The Hirsel and Bughtrig Garden

River Tweed at Coldstream

This 9km walk starts in Coldstream from which you can look across the River Tweed into England. To start with, we walked along the river through the Lees Estate stopping to admire Lees House and Lees Temple, an octagonal 18th century gazebo.

After a while, the other side of the path was lined with wheatfields. When we reached the farm track at Fireburnmill, we headed back up to the road.

Crossing the road, we entered another estate, The Hirsel. This has been the seat of the Earls of Home (pronounced Hume) since the 17th century and the earliest parts of the house (not open to the public) date from then.

When the 11th Duke married Lady Lucy Elizabeth Montague Douglas in 1832, his estate was amalgamated with that of the Douglas family. The present Earl is the son of Sir Alec Douglas-Home, the 14th Earl, who gave up the title in 1963 to serve as Prime Minister. I can just about remember that.

There are 500 acres of park to explore, including a lake and a small river, the Leet Water. The Cow Arch provided access to the riverside pastures for the Hirsel herd of cows.

Some of the out-buildings have been made into a small visitor centre and café where we had a good lunch. We then made our way back to Coldstream where our car was parked in this pretty square.

There was still a lot of afternoon left, so we decided to visit nearby Bughtrig Garden as well. Bughtrig, which means farm on a ridge, has belonged to only three families in its traceable history from the 14th century: the Dicksons, the Franks and, since 1938, the Ramsays. The present house was built for the Franks in the late 18th century – it and its surrounding lawns are not open to visitors.

The formal garden, however, is a delight and we spent some time wandering about, as well as relaxing on these rather unusual loungers (which were quite tricky to get off).

The owners, William and Natasha Ramsay, have also started a sculpture garden, beginning with a bronze statue of William’s grandfather, Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsay, who commanded the evacuation from Dunkirk and was subsequently killed on active service in January 1945. I recently read that plans have been approved for a small museum to the Admiral at Bughtrig.

Unfortunately, I didn’t note what this sculpture was or who it was by.

However, I can tell you that these are Godwin and Bernard. Godwin is a 14ft Rastafarian “a monument to cool” by Araba Ocran. Bernard is a life size camel by Josh Gluckstein. He bears a notice saying “Please forgive the state of poor Bernard. He prefers the desert and has suffered in the Scottish climate! He will be back all patched together in due course.”

By this time, the weather was cooling and our stomachs were rumbling, so it was time to head back to our cosy holiday cottage for some dinner.

Cowden Japanese Garden and Castle Campbell

Japanese Garden at Cowden

At the end of September, John had an unexpected day off work. Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t great but we believed the forecast which said it would be better further east. It lied! We arrived at the Japanese Garden at Cowden in Clackmannanshire in pouring rain so, as it was around midday, we decided to have lunch first in the hope that the weather would clear. The small café is housed in a temporary Portakabin, but once inside you wouldn’t know because it is well maintained and attractive – better still, the food is good and the staff are friendly.

Cowden is somewhere I’ve wanted to visit for a while. Created in 1908 by intrepid traveller Ella Christie (1861-1949), with the help of Taki Handa originally from the Royal School of Garden Design at Nagoya, it fell into disrepair in later years and was badly vandalised in the 1960s. In 2013 Professor Masao Fukuhara from Osaka University of Arts, Japan, was appointed to restore the garden and, although still a work in progress, it is now open to the public again. The full history, detailed on the garden’s website, is fascinating and well worth a read.

Our strategy of waiting for the rain to go off over lunch hadn’t worked, but it didn’t detract from the beauty of the garden and gives us an excuse to come back to visit in sunshine some day. Click on the gallery below to take a stroll round the central pond with us.

After Cowden, we headed a few miles back up the road to the small town of Dollar to visit Castle Campbell. We left the car in town and headed up the burn to Dollar Glen, where we chose the west path which climbs through woodland, eventually following the Burn of Sorrow, and leading to great views of the castle.

It’s a long time since we’ve actually visited the castle, but we decided to do so now. It was no longer raining, but the mist made the views from the top of the tower very atmospheric and, as the last image in the gallery below shows, there were some weak rays of sunshine as we left.

