The garden at Edzell Castle dates back to 1604. Apparently Sir David Lindsay wanted the protection that a medieval castle gave him and his family, but he also wanted his children to experience the more beautiful things in life such as this renaissance garden. You can read about it here.
The niches in the walls are normally planted with flowers but due to Covid it hasn’t been done this year, most of the historic places have just reopened to the public, the gardener is also having a tough time with the box hedging which was famous for its intricate topiarised Latin inscriptions, but sadly the box got blight and is nothing like it should be, it is being replanted I think but it’ll be ages before it’s back to its former glory as in the old image below.
The wee house in the next photo is a summerhouse which was used for entertaining in the garden.
The walls have carvings of planetary gods on them and the swallows often nest in the small wall niches, especially the star shaped ones.
There’s a well in a corner of the garden and when I had a look down into it (as you do) I could see that there was no water in it, just some sweetie wrappings deposited there by some ‘charmer’. So that led us to go on a search for the source of the water as you can’t have a castle without a water supply. Presumably there was a burn (stream) which supplied the well in days gone by but it must have been diverted or drained, probably by modern farming. We found the West Water about a mile from the castle, it’s a lovely walk down to the river with fast flowing clear water, but I’ll leave that for another time.
On Monday we visited Edzell Castle which is near Brechin in Angus. It’s the first time we had visited anywhere like that since Covid because they’ve all been shut until recently – and now you have to book a time slot for your visit, so you have to think ahead which isn’t something we normally do much of nowadays. Since retiring we prefer to see what the weather is like and what we feel like and then just visit places on the spur of the moment. In other words, we’re not terribly well organised! We had been to the garden 30 odd years ago, before digital cameras.
The castle was built by the Lindsay family in the 1500s but prior to that they had built a motte and bailey nearby. From the photo below you can see it’s now just a mound in the landscape. It is now owned by Historic Scotland.
Back to Edzell, the doorway below leads into a courtyard and from there you can see the remains of the kitchen and you can get upstairs via a modern wooden staircase.
But there’s also an ancient staircase, just mind your ‘heid’ as the lintels are very low!
The photo of the archway below is all that remains of the collapsed oven, it was quite a size.
In the photo below you can just catch a glimpse of the garden which is well known for it’s unusual and beautiful design, but I’ll blog about that tomorrow.
Just for a change – and a bit more exercise – one morning last week we walked the long way back home after picking up The Guardian from the shop. It was a quieter walk than usual. Join me for a wee ‘daunder’.
I think the photo below is of a Russian Vine or ‘mile a minute’ which is its common name, it does grow incredibly fast.
We chose the path that leads past the old stable block which has been converted into flats, the building looks quite smart at the moment I think – both halves of it.
Taking a steep path we could look down on some of the trees, it was a really hot day – by our standards, so it wasn’t a comfy climb.
As we drew closer to Balbirnie House Hotel we could hear a piper doing his thing, but surprisingly there was no red carpet so presumably there was no wedding, maybe he was just practising.
Today we heard a piper and Jack spotted him standing underneath trees at the back of the hotel, sort of surreptitiously. I had to laugh as there’s just no way you can play the bagpipes by stealth!
Earlier this month, when the weather wasn’t so good we had some time to kill before going into Edinburgh so we decided to visit Redhouse Castle. I had heard of a plant nursery that was right by the castle and had wanted to go there for ages. On the way there the rain got heavier and heavier, the road was flooding in places but we drove on – after all, we’re not made of sugar – and we found the nursery with the ruins of Redhouse Castle by the side of it. It’s a four storey tower house which was built in the 16th century and has been altered over the years.
You can’t get into the castle but as you can see from the photos you can take photos from the plant nursery.
It was actually chucking it down with rain as I took the photos but it doesn’t really show up.
You can get around the back a bit and get closer to the smaller buildings alongside the castle. In truth I prefer the wee red pantiled cottages and outhouses to the castles and I always have an urge to bring them back to life, something that would be far more doable than taking on a huge castle for renovation!
I did buy some Lewisia plants at the nursery, but I’ll show you them another day.
One hot afternoon last week we went for a drive along to the East Neuk of Fife, starting at the village of St Monans. Below is a photo of St Monans kirk with some beach explorers in the foreground. If you look closely you should be able to see the ancient sea worn steps that lead up to the church. Presumably in years past some people did sail there to the church service. For many it would have been a lot easier than tackling roads which would have amounted to little more than tracks.
The teazles and geraniums right above the beach were looking great. It’s surprising how much salty atmosphere some plants can put up with.
It was a sparkling day, too hot for us at around 70F, but I still didn’t fancy my chances in the Firth of Forth/North Sea, far too cold without a wet suit on.
Further along the coastal path you reach a windmill which was used in the salt making industry which went on by the edge of the water, there are only indentations left in the grass now, all the buildings having been washed away by the sea years ago I suppose.
There is a rather primitive outdoor swimming pool in the photo below. It has been cleared out recently by some local people as the council had stopped maintaining it, so I was pleased to see that it was actually being used by a brave soul. The straight edge is the swimming pool edge, it’s much longer than the usual length of a swimming pool. I would drown before I reached the far end of it as I’m not a great swimmer!
The rocks above the beach are interesting looking, to me anyway. I need a geologist.
As the school holidays have already begun in Scotland there were lots of people about so I didn’t take any photos of the old fishing village of St Monans but if you want to see some images look here.
