Hill of Tarvit House

Hill of Tarvit House is a mansion house about ten miles from where I live in Fife. It’s a Scottish National Trust property that we’ve visited several times before, but not since the SNT decided that interior photography would be allowed.

The photo below is of the main hall with its lovely wood panelling on the walls and ceiling. The chandelier looks dazzling in this photo but it’s actually quite a dark room, mainly to protect the very old tapestry that can be seen on the back wall.

Hill of Tarvit House Main Hall

The staircase comes off the hall.

Hill of Tarvit House  stairs

The sitting room in the photo below is also just off the main hall. This property ended up being handed over to the Scottish National Trust because the man who would have inherited it from his parents died in a very well known train crash, he was on the train going to meet his fiancee to take her to his family home. Sadly he was an only child.

Hill of Tarvit House sitting room  room 1

This is an Arts and Crafts house and I think it’s the most homely of any of their properties that I’ve explored. A lot of the small contents are the sorts of things that can be seen at antique fairs, so there’s not a lot that seems too precious. Below is a photo of the library, quite cosy really.

Hill of Tarvit House drawing room

The other end of the library.

Hill of Tarvit House  library

And a close up of some of the books in the house, I don’t know if you’ll be able to make out any of the titles though. Isn’t that lampshade ghastly!

Hill of Tarvit House  books

Below is the built in cupboard in the butler’s pantry. It has some local pottery (Wemyss ware) in it which in its day was not too expensive, but it is now, mainly because the Queen Mother was a keen collector I think.

Hill of Tarvit House butler's pantry

The owners were friends of Sir William Burrell of Burrell collection fame and some of the contents of the cabinet below were wedding gifts from him.

Hill of Tarvit House upper landing

It’s difficult to get a photo of the whole house, below is the best I could manage.

Hill of Tarvit House exterior 2

The garden isn’t huge although there is a croquet lawn which is often in use, it’s surrounded by some really scenic countryside/farmland though which you can see here and here in two previous posts.

Hill of Tarvit House Trees

St Andrews Castle in Fife

A couple of weeks ago I was sent the most recent copy of Historic Scotland magazine and I was surprised to see that the article about St Andrews Castle – in St Andrews north-east Fife – featured photographs that I didn’t recognise at all. Obviously there were parts of the castle that we had somehow missed in previous visits!

St Andrews Castle

St Andrews castle

So a couple of days later we went there to do some investigating and discovered the tunnels underneath the castle that had been mined in an attempt to undermine the castle during a siege in 1546-47. We also saw the bottle-dungeon that people were lowered into, unlikely ever to see the light of day again. It’s a long way down!

dungeon

dungeon

The times were brutal, these were religious fights with the castle being held by the Catholics to begin with. When a Protestant faction gained access they murdered the cardinal who was in residence. In an attempt to regain the castle the Catholics started to dig a mine under the castle and the Protestants dug a countermine. Click on the link above if you’re interested in the history of the place.

And so on down to the mine, mind your head, it’s only about three and a half feet high in most parts!

mine

It’s a long way down.

mine  St Andrews Castle

And there are a lot of stairs

mine  at St Andrews

And even a metal ladder to negotiate!
mine  St Andrews Castle

mine ladder

You can get an idea of the lay out from the board below, although that makes it look a lot shorter than it is.
Board (mine)

I’m not claustrophobic – but I was glad to get back above ground again!

St Andrews castle + sea

Wintry Walk in Fife

Come on – how about coming with me on a wintry walk in Fife, it’ll help blow the cobwebs away! One afternoon a couple of weeks ago during a really cold snap we went for a walk in nearby woodland.

Balbirnie Estate trees

And then we left the woodland, crossed the road and set out for the open farmland surrounding the woods.

Estate Trees

Farm Track

It was the middle of November but the trees were still holding onto leaves and looking quite colourful, I think some of them are beeches.

