Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Tuesday 30 June - Fort George

We started the day at Fort George near the village of Ardesier, a village of little significance other than for a rather bizarre but well-tended memorial to Queen Victoria (see it in the album). Fort George's construction commenced in 1748 as part of the process to maintain order in the Highlands following the ill-fated Jacobite uprising of 1746. The fort is of massive construction with substantial fortification and protection from bombardment and attack. Because of these factors, I need to rely on the photographs of others so please go to this website. The museum inside the fort features various memorabilia, weapons, uniforms, medals and captured items of the previous units having the fort as a home base. It is a great museum with lots of history. The big disappointent was that photography is not allowed. We then ventured on to Perth seeing some great highland scenery.

Monday 29 Jun - Fort William to Unverness via Skye

This was a long drive today and we really should have been less ambitious. We got some early photos of Ben Nevis and the Nevis Range and were surprised that it had snow on its sides. We then traveled inland to Loch Laggan (featured) and crossed over the Calendonian Canal after being force to wait as the swing bridge allowed two yachts to pass through the canal in front of us. We then ventured NW to Skye crossing at Skye Bridge and traveling some of the Isle (a small waterfall on the isle is featured here). Then it was back to Kyle of Lochalsh to photograph the rebuilt Eilean Donan Castle. We then traveled SE to Invermoriston on Loch Ness then following the Loch (see photo of Heather growing on road cutting) and later the Ness River onto Inverness again crossing the Caledonian Canal.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Sunday 28 June - Oban to Fort William

From Oban, we followed the coastal road to Fort William crossing three very impressive bridges over lochs on the way. The best way to describe the scenery is 'ruggedly beautiful'. The waters in these lochs are protected by island and mainland features and, in the absence of wind, quite placid other than where the outgoing tide caused bore activity in some of the narrow passages. Our favourite feature on the trip was Castle Stalker. It is more a fortified tower than a castle but the history connected with it (click here) is full of bloodshed and mayhem. Coming into Fort William by the beach front was amazing - every building was offering accommodation to visitors - bed and breakfasts, cottages, guest houses, inns and hotels. I am starting to believe that every second or third house in Scotland is a B&B.

Sunday 28 June - The Road to Oban

Leaving aside St Conan's Kirk (already posted), we have selected three images from this drive. The best part of the trip was that part down the Pass of Brander following the path of the Awe River. The scenary was beautiful but not that photogenic for a still camera. The views are of a narrow section of Loch Awe, a beached boat near Oban, and Dunstaffnage Castle south of Oban.

Sunday 28 June - Loch Lomond

We stayed just outside Glasgow and set off firstly for Dumbarton Castle. The amount of climbing needed to see it all quickly put us off so off we went to Loch Lomond whilst enjoying a light Scottish drizzle. These photographs were taken from the viewing point at Isulgas on the Loch. Scotland is far more friendly for motoring tourists. The do have viewing (lookout) points at various places and usually lots of parking and, very thankfully, the parking is free.

Sunday 28 June - St. Conan's Kirk

After Lomond, we were happily traveling beside Loch Awe heading towards Oban when we noticed this rather remarkable church built on the steep slope of the loch. Then we noticed that it was St. Conan's Kirk so a stop was obligatory. On a closer look, it was even more astonishing but its uniqueness is very well described in both words and pictures here at Undiscovered Scotland. To add to their pictures here are three of ours - a celtic cross memorial to Mrs Campbell senior, an "old man's beard" clematis growing on the kirk's gatehouse; and one of the six identical chairs in the semi-circle behind the altar table (for elders?). All our photos are also published in Picasa.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Saturday 27 June Sweetheart Abbey at New Abbey

Originally known as the New Abbey, it later became known as the Sweetheart Abbey to honour the generosity and devotion of its major benefactor, the widow Lady Devorgilla in the 1200s. You can read the rather bizarre story and see some great pictures by clicking on this link. It must have been a really magnificant building in its day but, like all abbeys, ceased under Henry VIII.

Saturday 27 June Caerlaverock Castle near Dumfries

Shortly after we entered Scotland and headed for Dumfries. Being situated near the border of England and Scotland, Caerlaverock Castle was to bear the both the English and Scottish forces over the years. Edward I on his first venture into Scotland successfully beseiged the fort with some 3000 men, assisted by trebuchets and mangonels brought by ship to the nearby coast. This fort has been repaired and rebuilt over the centuries and still has its moat. Much of the existing detail appears to be from the mid-1600s.

