Falkland Palace Garden, Fife, Scotland

Falkland Palace , Fife, Scotland

Although we’re members of the Scottish National Trust we haven’t been able to visit any of their properties this year as they’ve obviously all been closed due to Covid. Some of the bigger castles have opened up again, such as Edinburgh Castle and Stirling Castle, but last week we decided as it was a beautiful day we’d visit nearby Falkland Palace, just to walk in the garden, the palace wasn’t open. You can just walk in and there’s a box for donations.

Falkland Palace, Fife, Scotland

Falkland Palace was the hunting lodge of the Stuart kings and queens. Built in the 16th century by King James IV and his son James V and modelled in the French style it was also a favourite with Mary, Queen of Scots as it reminded her of the French chateaux of her childhood.

Falkland Palace , Fife, Scotland

Much of the palace is a romantic ruin, but in the 19th century the third Marquess of Bute had it partly rebuilt.

Falkland Palace, Fife, Scotland

We quite often just go for a wander around the gardens, there’s a pleasant orchard, although a lot of the trees have been fairly recently planted. In normal times you can have a nice wee sit down on a bench and admire the views, but I believe they’ve been removed due to Covid 19.

Falkland Palace Gardens, Fife, Scotland

Anyway, here are some of the photos I took while we wandered around.

Falkland Palace Gardens , Fife, Scotland

Falkland Palace Gardens, Fife, Scotland

Falkland Palace Gardens, Fife, Scotland

Falkland Palace Gardens, Fife, Scotland

Falkland Palace Gardens, Fife, Scotland

Falkland Palace Steps, Fife, Scotland

The gate below is obviously modern, it leads through to the orchard some of which you can just see in the background. The apple crop was not nearly as good as usual due to the weather.

Falkland Palace Gate, Fife, Scotland

Although Falkland has always been popular with tourists it has become even more so in recent years as the village and palace have been used as a location for Outlander. Click on the photos if you want to see them enlarged.

Culross, Fife, Scotland

Culross

A lot of the wee houses in Culross are owned by the Scottish National Trust and were delapidated and uninhabited until they took them over and renovated them.

Culross street, Fife, Scotland

Then they rented them out to people, I’m not sure if the houses that I’ve photographed are some of those ones but I think they are. I wish they had kept one of them as a tourist attraction, it’s lovely to visit palaces and stately homes but it can be even more interesting to see how the ordinary people lived back in the 16th and 17th centuries.

Culross, Fife, Scotland

Culross, Fife, Scotland

It’s strange but looking back I remembered having a hard time picking my way over the stones and boulders that made up the roads but I now see that some of them were tarmacked. In the photo below you can get an idea of how rough some of the roads are. It looks like a great tower house and must have a lovely view over the River Forth.

Culross house, Fife, Scotland

It’s a pity about the wheelie bins in the photo below – ugly but necessary for the people who live there. Sometimes tourists forget that these are people’s homes and have a good old look through a window, nose pressed to glass. I know someone who did that thinking the house was a museum and got the shock of their life when she saw the woman of the house staring back – it wisnae me!

Culross house, Fife, Scotland

The merkat cross below is about halfway up the very steep hill that leads to Culross Abbey, it seems a strange place to hold a market, it can’t have been an easy haul up there for any stall holders or shoppers. Maybe they held the market elsewhere despite the merkat cross being here.

Culross Mercat Cross, Fife, Scotland

On the way back downhill it’s easiest either to walk down the gutter at the side or along the middle of the road where the boulders are bigger and flatter.

Culross lane, Fife, Scotland

Below is a photo that I took close to the top of the hill that leads up to the abbey, looking over to the Firth of Forth. I inadvertently got a cow’s backside in view too!

River Forth View, Culross, Fife

The beach isn’t the bonniest but apparently it’s very rich in food for seabirds which is the main thing. Culross is definitely worth a visit if you are in or close to Fife.

