Drummond and Monzie

Drummond Gardens

The garden at Drummond Castle in Perthshire is said to be one of the finest formal gardens in Europe according to its website (source not provided!) First laid out in the 17th century, it was restructured in Victorian times and again in the 20th century. Queen Victoria herself visited in 1842 and expressed approval.

The original castle was built around 1490 by John, 1st Lord Drummond. The keep still stands, but the rest of the castle was remodelled in 1890. It’s not possible to visit either part, but you get excellent and varied views from the gardens.

The free map provided at the entrance details all the plants, many of which were not yet in bloom (our previous visit was at a later time of year when the roses were beautiful). I could have done with a guide to the statuary as my knowledge of mythology is not up to identifying the various gods and goddesses on show. Perhaps you had to shell out for the guide book to get that.

As well as the formal gardens, there is also a Woodland Walk which leads through the trees and criss-crosses the central avenue which is graced by the chap below.

The walk is enlivened by a dozen chain-saw carvings.

I wouldn’t say the carver was the best-ever. Just look at the poor wooden deer compared to the real one we spotted! Even allowing for its broken antlers, the carving is a bit weird looking.

Drummond is just south of the small town of Crieff, so when we’d exhausted the garden we headed there for lunch. New since our last visit were these “leafy” Highland cattle installed in 2018 by community group Crieff in Leaf. They celebrate Crieff’s history as the cattle-droving crossroads of Scotland.

After lunch we headed for the most important visit of the day. Monzie Castle is only open for a few weeks each year – 18th May to 16th June in 2019, so my tardiness in writing this post means you’ve missed it!

Monzie Castle

Monzie (pronounced Mun-ee) is a Gaelic word meaning field of corn. The oldest part of the castle is a 17th century tower house which was incorporated into a large, castellated mansion in the late 18th century. Owned by Grahams then Campbells, in 1856 it was bought by the Crichton family, who still live there today. In 1908 there was a serious fire which destroyed the interior leaving only the outside walls, after which it was restored by the leading Scottish architect of the day, Sir Robert Lorimer. He even furnished it.

We were given a tour by the elder Mrs Crichton, including to her private sitting room in the old part of the house, which was surprisingly cosy. At one time, you had to exit the main house and walk all the way round the back to get into the tower house, thus it fell into disuse: these days, there is a passage knocked through to the much more formal “new” house. No photography was allowed inside, but we were free to wander round the outside and the gardens.

Mrs Crichton’s son and his family also live on Monzie estate which, as well as the castle, includes holiday cottages, a B&B, a farm and a joinery business, all powered by their own hydro electric plant. Having never visited before, it’s now somewhere I’d seriously consider staying on holiday.

Finally, on our way home we stopped in the small village of Muthill which we had driven through many times but never explored. We visited the ruins of the Old Church (1400s) and Tower (1100s) as well as two present day churches (exterior only).

This is another place I would love to stay – Muthill boasts a fine-sounding “restaurant with rooms”, the Barley Bree. Some day! In the meantime, we had had an absolutely fabulous day out.

Unwinding in Crieff

Glen Lednock and the Maam Road

On a day out in March, we stopped off in Crieff Hydro for tea and thought it would be a lovely place to stay. After a gruelling few months at work, this popped back into my head when looking for somewhere for a relaxing couple of nights to recover and I booked up. Perthshire is a beautiful county and we were hoping for good weather to get some walking done – we got a bit wet the first day, and both days involved sinking to our ankles in mud from time to time, but walk we did, accompanied by our guide of choice Perthshire: 40 Town & Country Walks. The authors, Paul and Helen Webster, also run the website Walk Highlands, another excellent source of ideas.

Day 1 – The Hosh and the Knock

This 10k figure of eight walk starts directly from the Hydro, so we didn’t need the car all day. The Hosh is an area of woods and riverside which takes you down to Glenturret and its famous distillery. Time for a tour and a dram! Unfortunately not. We arrived just before they were to be inundated with coach trips and there wasn’t another public tour for an hour and a half. Never mind, I had my photo taken with the Famous Grouse:

The Famous Grouse at Glenturret Distillery

We also admired the monument to Towser, the prodigious mouser, one of whose successors was asleep on the visitor centre floor (standards must be slipping):

Towser the Distillery Cat

The walk looped back to the Hydro, and then up the Knock of Crieff and back through rather soggy farmland. We did part of this walk on our previous visit, and I posted better photographs then. This time it rained, and was a bit dreich, but still beautiful:

The Knock of Crieff

Day 2 – Comrie and the Deil’s Cauldron

This is also a circular walk, starting in Comrie, just down the road from Crieff, and meandering about 7.5k around Glen Lednock. It takes in the Deil’s Cauldron (a waterfall) and, as an addition to the main circuit, a climb up Dun More to the Melville Monument. Viscount Melville was the last person to be impeached in the House of Lords – in 1806 he was accused of improper use of funds when in charge at the Admiralty. Plus ça change….etc, although in this case he was later acquitted.

