December, 2007

16 December 17 18 19
San Francisco
San Francisco
People's Palace
Transport Museum
Threave Castle
Orchardcairn Tower
New Abbey
Cairn Holy
Newton Stewart
Port Logan
Newton Stewart
St. Abb
New Lanark
1 January
San Francisco
San Francisco
4 5

This was a two week trip to the southern part of Scotland by Awanna and Daniel.  There are advantages to making such a trip this time of year: fewer tourists to bother about, roads that are largely empty and a winter landscape that is quite different than what you would see in the middle of summer. However, there are also disadvantages: the days are very short, it can be pretty cold and wet and many historic sites and museums are closed for the season. We drove just about 1,000 miles.

The idea was to reserve rooms at the beginning and end of the trip (in Glasgow), but to make no further plans for all the other nights. This actually worked. But, considering that many hotels were closed on New Years day and Christmas day, we did call ahead the evening before those days for the stays at Newton Stewart and Larkhall.

Considering the risk of serious weather, there was never much thought to north beyond the Edinburgh/Glasgow line. And, except for a brief excursion, that's what we did.


Our journey started early at the San Francisco Airport (we drove down from Eureka).

New Jersey

It was non-stop to Newark, and then a considerable wait for the next leg (with three gate changes).


The Glasgow airport is actually in Paisley; and, that's where our reserved first night at the Ramada Inn was. We had a Ford Focus for the trip, and it worked out very well. A nice car, with a smooth shifting five-speed transmission. I liked it. It returned looking quite a bit dirtier than you see here.


There's an interesting tradition in Glasgow of a public green for hanging laundry. Those iron poles (this side of the trees) are used to support the lines.

This fountain had partially frozen (observe the icicles at the top). Yes, it was cold, but, we were dressed for it and the weather was really never a problem for the whole trip.

The People's Palace and Winter Gardens contains a history of the people of Glasgow.

It was warm and humid inside. Very nice.


This old carpet mill just to the east had brickwork meant to resemble a palace in Venice.

Driving in the traffic of Glasgow was busy. Mostly it was bumper-to-bumper with some curious lane control by other cars and even curiouser intersections (Glasgow streets do not follow a conventional grid system). But, the Garmin GPS did a very good job at finding the way. I didn't miss many turns, and when I did, it wasn't too difficult to get back on track.

The Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum shows the sort of    financial support that the city of Glasgow had in the 19th century. This was a terrific museum.

They had a bit of everything: from natural history to airplanes to paintings, and more.






The Glasgow Necropolis is a 19th century cemetery just across from the Glasgow Cathedral.

That's the monument for John Knox (below).

I suspect that the intent of this marker was as a memorial for dead infants, but there was also information there concerning the exporting of orphans (but not always orphans) that was done in the U.K. up until quite recently, and a few of the notes related to that.

The St. Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art is just across from the Cathedral. As the title says, this is a museum for all religions.

Just about any and every religion is covered, or at least given a mention.  It's a remarkable place and probably causes a great deal of debate (or at least it would if it were in the U.S.).



Glasgow Cathedral

Like seemingly all cathedrals, this one has been rebuilt and repaired and damaged through many centuries. But, here it remains and it is in good shape.

Glasgow Cathedral is the only mainland cathedral in Scotland to have survived the aftermath of the Reformation without major structural loss. It is traditionally believed to have been founded before 600, though there are no physical remains of this period. A cathedral was dedicated in 1136, but nothing remains visible. Another plan was restarted in 1200. Major restorations were carried out in the mid 1800’s.



The Museum of Transport mostly contains transportation related to Glasgow, but there are plenty of other examples from throughout the U.K.

Glasgow has a long heritage of ship building. For reasons that are not entirely clear, highly detailed models were made from many of the ships.  Hundreds are on display.
















And, now it's time to drive...

This first morning of driving south, the roads were frosty. But, I kept our speed down and was pretty careful. That evening we would read of lots of accidents along these same roads. We had no problem, except possibly with walking.

