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Dunstaffnage Castle, Scotland

Saturday, October 31, 2009

This evening, I am presenting video clips and information on Dunstaffnage Castle which is located north of Oban at the mouth of Loch Etive. It is built on a rocky mass of Old Conglomerate. The castle has been a lordly residence for almost 600 years and was abandoned relatively recently, in 1810.

It is believed that a fortress has been on the site for over 1500 years with the present building dating from 1225 AD when it was commissioned by the Macdougalls, Lords of Lorn.

The tall, 13th century curtain wall is provisioned with a relatively modest number of arrow slits. The gatehouse has a harled or roughcast exterior (for protection from the elements). This building dates from the 15th and 16th centuries.

In 1470 the Campbells of Argyll took the Lordship of Dunstaffnage and Lorn which proved a critical move in the ascendancy of the Campbells.

The Captainship of Dunstaffnage Castle requires that the present Campbell Captain spends at least one night each year in the Gatehouse in recognition of historic rights.

Overall, this is an impressive and austere building in a pleasant location and affording excellent views over the local scenery.

This short video clip shows the castle exterior whilst the video below covers the interior and local surrounds.


video

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Kilmartin Prehistory Tour, Scotland

Friday, October 30, 2009

Today, I provided a tour to the prehistoric site at Kilmartin Glen on the west of Scotland. This is about 2 hours from Glasgow. During course of the day, the weather progressively deteriorated but despite and the associated poor light conditions, we achieved most of our objectives.

En route we called in at Inveraray Castle to take some external pics and avail of some light refreshment. This castle is more of a grand mansion and is home to the Duke of Argyll, Chief of Clan Campbell. It is open to the public during the tourist season. Next we moved on to Kilmartin Glen first stopping to view the prehistoric rock art at Achnabreck. Then up to the Kilmartin Museum for a spot of lunch after which we visited the adjacent church to photograph a fascinating collection of medieval slab graves. We then visited or viewed:

  • Glebe Cairn
  • Nether Largie South Cairn
  • Temple Wood Stone Circles
  • Nether Largie Stones
  • Ballymeanoch Stones
  • Ballymeanoch Kerb Cairn
  • Dunchraigaig Cairn
  • Dunadd Fort

After this tour, undertaken in driving rain, we were utterly soaked to the skin but, nevertheless, considered the day a productive one.

Inveraray Castle

Inveraray Castle
Nether Largie Standing Stones

Rock Art at Achnabreck

Medieval grave slab at Kilmartin






Medieval grave slabs at Kilmartin Church



Aspect of Temple Wood Stone Circle which dates from about 3500 BC


Dunchraigaig Cairn


Aspect of Dunchraigaig Cairn


Ballymeanoch Stones












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Greek Thomson's St Vincent Street Church, Glasgow

Thursday, October 29, 2009

This morning, I am posting information on Alexander Thomson's St. Vincent Street Church which is located at the corner of St. Vincent St and Pitt St., Glasgow.

Thomson ( 1817-1875) was probably the greatest mind in Scottish architecture during the Victorian era.

This St Vincent St Church is the only surviving intact church by the architect. It is raised up on its own man made Acropolis on what is a steeply sloping site.

The Ionic porticoes are purely symbolic while the tall steeple suggest an inspiration from the Indian sub continent.

Internally, Thomson made impressive use of light and space. There are cast-iron columns with extraordinary capitals and windows in which huge sheets of rolled glass are rammed straight into the masonry.The interior suggests classical Greek, Assyrian and Indian influences. Thee are also decorative plant and shellfish motifs which are peculiar to Thomson.

Thomson left an extensive legacy of his work in and around Glasgow. He is buried in Glasgow's Southern Necropolis. In due course I plan to put up a web page dedicated to his buildings.




video

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Glasgow School of Art, Scotland

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

This morning, I visited the Glasgow of School of Art ("GSA"). In architectural terms, this is an iconic building and considered to be one of the most influential and significant structures of the 20th century.

The GSA was founded in 1845. In 1896 the present Mackintosh Building was designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh who worked for the Glasgow architect firm of Honeyman and Keppie. Half of the building was completed in 1899 with the western end finished a decade later in 1909. This staggered completion was due to financial constraints at the time. Mackintosh was 41 years of age at completion.

This building, which still houses the working Art School, has been described as "The only art school in the world where the building is worthy of the subject".

Mackintosh was a graduate of the GSA. Not surprisingly, the School houses extensive Mackintosh and other collections which, together with other archive material, document the history of the GSA and art, design and architecture education since the School was founded in 1845.

