St Andrews, Fife, Scotland

St Andrews, Fife, Shore and Castle

St Andrews in Fife is one of my favourite places to visit, but because of the lockdown we hadn’t been there for months, actually possibly we hadn’t been there at all this year. So on Saturday we took the opportunity to pay the town a visit. It was a bit daft doing it on a Saturday as it was bound to be busy but we were visiting family further along the coast so we killed two birds with one stone.

It looks a bit grey and cool but it was really quite a hot day, by Scottish standards. The queue for the ice cream shop was too long for us to stand in. The beach was packed, but we just sat on a bench (wearing our masks) and didn’t bother going on to the sands, we just people and dog watched, the dogs were more entertaining, chasing the waves.

St Andrews, sea, Fife

It was strange to see the gates around the cathedral closeed and padlocked, I had to tale photos through the railings.

St Andrews Cathedra, Fife, Scotland

St Andrews Cathedral, Fife, Scotland

St Andrews Cathedral, Fife, Scotland

The archway below is over the road that leads down to the beach, down a steep road. If you want to read a bit more about the town then have a look here, there are some great photos.
St Andrews Archway, Fife, Scotland

Armchair Travelling – Lindisfarne / Holy Island, near Berwick on Tweed – part 2

If you are visiting Lindisfarne Castle you should be warned that you have to be fairly fit to get up to it, there’s a very steep hill and the pathway has been made with rounded cobblestones which aren’t that easy to walk on, even if you’re wearing trainers or completely flat shoes. The priory is much easier to get around though, and that bit interested me most – I do love a good ruin.

Lindisfarne Priory, Holy Island, National Trust

These ruins date from the 12th century and they are looked after by English Heritage.
Strangely the graveyard seems still to be in use with some fairly modern headstones, presumably the villagers can be buried there.

Lindisfarne Priory, Holy Island, National Trust

Irish monks settled on Lindisfarne in AD 635 which is the time of the Northumbrian king Oswald. He asked a monk from the Scottish island of Iona to settle at Lindisfarne and founded the monastery. In the 670s Cuthbert went there as a monk and he eventually became the most important saint in northern England.

Lindisfarne Priory,Holy Island, National Trust

Lindisfarne became an important centre of Christian learning, but where there was Christianity there was silver and gold – those pilgrims have always meant good business for churches, so the Vikings were drawn to such places for the easy pickings. On the 8th of June 793 the Vikings made a raid on the island, the first of such in western Europe but certainly not the last.

Lindisfarne Priory, Holy Island, English Heritage

It was murder and mayhem and Saint Cuthbert hadn’t helped them so it was psycholgiclly devastating to the believers and most of the survivors ended up leaving Lindisfarne, taking Cuthbert’s body with them and settling inland. The modern sculpture below is of Saint Cuthbert, it’s not really to my taste.

Lindisfarne Priory,St Cuthbert

You might have heard of the Lindisfarne Gospels – an illuminated book of the four gospels which was created on Lindisfarne around the year AD 700. If you click the link and then click on the image you can see 21 photos of some of the pages.

Lindisfarne Priory, Holy Island, English Heritage

I really enjoyed seeing the ruins, it’s quite easy to imagine how it must have been in its glory – and the visitations of the Vikings too!

Armchair Travelling – Lindisfarne / Holy Island, near Berwick on Tweed

Lindisfarne Castle, Holy Island

We had wanted to visit Lindisfarne/Holy Island near Berwick-upon-Tweed for decades and often drove past it on our many journeys up and down the UK – but the tide never seemed to be right for us and we feared getting stranded on the island. But last year we planned it all out, looking up the tides so that we would have plenty of time to investigate the place. We parked the car, along with many others, it was a really bright and hot day and walked around the small village, it must be strange to live there I think. We walked along the road heading for Lindisfarne Castle which is very historic and ancient, dating from at least 1550 but in the Edwardian era it got a make-over by the famous architect/designer Sir Edwin Lutyens so it’s now a mish-mash of ancient and not so ancient. In 1901 the castle was bought by Edward Hudson who was a publishing magnate and owned the magazine Country Life. I believe it had a reputation in those days as a party destination for the very well-heeled. Now it is owned by the National Trust

Lindisfarne Castle, Holy Island, National Trust

In the photo above you can see people walking along the road towards the castle. This is still a place of pilgrimage for some Christians, and they tend to walk barefoot over the sand/mud across to the island to emulate the pilgrims of previous centuries.

