Chester

The city of Chester is a lovely place to visit if you want a wee bit of a change from the rural scene in nearby Wales which is where we were staying for a few days when we visited this place. Chester is absolutely choc full of history. We stuck to the townscape but if we had done our homework beforehand we could have visited a Roman amphitheatre and all sorts – next time maybe.

Chester was founded by the Romans in AD 79 and in the photo below you can see that there’s still quite a lot of the original Roman wall that they built around their fort still in existence.

Roman Wall, Chester

Chester Town Hall (maybe)

We didn’t take many photos as there were so many people about, but in the one below you can see the famous Chester Rows – the two tier medieval shops which are still being used as shops today. There are lovely arcades which you can wander around in, keeping dry if it happens to be raining.

Chester Rows

Next time we visit we’ll definitely be aiming for the Roman amphitheatre, which you can see here.

We did visit the Cathedral but that will be in another post.

Calke Abbey, Derbyshire, England

At Calke Abbey in Derbyshire I was surprised by how crowded the place was, well, I suppose it was a Saturday and a lovely day, far too hot for the end of September but I suppose we can blame global warming for that.

On entering the hall Jack spoke to the guide who asked him to repeat himself – which he did, speaking in his very best clear English with far less accent than the ‘locals’. She still said she couldn’t make out his accent. So I said in strident tones – he’s from Glasgow – which is a slight exagerration as I’m the Glaswegian and he comes from 15 miles north of there, but as I expected, it did the trick and amazingly she had no problem after that. Maybe she was worried about getting a ‘Glasgow kiss’.

Calke Abbey, Derbyshire
As you can see it was nigh on impossible to get photos without people in them, except of the upper parts of the very high walls. Someone was obviously very fond of stags’ heads.

Calke Abbey, Derbyshire

The rooms are so cluttered, just as they were left to the National Trust, that it’s sometimes difficult to see what the room was originally for. Below is probably a drawing room but it also has a lot of specimens of fossils and just things of interest to collectors of ‘stuff’.

Calke Abbey, Derbyshire, National Trust

shells, Calke Abbey

I’m so glad that I don’t have to keep on top of the housework in here.
Calke Abbey, Derbyshire, National Trust

I’d love to have the library/study though.

Calke Abbey, Derbyshire

Calke Abbey, Derbyshire

library, study, Calke Abbey, National Trust

The Jacobean coat below is a real work of art, but the Chinese silk bed is amazing. I’ll show you that tomorrow.

jacobean coat, Calke Abbey, National Trust

If you’re interested in the history of Calke Abbey have a look here.

Calke Abbey, near Ticknall, Derbyshire

It was way back in September when we visited Calke Abbey, a National Trust property which I had heard about but never seen before so when we saw it on the roadsigns we decided to stop off there, we weren’t in a hurry and it was a beautiful day. In fact it wasn’t all that easy to get there, the road to it becomes very small and twisty turny and it isn’t well signposted from there. We had to stop a dog walker to ask directions and it turned out that we were very close to it, it just wasn’t visible. I think we took an alternative entrance, one favoured by walkers. The house is in Ticknall, Derbyshire which I think might be my favourite English county.

Calke Abbey from distance

There were people all over the place, it’s obviously a favourite destination for loads of people, many of them probably just stick to walking around the grounds, there were a lot of dogs. Apparently Calke Abbey never was an actual abbey, one of the earlier inhabitants had changed its name thinking that ‘abbey’ sounded more up-market.

It’s unusual for a National Trust property in that they took the decision to leave it as it was when the owner left it to them, instead of putting it back to how it would have been in its heyday. It was a good decision I think as it had been left untouched for generations and they never threw anything out, just moved stuff into store rooms when they weren’t needed any more. When the National Trust took it over only six of the rooms had electricity and they’ve just kept it that way.

