Over the last week or so I’ve been gallivanting around parts of the UK, specifically spending three nights at Gladstone’s Library at Hawarden in north Wales. Then on to the south of England – Rye in East Sussex for a couple of nights before going on to Ashby de la Zouch in Staffordshire which is around about the English midlands. Lastly one night in Gateshead in the north of England to visit friends. I enjoyed being away and having a change of scene but it’s lovely to be back home again. Of course, books were bought, but I’ll tell you about those later.
I must admit that I had never even heard of Gladstone’s Library when I was given the mini break as a 60th birthday treat, but since then it seems to be popping up everywhere, even being on TV’s Flog It apparently. Our bedroom decor leaned towards the spartan and the rooms don’t have a TV but they do have a radio if you can’t stand not knowing what’s going on in the news. However as a resident you do get access to the books in the library. I was disappointed when I realised that about 80% of the books are on theology – not a favourite subject for me. However as it turned out there were a few books about the sedition trials of 1794 so I was able to do some interesting research on William Skirving, that distant ancestor of mine who was transported to Australia. As a bookworm it was quite a thrill to be given my own key to the library which is locked at 5 o’clock and when I was in there after hours I was the only one there! Most of the other guests were acquainted with each other and seem to have been church groups or choirs. In the blurb on the place it says that clergymen get a discount. I wonder how much as it’s quite a lot more expensive than places of a similar standard accommodation wise.
I’ve wanted to go to Rye for years as I love E.F. Benson’s Mapp and Lucia books and Rye is the setting although in the books it’s called Tilling, named after the River Tillingham which flows through Rye. The town is as quaint as you could wish and it’s easy to imagine the place being awash with smugglers as it was in times past. The American writer Henry James loved the town and eventually managed to buy Lamb House which had been the home of the mayors up until he bought it. He lived there for 25 years and when he died E.F. Benson leased the house from the James family until his death. So the house has been frequented by hordes of writers over the years as they each had friends who also wrote. Lamb House now belongs to the National Trust and the house and garden are definitely worth a visit.
Photos of Gladstone’s Library and Rye will be forthcoming – when I get organised.
On our trip to Dunbar last month to visit the battlefield – such as it is almost 500 years after the fact – we stopped off at the actual town of Dunbar which is in East Lothian about 30 miles east of Edinburgh. The High Street there boasts the birthplace of John Muir and although we had often been to the small coastal town, we hadn’t been into the birthplace museum, so we rectified that this time around. As you can see below it’s a rather spiffing looking Scottish Georgian building.
What a disappointment when we got inside though. The whole building has been stripped back so there’s really nothing left to see of the internals, apart from a hole where a fireplace must have been once. I assume that it must have been riddled with dry rot and it was easier and much cheaper just to scrape everything away down to the bare stonework, no floors or ceilings left. You can go upstairs but it is modern and is almost as if another building has been built within the original one. It’s such a shame as there’s no ambience at all and it’s impossible to imagine how it was in John Muir’s day.
I took a photo of an embroidery sampler which I believe was supposed to have been done by his mother, sorry about the reflections. I have a couple very similar to this one, but mine have the embroiderers name on them – as most do.
You might be asking who John Muir was, I think he’s possibly better known within the USA than in his country of birth. He was a writer, explorer, naturalist and environmental campaigner and was years ahead of his time, realising that humans were damaging natural environments, and seeing that something had to be done – he is seen as the ‘Father of National Parks’.
Like most coastal towns Dunbar isn’t what it used to be, people would rather go on holiday to Spain than brave the icy waters of the North Sea, but it’s still a scenic area, you can see more photos of the area here.
There’s now a walk called The John Muir Way which stretches 134 miles from Helensburgh (one of my favourite areas) in the west of Scotland to Dunbar in East Lothian. That’s even longer than Hadrian’s Wall is and if I ever get around to a long walk like that I think I’d rather do the wall, if not the West Highland Way. Click the links if you want to see some stunning images of the walks.
About a month or so ago we were travelling down to the north of England for a few days, just for a change of scene and as usual we stopped off at the couthie wee town of Moffat. We normally have our lunch there and check out the secondhand bookshop. Yes I did buy a few books!