This is the modern entrance to the castle.

Lindisfarne Castle, National Trust

For some reason there is a model ship hanging from the ceiling in one of the rooms, it makes a change from Airfix aeroplanes I suppose! It’s a lovely model anyway.

Lindisfarne Castle, (ship)

Every castle needs a kitchen, I’d quite happily settle down in this one, although I imagine the cooking range would be a bit of a nightmare to control.

Castle Fireplace, Lindisfarne, Holy Island

Speaking of settling, what do you think of this settle by the range? Just add a few cushions and I think it would be a lovely cosy place to sit and pass the time knitting, the very high back would certainly keep any draughts at bay.

Lindisfarne Castle Settle, Holy Island, National Trust

This dresser completes the kitchen. There’s plenty of storage space I suppose for dishes, pans and utensils in the end cupboards.

Lindisfarne Castle cupboard, Holy Island, National Trust

It all looks very peaceful now but you can read more about the violent history of the castle here. Viking raids and all.

My garden in Fife, Scotland

Last week we had a couple of lovely blue sky sunny and hot days – hot by our standards anyway. Then of course the thunder and monsoon-like rain followed, and it’s still with us, well maybe not quite monsoon proportions but very damp indeed. I knew we would pay for all that gorgeous sunshine we had back in May!

my garden, Fife

But while the sun shone I took a few photos of my garden. Actually it looks a bit different now as it has been tidied up or redded up as we sometimes say in Scotland. I had to wait for my brown garden waste bin to be emptied as it was stuffed to the gunnels.

my garden

I got quite excited when I got an email from the Scottish National Trust telling me that some of their gardens will be opening on Friday. After the long Covid-19 lockdown a historic garden visit sounded perfect to me, especially as we’ve only been allowed to travel no further than 5 miles, unless it’s for essential shopping such as for food. The garden at nearby Falkland Palace or even Branklyn in Perth beckoned to me in my mind, but having seen the weather forecast for Friday I doubt if a garden visit will be on the cards. I live in hope!

my garden, Fife

Tynemouth Castle and Priory, Tynemouth, Tyne and Wear

I can hardly believe it, but way back in December 2019 we visited some friends down in Sunderland, the north-east of England, and while there we went to see Tynemouth Castle and Priory, we had never been there before. December seems a strange time to be taking a longish trip ‘down south’ but it was a very mild winter.

Tynemouth  Castle

Tynemouth  Castle  and Priory, Tynemouth, Tyne and Wear

The castle is a ruin but the priory part is quite well preserved. If you are interested you can read about the history of the place here. This was one of the many religious places that were suppressed by Henry VIII during his Anne Boleyn phase.
Tynemouth  Castle, Tynemoth, Tyne and Wear

Tynemouth  Castle, stained glass, Tynemouth, Tyne and Wear

As usual a lot of the stonework would have been re-used in local buildings after the priests and monks were driven off. Then the area was heavily fortified, something which continued for years because of the strategic position overlooking the River Tyne and in the photo below you can see the remains of the gun emplacements from the Second World War
Tynemouth  Castle, Tyne and Wear

The earliest settlement here dates from the Iron Age 800 BC – AD 43, but the ruins that we can see today date from 1090.

Tynemouth  Castle, Tynemouth, Tyne and Wear

It’s an interesting place to visit and if you happen to be there at a weekend then it’s worthwhile having a look at the market which is situated at the railway station. There are all sorts of stalls and Jack and I managed to find some books worth buying – and I couldn’t resist buying some old glass bottles, Veno’s cough mixture and such, they wash up on the beaches around the area apparently.