On getting close to the house we could see a row of vintage cars and lots of people about, including a couple who had evidently just got married.
vintage  cars, Calke Abbey

With the help of their very large dog.

vintage  cars  wedding party + dog

I must admit that as we had a family wedding coming up last February I had become slightly addicted to watching that TV programme Say Yes to the Dress (much to Jack’s disgust!) and I have to say that there have been very few of them that I would have said YES to, but this bride got it right, she looked so elegant in her dress – just perfect. Then I think they got in the white car and drove off, but I’m not sure as I didn’t like to gawp too much at them. I wonder if the dog fitted in!

vintage cars, bridal party, Calke Abbey

The badge on this car says Hutson. The blue plaque reads Rural Leicestershire AGM. A car club I assume.

vintage car

Anyway, that’s what was going on outside, tomorrow I’ll show you some of the inside.

Castle Campbell, by Dollar, Clackmannanshire,

Castle Campbell, Dollar, Clackmannanshire, Scotland

Castle Campbell which is situated in Dollar Glen close to Dollar in Clackmannanshire. It was originally named Castle Gloom but was changed to Campbell in 1489-90 by Act of Parliament with the approval of King James IV. The word Gloom was probably from the Gaelic glom meaning a chasm. As you can see it was a gorgeous blue sky day when we visited at the end of October.

Castle Campbell, Dollar, Scotland

Castle Campbell,Dollar, Scotland

Castle Campbell, great hall, Dollar, Scotland

Below is a photo taken from the top of a spiral staircase – you have to be fairly fit!
Castle Campbell, spiral staircase, Dollar, Scotland

The large vaulted room at the top has a cute wee window seat at one end, a perfect place to sit and read or admire the view.
Castle Campbell, Dollar, Scotland

If you look carefully at the photo below you should be able to see two carvings of faces that look a bit like the Green Man. There are holes at the mouths and it’s thought that lamps probably hung from there.
Castle Campbell, ceiling face carvings

Onwards and upwards to the roof which would have been a good place to relax, away from the bustle of the castle and servants, somewhere to have a private conversation – and get away from the smell of the loos as many of the rooms have an ‘en suite’ – non flushing of course.
Castle Campbell roof, Dollar, Scotland

And a fine view can be had in all directions, below is a photo looking over to the wee town of Dollar.

view from Castle Campbell, Dollar, Scotland

It’s a popular place with hill walkers, but we stuck close to the castle grounds, not feeling too energetic – and I didn’t bring the correct footwear – well that’s my excuse!

view from Castle Campbell, trees, Scotland

a view from Castle Campbell, Dollar, Scotland

Of course there had to be water nearby and below is a rushing rushing burn, eager to join up with more of the same which could be heard thundering far below in the glen.

burn, Castle Campbell, Dollar Glen, Scotland

It’s definitely a good place to visit although there’s an uphill walk of about 800 yards from the car park so it’s not great for anyone who couldn’t tackle that by foot

Info Board, Castle Campbell

Falkland Palace autumn gardens

Falkland Palace, gardens, Fife, Scotland

A couple of weeks ago I decided that we should visit the nearby Falkland Palace, before they shut the place for the winter. I specifically wanted to see what the gardens looked like as autumn crept up on us. In the photo above you can see the palace and ruins as viewed from the back. The palace was built as a pleasure palace, mainly used as the ‘hunting palace’ of the Stuarts. It was a favourite place of Mary Queen of Scots as it reminded her of the French palaces she had grown up in.

Falkland Palace, gardens, Fife, Scotland
It was even a wee bit misty – as befits the season.
Falkland Palace, gardens, Fife, Scotland

I think I zoomed in on the one below too closely as it looks a bit pixelated, but it gives you an idea of the autumnal shades.

Falkland Palace gardens, Fife, Scotland

The stone building in the photo below houses the real or royal tennis court. One time we went there people were actually playing real tennis, I think it calls for more skill than the modern version. The court is the oldest surviving one in the country, I think there are only a couple more of them.

Falkland Palace gardens, Fife, Scotland

I took the photo below just by turning around after taking the photo above it, so we’re looking back in the direction of the palace again.

