Melrose Abbey – part 2

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.
Melrose Abbey Finial

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.
Melrose Abbey Grave Marker
A lot of the stonework has been eroded by the weather but you can still get an idea of the original decoration.
Melrose Abbey Doorway
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.
Abbey Piscinae, Melrose Abbey

The photo below is from the highest point of the roof.
Melrose Abbey Roof
It’s definitely not for people who suffer from vertigo!
Melrose Abbey roof

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.
Melrose Abbey Saints' Niches
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.
Melrose Abbey Grounds , Scottish Borders

Melrose Abbey Grounds , Scottish Borders

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.

Melrose Abbey, Scottish Border

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.

Melrose Abbey Information Board

It was King David I who in 1136 asked Cistercian monks to found an abbey in Melrose.

Melrose Abbey

Melrose Abbey

Melrose Abbey

Between Jack and myself we took loads of photos of the abbey and its surroundings.

Melrose Abbey

Melrose Abbey Bell

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.

Melrose Abbey Decoration  pig

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!

Sir Walter Scott’s Abbotsford – again

Time for a few more photos of Sir Walter Scott’s old home – Abbotsford, in the Scottish Borders. Below is a photo of his dining room and it’s quite different from how it looked when Scott was alive. Originally the walls and ceiling were varnished a dark brown wood colour so it must have felt a bit like being in a big wooden box.

Abbotsford  Dining Room
After Scott died his daughter-in-law had the walls and ceiling painted cream but you can see that a wee bit of the paint has been scraped off the ceiling mouldings so that you can see what it should have been like.
Abbotsford  Dining Room , Sir Walter Scott, Scottish Borders

If you’ve read Scott’s books you’ll know that he was keen on writing about knights and chivalry, in fact he started a whole fashion for books like that and he was also keen on collecting armour and weapons too as you can see from his armoury below.
Abbotsford Armoury

Abbotsford  Armoury , Sir Walter Scott,
Scott was keen to have his house built using authentic bits of old buildings, in fact it sounds like he became a bit of a plunderer and he thought nothing of ripping out panelling from old buildings such as the Palace at Dunfermline. His excuse was that he was saving them from ruin, but I suspect that he hastened the ruin by what he was doing to the buildings. Dunfermline Palace is certainly a ruin now.
Abbotsford Ceiling , Sir Walter Scott
I’m not sure where the fireplace below came from but the tiles are Dutch.
Abbotsford Fireplace, Sir Walter Scott, Abbotsford
The chandelier below is in the drawing-room and to the left of it you can see a painting of Sir Walter with one of his dogs.
Abbotsford Drawing Room, Sir Walter Scott, Abbotsford Chandelier
More of the drawing-room.
Abbotsford Drawing Room, Sir Walter Scott, Abbotsford 2
One of its doorways is flanked by two huge harps and the wall covering is Chinese silk, very grand.
Abbotsford Drawing Room, Sir Walter Scott Harps

But just a stone’s throw from all that grandeur is the dogs’ cemetery, in a wooded area to the side of the house, no doubt it was a favourite area for walks. Next time I’ll show you some photos of the gardens.
Abbotsford  Pet's Graves, Sir Walter Scott

Abbotsford – the library

Abbotsford Library Ceiling 2

Abbotsford Library Ceiling

Back to Sir Walter Scott’s Abbotsford, the ceilings are all very ornate, and each one very different. The photos above are of the ceiling in his library, the second photo is of the ceiling above the window alcove in the photo below, in reality it isn’t as dark as it looks in the photo.

Abbotsford Library Window

The books are all held prisoner behind grating which I can understand as I’m sure some people would haul them out by the spine if they were loose on the shelves.
Abbotsford Library

Abbotsford Library

Below is a view from a library window, it’s at the back of the house and the River Tweed can be seen, but not in this photo.
Abbotsford Library Window

The library is behind one of those windows as this is a view of the back of the house.
Abbotsford Stitch
Below is a view of the front of the house. Abbotsford is quite different from how it looked in Scott’s day, mainly because his son added a large extension to the left of the front door. The downstairs rooms have been left untouched but you can’t go upstairs in Abbotsford, mainly because there’s nothing original to see from Scott’s days there. Scott descendants lived in the house until fairly recently and to them I suppose it was just home.
Abbotsford Stitch

I still have loads more photos of Abbotsford. I’ll get around to them sometime.

