Powis Castle, Wales

It is ages since we visited Powis Castle, when we drove all the way down to Wales so that Jack could go to a football match, in fact it was over a year ago. I could have sworn that I had blogged about our visit, but apparently not. This often happens to me as I ‘write’ blogposts in my head, but get no further than that, and then I think it’s done and dusted!

Powis Castle from Approach Path

Powis is the only castle in Wales that I’ve visited, according to a recent TV programme I watched most of the castles in Wales are actually English as they were built by the English to keep the Welsh in order. Thankfully the same does not apply in Scotland, our castles are very definitely Scottish, and so different from those in England. Some Welsh people apparently have a bit of a problem about having all those English built castles looming over them, and I can’t say I blame them, but on the other hand – they are still interesting and historic structures. However, Powis is unusual in that it was actually built by a Welshman in the 13th century – Gruffydd ap Gwenwynwyn. Apparently he was given permision to build it by Edward I as he had been so loyal to him. As Edward I was also known as The Hammer of the Scots I can only imagine that Gruffydd ap Gwenwynwyn’s loyalty was rooted in fear.

Powis Castle, Courtyard and Equestrian Statue
As I recall it was very cold, well it was February, but the gardens still looked lovely.
Powis Castle Gardens
You can see the bones of the planting better in winter, but I would like to go back in the summer sometime, there are so many other castles in Scotland to see though, so I may never get around to it, Wales isn’t exactly handy for us.
Formal Garden Powis Castle 6

The peahens were patrolling around the grounds.
Peahens, Powis Castle
And when I walked around the plant sales area below they were all over the place, holding me up, but I did manage to buy a souvenir of my visit in the shape of a Sarcococca confusa (Sweet Box) but it hasn’t flowered this year. I live in hope!
Peacocks

You can see some fantastic images of Powis Castle here.

St Serf’s – Dunning, Perth and Kinross

If it hadn’t been such a dreich weekend we would have driven to the Japanese Garden at Cowden as it has just opened for the new season and I imagine that the cherry trees will be at their best now. We went there last September for the first time and the autumn colour of the acers was lovely and we promised ourselves we’d go there again in the spring. If the weather cheers up this week we will go there.

Anyway, thinking about that reminded me that I never did get around to writing a blogpost about the village of Dunning which we stopped off at on the way to Cowden – so here goes!

Although I’m not at all religious I do love old churches and St Serf’s in Dunning is certainly old. It dates from around 1200 but it isn’t in use as a church now, it’s looked after by Historic Environment Scotland and is open to vistors.
St Serf's , Dunning

Inside the church is really dark and like all such churches it has been extended and mucked about with over the centuries, but it does house a very fine stone cross – the Dupplin Cross which dates from around 800 and is dedicated to one of the last kings of Pictland – King Constantine, son of Fergus. Presumably the decoration on the front is of the king on his horse.
Dupplin Stone cross

The carving on it is still in great condition considering that until 1999 it was outside. As you can see there’s a man playing a harp , he’s thought to be King David. This is the side of the stone.
Dupplin Stone Cross, Dunning

Dupplin Stone, Dunning

St Serf window, Dunning

You can read about the church here.

There’s not much nore of interest in the village of Dunning, but there is a pretty wee burn near the church.
Dunning Burn

Someone has put a lot of effort into the garden below.
Dunning garden, Perth and Kinross

The house beow is called Straw House for some reason. It’s very Scottish and solid looking, it has wee windows so it might not be too difficult to heat – or maybe that’s me just being optimistic on the owner’s behalf! This house is apparently the only house which survived the Jacobean burning of the village in 1716.
Straw House , Dunning, Perth and Kinross

It seems that we missed quite a lot on our quick trip to Dunning on our way to the Japanse Garden. When we do go back there we’ll have to look for the memorial to a witch burnt at the stake in 1657 and a bit of a Roman encampment.

Another walk – Cockburnspath and Cove, Scottish Borders / Berwickshire part 2

To get down to the right hand side of the beach at Cove you have to walk through this tunnel. It was constructed years ago and goes through the cliffs. It was no mean feat to build it and it’s very dark inside, you just have to aim for the light at the end of it and watch out for the potholes.

Cove Tunnel

At the beginning it’s shored up with brick but I think most of it inside is just rough rock face, but as it’s so dark in there I don’t know for sure.
Cove Tunnel

To get over to the beach on the other side you have to go back through the tunnel. These cottages are all that’s left of what had once been a thriving fishing community, all of the other cottages have been swept away by the sea.

Cove Harbour

Cove Harbour

Thecottages are only used to store fishing gear.

Cove Harbour , creels

The houses below are bit more modern and set back from the seashore. I still wouldn’t fancy being in them during a storm though.

