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

Aquhorthies Stone Circle

When we were up in Aberdeenshire a few weeks ago we perused the map and I noticed that there were standing stones marked on it, very close to where we were based. I can’t resist standing stones or stone circles – so off we went to find the Aquhorthies Stone Circle.

Aquhorthies Stone Circle info board

Aquhorthies Stone Circle isn’t right by the roadside as many are, but there’s a small car park close by and from there we walked the 400 metres or so to the field with the stones. They’re quite impressive, not on the same scale as the ones in Orkney but still very good.
Aquhorthies Stone Circle

It’s thought that these stones were an aid to farming, with the moon being a guide to the ancient farmers, telling them when it was a good time to plant their seeds. However, I think that’s just one of many theories over the years. I’m fairly sure that the Victorians would have looked at that massive recumbent stone and said – aha, that’s obviously a sacrificial altar stone.

Aquhorthies Stone Circle, Aberdeenshire, Scotland

As you can see from the tractor in thhe background this region is still a farming area.
Aquhorthies Stone Circle, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, neolithic monument

Whenever I visit standing stones I can’t resist patting them, but as yet I’ve never had anythig close to an Outlander moment, although some of them definitely do seem to hum and buzz, and they’re all incredibly atmospheric.

Aquhorthies Stone Circle, standing stones, Aberdeenshire, neolithic monumnent, Scotland

And – no I haven’t a clue how Aquhorthies should be pronounced!

An Autumn Walk

Just over a week ago we were in Aberdeenshire, visiting Fyvie Castle and remarking on how hot it was for the time of year. It turned out that it was 18 celsius at Fyvie and I know that because that night the weather man on the BBC said that Fyvie Castle had been the hottest part of Britain that day – amazing for late October. Just a week later and back home in Fife we had our first frost of the season. There was a time when we used to have a proper autumn which lasted for weeks but those days seem to have gone.

Anyway on one of my recent autumn walks I took some photos of the surroundings on the edges of the Balbirnie estate, get your flat shoes on and come with me!
path south

I’d like to know who put this hill here, it’s just a wee bit too steep to be enjoyable, until you get used to it!
hill near Balbirnie, Fife

Phew – we’ve reached the top and it’s downhill for a while now.
looking south from hill
So called civilisation with a road in the background, but the cars don’t seem to bother the horses in the field which you should be able to see – just.
horses

If you look carefully below you should be able to see an orange and black beetle, near the centre of the photo below, it’s a Burying beetle, that’s only the second one that I’ve seen and I saw my first one just a month previously as it was in the act of burying a shrew’s carcass – life must go on I suppose, for the beetle anyway.

Burying beetle

path west
Through some trees.
woodland path
In the winter the ground here is usually really boggy, it doesn’t help that mountain bikers use it too.
woodland path

woodland path

Back on to the gravel path, there’s a busy road to the left of this path but trees and a stone wall hides the traffic. You might think that it looks like the photos were taken on different days as the sky goes from bright blue to whitish grey – but that’s our constantly changing weather!

gravel path south
The berries below are on Viburnums or Guelder rose.
Viburnum berries

They’re so bright and shiny they almost look like plastic.

Viburnum berries

I love the roots of the tree below, look closely and you’ll be able to see a short blue nylon rope hanging from the left of the tree. Local kids are obviously using it as a rope swing and you can also see that they’ve been making stepping stones over the burn. I’ve never seen anyone playing there but I’m so happy that kids are still doing things like that and aren’t always glued to some electronic gadget.
tree roots

I also love the fact that people have been working and living around this area for thousands of years, well about 5,000 years anyway, and below is the evidence they left behind in the shape of standing stones and burial areas.

standing stones 2

Well, that should have burned off a few calories, so it’s a good excuse to put the kettle on, put your feet up and have some tea/coffee and biscuits. That’s what I did next anyway.

Cove, Scottish Borders

Cove harbour

One day last month we went to visit Eric and his family and that always means a lovely walk to the wee harbour at nearby Cove. The water was so tranquil, but there were no scuba divers around.

cottages at Cove

The cottages are still standing despite no doubt being pounded by storms at times, these are the only ones left of what was once quite a large fishing community.

harbour and headland

harbour and headland

This wee harbour is almost like a secret, you really need to know someone who knows the place as you have to walk through a dark tunnel which was created by digging through a hillside. It’s still quite easy to imagine how it must have been when it was home to lots of families though. If you’re interested you can read more about the history of Cove here.

