Search This Blog

Saturday, 16 September 2023

Scotland roadtrip - part 2

On the Tuesday morning of their Scottish roadtrip, Laura and Nicholas James left Inveraray and visited Auchindrain Historic Village. This was a village which by virtue of its geographic location and circumstance hadn't been deserted during waves of highland clearances and was inhabited until 1967. Some of the houses were furnished and showed the evolution of their building (many had been thatched with local heather and other plants until corrogated iron roofing replaced the thatch). 

Laura and Nicholas James were given an interactive guide on a tablet which explained all about each building in the township as they explored. Some of the long houses had been restored, others had been left in their gradually decaying state. They all helped to tell the story of land farmed in common and the inter-relationships with other communities including the traveller communities who contributed their work to the township.

Laura and Nicholas James outside Martin Munro's longhouse in Auchindrain

Laura and Nicholas James at the Byre entrance to Martin Munro's house

Martin Munro's kitchen - Nicholas James and Laura beside the cooking area

On the other side of Martin Munro's kitchen were two beds for children

Martin Munro's kitchen with Nicholas and James looking at the cooking stove arrangements

Laura and Nicholas James explored Martin Munro's byre where the heavy horses used to live

Laura and Nicholas James wished there were horses in the byre

In the room at the other end of the house Laura and Nicholas James found a spinning wheel

An Auchindrain cottage ruins thatched with local plants

Martin Munro's house, Slate house, Stoner's barn and Beal Poll's house in the distance

Baby cradle in Eddie's house at the top end of Auchindrain

Heilan Coo was pleased to find information about cows in Eddie's barn

The traveller community provided important occasional labour for communal Scottish farms and would pitch their bowcamps to live in while they helped with harvesting and other short-term seasonal jobs.

Inside the Traveller's Bowcamp

The Traveller's Bowcamp in memory of Jimmy Townsley and his sister Neenie Reid

Auchindrain was so interesting and deserved a long visit. 

After they left the historic village Laura and Nicholas James continued along the Argyll Coastal Route to Arduaine Gardens which had a wonderful view of the sea lochs and islands nearby.

Sunshine over the sea loch view from Arduaine Gardens

They continued their roadtrip to Oban where they stayed in another youth hostel for the night. The next morning before leaving Oban, Laura, Nicholas James and Heilan Coo decided to visit McCraig's Tower, a late 19th century monument to a family which provides magnificent views over the town, Oban bay and towards the islands of the Inner Hebrides. It was a grey morning however thankfully it was still possible to see out over the harbour.

McCraig's Tower entrance

Inside McCraig's Tower

Inside the walls and arches of McCraig's Tower

Laura and Nicholas James stood in an arch of McCraig's Tower to look out over Oban bay

Nicholas James and Laura looked out over Oban bay

Laura, Nicholas James and Heilan Coo see the Isle of Kerrera and Mull beyond

Laura, Nicholas James and Heilan Coo enjoyed the view from McCraig's Tower

Once again Laura and Nicholas James were on the road again, as they continued on the Argyll Coastal route further into the Highlands of Scotland.

Monday, 4 September 2023

Scotland roadtrip - part 1

Laura and Nicholas James were going on an adventure. They went on a long drive all the way to Scotland to explore some interesting places.

Crossing the border into Scotland

The first night of their trip after the long car journey was at a small hotel in Dumbarton near Glasgow, where they watched the BBC proms on TV once Laura had her hair done by my daughter who wanted to give her a practical style that would hold up through all the adventures.

Laura has her hair styled by Dmd in the first hotel room

Nicholas James and Laura watch the BBC proms in the hotel room

The next morning the road trip took Laura and Nicholas James to the Charles Rennie Macintosh domestic masterpiece 'Hill House' which is cared for by the National Trust for Scotland.

Hill House was ground breaking in its 'Glasgow School' Art Nouveau architectural style and the materials used when it was built in 1902-1904, however unfortunately the exterior cement-based roughcast has water ingress problems so the house is now sheltered in an enormous breathable steel box - a slightly pitched roof with steel mesh sides which allows the house to slowly dry out over a number of years while the conservators do lots of investigations into the best methods of preserving the integrity of Macintosh's design and the fabric of the building. 

Hill House - the window above the main entrance

Inside the house every room is a delight for those of us who love the work of Charles Rennie Macintosh and his artist wife Margaret Macdonald (whom he described as the genius to his talent). It was designed as both a practical and beautiful home for a large family, and the Blackie family lived in it and loved it for 50 years.