Tynemouth  Castle entrance,Tyne and Wear,

Beamish Folk Museum, County Durham, England

We are members of lots of arty and historical organisations such as the National Trust, Scottish Heritage, Friends of the Edinburgh Galleries and such AND we got annual passes to Beamish folk museum when we visited there last year, it’s situated near Stanley in County Durham. We were sure we would go back as we had such a good time there but we didn’t manage to get there as planned at Christmas and after the winter it didn’t open because of the Covid-19 situation of course. Anyway it turns out that I didn’t blog about it although I could have sworn that I did. Here are some of the photos I took. In the beginning Beamish was just farmland, you can read about the history of the place here. The buildings have all been moved to the site brick by brick and stone by stone to be saved for posterity rather than being demolished.

Beamish, Church + from waggonway

There are all sorts of buildings there, below is Pockersley Hall which has a lovely chocolate box garden.

Pockersley Hall, Beamish, County Durham, folk museum

A teeny wee thatched cottage, this photo was taken from an ancient steam train as we were riding on it.

thatched cottage, Beamish from waggonway

And this is the train we were on, I remember seeing illustrations of a train like this one when I was ‘doing’ the Industrial Revolution at school, I never thought I’d actually have a trip on one!

Puffing Billy and train, Beamish, County Durham

You can go inside all the buildings, a few of them I would quite happily have lived in.

Farm terrace, Beamish, County Durham

Volunteers are on hand, living the life, rolling out pastry or whatever and answering questions.

1930s fireplace, Beamish, County Durham

Actually it all seemed very homely to me as most of the ‘stuff’ was very similar to the furniture that we had had to get rid of when we downsized to a more modern and manageable house – all of six years ago now. I looked at a Victorian bed chest and could have sworn it had been ours! And the gate below is exactly the same as the back gate of the 1930s house that I grew up in, except ours was in better condition and painted rural green.

1930s gate, Beamish, County Durham, folk museum

1930s chairs, Beamish, County Durham, folk museum

Do you remember those halcyon days when we didn’t have to worry about crowds and social distancing? Below is the queue for the working bakery at Beamish but we didn’t bother to join the queue, it looked like they might run out of stuff to sell anyway! I was really taking the photo of the lovely Edwardian?Victorian window. There’s also an old sweetie shop selling authentic sweets, we DID queue up for that one. Indian Limes anyone? They were delicious.

Beamish, Edwardian  windows,

We hope we’ll be able to visit again – sometime.

Pockersley Hall from road, Beamish, folk museum, County Durham

Balbirnie, Fife

In normal times (remember them?) we would have done quite a bit of travelling around by this time of the year, but we haven’t been further than seven miles from home for over three months now, and that trip was just to buy some tools so that Jack could do some emergency plumbing himself. He earned many Brownie points! Eventually. Anyway, I’ve been doing a lot of reading and walking locally so here we go on another local walk in rural Fife.

The photos were taken in late May when the bluebells were out, but they are really just a haze.

bluebells, Balbirnie, Fife

bluebells , Balbirnie, Fife

bluebells, Japanese maples

It’s quite well known for rhododendrons.

Balbirnie, Rhododendron

But the one below is a mystery to me, very pretty though.

Balbirnie shrub

Balbirnie,  trees

I love that the shattered tree below is determined to hang on to life years after most of it crashed to the ground in a storm.

Broken Tree, Balbirnie

This land which used to belong to the Balfour family, related to the Arthur Balfour who was a British Prime Minister in the early 1900s is now owned by the local council and this year instead of mowing all the grass they are just cutting paths through it. Obviously this is a cost cutting exercise but it’s also great for the wildlife and plants, and very scenic I think. Tomorrow Nicola Sturgeon will hold her usual 12.30 news Covid-19 update, maybe we’ll be allowed to travel more than five miles from home – you never know your luck!

Balbirnie  vista, Fife

Largo’s Untold Stories by Leonard Low

Largo

Largo’s Untold Stories by Leonard Low is an interesting read. The author doesn’t stick rigidly to writing about the little coastal village of Largo in east Fife. I was very interested to read that there had been a big battle between the Romans and the Pictish tribes at the base of the Lomond Hills in Fife not far from where I live. If you live in the area or you intend to visit the ‘East Neuk’ it would be a good idea to read a book like this first.

Mind you given that some of the history features ‘witch’ burning and torturing I must admit that walking along Largo beach won’t ever be quite the same for me as it was the scene of some horrific acts carried out by jealous and crazed villagers.

