Strathmiglo, Fife , Scotland

I’m not complaining, but on a sweltering hot day when we were on our way north to Perthshire we stopped of at Strathmiglo, instead of just driving past it. We had to get out of that hot car! Below is a photo of the tolbooth which was built in 1734.

Strathmiglo Tolbooth, Fife, Scotland

The kirk/church below would have been a perfect example of Presbyterian austerity if someone hadn’t tacked that completely different coloured stone porch onto it back in 1925. The Monkey Puzzle tree – or Araucaria if you’re a plantsperson or Guardian crossword person – is a beauty though, don’t you think?
Monkey puzzle and Strathmiglo  Kirk

I admit that the photo below isn’t the most scenic, but I do love it when you can stand in a street and see the hills not far away, in this case – the East Lomond.
View of Street, East Lomond

Jack and I are really well matched as we both enjoy mooching around old graveyards and burial grounds (what’s the difference I wonder). He’s normally looking for Commonwealth War Graves, usually of those poor souls who got home from their battleground only to die of their wounds later. I’m seeking out much older stones as you can see from the one below. The date on it is 1713 and at the time skulls were seen as a suitable decoration, a reminder of mortality to anyone looking at it. Sadly half of this stone has sunk down into the grave (I hope it missed the body!) so it isn’t possible to read who’s actually buried here.

old gravestone, Strathmiglo, Fife, Scotland

The one below has sunk even more, but I was amazed by how well it has survived the weather and years, I’m sure this one dates from the 1600s, I believe there was a date on the back of it. I’m impressed by the designs on it. Whoever’s grave it is must have been a gardener or something similar. There are two crossed spades in the middle of the design and the flowers on either side seem to have his initials incorporated into the design – J C being at the end of the stems, with the C looking like a scythe. The flowers have a very modern look somehow – there’s nothing new under the sun!

old gravestone , Strathmiglo, Fife, Scotland

Strathmiglo is definitely worth a look around if you’re passing by that way. There are some rather grand looking houses in the high street too, but it’s a very sleepy wee place nowadays.

I meant to mention before that the road which goes around the side of the church leads to a road called Cash Feus – named because the land belonged to the ancestral family of the Country and Western singer Johnny Cash. Obviously his branch of the family must have been the poor cousins as they took the decison to leave for the New World at some point. However he did come back to visit when he had researched his family tree, but it was the nearby village of Falkland that he went to most as he played some concerts there. I think one of his daughters still visits. Well, there are lots of links between Scots traditional music and country music.

Annan, Dumfries and Galloway, South-west Scotland

Last Saturday we drove down to Annan in Dumfries and Galloway, the south-west of Scotland. It was a glorious day, a bit too hot really for me it was about 70F I suppose.

Annan Bridge, Scotland
Jack was going to a football match there so I decided to take a stroll along the riverside walk along the Annan which flows through the town. It has a lovely ancient red sandstone bridge.

River Annan, Dumfries and Galloway, ScotlandBridge

Just a stone’s throw from the bridge is the remains of Robert Bruce’s motte and bailey, it seems just to be a few lumps and bumps in the ground from a distance anyway, I couldn’t get any closer. I was interested because I had just finished reading Nigel Tranter’s book Footsteps to an Empty Throne and this is where the first battle of the Wars of Scottish Independence was fought.
Bruce's Motte and Bailey, Annan
I had the river all to myself with just a few swans and a heron for company, sadly the heron flew off before I could get a photo.

River Annan (south)

They are obviously proud of the Robert the Bruce connections in Annan and had this statue put up on the Town Hall, but Bruce also had a manor/castle at Cardross near Dumbarton where I grew up, although nobody knows exactly where it was. In fact that’s where he died.
Statue of Bruce at Town Hall

Below is the town hall from another angle, if you lok closely you’ll see it’s desperately in need of being weeded of budleias and various other plants.
Annan Town Hall, Dumfries and Galloway

I enjoyed my walk around Annan and Jack enjoyed the football because Dumbarton won – unusually!

