A Capital View – The Art of Edinburgh – by Alyssa Jean Popiel

 A Capital View - The Art of Edinburgh cover

A Capital View – The Art of Edinburgh – by Alyssa Jean Popiel is what used to be called a coffee table book – maybe it still is but I haven’t heard that term for yonks. It’s sumptuous and features one hundred artworks from Edinburgh City’s art collection. It must have been such a difficult task for the author to choose which artworks to include in the volume as Edinburgh City Council has been collecting since the middle of the 18th century. But this isn’t only a book which focuses on the artworks, it also gives lots of interesting details on the lives of the artists and the history of the areas featured in the images, and of course in lots of cases the places have been demolished and it’s lucky that the artists preserved them for posterity.

Below are a few of the artworks featured.

The Village of the Water of Leith from a Window in Rothesay Terrace by Sir William Fettes Douglas

Edinburgh

North Bridge and Salisbury Crags by Adam Bruce Thomson

Edinburgh

Plainstane’s Close, 1878 by Robert Noble

Edinburgh

The Palace of Holyroodhouse by Claude Buckle (1960) which was a British Railways poster.

Edinburgh

Although I borrowed this book from that library that I’m not supposed to be visiting, I think I might end up buying it as it’s so interesting.

The Japanese Garden at Cowden, Clackmannanshire, Scotland

Japanese Garden , Cowden, Scotland

Japanese Garden , Cowden, Scotland

Last Monday was a bright and beautiful day so we decided to drive along The Japanese Garden at Cowden near Yetts o’ Muckhart which is in Scotland’s smallest county of Clackmannanshire.

There’s a small area given over to a gravel garden, and we watched a couple of the gardeners carefully raking the gravel and then making circular patterns in it. Luckily I managed to take this photo just before some garndparents took their grandchildren for a scuffle through it, ignoring the ‘keep out’ sign. Reading is wasted on some people!

Japanese Garden, Cowden, Scotland

As most of the cheery trees in streets, parks and gardens were already in bloom I thought it would be a good time to re-visit the Japanese gardens that we visited for the first time in the autumn. But it’ll be quite a while before anyone can sit under this tree below’s cherry blossom.

Japanese Garden, Cowden, Scotland, cherry tree

It turned out that as the original cherry trees which were planted in the garden back in the 1920s seem not to have survived, the trees that are there now are really small, having been planted recently.

But heigh-ho, we still had a lovely afternoon there. There’s still a lot of work ongoing, such as building new paths and expanding the woodland walk.

Japanese Garden , Cowden, Scotland
You can walk across the zig-zag bridge, if you aren’t worried about your balance, but you aren’t allowed onto the arched bridge – Health and Safety probably.
Japanese Garden , lake, Cowden, Scotland

The large pond (or is it a lake?) has a healthy amount of frog spawn in it, or maybe it’s toad spawn as when we were in the woodland walk I almost stood on this fine fellow who was sitting on the path, as I approached him I thought he was a clump of autumn leaves – or something even worse that I definitely didn’t want to put my foot in!

Toad

The Japanese Garden at Cowden is certainly worth a visit, although I must admit that we went a bit too early – well I had a ‘two for one ticket’ which was expiring the next day! In another week or so from now the maples will be looking great.
Japanese Garden , Cowden, Scotland

St Serf’s – Dunning, Perth and Kinross

If it hadn’t been such a dreich weekend we would have driven to the Japanese Garden at Cowden as it has just opened for the new season and I imagine that the cherry trees will be at their best now. We went there last September for the first time and the autumn colour of the acers was lovely and we promised ourselves we’d go there again in the spring. If the weather cheers up this week we will go there.

Anyway, thinking about that reminded me that I never did get around to writing a blogpost about the village of Dunning which we stopped off at on the way to Cowden – so here goes!

Although I’m not at all religious I do love old churches and St Serf’s in Dunning is certainly old. It dates from around 1200 but it isn’t in use as a church now, it’s looked after by Historic Environment Scotland and is open to vistors.
St Serf's , Dunning

Inside the church is really dark and like all such churches it has been extended and mucked about with over the centuries, but it does house a very fine stone cross – the Dupplin Cross which dates from around 800 and is dedicated to one of the last kings of Pictland – King Constantine, son of Fergus. Presumably the decoration on the front is of the king on his horse.
Dupplin Stone cross

The carving on it is still in great condition considering that until 1999 it was outside. As you can see there’s a man playing a harp , he’s thought to be King David. This is the side of the stone.
Dupplin Stone Cross, Dunning

Dupplin Stone, Dunning

St Serf window, Dunning

You can read about the church here.

