Kemback, Fife, Scotland

I was mooching around on Kingsbarns beach a while ago, it was just after a big storm and I practically fell over some stones with fossils in them. I’ve been back there since and haven’t been lucky enough to find anything interesting like that again, so I googled fossils in Fife and a village called Kemback was mentioned.

Now I’ve lived in Fife for over 35 years but I had never heard of Kemback before, so it was put on a list of places to visit, and one beautiful afternoon last week we got around to going there.

It’s close to Cupar and in Victorian times a mill was built there, taking advantage of the rushing water of the Ceres Burn which looks far too big to be called a burn if you ask me. The photo below is of a lovely waterfall which feeds into the river after running underneath the road. At some point it runs into the River Eden I believe.

Kemback waterfall

The waterfall is to the left of the Community Hall which you can see in the photo below.
Kemback waterfall
There are quite a few big-ish houses and a row of small terraced houses that must have been built for the mill workers, there’s a community hall and up a very steep hill stands a church and a graveyard.

But it’s the waterfall gushing down a cliffside that is the most attractive aspect of the place, it’s the one reason to visit the village really as although the waterfall feeds into the ‘burn’ there seems to be no easy way to access the burn banks or the enticing woodland over the other side of it which is really frustrating.

I love bridges in general and this one is a cute wee thing, it’s a shame about the rubbish that someone has probably chucked out of a passing car, litter seems to be all over Fife and it’s about time they started fining people because where there is a fine, such as around the Glasgow area – there is no litter on the roadside verges.

Kemback Bridge

As you can see from the photo below, it’s a fairly skinny road through Kemback, but not so narrow that passing places are needed.
Kemback cliffs

The road leading up to the church was another matter though, it’s very steep and narrow and I was terrified that we would meet a monster of a 4×4 coming in the opposite direction – but we were lucky, it’s a surprisingly busy teeny road. The church is a replacement of the original one which is just a shell in the middle of the graveyard and it was built in 1586.

Kemback Church and War Memorial

As you can see the World War 1 war memorial is in the shape of a Celtic cross.

It was the old church that really interested me, it’s situated below where the existing church is now and is surrounded by a graveyard which is still in use, but some of the graves go back hundreds of years. The church was built in 1582 and it replaced one from 1244, so it’s a fairly early Christian area. There’s only one World War 1 grave which is in front of the church in the photo, the poor soul must have been brought back home wounded – and lingered until 1920.

Old Kemback Church

The photos below were taken inside the church, where there are some ancient gravestones.
Old Kemback Church
Old Kemback Church

A view of some of the surrounding hills.
hills, Kemback< Fife

We went for a wee walk beyond the village and below is a photo of the road leading back into it. The orange thing to the left in the distance is a temporary barrier as it looks like some idiot had crashed into the wall recently. The walls around Fife seem to have taken a battering over this winter one way or another.
Kemback road

No doubt in the past this area has been quite industrial but now it’s a quiet backwater, apart from the roaring of the water that fuelled the industry.
3rd waterfall

There’s nothing else in the village apart from the community hall and the church it seems. Nobody has been tempted to open up a tearoom – which would no doubt have bought loads of visitors, but I’m not surprised that the inhabitants want to keep the place to themselves. I didn’t see anywhere that looked like a good place to find fossils, but we had a lovely afternoon out there.

You can see more images of Kemback here.

Visit Scotland – and Stromness, Orkney

I’ve received another email from Visit Scotland, telling of the many attractions of this country. You can see it all here.

We’re already booked up for Stromness in Orkney later in the year and you can see some of its attractions here.

It looks very peaceful in this photo but I imagine it must be quite a busy place – when the ferry comes in anyway.

Stromness

Woodsman by Ben Law

Woodsman cover

Woodsman by Ben Law was a random choice from a local library. I had never heard of him before but apparently he is well known through being on TV’s Grand Designs after having built a house in his own woodland Prickly Nut Wood.

This book is good in parts, Law tells the story of how he started out living in Prickly Nut Wood in a bender he made himself, later upgrading to a yurt before eventually building his own home from the local wood. But in the last chapter the author zips forward to 2037 and imagines life will be more land based with people taking the place of machinery due to a lack of oil. He doesn’t seem to have heard of green energy, the renewables that will definitely take-over in the future. He imagines the future as looking like a step back in time, it’s all a bit silly.

