St Athernase Church in Leuchars, Fife

Leuchars in Fife is a village just five or so miles from the far bigger and better known town of St Andrews, and probably that’s why we had never been there before, as St Andrews is my favourite place in Fife and by the time we’ve had an afternoon out there I’m usually tired and just want to get home.
St Athernase

Last Wednesday we planned to visit Leuchars at last, mainly to see St Athernase Church, we had seen an information leaflet about it, aimed at tourists I suppose but you know what it’s like – you rarely visit the places on your own doorstep. The really ancient part is the rounded area with the tower. Until recently I had assumed that all these old churches had originally been Roman Catholic but of course there was a Celtic church originally and at some point the RCs took over.

St Athernase

There has been a church on that site since around 1225 and although quite a lot of the church from that date is still surviving it was damaged during the Reformation, so there has been some rebuilding done over the years and the main part of the kirk which houses the congregation was built around 1745. It’s the really old bit that has the most charm for me though. I love the gargoyle-like faces on the wall which is where the original altar would have been. To me they don’t look at all Christian, more Viking or Celtic.
St Athernase

The next day was Maundy Thursday and although I’m not at all into organised religion it seemed apt to visit an ancient church around Easter. I think all of those really old churches, or kirks as we call them in Scotland, were built on the highest land in the settlement they were located in. So you have to walk through a gate and up quite a few steps to reach the churchyard. Almost as soon as we got into the churchyard a man approached us and asked us if we were documenting the graves, we aren’t of course. He was thinking of doing it if nobody else is, and I can’t find any evidence that it has already been done, I hope he takes on the task.

St Athernase

We were just looking around the churchyard, never thinking that the church would actually be open, but the minister – Rev. John C Duncan – hailed us and asked us if we would like to look around the inside – and so he ended up giving us a very interesting guided tour. I’m usually quite wary of ministers but this one couldn’t have been nicer, perhaps his previous experience of being a minister in the army made the difference. He was awarded an MBE for his service.

Luckily it seems that the Christian fundamentalists (the equivalent of those maniacs destroying everything they don’t approve of in the Middle East) didn’t spend too much time trying to destroy St Athernase because they were probably in such a hurry to march on to the more important St Andrews Cathedral – and they certainly well and truly smashed that.

If you’re interested have a look at the images of Leuchars here. There used to be an RAF station there but recently the army took over from them.

St Athernase

Cellardyke, Fife, Scotland

A couple of weeks ago some friends invited us to spend an afternoon along the coast at Cellardyke, their house is very handy for the beach, in fact it backs onto it, the tide was almost as high as it gets. I just took some photos of a small part of the beach, the North Sea looked lovely and clear, but I suspect that like most other stretches of sea nowadays – it’s full of teeny wee plastic particles.

Cellardyke, Fife, Scotland

Cellardyke

Cellardyke

Cellardyke

It looks like I must have taken this photograph from a boat but it’s just the angle that the beach takes. I’ve always wondered why the village was called Cellardyke and I’ve just discovered that it’s a corruption of Sil’erdykes as the harbour walls were covered with the drying fishing nets which were covered in silvery fish scales.

You can see more images of Cellardyke here.

We’ll be going back to that area soonish as we plan to take the boat over to the Isle of May (weather permitting) as we’ve never been there before and I dying to get some photos of puffins and whatever other seabirds might be around the place.

Kemback, Fife, Scotland

I was mooching around on Kingsbarns beach a while ago, it was just after a big storm and I practically fell over some stones with fossils in them. I’ve been back there since and haven’t been lucky enough to find anything interesting like that again, so I googled fossils in Fife and a village called Kemback was mentioned.

Now I’ve lived in Fife for over 35 years but I had never heard of Kemback before, so it was put on a list of places to visit, and one beautiful afternoon last week we got around to going there.

It’s close to Cupar and in Victorian times a mill was built there, taking advantage of the rushing water of the Ceres Burn which looks far too big to be called a burn if you ask me. The photo below is of a lovely waterfall which feeds into the river after running underneath the road. At some point it runs into the River Eden I believe.

Kemback waterfall

The waterfall is to the left of the Community Hall which you can see in the photo below.
Kemback waterfall
There are quite a few big-ish houses and a row of small terraced houses that must have been built for the mill workers, there’s a community hall and up a very steep hill stands a church and a graveyard.

But it’s the waterfall gushing down a cliffside that is the most attractive aspect of the place, it’s the one reason to visit the village really as although the waterfall feeds into the ‘burn’ there seems to be no easy way to access the burn banks or the enticing woodland over the other side of it which is really frustrating.

I love bridges in general and this one is a cute wee thing, it’s a shame about the rubbish that someone has probably chucked out of a passing car, litter seems to be all over Fife and it’s about time they started fining people because where there is a fine, such as around the Glasgow area – there is no litter on the roadside verges.

