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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
On December the 8th we went to the Bowhouse Market which is held in barns on a farm between Crail and St Monans. I think Bowhouse (Bauhaus) is a pun on the owner’s name which is I think Bowie. For some reason there were alpacas there, I don’t think they’re particularly festive but they were very cute.
I got the distinct impression that the alpacas thought we were very strange beings – don’t look at them those two said as they turned their backs on us.
After buying some lovely food and drink at the market we drove home admiring a gorgeous sunset which of course the camera didn’t do justice.
It’s obviously a rural part of the county and the road back home is quite a narrow one.
These houses will have a great view over the Firth of Forth, a sea view seems to be very popular with so many people, and I’m sure it adds lots of value to a house, but I must say I prefer the soft green of hills and field. It probably depends on what you grew up looking at as a youngster. What about you – are you a sea view sort of a person, a hills and meadows fan or do you prefer the bustle of a city and all the culture and conveniences that that brings with it?
Yesterday afternoon we did something a bit different from usual – we went to the local flicks. There’s rarely anything on that we want to watch because most of the films nowadays seem to be of no interest to us at all, I suppose they’re ‘action’ films – or shoot-emups. Just watching the trailers for them is like a punishment to me as the sound is so loud, the sound effect guys really let rip!
Anyway, I saw an advert on TV for The Favourite, I’m fairly sure it was billed as a comedy but there isn’t really much in the way of comedy in it – a few sarcastic quips which at a stretch (and if they’re not aimed at you) could be deemed to be funny I suppose.
It’s about time that Queen Anne had some attention to her, it makes a nice change from Victoria anyway, she had such a sad life though and The Favourite is set towards the end of her life when she was beset by ill health. Just about the only thing that most of us know about Queen Anne is that she ‘lost’ seventeen children, either from miscarriage, still birth or disease. When you think about that then it’s amazing that she survived as long as she did – and wasn’t completely off her head. I lost one child through miscarriage and that was bad enough I can tell you.
Anyway – back to the film: Sarah Churchill, The Duchess of Marlborough is Queen Anne’s closest friend/secret lover, but Sarah is really ruling the roost as Queen Anne isn’t up to the job, she’s too ill. It’s Sarah who plots with politicians to take the country into war, a war which is being waged by Sarah’s husband, it was the making of him financially.
Sarah’s pretty young cousin Abigail turns up at the palace looking for work and protection, Abigail’s abusive father had gambled her away when she was just fifteen, life has been more than tough for her but Sarah sets her to work as a scullery maid. But Abigail knows about herbs and manages to soothe the sores on the queen’s legs, and so begins the rivalry between the two cousins for the Queen’s affection.
Money is needed for the war and it’s proposed that land tax will be doubled, Anne doesn’t want to be at war with France, she’s only really happy when she’s with her seventeen rabbits, one for every child she lost, named after each dead child. I found it to be terribly sad, but as ever Olivia Colman, who plays Queen Anne was great in the role, she really is very versatile in so many different parts.
Although I mainly enjoyed the film there were a few things that annoyed me – as often happens nowadays the diction of the actors just isn’t clear enough, there were quite a few instances when I hadn’t a clue what was being said. At one point , just after Queen Anne slapped Sarah Churchill I’m sure that Sarah said “It’s okay” If she did say that it is completely wrong. I think there were quite a few speech incongruities like that. When you think of all the money and care put into getting the settings, costumes and make-up correct, modern dialogue should be a simple thing to avoid. For me the ending was too abrupt.
Jack noticed that this film was made by Film 4 – if we had waited six months or so we would have been able to see it on that TV channel – oh well, you see it all in far better detail on the big screen.
If you are interested in her history you can read more about Queen Anne here. She was the last of the Stuart monarchs.
When we were up in Aberdeenshire a few weeks ago we perused the map and I noticed that there were standing stones marked on it, very close to where we were based. I can’t resist standing stones or stone circles – so off we went to find the Aquhorthies Stone Circle.
Aquhorthies Stone Circle isn’t right by the roadside as many are, but there’s a small car park close by and from there we walked the 400 metres or so to the field with the stones. They’re quite impressive, not on the same scale as the ones in Orkney but still very good.
It’s thought that these stones were an aid to farming, with the moon being a guide to the ancient farmers, telling them when it was a good time to plant their seeds. However, I think that’s just one of many theories over the years. I’m fairly sure that the Victorians would have looked at that massive recumbent stone and said – aha, that’s obviously a sacrificial altar stone.
As you can see from the tractor in thhe background this region is still a farming area.
Whenever I visit standing stones I can’t resist patting them, but as yet I’ve never had anythig close to an Outlander moment, although some of them definitely do seem to hum and buzz, and they’re all incredibly atmospheric.
And – no I haven’t a clue how Aquhorthies should be pronounced!
Way back in June we visited Balgonie Castle for the first time. The local history group was having its last talk of the season before breaking up for the summer, and that talk is always at the castle apparently.
