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.