The village of Muirkirk has created quite a nice walk through their local woods.


Awanna joined the ladies practicing their music for the Christmas service.

Walking through Muirkirk.

A monument to the Covenanters. During the "killing times" this was a central area for protests. There were many deaths from the area.

Dumfries for the night. This hotel happens to be part of the large Best Western chain, but that doesn't keep it from closing their doors on Christmas day.  That's our Focus in front of the entrance.

One of several public rooms on the ground floor.

The next morning, we walked through the town along with the other Christmas shoppers in Dumfries. These particular shoppers are an example of style over comfort; it was quite cold.

The ancient walking bridge over the River Nith.

The first bridge over the Nith, Devorgilla Bridge, named after Devorgilla, the mother of King John Balliol, was built here in 1432. Rebuilt more than once and shortened from the east in the 1800s, this is still used by pedestrians and is one of Scotland's oldest standing bridges.

And, just downstream is this suspension bridge.

We dropped into Tesco for a few things. But, Tesco was out of most anything that late Christmas shoppers would want.

Threave Garden

Threave Garden is not far to the west of Dumfries. The visitor centre was closed, but the walks were open. It seems not many people think about walking through gardens in the winter.


The hot house was also open. We saw a few other people, but most of the time, there was nobody else around.


Threave Castle

Threave Castle is about four miles from the gardens. This was the home of the "Black Douglas" clan.

These very high-quality gates were seen along a number of walks. They swing both ways, and can be operated by people in a wheelchair.

The castle is on an island on the River Dee.

Threave Castle.

Threave Castle is built on an island on the River Dee and must be the only castle in Scotland where present-day visitors ring a ship’s bell to summon the boat to take them across the river. The castle was likely built after 1369 and was in the heartland of the “Black” Douglases. By the middle of the 15th century, King James II began to destroy the power of the Douglases and all their castles were destroyed except Threave. Siege guns were used, but the fortifications withstood the cannon. Eventually, after two months the defenders surrendered because they were bribed with money and land.

Dundrennan Abbey

Dundrennan is to the south, and not far from the ocean.

Dundrennan Abbey was probably established by King David I (1124-53) for the White Monks of the Cistercian Order in 1142. Mary Queen of Scots spent her last night on Scottish soil here in 1568. The religious life of the abbey was all but over by the Reformation of 1560. The effigy of Allan, Lord of Galloway (d. 1233-1234) is here. He was Awanna’s 24th great grandfather.


Orchardton Tower

Driving along some very narrow roads, we came across Orchardton Tower.

Orchardton Tower was built probably in 1456 and its circular shape is unique in Scotland, though there are a number of circular tower houses in Ireland. Because the walls vary between 9ft and 6ft thick and taper with height the spiral staircase is extremely narrow and tight.

I climbed the tight spiral stairs to the top...

...where I took this shot.

Christmas morning back in Dumfries. That same gold tree design was seen at several of the museums in Glasgow.


Sweetheart Abbey

The ruins of Sweetheart Abbey are in the small town of New Abbey. We were here quite early, and the sun had only just risen.

Sweetheart Abbey was founded by Lady Devorgilla in 1273 in memory of her husband, who had died four years earlier. She carried his embalmed heart around with her in an ivory box and after her death in 1290, she was buried in the abbey with her husband’s heart buried beside her. The monks in the abbey chose thereafter to call it Sweetheart Abbey.

Not far from Kirkbean (along a single-track road) is the birthplace of John Paul Jones.  "I have not yet begun to fight!"

We followed a nice series of small back roads to Kirkcudbright. There was no traffic.

Cardoness Castle

Cardoness Castle guards the entrance to Water of Fleet.

Eating our Christmas cookies made by Lorraine.

Water of Fleet.

Cairn Holy

We saw a sign for Cairn Holy and turned up what turned out to be not much more than a path. These monuments have been here for perhaps 6,000 years.

Galloway Forest National Park is just north of Newton Stewart. Not a bad place for a Christmas dinner.