Balgonie Castle in Fife

Balgonie Castle

Way back in June we visited Balgonie Castle for the first time. The local history group was having its last talk of the season before breaking up for the summer, and that talk is always at the castle apparently.
Balgonie Castle
It’s a wee bit touristy for my liking but as you can see by one of the signs on this door it has been used as a film location for Outlander – as has just about everywhere that we’ve visited recently! Balgonie Castle is over 700 years old.
Balgonie Castle
The owners do live in the castle and it’s a popular venue for weddings, but quite a lot of it is a ruin.
Balgonie Castle
It all adds to the atmosphere I suppose.
Balgonie Castle

Balgonie Castle

I have to say that I’m quite glad I don’t live in a castle, it was freezing inside although it was a lovely mild June evening.

The history talk was about William Wallace, quite interesting but when you get right down to it – there’s very little known about him.

Apparently Balgonie Castle was used as MacRannoch’s home, where Dougal and the MacKenzies rest ahead of attacking Wentworth Prison. I’m sure I’ve seen that bit but I can’t say I recognised it.

You can read more about the castle here and see more photos, particularly of the inside of the chapel which we didn’t take any photos of.

Backhouse Rossie Estate Gardens, Fife, Scotland part 2

Although the address of the Backhouse Rossie Estate is given as Collessie it’s actually on the road to Auchtermuchty. In the past the estate was famous for daffodils, something to remember in the spring as I’m sure they’ll have a good show of them.
Information Board, Backhouse Rossie Estate
I have to say that I was most impressed with the design and planting at Backhouse Rossie. I love walled gardens, they always feel so comfortable and safe and although I adore historical places I was pleased to see that there are some beautiful modern and thoughtful designs incorporated in the gardens.

The display of plants in pots is a similar idea to the Auricula ‘theatres’ that were popular in the past, especially with the French Huguenots who came to Britain in the 16th century to escape persecution from the French Catholics.

Wall and pots

The ‘DNA’ path below leads to a modern sculpture.
DNA Path

DNA Sculpture

DNA Sculpture info board
The DNA Path from the side, as you can see climbing roses have been trained over the path, but we were just too late to catch them in bloom. This year the roses have come and gone very quickly due to the unusual hot weather. I live in hope of another flush of blooms soon though.
DNA path

Below is an old gateway leading out of the walled garden.
gate to walled garden

It was such a sunny, hot day that I really needed a bit of a sit down, but all of the benches were in bright sunshine, so after looking around all of the garden areas we decided to have a walk in the surrounding woodland.
We walked there via the orchard and the apples have a decent crop on them this year.

apple tree

Somewhere in woodland there was an old tomb to visit, and I can rarely resist a ruin. So we followed the path to the tomb.

Covenanter's Tomb

As you can see there’s not much left of it now. You can read about the Covenanters here.

Covenanter's Tomb

Covenanter's Tomb

The estate is surrounded by farmland and these young bullocks were interested to see us emerging from the woodland. Actually they were very placid, which is not my usual experience of bullocks, so perhaps these ones have been ‘done’.
bullocks

There’s a wee putting green which is nicely situated with a good view of the East Lomond hill in the distance.
lawn and East Lomond

That’s more or less the view that the owners must have from their house below, but that isn’t open to the public.
Backhouse Rossie House

If you’re interested in gardening, or just having lovely walks and a change of scenery then this is a lovely place to visit. You can read more about it here.

Collessie in Fife – again

The photo below is of a very unusual architectural detail at Collessie Church. I don’t think the church is open but I must admit I didn’t try the door handle. It would be good to be able to see it internally some day.
Collessie Church
But the photo below shows a very unusually angled thatched roof, some extending must have gone over the years I think, but it looks like it has been renewed fairly recently. I know that in England you have to put your name down on a thatcher’s waiting list long before your roof needs to be re-thatched. I’m wondering if they have to come up especially from England as there’s no way that anyone could make a living from thatching in Scotland, there are just too few such roofs.
Thatched Cottage

The pan tiled roof of the cottage in the photo below is the more usual material for cottage roofs in Fife, the tiles were brought over from Holland as ballast in ships.
pan tiled cottage

Below is a close up of some thatch and a wee keek at a back garden.
Thatched Cottage
The cottage below is actually up for sale, I think it has seen better days though. It’ll need a lot of work done on it. The windows of most of these houses are very small. Builders are going back to that way of designing now as they try to make new houses more economical where heating is concerned.
Thatched Cottage

Below is thatch and the more traditional slate roof which must be a Victorian addition I think.
Thatched Cottage

The structure below is partially built into the churchyard wall. It has words carved into it but it’s very difficult to make out. It’s a family tomb for the local high heid yins – the Melville family.
Crypt at Collessie, Fife
Luckily there’s an information board on the stone wall.
Melville Tomb information
And below is the tomb from the other side – within the churchyard.
tomb of Melvilles, Collessie

The surrounding countryside is lovely, the crops are all just about ready for harvesting. Collessie is a lovely village but I imagine it’s a bit of a nightmare living there in the winter – unless you can hibernate!

countryside at Collessie, Fife