Melrose Abbey – part 2

I took a lot of photos when we visited Melrose Abbey in the Scottish Borders, so I thought I might as well do another post about it.
This finial is on the roof, you have to trek up a lot of stairs to get this photo.
Melrose Abbey Finial

The grave markers below are really part of the inner walls, I suppose it was only very wealthy people who could afford to be buried there and if any other members of the family want to be laid to rest there then the paving slabs beneath can be lifted to slot them in.
Melrose Abbey Grave Marker
A lot of the stonework has been eroded by the weather but you can still get an idea of the original decoration.
Melrose Abbey Doorway
The abbey must have been split up into different chapels in parts as there are several of these piscinae (wee alcoves) which were where the water was kept for the priests to wash their hands.
Abbey Piscinae, Melrose Abbey

The photo below is from the highest point of the roof.
Melrose Abbey Roof
It’s definitely not for people who suffer from vertigo!
Melrose Abbey roof

I find that I get dizzier if I’m on the ground looking up though. Hundreds of years ago some religious fanatics climbed this building to knock hell out of the carved images of saints which they objected to, it looks like some of them more or less survived, maybe those ones were just too difficult to reach.
Melrose Abbey Saints' Niches
In its heyday this abbey must have been a vast complex, far more of it is just ruins in outline, presumably the stones were carried away for house building at some point.
Melrose Abbey Grounds , Scottish Borders

Melrose Abbey Grounds , Scottish Borders

If you happen to be in the Melrose area it’s a good idea to fit in a visit to Sir Walter Scott’s home – Abbotsford, which is not far from here.

As you can see we were very lucky with the weather, it was the last warm day of what has been a great summmer or should I say autumn as these photos were taken towards the end of October.

Melrose Abbey, Scottish Border

On the same day that we visited Abbotsford we managed to squeeze in a visit to the nearby town of Melrose, mainly to have a look at Melrose Abbey. As you can see – it’s another ruin.

Melrose Abbey Information Board

It was King David I who in 1136 asked Cistercian monks to found an abbey in Melrose.

Melrose Abbey

Melrose Abbey

Melrose Abbey

Between Jack and myself we took loads of photos of the abbey and its surroundings.

Melrose Abbey

Melrose Abbey Bell

One of the information boards told us to look out for the carving of a pig playing the bagpipes, and we found it, we had to hike up 72 steep and narrow steps of a spiral staircase to reach the very top of the abbey, and from there you can look down on the pig. Whoever designed the place had a sense of humour anyway.

Melrose Abbey Decoration  pig

As this abbey is situated in the Scottish Borders it got more than its fair share of attention from English invaders, including Edward II’s army and later Richard II’s army. Then Henry VIII had a go at it; given all that – it’s surprising there’s anything left of it at all!

Abbotsford’s gardens

Abbotsford Information Board

Abbotsford Stitch

Looking towards the front of Sir Walter Scott’s Abbotsford the photo below is what you see to the right hand side of it.

Abbotsford Garden
The photo below is of the same piece of garden ground but this time viewed from his study.
Abbotsford Garden from Study

There was still quite a lot of colour around although most of the roses were over, next time we’ll visit in the summertime.
Abbotsford Walled Garden, Sir Walter Scott, 1
Abbotsford Walled Garden, Sir Walter Scott 2

Below is an elegant sheltered spot to sit in within the walled garden, but the day we were there was hot, very hot for October and as you can see it was very sunny.
Abbotsford Walled Garden

Abbotsford Walled Garden,Sir Walter Scott

In the distance you can see that the blue delphiniums were still going strong.
Abbotsford Walled Garden,Sir Walter Scott 6

Abbotsford Walled Garden Information Board

Abbotsford – the library

Abbotsford Library Ceiling 2

Abbotsford Library Ceiling

Back to Sir Walter Scott’s Abbotsford, the ceilings are all very ornate, and each one very different. The photos above are of the ceiling in his library, the second photo is of the ceiling above the window alcove in the photo below, in reality it isn’t as dark as it looks in the photo.