It was busier than usual but we put that down to it being a Saturday. Just as we parked the car – congratulating ourselves on managing to get a space in the High Street we heard pipers tuning up and realised it was their Gala day.
The wee Border towns have been better at holding on to these old traditions, Moffat choose a ‘shepherd and lass’ each year and they’re in the carriage.
It was impossible to get photos without people in the way but you can also see the lovely cushioned hills in the background, perfect backdrop to any town.
Jack took a couple of very short videos while we were there.
They haven’t got around to putting up a video of the 2019 gala yet but you can see a wee bit of what went on in the 2018 gala if you’re interested.
Back at Stockholm, above is a photo of the royal palace and public gardens nearby.
Below is a statue of what Jack described as a disporting gent but we didn’t find a clue as to who he is.
Below is definitely Linnaeus.
One of a pair of waterfalls at the royal palace.
A church and street.
The national museum – below.
The Riksdag below is I presume the parliament building, I thought the plane flying past would have looked better than it does in the photo.
Eventually we found Gamla Stan which is the old part of the city and as you can see was stuffed with tourists. Shops selling Dala horses abounded, but we resisted as our old ones look nicer than the ones they sell now. I nearly bought an old children’s book with lovely illustrations but as the shop owner was on the phone all the time we were there – chatting with a friend – she didn’t get the sale. I’m still annoyed, but it happens here too, I just wonder why people have shops if they aren’t willing to serve the potential customers.
Lastly is a photo of the waterfront. I don’t know what it would be like on a cold and grey winter’s day, but certainly in blue sky sunshine Stockholm is a stunningly beautiful city.
Tallinn is the capital of Estonia which used to be part of the Soviet Union. They gained their independence from the USSR in 1991 and from what I can see they seem to be doing rather well on their own. Food for thought for Scots I think!
I’ve always been interested in architecture so buildings feature in most of my photos whenever I go to somewhere new. The onion domes seen through the trees say it all really – so exotic looking compared with the rather boring spires of churches in the UK.
But the crow stepped gables and red pantiles of the church below are rather reminiscent of old buildings in the east of Scotland. The pantiles in Fife came over as ballast in ships from Holland, I wonder if these ones in Tallinn came from Holland too.
Looking up at the architecture I began to feel like it reminded me of the old film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
Below is a photo of the ministry of culture building. As you can see it has the beloved European flag flying from it. While we were in the Baltic all of the cities had campaign posters up for the then upcoming European elections. I didn’t see any at all in the UK.
Sadly it began to rain quite heavily towards the end of our day in Tallinn, as you can see from the green roof on this building below, I love the fancy weather vane though.
But cafe culture doesn’t stop because of a wee bit of rain.
Doors into buildings were often very ornate too as you can see below.
Tallinn is a medieval city and still has a lot of its ancient walls intact, you can walk around on top of them in parts.
The old part of the city is very busy with tourists, especially if there’s more than one cruise ship in town but it’s a lovely place to visit – as you can see.
The very first Baltic place that we visited on our recent cruise was Warnemunde in the former East Germany. Some people took bus trips to Berlin from here, but it was a seven hour round trip for a very short time in Berlin so we opted to stay in the lovely small town and enjoy walking along the beautiful sandy beach. Actually it was really quite warm and we really had a good time here.
I have no idea what it was like during Cold War times but there are now a lot of fairly newly built hotels and the place was heaving with German tourists so it’s obviously very popular with the natives. You can also take a train to Rostock from here if you really pine for a large town or city.
The streets were well planted up with mainly tulips and pansies.
We chose to walk back into the town using the beautiful woodland walk which edges the beach, it got us out of the glare of the sun, a good thing as I had forgotten my sun hat.
The town was very busy but we did manage to get one photo of a typical street with very German looking buildings.
There were some very talented sand sculptors around. Neptune is somehow very Germanic looking don’t you think?
I don’t know how anyone could have the patience to do something like this, especially as they are so fleeting and won’t last long after all the hard work expended on them.
So that was a glimpse of the coastal area of Warnemunde, I’ll leave the park for another post.