Trees

In the summer these fields will have crops of wheat, oats or barley in them.

winter Trees

The fields had been boggy after all the rain we’d had earlier in the year but where there were tractor tracks the puddles in them had been frozen over. We kept to the farm track, in the photo below you can just see a small bridge that goes over a railway line, there’s a concrete and brick structure above and beside the track which looks like a World War 2 pillbox.

Railway  Bridge and pillbox

Presumably the pillbox was built to defend the track in the event of attack.

Pillbox

Below is the track going north.
Railway  track

And below the track is going south to Edinburgh.
Railway  track, Fife

We disturbed some pheasants in one of the fields and they flew off in that awkward way they have that makes me think that anyone who shoots them for ‘sport’ is akin to a murderer as it seems they can’t fly away very well, having said that they were too fast for me to get a photo of them.

Trees in Fife

By then we were frozen to the bone so we turned for home, it was coffee and cake time! I’m sorry I couldn’t share that with you, but I hope you enjoyed your rural stroll with me in Fife.
Road

The land around here isn’t that far from Falkland Palace and I imagine that when Mary of Guise, Mary Stuart and King James lived there this area would have been part of their riding and hunting ground as Falkland was built as a hunting palace. It would have been much more heavily wooded in those days. The Palace is mentioned in Dorothy Dunnett’s Lymond Chronicles

Jedburgh Abbey, Scottish Borders

The main reason anyone will go to Jedburgh I imagine is to see Jedburgh Abbey, what’s left of it anyway. As you can see from the photos below it’s quite grand still, even as a ruin. It was founded by King David I in 1138.

Jedburgh Abbey

Jedburgh Abbey

Jedburgh Abbey

Jedburgh Abbey

Some parts of it still have the roof intact.

Jedburgh Abbey

Other parts of it are just piles of stones where the kitchen and sleeping quarters and such were. Over the years as the abbey became poorer they just abandoned buildings that they couldn’t afford to upkeep. Now it’s maintained by Historic Environment Scotland.

Jedburgh Abbey

You can see more images of the abbey and town here.

Queen Mary’s House Jedburgh, Scottish Borders

One day last month we decided to visit a couple of towns that we hadn’t been to before – Jedburgh and Melrose in the Scottish Border country. They’re situated just a few miles from each other and both have the ruins of large abbeys. They’re quite small and sleepy towns nowadays but in the past they were important.

But this post is about a house that neither of us had even heard of before – Mary, Queen of Scots House in Jedburgh. It’s owned by the town council now I think and we saw a signpost pointing to it as we parked the car. As you can see from the photo below it was being painted while we were there. There’s a bit more of its history here.

Queen Mary's House

This house has had a bit of a chequered past and there even seems to be a bit of a dispute as to whether Mary did actually live in it although I don’t see why not as she seems to have been just about everywhere else!

Mary Queen of Scots House

The house is unusual because it has a left hand spiral staircase, it seems that it was probably designed originally for the Kerr family as they were a famously left-handed Border reiver clan and coincidentally feature heavily in Dorothy Dunnett’s third Lymond book The Disorderly Knights – which I’ve just finished reading.

Annoyingly I can’t find any photos of the inside of the house, I’m sure I took some but they’re hiding at the moment. You can see a few images of it here.

I was quite impressed with the house, not particularly because of its possible Mary Stuart connections, but just because it’s an interesting really old place with panelling, a tapestry and various other exhibits.

When we were there it was quite busy with tourists, in common with just about everywhere this year, it must have something to do with the weak pound I suppose – or the Outlander effect maybe. Amazingly there is no entrance fee and I think they are missing a trick as they don’t even have a donations box although you can put a coin in a machine to register whether you would have been a Mary Stuart supporter – or not. Always a tricky one that!

The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art

Modern One

Some years ago I blogged about the art installation that has been added to the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh. I thought it was just a temporary thing, a reaction to the financial melt-down of 2008 but obviously it isn’t. In Alexander McCall Smith’s recent Scotland Street book The Bertie Project he mentions this installation. He’s not happy that the word ‘alright’ is there instead of ‘all right’. He has his character Domenica complaining of the use surmising that it must be deliberate as Kingsley Amis desribed ‘alright’ as ‘gross, crass, coarse and to be avoided,’ and Bill Bryson, hardly a fuddy-duddy describes its use as ‘illiterate and unacceptable.’