To begin with he didn’t have much in the way of woodland skills and apparently these aren’t easy to learn as in times past those who made their living coppicing and such were keen to keep their knowledge to themselves for fear of doing themselves out of work in the future. I’m glad to say that nowadays things seem to have improved and it’s possible to go on courses to learn woodcraft. Mind you I already knew a lot of the skills involved and I’m sure I learned of them through reading Thomas Hardy’s The Woodlanders, as I recall he even explained how charcoal was made.

Ben Law started living in a bender in his woodland but decided to build his yurt when his first child was due, presumably his partner wasn’t keen to bring up a baby in a bender. But apart from that there is absolutely no mention of family life, except that he has three children.

I wish I had seen the Grand Design TV show which featured the house he built, but I gave up watching that programme because all of the ones I had seen featured enormous piles and much wrangling with banks for finances, really the programme should have been called Grand Debts.

Ben Law’s house is built more on a human scale though.

Ben Law House
As it happens there is an article in this week’s Guardian Weekend magazine about people who have bought woodland, it’s becoming very popular. You can read it here if you’re interested in it. In fact some years ago I thought about buying a small woodland – it was for sale at a bargain basement price, but the fact that there was a fairly busy road along the edge of it put me off because I suspect that it could be a place that people would fly tip their junk, instead of going an extra few miles to the municipal tip – you know how awful some human beings can be!

I’ve found the Grand Designs on Vimeo, the woodland is lovely, an idyllic place to bring up a family I think.

Grand Designs – Woodsman Cottage (Ben Law) from Nebruks on Vimeo.

Another Trip to Edinburgh

Last week we decided to have another jaunt over to Edinburgh, mainly to visit the J.M.W. Turner watercolour exhibition which is on every January and then disappears for the rest of the year.

So we made our way along Princes Street to The National Gallery where we met up with a couple of family members who had never seen the watercolours. You can have a look at the collection and watch a wee video here. It’s a bit of an annual pilgrimage for us, but this time it was busier than usual, it serves us right for going on a Saturday!

After that it was time for lunch so we crossed Princes Street and went up South Saint David Street (I think – I’m not good with Edinburgh’s geography), turned left into George Street to have lunch at The Dome. It’s a fabulously ornate building in Edinburgh’s New Town (which of course is quite old by now, Georgian in fact.)
Dome

The Dome

The Dome was indeed originally a bank, it definitely has that feel about it, very opulent, all of our poshest buildings seem to have been built by banks – nothing changes does it?

The Dome

The Dome

You can see more images of The Dome here.

After that we went back up to Princes Street, really so that we could sign up to become ‘friends’ of The National Galleries.
Princes Street

Princes Street

Then we walked through the Christmas market, I thought it would have been cleared away by now but it’s still hanging on. It is really incongruous to see these fairground rides sitting cheek by jowl with Sir Walter Scott’s monument. I must say that they do get a great view of it from those swing seats but you won’t catch me up there!

Princes Street Gardens Christmas 7

Audley End near Saffron Walden in Essex

I was looking through some photos recently and I realised that I had never got around to doing a blogpost about Audley End. We went there on our way back from our trip to Holland last May. We had actually driven past the place the year before but as it was after 4 pm we weren’t able to go into it.

Audley End

Audley End

Audley End

It’s a very large 17th century Jacobean house not far from Saffron Walden in Essex. It’s apparently a third of its original size which is quite amazing, over the years the rest of it has been demolished, but it still seems a complete house now. The parkland was designed by Capability Brown – as so many of them were.
Audley End

Audley End
The house has had a very checkered career over the years but nowadays Audley End is owned by English Heritage and if you are a member of Historic Scotland you get in free. It’s definitely worth a visit if you are interested in historic houses and gardens and you find yourself in East Anglia.

Below is a photograph of the nursery.

Audley End

A sitting room.
Audley End

A doll’s hosue.
aAudley End 11

Tulip beds.
Audley End

The photo below is of a wee bridge and much smaller house which I think is/was used to house staff.

Audley End

You can see more images of Audley End here.

Honfleur in France

I couldn’t resist taking a photo of the building in the photo below, it’s up for sale but it looks like nature is going to beat any buyer to it.

aplant cliff 1

From there we went for a snoop around a supermarket, it’s always interesting in a foreign country – to see what different things are on offer food-wise. But with French supermarkets you always have to pluck up courage to go in as when you first step through the doors you are invariably assailed by such a horrendous smell that it takes some courage not to just turn around and dash out again for fresh air. I don’t know how they manage it, I suspect they just never clean the places.

