Newhailes and Inveresk

Front view

Newhailes, then called Whitehill, was built around 1686 and extended in the 18th century by the Dalrymple family who added a library wing and the ‘Great Apartment’. In 1997, it passed into the care of the National Trust for Scotland. I can report that the interiors are magnificent (you can imagine me swooning over a whole library wing) but access is by guided tour and no photography is allowed, so I can’t show you. However, before our tour we followed the very pleasant trail round the grounds, and I can certainly show you that.

The Trust is busy restoring the landscape, but even in its current state you can still get an impression of how it might have looked to 18th-century visitors. The first curiosities we came across were the Shell Grotto and the remains of a Tea House, both dating from the mid-1700s.

We skirted the Cow Park (where I am standing) and the Sheep Park (where John is standing) which are divided by the Ladies’ Walk. This is the artificially raised path to the right of the other picture. It’s very overgrown now so you walk alongside it, but its original purpose was to elevate ladies in both body and mind, with views back to the house one way and out to the skyline of Arthur’s Seat and the Pentland Hills the other.

This is the view of the house from the back:

From here, we moved round to the front to meet the guide for our tour.

Our day wasn’t finished yet, because close to Newhailes is another NTS site, Inveresk Lodge Garden. We had another lovely stroll here, although by this time it was raining. That’s a day out in Scotland for you! Beautiful sunshine in the morning and cold and wet in the afternoon. Musn’t grumble – it accounts for the lush greenness. Enjoy!

Drumlanrig Castle

Drumlanrig Castle
Drumlanrig Castle
Drumlanrig Castle is the Dumfriesshire seat of the Duke of Buccleuch (bəˈklu). I don’t think he was home when he visited: he’s one of the largest landowners in Europe, so has plenty other houses to choose from.

The family is descended from the Duke of Monmouth, eldest son of Charles II. Unfortunately for Monmouth, he was – like all Charles’s children – illegitimate and could never be king, although he lost his head trying. However, this does mean, as our guide pointed out, that the Buccleuchs could be said to have more royal blood than the current royal family which descended from George I. He was approximately 53rd in line when he ascended to the throne, but the other 50+ candidates were Roman Catholics and therefore ineligible. To me, this all highlights the absurdity of the hereditary principle and if I hadn’t gone in a republican, I think I’d have come out as one!

Still, we paid our money (£10/£8) to tour the castle, gardens and grounds, and I admit to a little envy at the thought of waking up each morning and being able to look out on such beauty. Access to the house is by guided tour only, and no photography is allowed – this is the place where a Leonardo da Vinci painting, Madonna of the Yardwinder, was stolen by thieves posing as tourists in 2003 so they’re not taking any chances. Although the painting was eventually recovered, it didn’t return to Drumlanrig and is now on loan to the National Gallery of Scotland.

So let’s stick to the outdoors. When we arrived, a veteran car rally was setting up.

The stable yard gave access to the café and other visitor facilities, and to the gardens. The areas immediately surrounding the castle were laid out formally.

From there, we walked down through woodland gardens and the rock garden to the Victorian Summerhouse from which there was a great view back to the house.

The Marr Burn runs along the edge of the garden and we followed it to the Goldsworthy Arch – designed by artist Andy Goldsworthy, it’s made of local sandstone and is said to represent a leaping salmon.

We then walked back to the castle via the bog garden and pet cemetery.

But we weren’t finished our walk – there are four trails through the estate and we chose the longest, the 5km Castle View. It’s a beautiful woodland walk which climbs to a viewpoint over the castle (see also the post header image) with the rolling Lowther Hills behind it. The descent takes you past the pretty Starn Loch.

Back at the Castle, the last of the old cars were leaving. We also admired the Drumlanrig Sycamore – it’s over 300 years old and the largest in Britain.

By now it was 5.30 and time to head home. I hope you’ve enjoyed your stroll round Drumlanrig which I’m linking to Jo’s Monday Walks.

Toodle pip!

Old car at Drumlanrig

Muckhart Village Gardens

Yes, this is a post about gardens – but first things first. Coffee and cake! Muckhart is another of Scotland’s Gardens opening for one day for charity – but this time, it was a whole village joining in. Tickets were purchased from the Village Hall, morning coffee (all included) consumed and off we set, map in hand.

5 Golf View

Just up the road from the Hall was the smallest garden on the list, a wildlife friendly cottage garden with vegetables and fruit growing alongside the flowers.

