Stromness, Orkney, Scotland

I liked this really quaint looking house in Stromness.
quaint house

Stromness is a really small town with just one very narrow street of shops strung along the edge of it, and as you can see it’s very narrow, you have to press yourself to the wall whenever a car goes past – which is often, and sometimes you even have to dive into a doorway if it’s a big vehicle. We were never brave enough to actually drive along this street – not wishing to kill anyone!

Stromness Street , High Street

Stromness street

Stromness, High Street

The pavements/road surfaces are interesting though, there seem to be fossils embedded in a lot of them.

fossil paving , Stromness, Orkney

This very old doorway is just off the High Street .

Carved doorway

Stromness like every other High Street in the UK has at least one charity shop, it’s a cat charity and Moxy the cat is apparently NOT FOR SALE.

Moxy the cat in charity shop

There are some cracking photos of Stromness online, you can see them here.

St Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall, Orkney

St Magnus Cathedral

After a few decent days of weather on Orkney a storm rolled in, terrible high winds and torrential rain, so we decided to drive to Kirkwall which is the main town on Orkney. We dashed from shop to shop in a bid to avoid the worst of the rain, not that there are that many shops in Kirkwall.

St Magnus Cathedral beckoned us over the road and although there were quite a lot of people inside – that didn’t detract from the beauty of the place. I usually much prefer the atmosphere in small churches (not that I am at all religious) as some large places of worship often have that ‘fear of God’ about them, but this cathedral felt like a place of peace.

St Magnus Cathedral back towards door

The floor is particularly lovely.

St Magnus Cathedral Floor

As is the font which is encrusted with semi-precious polished stones.
St Magnus Cathedral Font

St Magnus Cathedral altar

St Magnus Cathedral Wall

I love this model of a Viking ship.

St Magnus Cathedral Viking Ship

There are more images of the cathedral here.

Sneek, Holland

One town that we visited on our recent trip to the Netherlands was Sneek (prounced snake). It’s one of those places that I would have been very happy to settle down in, or at least have a small holiday house there, but as I haven’t won the lottery – it won’t be possible. Lots of canals means lots of bridges and this one dates from 1887, it’s unusual I think.
Canal Bridge
It doesn’t really look like it’s meant for cars to go over it, but they do – we did.
Canal Bridge

To me there’s something lovely about being able to moor a wee boat right outside your house so you can hop in and sail along a canal any time you fancy. It’s one way of avoiding the road traffic anyway!
Canal

The canal leads eventually to the North Sea, but presumably it can’t cope with boats big enough to sail across it to Scotland, but it would be tempting (or crazy) to try. Below is a photo of the waterpoort.

waterpoort
The town itself is very historic, but there are also independent shops, which is such a nice change from towns in the UK which always seem to have the same chainstores – or often nowadays – empty shop premises.
Street in Sneek
If you ever find yourself in north-east Holland you should definitely have a keek at Sneek – or even a cake at Snake!
Canal

Ypres

After spending an afternoon in Bruges we drove on to Ypres or Ieper as the locals prefer to call it nowadays. We were there last year for the first time, mainly because we wanted to attend one of the services of remembrance that are held every evening at 8 pm at the Menin Gate. You can just see the edge of the massive gateway to the town in this photo. It has thousands of names of the ‘fallen’ on it. The road is closed off every evening which does annoy some of the locals, but as so many visitors are going there just to track down family graves, and it brings a lot of money into the local economy, I think it’s something that they’ll just have to put up with.

Menin Gate from street

The photo below is another view of the Menin Gate taken from the west.
Menin Gate from West

Below is another view of the Menin Gate and the moat which surrounds the town.
Menin Gate from ramparts

The photo below was taken from the ramparts near the Menin Gate and the houses are on the other side of the moat. They’re all individually designed and some are very smart looking.
houses in Ypres Belgium

I didn’t take any photos of the town of Ypres this time but you can see some I took last year here.

And we stayed at the same hotel which you can see here, we had much better weather last year.