It’s a wee bit touristy for my liking but as you can see by one of the signs on this door it has been used as a film location for Outlander – as has just about everywhere that we’ve visited recently! Balgonie Castle is over 700 years old.
The owners do live in the castle and it’s a popular venue for weddings, but quite a lot of it is a ruin.
It all adds to the atmosphere I suppose.
I have to say that I’m quite glad I don’t live in a castle, it was freezing inside although it was a lovely mild June evening.
The history talk was about William Wallace, quite interesting but when you get right down to it – there’s very little known about him.
Apparently Balgonie Castle was used as MacRannoch’s home, where Dougal and the MacKenzies rest ahead of attacking Wentworth Prison. I’m sure I’ve seen that bit but I can’t say I recognised it.
You can read more about the castle here and see more photos, particularly of the inside of the chapel which we didn’t take any photos of.
Although the address of the Backhouse Rossie Estate is given as Collessie it’s actually on the road to Auchtermuchty. In the past the estate was famous for daffodils, something to remember in the spring as I’m sure they’ll have a good show of them.
I have to say that I was most impressed with the design and planting at Backhouse Rossie. I love walled gardens, they always feel so comfortable and safe and although I adore historical places I was pleased to see that there are some beautiful modern and thoughtful designs incorporated in the gardens.
The display of plants in pots is a similar idea to the Auricula ‘theatres’ that were popular in the past, especially with the French Huguenots who came to Britain in the 16th century to escape persecution from the French Catholics.
The ‘DNA’ path below leads to a modern sculpture.
The DNA Path from the side, as you can see climbing roses have been trained over the path, but we were just too late to catch them in bloom. This year the roses have come and gone very quickly due to the unusual hot weather. I live in hope of another flush of blooms soon though.
Below is an old gateway leading out of the walled garden.
It was such a sunny, hot day that I really needed a bit of a sit down, but all of the benches were in bright sunshine, so after looking around all of the garden areas we decided to have a walk in the surrounding woodland.
We walked there via the orchard and the apples have a decent crop on them this year.
Somewhere in woodland there was an old tomb to visit, and I can rarely resist a ruin. So we followed the path to the tomb.
As you can see there’s not much left of it now. You can read about the Covenanters here.
The estate is surrounded by farmland and these young bullocks were interested to see us emerging from the woodland. Actually they were very placid, which is not my usual experience of bullocks, so perhaps these ones have been ‘done’.
There’s a wee putting green which is nicely situated with a good view of the East Lomond hill in the distance.
That’s more or less the view that the owners must have from their house below, but that isn’t open to the public.
If you’re interested in gardening, or just having lovely walks and a change of scenery then this is a lovely place to visit. You can read more about it here.
The day after we inadvertently visited the lovely wee village of Collessie we managed to find Backhouse Rossie Estate. It was a gloriously sunny day, but dare I say it – too hot! The gardens are wonderful, the only downside being that we were there just after the climbing roses had finished, I must remember to go earlier next year. The estate is actually on the road to the small town of Auchtermuchty – yes that IS a real place name.
As you can see, there’s woodland beyond the walled garden. We did go for a walk there, mainly to get into some shade.
This fountain is one of the more traditional water features.
There’s a rill leading to a pond.
You can’t really see it in the photo below but the rill is filled by the water which bubbles up from this stylish sculpture.
The photo below is of the East Lomond hill, a view over the garden fence, not a bad setting for an estate.
I took lots of photos so there’ll probably be a couple more blogposts about this lovely estate garden.
One day last month we visited The National Museum of Flight at East Fortune airfield in North Berwick for the first time. It’s a great place, there’s so much to see, including an actual Concorde!
Quite a lot of the original buildings are still in existence, during both world wars this place was bustling with activity, and had thousands of men and women from many various countries stationed here. It’s obviously on a large rural site and the closest town is North Berwick, not that that is exactly a metropolis.
Below is a photo of the control tower.
There’s a good mixture of civilian and military aeroplanes, below is a Hawker Harrier jet.
A Messerschmidt Komet.
A New Zealand War Memorial.
An ejector seat from the 1960s.
And beside it is displayed this actual World War 1 Sopwith Camel seat which is made of wickerwork and looks like a cut down garden chair.
We had to visit the cafe of course and it’s decorated with lots of stylish replica posters. I had hoped that they would have some for sale in the shop but of course they didn’t. The poster below is displayed in the museum, from the days when air displays were all the rage, this one took place not that far from where I live.
I took lots of photos, next time I’ll show some of the civilian aircraft – including Concorde.
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.
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.
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.
Below is a close up of some thatch and a wee keek at a back garden.
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.
Below is thatch and the more traditional slate roof which must be a Victorian addition I think.
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.
Luckily there’s an information board on the stone wall.
And below is the tomb from the other side – within the churchyard.
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!