From here, it was a half-mile stroll alongside the golf course to the school. Beautiful views for a walk to school.

Muckhart view

Muckhart Primary School

Muckhart has been awarded the best school garden in Clackmannanshire for the last two years, deservedly so. There are obviously a lot of fairies about, and the children had left very helpful directions.

The Willows

Another half mile walk took us to this mixed herbaceous garden.

Hollytree Lodge

Half a mile again and we had completed the circle back to the centre of the village. Hollytree Lodge was the first garden to truly blow us away (and we thought it was enormous until one of our afternoon visits). Some interesting sculptures too.

The Inn at Muckhart

Not a garden, but you know – lunch!

Mount Stuart House

Fortified by good food and drink, we set off by car for Mount Stuart. Walking was not recommended as it’s well out of the village on a twisty narrow road.

Here, I was most impressed by the varied sitting areas, the lovely extension and patio and the multiple ways of having a barbecue (outdoor pit, gas barbecue and that cute little barbecue hut). Sorted for all weathers!

The Steading

At Yetts o’Muckhart a farmer had opened his yard as a car-park, and from here we were able to do another three gardens on foot. For me, The Steading was the star of the show. It was huge with paths and ponds in the lower section and a large grassy area with a Japanese garden above, all nestling below the Ochil Hills. You can see the date of the house above the small window – 1704.

By the way, if anyone knows what that weird red flower is, please tell me in the comments.

Moss Park Coach House

Country lanes and paths took us to Moss Park Coach House. This garden was only two years old, its owner having “downsized” from the main house by converting the coach house and stables into a home. The garden was created from the paddock and, strangely, we seem to have taken no photographs of it. Obviously, we were mesmerised by the beautiful pink house.

Shepherds Cottage

Back along the lane we found Shepherds Cottage, another small cottage-style garden.

Balliliesk House

Finally we took the car to Balliliesk, partly because it was down the main road which didn’t look too pleasant to walk on and partly because we were almost out of time before the gardens closed at 5pm. The owners moved into this grand house 4 years ago and the garden was described as a work in progress, a nice touch being the hand-drawn map provided to visitors with notes about projects they had undertaken and their future plans.

At £8 for nine gardens, this was a snip for a day out! We also managed to walk several miles and, despite the hearty lunch, work up an appetite for dinner. I therefore feel justified in contributing to Jo’s Monday Walks – follow the link to see stunning Krakow this week.

Dun Dubh

Dun Dubh
Dun Dubh

Imagine waking up to this view every morning! The lucky owners of Ben Dubh do exactly that – admittedly, not usually with such brilliant blues, but this is Scotland. Ben Dubh (pronounced Doo) is a private house which opens its garden once a year to raise funds for charity as part of Scotland’s Gardens. That’s when the rest of us get to share the view of Loch Ard and Ben Lomond beyond.

The garden is late Victorian and comprises six terraced acres running down to the loch. I think the best thing I can do is just shut up and show you the pictures.

Beautiful at it is, I’m not sure I’d actually like to live there. The last time we visited Loch Ard was December when the road flooded and we got cut off. I think I’ll stick to city living for now.

I’m linking this post to Jude’s Garden Challenge – for June, she is looking for the essence of summer. Strictly speaking, this doesn’t qualify as it was May but, hey, in Scotland we take summer when we can and sometimes May and September are our best months. I don’t think, in any case, you can get more summery than blue skies and sun glinting on the water! Click through to Jude’s blog to see her beautiful garden photography and other people’s summer selections in the comments.

Toronto: Distillery District

Distillery District, Toronto
Distillery District, Toronto
On the Sunday of our recent stay in Toronto we took the subway to Union Station and walked east to the Distillery District. On the way we passed this clever mural on the Flatiron Building. Some of the windows are real!

The Distillery District, formerly the home of Gooderham and Worts, is the most intact Victorian era industrial site in North America, though the distillery itself closed in 1990. Since 2003, the area has housed arts and crafts, live performance, and bars and restaurants. We enjoyed just wandering around.

When it came to lunchtime, we stepped into Cluny Bistro expecting the stripped back decor of an ex-industrial building and were amazed to find decorated ceilings and chandeliers. It was also very busy – obviously a go-to place for Sunday lunch. We couldn’t get a table in the restaurant, but got a seat in the bar. We liked it so much that we booked a table for the last night of our stay. (The picture with John is brunch – and that’s fruit juice in the glass, by the way – the others show the restaurant at night.)

