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.
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.
A lot of the stonework has been eroded by the weather but you can still get an idea of the original decoration.
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.
The photo below is from the highest point of the roof.
It’s definitely not for people who suffer from vertigo!
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.
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.
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.
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.
It was King David I who in 1136 asked Cistercian monks to found an abbey in Melrose.
Between Jack and myself we took loads of photos of the abbey and its surroundings.
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.
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!
One of the many historical places we visited when we were in south west Scotland in Dumfries and Galloway recently was Glenluce Abbey – yes, yet another ruin! It was founded around 1192 it’s thought, and was a daughter abbey to Dundrennan Abbey, so it was a Cistercian abbey peopled by monks who wore white robes.
After the Reformation in 1560 the monks embraced the new religion and were allowed to live out their lives in the abbey with the last one dying in 1602. Like most of these places when they were no longer used the people living locally used the place as a handy quarry, an easy place to go and purloin some nice stone for whatever domestic project they had on hand.
The windows in the photo below have obviously been fairly recently restored.
Quite often you can see quite fancy stones in the walls of local cottages near such ruins which were clearly taken from a much more important building.
There’s a very sweet and dainty looking type of wee fern-like plant, but it has lilac flowers, which has very happily set up home in lots of the abbey stonework.
The one below has settled in what must have been a small shuttered window, but the shutter is long gone.
And below is a very narrow but tall building which was for the use of the abbot. Inside it’s just one teeny wee room, about five feet wide I think. There must have been two or three storeys to it originally but the floors have gone and the abbott must have used a ladder to get up there as there’s no room for any stairs. The height and narrowness of it makes it look very French to me. Sadly it wasn’t possible to get a photo of the front of that building because of the overhanging trees. It looks perfect to me, it would make a wonderful folly if you were lucky enough to have a big enough garden for it!
Well it is that season of mists and mellow fruitfulness and this was what Fountains Abbey in Yorkshire looked like last week when we visited it. It was a Cistercian Abbey and the grounds lead into Studley Royal which is a beautiful water garden which was created in the 1700s, but more about that in another post.
It didn’t look quite so misty close up, but it was very chilly and I imagine it must have been bitterly cold for the monks who lived here, they first settled in this area in 1132. In fact there was a party of schoolchildren there at the same time as us and they got to dress up in monks’ habits, hoods and all. I actually envied them as they looked a lot warmer in them than I felt.
There’s still quite a lot of the main building left and there’s a great model in the Porter’s Lodge which shows how large the whole place was in its heyday. A lot of the buildings have just disappeared.
The setting is beautiful with streams and fountains leading in to the river which would have provided the monks with fish. They were very good businessmen and turned the surrounding land into productive farmland for crops and sheep.
I can’t resist a bridge of course and there are a few like this one around the abbey.
This abbey was one of the many casualties of Henry VIII and his disagreement with the Pope in order to get his hands on Anne Boleyn. It had been one of the richest abbeys in Europe until then.
There’s a lot of walking involved if you want to go around the adjoining water gardens too so flat shoes are required, but it’s a lovely place and is well worth a visit, I’ll be posting those photos soon I hope.