Falkland Palace gardens, Fife, Scotland

Falkland Palace gardens, Fife, Scotland

Falkland Palace gardens, Fife, Scotland

The church in the photo below is next door to the palace, but it’s a lot more modern than the palace which dates from 1501, but there was a hunting lodge belonging to the Macduff Thanes of Fife, as long ago as the 12th century.
Falkland Palace gardens, Fife, Scotland

Click here if you want to see more photos and read a bit more about Falkland Palace which is now run by the Scottish National Trust.

You can see images of the real tennis court here. It’s a complicated game as you get points for hitting the ball through the windows in the back wall so the scoring system must be very different. You serve by hitting the ball onto the small sloping roof at the side.

We did go inside the palace but they don’t allow you to take photos which is a shame. The chapel is still used as the Roman Catholic church for the area. However as lots of people are very happy to dodge the rules there are images online of the interior of the chapel which you can see here.

Like so many places in Scotland, Falkland has been used as a location for filming Outlander.

Ashby de la Zouch, Leicestershire

Ashby Castle, Leicestershire,

On our trip down south last month we stayed for one night only at Ashby de la Zouch in Leicestershire, just because I’ve always been intrigued by the French name of the town. However the road signs pointing to it only say Ashby well let’s face it, it’s a lot easier and cheaper, but it turns out that the town was originally called Ashby – right up until 1086 and the de la Zouch was added on after the Norman conquest when the town became a possession of the La Zouch family, during the reign of Henry III.

Ashby Castle

I had no idea that there was a castle there, it dates from the 12th century, is a short walk from Market Street and although it’s a ruin it’s still well worth a visit. Sir Walter Scott mentions it in Ivanhoe – which might be what g0t me interested in Ashby. In Regency times the town was a popular spa destination. Can you believe that when we drove into the town we couldn’t get down the main street which is Market Street because there was a fair in full swing? It was strung all along the street. I thought it was only St Andrews in Fife that had a fair like that. It made it difficult to see the buildings and not that easy to get into the shops, I doubt if the heavier footfall does anything for the local economy.

As you can see, it was a beautiful blue sky day, and really hot and the local church bells were ringing, probably practising. This seems to be something that happens in England a lot.

Castle + Church bells, Ashby de la Zouch

Ashby Castle, Leicestershire

Ashby Castle Board

The edges of the grounds are a bit wild but beyond this fankle of greenery below is (I think) what was the jousting ground as mentioned in Sir Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe.
Ashby Castle Jousting Grounds (ivanhoe)

The photo below is a stitch of the castle so looks a wee bit wonky. If you happen to be near Ashby de la Zouch it’s definitely worth a visit, or even if you aren’t near as we travelled quite along way and weren’t disappointed. The town looks like a nice wee place – from what we managed to see of it through fair rides!
Ashby Castle stitch

We climbed up the 96 steps of the castle tower and took a video of the view from the top – where it was quite windy.

Panorama From Tower Ashby de la Zouch

Saint Barbara’s Church, Chester

I suppose I have to admit to having an interest in church buildings, although I’m not in the least bit religious, so when we stopped off at Overleigh Cemetery in Chester to feed Jack’s definite obsession with Commonwealth War Graves, I was surprised to see that the church in the centre of it was flying an unusual flag. I had originally thought that from the architecture the church looked Scandinavian, but the flag turned out to be Bulgarian so Saint Barbara’s is a Greek Orthodox church. The graveyard surrounding it seems just to be used for any locals though.

St Barbara's exterior

The church was open as there was someone busy in the back offices, so we took the opportunity to have a quick keek inside. It was a bit of a WOW moment as there’s so much gold in there, very different from the austere decor of Scottish Presbyterian churches.

St Barbara interior, Chester

The effect doesn’t really show up so well in the photos, but it looks like they didn’t want to leave any saint out. I’m presuming that these icons depict saints.

St Barbara interior, Chester, orthodox church

We crept in and Jack quickly snapped these photos, and the impression was of opulence, but now that I have the leisure to really look I can see that the walls are just bare brickwork.

St Barbara interior, Chester, orthodox church

St Barbara interior altar, Chester, orthodox church

This was once one of Overleigh Cemetery’s chapels despite the architecture not looking very English. 1987 was the year when it became a Greek Orthodox place of worship.