In the afternoon, we decided to walk back to our accommodation instead of going back to the Subway. We passed Old City Hall:

Old City Hall, Toronto
Old City Hall, Toronto
Toronto Sculpture Garden:

Toronto Sculpture Garden
Toronto Sculpture Garden
And the Cathedral Church of St James:

Just outside St James, we liked this monument to Scot, Robert Gourlay. Sounds like a fine fellow!

Our last stop before home was Allan Gardens with its six greenhouses. Beautiful!

Bermuda: Botanical Gardens and Spittal Pond

Bermuda Botanical Gardens
Bermuda Botanical Gardens

On our third day, Hurricane Kate passed close to Bermuda and we awoke to a wet and windy morning. It was also a public holiday (11th November) which meant that all museums were closed, so an outdoor attraction it had to be. The Botanical Gardens were within walking distance of our hotel – we got soaked on the way, and had to take shelter in the Cactus House when we arrived, but fortunately the weather perked up a bit after that and we enjoyed our visit.

The most interesting part was this memorial to John Lennon. He spent two months in Bermuda just before he died in 1980, and named his final album Double Fantasy after a freesia he admired in these gardens.

By lunchtime it was dry enough to have a picnic outdoors, after which we caught the bus a short distance to Spittal Pond Nature Reserve. Here, a circular walk takes you out along the coast and back alongside a brackish pond. It’s short, but has several points of interest.

Portuguese Rock is thought to have been carved by Portuguese survivors of a shipwreck. The original has long since weathered away, but a bronze cast now replaces it, reading “RP 1543” – Rex Portugaliae?

The Checkerboard is a large, flat rock surface with crosshatching. Man made, or carved by the sea? Who knows?

Nor do I know what these little creatures in the pools formed in the cracks are – sea slugs / snails?

After a final view of the sea, we turned inland to the pond – but the sea peeked through again later.

Not a bad day despite a hurricane passing close by!

January: Winter Gardens

People's Palace and Winter Gardens
People’s Palace and Winter Gardens, Glasgow

The picture above has appeared on this blog before, but I’m recycling it for Jude’s new Garden Challenge. Her theme for January is Winter Gardens – head to her blog the earth laughs in flowers to see her own entry, and check the comments for others.

What I haven’t shown you before are these photos of the inside of the Winter Gardens, two of which were taken from the balcony on the top floor of the People’s Palace. It’s very green and more spacious than it looks. I’ve been to a conference reception in the paths and clearings amongst the plants, and the café area – which just creeps into one shot – can be hired for weddings, graduation dinners and so on.

If it’s colour you’re after, head west to the Botanic Gardens where the hothouses are a delight in any season. Reds everywhere at Christmas! Disclosure: I’m far too impatient to take photos like these. All credit to John.

Or how about this? Between Christmas and New Year we had a short break at the Forest Hills Hotel near Kinlochard, which has beautiful grounds and gardens. When we arrived, it was dark and festively lit.

And it was lovely in a different way by day.

We had some rather damp walks when we were at Kinlochard – more on them to follow tomorrow.

Inverewe and around

Walled garden at Inverewe
Walled garden at Inverewe

Highland scenery can sometimes be bleak – but this place is always a riot of colour. Inverewe Garden was first planted on the banks of Loch Ewe by Osgood McKenzie in the 1860s – he collected plants from all over the world for his Walled Garden which, by the time he died in 1922, was surrounded by a hundred acres of woodland. Today, it’s run by the National Trust for Scotland – and the walled garden is still the most spectacular part of it. Here are a few more images from our stroll round it:

Heading out of the walled garden, Inverewe House comes into view. (This is not Mackenzie’s original house which was destroyed by fire in 1914.)

Behind the house, a multitude of paths criss-cross the headland. I don’t think we missed any! Here’s some of what we saw:

Finally, we checked out the Wollem Pine, one of the world’s rarest trees before heading to the on-site restaurant for lunch. This was the only part of Inverewe I could fault – the food was no better than ok and the staff couldn’t cope with queues. Next time, I’d walk down to the village of Poolewe which had some nice-looking pubs and cafés, thereby also avoiding the coach tours.

After lunch, we went for a walk through the pinewoods on the hill behind the gardens.

Finally, before leaving Inverewe we came across this monument to a Gaelic bard.