Abbotsford Library Window

The books are all held prisoner behind grating which I can understand as I’m sure some people would haul them out by the spine if they were loose on the shelves.
Abbotsford Library

Abbotsford Library

Below is a view from a library window, it’s at the back of the house and the River Tweed can be seen, but not in this photo.
Abbotsford Library Window

The library is behind one of those windows as this is a view of the back of the house.
Abbotsford Stitch
Below is a view of the front of the house. Abbotsford is quite different from how it looked in Scott’s day, mainly because his son added a large extension to the left of the front door. The downstairs rooms have been left untouched but you can’t go upstairs in Abbotsford, mainly because there’s nothing original to see from Scott’s days there. Scott descendants lived in the house until fairly recently and to them I suppose it was just home.
Abbotsford Stitch

I still have loads more photos of Abbotsford. I’ll get around to them sometime.

Abbotsford, Sir Walter Scott’s Study

We went to Abbotsford one day early last Month, it was the last hot day of the Indian summer, perfect weather for looking around Sir Walter Scott’s home and gardens. Below are some photos of his study which isn’t a huge room but as you can see it’s well designed to hold a lot of books.

Abbotsford Study
There’s a narrow winding staircase leading to the upper storey but there’s a gate closed over it so the public can’t gain access.

Abbotsford Study

His desk and chair look like he has just left the room for a wee while although there is a piece of perspex covering the open drawer.

Abbotsford Study 1

The contents are just as they were when he died, just bits and pieces of this and that.
Abbotsford Study Desk

I’m having terrible trouble getting the photos on this blogpost tonight so I’ll leave it at that for the moment, but I have loads of photos of Abbotsford that you might be interested in seeing – when the technology behaves itself!

Brantwood – John Ruskin’s home at Coniston

Following on from my previous post – below is a side view of John Ruskin’s house Brantwood at Coniston. As you can see it goes quite far back. The rather ugly grey blocks to the right of the photo are now loos but I think originally they were workshops.

Brantwood

I took the photo below so that you could see the view of the lake from it, the room itself is a small museum which features artefacts that Ruskin had collected, especially geological samples, the white object on the table is a huge piece of rock crystal. He seems to have been fond of that as it features in the garden too.
Brantwood
The drawing room is below.
Brantwood

Brantwood

And now a sort of study which has the same wallpaper, I didn’t notice that when we were there!
Brantwood

Brantwood
On to the dining room which is quite sparse looking in the photo below.
Brantwood
But from the other end it’s a bit more homely looking. The portraits are of members of his family.
Brantwood
Below is his bedroom which looks very much like it belongs to a single man but he did marry again eventually. The watercolours on the walls are of landscapes.
Brantwood
Below is a photo of a tiny turret room, really it’s just a bay window off the bedroom but it has a wonderful view of the lake – a favourite spot for Ruskin to sit in I believe.

Brantwood turret
Brantwood  turret room

Looking at the photos now I’m quite confused, mainly due to the same wallpaper featuring in two and possibly three rooms. Were there two pianos in the same room? Possibly there were, I used to have a boudoir grand and an upright in the same room after all – which makes me sound posh I suppose – but I’m not!
Brantwood

Brantwood is in a lovely location and must have been comfortable in its day. John Ruskin was a great champion of the Pre-Raphelite Botherhood of course but there’s not a great deal of evidence of any of their paintings here. Ruskin was definitely not good husband material going by his poor wife Effie’s experiences.

Effie Gray eventually married the artist Millais and they had eight children. Click on the link to read a bit more about the background of the marriage.

Coniston Water and Brantwood

After visiting Grasmere we drove on to Coniston Water on the way to our next overnight stop in Derbyshire. It was a lovely day and thankfully Coniston Water wasn’t nearly as busy as other places in the Lake District – such as Ambleside which always seems to be heaving.

We were making our way to Brantwood which is the lovely house that the writer, art critic, philosopher, philanthropist and environmentalist John Ruskin bought, it is situated high above Coniston Water and these photos were taken from the grounds at the front of the house.