There’s not much nore of interest in the village of Dunning, but there is a pretty wee burn near the church.
Dunning Burn

Someone has put a lot of effort into the garden below.
Dunning garden, Perth and Kinross

The house beow is called Straw House for some reason. It’s very Scottish and solid looking, it has wee windows so it might not be too difficult to heat – or maybe that’s me just being optimistic on the owner’s behalf! This house is apparently the only house which survived the Jacobean burning of the village in 1716.
Straw House , Dunning, Perth and Kinross

It seems that we missed quite a lot on our quick trip to Dunning on our way to the Japanse Garden. When we do go back there we’ll have to look for the memorial to a witch burnt at the stake in 1657 and a bit of a Roman encampment.

Another walk – Cockburnspath and Cove, Scottish Borders / Berwickshire

We had arranged to go and visit our friend Eric last Monday and luckily it turned out to be a beautiful day for it. But then it always seems to be a blue sky sparkling sort of a day around Cove and Cockburnspath in Berwickshire whenever we go there. Why not join me on my walk there?

The lands of Cockburnspath were part of the dowry given by James IV of Scotland to Margaret Tudor (daughter of Henry VII of England) on their marriage in 1503, it’s a lovely place but so off the beaten track that few people seem to know about the place. Our visits always include a walk down to the coast to the teeny wee historic harbour of Cove. This time we went the scenic way along narrow lanes, avoiding the main road. This flowering currant was putting on a good show beside one rather remote cottage.
Flowering currant, Cockburnspath, Berwickshire. Scotland

Stone Cottages

The lane becomes a narrow footpath, as you can see the daffodils are out.
Path , Cockburnspath, Cove, Berwickshire, Scotland

It isn’t long before you catch a glimpse of the coast in the distance across some fields.
Cove bluffs

I was relieved to see that the tide wasn’t too far in.
Cove sea , Berwickshire, Scotland

Cove sea , Cockburnspath, Berwickshire, Scotland

Uther the red and white setter was in a hurry to get down there, but I lagged behind him, Jack and Eric, taking my time to get some photos.

Cove Path, near Cockburnspath

Cove, near Cockburnspath, Berwickshire, Scotland

It certainly felt like spring had sprung, but Uther didn’t brave the sea, in fact he never does. He just loves the sights and smells, and enjoys digging up crabs to crunch now and again. I suspect those crabs must be dead but they don’t seem to cause him any harm.
Uther

I’ll continue with our journey tomorrow. I hope you’re up for it, it’s just a pity that you can’t catch the fresh coastal air.

Meanwhile you can see more of my older photos here.

Glasgow Cathedral’s stained glass windows

Despite the fact that apparently a lot of the Victorian stained glass didn’t last long there are still plenty of lovely windows in Glasgow Cathedral.

Stained Glass 1

Stained Glass 2

I adore colour and particularly coloured glass. I’ve never seen the attraction of flashy diamonds. I’d always be happier with a beautiful coloured gemstone, even if it was only glass. So long as it was set in a metal which wouldn’t turn my finger green.

Stained Glass 3
These stained glass windows were originally designed so that those medieval Christians who couldn’t read would still be able to recognise the stories from the bible that the windows depict.

Stained Glass 4

You could study some of the windows for hours I’m sure and probably still find something in them that you hadn’t seen the first time you looked at them. Going to a church service must have been quite an entertainment and of course most people probably didn’t have any glass at all in their own houses.
stained glass 5
Sadly the photo that I took of the Millenium window which is in shades of blue and purple didn’t come out well, but you can see some images of it here.
I think the colours are sumptuous, but those blue/purple shades are some of my favourites. Can you believe that there are people in this world that hate purple? Bizarre, and I’ve never felt that it’s a colour that I shouldn’t be wearing, no matter what my age might be.

Glasgow Cathedral – St Mungo’s

Glasgow Cathedral

I’m sure you know what it’s like – you rarely get around to visiting touristy places nearby and to be fair it’s donkey’s years since I’ve lived near Glasgow, but I did spend the first five years of my life there so it was about time I got around to visiting Glasgow Cathedral which is also called the High Kirk of Glasgow and has a Church of Scotland congregation. It’s the oldest cathedral on mainland Scotland and the oldest building in Glasgow. It dates from the late 12th century and is also known as St Mungo’s or St Kentigern’s (one and the same person). His tomb is in the crypt and the kirk features in Sir Walter Scott’s Rob Roy.

