Largo and Newburn Parish Church, Upper Largo, Fife, Scotland

Largo and Newburn Parish Church

Largo and Newburn Parish  Kirk 1

At the end of June we got around to visiting Largo and Newburn Parish Church in Upper Largo. It’s something I’ve been wanting to do for decades as I could see it in the distance every time we drove to St Andrews. The church wasn’t open though so we didn’t get a keek at the interior. The oldest parts of this church date from the 17th century but there has been a church here since the 9th century.

It was a really hot day and as all of these old churches are built on the highest ground in the village there was a decent view over the rooftops to the Firth of Forth. Originally before this was a place of Christian worship this was probably a place of religious significance for the older religions, possibly some sort of druids.

There’s an ancient stone monument in the photo below, I think this was originally a Pictish stone and when the place was Christianised they carved a cross on it. It’s behind ‘bars’ for protection as you can see.

Old Stone, Upper Largo Kirk 2

Old Stone, Upper Largo Kirk

The decoration on the other side is definitely Pictish.
Pictish stone

sea from Upper Largo church,

aUpper Largo and sea from Kirkyard

I’m glad we managed to get there – before the very recent collapse of part of the churchyard wall, which seems to have been caused by the frequent bouts of torrential rain that we’ve been having over this strange summer. You can read about it here.

You can see a lot of old and new photos of the area here.

Gala at Moffat, Dumfries and Galloway

About a month or so ago we were travelling down to the north of England for a few days, just for a change of scene and as usual we stopped off at the couthie wee town of Moffat. We normally have our lunch there and check out the secondhand bookshop. Yes I did buy a few books!

Georgian Hotel, Moffat, Scotland

It was busier than usual but we put that down to it being a Saturday. Just as we parked the car – congratulating ourselves on managing to get a space in the High Street we heard pipers tuning up and realised it was their Gala day.
Pipers and drummers

The wee Border towns have been better at holding on to these old traditions, Moffat choose a ‘shepherd and lass’ each year and they’re in the carriage.

It was impossible to get photos without people in the way but you can also see the lovely cushioned hills in the background, perfect backdrop to any town.
Moffat Pipers and drummers 3

Moffat Gala Day, Horse drawn carriage

Jack took a couple of very short videos while we were there.

Shepherd and Lass Carriages, Moffat

Pipers and Drummers, Moffat

They haven’t got around to putting up a video of the 2019 gala yet but you can see a wee bit of what went on in the 2018 gala if you’re interested.

Strathmiglo, Fife , Scotland

I’m not complaining, but on a sweltering hot day when we were on our way north to Perthshire we stopped of at Strathmiglo, instead of just driving past it. We had to get out of that hot car! Below is a photo of the tolbooth which was built in 1734.

Strathmiglo Tolbooth, Fife, Scotland

The kirk/church below would have been a perfect example of Presbyterian austerity if someone hadn’t tacked that completely different coloured stone porch onto it back in 1925. The Monkey Puzzle tree – or Araucaria if you’re a plantsperson or Guardian crossword person – is a beauty though, don’t you think?
Monkey puzzle and Strathmiglo  Kirk

I admit that the photo below isn’t the most scenic, but I do love it when you can stand in a street and see the hills not far away, in this case – the East Lomond.
View of Street, East Lomond

Jack and I are really well matched as we both enjoy mooching around old graveyards and burial grounds (what’s the difference I wonder). He’s normally looking for Commonwealth War Graves, usually of those poor souls who got home from their battleground only to die of their wounds later. I’m seeking out much older stones as you can see from the one below. The date on it is 1713 and at the time skulls were seen as a suitable decoration, a reminder of mortality to anyone looking at it. Sadly half of this stone has sunk down into the grave (I hope it missed the body!) so it isn’t possible to read who’s actually buried here.

old gravestone, Strathmiglo, Fife, Scotland

The one below has sunk even more, but I was amazed by how well it has survived the weather and years, I’m sure this one dates from the 1600s, I believe there was a date on the back of it. I’m impressed by the designs on it. Whoever’s grave it is must have been a gardener or something similar. There are two crossed spades in the middle of the design and the flowers on either side seem to have his initials incorporated into the design – J C being at the end of the stems, with the C looking like a scythe. The flowers have a very modern look somehow – there’s nothing new under the sun!

old gravestone , Strathmiglo, Fife, Scotland

Strathmiglo is definitely worth a look around if you’re passing by that way. There are some rather grand looking houses in the high street too, but it’s a very sleepy wee place nowadays.

I meant to mention before that the road which goes around the side of the church leads to a road called Cash Feus – named because the land belonged to the ancestral family of the Country and Western singer Johnny Cash. Obviously his branch of the family must have been the poor cousins as they took the decison to leave for the New World at some point. However he did come back to visit when he had researched his family tree, but it was the nearby village of Falkland that he went to most as he played some concerts there. I think one of his daughters still visits. Well, there are lots of links between Scots traditional music and country music.