Culross, Firth of Forth,Fife

Culross Abbey, Fife, Scotland

Last Friday dawned dry and bright, the only dry day in the week, so we decided to drive to the very historic Fife village of Culross, which is pronounced Cooris. Although we’ve visited Culross Palace at least three times we had never tackled the very steep and stony road which leads to the Culross Abbey. It is now a ruin and a lot of the stones from it have been ‘robbed’ to build the nearby manse.

The tower of the abbey church which is in use today stands in what was the middle of the original abbey. It was founded in 1217 by Malcolm, 3rd Earl of Fife. It was home to Cistercian monks who wore white habits.

Culross Tower, Fife, Scotland

The metal stairs are very steep, I went down backwards.

Culross Abbey Vault

Culross Abbey Ruins, Fife, Scotland

Culross Abbey Wall, Tower, Fife, Scotland

Culross Abbey Ruins , Fife, Scotland

And parts of the original abbey can be seen in the manse garden. What a wonderful feature to have in your garden!

Culross Abbey Ruins,River  Forth

The ‘modern’ Abbey Church is still in use, it’s a shame it was closed when we were there, it looks like it would be very interesting internally. I did have a good old mooch around the graveyard though.

Culross Abbey church  graveyard

I know it isn’t everyone’s idea of a good afternoon out but it hit the spot for me!

Culross graveyard , Fife, Scotland

If you don’t mind walking up a very steep hill on at times a painfully uneven surface this is an interesting place to visit, as much for the lovely wee houses on the way up as for the grand but ruined abbey. A lot of the houses in the village are now owned and rented out by the Scottish National Trust, they were ruins before they took them over and refurbished them, but I’ll keep the photos of the houses for another blogpost.

You can see more images of the abbey here.

Kinnoull Hill, Perthshire, Scotland

Last Thursday was a beautiful day, such a treat after the twelve hour long thunder and lightning storm of a few days previously, so we grabbed the day and drove to Kinnoull Hill in Perthshire. For decades we’ve driven past the rocky outcrop which towers above the M 90 motorway that takes you into the city of Perth and had just never got around to actually visiting the place, despite it being a really popular beauty spot.

Kinnoull Hill Path, Perth, woodland

The hill is covered with trees and the path is fairly steep but it only took us about 15 minutes to reach the top, we really needed the exercise anyway after being cooped up in the house hiding from the torrential rain of earlier in the week.

Kinnoull Hill Path,Perthshire, Scotland

There’s a wood carving of an owl in flight on the way up, but the woodland itself was bereft of birdlife. I’ve often been puzzled by this when walking in woods. Even when there’s nobody else around and it’s very quiet the woods never seem to have any wildlife in them. There are far more birds around my garden.

Kinnoull Eagle sculpture, Perthshire

Through a gap in the trees you can get quite a decent view of the historic village of Scone which is close to Perth.

Scone, from Kinnoull Hill, Perthshire

From the top of Kinnoull Hill you get a great view east to the Carse of Gowrie and over to Errol, even on what was a fairly hazy day. You can see why the River Tay is called the silvery Tay. Over the river are the hills of Fife.

Kinnoull Hill View , Distant Hills

The photo below is a stitch of three photos that I took looking over to the south side of the river and Fife beyond. The yellowy-gold coloured fields had just been harvested.

River Tay stitch, Perthshire, Scotland

The stitch below is from the top of what was a very blustery Kinnoull Hill, looking down towards the bend in the River Tay. It felt quite dangerous, in fact there are plenty of warning signs to tell you not to go too close to the edge as it just falls away and it would be easy to walk over by accident.

River Tay stitch, Perthshire, Kinnoull Hill

The one below is looking northwards towards Dunkeld and Birnam Wood of Macbeth fame.

View from Kinnoull Hill

Below is an information plaque which tells of all the instances of historical interest around this area.

information plaque, Kinnoull Hill, Perthshire, Scotland

After we walked back down the hill we had another look at the information board at the car park and realised that we had somehow missed a tower which has been built on the hill, so one day we’ll have to go back again and take a close look at it. Obviously we missed a path which leads over to that side of the hill. You can see images of it here.

We should have done our homework before setting out, such as visiting this Visit Scotland site.

