A Traveller in Time by Alison Uttley

 A Traveller in Time cover

A Traveller in Time by Alison Uttley was first published in 1939. My copy is a lovely Folio edition which is illustrated by Omar Rayyan. It’s yet another children’s classic that I’ve only just got around to reading thanks to Constance who mentioned it on my blogpost about Uttley’s books for very small children. Th eauthor was very much influenced to write this book by her own childhood. She grew up in a house very close to the Babington manor house in the book and her father told her stories of those Elizabethan days as if he had lived them himself, and Alison Uttley visited them in her dreams.

A Traveller in Time is told by Penelope Taberner Cameron as she looks back to her childhood which began in London’s Chelsea where she was the youngest of three children and was regarded as being a bit ‘fey’. Possibly she has the second sight, or maybe she’s just a dreamer, her older siblings are happy to listen to her tales of the past. She’s prone to soar throats and her mother decides that Penelope needs to get out of the atmosphere of London to some fresh air. Aunt Tissie and Uncle Barnabas are contacted and they’re very happy to have all three children for the holidays at their manor house and farm called Thackers.

It isn’t long before Penelope finds herself slipping back in time when least expected and she becomes a much-loved member of the Babington household who are puzzled by her intermitent appearances but always happy to see her. Penelope knows her history so she realises that Anthony Babington, the eldest son of the house is on a path to a terrible end which she is powerless to change. Mary, Queen of Scots has been captive in England for years on the orders of her cousin Queen Elizabeth. Anthony is determined to rescue her and get her to safety in France.

This is a beautifully written book and it is such a shame that she didn’t write more books for older children. There are so many characters to like too so it was a treat to be in their company.

Apparently in 1978 the BBC dramatised the book, I don’t recall ever seeing it though. Do any of you remember it?

If you know the history of Mary, Queen of Scots you’ll be aware that she was moved around a lot over the twenty years that she was imprisoned, and several times she did manage to escape, in fact I’ve lost count of the amount of places I’ve been to that she has also walked around in. She was imprisoned in what was my childhood local castle Dumbarton Castle, and I believe escaped from there. More famously she escaped from Loch Leven Castle which is close to where I live now, you can see my blogpost about that here. Even closer is the hunting palace of the Stuarts Falkland Palace, which is a place that she loved in her younger years.

Falkland Palace Garden, Fife, Scotland

Falkland Palace , Fife, Scotland

Although we’re members of the Scottish National Trust we haven’t been able to visit any of their properties this year as they’ve obviously all been closed due to Covid. Some of the bigger castles have opened up again, such as Edinburgh Castle and Stirling Castle, but last week we decided as it was a beautiful day we’d visit nearby Falkland Palace, just to walk in the garden, the palace wasn’t open. You can just walk in and there’s a box for donations.

Falkland Palace, Fife, Scotland

Falkland Palace was the hunting lodge of the Stuart kings and queens. Built in the 16th century by King James IV and his son James V and modelled in the French style it was also a favourite with Mary, Queen of Scots as it reminded her of the French chateaux of her childhood.

Falkland Palace , Fife, Scotland

Much of the palace is a romantic ruin, but in the 19th century the third Marquess of Bute had it partly rebuilt.

Falkland Palace, Fife, Scotland

We quite often just go for a wander around the gardens, there’s a pleasant orchard, although a lot of the trees have been fairly recently planted. In normal times you can have a nice wee sit down on a bench and admire the views, but I believe they’ve been removed due to Covid 19.

Falkland Palace Gardens, Fife, Scotland

Anyway, here are some of the photos I took while we wandered around.

Falkland Palace Gardens , Fife, Scotland

Falkland Palace Gardens, Fife, Scotland

Falkland Palace Gardens, Fife, Scotland

Falkland Palace Gardens, Fife, Scotland

Falkland Palace Gardens, Fife, Scotland

Falkland Palace Steps, Fife, Scotland

The gate below is obviously modern, it leads through to the orchard some of which you can just see in the background. The apple crop was not nearly as good as usual due to the weather.

Falkland Palace Gate, Fife, Scotland

Although Falkland has always been popular with tourists it has become even more so in recent years as the village and palace have been used as a location for Outlander. Click on the photos if you want to see them enlarged.