Below is a photo of an old style French ‘gents’ public toilet – and it’s still in use. As usual Jack was in need of a loo (I swear I could write a guidebook on the public loos of Scotland – I seem to have stood outside most of them at some point!) Anyway, he went into the small white building which he thought was unisex, but I’m not so sure as the old metal structure is still in use, I saw chaps using it, and I mean saw as their heads were in view. This is all rather alien to Brits, but French toilet facilities still leave a lot to be desired, in some places it is literally just a hole in the ground!
toilets

It reminded me of Clochemerle, it’s a book by Gabriel Chevallier and it was televised way back in the early 1970s on the BBC, very late due to its subject matter being seen as rather risque in those days.

From the ‘cor blimey’ to the sublime Saint Catherine’s Church below is really old, 15th century in some parts I believe.

Honfleur Church

The church has a separate belltower.
achurch 4 belltower
And this other church was actually open.

achurch 5

As you can see the internal decor is quite different from British churches.

achurch archway

The very intricate designs on the walls and ceilings seem to be more in keeping with a grand house, but maybe that is a feature of French Roman Catholic churches. It’s beautiful anyway.

achurch frieze

aleaving harbour 1

Sailing on out of Honfleur, the surroundings are lovely, with this heavily wooded area right by the coast.
aleaving harbour 2

Sailing back out to sea, as you can see it’s a flat calm but the sea did get a wee bit more interesting in the next few days as we sailed back to Scotland. Most of the time though lying in bed on ship made me think of how it would feel if you were being stirred around gently in a big bowl. I find it very relaxing – rock-a-bye-baby sort of sensation, although I always worried about that lullaby’s words. Even as a small child that sounded crazily dangerous to me!

aleaving harbour 3

A Day Out in Edinburgh

On Wednesday we drove into Edinburgh, we don’t go into the centre all that often, mainly because the more interesting wee independent shops are elsewhere. I really wish I had my pedometer with me to see how many steps I walked because we were all over the place in a big circle from Meadowbank to George Street where we had lunch at Cafe Andaluz. Then we walked on to Lothian Road the West Port and the Grassmarket and back to Meadowbank where we had parked the car. Click on the links if you want to have an armchair trip to Edinburgh with me. The castle just looms up on you as you can see from the photo below. It does seem incongruous when you’re out shopping but the rock and castle were there long before anything else.

acastle 1

acastle 2

The Christmas lights in George Street are truly hideous. I didn’t even bother to take a photo but I found the one below online. Oh for the days when we just had ordinary coloured light bulbs strung from side to side across streets in various patterns!

hristmas lights

I hate these modern LED lights, the light they give out is so cold and brash looking. You can see photos of Princes Street Christmas lights here. I noticed that Google and umpteen other places on the internet think that it is Princess Street – it isn’t!

We were aiming for the second-hand book-shops around the West Port and Grassmarket area, we hadn’t been to those ones for ages so I had high hopes of finding some goodies. But as ever when you have high hopes you tend to end up disappointed and I only ended up getting a couple of J.I.M. Stewart (Michael Innes) paperbacks.

From West Port we made for the Grassmarket and by then it was quite dark and the tree lights were on. This is the old town and in our younger days we used to frequent this area. As you can see Edinburgh Castle towers over this area too.

acastle 3

alights 1
It was quite atmospheric in the gloaming.

alights 2

Below is Victoria Street, a steep one which I could have been doing without but Edinburgh is very hilly and multi-layered, so you just have to get on with it. Just above the top set of lights there is actually another street but you can’t really see it in this photo.

alights 3

You can see more images of The Grassmarket here.

From there we went on down The Royal Mile which had absolutely no signs of Christmas about it, it seemed appropriate for that very Presbyterian stronghold. You can read about that area here.

By then I was fairly exhausted but we still had a long way to go to get to the car, all the way down the Royal Mile (High Street) past the Scottish Parliament building, yes – it IS a bit of a mish-mash!

We walked on past Queen Mary’s bath house. I love that wee building, it’s like something out of a fairy tale.

