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.
All of the interior floors are long gone.
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.
A view from the top of the tower.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Catholic faith).
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.
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.
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.
Anyway, you get the idea, lovely places to rake around in if you’re of a bookish type.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Below is the artist A.E. Hornel‘s house which is open to the public I think.
And there are closes like the one below leading to much older wee medieval houses.
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.