Annan, Dumfries and Galloway, South-west Scotland

Last Saturday we drove down to Annan in Dumfries and Galloway, the south-west of Scotland. It was a glorious day, a bit too hot really for me it was about 70F I suppose.

Annan Bridge, Scotland
Jack was going to a football match there so I decided to take a stroll along the riverside walk along the Annan which flows through the town. It has a lovely ancient red sandstone bridge.

River Annan, Dumfries and Galloway, ScotlandBridge

Just a stone’s throw from the bridge is the remains of Robert Bruce’s motte and bailey, it seems just to be a few lumps and bumps in the ground from a distance anyway, I couldn’t get any closer. I was interested because I had just finished reading Nigel Tranter’s book Footsteps to an Empty Throne and this is where the first battle of the Wars of Scottish Independence was fought.
Bruce's Motte and Bailey, Annan
I had the river all to myself with just a few swans and a heron for company, sadly the heron flew off before I could get a photo.

River Annan (south)

They are obviously proud of the Robert the Bruce connections in Annan and had this statue put up on the Town Hall, but Bruce also had a manor/castle at Cardross near Dumbarton where I grew up, although nobody knows exactly where it was. In fact that’s where he died.
Statue of Bruce at Town Hall

Below is the town hall from another angle, if you lok closely you’ll see it’s desperately in need of being weeded of budleias and various other plants.
Annan Town Hall, Dumfries and Galloway

I enjoyed my walk around Annan and Jack enjoyed the football because Dumbarton won – unusually!

Fife’s Pilgrim Way, Official Opening

Last week I attended the official launch of Fife’s Pilgrim Way. Jack and I were drafted in at the last minute to represent the local Community Council.

Stained Glass, Dunfermline Abbey nave, Fife

I had been under the impression that it was taking place in Dunfermline Abbey but it turned out that it was in the oldest part of it, the nave which was apparently originally the priory which was founded by Queen Margaret of Scotland (King Malcolm’s wife) – or Saint Margaret as she’s sometimes called.

They had an actress speaking as Queen Margaret and some musicians playing appropriate music on old style instruments. It looks rather empty but it did fill up, some people had walked the eight mile stretch of the Pilgrim Way from North Queensferry to the Abbey, they definitely deserved a seat, we stood though, not realising we would be there for over an hour.
Dunfermline Abbey nave,columns 1

The ex-Prime Minister Gordon Brown was a Fife MP and lives close to the Pilgrim Way at North Quensferry so he was one of the speakers, the photo of him below is very grainy, zoomed in too close I think.
Gordon Brown, Dunfermline Abbey,

It was really the stone columns that impressed me though, the ones with chevrons are similar to those at Durham Cathedral but have more details, very elegant.
Dunfermline Abbey, nave, Fife

The nave isn’t huge but it is impressive. We didn’t go into the actual abbey where a short religious service was to take place. It is where Robert the Bruce is buried and if you’re interested you can see a previous blogpost of mine about the abbey here.

Dunfermline Abbey nave, upper storeys

Dunfermline Abbey nave, Stained Glass 1

Fife’s Pilgrim Way is 64 miles long and I intend to walk it all – but in various stages. I think I can manage eight miles or so at a time, if I get the bus back home!

Metro and Railway Stations, Nevsky Prospect, St Petersburg, Russia

Donkey’s years ago I saw a programme on tv about the wonderful interiors of the railway stations in what was then the USSR, so when I realised that the building below was a metro station I had to go in for a look, no doubt getting in the way of the all the genuine travellers.

St Petersburg Metro, Russia

I was aware that the metro workers (I think) in the photo below were looking at us strangely, but reckoned that they couldn’t arrest us for taking photos of the decor – and nothing was said, they definitely thought we were weird foreigners though!
Metro, St Ptersburg, Russia

You could expect to see lights like those below in ballrooms rather than a railway station. They are in what is called the Moskovsky Station. (You catch mainline trains to Moscow from there.) I was thinking that I was so glad that when Communism got the upper hand they didn’t think to sweep away all the glories of Imperial Russian decor.
St Petersburg station

But if you have a closer look at the frieze below you’ll see that this must have been done under that regime as the clothes are fairly modern looking.
St Petersburg station, Russia

It’s only now that I see that what I assumed would be a no smoking sign actually seems to be a no hearts sign – bizarre. Don’t kiss anyone, whatever you do!
St Petersburg station, Russia

Then back out through the doors onto Nevsky Prospekt and the sunshine again.
St Petersburg  station doors, Russia

I must say that all of the Russian people that we cmae into contact with were lovely and friendly.

Rosslyn Chapel, Midlothian, Scotland

Rosslyn Chapel board

A few weeks ago we had friends from England staying with us and they wanted to visit Rosslyn Chapel which was made famous by Dan Brown’s book The Da Vinci Code. So off we set, in sunshine, but as we got closer to Rosslyn the heavens opened and it was a very wet walk for us from the car park. The chapel was originally called the Collegiate Chapel of St Matthew, and dated from the 15th century. It’s situated not very far south of Edinburgh.