In the internal photos, you can see two Green Man carvings in the ceiling which would originally have held chains for oil lamps in their mouths. You can also see John testing one of the latrines for comfort, as invited by the notice behind him. This notice also informed us that a remedy for bed wetting from 1544 involved adding the ground bones of a hedgehog to the sufferer’s food and drink. Poor hedgehogs!

After the castle, we took the east path back down the glen along the Burn of Care until it merged with the Burn of Sorrow to form the Dollar Burn and led us back into town.  Such sad names!

Before leaving we found this interesting drinking fountain and a bench dedicated to Ella Christie whose garden we had visited earlier.

This was a day which proves there’s no point in sitting at home waiting for the weather to improve. Just get out and do it! We had two lovely walks which I’m linking to Jo and her wonderful group of Monday walkers. She has blue Portuguese skies to counter my grey ones.

Jo’s Monday Walks.

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.

Amsterdam: parks and gardens

Rijksmuseum and I Amsterdam sign from Museumplein

Amsterdam might be most famous for its canals, but it also has some very attractive parks, gardens and other open spaces.


At the head of Museumplein lies the Rijksmusuem and the iconic I Amsterdam sign which everyone wants to be photographed with – except us,  we didn’t bother waiting! Down the side are Amsterdam’s other top art museums (Van Gogh Museum and Stedlijk Musuem) with the Concertgebouw at the far end of its grassy expanse.

When we visited, there was also an exhibition of model canal houses. One of the examples below is the KLM building, significant because that airline gives out small blue and white china houses filled with Dutch gin to its business class passengers. As John often uses KLM to fly to China we have an excellent collection at home. The other example is Coster Diamonds, the only model where the real building can be seen behind it (on the right).


Vondelpark is very close to Museumplein, and is a great place to relax by its ponds, have a meal on a pretty terrace, or admire this proud Mama Duck and her brood of eight.

Hortus Botanicus

The Botanical Garden dates from 1638 and is the only space in this post that you have to pay to get into (9.50 Euros). NB, the flamingos are not in the garden but on the nearby Artisplein.



Begijnhof is  an enclosed 14th century courtyard of tiny houses and gardens. It was originally home to the Beguines, a Roman Catholic order of unmarried or widowed women who lived a religious vows without taking monastic vows. The last one died in 1971.


Westerpark is slightly out of the centre so maybe more popular with locals than tourists. We enjoyed a wander round – it has some quirky sculptures.

This is the second of four thematic posts about Amsterdam – see also Canals, Decorative Buildings and Museums.

Arduaine Garden and Kilmartin Glen

Arduaine Garden

After our beautiful walk on Kerrera we were disappointed to wake up the next day and find the weather had reverted to a more normal grey drizzle. Nevertheless, we decided to stick to our plan of driving home from Oban the long way round in order to visit Kilmartin Glen.

First, we stopped at Arduaine Garden, started in 1898 by James Arthur Campbell and now part of the National Trust for Scotland.

Fortified with coffee, we headed for our next stop at Carnassarie Castle, dating from the 1560s. There were good views over Kilmartin Glen from the top, even if it was a little damp and misty – we certainly didn’t envy the people excavating an adjacent mound. That looked a cold job.

Into Kilmartin itself, and we visited the small museum, the church and its associated graveyard before having lunch in the hotel.

After lunch, we set out to explore the glen further. Kilmartin Glen has one of the most important concentrations of Neolithic and Bronze Age remains in Scotland, including standing stones, a henge monument, numerous cists, and a ‘linear cemetery’ comprising five burial cairns. The gallery below is just a selection.

Finally, at the southern end of the glen we climbed to the remains of the fortress of Dunadd, a royal centre of Dàl Riata, the first kingdom of the Scots, more than 1300 years ago. The inauguration stone has a footprint (allegedly created by the hero Ossian) into which the new king placed his foot, thus betrothing himself to the land. These days, it’s a replica but we gave it a go anyway.

After that, it was time to head for home at the end of a lovely weekend.

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.


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, 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