Christmas lights 2018

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.

Dumbarton HighStreet

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.

Christmas lights, Dumbarton Hight Street

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.

Christmas lights, Dumbarton

The permanent lights that enhance the old stone bridge below are atmospheric.

Dumbarton old bridge, Scotland

You can get an idea of what it looks like in daylight from the photo below.

Swans in River Leven, Dumbarton

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).

Christmas lights,George Square, Glasgow

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.

Christmas lights, Glasgow

And so went another year – in a flash!

The V&A at Dundee

V&A Sign, Dundee

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.

Exterior Curve, V&A Dundee

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.
Overhanging River Tay, V&A Dundee

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.
Exterior Planting , V&A Dundee

The interior is definitely different with this angled slatted shingle effect which is reminiscent of an old ship.
V&A Interior

V&A Interior

V&A Interior,  Dundee
The staircase is elegant I think.
V&A Interior ,staircase, Dundee

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.

Interior Stairs, V&A Dundee

V&A Interior floor, Dundee

If you want to see more photos you should click over to Jack’s post here.

Around Grasmere, Lake District

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.

farmland, outside Grasmere
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.
farmland, Grasmere

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.
hills outside Grasmere
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.
scenery outside Grasmere
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.
hills outside Grasmere

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.
House + chimneys

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!

typical Lake District house

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.
Burn, Grasmere

If you want to see more images of the village of Grasmere have a look here.

St Monans Windmill and coast in Fife, Scotland

Pittenweem from St Monans Windmill 1

One lovely Sunday in August we went to a local craft/food fair along the coast at St Monans and then took a walk along part of the Fife coastal walk. I took the photo of the village of Pittenweem above from the old windmill at St Monans, which is below. It has been fairly recently refurbished but you don’t seem to be able to get into it.
Windmill
The tide was just about as high as it gets, but there weren’t many boats around, just one yacht and a small fishing boat laying creels/lobster pots.
Rocks  + Yacht

We sat for a while on these beautifully sea worn rocks, watching the patterns of the ripples and waves.
Rocks and Sea
From the windmill you can look down on the remains of the salt pans below. It was quite a complicated and time consuming business. No wonder people were described as being ‘worth their salt’.
Salt Pans

Salt Pans at St Monans

Salt Pan Information Board

Salt Pan Information Board

Below is a photo of the windmill with the old fishing village of St Monans in the background. It’s famous for having a ‘squinty’ harbour wall. You can see images of the village here.
Windmill and St Monans

Random photos

I must have walked past this window in St Andrews hundreds of times but I only noticed it recently. The buildings are generally very old but this is obviously an Art Nouveau/Arts and Crafts window, somebody did a bit of refurbishment over the years.

Art Nouveau Glass Window

Across the road I noticed the stone owls sitting on the edge of the portico. I think that like many buildings in St Andrews this one is owned by the university, so presumably the owls are symbolic of wisdom and learning.

Owls

It’s rare to see an empty street nowadays, they’re usually full of parked cars on both sides of the street, but on their Open Arts Festival in Cellardyke, a coastal village in Fife, the place was deserted of cars for once. The clutch of red balloons being the only evidence of modernity, denoting where an artist was exhibiting work.
Cellardyke

I took the photo below in the fair city of Perth, the hanging baskets and window boxes were looking so lovely. I think the rather grand looking building was a bank originally – remember them?!
hanging baskets

I have visited the small town of Dunkeld hundreds of times as it’s one of my favourite places, but I had only ever been into the cathedral ruins there. The photo below is of the newer cathedral which is obviously still in use as a place of worship.
Dunkeld Cathedral Stained Glass

The photo below is the view of Dunkeld that you get as you drive over the bridge.
Dunkeld From Bridge over the River Tay

After visiting the cathedral I walked over the bridge to get a photo of the River Tay. I’ve never seen it so low before, there were actually people walking out to the ‘islands’.
River Tay From Bridge at Dunkeld

I bet it was still cold though!

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

Collessie, Fife

One beautiful day last week we decided to visit a nearby estate garden which is open to the public. We had never been before but the address in books was given as Collessie, so we drove to that small village, a place we had never been before despite it being just a few miles from where we live. We never did find the estate garden that day as it’s actually on the rode to another village. I was enchanted by Collessie though so we spent an hour or so walking around the very historic village. Below is a photo of what had been the post office and is now someone’s home. Post Offices have been closed down all over the country which is a tragedy as they were often the hub of a village. In fact this place has no shops or anything, just a church and a community hall.

Old Post Office, Collessie

It’s like stepping back into a sort of Brigadoon. I’ve only seen a few thatched houses in Scotland, they’re much nore common in the south of England, so I was amazed to see several of them in Collessie. The village apparently has the most thatched roofs of anywhere in Scotland.