Saturday 27 June Carlisle Castle

We set off from Coniston early for Carlisle Castle. Even with GPS we went round in circles trying to find where we should park - not one sign but we took a lucky guess in the end. Carlisle Castle is really large and very solid and is still used, in part, by the army. It's a fairly boring building in terms of tourism but this is offset by a couple of small museums - one for Roman relics (there was a large Roman fort nearby) and the other for military units connected with Lancashire. We really had to buy a guidebook to make much sense of some items which, on top of the entry costs, makes it an expensive outing for families. Fortunately, we have the Heritage monthly passes which has certainly been a big saving. My favourite was this coat of arms of Queen Elizabeth of 1577 on the keep wall.

Thursday 25 June Coniston Launch trip

Mainly a rest day today. First to an internet cafe where we had lunch and posted several blog entries. We then took the tourist launch around Coniston Waters getting an alternate view of the locality. It was a very pleasant trip and some passengers even brought their dogs along (we are both surprised by the way dogs are welcomed in the Lake District). On our return to Coniston Pier we found a swan that was demanding goodies from a tourist feeding the ducks. He was very insistent.

Wednesday 24 June Castles at Penrith

Near to Penrith is Brougham Castle originally started in the 12th Century as a bastion against the Scots. Edward I visited here on his expedition to conquer the Scots. Later the Scots beseiged and sacked the castle. It continued in use until the 17th Century but now only the basic stonework remains of this once formidable castle. It sits next to the junction of two rivers (Lother into Eamont) in a very scenic setting. Highly impressive.
The Castle at Hutton-on-Forest is mostly of far more modern construction although its origin was also as a pele to protect against Scottish incursions. Those origins are mostly lost through newer additions and substantial Victorian era modifications. Not really a castle - more a manor. It has substantial gardens mostly commenced since the 1700s and some of the trees are massive.

Wednesday 24 June - Castlerigg Circle

Castlerigg Circle is near Keswick off the road to Penrith. It is on the peak of a hill and is believed to have been built somewhere between 1500BC-2500BC using stones deposited locally by glaciers in the last ice age. Unique to this circle is the inclusion of a rectangular arrangement of stones. The site s surrounded by rugged but beautiful fells scenary.

Wednesday 24 June - Northern lakes

We then toured up to Keswick enjoying the rugged fells scenery on the way. We loved the lake of Thirlmere but by the time we found somewhere to stop, the scene was very ordinary (most of these stops are for hikers' start points not scenery). From Keswick, we drove alongside Derwentwater (lake) to the small village of Borrowdale on the upper part of the Derwent River just before it enters its lake.

It was really beautiful scenery. We have here a view of Derwentwater and Vija standing on the very narrow bridge across the Derwent River to Borrowdale.

Wednesday 24 June - Wordworth's Rydal Mount home

Rydal Mount
near Ambleside was the final home of Wordsworth, his sister Dorothy and his wife Mary. It was far larger and brighter than Dove Cottage and had spacious gardens. There are lots of family relics and portraits collected over the years by the National Trust. The obviously recent inclusion of two Tasmanian fern trees and a bottlebrush in the gardens looks a little odd.

Tuesday 23 June - Coniston base

We went touring this day mainly for the scenary travelling from Coniston, through Torver, Broughton-in-Furness and other towns to the coastal Barrow-in-Furness then up to Newby Bridge then returning home. Almost all travel was on narrow country lanes and, at one stage, we had to give an oncoming dairy herd right-of-way for about 10 minutes.
the scenary was glorious but we have few photos because you simply can't pull up and take photos in those conditions or, if you can stop, there is a great hedge in the way. Still, we are developing great memories. Broughton was a very pretty and friendly village. Barrow started life as a small village in the early 1800s and then iron deposits were found leading to the construction a a large industrial city including shipbuilding especially for liners and the Royal Navy. The city is still industrially based but has lost industries and population. Not really our type of town but it has a great Dock Museum, and nearby were the handful of fishing boats featured here. Later we went into the nearby graveyard at Coniston and took the photo of Donald Campbells grave and headstone. The belated burial date reflects the fact that his body was not recovered from the depths of Coniston Waters until 2001 (it was at 144 feet).