The north facade of the building reflects the internal plan and results in a masterpiece of balanced asymmetry. The entrance is at the centre of the building. See this video for a better appreciation.



Entrace to Glasgow School of Art

Side elevation


Side aspect



Mackintosh left an extensive legacy around Glasgow. Contact me for more information regarding tours.

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Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Glasgow, Scotland

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

This morning was a classic, wet and overcast day in Glasgow. However, undeterred, I visited a couple of key Mackintosh sites, namely Ruchill Church Hall and the Mackintosh Church which are relatively close to each other near Queen's Cross.

Mackintosh (1868-1928) was a leading architect/designer and a key member of the 'Glasgow Four' which comprised Mackintosh, Herbert MacNair, and the sisters Margaret and Frances McDonald. This group were centred on the Glasgow School of Art (also designed by Mackintosh) and were prolific in the production of decorative works of furniture, architecture, panels, embroideries and graphic material.

It was pleasing to see the Ruchill Church Hall (1898-1899) still being for its original purpose as a church hall/community centre. At time of my visit here there was some sort of play group in process. Refreshments for the public were also available. The Hall , one of Mackintosh's minor works, was built as a mission prior to construction of the adjacent church (not designed by Mackintosh). The image below together with this video clip show the exterior of the Hall. The second video at foot of this posting shows part of the interior.

The Mackintosh Church is contemporary with the Glasgow School of Art (1897-9). It was designed by Mackintosh for architect firm, Honeyman and Keppie. The design reveals a sophisticated handling of form, ornament and symbolic meaning. For an appreciation of the interior see this video clip.

This image shows the pitched, glazed roof of the Mackintosh Church hall with handsome beam structure.


This image shows the barrel-vaulted roof, Nave and Gallery of the Mackintosh Church.

Video no 1 below is the exterior of the Mackintosh Church whilst video no 2 shows interior of Ruchill Church Hall.

video video

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Anonymous jj said...

good pictures, good information, keep up the good work

January 26, 2010  

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Govanhill Baths, Glasgow, Scotland

Monday, October 26, 2009

This evening, I am focusing on an unusual aspect of Glasgow's architectural and social history in the form of Govanhill Baths at Calder Street.

These baths were built in 1914 (at cost of GBP13,000) pursuant to a Glasgow Council policy of improving health and hygiene for communities at a time when most tenements (flats) lacked proper washing facilities.

The Calder Street facility provided for personal washing (slipper baths), a steamie for washing cloths and three pools for swimming.
The key driver behind this and many other social and educational improvements was the Lord Provost (Mayor), Sir Daniel M Stevenson (1851-1944), a benefactor of Glasgow University who also introduced electric trams and public libraries to Glasgow.

The Baths (good examples of early 20th century baroque style civic architecture) were scheduled to close on March 29th 2001. At that time the Govanhill Baths were the only original, substantially unaltered public baths still in use. In the absence of consultation with the local community, a local lobby group was established and sponsored strong oppositon to the closure plans. This strategy proved successful in that, on June 25th 2009, the Govanhill Community Baths Trust was granted planning permission to develop the Calder St Site as a Wellbeing and Health Centre in a GBP12.5M project that will result in the retention of 12 of the original slipper baths and refurbishment of two of the existing swimming pools. When finished the facility will also include a healthy eating cafe, gym, sauna, Turkish bath, roof garden, gallery, cinema/theatre and other facilities.

Subject to funding it is hoped that work on the refurbishment will commence March 2010.

This image shows original main pool with its cast iron railed gallery together with arched reinforced concrete roof trusses which facilitate a large amount of natural light. The structure on the floor is a piece of artwork called 'Mario Botta' by Rebecca Lindsay and is constructed from wood, aluminium and steel.


Another aspect of the main pool


This image shows a guide with reproduction knitted woollen swimwear from bygone days.



This site is now, apparently, rated as one of the top 10 buildings of architectural interest in Glasgow.

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Glasgow, Scotland

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Today, I decided to visit Glasgow's famous Necropolis with key driver being comment posted on my separate Ancestry blog from Australian descendants of people named Edington. Early this year I posted information sourced from a Edington memorial stone at the Necropolis but the video image was poor quality so I decided to try and improve the image quality with a more sophisticated camera. This endeavour was only partly successful due to the unusual shallowness of the inscription aggravated by some 100 years of weathering. The amended posting can be found here.

The journey up to the Necropolis ( City of the Dead) took about 40 mins via bicycle and benefited from light Sunday traffic. On the way I had opportunity to 'dip into' some of Glasgow famous sites and sights such as the Squiggly Bridge over the River Clyde, the Tolbooth Steeple and Glasgow Cathedral. Upon the reaching the Necropolis ( which benefits from a high aspect) I took opportunity to photograph a selection of some of the impressive monuments there.