Water of Minnoch.

Yes; that's a Kansas flag being used as a tablecloth.

Newton Stewart: A Stewart founded a new town, and there's the name. We stayed at the Bruce Hotel. That (narrow) passageway leads to more parking in the rear. We were on the top floor.

The view out the room window.

Walking through Newton Stewart in the evening. This was Christmas, so none of the stores were open, and very few people were about.

The River Cree flows through Newton Stewart.

The small town of Wigtown is just south of Newton Stewart and is right on the bay. It is notorious for the execution of two women who were holding an outdoor church service--the execution being that they were staked out on the ground as the tide came up. The monument (below) shows the location.

Irn Bru outsells every other soft drink in Scotland. It is certainly drinkable, but I wouldn't go out of my way for it.

Glenluce Abbey

Glenluce Abbey was founded by Roland, Lord of Galloway (d. 1199), about 1192. He was Awanna’s 25th great grandfather. The Cistercian monks most probably came from Dundrennan Abbey and the monastic life lasted for 400 years when Glenluce’s days as a monastery ended with the Reformation of the Scottish Church. The remaining 15 monks in residence embraced the reformed religion in return for being allowed to live out the remainder of their days in their crumbling cloister.

Port Logan is on the peninsula that marks the most southerly part of Scotland.  We're not very far from Ireland at this point.

We had lunch at the Port Logan Inn bar and restaurant.

The Irish Sea near Lendalfoot. It was extraordinarily windy; hard to even stand still.

We drove north along the coast to Girvan, and then turned east and inland to Straiton before turning south through the Galloway Forest.

Not all Forests have trees. I really liked this area. This is perhaps a typical scene. In general, the road is only wide enough for a single car. Generally, there's enough room for oncoming cars to squeeze to the side. In some cases, small pull-out places are provided about every half mile, or so. In the worst case, you might have to back up for quite a ways before finding a place with enough room to pass.

Water of Girvan

Stone bridges are the norm in this area. We saw very few steel truss bridges.

Heading north and east, we passed through the Galloway Forest, again, before arriving at Moniaive.

The River Nith.

We drove a couple of miles to this rather nice house. It is a private residence and not open to the public (or at least not open during the winter season).

We had lunch in Moffat.

 Grey Mare's Tail Nature Reserve

There is a trail that works its way up one side of the stream, crosses above the falls, and then returns on the other side. I only went up far enough to realize that I didn't need to go any farther.

Moffat Water.

We were generally aiming for Melrose; but, not for any particular reason. The GPS had several hotels listed.  The first one we tried was closed for the season, but the second one (Burt's Hotel) turned out to be the best one. Right in the middle of town, we were within walking distance of the Abbey. There was plenty of parking behind the hotel.

Melrose Abbey

The Melrose Free Masons have been walking every year for some 280 years.  We were quite lucky to be here the very night.


We followed the Free Masons and the pipers into the dark Melrose Abbey.  They circled within the Abbey, and then held a short service.


'Scots, wha hae wi' Wallace bled,
Scots, wham Bruce has aften led,
Welcome tae your gory bed,
Or tae Victorie!

'Now's the day, and now's the hour:
See the front o' battle lour,
See approach proud Edward's power -
Chains and Slaverie!

'Wha will be a traitor knave?
Wha will fill a coward's grave?
Wha sae base as be a slave?
Let him turn and flee!

'Wha, for Scotland's king and law,
Freedom's sword will strongly draw,
Freeman stand, or Freeman fa',
Let him on wi' me!

'By Oppression's woes and pains!
By your sons in servile chains!
We will drain our dearest veins,
But they shall be free!

'Lay the proud usurpers low!
Tyrants fall in every foe!
Liberty's in every blow!
Let us do or dee!'

 - Robert Burns

The next morning we walked through the Abbey, again. This time with better light.

Melrose Abbey was founded in 1136 and continued until the last monk died in 1590. The present rose-stoned abbey church dates almost entirely from a rebuilding following a devastating raid by Richard II’s army in 1385.

