Castle Fraser, Aberdeenshire – the walled garden

As you can see from the photo below box topiary is quite a feature of the walled garden at Castle Fraser, they don’t seem to have a problem with box blight – fingers crossed for them!

Castle Fraser, walled Garden, Aberdeenshire    3

Aberdeenshire is quite far north so it takes the plants a bit longer to get going in the spring.

Castle Fraser Garden, Aberdeenshire

I absolutely love walled gardens though and I still miss the high wall that we had in our old garden.

Castle Fraser, walled Garden 4

Click on the photos to enlarge them if you want to see them in more detail.

Castle Fraser, walled Garden

There’s an unusual old sundial in the garden.

Castle Fraser, walled Garden, sundial
Despite Castle Fraser being fairly far north they are still able to grow fruit, thanks to the walls, and the apple blossom was just beginning to flower when we were there a few weeks ago, it’ll be looking great now I imagine.

espalier, fruit trees, Castle Fraser, Aberdeenshire

Castle Fraser, Aberdeenshire

A few weeks ago we went up to Aberdeenshire, for one night only, it was mainly so that Jack could go to a football match, but as you can see we managed to visit Castle Fraser too, which is good as I’m really not much interested in football. The earliest part of the castle dates from 1575, you can read about it here.

Castle Fraser, Aberdeenshire

It was a grey morning and really quite freezing and slightly misty for mid April.
Castle Fraser, Aberdeenshire

The castle is in the Scots baronial style which is more akin to the pepperpot towers so beloved of medieval European castles than anything that you would find elsewhere in the UK.
Castle Fraser, Aberdeenshire, Scots baronial

The photo below is of the Great Hall.
Great Hall, Castle Fraser, Aberdeenshire

Below is the library, a room I could have spent a long time in, apart from the books it was the warmest!
library , Castle Fraser, Aberdeenshire

The doorways are very ornate.
ornate door , Castle Fraser, Aberdeenshire

We of course slogged up to the top of the tower to get a good view of the surrounding area.

courtyard from tower, Castle Fraser, Aberdeenshire

In the distance we could see the walled garden, so we made our way carefully back down the long spiral staircase so we could go and get a closer look at it. I’ll leave the photos of the garden for another blogpost. Castle Fraser is definitely worth seeing
walled garden from tower, Castle Fraser, Aberdeenshire

Balvaird Castle, Perthshire

Balvaird Castle

Last week we had wonderful weather, it felt more like June than March, so we grabbed the day and drove to Balvaird Castle which is just about ten miles from where we live. It lies off the A912 road about halfway between Gateside and the Bein Inn in Glen Farg. There were two other vehicles parked by the farm gates at the bottom of the track which leads to the castle, it’s a fairly steep walk from there, but not a very long one.

Balvaird Castle, Scottish tower house, medieval castle, Murray, Perthshire

It’s thought that the castle dates from around 1495, built for Sir Andrew Murray, but over the years it has been extended and altered, as you would expect. Apparently it was owned by the Murray family until 2017 and then it was bought by an American, however it is maintained by Historic Scotland. The original Murray owners ended up moving to Scone Palace – they went up in the world it would seem but I must say that I prefer this setting to that of Scone Palace.

Balvaird Castle, Scottish tower house, Murray, medieval castle, Perthshire

It’s a lovely setting for a home though and the views of the surrounding countryside from the windows must be quite spectacular, unfortunately, it isn’t possible to get into what is left of the castle although you can walk around the ruined parts. If you’re inclined to picnic then it would be a good location for one.

view from Balvaird Castle, Perthshire, Scotland

There’s the gable end of a cottage ruin in the photo below, I suspect that most of the stone it was built with has been robbed to build the nearby wall and the stone to build the cottage was robbed from the castle!

view from Balvaird, Perthshire

aview from Balvaird  Castle, scenery, Perthshire, Scotland

view from Balvaird Castle, Perthshire, Scotland

If you look right in the middle of the photo below you will be able to see the top of some roofs, beautiful trees and a walled garden, presumably it’s the home of whoever farms the land, it looks like my idea of heaven.

aview from Balvaird Castle, Perthshire, Scotland

The roofs are towards the right hand side below. As ever, click on the photos to enlarge them.
aview from Balvaird Castle, Perthshire, Scotland

aview from Balvaird Castle, Perthshire, Scotland

Balvaird Castle , Scottish tower house, medieval castle, Perthshire

Hill House, Helensburgh, Scotland, Scottish National Trust

One day six weeks ago or so we took the opportunity to travel across to my beloved west of Scotland, to the coastal town of Helensburgh to be precise. We were taking a friend of ours for her first ever visit to The Hill House at Helensburgh, it was designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh. It was a wonderful commission for him and his wife Margaret Macdonald, as not only did he design the house for the publisher Walter Blackie but Margaret designed all the decor, art works and the soft furnishings, upholstery, bedcovers and such. Charles Rennie Mackintosh said that he had talent but that his wife Margaret Macdonald had genius. Below is one of her designs for a CRM chair. I must admit that I think those beads might be a bit uncomfortable if you lean back!