St Mungo's Tomb

altar-ish

I was impressed with the building although lots of the windows are just plain diamond paned glass. Apparently in the 1800s the powers that were gave a German company the commission to renew the windows with stained glass at huge expense, but within just a few years the glass began to deteriorate badly. I suspect that Prince Albert had something to do with the work going to a German firm, he seems to have seen it as his mission in life to give his country of birth as much economic help as possible. I bet they didn’t get their money back either!

The stone rood screen below is apparently quite unique.

stone rood screen

The ceiling is quite impressive.

medieval roof

The modern tapestries below are beautiful but the camera couldn’t do them justice.

modern Tapestries

The cathedral has a good atmosphere and there was also a very interesting photographic exhibition on when we were there. You can read more about the building here. I must admit though that to me it comes second to St Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall, Orkney which is stunning.

Glasgow’s coat of arms decorates the old lampost outside the cathedral.

Glasgow crest on Lamppost

There are stained glass windows in the cathedral, but I’ll keep them for another blogpost.

Bonnie Dundee by Rosemary Sutcliff

Bonnie Dundee cover

Bonnie Dundee by Rosemary Sutcliff was first published in 1983 and it’s a Puffin book. Previously I’ve enjoyed quite a few of Rosemary Sutcliff’s books for adults and I found this one to be well written and informative, very early on in the book I learned that a lorimer was a maker of spurs and horse accoutrements. I had just thought of lorimer as being a surname.

Young Hugh Herriott is an orphan and is living in the Highlands with his mother’s family. His mother had more or less been cast off by her family as she had married a travelling artist against their wishes. Hugh’s grandfather had taken him back into the family but Hugh was very much an outsider, just tolerated by the rest of his relatives. It is a turbulent time in Scotland (when isn’t it?) and religious zealots in the shape of Covenanters are being hunted down by government soldiers. A close encounter with some redcoats makes Hugh realise that he’s happier on the side of the redcoats than with his Covenanting family. If you thought that ‘redcoats’ were always English think again, there were plenty of Lowland Scots in that army.

In truth it’s seeing Claverhouse (Viscount Dundee) that pushes Hugh to leave his family and eventually he finds himself as part of Claverhouse’s household which leads him to follow him into battle. Things had come to a head when the Catholic King James succeeded to the throne on his brother Charles’s death. When James’s wife gives birth to a son the Protestants at court are determined to bring William of Orange over from Holland to push James out, William’s wife is a Stewart and of course they are Protestants. Some deluded people are still fighting this religious mess – it’s what has caused all the trouble in Ireland.

So begins the Jacobite cause with James eventually legging it to France after Claverhouse or Bonnie Dundee as he was nicknamed pays the ultimate price. If you want to learn a bit of Scottish history painlessly then this is an ideal read, a bit of an adventure tale woven into historical fact, and very atmospheric.

I’m fairly sure that Sutcliff’s mother must have been Scottish as she’s very good at writing Scots dialect, and her mother’s name was apparently Nessie – another clue I think. Rosemary Sutcliff spent most of her life in a wheelchair which makes her ability to write such great descriptive scenes all the more impressive as her own experiences must have been sadly narrow, especially as she lived at a time when access for disabled people was not great.

This is one of those books that you continue to read, knowing what the outcome must be – but daftly hoping for a better one.

The Willow Tearooms, Glasgow

A couple of weeks ago we had to go over to the west of Scotland – all of about 75 miles from us here in the east. We were picking up a table we had bought on Gumtree, but before doing that we had a look at the cathedral – can you believe we had never visited Glasgow Cathedral before? I’ll blog about that visit soon. I’m a bit pushed for time tonight and it’s nearly my bedtime so I give you – The Willow Tearooms in Buchanan Street, Glasgow. While we were waiting for our coffee and cream/jam scones to arrive (we made them Cornish style of course) I took a few photos. Luckily by this time it was getting on for 5 pm so there weren’t many others partaking of a stylish rest and snack.

Willow Tea Rooms Chairs

You have to walk through a gift shop to get into the lower tearoom (which is still upstairs, just not as high up as the other one) and the demi lune chair below is situated there. The woman on the till offered to take a photo of us both on the chair, but that would have hidden the whole shape of it so we politely declined.

Willow Tea Rooms Demi-lune Chair

The upper room is called The Chinese Tearoom, but whenever we go there it’s almost always closed already, maybe we should get there earlier. The loos are up that way though so we were able to take photos of the very different style. I love that vibrant colour.
Chinese Tearoom

Chinese Tearoom

The chair below stands on a mezzanine landing.

C.R. Mackintosh chair

The alcove below shows some of the things available to buy.

The Willow Rearooms alcove

If you want to see some photos from a previous visit have a look at this blogpost that Jack wrote a few years ago.

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.