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Tuesday, 28 April 2009


Well, I reached my 60th birthday, a week past Sunday, and had a great weekend with friends, but this birthday signalled the start of another new phase of my life! I am now of an age to retire, so I decided to take advantage of that and semi retire. I enjoy working at the Co-op, so didn't want to finish working there completely just yet, so instead, I have cut my hours down to 16 per week!!! Last week I worked Sunday and Monday so was off for the rest of the week, while this week I am off till Thursday, when I will be back for two days! All this free time is great, as cousins from Canada, Don and Nancy, are visiting, and I can spend time with them.

The other day, we visited Traquair House, the oldest continually inhabited house in Scotland, just a few miles down the back road from Peebles, where we toured the house before having lunch in the 1745 cottage tearoom! Traquair is a fabulous old house with, obviously, a lot of history attached! Twenty seven Scottish kings and queens have stayed here, including Mary, Queen of Scots and her second husband Lord Darnley, with their baby son, who became James VI of Scotland and later, on the death of Elizabeth I of England, James I of England.
During the Jacobite Uprising of 1745, Bonnie Prince Charlie, Charles Edward Stuart, visited the house, and when he left by the original driveway, through the splendid Bear Gates, the Earl of Traquair had the gates locked saying they should not be opened again till the Stuarts regained the throne. The attempt to bring the crown back to the Stuarts was doomed to fail at Culloden the following year, and Charles Edward, a wanted man, fled to Europe where he lived out the rest of his life. Back at Traquair the gates remained locked, and the "temporary" entrance has continued in use to the present day. The old Bear Gates are still in place and the old drive down to the house has been kept clear of trees and bushes so that you get a fabulous view down to the house.

Photography is not allowed in the house, but I figured one or two looking out through the windows, for example, wouldn't be any harm so here we are looking out of a stairway window that looks out onto the lawn outside the inner gates and on up the old drive. It's not too clear, but maybe gives you an idea of how it looks... The Bear Gates are way up at the end of that green lawn between the trees,

...and here is Don, exploring the priest's stair in the oldest part of the building. It was probably the only stair in the original tower house, but later, when the house had extended somewhat, the old stairs probably fell into disuse, and during the persecution of Roman Catholics, they allowed the priest an escape route through a cupboard if things hotted up too much.

At the back of the house is the maze, a fairly recent addition to the attractions of Traquair.

If you are clever you take a digital photo of the map of the maze on that little sign by the entrance, as I did when I came back to the House at the weekend with my Inverness friends! The idea is to work your way round, visiting each of the four corners of the maze before finally reaching the centre. On Don's and Nancy's visit we didn't have time as we had a date with the folk who live in Don's ancestors' family home in Galashiels!
Stephen and Ellie were delighted to be able to give him bits of information about the family history, and showed us round the house and garden, both of which they have nurtured with tender loving care. We had a lovely afternoon with them, and over tea and cake, various stories were exchanged.

On Friday we went into Edinburgh, where Don and Nancy climbed to the top of the Scott Monument, memorial to Sir Walter Scott whose novels took the city by storm in the early 1800s....
...and this is the larger than life marble statue of Scott and his dog Maida, sitting under the tall arch facing Princes Street.

The monument is very ornate and is decorated with small statues of characters within Scott's books.

(Terry, one of the tour guides)

Later our tour of the city took us past the controversial Scottish Parliament building. I wonder how many 19th century citizens looked at the Scott monument and had the same thoughts as today's Edinburghers do about the radical Parliament design. I actually like the parliament building a lot - it's one that you either like or hate - and very many people loathe it with a passion. If anything, I'd say there is too much raw grey concrete, especially at the entrance!

This does look a bit unfinished, but I do like the over all design. I love those "hairdryer" or "power drill" decorations at the windows on the right! The designer - who was a Catalan - said they were representations of curtains!

These "curtains" don't all have windows but they have a couple of pigeons!
And these office windows are fantastic! Inside each one is a window seat with steps opposite for MSPs' papers, cups of coffee, etc. or maybe simply to put their feet up on while they sit back, relax, and contemplate the details of the day's debate! The rods outside feature throughout the building - good old oak rods, they are - same as the wood in the chamber, below.

This is the debating chamber, beneath the modern beamed roof with its hundreds of lights and cameras. I hope they are keeping an eye or two on their carbon footprint! There's a large public gallery above, from where I took the picture, and as you can see there was no debating going on at nearly 5.00p.m. that day!

After our visit there we explored the bottom end of the Canongate, taking a look at White Horse Close, named for the white palfrey of Mary, Queen of Scots. The courtyard and close are far older than the 16th century though.

We started the walk uphill passing the Canongate Church where the Queen goes when she is staying at nearby Holyrood Palace - I forgot to put in the Palace photo - here it is:

Well, it's mostly the fountain in the front courtyard really...

and here's the photo of Robert Fergusson, another poet who died at the age of 37 - like Robert Burns, who in fact was a great admirer of Fergusson and who put up a monument to him in the Canongate graveyard to his left.

There is just so much to see in the Canongate, which was once outside the city walls. When the threat of attack on the city was well past and the city gate demolished, rich merchants and burgesses began to move out of the crowded city and build big mansion houses alongside the road to Holyrood Abbey.

Here's one, named Moray House, which gave its name to the college of education that now occupies it and other neighbouring buildings. I spent three years there - once upon a time! Unfortunately I never saw inside this part of the college.

So we picked up the tour bus again and headed back to the Waverley Bridge where we began, passing by the foot of the Castle rock as we went,
The Half Moon Battery, Edinburgh Castle

and soon it was time for the cousins to catch their train back to Bathgate.

Just one more picture for you - a computer generated "stitched" together compilation of 5 photos of the Old Town, from the 250 year-old New Town.
Talk again soon.

1 comment:

MemoryKeeper said...

Again, your photography is a delight to the eye! WoW! I love your new blinkie, and I couldn't be prouder!


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