Rosslyn Chapel, Midlothian

After a brief look around the packed out gift shop and buying our tickets we raced out to the chapel, obviously getting even wetter on the way. The chapel was much smaller than I had imagined it would be and it was absolutely mobbed, but we managed to get seats and were enjoying an interesting and amusing talk from the guide. Then another guide came in and asked her to stop as another busload of tourists had just turned up! We all had to budge up and make more room for them, even William the resident cat was evicted from his comfy abode on a pew above a hot air vent in the floor, he wasn’t best pleased.

Rosslyn Chapel, Midlothian

Sadly and stupidly, they don’t allow people to take photos inside the chapel, but all the foreign tourists immediately forgot that they could speak English and went about snapping anyway. We didn’t of course which is a real shame as the decorative stonework is fantastic. However all those taking naughty illegal photos have kindly put them on the internet so you can see them here.

Mind you, the official Rosslyn Chapel website has an explore the carvings section.
Rosslyn Chapel , Midlothian, Scotland
When I mentioned to various friends how crowded the chapel was when we were there it turned out that we were incredibly unlucky as they had all had the place almost completely to themselves which especially suited the cat lovers among them.

Rosslyn Chapel,Midlothian

Oldhamstocks, East Lothian, Scotland

Oldhamstocks houses, Scotland

I’m amazed to discover that it’s almost two years since we visited the tiny village of Oldhamstocks in East Lothian. We had seen a road sign pointing the way to it and it seemed such an incongruous English sounding name for its East Lothian location that we made time to have a look at it. It’s really wee with just 193 inhabitants according to Wiki, but it has a church so it is offically a village – not a hamlet. The church was consecrated way back in 1292. You can see photos that Jack took of it here.

Oldhamstock houses, East Lothian

It’s the picturesque houses that appealed to me though. This village is close to the Scottish Border with England and apparently its name means old dwelling place.

Oldhamstock houses, East Lothian

When we were there they had a notice up in a noticeboard advertising the upcoming village fete so despite it being such a wee place they do have a good community spirit, sadly we couldn’t go to it but heard it is worth going to as they were selling second-hand books, what more can you ask for?!
Oldhamstocks green, East Lothian

Church on the Spilled Blood, St Petersburg

The Church on the Spilled Blood in St Petersburg is quite something – as you can see. You really couldn’t get further away from the ecclesiastical architecture that prevails in western Europe, in other words – it’s definitely different. Yes that is scaffolding swathing it. It seems that no matter where we are there’s scaffolding hugging whichever building we particularly want to see!

Church of the Spilled Blood 7
And from another angle.

Church of the Spilled Blood 4

This church was built on the site of the assassination of Tsar Alexander II which took place in 1881. A bomb was thrown at him and it went off when it landed at his feet, I believe he lived for a few hours but was never going to survive. You can read about Alexander II here.

Church of the Spilled Blood

Below is the decoration on one of the sides of the church.

Church of the Spilled BloodSpilled Blood

We didn’t go into the church as Nevsky Prospect was calling to us, we aren’t religious and you aren’t allowed to take photos inside anyway. The outside was stunning enough for me.

St Petersburg – part 2

Winter Palace , St Petersburg, Russia
The green/blue palace is the Winter Palace and it’s just part of the entity that is called the Hermitage. There are six palaces which make up the Hermitage complex. There are so many exhibits in the Hermitage that if you spent only one minute in front of each one it would take you seven years to get around it all. We didn’t even get in due to the queues and wanting to viist other parts of St Petersburg in the short time we were there.

Winter Palace, St Petersburghorse-drawn
You can have a ride in a carriage around the square if you’re that way inclined. I watched people in the carriages taking selfies of themselves while they jogged around – not looking at the actual scene at all!

palace , St Petersburg, Russia

There’s a huge square in front of the complex of palaces which make up The Hermitage. Presumably it was designed like that for military purposes. Kings and Queens have always wanted to inspect their troops I suppose. This was the official residence of the Russian Tsars from 1732 until their demise in 1917. You can see more images here.

Palace , St Petersburg, Russia

There’s a massive column of victory over Napoleon in the square which is now edged by loads of tour buses.
victory monument

There are so many palaces around there, it’s difficult to figure out what they are! We discovered later though that the one below is the General Staff building.

Palace , St Petersburg, Russia

palace , horse statue pediment

The square had obviously been the focal point of the recent 1941-1945 Victory celebrations which we had just missed, and they were busy taking down the banners while we were there.
Palace Square  , banners

After years of reading about Russian history I could hardly believe that I was actually standing in front of the Winter Palace and it really didn’t matter to me too much that I didn’t actually get inside. Although I remember my mother telling me that she had seen a train in a station in Holland which had the destination MOSCOW on the front of it – so if we ever do go back (very unlikely) we’ll go by train and have a week there as that is what is needed to do the place justice.
Winter Palace stitch