Coniston Water

Coniston Water

Coniston Water

You can see in the photo below that there are lots of wee boats and yachts in the lake. This lake inspired Arthur Ransome to write his Swallows and Amazons series.
Coniston Water

And below is a photo of Brantwood, it has marvelous views of the lake. Ruskin bought this house unseen as he had often holidayed at Coniston and at a time when he was ill he thought that if only he could lie down in the water at Coniston he would get better. It must have worked as he lived here for many years.

Brantwood, Coniston

I suspect that the one thing that everyone knows about John Ruskin is that his wife had to go to court to get an annulment for non-consummation of the marriage. That harmed his reputation for a long time but that was just a small part of a long life which included many interests. He was interested in educating ordinary working people, at this time education in England was in a very poor state compared with in Scotland. He was involved with progressive schools for girls, and he also set up workshops that trained and employed people who would probably otherwise be unemployed and destitute.

I’ll show you some photos of the inside of the house soon.

Around Grasmere, Lake District

The photos below are of the view we had from the window of our hotel room just outside Grasmere in the Lake District. I took these ones in the morning, but I was so annoyed when I looked out of it because when we arrived the night before it had been full of unusual grey fleeced sheep, and I didn’t take a photo of them as I thought the light wasn’t good enough.

farmland, outside Grasmere
I’m not great at getting to sleep when I’m away from home and I wasn’t helped by the sound of an owl hoo-oo-ooting. It must have been sitting on the roof directly above our bed, but it sounded like it was sitting on the bedhead, and it was one of those spooky sounding owls. It went on for quite a while only stopping now and again when I imagine it must have flown off on a hunting expedition, before alighting above us again. It was definitely a different experience.
farmland, Grasmere

Very early in the morning I had been woken up by some dogs barking outside and I did think in a woolly way that they must have been sheep dogs and my brain just didn’t click to the fact that they were rounding the sheep up, taking them to new pastures – I hope.

The view of across the road from the hotel is really quite different as you can see.
hills outside Grasmere
It’s much more mountainous although maybe I should say craggy as by Scottish standards these are really just hills. I love the stone built farm buildings they have in this area.
scenery outside Grasmere
The Lake District does seem a bit like a mini Scotland – with loads more tourists. It’s not really that far from the ‘debatable lands’ of the Scottish Borders which were always being fought over.
hills outside Grasmere

I took some photos of the types of houses that are in Grasmere. The one below is so wonderfully craggy and solid looking and I’ve never seen chimney stacks like that before. This house is close to Dove Cottage.
House + chimneys

In complete contrast whitewashed houses like the one below always seem quite fragile to me and remind me of iced cakes. I’ll be completely un-pc and say that as I often think of houses as having characters then the top craggy one is definitely male whilst the whitewashed one is veering towards femininity!

typical Lake District house

The burn/stream below edges the graveyard that the Wordsworths are buried in. I did take a photo of the lovely wee bridge over it but sadly it came out all blurred.
Burn, Grasmere

If you want to see more images of the village of Grasmere have a look here.

Dove Cottage, Grasmere, Lake District

Dove Cottage

By the time we reached Grasmere last week dusk was beginning to fall, and as our hotel was a mile or so outside the village we drove into Grasmere and parked outside Dove Cottage, the home of William Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy to begin with and then after he got married they had to eventually squash five kids in there too.

Dove Cottage
When the Wordsworths lived in the cottage there were none of the buildings around it that you see now, and they had an unrestricted view of the lake.

Dove Cottage
I was really glad that we decided to have a snoop around after the cottage was closed as we had it to ourselves and were able to look around the garden in peace.

