National Library of Russia Reading Rooms, St Petersburg

This time last year we were visiting St Petersburg in Russia, a place I had always wanted to see. Can you believe that our tour bus parked right outside the National Library of Russia Reading Room? It’s situated in a very handsome building.

National Library of Russia reading room

aNational Library of Russia reading room 2

Strangely there’s a fairly old looking sign with the opening hours on it, written in English. I wish we had had time to go in and investigate the place, but there were so many other places to visit in the city and we had to get our skates on.
aNational Library of Russia reading room 3

aNational Library of Russia reading room 5

aNational Library of Russia reading room 4

We were in a rush to see as much as possible inside about five hours.

Below is the Alexandrinsky Theatre, with some very pretty planting in front of it. St Petersburg is a lovely city and the locals were friendly, obviously not too annoyed by tourists.

Planting Ostrovskogo Square, St Petersburg

75th Anniversary Victory Day

This time last year we were in Russia, a place that I never really believed that I would ever visit, sadly we got there two days after their huge victory celebrations commemorating the end of World War 2, but the banners were still decorating the streets.

1941-1945 banner

The Russians commemorate The Great Patriotic War – as they name World War 2 – on the 9th of May so I thought I would do this post of the memorials in St Petersburg, mainly because I really dislike the way the Russian war effort is overlooked by the rest of the allies. Without Russian people’s efforts and sacrifices, we would all be speaking German.

There is a memorial garden just off Nevsky Prospekt where I took this photo of the VICTORY hedge plus Red Star.

Victory

Below I’m just reposting what I blogged last year about what is the Leningrad Hero City Obelisk installed on the 40th anniversary of the war’s end.

WW2 Monument, St Petersburg, Russia

Over the last couple of days we’ve had the commemorations of the D-Day landings which were attended by the leaders of the allies and also by the German leader, Angela Merkel. But there was apparently no invite for President Putin, despite the fact that they were definitely our allies and if Hitler hadn’t taken on more than he could handle when he attacked Russia it’s almost certain that we would all be speaking German now. It was a close run thing.

I’m definitely not a fan of Putin, but given the fact that the Soviets lost more people in the war than anyone else, it seems mean and petty to leave them out of the memorial services. So I thought I’d show you a couple of photos of the War Memorial at the top of Nevsky Prospekt which is St Petersburg’s equivalent of Paris’s Champs Elysees or Glasgow’s Sauchiehall Street.

WW2 Monument, St Petersburg, Russia

Balbirnie House Hotel, Fife, Scotland

The local posh hotel – Balbirnie House Hotel – has beautiful gardens, and now that it is closed due to the lockdown I felt I could take the opportunity to snap some photos there.

Balbirnie House Garden, Markinch, Fife, Scotland

If you feel that you’re hemmed in by four walls I hope these photos will go some way to making you feel a bit cheerier. Just take a big breath in and imagine you are there.

Balbirnie House Garden, Markinch, Fife

It was a very bright day and the sun made some of the photos look a bit faded.
There’s obviously still a lot of hard work going into the upkeep of the gardens, which is just as well as wilderness takes over so quickly if you don’t put in the effort to keep things trimmed. It’s a shame there are so few people to see it though. I suppose I’m rectifying that a wee bit now.

Balbirnie House Garden, Markinch, Fife

Balbirnie House Garden , Markinch, Fife
Balbirnie House Garden, Markinch, Fife

The steps above lead to a little sitting area with some lovely topiary, very peaceful looking.

Balbirnie House Garden, Markinch, Fife

And the photo below is from the top of the steps looking down at the hotel which was the home of the Balfour family until the 1960s.

Balbirnie House Garden, Markinch, Fife

Balbirnie House Garden, Markinch, Fife,

Balbirnie House Garden, Markinch, Fife

Balbirnie House Garden, Markinch, Fife

This is the front of the hotel, which is the more recognisable poart to most people.

Balbirnie House Hotel , Fife

Drum Castle, Aberdeenshire, Scotland

Just as it was getting towards the time when all the National Trust and Historic Scotland properties were going to be opening for the new season – they didn’t, due to Coronavirus. But when we visited Drum Castle – I’m amazed to see that it was way back in October 2018 – I only wrote blogposts about the outside of the castle and it’s surroundings here and here.

I meant to get around to blogging about the inside, but you know what it’s like, it somehow eluded me, anyway below is a photo of the dining room. I must say that Drum Castle is very comfortable looking, considering it’s a castle.

Dining Room, Drum Castle

The library is very well stocked, but untouchable of course.
Drum Castle, library, Aberdeenshire, Scotland

There’s a very handy sitting area at the window where you could settle down with your choice of book, if you had happened to live there. The alcove it’s in highlights the thickness of the castle’s walls.

Drum Castle Library, Window Recess

The door leading to the sitting room loks like a castle door should I think.
Sitting Room, Drum Castle

But the room is fairly homely I think, not too grand.