St Barbara's exterior, Chester, orthodox church

New Abbey, Dumfries and Galloway, South-west Scotland

The garden below might not seem spectacular but I’ve always hankered after a garden edged by a wee burn, and it would have to have the garden sloping down to the burn too, so there was no chance of the house being flooded. The one in the photo below would do me fine. New Abbey is a very Scottish looking wee village, just five miles south of Dumfries.

New Abbey garden, Dumfries and Galloway

If you want to visit Sweetheart Abbey it’s the village of New Abbey that you head for. Sweetheart Abbey is the nickname given to the new abbey by the monks there, as Lady Devorgilla who founded the Cistercian abbey carried her husband’s embalmed heart around with her for years until her own death in 1289. Jack posted pictures of the Abbey here.

New Abbey houses, Dumfries and Galloway

Dumfries and Galloway must have more abbeys and priories than anywhere else in Scotland. It’s close to Ireland and Christianity was brought to Scotland by the Irish. The sea crossing is usually rough and must have been terrifying back then. Of course the religious buildings are all ruins now, but still interesting to see.

I liked the porthole windows in the gable end below.

New Abbey , Dumfries and Galloway

The Corn Mill is run by Historic Environment Scotland – as is Sweetheart Abbey.
New Abbey Corn Mill, Dumfries and Galloway

The massive mill wheel below was turned by that wee burn in the first photo in its heyday and I suppose that the owner of the mill would have been one of the wealthiest people in the area. Sadly it isn’t a working mill now.

Mill Wheel, New Abbey, Dumfries and Galloway

Cardoness Castle and Carsluith Castle – Dumfries and Galloway

Cardoness Castle, Dumfries and Galloway, south west Scotland

Cardoness Castle Interior 1

It’s over a year since I visited Cardoness Castle, close to Gatehouse of Fleet in Dumfries and Galloway, south-west Scotland. It was originally built by the McCulloch family around 1470 and they seem to have been a difficult bunch, not the sort of people that you would want as neighbours.

As ever – you get a great view if you’re willing to tramp up the spiral staircase. The view below is looking over the Fleet Estuary.

Fleet estuary, Dumfries and Galloway
And below is the view back up to Gatehouse of Fleet which is a small town which had a great secondhand bookshop in it and also a good but much smaller antique/bookshop.

View towards Gatehouse of Fleet

Twp castles for the price of one today!

Carsluith Castle, Dumfries and Galloway

Carsluith Castle , Dumfries and Galloway

Carsluith Castle is situated three miles south of Creetown and dates from the 1400s. Carsluith looks fairly solid and it’s easy to imagine how it must have been in its heyday. Over the years various outbuildings have been added very close by and one of them has been turned into a cafe, also it’s right next to the A75 which is a very busy road and detracts from the atmosphere of the place, but Carsluith has some lovely details in the stonework so it’s worth having a look at it if you’re in the south-west of Scotland.

Carsluith Castle, view from top, Dumfries and Galloway

From the other side you get a view of Wigtown Bay, but I didn’t manage to get a very good photo of it.
Carsluith Castle,view from  top, Dumfries and Galloway

Broughton House, Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland

Broughton House

Way back in May 2018 we visited Broughton House and Garden in Kirkcudbright (pronounced Kirkcoodbry, which is in Dumfries and Galloway. It was owned by the Scottish artist E.A. Hornel. You can read about him here and see some of his artworks, and read more about him here.

Broughton House, Dumfries and Galloway

Broughton House, Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland

It was a busy place when we were there so I wasn’t able to get much in the way of photos of the garden, but this lilac tree was at its best while we were there.
lilac flowers, Broughton House Garden, Dumfries and Galloway

plants, Broughton House, Dumfries and Galloway
The house is now owned by the Scottish National Trust and there are quite a few of his artworks on view there and if you’re interested you can see more images of his work here.
Broughton House, lawn stitch

Kirkcaldy Art Gallery always has a few of his paintings on display. The one below is a favourite with many but I find it a bit twee for my taste.

Hornel