Friday, 31 May 2013

Rosslyn Chapel

Today whilst driving to Tantallon Castle to the north on the coast we stopped at Scot's View where Sir Walter Scott used to like to sit and perhaps was inspired to write some of his poetry.

Sir Walter's View

We then drove onto Tantallon Castle a formidable stronghold set atop cliffs on the Firth of Forth, Tantallon Castle was the seat of the Douglas Earls of Angus, one of the most powerful baronial families in Scotland. Tantallon served as a noble fortification for more than three centuries and endured three sieges. The mighty stone curtain wall – absolutely the best 14th-century castle architecture anywhere in Scotland was built in the 1350s by a nobleman at the height of his power. In 1354, William Douglas came into possession of all his father’s lands, as well as those of his uncle, ‘the Good Sir James of Douglas’, a close friend of King Robert Bruce. The estates included the barony of North Berwick. In 1358 William was created Earl of Douglas, by which date the builders may already have begun to build his new stronghold.
Tantallon Castle

Bass Rock

Often described as a sentinel guarding the Firth of Forth Bass Rock or 'auld crag' has served as a retreat, a fortress and a beacon.


Dovecot highly valued in Scotland in the late Middle Ages for the meat they provided. This example is 17th century lectern type with two chambers for nesting pigeons.

Dovecot outside the Castle walls
We then drove on to Rosslyn Chapel founded in 1446, as the Collegiate Church of St Matthew, Rosslyn Chapel with its unique and mysterious carvings. The chapel took some 40 years to complete and its ornate stonework and mysterious symbolism have inspired - and intrigued – artists and people ever since. Today, there are countless theories, myths and legends associated with the Chapel, many of which are impossible to prove or disprove conclusively - from its 15th century origins, through the Reformation, to the Da Vinci Code. Rosslyn has survived turbulent times and has recently been undergoing an extensive programme of conservation to ensure its long-term future.  

There are so many curious figurines carved from the sandstone such as the farmers wife rescuing a goose from the jaws of a fox. Surrounding a window are carvings of maize or Indian Corn. The presence of this plant carving in the Chapel raises many questions: not only is it an exotic plant but it originates from North America, a country traditionally thought to have been discovered by Columbus in 1492, almost 50 years after Rosslyn Chapel was built. Lucifer the fallen angel one of the many Masonic carvings in the Chapel, hanging upside down and bound with rope. It is one of the depictions of angels in unusual positions in the Chapel which are significant in the rites of Freemasonry. Rosslyn is renowned for its many carvings of the Green Man, historically a pagan figure. The vines sprouting from his mouth represent nature’s growth and fertility, illustrating the unity between humankind and nature. The carved angels in the Lady Chapel are celebrating Christ’s birth with music. Bagpipes first appeared in Scotland from the mid-1400s and this is thought to be one of the earliest depictions of the instrument. Carved cubes that protrude from the arches of the Lady Chapel. Each one of these cubes is unique, carved with individual symbols made up of lines and dots. Various theories suggest that these may represent keys to a secret code or be musical notes. The Rosslyn Motet has recently been composed as one 'solution' to the code. A string of figures caught in the 'Dance of Death'. Characters from all walks of life are each accompanied by a skeleton, Death. The dance springs from the skeletons pushing and pulling the reluctant people off to meet their fate and symbolises death’s inevitable triumph over life. The Apprentice Pillar is the most elaborately decorated pillar in the Chapel. This pillar contains one of the most famous and fascinating riddles of the building. An apprentice mason is said to have carved the pillar, inspired by a dream, in his master's absence. On seeing the magnificent achievement on his return, the master mason flew into a jealous rage and struck the apprentice, killing him outright. 

The Chapel took some forty years to build and required a large number of workmen and it is thought that the village of Roslin grew up to house them. All kinds of craftsmen would have worked on the building: quarriers hewed the stone, masons carved it, blacksmiths sharpened tools, and carpenters modelled designs in wood before they were sculpted in stone by the masons. What you see of the chapel is thought to be only one part of a larger scheme. Excavations in the 1800s uncovered foundations stretching a further 30 metres (91 feet) beyond the west end of the Chapel, suggesting that a cruciform building was intended. However, William died in 1484 and work on the Chapel seems to have ceased after this time. But nearly 600 years after it was built, the Chapel still stands testament to the fascinating mind which conceived this extraordinary design scheme. William’s plan for a building of ‘curiosity’ and ‘splendour’ has clearly been fulfilled.

Unfortunately photos are not allowed to be taken in the chapel however they can be found on the internet, the green man carving in particular was amazing it was so detailed and clear with no deterioration showing at all which is unbelievable. The chapel survived the reformation then it was actually abandoned and trees where growing on the interior during this time, so to have the carvings still in the wonderful condition they are is a true blessing to be shared with everyone.

This is the lady rescuing the goose.

Outside in the yard stood this monument 

We walked down the lane beside the chapel to Rosslyn Glen a lovely area with a creek running through it, towering over it was the ruin of the Rosslyn Castle the home of William who commissioned the building of the chapel. The plants and rocks where covered in moss and small flowers carpeted the ground among the greenery a truly wondrous place where I am sure the fae are living.

