Collessie in Fife – again

The photo below is of a very unusual architectural detail at Collessie Church. I don’t think the church is open but I must admit I didn’t try the door handle. It would be good to be able to see it internally some day.
Collessie Church
But the photo below shows a very unusually angled thatched roof, some extending must have gone over the years I think, but it looks like it has been renewed fairly recently. I know that in England you have to put your name down on a thatcher’s waiting list long before your roof needs to be re-thatched. I’m wondering if they have to come up especially from England as there’s no way that anyone could make a living from thatching in Scotland, there are just too few such roofs.
Thatched Cottage

The pan tiled roof of the cottage in the photo below is the more usual material for cottage roofs in Fife, the tiles were brought over from Holland as ballast in ships.
pan tiled cottage

Below is a close up of some thatch and a wee keek at a back garden.
Thatched Cottage
The cottage below is actually up for sale, I think it has seen better days though. It’ll need a lot of work done on it. The windows of most of these houses are very small. Builders are going back to that way of designing now as they try to make new houses more economical where heating is concerned.
Thatched Cottage

Below is thatch and the more traditional slate roof which must be a Victorian addition I think.
Thatched Cottage

The structure below is partially built into the churchyard wall. It has words carved into it but it’s very difficult to make out. It’s a family tomb for the local high heid yins – the Melville family.
Crypt at Collessie, Fife
Luckily there’s an information board on the stone wall.
Melville Tomb information
And below is the tomb from the other side – within the churchyard.
tomb of Melvilles, Collessie

The surrounding countryside is lovely, the crops are all just about ready for harvesting. Collessie is a lovely village but I imagine it’s a bit of a nightmare living there in the winter – unless you can hibernate!

countryside at Collessie, Fife

Collessie, Fife

One beautiful day last week we decided to visit a nearby estate garden which is open to the public. We had never been before but the address in books was given as Collessie, so we drove to that small village, a place we had never been before despite it being just a few miles from where we live. We never did find the estate garden that day as it’s actually on the rode to another village. I was enchanted by Collessie though so we spent an hour or so walking around the very historic village. Below is a photo of what had been the post office and is now someone’s home. Post Offices have been closed down all over the country which is a tragedy as they were often the hub of a village. In fact this place has no shops or anything, just a church and a community hall.

Old Post Office, Collessie

It’s like stepping back into a sort of Brigadoon. I’ve only seen a few thatched houses in Scotland, they’re much nore common in the south of England, so I was amazed to see several of them in Collessie. The village apparently has the most thatched roofs of anywhere in Scotland.

Thatched Cottage
They look lovely but we have friends who lived in a thatched cottage down south and they said that as soon as the weather turned a bit cold – all of the local ‘skittering’ wildlife moved into the roof for warmth, not my idea of fun. Especially as they didn’t stay in the thatch but made forays into the house.
Thatched cottage
Of course not all of the cottages have thatched roofs, but the street below is still amazingly quaint looking. It looks like nothing has changed for a couple of hundred years.
street in Collessie
I think that the road in the photo below must have been the main road leading to St Andrews which was of course a popular place for pilgrims to walk to in the days of the early Christian church. You can see the church beyond the thatched roof, it has been extended a lot over the years but the original part of it dates from before 1243 which is when it was consecrated by the Bishop of St Andrews.
Thatched Cottage

Considering the size of the village this church is enormous. I think that over the years the population must have decreased a lot.
Collessie Church

The village is a bit of a dead end as it has been by-passed by a larger road which is why we had never been there before, but it’s definitely worth making a detour off the main road to step back in time to Collessie. I’ll put a few more photos of it up tomorrow.

Broch of Gurness, Orkney Islands

Broch of Gurness in Orkney is one of the many sites that we visited when we were there in June 2017. When we went there early one morning the man in charge of the place was just about to shut it and go home as he didn’t think that anyone would brave the terrible weather, it was a howling gale. I’m really glad that we experienced it like that though as as soon as we got into the shelter of the broch it was so calm and quiet, and we had the place to ourselves.

Broch of Gurness, Entrance

Jack has done a couple of posts about it and if you’re interested in seeing more photos of the place have a look here and here.

Caerlaverock Castle, Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland

Caerlaverock Castle

We visited Caerlaverock Castle when we were in Dumfries and Galloway in May. It’s a great castle ruin with a very unusual shape, triangular which I suppose is a good shape for defensive reasons. It also has a proper moat. I know that if I had lived in a castle in those days I would have wanted a moat so that I didn’t have to worry about people scaling the walls during the night. If your drawbridge was up – it was safe to go to sleep!

Caerlaverock Castle

Building work started on this castle in the 1260s and it was finished in the 1270s, but this is the ‘new’ castle as the old one just 200 yards away was abandoned because it began to sink. It was built in 1220 and if you go you should make time to visit what is left of it, just the foundations really, but it’s still interesting.

