Threave Gardens, Dumfries and Galloway

azalea walkway

We visited Threave Gardens during our recent four day trip to Dumfries and Galloway and we got there at the perfect time, just as the rhododendrons and azaleas were looking their best. The nearest town to Threave is Castle Douglas.

azalea walkway

It’s very weird but when I was there I didn’t even notice the electricity wires in this photo, or the shadow, too busy looking at the plants I suppose.
azalea walkway
This was originally a private estate but I believe it is now used as a horticultural training centre and the students have accommodation in what was the estate house – very nice I’m sure. The house is of course in the Scots Baronial style.
Threave House

There’s a wee burn running through the gardens in the Japanese section.
Burn at Threave Gardens
It wouldn’t be a Japanese Garden without a bridge and acers of course.
Japanese Bridge + Pond

Japanese Bridge

And a wee bit of a waterfall too. It was a boiling hot and very bright day, in fact too bright – not that I’m moaning.
cascade at Threave Gardens

If you’re into gardening you should definitely visit Threave. They have a great plant nursery there with lots of plant varieties that feature in the gardens for sale, so of course I just had to purchase some. In my experience it’s rare to be able to buy plants that you’ve actually seen growing in gardens like this one and it drives me nuts that they don’t bother to make the most of the commercial possibilities. Whoever runs Threave has got it right!

I took lots more photos but I’ll save the rest for another time.

Logan Botanic Garden, Dumfries and Galloway

Australasian area

For years I’ve been reading about Logan Botanic Garden in Dumfries and Galloway, that part of Scotland has a milder climate than the rest of the country, being in the south west the weather is most influenced by the Gulf Stream so is usually frost free, hence tree ferns can safely be grown there as you can see. I must admit that they’re not my favourite sort of plants but there were plenty of others to admire.

Australasian area

Logan Botanic Gardens

The Mecanopsis obviously enjoy the growing conditions there. This must be the most often manslaughtered plant in the UK. I’ve tried it several times in various gardens and I’m trying it yet again, so far so good although it hasn’t flowered yet.
Meconopsis

There was a shy and retiring big orange bird wandering about in the Australasian section, I hope there are more of its kind to keep it company.
Orange Bird

You might find it hard to believe but neither of us had seen newts before, this pond was full of them.
Newts

Newts

These ‘palm’ trees are often grown in coastal places around Scotland but they’re usually a lot more scruffy looking.
Palms

It seems that wherever you wander in Scotland there’s a castle or tower ruin nearby and the same goes for Logan Botanic Garden which has Balzieland Castle in the middle of it, it isn’t open to the public but if you’re interested in its history have a look here..

Old Tower Castle Balzieland

It was a gorgeous afternoon and I had a lovely time but I must admit that I much prefer native plants to exotic plants which are quite likely to need mollycoddling to get through the winter, although maybe that’s not really necessary at this location.

Orchardton Tower, Dumfries and Galloway

Orchardton Tower

Orchardton Tower is apparently the only one of its kind in Scotland and it dates from the 1400s. It’s unusual as it’s a free-standing round tower, built as a fortified home for John Cairns, a nobleman who had it built over 200 years after this design went out of fashion.

I can’t say that I blame him for that as it’s a really elegant design and is in a beautiful location. I think in its heyday it must have been a lovely house to live in. The kitchens and servants quarters must have been in the part which is detached and now just a ruin.

The photo below is of a piscina, a niche where bowls could be washed, they’re more often located in abbeys and cathedrals, to rinse the sacramental vessels.

Piscina
All of the interior floors are long gone.

Orchardton Tower Interior
But there is a spiral staircase right to the top of the tower, it’s a long way down!
As you can see in the photo below there’s a cute wee ‘house’ at the top of the staircase leading onto the roof.

Orchardton Tower Summit

Orchardton Tower Interior

A view from the top of the tower.
View from Tower  Summit

The very slim one track road with passing places that leads to the tower is quite nerve wracking on a bright early summer day, so I can’t imagine how awful it must be in the winter, but there is at least one house close by. I imagine that the view from their house compensates for any disadvantages of living there. I must admit that I love that tower and location.

