Huntly Castle, Aberdeenshire, Scotland

I’m still catching up with the photos I took when we were on our trip up north to Aberdeenshire at the end of October 2018. We had been meaning to go to Huntly for years. Actually it was quite a surprise as in my mind it was a much bigger town than the reality turned out to be, it’s really small. There are just a few shops there but one of them is a secondhand bookshop! Yes I did buy books.

Huntly Castle

Apparently over last summer the lettering on the stonework was refurbished, I’m not sure what they actually did but it looks quite new now. Originally the lettering would have been painted to make it even more visible.

Huntly Castle

Huntly Castle
You can read about the history of Huntly Castle here.

The first castle was built on this site around 1180 but the castle that we see now dates from around 1550.

Huntly Castle Info Board

Below is a photo of an upstairs fireplace with a modern canopy over it to protect it from the worst of the weather.

Huntly Castle

The photo below is of the castle interior.

Huntly Castle Interior

One good thing about living in a castle was that you were never far from a loo, most of the rooms had one in a corner and some even have the remnants of fancy plaster decoration on the walls. I suspect that they didn’t smell great though as it was basically a hole going into a stone shaft. I imagine that now and again a servant had to chuck water down them. The loo below has had a piece of perspex placed over the opening, just in case some bright spark tried to use it I suppose.

Hunly Castle Loo

Below are the windows in the stairwell.
Huntly Castle Windows
And below is where the stairs lead to. The view’s not bad – what you can see of it anyway.
Huntly Castle Top

Sadly you can’t get right up to the top in this castle, my favourite place is usually the solar which is where I imagine the ladies sat and did some needlework or reading in good weather. I think the small bit with the glass windows in the photo below is the solar.
Huntly Castle Solar

Castles obvioulsy had to be built near rivers and Huntly has two rivers nearby – the Deveron and the Bogie, I’m not sure which this one is but it’s pretty anyway.
River at Huntly Castle

Huntly Bridge

Huntly is definitely worth a visit if you’re in the Aberdeenshire area.

Huntly Castle

Drum Castle Gardens, Aberdeenshire

From the photo below it looks to me like the box hedges and topiary in the rose garden had very recently been trimmed when we visited Drum Castle in late October.
Drum Castle, historic rose garden 1
I just love a garden that’s well protected by high stone walls, the perfect setting for the vibrant red Virginia Creeper, just the thing to cheer up the darker days of autumn.
Drum Castle historic rose garden
As you can see there were still a few wee roses blooming, but this place must look stunning in high summer.
Drum Castle historic rose garden 4
As you can see from the photo below – the sun got in the way a bit, but I thought you might like to see the wooden pyramid-like frames that have been constucted.

Drum Castle historic rose garden 3
I like the wicker edging that stops the plants from flopping over. In the foreground is Sedum spectabile, just about the best autumn/late summer colour we can get in gardens here I think, and beloved by bees and butterflies.
Drum Castle historic rose garden 8

Drum Castle historic rose garden 7

Drum Castle historic rose garden 9
Below is a photo of a bothy (shelter) which had a table in it with bags of apples in it – and an honesty box. No doubt at other times of the year you can purchase veggies too. This ‘bothy’ looks to me like it must have been a place for storing small carts and garden implements in its day.
Drum Castle historic rose garden 12 bothy

Although this garden is historic, it isn’t preserved in aspic and new things have been added to it over the years. as should happen with a garden. Gardens are never finished, they’re constantly evolving.
Drum Castle historic rose garden 12

One of the newer additions is the human sundial below, if you stand on a particular spot you should be able to tell the time from your own shadow.
Drum Castle historic rose garden 13 human sundial 1

I think the ‘spooks’ at the top of the design below are more than a wee bit influenced by Margaret MacDonald’s designs. C.R. Mackintosh’s wife.
Drum Castle historic rose garden 14 human sundial 2

While we were there the pond area was having work done on it so we weren’t able to walk all around it, but that didn’t worry me as the colour of the maples/acers were brilliant and more than made up for it.
Drum Castle pond garden

Obviously we didn’t see the gardens at their best as it was late October when we visited but if you’re interested you can see more images of them here.

