Hill House, Helensburgh, Scotland, Scottish National Trust

One day six weeks ago or so we took the opportunity to travel across to my beloved west of Scotland, to the coastal town of Helensburgh to be precise. We were taking a friend of ours for her first ever visit to The Hill House at Helensburgh, it was designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh. It was a wonderful commission for him and his wife Margaret Macdonald, as not only did he design the house for the publisher Walter Blackie but Margaret designed all the decor, art works and the soft furnishings, upholstery, bedcovers and such. Charles Rennie Mackintosh said that he had talent but that his wife Margaret Macdonald had genius. Below is one of her designs for a CRM chair. I must admit that I think those beads might be a bit uncomfortable if you lean back!

Margaret Macdonald chair, Hill House Helensburgh, Charles Rennie Mackintosh

The artwork above the fireplace was also done by Margaret, annoyingly you can’t see it all that well in the photo below.

Fireplace, Hill House, Helensburgh, Charles Rennie Mackintosh

Below you can see some of the detail of the fireplace.

Charles Rennie Mackintosh fireplace detail, Hill House, Helensburgh

To the left of it is this built-in shelving unit. I’m not a big fan of the sugary pink, but he was keen on pinks, lilacs and purples as was Margaret.

Charles Rennie Mackintosh cupboard, Hill House, Helensburgh

I love the window seat which is in the same room. From previous visits I hadn’t remembered the small niche at either side of the seat, it’s the perfect size for parking your glass of wine, or cup of tea. It must have been a great place to sit and read.

Hill House, Helensburgh,Bench , Charles Rennie Mackintosh

Hill House Bench end, Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Margaret Macdonald, Helensburgh,

The lamp below is in the same room, I think.

Charles Rennie Mackintosh lamp, Hill House, Helensburgh

Sadly Hill House itself is in a bit of a poor state. I believe that the Portland cement which was used to harl/roughcast the walls has never been weatherproof, as CRM was assured by the builders, so dampness has always been a problem as you can imagine, in the damp weather of the west of Scotland.

So a huge metal framework has been erected over the whole building in an attempt to dry out the building while they come to a decision as to how to tackle the problem best. There is an advantage to this for the vistors as it’s possible to walk up a metal staircase which reaches right above the roof of the house, so you can get a really good close up view of the outside of the building, and you can get a great view of the Firth of Clyde, but it was a bit misty when we were there. I’ll leave Hill House for the moment but if you’re interested you can see better photos of an earlier visit here.

Glamis Castle, Angus, Scotland

Here we are back at Glamis Castle, the inside of it this time, below is a photo of part of the sitting room which the Queen Mother used when she visited her childhood home, apparently it has been kept as it was when King George VI was alive and she visited with him and her daughters. You can see my earlier post of the outside of the castle here.

Queen Mum's room, Glamis Castle, Ahgus, Scotland

The two wee chairs in front of the fireplace were used by the Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret when they were wee. It feels quite homely really.

Fireplace, Glamis Castle, Angus. Scotland

Below is the dining-room with its unusual ceiling.

Dining room, Glamis Castle, Angus, Scotland

Dining room ceiling, Glamis Castle, Angus, Scotland

And the even more unusually positioned lion and unicorn stained glass windows high up in the walls.

Stained Glass, Glamis Castle, Angus, Scotland

Fabulous table centrepieces.

Dining room centrepiece, Glamis Castle, Angus, Scotland

The rather grand drawing room with the photo of the current Earl and Countess of Strathmore on the small table, in contrast to all the paintings of ancestors on the walls.

Drawing room, Glamis Castle, Angus, Scotland

With a ceiling more akin to the icing on a wedding cake.

Glamis Castle, Drawing room ceiling

And more small chairs by the fireplace, at least the children in this castle were warm it would seem!

Drawing room ,small chairs, Glamis Castle

The chapel below has a very unusual ceiling which consists of painted panels. Originally this would have been a chapel for the Celtic church I think but over the years it will have been Roman Catholic but now it is ‘ High’ Scottish Episcopal I believe, which is very similar in looks to Catholic. You can read more about the castle here.

Glamis Castle Chapel, Angus, Scotland

It’s a beautiful castle – fit for a queen as you can see. We had a lovely walk around the grounds after touring the castle, next time I’ll blog about the Italian Gardens.