The Gleam in the North by D.K. Broster

The Gleam in the North cover

The Gleam in the North by D.K. Broster is the second book in Broster’s Jacobite trilogy which begins with The Flight of the Heron. It was first published in 1927.

The story begins with Ewan Cameron’s two small boys playing by the edge of the loch that they’ve been warned not to go near. Donald the eldest is enthusiastically telling Keithie his young brother about the battle of Culloden and he shows Keithie his favourite possession – an old claymore (sword) which had been used at the battle. But Keithie is most unimpressed and throws the claymore into the loch, which prompts Donald to push his young brother into the loch after it – and it’s a very deep loch.

Keithie is rescued but the cold soaking leads to him falling seriously ill and his father’s search for help in the moors and hills of the Scottish Highlands which are being patrolled by King George’s Redcoats alerts the authorities. They’re looking for ‘rebels’ such as Ewen so that they can take them down to England to execute them.

It isn’t only the Redcoats that the Jacobites have to beware of though, there are some spies within the clans, selling their own for a handful of coins, much less than 40 pieces of silver.

This was not quite as enjoyable as The Flight of the Heron but was still a good read full of suspense and is a painless way of reading about Scottish history if you’re interested in it. Ewen inadvertently meets up with his old friend Keith Windham’s family which goes a long way to explaining Windham’s personality.

It was a time when the Highlanders were being violently suppressed, forbidden to speak Gaelic, wear the tartan or be in possession of anything resembling a weapon, and they were being transported to the colonies at the drop of a hat.

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

If you are looking for tips on what to do around St Andrews have a look at My Voyage Scotland here.

Branklyn Garden, Perth, Scotland – part 2

Here we are back at Branklyn Garden in Perth again, it was the first day of its opening again after the Covid-19 lockdown was being slowly eased in Scotland. We were all glad to see some different scenery I’m sure.

pathway , Branklyn Garden, Perth, Scotland

There were quite a lot of people there but it was still fairly easy to lose yourself among the plants and take photos without other people being in the background.

Pathway, Branklyn Garden, Perth, Scotland

Sadly I couldn’t see any fish in the pond, I suspect that if they put any in there they would be fodder for some kind of birds, possibly a heron. This garden is a short distance from the River Tay, where there are plenty of seabirds around.

Branklyn pond, Branklyn Garden, Perth, Scotland

I wish I could remember the name of the red flowered climber below, I have a feeling that it’s an annual but I can’t find any images of one like it. That’s one grouse I have about Branklyn, the plants aren’t always labelled. Probably they were all well labelled originally but the plants have engulfed them as they grew.

Branklyn Garden, Perth, Scotland

You can just get a glimpse of the house that the original owners of the garden lived in in the photo below. This is now a Scottish National Trust property but the house is used as a holiday rental so you can’t look around it.

Rhoddie , acer, Branklyn Garden, Perth, Scotland

There are some cracking acers/Japanese Maples in this garden. So many people love them but aren’t able to grow them although they’re not that pernickety really, having said that some of mine got damaged by an air frost in May, just as the new growth was looking so good.

Branklyn Garden, Perth, Scotland, acer

It was a sunny day and the sun shining through the top of the acer below was quite something, but the photo doesn’t really capture the moment.

acer, Japanese Maple, Branklyn Garden, Perth

The Flight of the Heron by D.K. Broster – 20 Books of Summer

 The Flight of the Heron cover

The Flight of the Heron by D.K. Broster was first published in 1925. It’s the first book in a Jacobite trilogy, the others being The Gleam in the North and The Dark Mile. Broster was an English woman who was inspired to write this trilogy after a five week long visit to friends in Scotland, she says that she consulted 80 reference books before embarking on writing the series. I can believe it. I’ll definitely be reading the other two. Broster served as a Red Cross nurse in a Franco-American hospital during World War 1.

The setting is 1745, the book begins just before the Jacobite rebellion. Ewen Cameron is a young Highland chieftain who has spent years in France as a boy being educated and avoiding the English as his father had been a Jacobite supporter. There’s a large Scottish community and that’s where he met Alison Grant whom he’s now engaged to.