Laura and Nicholas James explored most of the house. The library had a book on a chair which was published by its first owner, Mr Blackie.

Blackie's Children's Annual on a comfortable chair in the library

An elegant cupboard between the shelves in the library, designed by Charles Rennie Macintosh

The library fireplace with the Hill House plans on the mantlepiece

Everything was elegantly proportioned and carefully thought out both for practical use and beautiful design. Laura and Nicholas James admired Margaret's wonderful gesso of the sleeping princess over the fireplace in the drawing room.

Laura and Nicholas James in the Hill House drawing room

The antimacassar's in the drawing room were very unusual fabric art designed by Margaret, the originals are on display in a temperature controlled cabinet upstairs, so these were replicas.  

The antimacassar's in the drawing room  

Close up of one of Margaret's antimacassars on the drawing room chair

Upstairs Laura and Nicholas James discovered the stairs to the school room (sadly not open for visitors).

Laura and Nicholas James on the stairs to the school room with some of Blackie's publications

Underneath the school room stairs was a display featuring some of the Blackie children's toys and books.

Laura and Nicholas James said hello to the Blackie children's aged Teddy bear

Laura and Nicholas James wished they could read some of the Blackie publications

There was a sign painted on the wall outside the kitchen which spoke of the essence of Macintosh's approach to design.

'The practical purpose came first. The pleasing design followed.' Charles Rennie Macintosh's design approach

The kitchen was beautifully proportioned with lots of storage space and space to work, plus it was near the dining room, practical and good for the cook, one cook apparently came for 6 months and stayed for 3 years because she liked it so much.

Charles Rennie Macintosh kitchen in Hill House

A tempting recipe for Scotch Broth in the Hill House kitchen

In the wonderful hallway, there was a table with a tray on it, telling the story of how the children would play in the house and gather in the hall for refreshments.

Hill House hallway and lower stairs, view towards the front door

Tea tray on the hall table

The words on the tea tray say: "For the Blackie children the Hill House was a fun place to live and grow. They loved to follow the lines and squares on the hall carpet, and their games made the most of the clever niches, stair banisters and fireside seats designed by Macintosh. On Sunday afternoons they gathered around the hall table where their mother served afternoon tea." (Hill House, National Trust for Scotland)

Charles Rennie Macintosh chair in a niche on the curved landing of the main stairs

Laura and Nicholas James went out of the house and climbed onto the walkway which went all the way round the house at first floor level and even over the top of the house, giving a view which most people would never have seen unless they helped build or maintain the house. The following photos from the walkway don't include Laura and Nicholas James, who peeped out from their travelling bag - it was a little unnerving for anyone without a head for heights walking over the top of the house especially as the walkway floor was steel mesh so you could see through it to the house roof below.

Hill House roof including the roof of the curved wall stairway 

Hill House tower stairs used by the servants (the children were banned from using those stairs, to give the servants some privacy). This photo of Hill House shows some of the roughcast removed as part of the restoration investigation work.

Hill House exterior wall with roughcast removed

Hill House in its box, showing the stairs to the top walkway which goes over the top of the house

Hill House exterior design is fascinating

Outside the 'box' containing Hill House Laura and Nicholas James explored the garden. By that time they were joined by their new friend, the Heilan Coo (Scots language for Highland Cow, the Scottish Gaelic name is Bò Ghàidhealach) who had been waiting for them in the National Trust for Scotland shop adjoining the house.

Nicholas James, Heilan Coo and Laura outside Hill House in the garden

Nicholas James, Heilan Coo and Laura liked the Japanese themed part of the Hill House garden

Heilan Coo on the lawn in front of Hill House

Heilan Coo and a cheerful dandelion

Hill House was fascinating, Laura and Nicholas James enjoyed exploring it (they took many more photos than shown here). 

After leaving Hill House, Laura, Nicholas James and Heilan Cow continued on the Clyde Sea Lochs trail route, briefly visited Loch Lomond at Tarbet before starting the Argyll Coastal route (which takes in lots of sea lochs) to Inveraray on Loch Fyne where they spent the second night of their trip in a youth hostel and saw red squirrels feeding in the garden when they arrived!

Loch Lomond, near Tarbet

First glimpse of Inveraray on Loch Fyne from the car

Red squirrel at Inveraray Youth Hostel

Laura and Nicholas James had enjoyed their first full day in Scotland and looked forward to the next day's adventures.