A photo record of the trip is provided below together with summary comments.

This is the Charles Clark Mackirdy monument which dates from 1891.Mackirdy was a wealthy Glaswegian businessman owning a large cotton spinning company and estates in the West Indies.

This is the William Rae Wilson Mausoleum dating from 1849. Dr Wilson was born in Paisley in 1772, lost his first wife after just 18 months and then undertook travels in the Middle East. His second wife built this domed octagonal Moorish kiosk built in the style of Sepulchre monuments from Palestine.

This is the Major Archibald Douglas Monteath Mausoleum and dates from 1842. Monteath's fortune came form the 'liberation' of a consignment of precious gems belonging to an Indian Maharajah. The building is based on the Knights Templar church of the Holy Sepulchre.

This is an aspect of Glasgow Cathedral which dates from the 12th century. It is dedicated to St. Mungo ( aka St. Kentigern).


Aspect of the Necropolis skyline from Glasgow Cathedral. The Necropolis contains the remains of some 50,000 people, mainly the great, good and wealthy of Victorian Glasgow from the time when Glasgow was the second city of the British Empire.


Statue of explorer and missionary, David Livingstone against a backdrop of Glasgow Cathedral.


This is the Tolbooth Steeple at Glasgow Cross and dates from 1636. In its day this stood at he centre of Glasgow and formed part of a larger building which had the unusual dual role of Town Hall and Prison.


This shows the new Squiggly Bridge over the River Clyde. This structure has won various awards for its architecture and engineering. See this video for a closer view.

Overall, a successful trip with original objective achieved.

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Crail to St. Andrews Walk, Scotland

Saturday, October 24, 2009

This evening, I am posting some images taken during a recent hike along the Fife Coastal Route from Crail to St. Andrews.

This route along the east coast of Scotland goes past:

  • A coastguard station
  • A World War Two gun emplacement.
  • The seventh oldest golf course in the world.
  • Constantine's Cave ( possible location of the King's death in 874 AD
  • The Cambo Burn (via a bridge)
  • Kinsbarns Golf Links
  • Babbet Ness
  • Kenly Burn
  • Buddo Rock-stack of pink sandstone.
  • Rock and Spindle-remains of a volcanic plug.
  • Kinkell Ness
  • West Sands Beach at St. Andrews.
View of St. Andrews
The Rock and Spindle

Buddo Rock
Hiking Scene
Bridge over Cambo Burn

Farmland Scenery
Rocky Beach
Fife Coastal Scene

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Colours of Glasgow in the Fall

Friday, October 23, 2009

This morning was dry so I took myself of to Rouken Glen to obtain some autumn scene images.

Rouken Glen is a fascinating place, located on the south of Glasgow. In the past it has been a gentleman's estate, an industrial area and an army camp (WW1). It is now a pleasant and extensive park containing a wide variety of trees, a waterfall, a golf course and formal gardens. Not surprisingly, the park is very popular with dog walkers and southsiders for general exercise. A vet practice was recently established at one of the entrances, no doubt to capitalise on he passing canine footfall!

My vi st proved rewarding as the trees and leaves provided quite a colourful spectacle producing some interesting, seasonal images. It would have been nice to have some sunshine but this is Glasgow in October!


This first image was taken at the local cemetery.

The following images and video are all of Rouken Glen

Artificial pond. This is home to many waterfowl including swans and ducks.













Timing of this video coincided with some canine antics. The dog came right on cue, just as I pressed the button!

video

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Scottish Garden in the Fall

Thursday, October 22, 2009

This morning, I paid one of my periodic visits to Greenbank Garden, about six miles south of Glasgow. The house and garden date from the 18th century and there is always something here to appreciate, right through all the changing seasons. The walled garden may have been originally designed for growing fruit and vegetables. There is also an upper garden with lawn and avenue of formal yew trees.

The soil at Greenbank is heavy clay but over the centuries has been extensively worked and is now able to support a wide variety of plants.

The videos below reveal some of the thirty different enclosures leading into one another, separated by dense borders and hedges of yew or privet.

Overall, a pleasant and peaceful place which is open to the public for most of the year.

This image shows the Green Man at front of the house.

Garden scene.


video video video video video

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Rough Castle, Antonine Wall, Scotland

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

This evening, I am posting information on Rough Castle, one of the 26 forts on the Antonine Wall which stretches for some 37 miles across the Forth-Clyde isthmus in Scotland.

