Tantallon Castle, near North Berwick _ Ink/Inktense Pencils on a Watercolour Moleskine This was a stronghold of The Douglas’s from the mid 1340′s. It has a long and involved history and to read about it is to understand much of Scotland’s history from the time of Robert The Bruce. The place’s history reads as a historical record and is worth following up but there is little space here to go into great detail. It is thought that William Douglas, the nephew of James Douglas – Bruce’s right hand man, was the first recorded occupant of the castle, which had still to be developed into a huge structure. His descendent, the 5th Earl Douglas, Archibald, was involved in a plot against James 1V of Scotland. This led to a siege but the castle was not taken as the siege guns had little effect on the stonework. The Earl was later pardoned but his estate was forfeited and the castle became crown property. It was only when Cromwell’s troops besieged the place in 1651 that the more powerful artillery was successful. I visited Tantallon last weekend and re-acquainted myself with the area I first saw some years ago. I asked the curator about the sieges. It appears that the castle was built from soft sandstone which absorbed the impact from the cannons of James 1V. It was only later when Cromwell’s more powerful guns were used that the besiegers did more damage and this can still be seen today. Because of the softness of this material, the structure has suffered over the years and there is an ongoing restoration programme – not to re-build it but to save what you can see today, this being the state Cromwell left the place in. As there is no local stone left, the replacement stuff has to be imported from England which is kind of ironic. Tantallon has received much publicity recently as someone photographed a figure, in medieval garb staring from one of the windows. Experts swear the photo is genuine and many folk are keen to spot this ghost. Be careful, if you become one of them. What you see, in my picture, is a high “Curtain Wall about 12 feet wide. It is quite exposed on top. The Bass Rock lies just to the north. On the far side, which enclosed a large amount of buildings, there is a massive drop to the sea which swirls about causing those with vertigo to wish they were somewhere else. You can see more of my photos, from last week, at http://www.flickr.com/photos/28475994@N00/3455080531/
latest updates: Scotland
The Falkirk Boat Lift (Known as the Falkirk Wheel) – Ink/Inktense in a Watercolour Moleskine This structure was designed to join the Forth and Clyde Canal to the Union Canal near Falkirk in central Scotland. At this point, the two canals have a difference in height of around 80 feet and, in the past, 15 locks were needed to allow boats and barges to sail from one to another. This strange looking structure, supposedly designed to look like a double-headed Celtic axe, was completed in 2002 and is a brilliant example of all that is good in engineering. Boats sail into the circular openings on the two arms and are sealed in large watertight tanks or caissons. The arms are then rotated until they have completed half a circle then the boats can exit. What is so good about this is that fact that the arms, with their caissons full of water, or with water and boats, are so finely balanced that an incredibly small amount of energy, about enough to boil the water in five kettles, is required to rotate the wheels which are over 100 feet in diameter and weigh many tons. It doesn’t matter if only one boat is being transferred. The caissons still weigh the same, as any boat merely displaces its own weight of water. The building in the background, shaped like a flat segment of fruit, is a comprehensive visitor centre.
A room with a view – Ink on a Watercolour Moleskine
This is the view, looking eastwards, from the kitchen in the spacious ruins of Dirleton Castle which lies about twenty miles to the east of Edinburgh. The hill, in the distance, is North Berwick Law (Please see my post of 10th February) The kitchen is on one of the lower floors and openings, in the floors and ceilings were used to transport food and fuel around the building. The space, at the left, is the remains of a large oven.
The castle dates back to the thirteenth century and has had many occupants over the years. It was twice lost to, and recaptured from, invading English forces during the time of Wallace and Bruce. The Ruthvens acquired the castle at the start of the sixteenth century. This family courted controversy supposedly being involved in the murder of David Rizzio, the secretary to Mary; Queen of Scots. The castle was forfeited, to the crown, in 1600 after the Ruthvens were involved in a plot against James V1, but was again involved in a siege during the time of Oliver Cromwell. Today the building stands in magnificent grounds of mainly yew trees, some of which must date back hundreds of years. There are a number of other magnificent trees set in the longest herbaceous border in the country and the best preserved “Doocot”, in Scotland, lies at the north east end of the grounds. The top floor is now gone and most of the upper floors are open to the elements. The vaults, which were originally used for storage, are still used for private functions.
for some photos of this castle.
Para Mhuire – una pintura de ciervos de Escocia – Inktense pencils on a Watercolour Moleskine
Mhuire mentioned, in my post of 2nd April, that she would like to see what our native deer looked like – so here goes.
Mhuire, this painting is compiled from two photographs. Both were taken on separate holidays some years ago. The two female deer (hinds), in the foreground were so tame they could almost be fed by hand but this is to be discouraged as they loose all fear of people and can become very vulnerable. The stag in the background was added to give the scene some extra sense. Stags, or males, are usually harder to see as they tend to be shy and will round up their herds of hinds and shepherd them quickly away as soon as danger approaches. These are “Red Deer” the most common of all Scottish types with about 300,000 in our country.
I must thank you for suggesting this as a painting as I came up with a new way to use my watercolour pencils – a way I had not considered before. I hope you like this and apologies for my poor use of Spanish.
Un cordial saludo – Bob
The National William Wallace Monument – Inktense Pencils on a Watercolour Moleskine This monument, honouring one of Scotland’s greatest folk heroes, was built in the Gothic Victorian style and completed in 1869. This is the view from Stirling Castle with the structure sitting on top of Abbey Craig and the Ochill Hills in the background. William Wallace is highly regarded in Scottish folklore. He led armies in raids and battles, including the famous Stirling Bridge and Falkirk campaigns, against the English in the Wars of Independence. He was captured by Edward 1st, known as “long shanks” because of his tall stature, and executed. Sadly most of my countrymen now seem to rely on the spurious accounts of his life from the film “Brave heart” (Mel Gibson). Its worth reading Wallace’s true story and how his demise lead to the rise of Robert the Bruce and the consequential turbulent times in our history. What many Scots don’t seem to know is why there was conflict in the first place and accounts of Kings, such as Alexander with his “Golden Age”, should be compulsory study in Scottish Schools. We don’t seem to teach much of our own history – but that’s another story. If you are interested – photos taken in Stirling Castle last Sunday on http://www.flickr.com/photos/28475994@N00/
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?
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.
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.
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.