Kemback Bridge

As you can see from the photo below, it’s a fairly skinny road through Kemback, but not so narrow that passing places are needed.
Kemback cliffs

The road leading up to the church was another matter though, it’s very steep and narrow and I was terrified that we would meet a monster of a 4×4 coming in the opposite direction – but we were lucky, it’s a surprisingly busy teeny road. The church is a replacement of the original one which is just a shell in the middle of the graveyard and it was built in 1586.

Kemback Church and War Memorial

As you can see the World War 1 war memorial is in the shape of a Celtic cross.

It was the old church that really interested me, it’s situated below where the existing church is now and is surrounded by a graveyard which is still in use, but some of the graves go back hundreds of years. The church was built in 1582 and it replaced one from 1244, so it’s a fairly early Christian area. There’s only one World War 1 grave which is in front of the church in the photo, the poor soul must have been brought back home wounded – and lingered until 1920.

Old Kemback Church

The photos below were taken inside the church, where there are some ancient gravestones.
Old Kemback Church
Old Kemback Church

A view of some of the surrounding hills.
hills, Kemback< Fife

We went for a wee walk beyond the village and below is a photo of the road leading back into it. The orange thing to the left in the distance is a temporary barrier as it looks like some idiot had crashed into the wall recently. The walls around Fife seem to have taken a battering over this winter one way or another.
Kemback road

No doubt in the past this area has been quite industrial but now it’s a quiet backwater, apart from the roaring of the water that fuelled the industry.
3rd waterfall

There’s nothing else in the village apart from the community hall and the church it seems. Nobody has been tempted to open up a tearoom – which would no doubt have bought loads of visitors, but I’m not surprised that the inhabitants want to keep the place to themselves. I didn’t see anywhere that looked like a good place to find fossils, but we had a lovely afternoon out there.

You can see more images of Kemback here.

A Day Out in Edinburgh

On Wednesday we drove into Edinburgh, we don’t go into the centre all that often, mainly because the more interesting wee independent shops are elsewhere. I really wish I had my pedometer with me to see how many steps I walked because we were all over the place in a big circle from Meadowbank to George Street where we had lunch at Cafe Andaluz. Then we walked on to Lothian Road the West Port and the Grassmarket and back to Meadowbank where we had parked the car. Click on the links if you want to have an armchair trip to Edinburgh with me. The castle just looms up on you as you can see from the photo below. It does seem incongruous when you’re out shopping but the rock and castle were there long before anything else.

acastle 1

acastle 2

The Christmas lights in George Street are truly hideous. I didn’t even bother to take a photo but I found the one below online. Oh for the days when we just had ordinary coloured light bulbs strung from side to side across streets in various patterns!

hristmas lights

I hate these modern LED lights, the light they give out is so cold and brash looking. You can see photos of Princes Street Christmas lights here. I noticed that Google and umpteen other places on the internet think that it is Princess Street – it isn’t!

We were aiming for the second-hand book-shops around the West Port and Grassmarket area, we hadn’t been to those ones for ages so I had high hopes of finding some goodies. But as ever when you have high hopes you tend to end up disappointed and I only ended up getting a couple of J.I.M. Stewart (Michael Innes) paperbacks.

From West Port we made for the Grassmarket and by then it was quite dark and the tree lights were on. This is the old town and in our younger days we used to frequent this area. As you can see Edinburgh Castle towers over this area too.

acastle 3

alights 1
It was quite atmospheric in the gloaming.

alights 2

Below is Victoria Street, a steep one which I could have been doing without but Edinburgh is very hilly and multi-layered, so you just have to get on with it. Just above the top set of lights there is actually another street but you can’t really see it in this photo.

alights 3

You can see more images of The Grassmarket here.

From there we went on down The Royal Mile which had absolutely no signs of Christmas about it, it seemed appropriate for that very Presbyterian stronghold. You can read about that area here.

By then I was fairly exhausted but we still had a long way to go to get to the car, all the way down the Royal Mile (High Street) past the Scottish Parliament building, yes – it IS a bit of a mish-mash!

We walked on past Queen Mary’s bath house. I love that wee building, it’s like something out of a fairy tale.

At last we reached the car and drove on to Morningside to visit one of our ‘boys’ and his lady. By this time it was getting on for dinner time and we were lucky to find the Oxfam book shop still open. I was so lucky to find three Dorothy Dunnet hardbacks that I had been looking for – and a third of the price of the others I had seen and decided against earlier.

We’re at that stage in life when we really don’t need or want anything in the way of expensive presents. It’s going to be a very bookish Christmas for us both.

I hope you enjoyed that armchair trip around Edinburgh. It’s the best way to do it really, a lot less tiring anyway!