Photo albums now available

Hi all! We will have improved internet for much of this week. We have loaded a number of selected photos up to Picasa and you can peruse them from THIS LINK (click here). Warm day in Scotland today.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Lake District (Monday 22 June)

A big day today mainly concentrating on the area between Coniston Waters and Lake Windermere. We took some good photos of Coniston from across the Waters and enjoyed the foresty on the way. The drive, as usual, was great. I love these country lanes and the dodging of livestock and oncoming vehicles. You can rarely stop somewhere to photograph a great scene though - lookouts are as rare as parking spots. The big pain in England is finding somewhere to park when you arrive and then finding the money to pay for it - often 2 pounds ($4) for an hour. The surprise this day was that the parking in the village of Near Sawry was very scarce but free! This is the location of Beatrice Potter's Hill Top farm where she usually did all her writing and from where she managed up to 14 farms in the area. Many of her stories and illustrations come from the cottage and the gardens there. She left all her property to the National Trust but all her farms, like most National Trust farms, are still working farms. Tenants of her old properties, as per the terms of her will, pay a relatively nominal rent but must farm the local sheep breed, Herdwicks. Here we see Vija standing outside the Hill Top Cottage looking for Peter Rabbit. We also took in Wray Castle at High Wray (photo). It was previously owned by one of the co-founders of the National Trust. It's a brilliant looking building but apparently the National trust are not interested in exhibiting it. They are looking for a tenant though if anyone is interested. Another of our stops was at Grasmere where we visited the Wordsworth Museum and the early family home "The Dove" where Wordsworth lived in his most productive period (he always lived in the Lake District). The house had been an inn previoiusly but it is very small and it is hard to credit that Wordsworth, his wife, four of their children, his sister, and a sister-in-law and occasional house guests (especially Coleridge),, resided in the home at the one time. They moved on when the fifth child ws imminent.

Coniston Walk (Sunday 21 June)

To-day we set out on what we understood to be an easy 5km walk - 9km later we were back in Coniston. It was a beautiful walk partly beside the lake and then climbing into farmlands of some cattle but mainly with Herdwick sheep - the traditional sheep of the area.The farmsteads are great often combining human and livestock housing together (for during winters). Here is a photo of Coniston Hall which is down by the lake (now in the hands of the National Trust). Here is also a photo of an old ewe who could not be bothered to escape our attention.

Somerset to Coniston Lake District, Cumbria (20 June)

A very nice 470km drive but most of it was on the M5 and the M6 motorways so it was fairly easy but also very boring. The locals reckoned it was a very big drive. After unpacking in our somewhat dumpy, but comfortable, little flat, we went for a good walk around the town and down to the lake (Coniston Waters). All very pretty around here with all the little streams and becks draining into the lake. The small town was packed with masses of hikers taking all the different walks in the area and other visiting tourists (It was Saturday). Most of the rock in the area is good quality slate so most of the buildings and fences are built from it. Here is a photo of the local public conveniences demonstrating the use of this material and a late batch of ducklings down on the lake.

Wells (18 June)

This day we visited Wells,Somerset with it quaint churches, shops and inns. The main attraction was Wells Cathedral, the Archbishops residence and other buildings associated with the cathedral. It is a really large establishment including a cathedral music college, a hall and residences for the "vicar's choir" and buildings for the Dean of the Cathedral. The Cathedral itself is very large. Sadly, like in many of these places, no internal photographs are allowed. There is no entrance fee - you are simply forced to make a big donation (we've seen this in a couple of cases and it is obviously a way around the idea that churches are "open").

Thursday 18 June - Burnham-on-Sea

on Wednesday we went to Weston-super-Mare which is a nearby coastal city which was mainly built in the 1800s to service holiday makers. The mud of its beaches was supposed to be beneficial as a cure for various illnesses. We did not bother with any photographs. This day, we went to the nearby modern beach resort of Burnham-on-Sea and it is one of the saddest places you could ever envisage. There is holday accommodation everywhere - flats, caravans, campervans, camping sites, and metal cottages on wheels. There are very few parking spots and those charge like wounded bulls. Meanwhile, the streets are filled with aged and disabled people trying unsuccessfully to make like happy holiday makers. It was a cold dismal day and people were either rugged up in warm clothing or sadly wandering about in shorts and t-shirts. There is a very high sea wall at the base of which are tiers of stairs for the public. Even on a good day this must be a dismal place - an official sign warns "Dangerous sinking sand and mud exposed at low tide", "beware of fast moving tides", - "strong winds", - "tidal estuary".
PS - two locals went out in the water two days ago at Weston - bodies not found yet.