Margaret Macdonald chair, Hill House Helensburgh, Charles Rennie Mackintosh

The artwork above the fireplace was also done by Margaret, annoyingly you can’t see it all that well in the photo below.

Fireplace, Hill House, Helensburgh, Charles Rennie Mackintosh

Below you can see some of the detail of the fireplace.

Charles Rennie Mackintosh fireplace detail, Hill House, Helensburgh

To the left of it is this built-in shelving unit. I’m not a big fan of the sugary pink, but he was keen on pinks, lilacs and purples as was Margaret.

Charles Rennie Mackintosh cupboard, Hill House, Helensburgh

I love the window seat which is in the same room. From previous visits I hadn’t remembered the small niche at either side of the seat, it’s the perfect size for parking your glass of wine, or cup of tea. It must have been a great place to sit and read.

Hill House, Helensburgh,Bench , Charles Rennie Mackintosh

Hill House Bench end, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Margaret Macdonald, Helensburgh,

The lamp below is in the same room, I think.

Charles Rennie Mackintosh lamp, Hill House, Helensburgh

Sadly Hill House itself is in a bit of a poor state. I believe that the Portland cement which was used to harl/roughcast the walls has never been weatherproof, as CRM was assured by the builders, so dampness has always been a problem as you can imagine, in the damp weather of the west of Scotland.

So a huge metal framework has been erected over the whole building in an attempt to dry out the building while they come to a decision as to how to tackle the problem best. There is an advantage to this for the vistors as it’s possible to walk up a metal staircase which reaches right above the roof of the house, so you can get a really good close up view of the outside of the building, and you can get a great view of the Firth of Clyde, but it was a bit misty when we were there. I’ll leave Hill House for the moment but if you’re interested you can see better photos of an earlier visit here.

Barnard Castle, Teesdale, County Durham, England

At the second time of trying we actually managed to get into Barnard Castle, during our first visit to the town they were only allowing pre-booked visits for some Covid reason, I think that was taking things a wee bit far given that the entire place is outdoors – and it’s very easy to socially distance. You can see the photos we took of the castle from the outside here. The whole town became sort of notorious during the first pandemic lockdown as Dominic Cummings got himself into a real pickle over his illegal visit there – to test his eyesight.

Anyway, here are some of the photos I managed to take when we were there again in September. The oldest parts of the castle date back to 1093.

Interior of Barnard Castle, Teeside

Interior of Barnard Castle, Teeside

It’s mainly a ruin but there are some massive walls still standing.

Interior of Barnard Castle,Teeside

Interior of Barnard  Castle, Teeside

You can see that the town has been built around the castle, it’s very much in the centre of the town which has the same name as the castle.
Interior of Barnard Castle, Teeside

Interior of Barnard Castle, Teeside

I obviously didn’t take the photo below as that’s me down there!

Interior of Barnard  Castle, Teeside

I did take the photo of the bridge below though. I love old bridges, despite this one being old it is very well used and I had to wait a while before I could get one of it with no cars on it.
Bridge from Barnard Castle, Teeside

If you click on the photo below you will be able to read the information on the board. I’m glad we were able to get into the castle at last – and just about had the entire place to ourselves. I think there was one other visitor there. It felt very safe anyway.
Barnard Castle info Board

St Romald’s Church, Romaldkirk, Teesdale, north England

Romaldkirk Church, Teesdale,

It was an article in The Guardian that led us to visit the teeny wee village of Romaldkirk in Teesdale, north England, back in September. It was the first time we had been away from home since the pandemic. It felt strange, but I do love ancient churches and their surroundings and it was definitely not busy, in fact we were the only visitors so we had the place to ourselves. The Church of St Romald has been added to a lot over the centuries. The oldest part dates from the 12th century and the most recent addition of an organ chamber was in 1929.

St Romald's Church, Romaldkirk stained glass2 + altar

I’m always saying it – but I am not in the least bit religious yet I do love old churches – and the areas that they were built, the really old ones were previously inhabited by pre-Christians so they seem like special situations to me. Usually on high ground of course – closer to whichever gods you chose to worship!

St Romald's Church, Stained Glass 1

Below is the tesselated floor of the chancel.

St Romald's, chancel floor, Romaldkirk

Below is the tomb of Hugh Fitz Henry dating from 1305.

St Romald's Church , Effigy, Romaldkirk

Below is something I had certainly never seen before a Devil’s Door which as you can see has been blocked up!

Devil's Door, St Romald's Church, Romaldkirk

The font below is thought to be 12th century with a 17th century wooden cover.
St Romald's Church Font, Romaldkirk

The doorway has stone seats either side of it, I think this is a very English sort of design, I don’t recall ever seeing anything like that in a Scottish church.

St Romald's Church doorway, RomaldkirkEntrance 1

St Romald's Church, RomaldkirkEntrance seats

The whole church has that ancient building aroma which doesn’t really fare well for the church. I was surprised to see that the pointing in between the stone blocks is dark grey in many areas, almost black which means there is very strong cement in the mix which will be dragging moisture into the building. It should of course have been pointed with a lime mixture to stop that from happening. It’s a lovely place to visit though.