Drum Castle, Aberdeenshire, Scotland

In October we had a short trip away in Aberdeenshire and one of the castles we visited was Drum Castle, we hadn’t been there before and again we were really lucky with the weather. Drum Castle is now owned by Scottish National Trust, it was built in the 1200s but in 1323 it was given to William de Irwyn by Robert the Bruce and for generations after that it has been the centre of Clan Irvine. The Irvines backed the Jacobites but they seem to have got over being on the losing side.

Drum Castle

As you can see this is another Scottish baronial style of castle with pepperpot turrets. The bottom part of the castle dates from 1200 but the top part was added in the 1300s. In places the walls are 70 feet thick so this was built for defence, not a pretty pretty castle, but to me it fulfils both briefs and manages to be attractive as well as utilitarian. It has been added to over the years – up until Victorian times.

Drum Castle
If you’re not good with heights hold on to something befoe looking at the next one – it’s a long way down! But look how pretty that wee round tower roof is at the bottom middle of the photo.

Drum Castle roof

I had to walk around the battlements of course, they’re very up and downy as you can see so it did feel a bit precarious – don’t trip! There are usually built in stone seats on battlements and I imagine that the ladies would have been up there during the summer with their sewing or a book, in peaceful times anyway.

Drum Castle  battlements
The view of the trees and surrounding landscape is worth the climb up there.

Drum Castle  view

Drum Castle roof

I’ll show you the gardens and some of the interior soon.

Drum Castle

David Douglas Memorial, Scone, Perthshire

David Douglas Memorial

I was reading a book called Plant Hunters by Charles Lyte ( I haven’t finished it yet) and I realised that David Douglas – one of the plant hunters featured in it was born in Scone in Perthshire, a place that we often drive through. There’s actually a memorial to him in Scone churchyard so the next time we went past there we took time to go and visit it. It’s quite big! His body is actually buried in Honolulu where he was when he died – under mysterious circumstances apparently. His body was found in an animal trap pit and he had been gored to death by a bullock that had also fallen into the trap.
The photo below is of the back of his memorial.
David Douglas Memorial
As he had been visiting an Englishman who lived in a nearby hut (it was his animal trap) and the Englishman was an escaped Botany Bay convict there has always been a suspicion that David Douglas was murdered by him. He was only 35 when he died but he had discovered so many plants and brought them back to the UK. His most famous plant introduction is probably the Douglas fir but he introduced about 240 other plants to the UK and our gardens would be much poorer without his contribution to botany.

David Douglas Memorial

David Douglas began his botanical life as an apprentice at Scone Palace then moved on to an estate in Fife and from there to the botanical gardens at Glasgow University before embarking on his plant hunting adventures.
David Douglas Memorial

For some reason Scotland produced more professional gardeners and botanists than anywhere else in the past, it’s something that authors have often acknowledged as so many writers of fiction have written their head gardeners as being Scotsmen, including Angela Thirkell. Plant hunters still exist today and sadly in 2013 a young Scottish plant hunter who came from a family with a long botanical history disappeared while on a plant hunting mission in Vietnam and his body wasn’t found until two years later. It’s thought that he died from natural causes after a fall.

Fyvie Castle interior

You can see my previous post on the exterior of Fyvie Castle here. Below is a photo of a drawing room, I think it’s comfy looking, not too grand if you’re used to old places and furniture.

Fyvie Castle Fireplace
The photo below is much brighter though and this is the family room, I imagine that the ladies of the house used this one most of the time for relaxing, reading and sewing in, note the small face screens on the side table by the fireplace, used to stop the heat from the fire from damaging their complexions.
Fyvie Castle Family Room

Below is a very solid looking desk, a proper work desk, not one for ladies to write their letters on I suspect.
Fyvie Castle Desk
If fireplaces are your thing then there are plenty to choose from in Fyvie, the furniture looks Dutch to me but I’m sure that wasn’t what the guide said it was.
Fyvies Castle Furniture