Glamis Castle, Angus, Scotland

Glamis Castle stitch, Angus, Scotland

At last we got around to visiting Glamis Castle which was the family home of the Queen Mother. It’s still owned by the Strathmore family, they’ve been there since the 1300s. We tried to visit the castle years ago but by the time we got there it was too late go around the castle and as we walked along the driveway we were walking against a tide of people who were leaving. This time around there were very few people there which was good as when we toured the interior we had all of the rooms to ourselves as by the time someone else was entering – we were exiting. Sadly it was a bit of a grey day when we were there this time around but it didn’t detract too much from the castle, I think it looks like an illustration from a fairy tale, which is quite apt since the yougest daughter of the family ended up marrying a prince, then went on to become a queen. The castle’s name is pronounced ‘glams’.

If you’re interested in the history of the castle have a look at the timeline here. The castle has links with Macbeth and Shakespeare.

The yew hedge lined driveway below is not the main driveway, that one is flanked by fields, but we drove down it this time so I didn’t take any photos, and the last time we were there it was full of people. You might want to look at my previous post which I’m amazed to see was written nine years ago!

Glamis Castle,from east, Angus, Scotland

The view below is of the castle from the right hand side as you look at it. Sadly the old stone fountain isn’t working.

Glamis Castle and masonry, Angus, Scotland

I’ll show you the interior and also the lovely Italian garden sometime soon.

Mail Royal by Nigel Tranter

Mail Royal cover

Mail Royal by the very prolific Scottish author Nigel Tranter was first published in 1989

Lord Gray has been Sheriff of Angus for decades but King James VI has decided to take that sinecure away from him and give the very lucrative sheriffdom to Lord Home. But Scottish sheriffdoms aren’t in the gift of the King, not that that matters because whatever King James says goes.

Lord Gray is desperate to hang on to his only means of getting money and keeping power. He knows that his father had had a hold over King James, it was something to do with secret letters, and Gray is determined to find them so he can blackmail James too. The letters are thought to have been written by Mary, Queen of Scots and must be either embarassing or dangerous for the king.

It’s young David Gray that gets the task of finding the letters. As the illegitimate son of Lord Gray’s younger deceased brother, David gets all the dirty work to do. David’s journey takes him all the way down to London and the royal court that his uncle is so careful to avoid, just in case the King decides to execute him!

I really enjoyed this one, but I’m not sure if it was because I knew every step of the way that David Gray travelled, although he was on horseback. From Broughty Ferry just north of Dundee, to Fife, Haddington, Edinburgh, Dunbar, the fishing village of Cove that we visit, the village that’s lived in by one of my sons, the border towns we know so well. I could picture it all so clearly.

The story includes a romance of course, I think all of Tranter’s books do, and it mentions a few castles that we haven’t got around to visiting – yet!

Holyrood Palace, Edinburgh – part 2

Here we are back at the Palace of Holyrood House in Edinburgh again, inside this time. As you can see the bedroom below is the King’s Bedchamber which is hung with tapestries, has a wonderfuly ornate ceiling and Dutch delft tiles around the fireplace. Most of the rooms in this palace are fairly small by royal standards.

Royal Bed, Palace of Holyrood House, Edinburgh, Scotland

On the video guide Princess Anne explained that people often assume that it must be a horrible place to have to stay in, considering that there has been at least one murder there with Rizzio having been stabbed to death (I bet there were more murders than that one!) But she tells them that it has a nice homely atmosphere. I must admit that I have my doubts about the ‘bloodstain’ in the photo below, it look a wee bit too bright for something not far off 500 years old, but there’s no doubt that this is where the deed took place. If you’re interested in the history of the palace have a look here.

Rizzio's 'bloodstain', Palace of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh, Scotland

Sadly a lot of our photos didn’t come out well due to the dim lighting to preserve the tapestries and soft furnishings, they look blurred like the two below. Obviously you aren’t allowed to use a flash.

Palace of Holyrood House, Edinburgh

King's Room, Holyrood Palace, Edinburgh

Below is a painting of King James VI.

James VI + fireplace, Holyrood House, Edinburgh

I’m sure that the dining room is used when the Queen visits this palace, usually she stays here and does some entertaining and has garden parties before continuing on to her holiday home in the Highlands – Balmoral.

