Filed under: Photographs, Scottish History, West Lothian | Tags: Almondell, West Lothian
Almondell and Calderwood Country Park in West Lothian was once the setting for Almondell House, the country retreat of the Honourable Henry (Harry) Erskine (1746 – 1817), a younger son of the 10th Earl of Buchan. Almondell was then a private estate belonging to the Erskine family and here, in stunning surroundings of woodland and a river valley, Erskine designed and built his mansion in 1786. The building had major flaws in its design and construction however, and was demolished in 1969.
Almondell House had a two-storey centre section flanked by pavilion-roofed wings and stood where today the car park for disabled visitors is situated. This is a short distance from the Visitor Centre which occupies the former coach house and stables. Next to this, part of the walled kitchen garden still stands.
Erskine was an outstanding lawyer and politician with a great social conscience and was known as the “poor man’s advocate”. His illustrious career included two spells as Lord Advocate for Scotland, Dean of the Faculty of Advocates and Member of Parliament, first for Fife, and then for Haddington and Dumfries. But an architect Erskine certainly wasn’t. “The roof would not keep the water out,” said his son, “and the foundations would not let it away.”
All the same, a young relation of Erskine, Henry David Inglis Esq., always looked forward to holidays at Almondell. He wrote in the Edinburgh Literary Journal of the mail coach setting him down (always with his fishing tackle) at Almondell gate, about three quarters of a mile from the house, and “the beauty of that secluded domain.” And, best of all, a melon from the garden’s melon-bed.
To get to the house from the south, Henry Erskine commissioned Alexander Nasmyth, the Scottish painter, architect and landscape designer, to build a bridge over the river Almond. Parts of the bridge collapsed into the river in 1973 but it was restored in 1997.
The house and estate remained in the family until the 1950’s. A fire caused extensive damage to the building in the 1960’s which hastened its end.
In 1971, the estate was officially designated as West Lothian’s first country park.
Filed under: Photographs, Scottish History | Tags: Isle of Skye, Trumpan Church
Another church with a gruesome past, Trumpan Church sits peacefully on a hill overlooking Ardmore Bay, near Waternish Point on the Isle of Skye.
But in 1578, under cover of mist, several boatloads of MacDonalds from the Isle of Uist sailed into the bay and attacked the church, setting fire to its thatched roof and burning the Clan MacLeod worshippers alive.
The triumphant MacLeods dragged the bodies of the dead to a nearby wall and buried them by simply pushing the wall over the top of them.
The township of Trumpan never recovered and the church has remained a ruin to this day.
Filed under: Photographs, Scottish History, West Lothian | Tags: House of the Binns, West Lothian
The Binns estate, near Linlithgow, is situated on two hills from which it derives its name and the current House of the Binns was built by Thomas Dalyell in 1612. Thomas was an Edinburgh butter merchant who made his fortune as Deputy Master of the Rolls in the court of King James VI and I in London.
The remains of the steading where the General billeted his troops and the Sergeant’s Pond where they watered the horses can still be seen if walking round the grounds.
Extensions were made to the house in the 18th and 19th centuries by Sir Robert Dalyell and his son James.
The tower on the hill, a folly built by Sir James Dalyell in 1826 apparently as the result of a wager, commands a superb panoramic view of the Firth of Forth to the North and the Pentland Hills to the South.
The house has remained the home of the Dalyell family to the present day, although it was gifted to the National Trust for Scotland in 1944 provided that subsequent generations of the family would retain the right to live there.
Filed under: Photographs, Scottish History | Tags: St Andrews, St Andrews Cathedral
Around 732 AD, relics of St Andrew were brought to a place in Fife which would later become St Andrews. A religious community grew there but they were supplanted by an order of Augustinian canons in 1144. The canons took over and extended the existing St Rule’s Church.
It took 150 years to complete and when it was finished it was the largest church in Scotland. It was dedicated in 1318 in the presence of King Robert the Bruce and became the headquarters of the Scottish church.
During the Reformation in the 16th century as Scotland broke away from the Catholic Church in favour of Presbyterianism, the Catholic Cathedral of St Andrew was stripped of its altars, fittings and furnishings.
Only a few of the Cathedral walls still stand today, although the 33 metre tall square tower at the rear of the Cathedral walls is part of the 12th century St Rule’s Church and it is possible to climb to the top for a breathtaking view of the town of St Andrews and the surrounding coastline.
Filed under: Photographs, Wildlife | Tags: Black Isle, Chanonry Point, Inverness
Filed under: Photographs, Scottish History | Tags: Dundee, Jute, Verdant Works
In the 19th century, Dundee was the world’s largest producer of jute products. Over 50,000 people were employed in more than 100 mills by the end of the century and the population of Dundee had virtually quadrupled from 45,000 to 161,000.
Ideally placed on the Tay estuary, Dundee already had a thriving textile industry, a large whaling fleet and its own shipbuilding industry. They built the big ships needed to bring the raw jute across from India, the whaling industry provided the whale oil necessary for softening the jute fibres ready for processing and the existing textile workers were retrained to process the jute.
Jute is quite a rough fibre and is used to make sacking, burlap, twine, canvas, rope etc. The sails on the ships carrying Scots settlers to new lives in the U.S.A., Australia and New Zealand and the tents and covers on the wagons that carried them across these lands were made from jute.
Wars were very popular with the jute barons in Dundee and the 19th century had no shortage of conflicts. These fuelled a great demand for tents, horse blankets, covers for wagons and guns, sandbags and sacks for carrying all sorts of produce.
Although jute production made the mill owners very rich, the mill workers were poorly paid and working conditions were dreadful. Most of the workers were women and children because they could be paid less.
Today there are no working mills in Dundee. Many have been demolished, others turned into housing, offices or social clubs.
Verdant Works is a former working mill which has been converted into a museum by Dundee Heritage Trust. Originally built in 1833 and extended in 1870, it opened as a museum in 1996. Most of the machinery in Verdant Works came from Dundee College of Technology when its textile course closed in the 1980s. Other items were donated by the public. It’s a really interesting place to visit.
Not signposted but definitely worth a visit, the magical landscape of the Fairy Glen on the Isle of Skye can be stumbled upon if you take the road for Balnacnoc near Uig on the west side of Trotternish.
Like most of Skye’s stunning landscapes, this glen was formed by a series of landslides followed by a period of glaciation.
It’s a great place to relax with a picnic.