Dunkeld

A couple of weeks ago we decided to go to Dunkeld for the day. It’s one of my favourite wee towns. It was the day we were in search of autumnal trees.

aDunkeld trees 4

I took the photo below from the bridge in Dunkeld, looking north up the River Tay.

aDunkeld trees 1

I crossed the road to the other side of the bridge to capture the view to the south.
Dunkeld trees 3

Some houses just off the High Street in Dunkeld.

aDunkeld street 5

The town was decorated with bunting, it wasn’t long after Halloween but I think it was something to do with a local tradition.

aDunkeld street 3

aDunkeld street 2

If you look closely at the photo below you can just see the beginning of the bridge.

aDunkeld street 1

Here’s the bridge itself, built by Thomas Telford.

Bridge through trees

The River Tay is famous for salmon fishing but you have to put them back if you catch any.

aDunkeld trees stitch

Honfleur in France

Our last port of call on that cruise we went on in October was Honfleur in France. It’s north western France and the weather was very similar to British weather as it tends to be in that area. In fact we had to go into a shop and buy ‘une paraplui s’il vous plait’ – yes the rain was coming down in buckets! That was the only bad weather we had the whole cruise. Luckily we had taken most of our photos before the deluge.

aharbour 1

aharbour 4

But Honfleur itself turned out to be a wee gem of a town, very ancient as you can see.

old building 2

The town is just a very short walk from where our ship Black Watch was berthed.

aharbour 7

aOld building 3

aOld building 5

Some of the houses are very chocolate boxy and others are in dire need of some tender loving care, the one below looks scarily dilapidated!

aOld Building 6

And the house in the photo below is where the composer Erik Satie was born.

aOld Building 8

Sadly it was a Monday again and although most of the shops were open, because Honfleur’s economy must be massively boosted by the cruise ships that visit – the second-hand booksellers obviously didn’t think it was worth their while to open on a Monday. I was SO ANNOYED because I was dying to get in there and get in amongst those books. I wasn’t bothered that they were in French. I would have bought that old copy of Gulliver’s Travels if it had been open and I could see boxes full of old Tintin books in there.

abookshop

Some women press their noses up against jewellery shop windows but with me it’s the bookshops – or chocolate shops!

I’m sure you know who Erik Satie was but just because I love this piece of music by him I’m putting it on here. Gymnopedie.

Porto

Jack was keen to get to the river in Porto, I wasn’t really sure why but as I love rivers anyway I certainly wasn’t going to complain.

river 2

river cruise boat

Almost as soon as we got there we saw a river boat full of singing people! We surmised that they had probably been on a portery crawl, the Portuguese equivalent of a distillery crawl. The porteries are all above the river and they were apparently very generous with free glasses of port. Names like Sandemans, Fonseca and Cockburn.

We opted for a bridges trip on the river instead, so there was no singing on the boat we were on – shame. The boat took us under five bridges of various sorts. It was a very hot day and I forgot my hat and sunscreen cream – yes I got a bit burnt.

aBridge 11 K

And I forgot my sunglasses so my face is a bit more screwed up than usual!

Bridge 20 selfie

The cliffs along the riverside are pretty high and steep.

Buildings 17 river bank

aBuildings 15 river bank

Sadly when you go on holidays like this you don’t have time to make friends with any locals so there’s no way to see the inside of ordinary peoples’ homes. I would have loved to get a peek into these riverside houses.

Buildings 13 washing lines

Buildings 21 river bank

Below is an old warehouse with boats outside in various states of decay, I think they were about to undergo refurbishment.

Buildings 27 Warehouses + boats

The dome just visible above the trees is the only part of an exhibition in the 1950s that is still standing.

Buildings 25 Dome

And below we’re just getting back to the riverside to disembark. If you go to Porto you should definitely take a trip along the River Douro. We really enjoyed it although a young woman we spoke to in a shop said that there is an even better river trip, but it’s much longer and we wouldn’t have had time for that one. Maybe next time we’ll do that as Porto is a place we would definitely like to visit again.

aBuildings 20 yacht  river bank

Porto in Portugal

Back to the cruise and from Ferrol in Spain we sailed on to Porto in Portugal. For the first time we had to navigate a foreign transport system and were a bit daunted as of course neither of us spoke any Portuguese. But it couldn’t have been easier, the ticket machines were simple to operate and we couldn’t believe how cheap the tickets were. It was only 3.40 Euros for our two return tickets for a journey of around twelve miles or so. The tram was very clean too. I felt quite ashamed when I thought about how expensive public transport is in Britain.

metro 3

Porto is a very hilly city and when we reached our destination we had to walk down into the city centre, I was very impressed with the buildings but the first thing that took my fancy was the pavements. How grand they are – a type of marble I think or granite – but in lovely designs, they’re works of art.

paving

Porto railway station is also very grand, the photo below is of a tiled scene depicting the history of the city. There was a First World War exhibition on in the station hall with very interesting photos of Portuguese soldiers at the front. In my ignorance I hadn’t even realised they were involved in that war!