The Antonine Wall was completed about AD 142 and was occupied for some 20 years until the Romans retreated back to the line of Hadrian's some 100 miles south.

Rough Castle was the second smallest fort on the Wall and covered an area of abour 0.4 ha. The ramparts and ditches are reasonably well preserved and there is an intersting 'minefield' as shown in this video clip. This comprised camouflaged, shallow pits in which were embedded sharpened stakes. This feature was known as lilia due to resemblance to lily pads.

A link with a particular Roman soldier has been found at Rough Castle in the form of an alter dedicated to Victory by cohors VI Nerviorum which records that Flavius Betto, a centurion seconded from the XX Valeria Victrix at Chester commanded this auxiliary unit.

The Rough Castle site is easily accessible from Bonnybridge and affords the visitor a useful overview of both fort and Wall, both of which being in a relatively good state of preservation at this point.

This image shows the fort's defensive ramparts.


View of Antonine Wall.

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Barr Hill Fort, Antonine Wall, Scotland

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

This evening, I am focusing on one of the largest forts on the Antonine Wall.

The Antonine Wall is a turf structure completed approximately AD 142. It covered a distance of about 37 miles and stretched between Old Kilpatrick on the River Clyde (Glasgow) to Bridgeness on the Forth (Edinburgh).

The impetus for construction of the Wall appears to have the need to provide the new Emperor, Antoninus Pius, with a military victory and/or territory gain to secure his credibility in Rome. This entailed moving the frontier some 100 miles from Hadrian's Wall to the Forth-Clyde isthmus. The Wall was in use for a period roughly equivalent to Antonine's reign which ended in AD 161.

It is believed there were some 26 forts along the line of the Antonine Wall of which Barr Hill was one of the six principal such forts and contained the usual range of buildings including a HQ, bathhouse, barracks, granaries and commander's residence.

This fort covers an area of 3.2 acres and is positioned at the highest point of the Wall at an elevation of 150m affording superb views of the Campsie Fells across the valley looking north (into hostile territory). Between the Wall and the fort ran the Military Way.

Troops stationed at the fort included:
  • cohors 1 Hamiorum, an archery unit from Syria.
  • cohors 1 Baetasiorum, recruited from Germany.
By accessing this site from nearby Croy, which also boasts a Roman site, the visitor will walk a well defined trail covering at least one mile which affords splendid views of the Wall.


video

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Ardoch Roman Fort, Perthshire, Scotland

Monday, October 19, 2009

This evening, I am posting information on one my favourite Roman sites in Scotland, namely Ardoch Fort at Braco, Perthshire.

This site is huge, extending to up to 8.5 acres. During the Roma era it experienced at least three periods of occupation-the Gask period in the late 1st century, then the Antonine period (roughly AD 140-160) and in the early 3rd century.

During the Gask period (AD 70s-80s) Ardoch was garrisoned by cohors 1 Hispanorum equitata. At this time the site was at its peak of 8.5 acres. During the Antonine period Ardoch was refurbished in its role as an outpost for the Antonine Wall but at reduced size of 5.7 acres.

In the Hunterian Museum in Glasgow can be found a tombstone found at Ardoch and dating from the Gask era. This provides an interesting human touch in recording the death of a centurion, Ammonius, of the 1st cohort of Spaniards who died after 27 yrs service, i.e.about age
45 yrs.

The video clip shows the fascinating series of ditches along the eastern side and close to one of the entrance gates. These would have been built by the soldiers themselves who were expert engineers. Not far from the eastern side is the Roman road which is just visible running NNE for about 1 mile.

The scale and extent of this site is rivalled by few comparative sites elsewhere in the Empire and is a 'must' for visitors wishing to connect with the Roman period. Access is easy.


video

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Antonine Wall Tour, Scotland

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Today, I collected two guests from Glasgow for an Antonine Wall themed tour.

First stop was the Roman Baths at Bearsden, Glasgow where was located on of the 26 forts along the Antonine Wall. This bathhouse stood in a fortified annexe atached to Bearsden Roman fort which in turn was attached to the rear of the Antonine Wall. The fort and bathhouse date from about AD 142. The bath-house had steam rooms, dry hot and cold rooms plus hot and cold baths. The baths were abandoned about the same time as the Antonine Wall, about AD 160.


Next we moved on to a nearby cemetery wherein can be seen this stretch of the Wall's foundations.


We then drove to Croy and walked about one mile along a well preserved section of the Wall to Barr Hill fort, which was one of the six primary forts on the Wall and covered an area of 3.2 acres.

This is an aspect of the fort remains. See this video clip for a wider perspective.