My garden in Fife, Scotland

Last week we had a couple of lovely blue sky sunny and hot days – hot by our standards anyway. Then of course the thunder and monsoon-like rain followed, and it’s still with us, well maybe not quite monsoon proportions but very damp indeed. I knew we would pay for all that gorgeous sunshine we had back in May!

my garden, Fife

But while the sun shone I took a few photos of my garden. Actually it looks a bit different now as it has been tidied up or redded up as we sometimes say in Scotland. I had to wait for my brown garden waste bin to be emptied as it was stuffed to the gunnels.

my garden

I got quite excited when I got an email from the Scottish National Trust telling me that some of their gardens will be opening on Friday. After the long Covid-19 lockdown a historic garden visit sounded perfect to me, especially as we’ve only been allowed to travel no further than 5 miles, unless it’s for essential shopping such as for food. The garden at nearby Falkland Palace or even Branklyn in Perth beckoned to me in my mind, but having seen the weather forecast for Friday I doubt if a garden visit will be on the cards. I live in hope!

my garden, Fife

Falkland Palace autumn gardens

Falkland Palace, gardens, Fife, Scotland

A couple of weeks ago I decided that we should visit the nearby Falkland Palace, before they shut the place for the winter. I specifically wanted to see what the gardens looked like as autumn crept up on us. In the photo above you can see the palace and ruins as viewed from the back. The palace was built as a pleasure palace, mainly used as the ‘hunting palace’ of the Stuarts. It was a favourite place of Mary Queen of Scots as it reminded her of the French palaces she had grown up in.

Falkland Palace, gardens, Fife, Scotland
It was even a wee bit misty – as befits the season.
Falkland Palace, gardens, Fife, Scotland

I think I zoomed in on the one below too closely as it looks a bit pixelated, but it gives you an idea of the autumnal shades.

Falkland Palace gardens, Fife, Scotland

The stone building in the photo below houses the real or royal tennis court. One time we went there people were actually playing real tennis, I think it calls for more skill than the modern version. The court is the oldest surviving one in the country, I think there are only a couple more of them.

Falkland Palace gardens, Fife, Scotland

I took the photo below just by turning around after taking the photo above it, so we’re looking back in the direction of the palace again.

Falkland Palace gardens, Fife, Scotland

Falkland Palace gardens, Fife, Scotland

Falkland Palace gardens, Fife, Scotland

The church in the photo below is next door to the palace, but it’s a lot more modern than the palace which dates from 1501, but there was a hunting lodge belonging to the Macduff Thanes of Fife, as long ago as the 12th century.
Falkland Palace gardens, Fife, Scotland

Click here if you want to see more photos and read a bit more about Falkland Palace which is now run by the Scottish National Trust.

You can see images of the real tennis court here. It’s a complicated game as you get points for hitting the ball through the windows in the back wall so the scoring system must be very different. You serve by hitting the ball onto the small sloping roof at the side.

We did go inside the palace but they don’t allow you to take photos which is a shame. The chapel is still used as the Roman Catholic church for the area. However as lots of people are very happy to dodge the rules there are images online of the interior of the chapel which you can see here.

Like so many places in Scotland, Falkland has been used as a location for filming Outlander.

Wintry Walk in Fife

Come on – how about coming with me on a wintry walk in Fife, it’ll help blow the cobwebs away! One afternoon a couple of weeks ago during a really cold snap we went for a walk in nearby woodland.

Balbirnie Estate trees

And then we left the woodland, crossed the road and set out for the open farmland surrounding the woods.

Estate Trees

Farm Track

It was the middle of November but the trees were still holding onto leaves and looking quite colourful, I think some of them are beeches.


In the summer these fields will have crops of wheat, oats or barley in them.

winter Trees

The fields had been boggy after all the rain we’d had earlier in the year but where there were tractor tracks the puddles in them had been frozen over. We kept to the farm track, in the photo below you can just see a small bridge that goes over a railway line, there’s a concrete and brick structure above and beside the track which looks like a World War 2 pillbox.

Railway  Bridge and pillbox

Presumably the pillbox was built to defend the track in the event of attack.


Below is the track going north.
Railway  track

And below the track is going south to Edinburgh.
Railway  track, Fife

We disturbed some pheasants in one of the fields and they flew off in that awkward way they have that makes me think that anyone who shoots them for ‘sport’ is akin to a murderer as it seems they can’t fly away very well, having said that they were too fast for me to get a photo of them.

Trees in Fife

By then we were frozen to the bone so we turned for home, it was coffee and cake time! I’m sorry I couldn’t share that with you, but I hope you enjoyed your rural stroll with me in Fife.

