Trees near Ransfield Farm by Ratho – Ink/Inktense with some pencil shading on a Watercolour Moleskine Out for a long walk today and was surprised to see that the local farmer had managed to get his fields ploughed for the coming season. There was, until recent weeks, a fair amount of snow lying and it’s still covering the Ochill Hills, in Fife, which can be seen in the distance. These trees mark the boundary of the farm and Ratho Park Golf Course. They must have been planted as a hedge years ago since many of the lower branches have been “pollarded”. They have, however, been left to their own devices for a long time as the weird twisting shapes testify. One of the trunks, further along the road, has “1920” carved into it. A strange feeling as this was a couple of years before my late father was born. I wonder who cut that date into it?
The Tron Kirk – Ink on a Watercolour Moleskine
The main Kirk or Church in Edinburgh was, and still is, The High Kirk of St Giles. Charles 1st, however, decided that Scots should adopt a more “English episcopalian” form of worship and the High Kirk became St Giles Cathedral. This enraged many Scots (every school student used to be taught the story of Jenny Geddes who refused to participate in the new form of worship and threw her small stool at the minister’s head. A riot broke out and the High Kirk’s authorities decided that the the best course of action was to build a separate church). The Tron Kirk, a stone’s thrown from St Giles was a result of this. It was completed in 1647. It gets its name from the weighing scales which were housed here for many years – a “tron” is an old Scots measure. These days the Tron is a visitor centre for tourists but the intricate wooden structure, the only part of the steeple to survive the great fire of 1824, can still be seen.
This scene shows the Tron at the junction of the Royal Mile with the crossroads of North and South Bridge. The street continues up the hill and terminates at Edinburgh Castle.
Looking down North Bridge – Watercolour/Ink on a Small Watercolour Moleskine
This was a quick “fun” sketch, tightened up later, as I waited for a bus on Friday afternoon. North Bridge is another passageway built to connect the older part of the city with the new town. In this case the bridge joins to the east end of Princes Street and the “top end” crosses the Royal Mile about a fifteen minute walk from Edinburgh Castle. The main railway station, Edinburgh Waverley, is underneath the bridge while the large building, centre left, is the Balmoral Hotel – formerly the North British Hotel, North British being the name of the railway company in the 1800s., when the hotel was built. The clock on the hotel is always kept a few minutes fast to enable folk, rushing for their trains, to get there in time. In the centre, the building with the dome is the National Records office where all the births, marriages and deaths or the country’s population are recorded. The buildings on the right used to belong to the Main Post office but they have recently been turned into office space for companies such as “Apple” to rent. Away to the right is Calton Hill which featured in one of my earlier “posts”.
Urquhart Castle on a calm day – Inktense, Ink and Watercolour on a Watercolour Moleskine
This ruined structure sits on the shores of Loch Ness. The castle has a bloody history. It changed hands a number of times during the English wars in the late 1200′s to the early 1300′s. Later on King Robert (The Bruce) laid claim to it. In later years it was fought over by many clans. Today it is the centre of visitor attention being one of Scotland’s most visited places – probably by folk trying to spot a “fictitious monster” in the 600ft deep waters. “A calm day” is a rare thing in this part of the world. The deep waters, surrounded by the high mountains, forming “The Great Glen” mean that channelled high winds can cause sudden storms and care must be taken by those in boats. As to monsters – I would be the first to pour scorn on the “Nessie” myth since all of the “sightings” are probably dark shadows, on the loch, caused by the unpredictable weather. If visitors want REAL monsters they should look no further than Loch Morar, for a nautical creature or in the Cairngorms where Ben Macdhui, one of our highest peaks, is said to be haunted by Fear Liath Mhor – the Grey man.
This is the first attempt in, yet another, Moleskine. My house is becoming fair infested wi’ these things.
Linlithgow Palace – Inktense Pencils/Watercolour on a Watercolour Moleskine
Linlithgow Palace is about 20 miles west of Edinburgh. It overlooks Linlithgow Loch and this scene was painted from the far side of this stretch of water. It is now a ruined structure maintained by Historic Scotland. The history of this place is fascinating. Both James V and Mary, Queen of Scots were born in the palace, James in 1512 and Mary in 1542. After the Union of the Crowns, in 1603 the palace was neglected and was largely destroyed by the Duke of Cumberland in 1745 towards the end of the second “main” Jacobite uprising.
I’ve visited this place a few times and am always impressed at the sheer scale of what is left. It is almost completely built of large stone blocks which must weigh a few hundred pounds each. It is marvellous how our ancestors built this structure. The various rooms are well described by Historic Scotland, with drawings of how they must have looked. I find it deeply moving to stand in the Royal Apartments where Mary was born over 450 years ago. The story of Mary, Queen of Scots, is well documented and worth reading to understand the history of Scotland. She has a special place in the hearts of many Scots, even to this day.