Buildings 3 Station 1

aBuildings 5 Station 3

Below is a photo of part of the station ceiling.

abuildings 7 Station ceiling

I think the building below might be the city hall.

Buildings 1

It’s a really vibrant city and we would definitely like to go back there for a holiday some time as you can’t do the place justice in the five hours or so that we had there. The people were very friendly and keen to try out their English!

Buildings 11

There was some sort of mini festival going on in this area in the photo below, those olive trees are actually growing on rooftops. The weight of it all must be incredible but there were people going in and out of the shops underneath.

roof top olive groves

After that we walked down to the river, and that will be my next post on Porto.

Ferrol, Galicia, Spain

Back to the cruise, and we had about five hours in the port of Ferrol in Spain, sometimes called El Ferrol. The town is a short walk from the docks and I think we were the last people back on board as we ‘did’ the town in two chunks, going back to the ship for lunch. We did have coffee and churos in a cafe in Ferrol, as we hadn’t tried churos before, we weren’t that impressed with them.

Anyway, we realised that the time had come for the Black Watch to set sail, but we were still in the port.

Bing bong The captain was speaking and the upshot was that they hadn’t been able to get the fuel ‘bunkered’ fast enough hence the delay.

an impromptu deck party 2

The good news was that an impromptu deck party was going to take place at the stern! The weather was gorgeous so we made our way to the blunt end of the ship where Jess Belleza and the Black Watch Band were in full swing.

impromptu deck party

Honestly it was like something out of a Cliff Richard film, I had the weirdest sensation of unreality. A couple of the dancers were jigging away in the shallow end of one of the pools and having a great time too by the look of it. Of course being an absolute cynic a large part of me was thinking that the extra time docked in Ferrol meant more money being paid out by the Fred Olsen cruise line. I’m fairly sure that the whole thing was got up to push the sales of sangria and help to pay the extra port charges – but heigh-ho it was good fun. The music must have been blasting all over the town of Ferrol, a rude awakening for some still having a siesta maybe.

jet skis

All too soon the ship was ready to sail, we found it interesting that despite the fact that they use oil for the fuel they still use the term ‘bunkering’ for the storing of it, as it was when they used coal for the fuel.

The jet skiers were dancing around in the bay, all adding to the sense of celebration.

Then we sailed past ancient fortifications. It’s a very historic area and of course England and Spain were at daggers drawn during Tudor times, so they put on a bit of a show for us, pretending we were the old enemy and seeing us off!

fortifications

There’s a chap in this photo somewhere, done up in medieval uniform and shooting at us – several times, he was thoroughly enjoying himself, boys will be boys!

Castle San Filipe 5

The ship visiting seemed to be a big occasion for the locals and some of them had been lining the harbour as we left, taking videos of the Black Watch and the nutters on it all madly waving. We were sad to leave Ferrol, the weather was fab, much hotter than usual for mid October and we hadn’t had a drop of rain, quite unusual apparently, and I can believe that as the place is very green.

harbour outlet

On we sailed down Spain’s Atlantic coast with the water still disappointingly calm and on to Porto’s port Leixoes.

Ferrol in Galicia, Spain

Back to the cruise and after sailing across the Bay of Biscay from Aviles we reached Ferrol in Galicia, north-western Spain. It’s quite a large city, a centre of naval shipbuilding and was the birthplace of the dictator General Franco.

The photo below is of palm trees just on the edge of the docks, so exotic looking to me anyway.

atrees at port

There are some lovely buildings, it all seems prosperous here anyway.
abuilding 3

asquare 1

The town is set out in a grid pattern and seems to be mainly pedestrianised and each long street led to separate large squares, often with an ornate building, town hall or some such thing, all very stylish.

asquare 3

There seemed to be a never ending supply of streets and shops and I was impressed that most of the town squares were beautifully planted, and a lot of them had play areas for children, swings and such. What a great idea, for city dwelling children and for any kids being taken into the town, something they often dread, at least the parents will be able to promise some fun at the play area after being dragged around the shops.

second square 2 trees

asecond square 1 trees

I think tree-lined avenues are a feature of Spain and they do make lovely dappled shade, just what you need in their sunny climate, this one was just a short walk from the city centre.

aavenue of trees

Ferrol was a very vibrant place, lots of locals were carrying multiple carrier bags from stores and boutiques, the place was fairly crowded but suddenly the background hum that probably every city has just disappeared, the streets seemed to have emptied somehow – it was 2 pm – siesta time! Most of the shops shut, apart from eateries. It’s very bizarre this siesta malarkey and I heard Andrew Neil on The Daily Politics mention that the siesta had a bad effect on the Spanish economy, if so it’s about time they gave it up and dragged themselves into the 21st century.

asiesta time