Sitting Room, Drum Castle

I could quite happily settle down at this fireplace.
Sitting Room Fireplace, Drum Castle

The sitting room ceiling goes well with the door.
Drum Castle Sitting Room Ceiling

I woinder if there ever really was a cradle at the bottom of this four poster bed when this castle was a family home. I suspect that a nanny was in charge of the nursery and children. But the cradle is beautiful.
Bedroom, Drum Castle

As is the half-tester bed below, and the bureau which I believe is in a Japanese/Chinese style but it’s so long ago now I can’t remember!

Bedroom, Drum Castle, Aberdeenshire, Scotland

If you happen to be in the vicinty of Drum Castle in Aberdeenshire or what is now called Grampian I believe, it’s well worth a visit.

Luss Village and Church, by Loch Lomond, Dunbartonshire, West Scotland

Walking around the village of Luss by Loch Lomond last week, it was difficult to get photos of the houses but I managed to take the photo below of what I think is just about the cutest cottage in the village, peeking out from behind its hedge. It’s a shy one. Or maybe the owners fear that tourists might keek in the windows, it has been known elsewhere! Those elevated parts of the roofline above the windows are known in architectural circles as ‘cat slides’ for some reason and Jack and I live in hope of seeing an actual cat slide down one. These ones are very small and not like the usual cat slide dormers.

Cat Slide Cottage, Luss, Scotland

Walking a bit further along we reached the church which was shut, a bit of a shame but maybe it’s open at the height of the tourist season. There are a few images of the inside here.

Luss Church, Loch Lomond, Dunbartonshire, Scotland

This Church of Scotland building dates from Victorian times but there has been a place of Christian worship at the site for over 1500 years, it was formerly dedicated to Saint Kessog and has some really ancient graves in it including this Viking hogback grave below dating from around 1200.

Viking hogback stone, Luss church, Loch Lomond, Dunbartonshire
You can still see the decoration on it, I think it’s just designs rather than any letters or runes.
Viking hogback stone, grave, Luss, Loch Lomond

We had planned to walk over this wooden footbridge but as we got closer we realised it was all blocked off, apparently it’s dangerous at the moment. Anyway we walked past and onto a path which bypassed it and I managed to get a photo of the church steeple in reflection, if you look closely.
Loch Lomond, Bridge,Church

Loch Lomond Bridge, Luss

near Loch Lomond, Luss, Scotland, trees

Then on back around to the village again.

Luss, from Loch Lomond,

One of the cottages is being re-roofed, not before time as it looked fairly derelict otherwise.

Luss, Loch Lomond, cottages,

I imagine that although these houses must be really quite small inside they won’t be at all cheap to buy, at least there’s no danger of anyone building in front of you and spoiling your view.
From Loch Lomond, cottages, Dunbartonshire, Scotland

Loch Lomond panorama, Scotland

Marian Clayden Exhibition at Drum Castle

It can be quite surprising what you see when you visit castles in Scotland. When we went to Drum Castle in Aberdeenshire – I have to say a couple of years ago now, I didn’t expect to see an exhibition of textiles and clothes by Marian Clayden who I hadn’t heard of before but is very well known in her field of textiles and weaving. You can see my earlier posts on Drum Castle here.

Marian Clayden designs

The photos really don’t do her work justice as you can’t see the textures so well. The fabric is mainly silk and velvet, absolutely sumptuous looking.

Marian Clayden textile

Marian Clayden dress designs

Marian Clayden, designs

Marian Clayden was born in Preston, Lancashire which had a thriving textile industry back in the day, so her family was involved in various crafts, but I think we can safely say that Marian picked up that baton and ran with it. You can read about her life here.

Marian Clayden design

She trained as a teacher but after having a couple of kids and being stuck at home she decided to try dyeing some textiles in her kitchen, using skills she had learned in her teacher training. Moving to San Francisco in 1967 must have influenced her hugely – with all of those flower power people and bright colours around the place.

Marian Clayden  designs

Her career took off and there were exhibitions of her work all over the world. Sadly she died in 2015 but her work lives on in major collections all over the world in places such as the V&A in London and the Metropolitan in New York. We were just incredibly lucky to stumble across this exhibition in a Scottish Castle.

Marian Clayden

A Winter Walk in Fife

Last Saturday we decided to go for a good long walk before Storm Ciara really hit us hard as was forecast, and we had been meaning to visit the Barrel Brig ever since we saw a photo of it on our 2019 calendar. So we drove to the wee village of Coaltown of Balgonie to park the car there and stroll along the country road in the right direction. I took the photo below of Balgonie Castle from a very rural lane. If you look carefully to the left of the middle you’ll see a castle which is a mixture of ruins and a family home. The castle has been used as a location in Outlander, as have so many places nearby.

Balgonie Castle, Fife, Scotland

It wasn’t long before we realised that it was a mistake to tackle this walk at the weekend as we could hear the roar of motorbikes and quadbikes. But some of the bikers pointed us in the right direction for the bridge and presumably the farmer was happy for them to vroom about in this otherwise empty field.

Bikes , Fife

The road went from being fairly good tarmac –
farm path, Fife

To truly awful mud due to the motorbike traffic. My boots felt twice as heavy as they had been – so mired in muck were they.