Cove Harbour

Looking closer you can see that the cliffs are well upholstered with gorse bushes, they fairly brighten the place and seem to be in bloom most of the year – just don’t fall into it!

Cove Harbour

gorse

A train unexpectedly shot across a field. It’s many many years since I had toddlers walking beside me but whenever I see a train I still have an urge to point it out to them!

train, Cockburnspath

We walked back to Cockburnspath by a different route and came across this rather grand ram. When we first spotted him he was having a fine time attacking the hessian sacking wit his huge horns but he stopped to scrutinise us. Obviously we were more interesting, or just a welcome distraction. He was probably bored but seemed too aggresive to have any company in the field with him.

Ram

Just beyond the ram’s field are these farm buildings, very neglected and seemingly unused. Whenever I see places like this I just itch to put them to rights. I hate that farmers just let old buildings fall down.

Farm buildings, near Cove, Scottish Borders

Farm  buildings near Cove

Farm  near Cove
We walked along farmland paths
Farmland, Cockburnspath, Scottish Borders
and then along the field margins.
Farm view  sheep, Cove, Scottish Borders

And back to Cockburnspath for a well earned coffee.

Farmland , Cockburnspath, Scottish Borders

Another walk – Cockburnspath and Cove, Scottish Borders / Berwickshire

We had arranged to go and visit our friend Eric last Monday and luckily it turned out to be a beautiful day for it. But then it always seems to be a blue sky sparkling sort of a day around Cove and Cockburnspath in Berwickshire whenever we go there. Why not join me on my walk there?

The lands of Cockburnspath were part of the dowry given by James IV of Scotland to Margaret Tudor (daughter of Henry VII of England) on their marriage in 1503, it’s a lovely place but so off the beaten track that few people seem to know about the place. Our visits always include a walk down to the coast to the teeny wee historic harbour of Cove. This time we went the scenic way along narrow lanes, avoiding the main road. This flowering currant was putting on a good show beside one rather remote cottage.
Flowering currant, Cockburnspath, Berwickshire. Scotland

Stone Cottages

The lane becomes a narrow footpath, as you can see the daffodils are out.
Path , Cockburnspath, Cove, Berwickshire, Scotland

It isn’t long before you catch a glimpse of the coast in the distance across some fields.
Cove bluffs

I was relieved to see that the tide wasn’t too far in.
Cove sea , Berwickshire, Scotland

Cove sea , Cockburnspath, Berwickshire, Scotland

Uther the red and white setter was in a hurry to get down there, but I lagged behind him, Jack and Eric, taking my time to get some photos.

Cove Path, near Cockburnspath

Cove, near Cockburnspath, Berwickshire, Scotland

It certainly felt like spring had sprung, but Uther didn’t brave the sea, in fact he never does. He just loves the sights and smells, and enjoys digging up crabs to crunch now and again. I suspect those crabs must be dead but they don’t seem to cause him any harm.
Uther

I’ll continue with our journey tomorrow. I hope you’re up for it, it’s just a pity that you can’t catch the fresh coastal air.

Meanwhile you can see more of my older photos here.

Glasgow Cathedral’s stained glass windows

Despite the fact that apparently a lot of the Victorian stained glass didn’t last long there are still plenty of lovely windows in Glasgow Cathedral.

Stained Glass 1

Stained Glass 2

I adore colour and particularly coloured glass. I’ve never seen the attraction of flashy diamonds. I’d always be happier with a beautiful coloured gemstone, even if it was only glass. So long as it was set in a metal which wouldn’t turn my finger green.

Stained Glass 3
These stained glass windows were originally designed so that those medieval Christians who couldn’t read would still be able to recognise the stories from the bible that the windows depict.

Stained Glass 4

You could study some of the windows for hours I’m sure and probably still find something in them that you hadn’t seen the first time you looked at them. Going to a church service must have been quite an entertainment and of course most people probably didn’t have any glass at all in their own houses.
stained glass 5
Sadly the photo that I took of the Millenium window which is in shades of blue and purple didn’t come out well, but you can see some images of it here.
I think the colours are sumptuous, but those blue/purple shades are some of my favourites. Can you believe that there are people in this world that hate purple? Bizarre, and I’ve never felt that it’s a colour that I shouldn’t be wearing, no matter what my age might be.

Glasgow Cathedral – St Mungo’s

Glasgow Cathedral

I’m sure you know what it’s like – you rarely get around to visiting touristy places nearby and to be fair it’s donkey’s years since I’ve lived near Glasgow, but I did spend the first five years of my life there so it was about time I got around to visiting Glasgow Cathedral which is also called the High Kirk of Glasgow and has a Church of Scotland congregation. It’s the oldest cathedral on mainland Scotland and the oldest building in Glasgow. It dates from the late 12th century and is also known as St Mungo’s or St Kentigern’s (one and the same person). His tomb is in the crypt and the kirk features in Sir Walter Scott’s Rob Roy.