At the Deil’s (Devil’s) Cauldron:

Deil’s Cauldron

The climb up Dun More to the monument rose steeply through trees:

Dun More and the Melville Monument

There are fine views from the top:

View from Dun More

The way down is via a delightful hill track, known as the Maam Road (see also top of post):

Glen Lednock from the Maam Road

The route returns on the other side of Glen Lednock, from where the monument is often visible and, sometimes, quite sinister looking:

Melville Monument

After our exertions, we treated ourselves to enormous slices of cake at the fabulous Tullybannocher Café.

The Hydro

Crieff Hydro was a very comfortable place to stay. We probably didn’t make the most of it because we walked both days rather than take advantage of its outdoor activities – though on the first walk, we barely left the estate and were very impressed with its extent. If the weather had been really bad, there would have been plenty to do indoors too, with a pool, a Spa and even a cinema. It’s not a big, soulless chain either – after 140 years, it’s still managed by descendents of the founder, Dr Meikle, who gives his name to the restaurant. John really enjoyed the food but, as is often the case in hotels, I found the vegetarian options a bit bland. What lets them down is the restaurant service – amusingly eccentric the first night, awful the second when we went from feeling we were being rushed through everything to being totally forgotten about by the end. Better supervision and coordination is required. Top marks though for having veggie sausages on the breakfast buffet – the first time I have seen that. I’ll give it 7/10 overall.

Innerpeffray Library & the Knock of Crieff

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I’ve wanted to visit Innerpeffray Library for years. Last weekend, when we stayed in Perth, I planned to visit on our way home but overlooked the fact that the library is not open on Mondays or Tuesdays. This weekend, we decided to go before the notion left us again. This was the plan: arrive in Crieff in time for a pub lunch, quickly visit the library when they opened for the afternoon at 2pm, then go for a long walk to work off lunch.

We had lunch in the Caledonian Bar in the centre of Crieff: one fish and chips, one mushroom stroganoff and two halves of Speckled Hen. All very good and served efficiently and with a smile and a chat. We then arrived at Innerpeffray just after 2pm, but the short visit lasted almost two hours! It was absolutely fascinating. Innerpeffray is the oldest free public lending library in Scotland. It was founded in 1680 in the church next door by David Drummond, 3rd Lord Madertie, but the dedicated library building “only” dates from 1762. This makes 2012 its 250th anniversary and so the books in the display cases date from around that time – a time when 75% of adults in Scotland could read and write, compared to only 53% in England. Why would that be? Because by 1750 almost every Scottish town of any size had a lending library. This obviously resonates today when so many public libraries are under threat.

The reason our visit took so long is that, unlike other historic libraries we have visited such as Pepys’ Library in Cambridge, you can actually handle the books, not just look at the displays. Lara, the Library Manager, and the two volunteers on duty were absolutely excellent and so friendly. They chatted to us to find out our interests and then quickly found books that they thought we would like, even though (anathema to my librarian’s soul!) they were not in classified order. We spent ages browsing and reading, sometimes with books nearly 400 years old. You can also view the borrowers’ register from 1747 until lending ceased in the 1960s, and lists of 18th century desiderata. I strongly recommend that you check the link above to find out more about the library and then visit it. It costs £5 per person – excellent value. The pictures below show internal and external views – the church can also be visited, but is not open till April.

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(Update 1: 29/04/12 – for a good post on Innerpeffray, see the Georgian Gentleman blog.)

(Update 2: 10/05/12 – another blog Echoes from the Vault about a visit by Rare Books Librarians.)

(Update 3: 26/08/13 – read about my second visit, when the chapel was open. Also, check out author Helen Grant’s blog – she often writes about Innerpeffray.)

After a quick refreshment in the splendid café at Crieff Hydro, we went off for a shorter walk than planned. I found it hard to believe I had never been there before, but certainly have the Hydro marked down as a suitable place for a future weekend away.

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From the Hydro, we walked up to the Knock, a view-point above the hotel. It was dusk when we returned and the sky was lovely.

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As we walked back down through the hotel grounds, we got stuck behind a group of 10-12 young women, all beautifully dressed for a night out. The only trouble was, their shoes were so high that they were hirpling along like a gaggle of old grannies (hope that’s not too ageist), holding onto each other and the railings. They were happy to joke though – I offered to lend one my walking boots to get down the hill, and when we finally strode past them, another asked for a lift. Two of the more footsure can just be seen in this picture.

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I hope they had a lovely evening. And that they’re not crippled by the time they are 40. (Suppresses memory of 18-year-old self attempting a country walk in four-inch platforms.)