit cold – all of the local ‘skittering’ wildlife moved into the roof for warmth, not my idea of fun. Especially as they didn’t stay in the thatch but made forays into the house.
Thatched cottage
Of course not all of the cottages have thatched roofs, but the street below is still amazingly quaint looking. It looks like nothing has changed for a couple of hundred years.
street in Collessie
I think that the road in the photo below must have been the main road leading to St Andrews which was of course a popular place for pilgrims to walk to in the days of the early Christian church. You can see the church beyond the thatched roof, it has been extended a lot over the years but the original part of it dates from before 1243 which is when it was consecrated by the Bishop of St Andrews.
Thatched Cottage

Considering the size of the village this church is enormous. I think that over the years the population must have decreased a lot.
Collessie Church

The village is a bit of a dead end as it has been by-passed by a larger road which is why we had never been there before, but it’s definitely worth making a detour off the main road to step back in time to Collessie. I’ll put a few more photos of it up tomorrow.

Broch of Gurness, Orkney Islands

Broch of Gurness in Orkney is one of the many sites that we visited when we were there in June 2017. When we went there early one morning the man in charge of the place was just about to shut it and go home as he didn’t think that anyone would brave the terrible weather, it was a howling gale. I’m really glad that we experienced it like that though as as soon as we got into the shelter of the broch it was so calm and quiet, and we had the place to ourselves.

Broch of Gurness, Entrance

Jack has done a couple of posts about it and if you’re interested in seeing more photos of the place have a look here and here.