View from  Orchardton Tower  Summit 2

Dundrennan Abbey, Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland

We visited Dundrennan Abbey last week. It’s a ruin now unsurprisingly as building here began in 1162, it was a Cistercian Abbey. If you visit the abbey keep your fingers crossed that you get Glyn as your guide as his knowledge and enthusiasm for the subject are something to witness.
Dundrennan Abbey
The abbey is of course a ruin now as it was abandoned as a church centuries ago. This is where Mary Queen of Scots spent her last hours on Scottish soil before she was taken to Workington, probably by the tide, where she was made prisoner by the English to begin what turned out to be 18 years of incarceration before her execution and martyrdom (if you are of the Roman Cathoic faith).
Dundrennan Abbey

She rode here from Langside in Glasgow where the last battle was fought and lost by her troops. Almost certainly she didn’t go straight to the Abbey as that would have been too obvious a destination for her pursuers. It’s thought that she went to a house in the forests nearby (according to local history) but after a few days she left that place and spent the night in the Abbey’s commendator’s house. Was she waiting for a ship to take her to France and safety? Ships sailed almost right up to the abbey from the Solway Firth in those days. She was probably trying to make up her mind where to go, she would have realised that her presence in France wouldn’t have been welcome. They wanted rid of her immediately after her husband the Dauphin died. Perhaps Spain would welcome her. We’ll never know as spies had tracked her movements and the rest is history.

Below is a photo of storage areas, housing mainly bits of stone carving now but the site of the building where she stayed.
Dundrennan Abbey

I was interested to read that one of the gravestones here refers to a knight called Livingstone of Culter. Dorothy Dunnett’s Lymond Chronicles are set around the Scottish Borderlands and of course she used the place name Culter although she didn’t base the Lymonds/Crawfords on any particular people apparently.
Dundrennan Abbey Carved Stone info board

Dundrennan Abbey ,Carved Figure

Dundrennan Abbey

Dumbarton Castle and environs

Dumbarton Castle and Rock

Last week I was at Dumbarton Castle which is an old friend to me as I used to play around it when I was a wee girl as I lived not far from the castle. It might be a disappointment to some people as it’s not much of a castle really, well not like Edinburgh or Stirling. But Dumbarton was the ancient capital of Strathclyde, so it’s more of a fort and has been used as such since at least AD 450. Built on a volcanic plug, as is Edinburgh, it’s located at a strategic point where the River Leven meets the River Clyde.

Dumbarton Castle and Rock

Over the centuries it has been well used and at one point a lot of French Napoleonic War prisoners were housed at the castle. Below is a photo of the prison but I believe that they were also living in a part of the castle which is now a ruin.

French Prison at Dumbarton Rock

You have to be fit to visit Dumbarton Castle as it has stairs all over the place. I used to think it was 365, they said there was one for every day of the year when I was a lass, but now they must have re-counted. I’m sure I saw a sign saying 555 stairs, all I know for sure is that my knees knew all about them the next day!

Dumbarton Castle stairs, Dumbarton Rock

Mary Queen of Scots sailed to France from here in 1435 when she went there to marry the Dauphin. But long before that it suffered attacks from the Vikings. It’s a very historic place.

I thought these photos might be of interest to people who have read Dorothy Dunnett’s Lymond Chronicles as the town is mentioned quite often in the books. Sadly the photos don’t do the distant mountains justice.

View from Dumbarton Rock

A few weeks ago there was a rumour going around the town that Prince Harry and wife would be given the title of Earl and Countess of Dumbarton. Wishful thinking I thought – so I was amazed to discover today that it is indeed true. I suspect that one day they will visit the town, the Georgian house (below) within castle is still used for special events, usually by the army. I just hope that nobody shows them the actual town!

Georgian House at Dumbarton Castle

There are guns aplenty scattered around the walls and strategically placed information boards.