Low tide near the Solway Firth – Inktense Pencils on a Watercolour Moleskine
This is a quick effort to try a idea by Margie. She suggested drawing “dry” with these pencils then wetting the area to “fix” the colour in an effort to create texture. This seems to have worked, Margie, to a certain extent but, boy are these colours BRIGHT.
The scene is from a photograph from some years ago – slightly modified. Its on this link.
Dunnottar Castle – Ink on a Watercolour Moleskine
Dunnottar Castle is a partially restored ruin lying south of Stonehaven on Scotland’s east coast.
It was the home of one of Scotland’s most powerful families, the Marischals, but was seized by the crown after the last Earl was convicted of treason after being involved in the 1715 Jacobite uprising lead by the “Old Pretender”. The castle’s history is fascinating and is worth reading about. My favourite tale, learned as a youngster in primary school, concerns the “Scottish Crown Jewels” or “The Scottish Honours” as they are properly known. These regalia were used to crown Scottish kings and queens. When Oliver Cromwell invaded Scotland, in 1650, he was determined to destroy the Honours which were a symbol of royalty. (He had already got rid of the English Crown Jewels). After Charles 2nd was crowned at Scone Palace, in 1651, the Honours were taken to Dunnottar. Cromwell’s army laid siege to the castle for eight months but couldn’t break into the stronghold. To remove the jewels to safety, they were lowered, in a basket, down the cliff where an old women wrapped them up in a blanket. They were then spirited away thus saving them for all time. Today they are on show in Edinburgh Castle.
The Water of Leith – Ink on a Watercolour Moleskine
I thought you all might like a more colourful scene to cheer you up. This is taken from a photo, last autumn, near Dean Village which is right in the centre of Edinburgh. The river, The Water of Leith runs from the Pentalnd Hills down to Edinburgh’s main port at Leith. It has been described as a ribbon of silver running through the city. The banks team with wildlife – everything from kingfishers to badgers and even deer. One of the wardens, in the Royal Botanic Gardens, told me that there are more and more animals, such as deer, finding their way into Edinburgh by using this river as well as coming along old disused railway lines which are used as cycle pathways. I used to think the only visible deer were the “Old Dears” who drink coffee in the coffee shops.
Some Edinburgh Churches and a coincidence – Ink on a Watercolour Moleskine
There are many old churches in Edinburgh. The architecture is superb! On one set of road junctions, in the Bruntsfield area, four churches used to stand. The locals called it, “Holy Corner”, a name that survives to this day.
I watched an old Western, recently. It was a 1957 film, starring Stewart Granger, called “Gun Glory”. The opening titles were accompanied by Burl Ives singing, what appeared to be, some sort of religious song. Intrigued, I did some internet research and discovered the song is called “There were ninety and nine”, written by one Elizabeth Cecilia Clephane in the mid 1800′s. This link has the words and the tune but other, similar searches give details of her and her short life (1830 – 1869)
Elizabeth is buried in St. Cuthbert’s churchyard near Edinburgh’s west end. My drawing shows the spire of St Cuthbert’s on the right with St John’s church, at the foot of Lothian Road, just peeking through the trees. I must have walked past this place a thousand times but find it hard to comprehend that her song found its way to be used by the American Film Industry and, by such a famous person as Burl Ives. The world is, indeed, a small place.
The view, westwards, from our village – Ink on a Watercolour Moleskine
This scene shows the start of West Lothian. In 1851 James Young patented a process to extract paraffin oil from the local oil-bearing shale which exists in this part of the world. His process was so successful it meant that Scotland became the major oil-producing nation of the world at that time. So much shale was extracted that some reckon parts of West Lothian have sunk by up to six feet. To the left of the picture, five “small humps” punctuate the horizon. (They are actually around 270 feet high). These are shale “bings”- bing is a “heap” or “pile” of something e.g. a “slag heap”. Locals have long referred to these bings as the “Five Sisters” parodying the “Five Sisters of Kintail” which is a mountain range in the west of the Scottish Highlands. These five bings have become so entrenched in the local scenery that they are now protected by Scottish Heritage – other bings, and there are many, are gradually being re-used as base material in the construction industry, or landscaped into the local environment. To the right is the start of the Bathgate hills which rise to around 1000 feet. The total length of this horizon is about 12 miles which I hope has conveyed some idea of the scale of this part of the Central Lowlands of Scotland.