The Steps to the Empty Throne by Nigel Tranter

 Bruce Trilogy cover

The Steps to the Empty Throne by Nigel Tranter was first published in 1969 and it’s the first of a Bruce trilogy. I do think though that Tranter was a bit generous with what is known of the history regarding Robert the Bruce, at one point Bruce comes to the aid of William Wallace at the end of a battle, something which almost certainly didn’t happen. In the early days Bruce was known for not being where he should be – when it came to battles. I suspect this was because he had had quite a close relationship with Edward I of England – before Edward became known as ‘The Hammer of the Scots’.

Scotland had always been an independent country but when King Alexander III fell off his horse and died at Kinghorn in Fife (see his memorial at the location here) and then his daughter (The Maid of Norway) – who had been his heir died, that left a power vacuum and that’s what this book is about. The Scots made a huge mistake in asking their neighbour King Edward of England to help to choose between the candidates. Edward decided that John Balliol should get the top job but he had decided to take over himself in Scotland and Balliol was really just Edward’s puppet. As you can imagine this didn’t go down well with the Scots who ended up getting rid of Balliol and signed a treaty with France, always England’s enemy. Edward took this as an excuse to invade Scotland and so began the Wars of Independence. As ever though the Scots were as much at each other’s throats as at war with the English.

A few battles are fought but the book is much more than that. Bruce is a widower but by the end of the book he has remarried so there’s romance too, despite Edward’s manipulations. There’s the difference between William Wallace’s guerrilla warfare and Bruce’s chivalric leanings which he had to give up when Edward’s dirty tricks led to Bruce’s defeat in battles. The manner of Wallace’s execution also enraged so many Scots – so the gloves were off. Bruce had always been keen to avoid being excommunicated by the pope, but inevitably that happens, he was reminded that the Scottish church had originally been a Celtic church and it had been obliterated by Queen Margaret (King Malcolm’s wife) who replaced the Culdees with the Benedictines that she had grown up with. Suddenly excommunication didn’t matter any more.

I’m really looking forward to the next one in this trilogy The Path of the Hero King.

Rosslyn Chapel, Midlothian, Scotland

Rosslyn Chapel board

A few weeks ago we had friends from England staying with us and they wanted to visit Rosslyn Chapel which was made famous by Dan Brown’s book The Da Vinci Code. So off we set, in sunshine, but as we got closer to Rosslyn the heavens opened and it was a very wet walk for us from the car park. The chapel was originally called the Collegiate Chapel of St Matthew, and dated from the 15th century. It’s situated not very far south of Edinburgh.

Rosslyn Chapel, Midlothian

After a brief look around the packed out gift shop and buying our tickets we raced out to the chapel, obviously getting even wetter on the way. The chapel was much smaller than I had imagined it would be and it was absolutely mobbed, but we managed to get seats and were enjoying an interesting and amusing talk from the guide. Then another guide came in and asked her to stop as another busload of tourists had just turned up! We all had to budge up and make more room for them, even William the resident cat was evicted from his comfy abode on a pew above a hot air vent in the floor, he wasn’t best pleased.

Rosslyn Chapel, Midlothian

Sadly and stupidly, they don’t allow people to take photos inside the chapel, but all the foreign tourists immediately forgot that they could speak English and went about snapping anyway. We didn’t of course which is a real shame as the decorative stonework is fantastic. However all those taking naughty illegal photos have kindly put them on the internet so you can see them here.

Mind you, the official Rosslyn Chapel website has an explore the carvings section.
Rosslyn Chapel , Midlothian, Scotland
When I mentioned to various friends how crowded the chapel was when we were there it turned out that we were incredibly unlucky as they had all had the place almost completely to themselves which especially suited the cat lovers among them.

Rosslyn Chapel,Midlothian

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.