View from Dumbarton Castle

Guns at Dumbarton Castle, Scotland

Dumbarton Castle

Shrewsbury – some buildings

As I said in a previous blogpost Shrewsbury is a very busy town, but it’s also quaint and very historic with lots of Tudor timbered buildings. Definitely use the park and ride if you visit the town though as the traffic was a nightmare. On the plus side the policemen were very friendly and helpful.

Shrewsbury Buildings

Shrewsbury buildings

Higgledy-piggledy, holding each other up.

Shrewsbury buildings

The restaurant below will probably look great in the summer when they have their hanging baskets properly planted up.

Shrewsbury Tudor building

But the one below is probably the grandest that we saw. I wonder what it was originally, as you can see it houses a pharmacy nowadays, on the ground floor anyway.

Shrewsbury Building

Shrewsbury Abbey

We managed to visit quite a few towns during our fairly recent trip to Oswestry, and one of them was Shrewsbury. We had no idea that the town was going to be quite as congested as it is, but thankfully we had already decided to use the very handy and cheap Park and Ride there. The traffic was incredibly heavy and slow moving, it would have been a nightmare driving through it and searching for a parking place. Otherwise we were really impressed with Shrewsbury which has a very high proportion of independent shops, so it’s quite a unique shopping experience – if you’re that way inclined.

But we visited Shrewsbury Abbey which is in the photo below. The abbey was founded in 1083 but a lot of the building was destroyed in the 16th century apparently

Shrewsbury Abbey

It’s not magnificent looking from the outside, but it’s better internally as you can see from the photo below.

Shrewsbury Abbey

Shrewsbury Abbey

I’m sure that one of the stained glass windows is a recent one which was commissioned in memory of the author Ellis Peters/Edith Pargeter, who lived locally. She set her books around the abbey where her character Brother Cadfael was a Benedictine monk.

Shrewsbury Abbey

The window below is very high up and much more ancient.

Shrewsbury Abbey

In the past the abbey has been inundated as you can see from the photo below of a boat in the aisle. The River Severn runs through the town and obviously gets too close for comfort sometimes.

Shrewsbury Abbey

It seems to have been terribly dark when we were in the abbey, but you can see much better images here.

Fortingall, Perthshire

Way back in August last year we visited the Highland Perthshire village of Fortingall. The village is well known foor its ancient churchyard yew tree which is thought to be over 5,000 years old, apparently the oldest living thing in Europe. Over the years the yew tree has died in the middle, leaving a cave like space in the middle, so sadly there’s no massive tree trunk to hug! Tourists over the years cut bits off the tree as souvenirs so a wall and railings were built around it for protection.

Fortingall Yew

There has been a church there for centuries, the original one dating from the 8th century, but the church there now dates from 1901.

Fortingall Kirk
The surrounding landscape is typical hills covered with what looks like a Forestry Commission plantation. I hope that fewer of these are going to be planted in the future as they don’t look great en masse and when they do cut them down the place is always a scene of devastation.

Fortingall Hills
I believe that it was the local MP who had these gorgeous Arts and Crafts design houses built for the locals, lucky locals I say!
Fortingall Arts and Crafts

Fortingall Arts and Crafts

But the more traditional Scotish houses such as the one below are lovely too, this one had a lovely garden.

A Fortingall house

It looks like an idyllic village, but as always – I wonder what it’s like for young people to live there. I suspect they would just be stuck in the village unless they have parents willing to provide a regular taxi service for them.

Fortingall Arts and Crafts
However there’s a lovely burn for kids to play in in the summer, that’s something that we all did as kids but I have a nasty feeling that parents don’t allow their children to have fun messing about in burns nowadays.

Fortingall Burn

Fortingall is a very small village but like lots of far-flung places it seems to have a great community spirit, when we were there they were having an art festival and quite a few well known artists were exhibiting.

You can see more images of Fortingall here.

Shakespeare’s Birthplace at Stratford-on-Avon

When we visited Oswestry so Jack could go to a football match last month we decided to stay a couple of nights near Stratford too. We had visited Stratford-on-Avon a few times before but hadn’t visited Shakespeare’s birthplace before. This time around we had free entry via Art passes we had been given at Christmas so we thought it would be daft not to visit. The photo below is from the back, there were some actors putting on a bit of one of his plays just to the side of the house.