St Romald's Church from pub

Glamis Castle, the walled garden, and more

It’s a few weeks since we were at Glamis Castle, but I htought you might like to see the few photos I took of the walled garden. I love the gates.

Walled Garden, Glamis Castle

There was still a lot of colour in it, despite it being late September.

Walled Garden, Glamis Castle, Angus, Scotland

And there’s a small Japanese garden area complete with Japanese style bridge.

Walled Garden Japanese bridge

I love old stone bridges like the one below.

Glamis Castle Bridge, Angus, Scotland

And old stone staircases too. This one is a lot wider than most, but Glamis Castle was not built as a place of defence it was never expected that this staircase would have marauders bounding up it. The very narrow spiral staircases in castles make it just about impossible for people to wield a sword, especially if you happen to be right handed.
Stairs and antlers, Glamis Castle, Angus, Scotland

You can see my previous posts about our day out at Glamis Castle here, here and here – if you haven’t already seen them.

The Italian Garden, Glamis Castle, Angus, Scotland

There are lots of woodland areas to walk around within the grounds of Glamis Castle, but there’s also a walled Italian garden. I love walled gardens, apart from the fact that the high walls protect the plants from the worst of the winter weather, they always feel so private and safe. Below is a view of the entrance to the garden.

Italian Garden entrance, Glamis Castle, Angus, Scotland

Glamis Castle from the walled Italian Garden.

Glamis Castle from Italian Garden

Despite the fact that it was late September there was still plenty of interest in the garden, and quite a bit of colour.

Glamis Castle, Italian Garden , Angus, Scotland

Glamis Castle, Italian Garden, Angus, Scotland

Italian Garden, Glamis Castle, Angus, Scotland

There is of course a fabulous backdrop of mature conifers in the shape of the arboretum.

Italian Garden, Glamis Castle, Angus, Scotland
I’m truly glad that I don’t have the job of trimming all those hedges, they do look great though.

Italian Garden,Glamis Castle, Angus, Scotland
I believe the purple flowers are verbena. I did have one such plant in my garden but sadly it gave up after a few years so I presume they don’t like clay soil.
Italian Garden , Glamis Castle, Angus, Scotland

Italian Garden, Glamis Castle, Angus, Scotland

You can read more about Glamis Castle gardens here. The whole place is definitely worth a visit if you are in the area.

Glamis Castle, Angus, Scotland

Here we are back at Glamis Castle, the inside of it this time, below is a photo of part of the sitting room which the Queen Mother used when she visited her childhood home, apparently it has been kept as it was when King George VI was alive and she visited with him and her daughters. You can see my earlier post of the outside of the castle here.

Queen Mum's room, Glamis Castle, Ahgus, Scotland

The two wee chairs in front of the fireplace were used by the Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret when they were wee. It feels quite homely really.

Fireplace, Glamis Castle, Angus. Scotland

Below is the dining-room with its unusual ceiling.

Dining room, Glamis Castle, Angus, Scotland

Dining room ceiling, Glamis Castle, Angus, Scotland

And the even more unusually positioned lion and unicorn stained glass windows high up in the walls.

Stained Glass, Glamis Castle, Angus, Scotland

Fabulous table centrepieces.

Dining room centrepiece, Glamis Castle, Angus, Scotland

The rather grand drawing room with the photo of the current Earl and Countess of Strathmore on the small table, in contrast to all the paintings of ancestors on the walls.

Drawing room, Glamis Castle, Angus, Scotland

With a ceiling more akin to the icing on a wedding cake.

Glamis Castle, Drawing room ceiling

And more small chairs by the fireplace, at least the children in this castle were warm it would seem!

Drawing room ,small chairs, Glamis Castle

The chapel below has a very unusual ceiling which consists of painted panels. Originally this would have been a chapel for the Celtic church I think but over the years it will have been Roman Catholic but now it is ‘ High’ Scottish Episcopal I believe, which is very similar in looks to Catholic. You can read more about the castle here.

Glamis Castle Chapel, Angus, Scotland

It’s a beautiful castle – fit for a queen as you can see. We had a lovely walk around the grounds after touring the castle, next time I’ll blog about the Italian Gardens.

David Rizzio – his Murder and Holyrood Abbey, Edinburgh

Paula was interested in finding out more about David Rizzio who was murdered in front of Mary, Queen of Scots in her private chambers at the Palace of Holyroodhouse. Click the interesting link above. David Rizzio was Mary’s private secretary and also a musician, and Mary’s husband was jealous of his relationship with the queen. You can see the rooms here.

You can see an image of Sir William Allan’s painting of the scene here.

But on to something more pleasant. Here are a couple of photos I took of the gardens at the palace.

Palace of Holyroodhouse Gardens, EdinburghGardens Holyrood 2

Looking at these photos it is hard to believe that you’re in the middle of a city, albeit a small one. Below you can see what is left of some of the old abbey buildings dating from 1128 when King David I founded the abbey.These ruins are right next to the palace.

Gardens Palace of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh

Although there are more substantial ruins as you can see from the photo below. You can read about the abbey here.

Holyrood Abbey, Palace of Holyroodhouse, Scotland