Threave Gardens, Dumfries and Galloway

azalea walkway

We visited Threave Gardens during our recent four day trip to Dumfries and Galloway and we got there at the perfect time, just as the rhododendrons and azaleas were looking their best. The nearest town to Threave is Castle Douglas.

azalea walkway

It’s very weird but when I was there I didn’t even notice the electricity wires in this photo, or the shadow, too busy looking at the plants I suppose.
azalea walkway
This was originally a private estate but I believe it is now used as a horticultural training centre and the students have accommodation in what was the estate house – very nice I’m sure. The house is of course in the Scots Baronial style.
Threave House

There’s a wee burn running through the gardens in the Japanese section.
Burn at Threave Gardens
It wouldn’t be a Japanese Garden without a bridge and acers of course.
Japanese Bridge + Pond

Japanese Bridge

And a wee bit of a waterfall too. It was a boiling hot and very bright day, in fact too bright – not that I’m moaning.
cascade at Threave Gardens

If you’re into gardening you should definitely visit Threave. They have a great plant nursery there with lots of plant varieties that feature in the gardens for sale, so of course I just had to purchase some. In my experience it’s rare to be able to buy plants that you’ve actually seen growing in gardens like this one and it drives me nuts that they don’t bother to make the most of the commercial possibilities. Whoever runs Threave has got it right!

I took lots more photos but I’ll save the rest for another time.

Mull of Galloway, Dumfries and Galloway

Last year we visted the furthest north point of Scotland so this year we couldn’t miss out on visiting the furthest southerly point of Scotland in Dumfries and Galloway. The Mull of Galloway lighthouse is one of the many designed and built by the Stevenson family which the writer Robert Louis Stevenson belonged to.

Mull of Galloway Lighthouse

Mull of Galloway Info Board

Jack was determined to stand on the very most southerly point which just happened to be where the foghorn is located. Thankfully it’s no longer in use. There are lots of steps down to it which was fine going down, not such fun on the way up though!
Foghorn from path

Below is a photo of the foghorn from the lighthouse, there was a real pall of sea mist (haar) so there was no chance of being able to see Ireland or the Isle of Man that day.
Foghorn from Lighthouse

The coastline is very rocky and dangerous as you can see and there seemed to be nobody around who was mad enough to hang off the rocks or cliffs as they did when we were up in Orkney last year.
Mull of Galloway rocks

It looks like we had the place to ourselves but it was very busy, especially considering it was quite late on in the day. Anyway, that’s another thing ticked off our non-existent bucket list.

Logan Botanic Garden, Dumfries and Galloway

Australasian area

For years I’ve been reading about Logan Botanic Garden in Dumfries and Galloway, that part of Scotland has a milder climate than the rest of the country, being in the south west the weather is most influenced by the Gulf Stream so is usually frost free, hence tree ferns can safely be grown there as you can see. I must admit that they’re not my favourite sort of plants but there were plenty of others to admire.

Australasian area

Logan Botanic Gardens

The Mecanopsis obviously enjoy the growing conditions there. This must be the most often manslaughtered plant in the UK. I’ve tried it several times in various gardens and I’m trying it yet again, so far so good although it hasn’t flowered yet.
Meconopsis

There was a shy and retiring big orange bird wandering about in the Australasian section, I hope there are more of its kind to keep it company.
Orange Bird

You might find it hard to believe but neither of us had seen newts before, this pond was full of them.
Newts

Newts

These ‘palm’ trees are often grown in coastal places around Scotland but they’re usually a lot more scruffy looking.
Palms

It seems that wherever you wander in Scotland there’s a castle or tower ruin nearby and the same goes for Logan Botanic Garden which has Balzieland Castle in the middle of it, it isn’t open to the public but if you’re interested in its history have a look here..

Old Tower Castle Balzieland

It was a gorgeous afternoon and I had a lovely time but I must admit that I much prefer native plants to exotic plants which are quite likely to need mollycoddling to get through the winter, although maybe that’s not really necessary at this location.

Orchardton Tower, Dumfries and Galloway

Orchardton Tower

Orchardton Tower is apparently the only one of its kind in Scotland and it dates from the 1400s. It’s unusual as it’s a free-standing round tower, built as a fortified home for John Cairns, a nobleman who had it built over 200 years after this design went out of fashion.

I can’t say that I blame him for that as it’s a really elegant design and is in a beautiful location. I think in its heyday it must have been a lovely house to live in. The kitchens and servants quarters must have been in the part which is detached and now just a ruin.

The photo below is of a piscina, a niche where bowls could be washed, they’re more often located in abbeys and cathedrals, to rinse the sacramental vessels.

Piscina
All of the interior floors are long gone.

Orchardton Tower Interior
But there is a spiral staircase right to the top of the tower, it’s a long way down!
As you can see in the photo below there’s a cute wee ‘house’ at the top of the staircase leading onto the roof.

Orchardton Tower Summit

Orchardton Tower Interior

A view from the top of the tower.
View from Tower  Summit

The very slim one track road with passing places that leads to the tower is quite nerve wracking on a bright early summer day, so I can’t imagine how awful it must be in the winter, but there is at least one house close by. I imagine that the view from their house compensates for any disadvantages of living there. I must admit that I love that tower and location.