Domenica admits that she feels very old-fashioned in expecting people to be able to spell. It’s one of McCall Smith’s meandering conversations that often bring in modern morality or ethics.

But a more recent installation in the gallery across the road and several years on from the melt-down is taking a much more pessimistic and possibly Calvinist attitude to our situation.

View from Dean Gallery

It seems we’re done for!

View from Dean Gallery

Holmwood House, Glasgow

I thought I had already done a post on Holmwood House in Glasgow, but it seems I haven’t, I must have just written it in my head but got no further than that! Anyway …

Holmwood House

Holmwood House

The large circular window is the drawing room, where the very ornate ceiling in my last post is located.
Holmwood House

Holmwood House was designed by Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson. He was heavily influenced by Greek architecture hence his name. Sadly there aren’t that many of his buildings still standing, over the years lots have been demolished for various reasons including neglect to the point of them nearly falling down.

Holmwood must have been a fairly comfortable family home in its day, it only has four bedrooms so despite its grand appearance it should have been fairly easy to deal with from a housekeeping point of view. Presumably they had a butler though as there is a butler’s pantry. At some point there was a fire in this room so the wall tiles aren’t original but they look like they must have been put up around the 1930s to me, I really like the design, it’s very fresh looking, almost art deco although the top border is pure Victorian, acanthus leaves.
Butler's pantry tiling

The gates also have an acanthus leaves design on them, as well as that sort of pared down Greek key design which also features on the stonework of the house.
Holmwood House Gates

The photos below are of the vegetable garden, with the coach house in the background. It has some of the same architectural details of the main house. You might be able to see that there are puddles in the garden, that’s how bad our summer was!
Holmwood House Garden

Holmwood House Garden

Holmwood House – Glasgow

Last month we visited Holmwood House in Glasgow which is an Arts and Crafts property owned by the National Trust. It was designed by Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson. It isn’t a massive house, just four bedrooms and over the years has been owned by various people, before the National Trust took it over a Roman Catholic convent inhabited it and they made some strange changes to some rooms, including installing ‘confessionals’ in the dining room! The National Trust is slowly putting the place back to how it looked in its glory days.

The hall walls have just recently been refurbished, all hand painted by four men apparently, I don’t know how they had the patience for that!

Holmwood in Glasgow

There are various designs of floor tiles that have withstood the years well.

Victorian Hallway floor tiling

There had been a private school in residence at one point and had damaged the lovely wooden flooring, all part of the building’s history now I suppose.

Upstairs room wooden floor

I’ve never seen a ceiling like the very ornate one on the oriel window of the drawing room below. It was designed so that the blinds and curtains are recessed behind it so you can’t see the top of them, very posh!

Drawing room Holmwood Glasgow
A close up of the window recess ceiling.
ceiling Drawing room , Holmwood

The colour scheme in the drawing room is certainly vibrant.
Holmwood Drawing room

I have no idea why there’s a hallstand in the drawing room. Holmwood is still a work in progress.
Drawing room , Holmwood, Glasgow

The ceiling ‘rose’ in the midle of the drawing room ceiling is quite unusual, the actual ceiling is marbled, a paint effect I think. At first glance I thought they had had some water damage but phew, it’s meant to look like that.

Holmwood Drawing room  ceiling

I have quite a few more photos but that’ll do for now. I thought I’d already done a post about the outside of the house but apparently not.

Battlefield/Langside in Glasgow

One day last month we decided to travel to my beloved west of Scotland, all of seventy or so miles away from where we now live, but a miss is as good as a mile – as THEY say. We were aiming to visit Holmwood House, an Arts and Crafts house which is now owned by the National Trust. I’ll blog about that house sometime in the future.

On the way back from that part of Glasgow I mentioned to Jack that an ancestor of mine (great great uncle?) had designed a church and monument in Battlefield, which happened to be the area we were in, just as I said that we passed the monument which is now situated on a traffic roundabout! The Wiki link is wrong, I think that must have been his son who went to Australia.