Dining Table, Palace of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh

Some of the paintings in the Long Gallery below were damaged after the Jacobite Rebellion, presumably by Cumberland’s troops but they’ve been well patched up. Someone called these long galleries ‘treason rooms’ as they are the only spaces where people of a treasonous nature could talk without the danger of being overheard. When ‘Bonnie Prince Charlie’ took possession of this palace in 1745 he held a grand ball. I think it would have been held in this room, unless there is a ballroom which is not open to the public. There’s a secret door in the panelling!

Long Gallery, Palace of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh

I could have quite happily sat down to soak up the atmosphere, but I don’t think that would have gone down well with the attendants who I must mention were almost all young women and wearing wonderful kilts which looked to me to be men’s kilts, certainly they folded over on the male side anyway. Sadly I don’t have a photo of them as I don’t think that would have gone down well either.

Palace of Holyroodhouse,Tapestry , Edinburgh

The Palace of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh, Scotland

A couple of weeks ago we decided to visit Holyrood Palace, in Edinburgh, I had only peered at it through the railings previously. As usual it’s the places nearby that get overlooked while we concentrated on visiting far-flung places.

Holyrood Palace gates, Edinburgh, Scotland
Below is a stitch of the palace which is more correctly called the Palace of Holyroodhouse. Holy rood of course means holy cross.
Fountain, Holyrood Palace stitch
As you can see the architecture is of the Scots Baronial type which was influenced by French and Italian architecture.

entranceway Holyrood Palace, Edinburgh

Entrance, Palace of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh, Scotland

The photo below is of the courtyard in the centre of the building, it’s a lovely green space to look out onto.
Holyrood Palace Courtyard , Edinburgh, Scotland

It all seemed quite empty at this point but when we got inside there seemed to be far too many people in the smallish rooms. I think I would even have felt that if there had not been an ongoing pandemic, some of them had obviously just come off planes! Anyway, we seem to have survived and I’ll blog about some of those rooms tomorrow!

Edzell Castle Garden, near Brechin, Angus, Scotland

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.

Edzell Castle Garden Info Board 2

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.

Edzell Castle

The wee house in the next photo is a summerhouse which was used for entertaining in the garden.

aEdzell Castle Gardens Summer House 1

The walls have carvings of planetary gods on them and the swallows often nest in the small wall niches, especially the star shaped ones.

Edzell Castle Gardens Wall

Edzell Castle Gardens , Brechin, Scotland

Edzell Castle Garden, Brechin, Scotland

Edzell Castle Garden, Brechin, Scotland

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.

Edzell Castle, near Brechin, Angus, Scotland

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.

Edzell Castle, Scottish castle, medieval castle, ruin
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.

Motte and Bailey Castle Mound

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.

Edzell Castle , Scottish castle, ruin, medieval castle, Brechin

But there’s also an ancient staircase, just mind your ‘heid’ as the lintels are very low!
Edzell Castle, medieval castle, Scottish, Brechin, staircase

Edzell Castle, Brechin, Scottish medieval castle

The photo of the archway below is all that remains of the collapsed oven, it was quite a size.

Edzell Castle, medieval Scottish castle, Brechin

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.

Edzell Castle Brechin, medieval Scottish castle

Edzell Castle from Gardens ,Brechin, Historic Scotland, Scottish castle

A walk in Balbirnie, Fife, Scotland

Balbirnie Path, Fife, Scotland

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’.

Balbirnie Path, Fife, Scotland

I think the photo below is of a Russian Vine or ‘mile a minute’ which is its common name, it does grow incredibly fast.
Russian vine, Balbirnie Park, FifePlant 1

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.

Balbirnie Stable block ,Fife, Scotland

Balbirnie Stable block , Fife, Scotland

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.

Balbirnie trees, Fife, Scotland

Balbirnie Trees, Fife, Scotland

Balbirnie Trees, Fife, Scotland

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.

Balbirnie House piper, Fife, Scotland

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!

Redhouse Castle, Lothians, near Edinburgh

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.

Redhouse Castle, Lothians

You can’t get into the castle but as you can see from the photos you can take photos from the plant nursery.

Redhouse Castle , Lothians, Scotland

It was actually chucking it down with rain as I took the photos but it doesn’t really show up.

Redhouse  Castle, Lothians, Scotland

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!

Redhouse Castle, Lothians, Scotland

I did buy some Lewisia plants at the nursery, but I’ll show you them another day.