St Mungo's Tomb

altar-ish

I was impressed with the building although lots of the windows are just plain diamond paned glass. Apparently in the 1800s the powers that were gave a German company the commission to renew the windows with stained glass at huge expense, but within just a few years the glass began to deteriorate badly. I suspect that Prince Albert had something to do with the work going to a German firm, he seems to have seen it as his mission in life to give his country of birth as much economic help as possible. I bet they didn’t get their money back either!

The stone rood screen below is apparently quite unique.

stone rood screen

The ceiling is quite impressive.

medieval roof

The modern tapestries below are beautiful but the camera couldn’t do them justice.

modern Tapestries

The cathedral has a good atmosphere and there was also a very interesting photographic exhibition on when we were there. You can read more about the building here. I must admit though that to me it comes second to St Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall, Orkney which is stunning.

Glasgow’s coat of arms decorates the old lampost outside the cathedral.

Glasgow crest on Lamppost

There are stained glass windows in the cathedral, but I’ll keep them for another blogpost.

Dundee Botanic Garden

I did a blogpost about the glasshouses at Dundee Botanic Garden a few weeks ago and I was absolutely sure that I had previously posted ones about the actual gardens, so I was amazed when I couldn’t find that post on ‘Pining’. Has it somehow disappeared or did I only write it in my mind while I was doing the ironing or something? Anyway – here goes again – or maybe not!
It was a gorgeous Indian summer day but it was midweek and we almost had the whole of the botanic gardens to ourselves.

Dundee Botanic Gardens conifer

Dundee University uses parts of the gardens for research. This area is the genetics garden. The three trees below are Ginkgo bilobas, sometimes known as the Maidenhair tree. I’m sure that I recently read that the most northerly Ginkgos are growing in the north of England – obviously that was wrong as these ones are thriving. I love these trees, they look so delicate, but there are fossils of ginkgos which are 270 million years old. They originate from China.

genetics garden , Dundee

The stylish stone walls are a fairly recent addition I believe.
genetics garden, Dundee Botanics, Scotland

Dundee University and nearby Ninewells Hospital do a lot of very good medical research.

genetics garden, Dundee Botanics, Scotland

There’s a large old house within the gardens, in the photo you can just see the steps which lead up to it. It looks to me like it has been split up into flats, but presumably the Botanic Gardens were originally the gardens of the grand house.

flowers and house, Dundee Botanic Garden, Scotland

And below is the house.

house Dundee Botanic Gardens

Walk through the arched yew hedge and you enter a darkened yew room, lovely shade on a very bright day.
yew hedge arch

The botanic garden is built quite high up from the main road and from the edge of them you can look down on Dundee airport which is very small but fairly busy. I suspect that the biggest planes it can cope with seat about 50 people. The river is of course the Tay and the bridge that you can see is the one which replaced the old bridge which collapsed in a wild storm in 1879. You can read about it here. You can still see the stumps of the original bridge.

airport  + Tay Bridge

Dundee airport
We visited the Dundee Botanic Gardens on the third of September and below is a photo of an acer which was already changing into its autumn clothing, but it certainly didn’t feel like autumn was on the way. I took some more photos but I’ll keep them for another day. Hope you enjoyed the walk!

Dundee Botanic Garden path

The Piece Hall, Halifax

When we were down visiting friends in the north of England in Rochdale to be precise, we were asked if we would like to visit The Piece Hall, except when we heard that word we both thought ‘peace’ and thought it must be something to do with a war, particularly as it was around the WW1 centenary. So we were very surprised when we got there to see that it is Piece Hall and is actually a massive Georgian building in the shape of a quadrangle which opened in 1779.

Piece Hall, Halifax

Part of Piece Hall, Halifax

Piece Hall, Halifax, Entertainments

This is the place that the handloom weavers who were weaving in their own homes took their pieces of cloth to sell them. It was hoped that this would mean that a more efficient and competitive market which would discourage fraudsters.

An 1831 description of Piece Hall says:

The Piece Hall was erected by the manufacturers and is a large quadrangular building of freestone occupying an area of ten thousand square yards with a rustic basement storey and two upper storeys fronted with two interior colonnades which are spacious walks leading to arched rooms where goods in an unfinished state were deposited and exhibited for sale to the merchants every Saturday from ten to twelve o clock. This structure which was completed at an expense of £12,000 and opened on 1 January 1779 unites elegance convenience and security. It contains three hundred and fifteen separate rooms and is proof against fire.
— Samuel Lewis, A topographical dictionary of England[5]

Piece Hall,Halifax, Colonnades

It being in the run-up to Christmas there was a local brass band playing in the square.