The heart of Robert the Bruce is buried under this marker.

Next door to the Abbey is the museum.

The Victorian rail bridge (no longer used) over the River Tweed.

I walked halfway out on the old rail bed.

The view from the rail bridge of the old highway bridge and the new one.  There is evidence that the Romans also had a bridge crossing at this location.

Smailholm Tower

Smailholm Tower is not far from Melrose. Walter Scott spent part of his childhood here.

It was a soggy, and sometimes steep path to the tower.

Smailholm Tower was likely built around the middle of the fifteenth century by the Pringles as their residence. There were outer buildings protected by a thick wall to deter reivers (raiders) from across the border. This defence, however, did not prevent Smailholm from being raided particularly during the “Rough Wooing” of the 1540’s, when animals, household furnishings and even people were stolen in night-time forays. It is reported that in two raids, the Reivers took 723 cattle, 108 horses, and 100 people prisoners. In 1645 the Pringles sold Smailholm to Sir William Scott, an ancestor of Sir Walter Scott. The tower was abandoned as a residence c1720 in favor of a new farmhouse nearby. Walter Scott (b. 1771) was sent as a young child to live here with his grandparents to recover from an illness, probably polio. It was here that he heard many border tales and ballads, which he later incorporated into his novels.

The River Tweed from Scott's View. Walter Scott enjoyed coming to this point.

Scott's View -

Sir Walter Scott loved the Borders landscape, history and people with a passion.  He was the most popular writer of his age: when he died his funeral procession was over a mile long. It took his body from his home at Abbotsford to his tomb in Dryburgh Abbey, down the hill to your left. Tradition tells how his horses stopped here on the way, just as they had done when their master was alive so he could enjoy his favourite view.
Breathes there the man with soul so dead,
who never to himself hath said,
This is my own, my native land! - Walter Scott

Statue of William Wallace (possibly the first one made).

Dryburgh Abbey

Dryburgh isn't really all that far from Melrose. Walter Scott is buried here.

Dryburgh Abbey was settled in 1150 by the Premonstratensian Order of monks and became the premier house of that order. The marauding English armies passed by it on their way to and from the heart of Scotland. It was devastated by fire several times and never recovered from the last brutal attack in 1544. The abandoned abbey later became a private home, then a romantic ruin and garden. Sir Walter Scott is buried here.

For no other reason than it had an interesting name, we drove north and east to the small village of St. Abb.

St Abb's Head National Nature Reserve

Just north of the village is St Abb's Head National Nature Reserve.

Tantallon Castle

Tantallon Castle is at the entrance to the Firth of Forth. The broken walls show the results of Cromwell's cannons. This would mark the end of castles as an effective defensive structure--cannons had become just too powerful.

Tantallon Castle was built in the 1350’s and served throughout its 300-year history primarily as a great baronial residence. In the 1380’s, the house of Douglas split into two branches- known as the ‘Black’ and the ‘Red.’ Tantallon passed to the ‘Red Douglases.’

The Firth of Forth.

Bass Rock is situated in the Firth of Forth, two miles east of North Berwick and one mile off the mainland. A huge trachyte plug rising 313 feet, with three sides of sheer cliff, and a tunnel piercing the rock to a depth of 105 metres. The gentler slope to the south forms a lower promontory where the ruins of a castle stand dating back to at least 1405. Where James, the second son of Robert III, later to become James I was sent by his father until a vessel was found to transport him to France as the king's brother the Duke of Albany had designs on the throne. Albany tipped off the English who intercepted James's ship and imprisoned the prince in the Round Tower at Windsor for nineteen years.

The Great Room within the castle.

Imagine Oliver Cromwell out there with a very large army of roundheads camped around the castle, laying siege.

The Scotland Museum of Flight is on an old RAF airbase.

One of the hangars was devoted to a display of a Concorde. We had lunch in the cafe.