The land around here isn’t that far from Falkland Palace and I imagine that when Mary of Guise, Mary Stuart and King James lived there this area would have been part of their riding and hunting ground as Falkland was built as a hunting palace. It would have been much more heavily wooded in those days. The Palace is mentioned in Dorothy Dunnett’s Lymond Chronicles

Falkland Palace Gardens

Nowadays we visit the historical village of Falkland almost every week, we like visiting the wee library there and having a chat with the very friendly Sandra who works there – if she’s not too busy. The modern wrought iron gate below is at the entrance to Falkland Palace orchard. Of course it was too early for there to have been any fruit trees blossoming.

Falkland Palace gate

That’s the orchard wall you can see in the background and the trees and daffodils in the photo are in the main part of the palace gardens, it’s a cute wee summerhouse/shelter, obviously modern.

It’s funny to think that Mary Queen of Scots (amongst many others) walked around these gardens getting on for 500 years ago. This is just a wee bit of the gardens, there was nothing much blooming elsewhere, it was that funny time of spring when the crocuses are over and the other flowers are still waiting in the wings.

Falkland 5

The photo below was taken from the orchard and you can see some of the village with one of the Lomond hills beyond. It was quite a cold and slightly misty day, but it’s worthwhile taking a hike up those hills on a clear day, as long as it’s not too windy!
Falkland 8

Falkland Palace – again

Falkland Palace in Fife

I just felt like getting out of the house last Saturday, but it was too hot and bright (really!) to travel far, so we ended up at Falkland Palace, yet again. The palace was the hunting palace of the Stuarts and it was well used by them, Mary Stuart (Queen of Scots) enjoyed riding and hunting around this area. You’ll be getting fed up with the place, but I never do somehow. Why is there always a car parked where it shouldn’t be?

Falkland Palace and Gardens

I wanted to sit and enjoy the gardens there, they’re looking good at the moment. So we had a cursory walk through the palace itself and admired the royal bedrooms, then went out to the gardens and sat on a bench for a while admiring the view, and watching gardeners pruning trees, that’s always more enjoyable than doing the work yourself!

Falkland Palace Gardens

Anyway, how many times have I been there? I’ve lost count, but I had never noticed the horse head detail in the stonework at the top of the stairs in the previous photo. So I snapped it for posterity, I think it must be hundreds of years old. Its twin is at the other side of the steps.

Falkland Palace

The photo below is of a more formal area, all lavender plants and juniper trees, I think, and the building in the background houses the real/royal tennis court. It’s a more complicated game than the game which we call tennis nowadays.

Falkland Palace Gardens

On the way back to the car I snapped the floral display outside one of the pubs in the village. I’m always envious of this sort of thing because I just can’t manage to get my tubs looking as lush as these ones and I’ve given up on hanging baskets completely. I think I just don’t feed and water them as much as they need.

Falkland, Fife

The photo below shows part of the pub and the adjoining house which has a good display too. These buildings are some of the more modern ones in Falkland. I’m assuming that both buildings are owned by the same person, otherwise I can’t imagine anyone buying a house right next to a pub, but I suppose it takes all sorts and if you’re that way inclined then you don’t have to worry about driving home after you’ve had a drink!

Falkland, Scotland

Falkland Estate, Fife

On a Saturday afternoon a few weeks ago we drove out to the village of Falkland in Fife, Scotland. It was a nice day, and now that I think about it, it was actually the Saturday of the Jubilee weekend, so Falkland was busier than usual. It’s a shame they didn’t have such good weather down south that Saturday, they were all drenched and drookit.

Falkland Lodge House

The lodge house above is one of my favourites although the water does run right underneath it, I’m not too sure I would like that. This pond used to be full of ducks and moorhens. What happened to them all?

I was standing on this bridge when I took the photo of the house, I wish I had such a lovely view from my living room window.

Bridge at Falkland Estate

Anyway, we weren’t feeling energetic enough to go on a hill walk up the East or West Lomond so we just ambled around the land which surrounds the Falkland Estate. They have all sorts of things going on there.

If you walk over the bridge and go through the gate it isn’t long before you reach this memorial to some of the deceased inhabitants of the estate. There are quite a few graves inside a sort of mock medieval roofless church, one of them belongs to a son of the family, who had been killed during World War I. There are some gorgeous trees around the area and the slopes of the East Lomond are towering above the land. The tree with the pink flowers is a horse- chestnut.

Memorial at Falkland Estate

If you look carefully through the trees in the photograph below, you should just be able to see some of Falkland Palace in the distance.