Caerlaverock Castle
Below is a photo of part of the castle from the inside.
Caerlaverock Castle

As Caerlaverock is so close to the border with England it was often attacked and besieged. With the English king Edward 1 (Hammer of the Scots) attacking the castle in 1300 with over 3,000 men and using siege engines serious damage must have been done to the walls at that time. The castle changed hand many times over the years between Scotland and England. Most of the castle that can be seen today dates from the 1300s and 1400s.
The countryside around that area is quite pretty, in the photo below you can see that there must have been buildings where there is now grass. That will be even more obvious now that we’ve had such a long spell of hot dry weather.
view  from Caerlaverock
I think this is one of my favourite ruined castles. Just imagine how atmospheric it would as darkness falls on a moonlit night, or even in the gloaming (twilight).

Caerlaverock Castle

You cam see more images of Caerlaverock Castle here.

Threave Castle, Dumfries and Galloway

Threave Castle

On the second day of our recent four night trip to Dumfries and Galloway in south west Scotland the first historical place we visited was Threave Castle. Visiting this castle is a bit more awkward than some others as you have to get in a boat to get there, although it’s such a short stretch of water that it takes about three minutes to get there. Despite the fact that the water is so shallow that if you fell in it would only come up to your knees – they still make you put on a lifejacket!

Threave Castle

The castle sits on an island in the middle of the River Dee and it’s only the second castle that I’ve had to get on a boat to visit, the other one being Loch Leven Castle. It’s a big improvement on a moat though, I imagine the inhabitants would have felt nice and safe.
Threave Castle

But Threave Castle did come under attack when the Douglas family it belonged to fell foul of King James II in 1455 and the windows below look onto the area where he had huge guns positioned to fire at the castle over the river. The king had decided that that branch of the Douglas family was going to be wiped out.

Threave Castle

The arrows fired through the arrow slit windows below wouldn’t have been much use against cannonballs.
Threave Castle Exterior

Inside is really just one big room now.
Threave Castle Interior

There’s an RSPB bird sanctuary nearby and after leaving the island we went for a circular walk and had a look for wildlife from one of the hides. In the distance the ospreys were flying around, also red kites and buzzards. In fact it looked like the red kites were being a bit too successful as there were loads of them flying around. But I’ll leave them for another blogpost.

Threave Castle from Osprey viewing area

Glenluce Abbey, Dumfries and Galloway

One of the many historical places we visited when we were in south west Scotland in Dumfries and Galloway recently was Glenluce Abbey – yes, yet another ruin! It was founded around 1192 it’s thought, and was a daughter abbey to Dundrennan Abbey, so it was a Cistercian abbey peopled by monks who wore white robes.

Glenluce Abbey

Glenluce Abbey

Glenluce Abbey

Glenluce Abbey Door

After the Reformation in 1560 the monks embraced the new religion and were allowed to live out their lives in the abbey with the last one dying in 1602. Like most of these places when they were no longer used the people living locally used the place as a handy quarry, an easy place to go and purloin some nice stone for whatever domestic project they had on hand.

The windows in the photo below have obviously been fairly recently restored.
Glenluce Abbey
Quite often you can see quite fancy stones in the walls of local cottages near such ruins which were clearly taken from a much more important building.

There’s a very sweet and dainty looking type of wee fern-like plant, but it has lilac flowers, which has very happily set up home in lots of the abbey stonework.

Glenluce Abbey

The one below has settled in what must have been a small shuttered window, but the shutter is long gone.
Glenluce Abbey window

And below is a very narrow but tall building which was for the use of the abbot. Inside it’s just one teeny wee room, about five feet wide I think. There must have been two or three storeys to it originally but the floors have gone and the abbott must have used a ladder to get up there as there’s no room for any stairs. The height and narrowness of it makes it look very French to me. Sadly it wasn’t possible to get a photo of the front of that building because of the overhanging trees. It looks perfect to me, it would make a wonderful folly if you were lucky enough to have a big enough garden for it!
GlenluceAbbey

Glenluce Abbey Info Board

Threave Gardens, Dumfries and Galloway

azalea walkway

We visited Threave Gardens during our recent four day trip to Dumfries and Galloway and we got there at the perfect time, just as the rhododendrons and azaleas were looking their best. The nearest town to Threave is Castle Douglas.

azalea walkway

It’s very weird but when I was there I didn’t even notice the electricity wires in this photo, or the shadow, too busy looking at the plants I suppose.
azalea walkway
This was originally a private estate but I believe it is now used as a horticultural training centre and the students have accommodation in what was the estate house – very nice I’m sure. The house is of course in the Scots Baronial style.
Threave House

There’s a wee burn running through the gardens in the Japanese section.
Burn at Threave Gardens
It wouldn’t be a Japanese Garden without a bridge and acers of course.
Japanese Bridge + Pond

Japanese Bridge

And a wee bit of a waterfall too. It was a boiling hot and very bright day, in fact too bright – not that I’m moaning.
cascade at Threave Gardens

If you’re into gardening you should definitely visit Threave. They have a great plant nursery there with lots of plant varieties that feature in the gardens for sale, so of course I just had to purchase some. In my experience it’s rare to be able to buy plants that you’ve actually seen growing in gardens like this one and it drives me nuts that they don’t bother to make the most of the commercial possibilities. Whoever runs Threave has got it right!