They were preparing for a wedding while we were there, hence the chairs in the photo below, so I had to be quick taking it.
Fyvie Castle Fireplace
While we were ay Fyvie there were quite a lot of really small children there with their parents. One four year old French girl was diving around the place like it was a school playground. According to one of the guides this is normal behaviour for many families – and the parents just let the kids get on and do what they want, picking up objects and jumping on chairs. I thought it was bad enough when they allow kids to do things like that in IKEA! I feared for the Tiffany lamp at one point and was also worried that people might think I was with the child as there were no parents in sight.
Fyvie Castle Interior
The Tiffany lamp is in the middle of the chest of drawers, underneath the tapestry, sadly you can’t see its intricate design well in this photo.
Fyvie Castle Tapestry Tiffany lamp

The day we visited Fyvie Castle it was very hot, I was saying – is it me, or is it really hot? Later that day the BBC weather chap said that Fyvie had been the hottest place in the UK, it was 19 celsius (66.2 F) I think, very hot for the end of October. Two days ago the weather man said that Fyvie was the coldest place in the UK at -7 celsius (19.4 F). I wonder if that was just a coincidence or if there’s something about the location that attracts weather extremes.

I still have a lot of photos of the interior of the castle, but that’s enough for now.

Fyvie Castle, Aberdeenshire, Scotland

Fyvie Castle
Towards the end of October we had a few days away in Aberdeenshire, the north east of Scotland, just for a change of scene, again we were very lucky with the weather. One of the castles that we visited was Fyvie Castle, as you can see it’s rather imposing and with its pepperpot turrets it has been influenced by French chateaux rather than the more brutal architecture of many English castles.

Fyvie Castle
Fyvie Castle is now a Scottish National Trust property. It started its life as a royal castle though and Alexander II stayed here in 1222. There’s been a castle here since about 1200 but that one was probably just made of wood. By 1296 when the English King Edward I visited the castle while doing his worst to Scotland it was built of stone and over the years it has changed a lot, being constantly extended by the generations of owners.
Fyvie Castle

This castle is fully furnished, quite sumptuous in parts and luckily nowadays visitors are allowed to photograph most of the rooms, but I’ll leave the interior for another blogpost.
Fyvie Castle stone urn
The castle design is now Scots Baronial as many of the previous occupants seemed to have a penchant for adding their own towers, it’s quite elegant I think.
Fyvie Castle

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

Sir Walter Scott’s Abbotsford – again

Time for a few more photos of Sir Walter Scott’s old home – Abbotsford, in the Scottish Borders. Below is a photo of his dining room and it’s quite different from how it looked when Scott was alive. Originally the walls and ceiling were varnished a dark brown wood colour so it must have felt a bit like being in a big wooden box.

Abbotsford  Dining Room
After Scott died his daughter-in-law had the walls and ceiling painted cream but you can see that a wee bit of the paint has been scraped off the ceiling mouldings so that you can see what it should have been like.
Abbotsford  Dining Room , Sir Walter Scott, Scottish Borders

If you’ve read Scott’s books you’ll know that he was keen on writing about knights and chivalry, in fact he started a whole fashion for books like that and he was also keen on collecting armour and weapons too as you can see from his armoury below.
Abbotsford Armoury

Abbotsford  Armoury , Sir Walter Scott,
Scott was keen to have his house built using authentic bits of old buildings, in fact it sounds like he became a bit of a plunderer and he thought nothing of ripping out panelling from old buildings such as the Palace at Dunfermline. His excuse was that he was saving them from ruin, but I suspect that he hastened the ruin by what he was doing to the buildings. Dunfermline Palace is certainly a ruin now.
Abbotsford Ceiling , Sir Walter Scott
I’m not sure where the fireplace below came from but the tiles are Dutch.
Abbotsford Fireplace, Sir Walter Scott, Abbotsford
The chandelier below is in the drawing-room and to the left of it you can see a painting of Sir Walter with one of his dogs.
Abbotsford Drawing Room, Sir Walter Scott, Abbotsford Chandelier
More of the drawing-room.
Abbotsford Drawing Room, Sir Walter Scott, Abbotsford 2
One of its doorways is flanked by two huge harps and the wall covering is Chinese silk, very grand.
Abbotsford Drawing Room, Sir Walter Scott Harps

But just a stone’s throw from all that grandeur is the dogs’ cemetery, in a wooded area to the side of the house, no doubt it was a favourite area for walks. Next time I’ll show you some photos of the gardens.
Abbotsford  Pet's Graves, Sir Walter Scott