View from  Orchardton Tower  Summit 2

Torhouse Stone Circle, Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland

I don’t think I had even realised that there were standing stones in south west Scotland, which was daft of me because there must have been quite a lot of travelling to and fro between that part of Scotland and Ireland, even way back in the times when such stone monuments were being built.

So I was surprised to see stones in a field right next to the road we were driving along. It was the Torhouse Stone Circle, a bronze age monument. We stopped to have a closer look, and the sheep that we had disturbed in the field scattered and pushed themselves back into the neighbouring field.
Torrhouse stone circle
On the other side of the road there are just three stones and some broken bits standing in a field. The stones are nowhere near as large as the ones in Orkney, but they’re still atmospheric and intriguing and these ones have the added attraction that you’ll probably have them all to yourself when you visit them, unlike those in more touristy areas. I like the lollipop shaped tree in the distance.

Torrhouse  stone circle + lollipop tree

Dundrennan Abbey, Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland

We visited Dundrennan Abbey last week. It’s a ruin now unsurprisingly as building here began in 1162, it was a Cistercian Abbey. If you visit the abbey keep your fingers crossed that you get Glyn as your guide as his knowledge and enthusiasm for the subject are something to witness.
Dundrennan Abbey
The abbey is of course a ruin now as it was abandoned as a church centuries ago. This is where Mary Queen of Scots spent her last hours on Scottish soil before she was taken to Workington, probably by the tide, where she was made prisoner by the English to begin what turned out to be 18 years of incarceration before her execution and martyrdom (if you are of the Roman Cathoic faith).
Dundrennan Abbey

She rode here from Langside in Glasgow where the last battle was fought and lost by her troops. Almost certainly she didn’t go straight to the Abbey as that would have been too obvious a destination for her pursuers. It’s thought that she went to a house in the forests nearby (according to local history) but after a few days she left that place and spent the night in the Abbey’s commendator’s house. Was she waiting for a ship to take her to France and safety? Ships sailed almost right up to the abbey from the Solway Firth in those days. She was probably trying to make up her mind where to go, she would have realised that her presence in France wouldn’t have been welcome. They wanted rid of her immediately after her husband the Dauphin died. Perhaps Spain would welcome her. We’ll never know as spies had tracked her movements and the rest is history.

Below is a photo of storage areas, housing mainly bits of stone carving now but the site of the building where she stayed.
Dundrennan Abbey

I was interested to read that one of the gravestones here refers to a knight called Livingstone of Culter. Dorothy Dunnett’s Lymond Chronicles are set around the Scottish Borderlands and of course she used the place name Culter although she didn’t base the Lymonds/Crawfords on any particular people apparently.
Dundrennan Abbey Carved Stone info board

Dundrennan Abbey ,Carved Figure

Dundrennan Abbey

Wigtown Bookshops

bookshop 1

It’s a few weeks now since we visited the book town Wigtown, Scotland’s answer to Hay-on-Wye and I now can’t remember if these photos were all taken in the same bookshop. I think Jack took most of these photos, maybe all of them. And I think they were mainly taken in THE Book Shop.

bookshop

Anyway, you get the idea, lovely places to rake around in if you’re of a bookish type.

a bookshop

One of the bookshops did have a cat that sauntered out to meet us as we came through the front door, but quickly disappeared, obviously we weren’t of great interest to it – just more of those strange people completely ignoring it to stare at walls full of books.

a bookshop

It’s a remote part of Scotland and if you do decide to travel there don’t expect too much. I was very lucky and bought quite a few of books there but there’s very little else in the town apart from a few cafes and a couple of gift shops. As you can see in the photo below, it’s not exactly bustling.

Wigtown Street 3

Kirkcudbright – Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland

harbour 1

Kirkcudbright was one of the places that I particularly wanted to visit when we were down in the south-west of Scotland recently with Peggy. I had been there once before, years ago when our boys were wee and we stopped off there just to break a journey. McClellan Castle below is a stone’s throw from the harbour.

McClellan Castle 1

a street  Kirkcudbright 2

It’s well worth visiting this wee town but I must admit that I was a wee bit disappointed that it doesn’t have an awful lot in the way of shops or interesting places to visit. I had read somewhere that there were quite a few art galleries around as the town has always been very popular with artists, but we only found two galleries, one that had been taken over by an Edinburgh gallery for some weeks, and one which had artwork by just one artist.

The house below belonged to the artist Jessie M. King. She’s probably best known for her book illustrations. They’re beautifully delicate and ethereal. She lived there with her husband fellow artist E.A. Taylor.

aTaylor and King 2

Taylor and King 1

There’s a mixture of building types in the town, from teeny wee medieval cottages to quite grand Georgian villas, and just a stone’s throw from the main street the streets are amazingly peaceful.

Broughton House

Below is the artist A.E. Hornel‘s house which is open to the public I think.

Hornel 2

And there are closes like the one below leading to much older wee medieval houses.

a close 2

a close

Dorothy L. Sayers was one of the many artistic people who frequented Kirkcudbright and she actually set one of her books there – Five Red Herrings – when it was dramatised for TV they filmed it in and around Kirkcudbright.

It’s a fairly remote part of Scotland, but it’s a pretty wee place and it’s worth a visit if yoy find yourself in that area.