Dove Cottage
The garden is situated on a sloping site, it’s a bit neglected at the moment, I think they must be in need of some gardening volunteers, it’s a pity I live too far away!
Dove Cottage back garden 1
Steps lead up to what was a favourite spot with Wordsworth, this refurbished summer gazebo.
Dove Cottage back garden 5
Back down close to the cottage some vegetables are being grown in the area where apparently an outhouse had stood in Wordsworth’s day. As it’s only a few steps from the cottage it must have been the earth closet. That would have been particularly handy as originally the cottage had been a pub and William and Dorothy were the first people to live in it as a home.
Dove Cottage side garden 1

It’s a tiny cottage and it’s very dark downstairs and would have been even darker in Wordsworth’s day as the windows have been enlarged since then. We didn’t manage to get any photos of the downstairs but it consists of a small kitchen, a buttery which is a teeny wee room where they stored perishable food and a small living room which must have been used as a bedroom when all the children began to arrive. It feels a lot colder than the kitchen and you can hear the stream which flows underneath it. When it was in use they probably prised one of the slates up from the floor so they could place a container of milk in it to keep it fresh. They must have got their water from there too. There’s a small living room, quite cosy really.

Upstairs there are three small bedrooms. The one below was William’s, it was very cold upstairs as the fireplace couldn’t be used, the room quickly filled with smoke apparently.
William Wordsworth's  bedroom 1
Dorothy chose thie tiny room below. In her day she papered the walls with old newspapers, presumably in an effort to insulate the place. It has been repapered since then but as you can see the damp is coming through badly. There is no fireplace in this room and it is directly above the cold buttery. I can see why she chose it though as it’s at least private, you have to walk through the other bedroom to get into this one.

inside Dove  cottage  Dorothy's

The upstairs sitting room is lovely and bright and the furniture and china did actually belong to the Wordsworths.
inside Dove Cottage  sitting room 1

inside Dove  Cottage sitting room

Normally the cottage housed eight people, the five children, William, Mary his wife, Dorothy his sister and another female relative and Dorothy wrote in her diary that at one point there were fifteen people staying in the house, it’s one way of keeping warm I suppose!

Sir Walter Scott visited them and I can just imagine his astonishment at the size and simplicity of the place. But Wordsworth was very happy here and although they did later move to a house in nearby Rydal, in the end they all came back to Grasmere to be buried.

Wordsworth graves

Wordsworth graves

There are lots of Wordsworths in the graveyard.

The entry charge also includes a visit to the nearby Wordsworth museum which is very interesting and contains a lot of personal things, including Wordsworth’s dental ‘pokey’ things and some of his clothes.

We were really glad that we had visited the exterior of the house earlier as by the time we got there just before the cottage opened in the morning hordes of foreign students turned up just behind us, luckily we managed to get in just before they did, otherwise we couldn’t have taken any photos at all. They were Dutch I think, so surprising as I wouldn’t have thought Wordsworth would be well known there.

Random photos

I must have walked past this window in St Andrews hundreds of times but I only noticed it recently. The buildings are generally very old but this is obviously an Art Nouveau/Arts and Crafts window, somebody did a bit of refurbishment over the years.

Art Nouveau Glass Window

Across the road I noticed the stone owls sitting on the edge of the portico. I think that like many buildings in St Andrews this one is owned by the university, so presumably the owls are symbolic of wisdom and learning.

Owls

It’s rare to see an empty street nowadays, they’re usually full of parked cars on both sides of the street, but on their Open Arts Festival in Cellardyke, a coastal village in Fife, the place was deserted of cars for once. The clutch of red balloons being the only evidence of modernity, denoting where an artist was exhibiting work.
Cellardyke

I took the photo below in the fair city of Perth, the hanging baskets and window boxes were looking so lovely. I think the rather grand looking building was a bank originally – remember them?!
hanging baskets

I have visited the small town of Dunkeld hundreds of times as it’s one of my favourite places, but I had only ever been into the cathedral ruins there. The photo below is of the newer cathedral which is obviously still in use as a place of worship.
Dunkeld Cathedral Stained Glass

The photo below is the view of Dunkeld that you get as you drive over the bridge.
Dunkeld From Bridge over the River Tay

After visiting the cathedral I walked over the bridge to get a photo of the River Tay. I’ve never seen it so low before, there were actually people walking out to the ‘islands’.
River Tay From Bridge at Dunkeld

I bet it was still cold though!