This year we just took the photo below, in the evening.
Hotel Kasteelhof ‘t Hooghe

More of Bruges

Second square

Bruges – or Brugge if you prefer, depending on whether you are speaking French or Flemish – they both mean ‘bridge’ anyway – smells mainly of chocolate due to all the chocolate shops around, and the cafes and restaurants serving waffles with chocolate sauce. I have to admit that occasionally there is a whiff of what I will politely call drains, it’s a fact that old places also have ancient drainage systems.

Second square

Bruges is full of grand buildings set around several squares, some of these ones are just local government buildings I think.

Second square
Others are really old like these two, there were queues of schoolkids going up the stairs most of the time we were there, so we decided to give that sightseeing opportunity a miss – whatever the building was!

Second square

Bruges in Belgium – by water

Like many towns in Belgium and Holland Bruges is ringed by water, it’s part of the charm of their towns. Bruges is in west Flanders and is known as the Venice of the north. The city centre is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Mind you, I don’t think I would like to be living in one of the houses that have water lapping at their walls, they must be terribly damp. There have been settlements in this area since the Bronze Age.

Boat trip

Anyway, we decided that a trip on the canal was a must although as the boat filled up with fellow tourists I was looking over the edge and wondering if it was safe, they don’t half pack people in! I think it is partly the boat trip that made me think that Bruges was so busy with tourists because when I look at the other photos it doesn’t look too crowded.

Boat trip

The name Bruges actually means bridges – obviously because there are so many small bridges all over the town, they’re all quite low but there’s only one that you have to duck your head to get under it though, when you’re in the boat.

This is definitely the best way to get a view of the many ancient buildings around the town. It must be quite annoying though for the people living in the houses with constant tourist filled boats going past – with a guide talking through a microphone.
Boat trip

Boat trip
The swans mainly seem to congregate in this area, probably they take to the water when the boats retire for the evening.

Boat trip swans

We noticed what seemed to be two Swaene Hotels, a bit confusing.

The Swaene Hotel, Bruges

The Swaene Hotel, Bruges

A lovely lilac tree overhung the canal.

Boat trip

More photos of Bruges will be forthcoming, eventually!

I’m Back! – and Bruges, Belgium

In fact I’ve been back home for a couple of days now, but I’ve been busy getting back to ‘normal’ and doing the garden, it looked very lush when we got back – and I had been worrying that it would all be frazzled up as I knew the weather had been dry while we were away. It’s amazing how much everything had grown in the two weeks we were away in Belgium and Holland.

We got the car ferry from Hull in the north of England, sailing to Zeebrugge in Belgium. You might know that I enjoy a good rough sea, I keep saying that but for all I know I might suffer from sea-sickness now as every time we sail anywhere it’s always a flat calm, even when we were in the notorious Bay of Biscay. Luckily I don’t seem to suffer from claustrophobia as the cabins on the car ferries are teeny, definitely not even space to swing a cat – if you were that way inclined.

We sailed into Zeebrugge at 9.30 am and in no time Jack was driving towards Bruges which is just ten or so miles away from the port. There’s always that slightly hairy few minutes before you get used to driving/being driven on the ‘wrong’ side of the road.
Square in Bruges
Neither of us had ever been to Bruges before but had heard from loads of people that it is well worth visiting, and they were correct. It’s actually much bigger than I had imagined it would be – lots of tourists of course, but also plenty of locals around. Bikes are almost as popular in Belgium as in Holland and I saw a tandem that was for hire amongst a pile of bikes, I was tempted by it, but J isn’t a cyclist so we explored by foot. Well the horse drawn carriage trip cost 50 euros, so I settled for taking a photo of them, but loads of people did hire them.
Square  in Bruges horses
Between us we took over 500 photos, but I won’t inflict them all on you – honestly, these are just a few of them for now.

Square in Bruges

Everything here looks slightly misty. I didn’t think it really was even if the sky was a bit overcast.

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.