He also writes about the real Robinson Crusoe (Alexander Selkirk) who came from Largo and about starvation and cannibalism on an expedition in search of the North West Passage which had links to the area.

Lots of stone cist burials have been found locally dating from the 420s AD and some earlier. The first one found was a woman who had been buried in a sitting position. Over the years jewellery has been found when major works have been taking place, such as the building of the railway line when two gold torques were discovered. The Pictish tribes buried their valuables before going to war.

Archaeologically, historically and geologically it’s a very interesting place.

If you are interested in seeing what the area looks like have a look at some images here.

Balbirnie Woodland Walk

It’s time for another wee walk in the Balbirnie Estate, Fife – socially distanced of course!

Balbirnie Path and burn

The burn (stream) in the photos is variously called Balbirnie Burn or the Back Burn. It’s a lovely thing but quite devoid of wildlife. The problem apparently is that there is too much sediment in it and not enough gravel for fish to lay eggs in. There was going to be a project to try to rectify that problem, but that may be on the back burner now due to all the costs of the lockdown to the local council.

Balbirnie Path and burn, Markinch, Fife

Like many old estates this place was well known for rhododendrons, there was a bit of a craze for them in Victorian times and Balbirnie has some unusual and very old specimens.

Balbirnie Path and rhoddies

Strangely the reddest rhoddies seem to bloom first, but I prefer the paler colours.

Balbirnie Path and rhoddies, Markinch, Fife

Balbirnie Path and rhoddies

The ferns below must be the most elegant variety growing in the UK. There are big pockets of these ones around the woodland in Balbirnie, I think they’re called shuttlecock ferns.

Ferns Balbirnie Park, ferns, Markinch, Fife

Ferns, Balbirnie, Fife

There was a tall cherry tree still in blossom. It’s a shame that it never gets warm enough here for the fruits to ripen properly.

Blossoming Trees, Balbirnie, Fife

Rhoddy flower, Balbirnie

Walking in a big loop we reached the ‘big hoose’ again and as the hotel is closed for the duration, like everywhere else we slipped through the gardens and I took a photo of the small Magnolia below, I believe the variety is stellata but the photo isn’t as good as I hoped it would be so it’s not that clear.

Magnolia (stellata)

I hope you enjoyed your walk in the woodlands. It wasn’t as empty of people as you might imagine. We had never seen it busier; usually we have almost the whole place to ourselves but people who never before exercised aroud this area are now making good use of the place. There was even an ex-leader of the Scottish Labour Party out and about.

75th Anniversary Victory Day

This time last year we were in Russia, a place that I never really believed that I would ever visit, sadly we got there two days after their huge victory celebrations commemorating the end of World War 2, but the banners were still decorating the streets.

1941-1945 banner

The Russians commemorate The Great Patriotic War – as they name World War 2 – on the 9th of May so I thought I would do this post of the memorials in St Petersburg, mainly because I really dislike the way the Russian war effort is overlooked by the rest of the allies. Without Russian people’s efforts and sacrifices, we would all be speaking German.

There is a memorial garden just off Nevsky Prospekt where I took this photo of the VICTORY hedge plus Red Star.

Victory

Below I’m just reposting what I blogged last year about what is the Leningrad Hero City Obelisk installed on the 40th anniversary of the war’s end.

WW2 Monument, St Petersburg, Russia

Over the last couple of days we’ve had the commemorations of the D-Day landings which were attended by the leaders of the allies and also by the German leader, Angela Merkel. But there was apparently no invite for President Putin, despite the fact that they were definitely our allies and if Hitler hadn’t taken on more than he could handle when he attacked Russia it’s almost certain that we would all be speaking German now. It was a close run thing.

I’m definitely not a fan of Putin, but given the fact that the Soviets lost more people in the war than anyone else, it seems mean and petty to leave them out of the memorial services. So I thought I’d show you a couple of photos of the War Memorial at the top of Nevsky Prospekt which is St Petersburg’s equivalent of Paris’s Champs Elysees or Glasgow’s Sauchiehall Street.

WW2 Monument, St Petersburg, Russia