Cove, Scottish Borders

Cove harbour

One day last month we went to visit Eric and his family and that always means a lovely walk to the wee harbour at nearby Cove. The water was so tranquil, but there were no scuba divers around.

cottages at Cove

The cottages are still standing despite no doubt being pounded by storms at times, these are the only ones left of what was once quite a large fishing community.

harbour and headland

harbour and headland

This wee harbour is almost like a secret, you really need to know someone who knows the place as you have to walk through a dark tunnel which was created by digging through a hillside. It’s still quite easy to imagine how it must have been when it was home to lots of families though. If you’re interested you can read more about the history of Cove here.

Queen Mary’s House Jedburgh, Scottish Borders

One day last month we decided to visit a couple of towns that we hadn’t been to before – Jedburgh and Melrose in the Scottish Border country. They’re situated just a few miles from each other and both have the ruins of large abbeys. They’re quite small and sleepy towns nowadays but in the past they were important.

But this post is about a house that neither of us had even heard of before – Mary, Queen of Scots House in Jedburgh. It’s owned by the town council now I think and we saw a signpost pointing to it as we parked the car. As you can see from the photo below it was being painted while we were there. There’s a bit more of its history here.

Queen Mary's House

This house has had a bit of a chequered past and there even seems to be a bit of a dispute as to whether Mary did actually live in it although I don’t see why not as she seems to have been just about everywhere else!

Mary Queen of Scots House

The house is unusual because it has a left hand spiral staircase, it seems that it was probably designed originally for the Kerr family as they were a famously left-handed Border reiver clan and coincidentally feature heavily in Dorothy Dunnett’s third Lymond book The Disorderly Knights – which I’ve just finished reading.

Annoyingly I can’t find any photos of the inside of the house, I’m sure I took some but they’re hiding at the moment. You can see a few images of it here.

I was quite impressed with the house, not particularly because of its possible Mary Stuart connections, but just because it’s an interesting really old place with panelling, a tapestry and various other exhibits.

When we were there it was quite busy with tourists, in common with just about everywhere this year, it must have something to do with the weak pound I suppose – or the Outlander effect maybe. Amazingly there is no entrance fee and I think they are missing a trick as they don’t even have a donations box although you can put a coin in a machine to register whether you would have been a Mary Stuart supporter – or not. Always a tricky one that!

Cockburnspath/Cove, Scottish Borders

headland Cove

One day ten weeks or so ago (how time flies!) we went to Cockburnspath to visit Eric and his family. it was the last week of Freya’s school holidays. It’s a very historic area, being very close to the border with England, battles were fought nearby. When King James IV married Margaret Tudor in 1503 he presented the land around here to her as a wedding gift.

Our visit usually includes a walk to the beach at nearby Cove, a settlement that was once a fishing village with quite a lot of houses and families living there, but due to the ravages of the North Sea most of the houses have been swept away, there are only around three left that are inhabited.

Uther found a ball on the beach and he thought it was a great game to poke it over the edge of the quayside and watch it drop into the harbour, Eric wasn’t so enthralled with the game. Luckily he had his wellies on! The bystanders were very amused.

Boats  at Cove

The North Sea has worn some lovely patterns into the rocks.
rocks  at Cove

rocks and houses  at Cove

Although we’ve been there numerous times we had never witnessed the place when the tide was out, it looks so different. It meant there was far more territory for Uther the red and white setter to investigate, and I must admit that I was happy to follow in his pawsteps. Mooching around on a beach is one of my favourite pastimes, why anyone would want to lie down on a beach is a mystery to me.

Uther

Uther

rocks and Uther

The low tide had brought a couple of cockle/whelk gatherers out – rather them than me, apart from not liking seafood – there’s a nuclear power station lurking in the background!

sea  at Cove

Freya, Jack and Eric were happy to sit and chat while I risked broken ankles scrabbling around amongst the rocks.