Next we drove east to Bonnybridge to visit the site of Rough Castle, another fort on the Wall. This image shows the Wall approaching Rough Castle.


This is the Roman equivalent of a minefield. Camouflaged pits contained sharpened stakes.






Defences at Rough Castle




Finally we headed north to visit the Ardoch Roman fort at Braco. This is a massive site which was used at least three time during the Roman occupation including the Antonine era in the 2nd century. This video shows the protective ditches on approach to the east gate.



Another aspect of the earthworks at Ardoch.



Before returning we also visited the fortlet site known as Kames Castle which is not far from Ardoch and appears to date from the 1st century.


Overall, a good day with the weather in our favour.



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Islay Whisky Region Scotland

Saturday, October 17, 2009

This evening, I am continuing with my Scotch Whisky theme via some comment of the Islay Whisky Region.

The island is pronounced Eye-la and situated off the west coast of Scotland on roughly the same latitude as Glasgow. Historically, the island was a power base for the MacDonalds when 'Lords of the Isles' but that came to an end in the 15th century.

Islay's main claim to fame now is the famously peaty whisky produced here by seven of the eight distilleries on the island. The vibrant whisky industry is influenced by abundant supplies of peat (decayed vegetation used as fuel) and water which help to produce a range of classic malts from:

  • Ardbeg (Founded 1815 and located at Port Ellen.) Produces a 10 yr old and a 17 yr old.
  • Bowmore (Founded 1779 and located at Bowmore.) Produces a 8-10 yr old, a 12 yr old and a 15 yr old.
  • Bruichladdich (Founded 1881 and located at Bruichladdich). Produces a 10 year old, a 15 yr old and a 20 yr old.
  • Bunnahabhain (Founded 1881 and located at Port Askaig.) Produces an unpeated malt, chiefly for use in blends. Single malt is a 12 yr old.
  • Caol Ila (Founded 1846 and located at Port Askaig).Output mainly used in blending but does produce a 15 yr old single malt.
  • Kilchoman. A new distillery which produced its first spirit in 2006. First 3 year old produced in 2009.
  • Lagavulin (Founded 1817 and located at Port Ellen). A sister distillery to Caol Ila. Output includes a 16 yr old.
  • Laphroaig (Founded 1815 and located at Port Ellen.Products include a 10 yr old cask strength and a 15 yr old.

I have toured Islay a couple of time in the past, in context of ancestry themed tours. The Loch Finlaggan historic site (Macdonalds) is definitely worth a visit.

Looking forward to visiting the distilleries next year.

Islay is accessible by air from Glasgow or by ferry from Kennacraig.

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Island Whisky Distilleries, Scotland

Friday, October 16, 2009

This evening, I am continuing my Scotch Whisky theme with a summary of Scotland's island distilleries. This excludes Islay which is usually considered a separate region.

Possibly due to poor grain growing conditions, historically the islands ( e.g. Uists, Mull, Skye, Lewis, Arran) had a low incidence of whisky distilling. Only 13 distilleries were ever licensed in the Hebrides, excluding Islay.

Below is provided information on the four distilleries currently operating, i.e.Talisker, Tobermory, Isle of Jura and Isle of Arran.

Talisker on the scenic Isle of Skye was founded in 1830 and is now owned by drinks conglomerate, Diageo. Originally, the spirit was triple distilled but, since 1928, the spirit has been subject to double distilling in common with the majority of the Scotch whisky industry. There are five stills which produce some 1.5m litres of alcohol which eventually its way into blends such as Johnnie Walker plus some interesting single malts such as Talisker's 10 year old 45.8pct and Talisker 1986 Distiller's Edition 45.8pct. The product is medium peated. Distillery tours are available but, unfortunately, photography is restricted and hence video covers external views.

video

Tobermory Distillery can be found on the main street of the capital of Mull, an island off the west coast which can be accessed by ferry or air. The distillery was founded 1797 and is now owned by Burns Stewart.This distillery has witnessed a roller-coaster history with periods of closure lasting up to 40 years. The current distillery dates from its rebuilding and re-equipping in 1972 and boasts four bulbous stills. The island water from the Mishnish Loch which is used by the distillery is high in peat but the barley is unpeated. The final product-Tobermory 10 year old 40pct.-contains a hint of peat.

Isle of Jura Distillery dates from 1810 and is now owned by Fortune Brands. Following a long period of closure between WW1 and 1958 the distillery was resuscitated by initiative of local businessmen with double the distilling capacity. Jura now produces a 10 year old at 40pct and a 16 year old at 40pct which are popular with aficionados of whisky.