The de Havilland Comet (the red and white airplane, below). The first commercial jet transport. Most of the development of aircraft fatigue engineering came from this airplane's tragic history.






The town of Biggar.

They were preparing their bonfire for the evening of Hogmanay (New Years Eve).

We walked to the Covenanters' museum, but of course it wouldn't be open on this day.

Burn Braes Park and Covenanters' House.

Greenhill Covenanters' House - Biggar Museum Trust rescued this 17th century farmhouse from its original site at Wiston about 13km away. The Trust rebuilt and refurbished it in the Burn Braes in 1975. Here you return to the troubled century of the signing of the National Covenant and the 'Killing Times' when people were hunted down for worshipping in the open fields rather than attending state controlled churches Note: This farmhouse originally was owned by Lady Greenhill, who was supportive of the Covenanters.

New Lanark was the site of a model mill on the Clyde River at the end of the 18th century. They were quite advanced in worker relations and the facilities that were available. Education was provided to children, and the working conditions were vastly better than elsewhere.

The Falls of the River Clyde can be seen in the background. That drop in the river level is what provided the power to drive the wheels and then the machines.

The parking lot was higher (behind me), than where I'm standing for this photograph. We walked down to the lower buildings (and museum), and then continued to the foot of the falls.

The village was built from 1785 in a previously inaccessible gorge of the River Clyde a mile south west of Lanark. Here it could take advantage of the tremendous power of the fast flowing river. From 1 January 1814, when he acquired more enlightened partners, Robert Owen undertook an experiment at New Lanark that amounted to little less than a social revolution, introducing ideas like childcare, education, healthcare and cooperative shopping that helped change the world. The village's cotton mills, for much of their life the largest in Scotland, continued to operate for nearly two hundred years until their closure in 1968. Since 1974 the New Lanark Conservation Trust has been working to restore the village to what you see today: an achievement culminating in the inclusion of New Lanark in UNESCO's list of World Heritage Sites on 14 December 2001.



Certainly, this hotel room (actually, a suite) we had at Larkhall was the most spacious of any we had during the trip.

Linlithgow Palace

Linlithgow Palace was once the home of the royal Stewarts. Mary Queen of Scots was born here.

Linlithgow Palace took two centuries to achieve its present form (1424-1621). James I built the first palace after a great fire devastated the old castle of Linlithgow. James III, James IV, James V, and James VI continued to build and change the palace.

Linlithgow Loch mostly surrounds the palace.



The Linlithgow church is next to the palace.

Driving further north, we reached the town of Bo'Ness, on the Firth of Forth.

We stopped in at the library (which, as always, can be counted on to have Internet access).

A steam train running towards Edinburgh.

The old Custom House.

Blackness Castle

Blackness Castle has been a residence or a prison for hundreds of years.

Blackness Castle was built in the fifteenth century and became a royal castle, a garrison fortress, and a prison. In 1650 the castle was besieged and badly damaged by Cromwell’s army. After restoration, it was used to incarcerate Covenanters, then it was a minor garrison, then a place for prisoners from the wars with France, then an ammunition depot, and finally conserved as an ancient monument.

In all that time, you'd think they would have smoothed out all the rocks.

The Firth of Forth from Blackness Castle. You can just see the two main bridges at Edinburgh.

In the small town of Ratho (on the River Almond) is a center for canal boats.

Crossing back to the west, we reached Largs, and then turned north to follow coast. This is Greenock.

On this final day, we drove north of Glasgow, along the banks of Loch Lomond.

We had lunch in Tyndrum. Actually, there were not many places that were open.

Kilchurn Castle on Loch Awe. Access to the castle ruins was not obvious, so this is as close as we ever got.

Inveraray Castle is the home of the Duke of Argyle. It is a private residence.

Loch Fyne.

And, back to the Glasgow Ramada. We had reservations at the same Ramada (and even had the same room). The rental car was returned in the evening, and we took the shuttle bus to the airport the next morning.




last edit: 8/08/2009