The only photo I took at the nearby village of Elie was of the ancient doorway below. It’s a pity that the stonework is so worn as I think the carving would have been interesting.
Last summer we visited the Fife Folk Museum in Ceres for the first time, it’s a hop and a skip from where we live and it seems that we all tend to overlook those nearby places. I had been under the impression that I had already blogged about it, but it seems that blogpost didn’t get further than inside my head! It’s just a wee museum but is still worth a visit. I presume that most of the exhibits have been donated by locals.
Cottage Kitchen. I really like those lipped boards that women used for rolling out their pastry, it would have kept all the flour and mess to a small area instead of it flying all over my worktops.
Doll’s House, Pram and Dolls. I must admit I fancied that doll’s house, not for playing with, just to admire it.
The Corn Dolly Coronation Coach and horses was made by a local, it has survived really well. Obviously when we were there in the summer the popular cafe wasn’t open, due to Covid restrictions but I have seen it packed with people in the past when we visited the village so maybe we’ll go there sometime when/if everything is back to normal.
A couple of evenings ago I was watching a lovely programme Darcey Bussell’s Wild Coasts of Scotland, it’s on the UK’s Channel 4 but might be available on a channel near you too. Apparently her grandfather had been Scottish and she had always promised him she would visit some of his favourite places that he had obviously never forgotten about after he migrated to Australia, sadly she didn’t get around to doing it until after his death, but it was clearly a moving experience for her.
Anyway, in one of the episodes she had some Highland dancing lessons and I was surrised at how exhausting she found it to be. Admittedly it’s decades since I did the Highland Fling or sword dance, so Darcey is years older than I was, but she described it as part dance and part endurance sport as you’re constantly moving quickly. She seemed quite puffed out within a very short time.
It reminded me that way back in November 2019, before Covid 19 appeared we had visited a St Andrews Day Fair at St Andrews. It was absolutely freezing, there was a Baltic wind and it was really the scantily clad dancers that impressed me, just because they were so stoical about the weather, but now I admire them for their strength and stamina! You can see the the ground was white with frost. I must say that when I did Highland dancing I was not dressed like them, I wore a proper kilt and white blouse! There’s a very brief video of them below, dancing to what sounds more like Irish pipes to me, there were certainly no Scottish pipers there, just piped music.
For some reason there was a vintage bus parked by the edge of the festivities. It has to be said that in Scotland we don’t make much of our Patron Saint’s day, not even in the town of St Andrews. It was really just an opportunity for some local food makers to sell their wares – we bought cakes of course!
Our Saturday afternoon walk took us through the Balbirnie Estate woodland in Fife, which in these pandemic times is much busier than it used to be. There are lots of snowdrops looking their best at the moment and I thought they would be visible in the photos but obviously I need to do a close up of them as even I can hardly see them, and I know where they are!
The path leads to a wooden bridge which is perfect for playing Poohsticks, if you’re that way inclined.
A bit further on there’s a good view of the surrounding park and farmland which was once part of the estate which was owned by the Balfour family. A train dashed across the middle of the scene but I didn’t manage to get it in my photo, it’s behind the trees to the left.
You can see lots more photos of the parkland here. The landscaping of the estate began in 1779, you can read a bit about it here.
Back home in my garden the most colourful spot at the moment is the pot of dwarf Iris reticulata (Joyce). There are some planted directly into the ground but they haven’t appeared yet.
The Loud Halo by Lillian Beckwith was first published in 1964 and it’s the third book in her Hebridean series. These books are comic novels set in the village of Bruach where ‘Miss Peckwit’ has gone to recover from an illness, she had been a teacher in the north of England. Life on a remote and primitive Scottish island is very different from what she has been used to. There’s no indoor plumbing, actually no plumbing at all, no running water just a well and the toilet is a shed with a big bucket – if you have a man strong enough to lug it out. Lillian makes do with two earth sheds which she takes turns at using and seems to think that’s hygienic enough.
By this time Lillian has been well and truly accepted by the locals and is even speaking some Gaelic. The books are stories of her encounters with her neighbours who all seem to be eccentric. There’s Kirsty who treats her poor brother like a slave and she steals her neighbour’s crops with no conscience involved, her neighbour ends up having to move.
More and more tourists are arriving, despite the midges and they are turning out to be good business opportunities for the locals. Quite a lot of this book deals with the things that the islanders get up to in order to get money, including the government assistance which they all seem to be on, there’s also an awful lot of boozing going on. I had a feeling that life on the island was beginning to lose its charm for Beckwith and indeed at the end of the book she has packed up and the villagers are seeing her off at the station. She did write some more Hebridean books in later years though.
It was a wee bit of a Miss Buncle situation – if you’re familiar with that D.E. Stevenson book you’ll know that Miss Buncle wrote a book about life in her own village which became very successful. The trouble was that all of the characters were far too recognisable and none of them was happy at being put in her book!
This book is a good light read, a glimpse back to the days before everyone on the islands had all mod cons. By the time I went to Skye for the first time in 1970 the locals even had freezers which I was very impressed with as we only had a small fridge with ice box at home. Our old friends who had gone back to live on Skye again after a five year sojourn in Glasgow had a freezer in their living room, it was one of those sliding lid ones and thinking about it I think it actually said ‘Wall’s ice cream’ on it! Anyway, I still have a few of these Beckwith books to read so I’ll continue with the series at some point in the future.