But was that us finished? Not at all! Two more walks to fit in before the afternoon was over. Driving up the other side of Loch Ewe we stopped at Firemore Sands. There’s a small crofting community here – the opposite of the clearance villages we visited further north. People evicted from further inland to make way for sheep were settled here. The name in Gaelic is Am Faithir Mòr – the big shore-land. This is an absolutely beautiful beach and we spent ages walking from one end to the other and back.

Firemore’s heavy anti-aircraft battery protected the entrance to Loch Ewe where the Arctic convoys gathered in the Second World War. Driving further on, to the end of the peninsula, we found a memorial to the convoys and remains of the wartime command post.

Arctic Convoy Memorial
Arctic Convoy Memorial
Arctic Convoy Memorial
Arctic Convoy Memorial

Climbing a small hill gave a good view of the site and its beautiful coastline.

So an action packed day, after which we returned to our hotel for dinner and the last night of our holiday. I hope those who have followed me throughout have enjoyed the tour of Shetland, Orkney and the North of Scotland – and maybe you’ll visit some day?

I’m linking this post to Jo’s Monday Walks. She has a bumper crop this week from all over the world, so please take a look.

Dawyck Botanic Garden

Azalea Terrace
Azalea Terrace, Dawyck Botanic Garden

The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh has three regional gardens. We’ve visited Benmore on the Cowal Peninsula and Logan in Galloway so recently decided to complete the set with Dawyck in the Borders. It was June. It was relatively sunny when we left Glasgow. You’ve guessed it – it was pouring when we got to Dawyck. The solution? Have lunch! The café is excellent, but even with this delaying tactic, we were dodging showers most of the afternoon.

Dawyck is a woodland garden on a steep hill so be aware of that before planning a walk there. However, the lower parts of the garden are the most colourful (see the Azalea Terrace above) and have various sculptures, including a statue of David Douglas, a famous Scottish plant hunter, so they are still worth visiting.

If you venture further up, you are treated to views back down to Dawyck House (not open to the public) and the chapel. The bench at the viewpoint has featured in a previous post and is inscribed “In memory of Jane Dawson who loved Dawyck in all its seasons”.

We dried off over a cup of tea in the café before heading into nearby Peebles, where we were finally blessed with blue skies. Straddling the River Tweed, this picturesque market town has been a Royal Burgh since at least the 1150s. We enjoyed looking at the historic buildings in the High Street, many of which were proudly dated (hover over the gallery to see the captions or click on an image to enlarge).

We walked back to the car along the riverbank, also passing this graveyard with the ruins of St Andrew’s Kirk which has been abandoned since the 1560s.

Another day which proves there’s no point sitting at home waiting for the Scottish weather to improve. Just get on with it and you’ll be rewarded eventually.

Linked to Jo’s Monday Walks – lots of other interesting ventures there.

Geilston Garden and Tom na h’Airidh

View from Tom na h'Airidh
View from Tom na h’Airidh
Tom na h’Airidh is a small (354m) hill behind Helensburgh on the Firth of Clyde. (The name is Gaelic for “Knoll of the Shieling”, a shieling being a summer residence for cattle and goats.) We recently climbed to the top following the route on the excellent walkhighlands site – but we’d already made a couple of stops before we got started.

Geilston Garden is a National Trust for Scotland property at Cardross, just outside Helensburgh, and we spent the morning strolling round there. It surrounds Geilston House (which is not open to the public) with informal sections resplendent at the time with rhododendrons and azaleas……

….and behind the house, a beautiful Walled Garden dominated by a 100-ft Wellingtonia tree (Sequoiadendron giganteum) in the centre of the lawn (and plenty of benches to admire it from).

Well, if you’ve read any of my other walks you will know the importance of lunch so after the exertions (?) of our morning stroll we headed down into Helensburgh to sample the tapas at La Barca (not bad at all). I like to think our climb burned the calories off, but I fear not.

The first part of the walk up Tom na h’Airidh is through oak woodland and forestry plantation – not particularly photogenic and extremely wet underfoot, so there was a fair amount of cursing going on. Once out of the trees, the open moorland was a bit drier (but not entirely so). My two objections to Scottish hillwalking are bogs and tussocks and this walk had both in abundance.

Here we are at the top, with the cairn to prove it – I look very pleased with myself!

Time to enjoy more views as we retraced our steps back to the car….

….which was parked outside Hill House, masterpiece of Charles Rennie Mackintosh. The house (also NTS) was closed by then – I’ve been inside many times but never blogged about it. Another time!

Linked to Jo’s Monday Walks – visit her site for more cyber-walking.