Isle of Arran Distillery was founded as recently as 1995 by Harold Currie, a former Managing Director of Chivas Brothers. The malt is unpeated and water sourced from the Eason Bioroch Burn (stream) close by. One of the early single malts was a five year old which has been well received by the market.

The idiosyncrasies and histories of these distilleries add to the allure of the malts they produce. I still have to visit Jura and Tobermory distilleries in the course of my touring activities.

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Lowland Whisky Distilleries, Scotland

Thursday, October 15, 2009

This evening, I am continuing my visit to the various whisky regions of Scotland and this time focusing on the Lowland region.

The Lowland region is south of a dividing line between the Forth (west) and the Tay (east) and encompasses a small number of distilleries, viz:

Auchentoshan, near Glasgow
Bladnoch, Bladnoch Bridge.
Cameronbridge, Windygates, Fife
Glenkinchie, Pencaitland

Traditionally, lowland malts are distinguished from the rest due to a practice of triple distillation vs.double distillation elsewhere in Scotland. However, this does not apply to Glenkinchie where the spirit is double distilled, albeit in two very large stills.

Auxhentoshan, which dates back to 1823, still triple distills its malts which contain no hint of peat. A light, elegant whisky sometimes used as a light apertif.



Stills at Auchentoshan


Photography is restricted at Glenkinchie so I have only the bar in the visitor centre (below) to display. The standard distillery tour here is of good quality. Being just south of Edinburgh, the distillery readily attracts large numbers of tourists. Principal products are the 10 year old at 43pct and the 1986 Distiller's Edition at 43pct.

Cameronbridge is a massive operation geared to the production of grain whisky for use in blending to produce the likes of Bells, J&B and Johnnie Walker. The spirit is also use for making gin and vodka. The product retails as Cameron Brig 12 year old single grain whisky.

Bladnoch, which dates from 1817, is Scotland's most southerly distillery and produces a very modest output. Now in private hands, this distillery has always been at the outer fringes of financial viability and has experienced many ownership changes. There is a visitor centre and tours can be arranged. I will definitely put this one on my tour agenda when next in the area.

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Highland Whisky Distilleries Scotland

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

This evening, I am undertaking some research on the Highland Region of the Scotch whisky industry. Of the some ninety plus distilleries in Scotland just under one third fall within the Highland region. The Highland distilleries are found north of a line running from the Forth (west) to the Tay (east) and exclude the Western Isles (incl. Islay) and Speyside region.

Historically, the demarcation line arose as a function of (a) differential in tax rates above and below the line and (b) method of distilling ( double vs triple).

In essence, whisky produced in the Highlands tends to low in peaty flavours and light on the palate although care is required with this generalisation.

A tour around these distilleries will afford the visitor with a bonus of superb Highlands landscape views.

The list of Highland region distilleries includes:
  • Aberfeldy
  • Ardmore, Kennethmont
  • Balblair, Tain
  • Ben Nevis, Fort William
  • Blair Atholl, Pitlochry
  • Clynelish, Brora
  • Dallas Dhu, Forres ( a museum)
  • Dalmore, Alness
  • Dalwhinnie, Dalwhinnie
  • Deanston, Doune
  • Edradour, Pitlochry
  • Fettercairn, Fettercairn
  • Glen Garioch, Old Meldrum
  • Glengoyne, Killearn
  • Glenturret, Crieff
  • Glemorangie, Tain
  • Glendronnach, Forgue
  • Glen Ord, Muir of Ord
  • Highland Park, Orkney
  • Macduff, Banff
  • Oban, Oban
  • Old Pulteney, Wick
  • Royal Brackla, Cawdor
  • Royal Lochnagar, Crathie
  • Scapa, Orkney
  • Teaninich, Alness
  • Tomatin, Tomatin
  • Tullibardine, Blackford

Here is a tour group at Edradour

Stills at Tullibardine
Dalwhinnie
Glengoyne tour.
In the course of my Scotland tours I arrange visits to distilleries and am in process of putting a number of dedicated, regional, web pages for whisky tours. A fascinating aspect of Scotland's heritage and economic activity. Whisky ranks as Scotland's single largest manufactured export.

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Trossachs Tour Scotland

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

This evening I am posting information on a day trip from Glasgow to the Trossachs, a scenic area north of Glasgow.

First stop was Glengoyne whisky distillery where we joined a regular tour to learn about the malting, mashing, fermentation, distillation and maturation process which results in a range of single malts including a 10 year old, 12 year old, 17 year old and many special expressions. This is a privately owned distillery ( one of the few such in Scotland) and produces a spirit which has no peat content.

Here are the stills


Tour group at Glengoyne

Learning about the various malts at conclusion of the distillery tour.