At last we reached the car and drove on to Morningside to visit one of our ‘boys’ and his lady. By this time it was getting on for dinner time and we were lucky to find the Oxfam book shop still open. I was so lucky to find three Dorothy Dunnet hardbacks that I had been looking for – and a third of the price of the others I had seen and decided against earlier.

We’re at that stage in life when we really don’t need or want anything in the way of expensive presents. It’s going to be a very bookish Christmas for us both.

I hope you enjoyed that armchair trip around Edinburgh. It’s the best way to do it really, a lot less tiring anyway!

Dunkeld

A couple of weeks ago we decided to go to Dunkeld for the day. It’s one of my favourite wee towns. It was the day we were in search of autumnal trees.

aDunkeld trees 4

I took the photo below from the bridge in Dunkeld, looking north up the River Tay.

aDunkeld trees 1

I crossed the road to the other side of the bridge to capture the view to the south.
Dunkeld trees 3

Some houses just off the High Street in Dunkeld.

aDunkeld street 5

The town was decorated with bunting, it wasn’t long after Halloween but I think it was something to do with a local tradition.

aDunkeld street 3

aDunkeld street 2

If you look closely at the photo below you can just see the beginning of the bridge.

aDunkeld street 1

Here’s the bridge itself, built by Thomas Telford.

Bridge through trees

The River Tay is famous for salmon fishing but you have to put them back if you catch any.

aDunkeld trees stitch

Honfleur in France

Our last port of call on that cruise we went on in October was Honfleur in France. It’s north western France and the weather was very similar to British weather as it tends to be in that area. In fact we had to go into a shop and buy ‘une paraplui s’il vous plait’ – yes the rain was coming down in buckets! That was the only bad weather we had the whole cruise. Luckily we had taken most of our photos before the deluge.

aharbour 1

aharbour 4

But Honfleur itself turned out to be a wee gem of a town, very ancient as you can see.

old building 2

The town is just a very short walk from where our ship Black Watch was berthed.

aharbour 7

aOld building 3

aOld building 5

Some of the houses are very chocolate boxy and others are in dire need of some tender loving care, the one below looks scarily dilapidated!

aOld Building 6

And the house in the photo below is where the composer Erik Satie was born.

aOld Building 8

Sadly it was a Monday again and although most of the shops were open, because Honfleur’s economy must be massively boosted by the cruise ships that visit – the second-hand booksellers obviously didn’t think it was worth their while to open on a Monday. I was SO ANNOYED because I was dying to get in there and get in amongst those books. I wasn’t bothered that they were in French. I would have bought that old copy of Gulliver’s Travels if it had been open and I could see boxes full of old Tintin books in there.

abookshop

Some women press their noses up against jewellery shop windows but with me it’s the bookshops – or chocolate shops!

I’m sure you know who Erik Satie was but just because I love this piece of music by him I’m putting it on here. Gymnopedie.

Ferrol in Galicia, Spain

Back to the cruise and after sailing across the Bay of Biscay from Aviles we reached Ferrol in Galicia, north-western Spain. It’s quite a large city, a centre of naval shipbuilding and was the birthplace of the dictator General Franco.

The photo below is of palm trees just on the edge of the docks, so exotic looking to me anyway.

atrees at port

There are some lovely buildings, it all seems prosperous here anyway.
abuilding 3

asquare 1

The town is set out in a grid pattern and seems to be mainly pedestrianised and each long street led to separate large squares, often with an ornate building, town hall or some such thing, all very stylish.

asquare 3

There seemed to be a never ending supply of streets and shops and I was impressed that most of the town squares were beautifully planted, and a lot of them had play areas for children, swings and such. What a great idea, for city dwelling children and for any kids being taken into the town, something they often dread, at least the parents will be able to promise some fun at the play area after being dragged around the shops.

second square 2 trees

asecond square 1 trees

I think tree-lined avenues are a feature of Spain and they do make lovely dappled shade, just what you need in their sunny climate, this one was just a short walk from the city centre.

aavenue of trees

Ferrol was a very vibrant place, lots of locals were carrying multiple carrier bags from stores and boutiques, the place was fairly crowded but suddenly the background hum that probably every city has just disappeared, the streets seemed to have emptied somehow – it was 2 pm – siesta time! Most of the shops shut, apart from eateries. It’s very bizarre this siesta malarkey and I heard Andrew Neil on The Daily Politics mention that the siesta had a bad effect on the Spanish economy, if so it’s about time they gave it up and dragged themselves into the 21st century.

asiesta time