Fife farm track

But we struggled on, just hoping that we were going in the right direction.
farm track, Fife

Eventually we could see a river through the trees, the River Ore.
River  Leven, Fife

The bridge is described by Historic Scotland as an – early 18th century double arch bridge with cutwater buttresses to centre pier. Rubble spandrels with squared and coursed rubble soffits. It is a pack horse bridge, erected before 1725 and was presumably used by farm labourers who were carting crops around and maybe even people, if they were lucky enough to be given a lift.
Barrel Brig, Fife

The River Leven here isn’t much bigger than a burn really but people still fish in it, or they did when there were any fish in it to catch.
River Leven, Fife

On the way back the sky turned to blue, for a wee while anyway, but as we were caked in mud by then we were glad to get home and sit down with some coffee. Sadly I didn’t lose any of the extra pounds that I put on over Christmas despite the exercise.

Fields, Fife

You wouldn’t believe that it was the same day – looking at the sky, but such is the weather in Scotland, just wait five minutes and it will have changed! I hope you enjoyed stretching your legs with me.

Fields, Fife, scenery

Peterborough, Cambridgshire, England

It’s over a year since we visited Peterborough in the English county of Cambridgshire. We were on one of our road trips and hadn’t ever been there before, but we had wanted to visit the massive antiques fair that they have in Peterborough for ages. Actually it’s held on a Froday and Saturday unusually, and if we had stuck to our original plan and gone there on the Sunday we would have been very disappointed. As it was we didn’t have much time to look around the city, but we did take some photos of the outside of the large cathedral we were too late to get inside. It was a golden evening in September when we got there. The cathedral has a very interesting history, you can read about it here. Mary, Queen of Scots was originally buried in the cathedral but when her son King James V succeeded to the throne on Queen Elizabeth’s death he had his mother’s body exhumed and re-buried at Westminster Abbey.

Peterborough Cathedral

You can see more images of the cathedral here.

The Norman Arch below is well used as you can see, I believe a car crashed into it a few years ago though.
Norman Arch, Peterborough

But I was fairly amused ot see that the local Pizza Express is housed in a Tudoresque building. I wonder what sorts of businesses these premises have hosted over the centuries. I wouldn’t like to have their insurance bill!

Peterborough Building

I’m hoping to go back to the fair sometime this year and will definitely make sure that we see inside the cathedral then.

Oakham, Rutland part 2

It was late on in a September evening when we had a look at Oakham Castle in Rutland. I must admit that I wouldn’t even have recognised the building above as being a castle, it’s very tame compared with Scottish castles. I thought it was some sort of ecclesiastical building. Apparently it’s a Norman Hall and was built betweem 1180 and 1190. You can read about its history here. Of course it was shut when we got there, but I have seen it on TV.

Oakham Castle, Rutland

Another unusual building in the town is the house which was lived in by the smallest man in Rutland – the smallest county in England. You can read about him here and here. He was a dwarf at the court of Queen Henrietta Maria

Jeffery Hudson Cottage,Thatch 2

The blue plaque on his house doesn’t give you much of an idea of the amazing life that this small man led.

smallest man, Hudson's Cottage

Oakham in Rutland

The wee town of Oakham which is the largest in the tiny county of Rutland in England’s East Midlands was in the news a couple of weeks ago and it reminded me that I had never got around to blogging about our visit there last year.

On the news many of the Oakham inhabitants were up in arms about the threat of a McDonalds opening there. Quite understandably really as they didn’t want the quaint old buildings there and the ambience being tainted by the modern plastic golden M that inevitably comes with a branch of McDonalds. It turned out though that the plan was for the outlet to be on the way out of Oakham, so in the end the permission was given. I was thinking to myself that the town has a Wotherspoons in the middle of it, which is hardly upmarket, but not quite as ‘in your face’ as a McDonalds.

Anyway, I dug through the photo files and this is the result. Some of these cottages definitely wouldn’t look out of place in an episode of Midsomer Murders.

Oakham , thatched cottage,Rutland

There’s a market twice a week in the town, it’s held near the ancient octagonal pyramidal Buttercross which still has stocks in it as ypou can see below.

Oakham, Buttercross, Rutland

Oakham,thatched cottage, Rutland

I have to say though that the satellite dish attached to a thatched cottage below is almost as incongruous as a McDonalds sign, but people must have their telly choices I suppose.

Thatched House, Oakham, Rutland

The town was ‘en fete’ as you can see from the bunting in the photos below. It’s an undeniably quaint place and I can see why they want to keep it that way in town.

Oakham, Rutland

Oakham, Rutland

On the other hand there’s nowhere for younger people to go to meet friends by the look of it, it might be just a wee bit snooty! Well there is a castle there, but that’s for another blogpost. Meanwhile, those thatched cottages are all very well, but I know for a fact that you have to share them with a lot of small mammals – and some not so small come the cold weather. So my choice would be to live in a converted signal box just like the one below. I love them, it’s a shame this one is still in use as a signal box. Just imagine, you could get the housework over and done with in no time flat!

Oakham , signal box, Rutland