Image of the distillery

Next we moved to the hotel at Lake of Menteith for a pub meal on the very edge of the Lake. Stunning views over the water! This is Scotland's only lake, all the other bodies of water are lochs.

After lunch we elected to visit Inchmahome Priory which is located on an island in the centre of Lake of Menteith and which entails a short ferry ride. Below is an image of the ferry person at work.


View of Port of Menteith from Lake of Menteith

This sheep was spotted at Aberfoyle at end of our day's tour.


This is the church section of the ruined priory.
This video provides a general overview of the priory buildings. The setting and architecture reflects the religious aspirations of the day-isolation and simplicity.

The priory was founded in 1238 for a small community of Augustinian canons by Walter Comyn, Earl of Menteith.Like many similar such establishments, the priory declined at the time of the Reformation in the late 16th century and subsequently became a ruin.

A trip to Inchmahome Priory can be a pleasant experience, especially when suitable weather prevails. There is also a wealth of fine trees, avenues, shrubs and flowers including hazel, yew, sweet chestnuts, oak, ash, sycamore and conifers.

video

After returning from the island we returned to Glasgow, enjoying the pleasant scenery en-route.

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Skelmorlie Castle, Ayrshire, Scotland

Monday, October 12, 2009

This evening, I am posting information on Skelmorlie Castle which is positioned close to the west coast, north of Largs. This building has close links with the Montgomerys. It dates from 1502 and originally belonged to the Earls of Eglinton. Hugh the third Earl, a devout Catholic, led the Montgomery Clan is support of Mary Queen of Scots at the Battle of Langside 1568 but was defeated, taken prisoner and subsequently released in 1571.

Many original features of the Castle, e.g.stone fireplace, were discovered after a fire in the 1960s.

The Castle's superb aspect affords views of the island of Arran which, by coincidence, was awarded to the 3rd Lord Montgomery after the Battle of Sauchieburn in 1488.

This castle is a private residence and not open to the public. It can be viewed on a 'drive past' basis.


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Private Speyside Whisky Tour Scotland

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Today turned out fine. After overnighting at the very comfortable, 5 star An Cala Guest House at Grantown-on-Spey we drove up the Spey valley through some spectacular scenery and encountered a wide variety of wildlife and animals including birds of prey, hundreds of pheasants, Llamas and Highland Cattle.

We arrive at Aberlour Distillery in good time for our tour which was of the 'Connoisseur' variety, lasting over two hours and ending with a tasting of 5 whiskies. Tour Guide was first class. The distillery dates from 1826 but was rebuilt by James Fleming in 1879 and is now owned by Pernod Ricard of France. Aberlour produces a 10 yr old 40pct, 12 year old 40pct., 15 yr old 40pct and A'Bunadh 59.6pct.

Next we moved on to nearby Glenfiddich for a spot of lunch and another Connoisseur Tour led by another competent tour guide.

Glenfiddich was founded in 1887 by one William Grant (who literally built the distillery with his own hands) since when then product has become the world's biggest selling single malt which is made with lightly peated water from the Robbie Dhu spring nearby. Glenfiddich operates 28 stills in trios. A combination of ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks are used along with new oak from which various expressions are married and experimentation with new blends is carried out.

Glenfiddich uses traditional practices to produce its whisky, principally the 12 year old Special Reserve 40pct but also a 15 year old 40pct., and an 18 year old 40pct.

Excellent tour of all facets of the distillery and warehouse (maturing whisky) which culminated in a tasting session of the various malts.

Tasting at Glenfiddich

Glenfiddich Distillery
Stills at Glenfiddich
Mash Tuns at Glenfiddich

Tasting at Aberlour
Stills at Aberlour
Taking away the freshly distilled spirit at Aberlour

Tour Group at Aberlour
Rare and expensive whisky at Aberlour

Pheasant in Spey Valley
Llamas in the Spey Valley

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Exclusive Scotland Whisky Tour.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

This evening, I am sitting in a restaurant at Grantown-on-Spey in the Highlands of Scotland reflecting on Day 1 of a private Whisky themed tour.

I collected my guests from central Glasgow at 0915 and from there drove to Auchentoshan Distillery on the city's outskirts and duly connected with the 10.00am distillery. At last minute a group of 20 plus Swedish visitors arrived who 'swamped' the tour but nevertheless the tour went ahead. The tour experience was 'OK' but I wish the group had been split into two more manageable groups. Auchentoshan is classified as a 'Lowland' distillery because the whisky spirit is triple distilled as compared with the double distillation common in the vast majority of Scottish distilleries.