Showing the moss even on the small branches of the trees

Flowers carpet the ground

Part of the ruins of the Rosslyn Castle

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Crossing the Border to Scotland

Today we drove over the border to Scotland stopping to see the Jedburgh Abbey on the way, and again stopping to see Norham Castle. It is hard to believe the accents of the people have changed literally as we went over the border, now I need to listen more closely to understand what is being said.

The trees are just so beautiful it makes the drive magical

Crossing over the border into Scotland

Jedburgh Abbey
Jedburgh Abbey is one of the four great abbeys built in Scotland’s border country during the Middle Ages. It was established as a priory of Augustinian canons around 1138. The brethren possibly came here from St Quentin Abbey, near Beauvais, France. The priory was raised to abbey status around 1154. Augustinians were priests who lived a secluded and contemplative life, but who went forth from their cloister to minister to the people. Jedburgh eventually possessed about 20 parish churches.

Arriving at Norham Castle

Commanding a vital ford over the River Tweed, Norham was one of the strongest of the border castles, and the most often attacked by the Scots. Besieged at least 13 times - once for nearly a year by Robert Bruce - it was called 'the most dangerous and adventurous place in the country'. But even its powerful 12th century keep and massive towered bailey walls could not resist James IV's heavy cannon, and it fell to him in 1513, shortly before his defeat at Flodden. The extensive 16th century rebuilding which followed, adapting the fortress for its own artillery, is still clearly traceable. The extensive 16th century rebuilding which followed, adapting the fortress for its own artillery, is still clearly traceable. The Inner Ward, reached across a wooden bridge are the remains of the Great Hall and the Great Chamber as well as the three surviving walls of the Great Tower itself.
West Gate

Private Bishop's Suite

Kitchen & Hall

Accommodation Suites
Smailholm Tower was originally built in the 15th century or early 16th century by the Pringle family. Smailholm Tower was designed, in common with all Scottish peel towers, to provide its occupants with protection from sporadic English raids. The tower was attacked by English soldiers in 1543, 1544 and again in 1546, when the garrison of Wark Castle sacked the tower and carried off prisoners and cattle. The castle was successfully defended against the English in 1640, by Sir Andrew Ker of Greenhead. We then drove on stopping to see Smailholm Tower. A 20m (65ft) tower house, with walls 2.5m (9 ft) thick, dominates the rock craig known as Lady Hill. In its shadow lie the ruined foundations of an outer hall and kitchen block, discovered during excavations in 1979–81. A stout defensive wall, 2m (7ft) thick, encloses the barmkin, or courtyard. The tower house comprised the main residential accommodation for its Pringle laird – ground-floor cellars, first-floor hall, second-floor bedchamber and additional chambers at the top.

Smailholm Tower

We checked into our accommodation before going to see Dryburgh Abbey.

Our room for the night.

The sitting lounge two doors away.

Dryburgh Abbey Hotel

Dryburgh Abbey

Great Western Doorway

The graceful ruins of Dryburgh Abbey nestled in wooded seclusion beside the River Tweed. Perhaps the most beautiful of all the Border Abbeys, the ruins of Dryburgh Abbey are remarkably complete and surrounded by beautiful grounds. First established in 1150, Dryburgh Abbey became the premier house in Scotland of the Premonstratensian order and today continues to have a peaceful atmosphere. Despite having been set on fire three times, the chapter house features paintwork that dates back to its construction and today boasts some of the best Gothic architecture in Scotland. These graceful ruins became the burial place of David Eskrine, 11th Earl of Buchan in 1829, and three years later his friend Sir Walter Scott was also buried here.

Kevin standing where the choir stalls would have been and behind the High Altar.

We then drove to see the statue of Wallace. The Dryburgh statue was the first monument to be raised to Wallace in Scotland. The eleventh Earl of Buchan was very attached to the Dryburgh area and this nobleman was himself buried at Dryburgh. He built a 260 foot suspension bridge over the river Tweed here and also commissioned a colossal statue of Wallace to be built. This statue was placed on its pedestal on 22nd September 1814. It stands 21.5 feet high and is formed of red sandstone. When first raised it was painted white, but is now bare sandstone. The statue was designed by a Mr John Smith, a self-taught sculptor, and he had copied its likeness from a supposed authentic portrait which had been purchased in France by a Sir Philip Ainslie of Pilton. Wallace is represented in ancient Scottish armour, a shield hanging from his left hand, and leaning on a huge sword with his right.

The view that the statue has over the valley.

We then walked onto the Temple of the Muses.

River Tweed

Temple of the Muses

This circular nine columned gazebo stands since 1817 on Bass Hill, a mound overlooking the River Tweed at the west end of the Dryburgh village. It is dedicated to the poet James Thomson, the Ednam poet and author of "The Four Seasons" and the lyrics of Rule Britannia, and his bust can be seen on the top of the structure. The temple originally contained a stone statue of the Apollo Belvedere (Greek God of music and poetry) on a circular pedestal showing nine Muses with laurel wreaths. Bronze figures of the Four Seasons by Siobhan O'Hehir were installed as a replacement in 2002.

Suspension Bridge over River Tweed