With the arrival of Bonnie Prince Charlie and the gathering of the clans at Glenfinnan Alison is obviously worried about the outcome, but with Lochiel supporting the Prince despite the fact that he hasn’t brought the promised French help with him, Clan Cameron led by Ewen will be in the thick of any battles.

Ewen’s foster-father Angus has the ‘second sight’ although he’s blind and he warns Ewen that a heron plays some sort of part in his future, but he can’t say whether it is for good or bad.

Captain Keith Windham of the Royal Scots is one of the many British Army soldiers inhabiting the Highlands at the time. He’s a career soldier and isn’t happy about this posting, he wants to be in Antwerp instead of in the old and wet Highlands which as far as he is concerned is infested with wild rebels. His meeting with Ewen is a surprise to him as what looks like a wild man to him turns out to be an educated and honourable gentleman. Captain Windham has always been a bit of a loner, having decided that that was the best way of advancing his career but he finds that he is drawn to Ewen and throughout their subsequent meetings they avoid the chance to do each other damage as they should given that they are on opposite sides.

This is a great read and the writing gives a really authentic feel of the Scottish Highlands and also the Edinburgh of the time. I haven’t read the Diana Gabaldon books, I’ve been warned that they’re probably too racy for my liking, but I have watched Outlander – I just roll my eyes at the many sex scenes, but I suspect that she read this book before setting out on her long series of books set around the same time – on and off. There are a lot of similarities between the characters, and even the shocking possibility of a clan chief (gentleman) being whipped appears in this book, but obviously back in 1925 there could only be some hints about male sexuality.

I’m always interested in who a book is dedicated to, this one is dedicated to Violet Jacob, in homage. She was a Scottish writer who had a very grand upbringing as her father owned the House of Dun which you can see here if you’re interested. I’m presuming that it was at this house with Violet Jacob that Broster stayed for five weeks and was inspired by the surroundings to write these books.

This is the fifth book from my 20 Books of Summer list.

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.

Joseph Knight by James Robertson

Joseph Knight cover

Joseph Knight by James Robertson was published in 2003 and it won the Saltire Scottish Book of the Year Award 2003.

This book flips backwards and forwards from 1746 to 1802 and dates in between. The locations range from Drumossie Moor – the Battle of Culloden – Dundee, Edinburgh, Perthshire, Fife, London and Jamaica.

James Wedderburn is a young man, a Culloden survivor and at the beginning of the book he’s hiding from the English authorities, if they catch him he’s a dead man. His father, who also took part in the battle has already been captured. Eventually he and his brother make their way to Jamaica and in time become very well off landowners, making their money from the sugar cane fields that are worked by their slaves.

James had always planned to return to Scotland when he had made enough money and he does exactly that. He isn’t willing to part with his slave Joseph Knight whom he has trained up to be his personal house servant. Joseph will be seen as a prized possession and proof of his owner’s success in life. Joseph has become a Christian and is obviously an intelligent man, he wants to be free to make his own decisions in life.

The upshot of that is that he marries and goes away to live with his wife in Dundee, of course he’s a ‘kenspeckled’ figure and eventually he is arrested as a runaway. However, slavery had been outlawed in Scotland long before then so surely as soon as Joseph got to Scotland he should be a free man. A court case ensues.

The author couldn’t resist the idea of having Boswell and Johnson as minor characters, both apparently being against slavery. I suspect this was to pep up the storyline as inevitably boozing and bawdiness was the result, I’m not sure that was necessary but others might dispute that. There are scenes of brutality in Jamaica, slave owners who regarded themselves as being fair-minded were far very from that.

This is a really good read, it’s based on a true story, if you’re interested you can read more here.

The blurb on the back says: ‘A gift for witty re-imagining and a canny understanding of the novelistic and its conduits to the worlds we live in now mark Robertson as a marvellous novelist and Joseph Knight as a work of cunning and great assurance,’ Ali Smith, Guardian.

You can read Jack’s much more detailed review of this book here.