Thatched Cottage
They look lovely but we have friends who lived in a thatched cottage down south and they said that as soon as the weather turned a bit cold – all of the local ‘skittering’ wildlife moved into the roof for warmth, not my idea of fun. Especially as they didn’t stay in the thatch but made forays into the house.
Thatched cottage
Of course not all of the cottages have thatched roofs, but the street below is still amazingly quaint looking. It looks like nothing has changed for a couple of hundred years.
street in Collessie
I think that the road in the photo below must have been the main road leading to St Andrews which was of course a popular place for pilgrims to walk to in the days of the early Christian church. You can see the church beyond the thatched roof, it has been extended a lot over the years but the original part of it dates from before 1243 which is when it was consecrated by the Bishop of St Andrews.
Thatched Cottage

Considering the size of the village this church is enormous. I think that over the years the population must have decreased a lot.
Collessie Church

The village is a bit of a dead end as it has been by-passed by a larger road which is why we had never been there before, but it’s definitely worth making a detour off the main road to step back in time to Collessie. I’ll put a few more photos of it up tomorrow.

Shrewsbury – some buildings

As I said in a previous blogpost Shrewsbury is a very busy town, but it’s also quaint and very historic with lots of Tudor timbered buildings. Definitely use the park and ride if you visit the town though as the traffic was a nightmare. On the plus side the policemen were very friendly and helpful.

Shrewsbury Buildings

Shrewsbury buildings

Higgledy-piggledy, holding each other up.

Shrewsbury buildings

The restaurant below will probably look great in the summer when they have their hanging baskets properly planted up.

Shrewsbury Tudor building

But the one below is probably the grandest that we saw. I wonder what it was originally, as you can see it houses a pharmacy nowadays, on the ground floor anyway.

Shrewsbury Building

This and that

Today it was actually quite mild and sunny – at times anyway and I spent most of the day in the garden , still ‘redding up’ (tidying up) weeding and cutting back the dead bits. In fact after the brutal cold weather and snow we had a fortnight ago there are now quite a few fatalities. My rosemary bushes had gone all through the winter fairly happily, but the Easter weather was just too much for them and they’ve had to be chopped right back, I hope they re-grow. It was only today that I realised that my lovely ceanothus (Californian lilac) now has brown leaves instead of the lovely glossy dark green leaves it has had all through the winter. More chopping back required, I find it painful. A few roses have succumbed to the cold weather, but I’m hopeful that they might survive – eventually. Strangely the lavender bushes are all very happy looking, so much for them being tender Mediterranean plants, but my Alpine edelweiss plant looks like it has had it. I’ll leave it in though just in case there’s life in the roots yet.

Over the weekend we were up north in Inverness on a football related jaunt. Friday was freezing and grey, a disappointment as the weather forecast said it would be nice up there. But the sun arrived on Saturday – and there was warmth with it, amazing! When I say warmth it was probably just in double figures celsius, but not long ago it was -5 so I was happy. Can you believe I actually had to put the car window down? Inverness was heaving with people, there were so many tourists, and it being a Friday night we couldn’t get into any of the restaurants that we tried as we hadn’t booked. There was one restaurant that had only four people in it, not a good sign considering how jam packed everywhere else was, but we had no alternative so we gave it a go. It was a Mediterranean eatery (allegedly). It was expensive and it was possibly the worst meal I’ve ever had in a restaurant – AND I came out feeling hungrier than I had been when I went in! Why oh why didn’t I check out the Tripadvisor reviews first?!

The book pile has grown by seven books, I bought some in the Pitlochry bookshops on the way up to Inverness. Then some more in a Dingwall bookshop. Dingwall actually has two secondhand bookshops, amazing. I think maybe the long dark winters in the Scottish Highlands lead to a lot of people picking up books to take themselves to pastures new, for a wee while anyway.

One of the books that I bought was by Rose Tremain. I’ve never read anything by her, but I enjoyed reading this Guardian article last week. Have you read any of her books?

I didn’t take any photos of Inverness itself, but you can see some images here.

Shrewsbury Abbey

We managed to visit quite a few towns during our fairly recent trip to Oswestry, and one of them was Shrewsbury. We had no idea that the town was going to be quite as congested as it is, but thankfully we had already decided to use the very handy and cheap Park and Ride there. The traffic was incredibly heavy and slow moving, it would have been a nightmare driving through it and searching for a parking place. Otherwise we were really impressed with Shrewsbury which has a very high proportion of independent shops, so it’s quite a unique shopping experience – if you’re that way inclined.

But we visited Shrewsbury Abbey which is in the photo below. The abbey was founded in 1083 but a lot of the building was destroyed in the 16th century apparently

Shrewsbury Abbey

It’s not magnificent looking from the outside, but it’s better internally as you can see from the photo below.

Shrewsbury Abbey

Shrewsbury Abbey

I’m sure that one of the stained glass windows is a recent one which was commissioned in memory of the author Ellis Peters/Edith Pargeter, who lived locally. She set her books around the abbey where her character Brother Cadfael was a Benedictine monk.

Shrewsbury Abbey

The window below is very high up and much more ancient.

Shrewsbury Abbey

In the past the abbey has been inundated as you can see from the photo below of a boat in the aisle. The River Severn runs through the town and obviously gets too close for comfort sometimes.

Shrewsbury Abbey

It seems to have been terribly dark when we were in the abbey, but you can see much better images here.