Tuesday 16 June - Sherborne Castle

Sherborne Castle in Dorset has been the family home of the Digby (later Wingfield Digby) family since about 1620. It was originally built by Sir Walter Raleigh some 20 years earlier but was confiscated following his conviction for treason and then provided to the Digbys. They added considerably to the building. Obviously the family has now fallen upon hard times and much of the building is open to paying visitors to help with the upkeep. Interesting but not anywhere as impressive as other offerings.

Tuesday 16 June - Ilchester

Ilchester has a history preceding the Romans and it was their second largest settlement in the west (Bath, of course, was larger) and it was an inland river port for the Romans. It was later to become the county seat for Somerset but is nowadays just another village in the county. Mainly of personal interest as my Payne ancestors ran two of the village's inns in the 1830s. The picture features one of those inns "The Dolphin"

Monday 15 June - Lacock Village

This is a National Trust Village in Wiltshire. It is occupied by tenants but no significant changes can be made to any of the premises and no one but tenants are supposed to park in the village proper. Apparently, the village often features in historical productions. It was probably a fairly dismal village originally judging by the very plain parish church and the lack of any historical significant village buildings. A short distance away are the remains of an old abbey but it was closed by the time we arrived at the village.

Monday 15 June - Bowood House, Bowood, Wiltshire

This is a massive house and formal garden situated in parkland featuring local and exotic trees. It is reached by a long driveway which, for much of its length, wends its way through a forested avenue. The house features an extensive collection of art some being some centuries old. A Turner has pride of place. There is a wonderful nature playground for children. In this picture of the house, the presence of Vija gives some idea of scale. The front door immediately leads to the pictured chapel which must have been one really big statement when it was put there.
(photos 24-25)

Monday 15 June - Roman Temple at Bath

Of course, our main reason for visiting Bath was to see the Roman Baths. This is a great exhibit far more extensive than we realised beforehand. It is the site of the UK's only thermal spring and was held sacred by the ancient Britons and even more so by the Romans who built elaborate buildings at the site for various religious purposes. Excavations have retrieved several artifacts. The Roman figurines around the main pool are not original but a Victorian addition. A pair of ducks were happily using the pool at the time of our visit.

Monday 15 June - Bath cathedral

Although far from being the largest cathedral in the UK, this one certainly must rank highly in terms of the number of windows - a total of 52 large windows all with stained glass. The beauty of the building is somewhat marred by the masses of memorials on the walls and floors many of which have become muddled by Victorian re-arrangement and many of the floor-based memorials have been walked on so much that they are now indecipherable. Beautiful ceilings and great windows though.

Monday 15 June - Jane Austen Museum at Bath

Vija was very definite that we had to visit this museum dedicated to Jane Austen's connections, real and literary-wise, with Bath but it really eventuated that she was far more interested in that cad, Mr. Darcy. An interesting little museum featuring period dress and a talk on Jane Austen and Bath.

Sunday 14 June - Churchstanton Church

We visited this church because some of my ancestors were baptised, married and buried there in the late 1700s to early 1800s (Osborn family). The village consists primarily of the church, a church hall and the surrounding farm houses. The village mail box is part of the church fence. Because of these factors, we expected little of the church. Once we entered the church, we were very pleasantly surprised. It is mentioned in the Domesday Book but how much of it dates back to then is not yet known and obviously there have been modifications since then. It is quite a large church of a size one would expect for far larger villages. It retains a box seating arrangement from ancient times when families paid for and maintained their own boxes. Earlier to that there had been pews and the carved pew ends have reportedly been used to provide a safety wall on the large organ mezzinine above the church entry - an obvious later modification. The font has been crudely but elaborately fashioned out of a single block of sandstone. We were at the church when a local came to lock it up for the night. From this person we learnt that the morning attendance was 12 persons but about 18 every Sunday was about the norm. A couple of years ago there was an order to close the church because the roof needed repairs. The locals banded together to raise 150,000 pounds for the necessary repairs.

Sunday 14 June - Dunster Castle and Village

Dunster Castle occupies a very elevated position above Dunster village and the surrounding area. It was beseiged, and taken after 11 days, by Commonwealth forces during the Civil War. It has been rebuilt and modified over the years and much of the village looks to be older than the castle. A member of the family donated the premises to the National Trust with contents in 1976. We did not see as much of the medieval village as we would have liked as we could not get any nearby parking due both to a lot of bussed tourists and a major archery competion taking place nearby.