Two Galloway gardens

Glenwhan Gardens

We arrived at Glenwhan Gardens just in time for morning coffee in the friendly tea room. This was Easter Sunday so I had expected it to be busy, but the weather was dull and damp and we seemed to be the first people there. Not so – apparently a woman had arrived earlier with a small girl in tow and enquired about their Easter Egg Hunt. When told she would have to pay the garden fee to participate, she stormed off saying it would be cheaper to go to Tesco to buy an egg. I would say 0/10 for parenting skills there! We spotted bags of mini-eggs hanging throughout the garden but, although it got a bit busier, we didn’t see many children. What a shame.

Anyway, after coffee we admired the peacock in the car park before heading through the entrance with its lovely stained glass panel.

Started in 1979, the 12 acre site was created from a hillside of bracken and gorse, with two lakes created by damming up bogs. The paths wander upwards to various viewpoints – it’s just beautiful.

There are many sculptures dotted around.

My favourite is the Peace Pinnacle, seen here from both sides.

The garden is surrounded by 17 more acres of wild land – it was even wetter under foot than the rest of the garden, but we enjoyed the moorland walk all the same.

As luck would have it, we passed the tea room again just in time for lunch (delicious) before returning to the car and setting off for our second garden of the day. However, we decided on another stop in between.

Glenluce Abbey

Glenluce Abbey was founded in 1191/2 by Roland, Lord of Galloway. The ruins are now in the care of Historic Scotland.

Finally, it was on to Castle Kennedy Gardens.

Castle Kennedy

The castle ruins date to the 16th century, but the gardens are more recent being the inspiration of the second Earl of Stair in the early 19th century. I was struck by the terraces and landforms, very reminiscent of contemporary work by Charles Jencks (and we’d be visiting one of his creations the next day). However, they have been there since the beginning, created by men with carts and horse-drawn equipment. Amazing work!

Lastly, at the top end of the gardens we found Lochinch Castle, which was rather more comfortable looking than Castle Kennedy!

We got wet several times throughout the day and it was cold (spot that I’m wearing gloves, even though it was April) so it was good to head back to our cosy cottage to dry out and warm up. We were leaving the next morning and planned to go home via Crawick Multiverse. Coming next!

Glasgow Gallivanting: April 2017

Mothers’ Day

But Mothers’ Day (UK) is in March! I know, but my incompetence at getting something booked in time meant that I took my Mum out for her “treat” the following Sunday, April 2nd. We had a lovely afternoon tea in Mad Hatter’s in Paisley.

Rita McGurn

One of my volunteer roles is guiding walks for three different organisations. Now that Spring is here, the season has well and truly started – I’ve already done three in April, including two Women of the Gorbals walks for Glasgow Women’s Library.

The former mill above is one of the stops. We talk about the lives of the women weavers, and also about the sculpture billowing from the chimney. Smokestack was designed by Rita McGurn who died in 2015. Rita also worked with wool and crocheted fabulous giant figures, some of which you can see in a recent article in the local press about her daughter who has yarn-bombed a bench in the Botanic Gardens in her mother’s honour. As the Botanics are very near our house, we set off to find it the other day, and there it is in the gallery above

Soutra Hill and Fala Moor

Soutra Aisle

This outing was also prompted by a cultural event. One of the concerts we attended at Celtic Connections back in January was Wind Resistance by Karine Polwart, a combination of spoken word and music inspired by Fala Moor and Soutra Hill close to her home in Midlothian. We wanted to go! And now we have.

Soutra Hill was once the site of an extensive medieval monastery and hospital. All that remains is the Soutra Aisle, not, as once thought, part of the monastery, but a burial vault constructed from its rubble. John Pringle, who died in 1777 aged 77 years, his wife and sons lie here.

Fala Moor is bisected by a track which, until the mid 20th century, was part of the road network. To the east lies Fala Flow Loch, and to the west the ruins of Fala Luggie Tower. We met not a soul along here, though we spied a party of workers in the distance burning off the heather. This accounts for the rather hazy quality of the photos below.

The track ends after 3.5 miles at Brothershiels Farm, where we were objects of curiosity for some of the residents. That was one lippy lamb – and I really don’t like the look of those mushrooms, or what they’re growing in!

Happy birthday, John!

It was John’s birthday in April and, as it coincided with the long Easter weekend, I booked a cottage in Dumfries and Galloway for three nights. The weather didn’t really cooperate, but we had a lovely time anyway and there will be lots of pictures shared in due course, both of this and another weekend away in Arran. In the meantime, here is John enjoying his birthday fish and chips in Wigtown.

Kilarden

Scotland’s Gardens Open for Charity is underway again for the summer and, on a free Sunday afternoon, we checked the programme and decided to heard for Rosneath to view Kilarden. The Rosneath Peninsula is bounded by two sea lochs, Gare Loch and Loch Long, each of which has a naval base so if you can avoid those the views are pretty. It’s also worth avoiding the thought that this is where all the UK’s nukes are stored. Scary.

This is the 25th year the owners of Kilarden have opened their garden as part of this scheme. It has lawns around the house, on one of which the Shandon Ukulele Band were providing entertainment, and ten acres of hilly woodland with a huge collection of rhododendrons.

The ruined St Modan’s Church in the village was picturesque, the current church was open for viewing and the church hall was selling very good teas. Not a bad afternoon out!

So that was my April – how was yours?

Denver Botanic Gardens

Denver Botanic Gardens

Denver has one of the top-ranked botanical gardens in the US – as our flight wasn’t until the evening, we were able to spend several happy hours there on the day we went home from last summer’s road trip.

My botanical knowledge is rudimentary to say the least, so I haven’t attempted to caption any of the photos in the next two galleries. Click on anything you like the look of to enlarge or start a slide-show.

Possibly my favourite part was the Monet Pool: water lilies galore.

While we were there, the gardens were hosting Stories in Sculpture – 13 pieces from the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. If you are observant, you will count 14 sculptures below – the gardens have their own collection and I’ve included one example from it (Dale Chihuly’s Colorado, the first image). If you click on this gallery you’ll find it is, unlike the others, labelled – the sculptor as the title, and the name of the piece in the caption.

There is a bistro in the gardens, which we didn’t try, and a café which we visited for morning coffee and lunch, both good, so you could easily spend all day in there. We had a short time left before we needed to leave for the airport and popped into the neighbouring Cheesman Park.

Then we had to go home after three wonderful weeks touring Colorado, Wyoming and Montana. My first post about it was published on September 29, 2016, so it has been seven months in the writing. I’ll need to speed up, because I certainly don’t want to do any less travelling!

Next – Budapest.

Newhailes and Inveresk

Front view
Newhailes

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 we 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 a 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.