F,E, J
These old houses are incredibly picturesque and part of me thinks it would be exciting to have the North Sea battering off your walls, but the fact that all the other houses have been torn down by the sea makes me see sense. This one is now only used to store fishing gear nowadays.

steps  at Cove

Uther is the only dog that I’ve ever known that doesn’t like to go into water, whisper it but – maybe he was a cat in another life!
Uther

harbour wall

Auldgirth and Belted Galloways

aview 1

Last week we were at Low Kirkbride Farm near Auldgirth in Dumfries and Galloway, Scottish Border country. It’s a very remote part of Scotland, very nice to visit but I don’t think I would want to live in such a far-flung rural place. I’m not one for the bright lights but I do like to feel that I can easily get to a big metropolis easily when the fancy strikes me.

Auldgirth view 3 + cow

Peggy has a thing about cows, and Belted Galloways in particular which is why she chose to rent a teeny cottage in this area for a few days, as the farmer here seems to be one of the very few who still breed ‘Belties’. They’re very placid and we were assured that we could walk through the fields containing them and their calves with no worries at all – and we survived! I wouldn’t have chanced going too close to them though and we gave the field where the bull lived a very wide berth.

acows 4 + P

As you can see from the photo above Peggy was keen to get up close to this unusual Beltie which is a sort of honey colour with a cream belt rather than the more ususal white and black ones. That cow was having a rest from being pregnant or nurturing a calf for a few months before that beast of a bull got near her again. I suppose you could say she was having a bit of a holiday too, but she was missing her calf as it had just been taken to a neighbouring farm.

geese

We had a bit of a discussion as to whether these birds were geese or ducks – that proves we aren’t much use at this farming malarkey. Whatever they were they were very comical and if they are geese then they were also very well behaved. The white geese that I remember from my childhood that guarded the whisky barrels whilst the whisky inside them matured for several years were violent maniacs that you certainly didn’t want to mess with. The same kind that guarded ancient Rome I suppose.

cows 2

Poor things, they were a couple of very disgruntled ladies and they lost interest in us when they realised we didn’t have their calves. They’ll be pregnant again soonish though – it’s a hard life being a cow you know. Belted Galloways were in danger of dying out until recent times and I think there are still only about 1500 of them in the UK but their numbers have been slowly increasing which is a good thing as it would be a shame to see the end of these quiet and distinctive animals.

Cockburnspath Parish Church, Scottish Borders

Cockburnspath Parish Church 1

We went to visit friends in the wee historic village of Cockburnspath in the Scottish Borders recently and from their house I could see the round tower of this church, so I had to go and investigate. In fact this whole area is steeped in history. King James IV gave the land around this area to his wife Margaret Tudor (sister of Henry VIII) to celebrate their marriage in 1503.

There are a few of these really old gravestones with a skull on them, they are usually from the 16th century. The one below also has tools carved onto the stone, hammers and chisels and pincers. I wonder if he was a stonemason and if he carved his own stone!

a skull gravestone

I noticed that there was a sign on the church gate saying that there were war graves in the graveyard. There are four I think with a few other gravestones mentioning men who had died in wars but hadn’t been buried there. Most people chose to leave their loved ones where they had originally been buried, with all their comrades, but obviously some chose to have their bodies returned home. Although as you can see from this gravestone he was from Australia but must have been originally from Cockburnspath. I like the fact that the powers that be allowd their loved ones to add a personal message at the bottom of the stone. I suppose it was the least they could do though, given the sacrifice. He was a pilot in the RAF and died in 1941 aged 21, he must have been one of ‘the few’.

war grave

It might seem odd but I love mooching around old graveyards and this one is particularly interesting. This church which dates back to the 1500s is also called St Helen’s Church, presumably the change of name to Cockburnspath Parish Church came about after the Reformation.
It would originally have been a Catholic church I think.

Cockburnspath Parish Church

You can see more images of Cockburnspath here.