I took lots more photos but I’ll save the rest for another time.

Logan Botanic Garden, Dumfries and Galloway

Australasian area

For years I’ve been reading about Logan Botanic Garden in Dumfries and Galloway, that part of Scotland has a milder climate than the rest of the country, being in the south west the weather is most influenced by the Gulf Stream so is usually frost free, hence tree ferns can safely be grown there as you can see. I must admit that they’re not my favourite sort of plants but there were plenty of others to admire.

Australasian area

Logan Botanic Gardens

The Mecanopsis obviously enjoy the growing conditions there. This must be the most often manslaughtered plant in the UK. I’ve tried it several times in various gardens and I’m trying it yet again, so far so good although it hasn’t flowered yet.
Meconopsis

There was a shy and retiring big orange bird wandering about in the Australasian section, I hope there are more of its kind to keep it company.
Orange Bird

You might find it hard to believe but neither of us had seen newts before, this pond was full of them.
Newts

Newts

These ‘palm’ trees are often grown in coastal places around Scotland but they’re usually a lot more scruffy looking.
Palms

It seems that wherever you wander in Scotland there’s a castle or tower ruin nearby and the same goes for Logan Botanic Garden which has Balzieland Castle in the middle of it, it isn’t open to the public but if you’re interested in its history have a look here..

Old Tower Castle Balzieland

It was a gorgeous afternoon and I had a lovely time but I must admit that I much prefer native plants to exotic plants which are quite likely to need mollycoddling to get through the winter, although maybe that’s not really necessary at this location.

Orchardton Tower, Dumfries and Galloway

Orchardton Tower

Orchardton Tower is apparently the only one of its kind in Scotland and it dates from the 1400s. It’s unusual as it’s a free-standing round tower, built as a fortified home for John Cairns, a nobleman who had it built over 200 years after this design went out of fashion.

I can’t say that I blame him for that as it’s a really elegant design and is in a beautiful location. I think in its heyday it must have been a lovely house to live in. The kitchens and servants quarters must have been in the part which is detached and now just a ruin.

The photo below is of a piscina, a niche where bowls could be washed, they’re more often located in abbeys and cathedrals, to rinse the sacramental vessels.

Piscina
All of the interior floors are long gone.

Orchardton Tower Interior
But there is a spiral staircase right to the top of the tower, it’s a long way down!
As you can see in the photo below there’s a cute wee ‘house’ at the top of the staircase leading onto the roof.

Orchardton Tower Summit

Orchardton Tower Interior

A view from the top of the tower.
View from Tower  Summit

The very slim one track road with passing places that leads to the tower is quite nerve wracking on a bright early summer day, so I can’t imagine how awful it must be in the winter, but there is at least one house close by. I imagine that the view from their house compensates for any disadvantages of living there. I must admit that I love that tower and location.

View from  Orchardton Tower  Summit 2

Dundrennan Abbey, Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland

We visited Dundrennan Abbey last week. It’s a ruin now unsurprisingly as building here began in 1162, it was a Cistercian Abbey. If you visit the abbey keep your fingers crossed that you get Glyn as your guide as his knowledge and enthusiasm for the subject are something to witness.
Dundrennan Abbey
The abbey is of course a ruin now as it was abandoned as a church centuries ago. This is where Mary Queen of Scots spent her last hours on Scottish soil before she was taken to Workington, probably by the tide, where she was made prisoner by the English to begin what turned out to be 18 years of incarceration before her execution and martyrdom (if you are of the Roman Cathoic faith).
Dundrennan Abbey

She rode here from Langside in Glasgow where the last battle was fought and lost by her troops. Almost certainly she didn’t go straight to the Abbey as that would have been too obvious a destination for her pursuers. It’s thought that she went to a house in the forests nearby (according to local history) but after a few days she left that place and spent the night in the Abbey’s commendator’s house. Was she waiting for a ship to take her to France and safety? Ships sailed almost right up to the abbey from the Solway Firth in those days. She was probably trying to make up her mind where to go, she would have realised that her presence in France wouldn’t have been welcome. They wanted rid of her immediately after her husband the Dauphin died. Perhaps Spain would welcome her. We’ll never know as spies had tracked her movements and the rest is history.

Below is a photo of storage areas, housing mainly bits of stone carving now but the site of the building where she stayed.
Dundrennan Abbey

I was interested to read that one of the gravestones here refers to a knight called Livingstone of Culter. Dorothy Dunnett’s Lymond Chronicles are set around the Scottish Borderlands and of course she used the place name Culter although she didn’t base the Lymonds/Crawfords on any particular people apparently.
Dundrennan Abbey Carved Stone info board

Dundrennan Abbey ,Carved Figure

Dundrennan Abbey