Battlefield Monument

It’s much bigger than I had imagined. The monument commemorates the Battle of Langside in 1568 which ended with the defeat of Mary, Queen of Scots’s army on that site, or certainly nearby. Alexander Skirving designed the monument in 1887 which was the 320th anniversary of her defeat.

As ever, we in Scotland are always in a bit of a quandary, would we have supported her or been on the other side? I suppose it depends which religious leader you favour – the Pope or John Knox. What a choice!

The church is now a bar and eatery, as so many of them are nowadays, if they haven’t been turned into flats or demolished. We had already had our lunch at Holmwood, we’ll try that restaurant out another time though.

Church

Battlefield/Langside Church

After that the only thing I wanted to seek out was the street that I knew must be fairly nearby, named after the architect and also of course my own maiden name. With a bit of help from a passerby we found it, as you can see it’s typical Victorian tenements, it’s actually quite a long street the photo below is about half of it.

Skirving Street

There are shops further up, including a bookshop which very annoyingly was closed for the day. It was a bit surreal to see my surname above a Chinese take away. They’re usually called Lucky Date, Golden Moon or some such thing, but I suppose it means that people won’t forget where it is! It’s something that Alexander Skirving could never have foretold when he designed buildings for this area.

Chinese cuisine

There aren’t that many of us about with that Skirving surname, in fact I’ve never met any that I wasn’t related to. It appears in ancient Scottish surname books, but not in ordinary ones, and is of course originally Scandinavian/Viking. Some people like to think that in Britain our ancestors have been here forever and a day, but like everywhere else we’re just a bunch of mongrels when you get right down to it.

street sign

Doune Castle in Stirlingshire

A couple of weeks ago we visited Doune Castle which is not far from Stirling, we hadn’t visited it before although we’ve been to Doune quite a lot and even looked at a house in the village when we were house-hunting prior to J’s retirement. The castle was built in the 14th century.

Doune Castle

There’s some work requiring scaffolding going on at part of the castle.

Doune Castle
Like many such places it has been used as a location for TV programmes and films and probably because of the plummeting pound it has seen a big increase in visitor numbers, especially from the US. I’m beginning to think that Diana Gabaldon should be given some sort of award from the Scottish government – for her services to tourism in Scotland.

Doune Castle

There was also a wedding going on in the kitchen of all places while we were there and the bride was due any minute so we only got a quick look at the kitchen, the guests were already waiting for her to arrive.

Doune Castle Courtyard
Doune Castle has been famous for quite a long time though as it was used in Monty Python and the Holy Grail and Game of Thrones.

Internally it has some quite grand rooms that would have been more suitable for a wedding I think, but maybe that would have meant closing down most of the castle and they wouldn’t want to do that.

Doune Castle Interior
You can see more images of Doune Castle here.

Doune Castle Interior

The staircase below started off fine but got progressively narrower and steeper, it’s amazing to me that people manage to negotiate them without breaking something, although I did hear of one lady who got stuck in a staircase at Culross Palace!
Doune Castle Interior
Most of these National Trust properties have a dressing up box for the children, but at Doune it’s for adults who fancy dressing up as Clare from Outlander! One lady was desperate to try a dress on but I think they were all in Claire’s size so she had to give up trying. In the shop they have for sale replicas of Claire’s riding jacket priced at £200. I think you would have to be a fairly dedicated fan (or nutter) to shell out that sort of money.
Castle Interior  Dressing up

We went for a walk around the castle and it was only then that we realised how well positioned it is. They built it on high ground at the confluence of two rivers, the River Teith and the Ardoch Burn so it wasn’t going to be easy for any attackers to gain access from those sides. There were a few men fishing in the Teith.
River at Doune

Doune,River

There isn’t a tearoom at the castle but we enjoyed coffee, scones and cake at Willows Dell which is in the village of Doune nearby. You can see photos of the village here.

Willows Dell