It’s the second of January but some of my neighbours have taken down their Christmas decorations already. Mind you those are the people who put up their decorations in mid November! I did manage to take some photos of the lights in a few of the places we visited pre-Christmas, below are the street lights in Dumbarton, the small town that I grew up in.
I must say that I was really impressd with the town’s efforts. I actually think that they’re the best ones I’ve seen for a long time. I’m fed up with just bright white lights that so many places seem to have opted for, the yellow and red fairly cheered the place up.
Tha lights of the “Artizan’ area (which by the way is NOT where the old Artizan was) aren’t quite so nice I think, but they’re better than nothing I suppose.
The permanent lights that enhance the old stone bridge below are atmospheric.
You can get an idea of what it looks like in daylight from the photo below.
In Glasgow George Square is the focus for the Christmas activities, in my young day that used to mean a nativity scene, but nowadays they plonk a fun fair on it. It was ‘sear your eye balls’ bright this year (2018).
West George Street in the Merchant City area was the place to go if you were looking for something a bit more elegant. The church doorway was flanked by two Christmas trees, it looked pretty in the distance anyway. The church (St George’s Tron) is actually in Nelson Mandela Place though, the first street named after him – long before he was released from prison.
And so went another year – in a flash!
We’ve been to the V&A at Dundee a couple of times now since it opened recently, the second time we had hoped that it wouldn’t be quite so busy – but it was. I think it’ll be quite some time before the visitor numbers settle down a wee bit. Below is a close up of one of the walls so you can see how curvaceous it is. We’ve watched this building grow very slowly for years and it seemed at times that it would never be finished so it’s no surprise that people have been chewing at the bit to get into it.
In parts it overhangs the River Tay and I’m not sure if it’s meant to be inspired by a ship or Scottish cliffs, or a conglomeration of both. Dundee was famous for shipbuilding in the past. It looks like a perfect nesting place for seabirds of which there are plenty around here, but apparently they are being kept at bay by the use of sonar.
The weather in Dundee does get pretty wild at times so I hope that the planting has been chosen for hardiness. I think it’s supposed to be prairie planting. It’ll be interesting to see if it survives.
The interior is definitely different with this angled slatted shingle effect which is reminiscent of an old ship.
The staircase is elegant I think.
I’m not sure if the stone of the floors and stairs is natural or some kind of man made substitute, but it looks like it has all sorts of fossils embedded in it.
If you want to see more photos you should click over to Jack’s post here.
The photos below are of the view we had from the window of our hotel room just outside Grasmere in the Lake District. I took these ones in the morning, but I was so annoyed when I looked out of it because when we arrived the night before it had been full of unusual grey fleeced sheep, and I didn’t take a photo of them as I thought the light wasn’t good enough.
I’m not great at getting to sleep when I’m away from home and I wasn’t helped by the sound of an owl hoo-oo-ooting. It must have been sitting on the roof directly above our bed, but it sounded like it was sitting on the bedhead, and it was one of those spooky sounding owls. It went on for quite a while only stopping now and again when I imagine it must have flown off on a hunting expedition, before alighting above us again. It was definitely a different experience.
Very early in the morning I had been woken up by some dogs barking outside and I did think in a woolly way that they must have been sheep dogs and my brain just didn’t click to the fact that they were rounding the sheep up, taking them to new pastures – I hope.
The view of across the road from the hotel is really quite different as you can see.
It’s much more mountainous although maybe I should say craggy as by Scottish standards these are really just hills. I love the stone built farm buildings they have in this area.
The Lake District does seem a bit like a mini Scotland – with loads more tourists. It’s not really that far from the ‘debatable lands’ of the Scottish Borders which were always being fought over.
I took some photos of the types of houses that are in Grasmere. The one below is so wonderfully craggy and solid looking and I’ve never seen chimney stacks like that before. This house is close to Dove Cottage.
In complete contrast whitewashed houses like the one below always seem quite fragile to me and remind me of iced cakes. I’ll be completely un-pc and say that as I often think of houses as having characters then the top craggy one is definitely male whilst the whitewashed one is veering towards femininity!
The burn/stream below edges the graveyard that the Wordsworths are buried in. I did take a photo of the lovely wee bridge over it but sadly it came out all blurred.
If you want to see more images of the village of Grasmere have a look here.