Falkland Palace through trees 2

And this is a close up of a wee bit of the palace. In a few day’s time I plan to go into the palace, I haven’t been in there for years and I think you might find it interesting. It was the Hunting Palace of the Stuart Kings and Queens as this area was full of deer, in fact there still is quite a lot of wildlife around, including deer, they didn’t manage to kill them all. The palace was a favourite with young Mary Queen of Scots. If you want to know more about the palace, have a look here.
Falkland Palace, Fife, Scotland

Falkland, Fife.

The village of Falkland in Fife is dominated by the Royal Palace of Falkland.

My photo is a stitch of two because I couldn’t get the whole Palace into the one frame. Shame about the red car.

The village and Palace are well worth a visit if you are in the area. It’s stuffed full of ancient history but it also played a part in more recent times with The Chapel Royal being used by the Polish Airborne Forces during World War 2, when they were stationed nearby. They were allowed to use it as there wasn’t an ordinary Roman Catholic Church in the vicinity.

I really liked the royal (real) tennis court. It’s the oldest one in Britain and was built for James V in 1539. When we were there , a match was actually taking place. It is a sort of cross between tennis and squash.

An ancient street in Falkland

The village itself is very quaint and has a variety of interesting houses. Some of them are absolutely tiny but people are still living in them today. I think they were probably inhabited by weavers originally.

Doorway lintel, Falkland.

It was traditional to carve the initials of the original house owners as well as the date on the door lintel. This is known as a marriage lintel.

Gatehouse, Falkland estate.

Falkland Estate is on the outskirts of the village and has a very pretty gatehouse. As you can see there is a pond by the house. It’s usually full of ducks and moor hens but it was deserted when I took this photograph.

Stone bridge, Falkland estate

The lovely wee stone bridge just leads into a field. It crosses the burn (stream) which fills the pond. The burn continues its way from the pond and under the house. That is the one thing that puts me off the house. I would hate water running underneath my home, especially as it is a rushing torrent and noisy.

You can walk through the estate which has a very smart cricket pitch, which I think is probably a bit of a shock to English tourists, but cricket is actually quite popular in more rural areas. We’re just not very good at it.

Mary Queen of Scots by Antonia Fraser

This book was first published in 1969 and at 667 pages the sheer thickness of it could be a wee bit off putting to anyone with lots of books in the ‘to be read pile’. However, if you are at all interested in Mary Stuart then this is a must read for you.

You can easily tell that Antonia Fraser has a real passion for Mary and she obviously did a fantastic amount of research on her subject, which I suspect was a real treat for her.

Mary Stuart has always been a familiar tragic figure to me. My favourite doll as a teeny wee girl was that well known one of her dressed in a black velvet gown with a lace cloak. When I was told of her sorry tale and ghastly end – well, you couldn’t not love the idea of her.

So it was inevitable that I was going to read this book sometime.The book won the James Tait Memorial Prize and although it was written so long ago, it has never been bettered.

Although the book is packed with historical detail, it never becomes dry or boring as Antonia Fraser has a wonderful free-flowing way with words. Despite the fact that she is so keen on her subject, it hasn’t blinded her to the fact that Mary was very far from being perfect. It’s a real pity that she didn’t take a leaf out of her cousin Elizabeth’s book and steer clear of marriage altogether.

It seems that wherever you live in Scotland, you will be close to a castle or palace with links to Mary Stuart.

She was born in Linlithgow Palace in 1542. The palace is just a shell now as it caught fire in 1746, but it must have been wonderful in its day.

Linlithgow Palace and Loch in late evening

Her first marriage to the dauphin ended when he died of complications from an ear infection a month before his 17th birthday. So at the age of 18, Mary sailed for Scotland after 13 years in France.

Considering that she was a Roman Catholic queen in a Presbyterian country, things went rather well for her. She was greeted by enthusiastic crowds and she didn’t disappoint them.

Her choice of husbands left a lot to be desired and brought nothing but trouble for her.

She gave birth to her only child James VI in Edinburgh Castle.

Castle lit up at sunset - Explored

She spent a large part of her life being held captive in various
castles, and managed to escape from a few of them. Lochleven Castle being the most famous escape.

Loch Leven Castle

She loved to spend time at Falkland Palace in Fife, where she could ride and fly her falcons. This palace is well worth a visit, there is plenty to see, it has lovely gardens and the village of Falkland itself is worth a walk round. For those who are a bit more energetic, take time to walk up the East and West Lomonds, to get a great view.

Falkland Palace in Spring