Band at Piece Hall, Halifax

It seems amazing to me that such a grand structure was built for the sale of woollen cloth, but the industry was very lucrative, although as always the people doing the actual work probably didn’t make as much from it as others up the line of business.

Nowadays the spaces have been divided into small independent businesses, all sorts of shops, a great place to find something different if you’re looking for gifts. Of course eateries feature too.

I was really pleased when I noticed that the massive cast iron gates (which I didn’t get a photo of) had been made by the Sun Foundry in Glasgow! You can see them here.

Huntly Castle, Aberdeenshire, Scotland

I’m still catching up with the photos I took when we were on our trip up north to Aberdeenshire at the end of October 2018. We had been meaning to go to Huntly for years. Actually it was quite a surprise as in my mind it was a much bigger town than the reality turned out to be, it’s really small. There are just a few shops there but one of them is a secondhand bookshop! Yes I did buy books.

Huntly Castle

Apparently over last summer the lettering on the stonework was refurbished, I’m not sure what they actually did but it looks quite new now. Originally the lettering would have been painted to make it even more visible.

Huntly Castle

Huntly Castle
You can read about the history of Huntly Castle here.

The first castle was built on this site around 1180 but the castle that we see now dates from around 1550.

Huntly Castle Info Board

Below is a photo of an upstairs fireplace with a modern canopy over it to protect it from the worst of the weather.

Huntly Castle

The photo below is of the castle interior.

Huntly Castle Interior

One good thing about living in a castle was that you were never far from a loo, most of the rooms had one in a corner and some even have the remnants of fancy plaster decoration on the walls. I suspect that they didn’t smell great though as it was basically a hole going into a stone shaft. I imagine that now and again a servant had to chuck water down them. The loo below has had a piece of perspex placed over the opening, just in case some bright spark tried to use it I suppose.

Hunly Castle Loo

Below are the windows in the stairwell.
Huntly Castle Windows
And below is where the stairs lead to. The view’s not bad – what you can see of it anyway.
Huntly Castle Top

Sadly you can’t get right up to the top in this castle, my favourite place is usually the solar which is where I imagine the ladies sat and did some needlework or reading in good weather. I think the small bit with the glass windows in the photo below is the solar.
Huntly Castle Solar

Castles obvioulsy had to be built near rivers and Huntly has two rivers nearby – the Deveron and the Bogie, I’m not sure which this one is but it’s pretty anyway.
River at Huntly Castle

Huntly Bridge

Huntly is definitely worth a visit if you’re in the Aberdeenshire area.

Huntly Castle

Boxing Day and TV

I don’t know about you, but I was so glad to have a lovely lazy day at home today – just eating leftovers and watching TV. I was quite disappointed that the Agatha Christie this year is an updated ABC Murders. John Malkovich as Poirot is very different from David Suchet’s version, very much rougher, but I did enjoy seeing the wonderful De La Warr Pavillion in Bexhill again, always a joy – especially in reality but I haven’t been to Bexhill for years. The ABC Murders is set in 1933 and the De La Warr didn’t exist then as it wasn’t built until 1935. Just a bit of nit-picking on my part!

The contrast between the immaculate art deco building and the sleazy poorer quarters featured is stark. You can almost smell the damp. Whoever has the job of designing such settings triumphed – peeling wallpaper and all. On the whole though I found this new version to be painfully slow, but I’ll no doubt be watching the second part tomorrow night.

Before the ABC Murders I enjoyed watching The Midnight Gang. I haven’t read any of David Walliams’ books but this TV adaptation was definitely worth watching, for kids of all ages.

I didn’t have any time for looking at anything on TV before today really and I see that on the 23rd I missed something called Agatha and the Truth of Murder. I’m wondering if it’s worth watching it on the iPlayer. Let me know what you thought of it if you watched it please.

I have to say that on Christmas Eve I chose to watch entirely the wrong thing. I’m not at all religious nowadays but I do love all the old familiar carols. Unfortunately I tuned in to the BBC service – big mistake as it came from Buckfast Abbey, there were no carols at all. Everything was chanted and a lot of it was in Latin! Sometimes it’s difficult to figure out whether things are RC or very high Church of England, but Buckfast must be RC, however I thought they had given up on the Latin in the 1960s so I don’t know what that was all about. Nothing resembling a good old carol was sung, in fact nothing was really sung – just chanted. I can’t imagine why the ‘high heid-yins’ in the BBC would think that it would be appreciated by many viewers. Yes the setting of the abbey is very grand, the costumes (chasubles and such) worn are sumptuous. But it missed the festive mark by miles. Clearly I should have been on ITV but I gave up and went to bed.

Have I missed anything worth watching?