Shakespeare's House

Below is the house from the front, there’s a wide pedestrianised road between it and the houses opposite which look about the same age.

Shakespeare's House

Below is a photo of the room that Shakespeare was born in although it isn’t the actual bed. The wee oval wooden baby’s crib is of the correct period though, and seeing it I realised for the first time why they were called basinettes in those days as it looks just like a basin.

The small truckle bed was for the boys to sleep in after they outgrew the crib. The ropes look nice and tight for a good night’s sleep. Apparently the girls in those days didn’t have anything so luxurious,they just had to sleep on the ground – typical!

Shakespeare's House

As the boys grew older they moved into the room below, their parents’ bedroom is through the doorway to the left.
Shakespeare's House

A different bedroom is below, they seem to be fond of red and green bed hangings. I wonder if that was the colour of his famous second best bed that he left to Ann Hathaway.
Shakespeare's House

Shakespeare’s father was a glover and below is his small workroom which is on the ground floor of the house.

Shakespeare's House

Although the crib on the left hand side looks very old I gather from the guide that it isn’t original, it’s very cute though. I love the dark carved chest too.

Shakespeare's House

I’ve always had a hankering to have a split door like this one – well maybe not so craggy. I’m not sure what you call them, I think I thought they were called farm doors but I’ve recently heard them described as being Dutch doors. My brother in Holland certainly has one for his front door.

Shakespeare's House

Below is another view of the house from the back. We were quite lucky that it wasn’t too busy when we went around the house. We did try to visit Ann Hathaway’s house earlier but just as we parked the car a tour bus turned up so we decided to give it a miss as it would have been very crowded. If you’re interested in my previous post on Stratford have a look here. Amazingly it was way back in 2012 when I did that one – how time flies.

Shakespeare's House

There’s a lovely old window in the house and over the years lots of famous visitors have scratched their names into the glass, but sadly they didn’t show up in the photo.

Much Wenlock, Shropshire, England

I had vaguely heard of Much Wenlock and there’s a bookshop there (it’s on a list) so we decided to visit it when we were staying in Oswestry for a few days. Sadly when we got there the bookshop was closed, but the town is so quaint we were happy just to have a look around it. Much Wenlock is the birthplace of the modern Olympic Games apparently.

The only shop that was open was a terrifying antiques shop. It’s the most jam packed shop I’ve ever been in with towers of ‘stuff’ everywhere, almost all of it very breakable too as the stock seems to consist of 99% china/pottery! We carefully negotiated the piles but were too terrified to pick anything up to look at it, we would probably have had to move six other pieces to get to anything interesting anyway. So breathing carefully, we squeezed out again – heaving a sigh of relief – no damage done.

Wenlock  Priory Board

Back out on the pavement we spotted a sign pointing to the priory and made our way there. There’s actually still quite a lot to see and some of the stonework is very ornate. What is left dates from the 13th century. Luckily English Heritage look after it, so as we’re in Historic Scotland at the moment we didn’t have to pay to get in.

Wenlock Priory Buildings  + Topiary

Wenlock Priory

Wenlock Priory
The priory must have looked fabulous in its day but over the years most of the stones have been recycled for use in local buildings as usually happens with these places.
Wenlock priory
Wenlock Priory
Walking back to the car I took a few photos of some not quite so ancient buildings. The one below is brick built.

Much Wenlock buildings
I particularly like the building below as I can just imagine people hanging over the balcony to chat to people in the street 500 years ago.

Much Wenlock

Much Wenlock Buildings
The building below is the Guildhall and is still in use.

Much Wenlock Buildings
There’s quite a variety of styles around though.
Buildings in Much Wenlock

The village has been used in a few film locations, including the John Cleese film Clockwise.
Much Wenlock Buildings

It would be nice to visit Much Wenlock when it’s actually open, so if we’re ever in that area again we’ll definitely go back.
Much Wenlock Buildings

It has quite an interesting history which you can read about here.