Next we headed north to Blackford in Perthshire to have a spot of lunch and join the 1.00pm distillery tour at Tullibardine. This distillery is privately owned and provides an excellent tour led by a genteman who obviously has a deep understanding of the distillery, its product and the wider industry. I am a great fan of Tullibardine distillery tours notwithstanding the malt does not have a high profile in the market. Image below was taken at Tullibardine.

Next we headed north into Highland Perthshire to Edradour Distillery which is close to Pitlochry. Edradour is Scotland's smallest distillery and under private ownership. There is an unusual paradox here in that the distillery are free but of high quality. The owner appears to have a successful business model focused on rare and unusual malts. The tour guides are first class incorporating a sense of humour in their spiel which is not overly technical.

Next we drove up to Grantown, Speyside where we are staying overnight to be well positioned for tomorrow's tour of three Speyside distilleries. Weather has held out so far, fingers crossed for tomorrow!

This evening my guests are availing of a whisky themed meal at the upscale Craggan Mill restaurant.

Watch this space for report on tomorrow's tour which includes Glenfiddich.

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Glen Grant Scotch Whisky Distillery, Scotland

Friday, October 09, 2009

Today, I am focusing on Glen Grant Distillery which is located at Rothes on Speyside.

This distillery was founded by John and James Grant in 1840, became a success and stayed in the Grant family until sale to drinks company, Seagrams in 1978 and ultimately to Italian group Campari under whose ownership it currently resides.

Glen Grant's key market is Italy where the 5 year old (40pct) is very popular. There is also a 10 year old, also 40pct. The light malt with a hint of peat is very popular in countries with hot climates.

The distillery offers good tours and features in the Malt Whisky Trail. For those with a horticultural interest, there are also beautifully restored Victorian gardens at the distillery.

Due to photography restrictions, range of available images is restricted, for which I apologise.

Contact me for more information on whisky tours of Speyside.








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Aberlour Scotch Whisky Distillery, Speyside, Scotland

Thursday, October 08, 2009

The evening, I am posting some information on Aberlour Scotch Whisky Distillery, Speyside. This is a popular distillery with visitors wishing to learn about the whisky process and regularly features in my whisky tours of the area.

Aberlour rhymes with hour. A distillery was first built in the village of Aberlour in 1826, in the shadow of Ben Rinnes on the banks of the Lour Burn (stream). The water for the mashing process is sourced from the well dedicated to St. Drostan (who subsequently became Archbishop of Canterbury) in the distillery grounds.

The lightly peated product is produced via two pairs of stills and matured in ex-Bourbon (from Kentucky) and ex-sherry (Olorosso) casks.

Aberlour is owned by the French drinks group Pernod Ricard and the malt from this distillery plays a leading role in Clan Campbell, the most popular Scotch whisky in France.

Aberlour produces a 10 year old at 40pct and a 12 year old also at 40pct. Smooth and soft with hints of sherry and malt.

In this distillery, photography is restricted, hence paucity of images

This image shows a private bottling at completion of the distillery tour.


This is the Tour Guide in full flow.

Delivery of the raw material. malted barley.

A short video of the freshly distilled spirit

video

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Kerelaw Castle, Stevenston, Scotland

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

This evening, I am focusing on one of Scotland's more obscure castles, namely Kerelaw which is a ruin located in the midst of a social housing estate in Stevenston, North Ayrshire, a town which boasts a history dating back to the 13th century. Actual location of the castle is not easy to find, especially as there is no signage.

Kerelaw Castle was built in the 12th century and was first held by the Lockharts. The town is, in fact, named after Stephan Loccard or Lockhart. The castle subsequently passed to the Campbells of Loudon and then to the Cunninghames of Kilmaurs. Its current ruinous state dates to 1488 when (during Cunninghame possession) it was burned by the Earl of Eglinton (Montgomerys) in context of a long running feud. In revenge the Cunninghames burned Eglinton Castle just a few miles away.

As will be evident form the images below, the ruins are unsafe and have been fenced off.

Nearby used to be situated a large house/mansion called Kerelaw House which was once home to Alexander Hamilton but this was demolished in the 1970s

For aficionados of clans Montgomery and Cunninghame who like a challenge this castle is worth a visit.










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Clan Montgomery and Eglinton Castle

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Eglinton Castle is now a ruin following evacuation of the building due to financial distress in the 1920s and subsequent use of the structure for target practice by the British Army in WW2.

Here is a brief history of the aristocratic line:

Sir John Montgomerie, Tenth Earl of Eagleshame and 2nd of Eglinton and Ardrossan 1398-1429.

Sacrificed himself as a hostage to facilitate release of James I from English.

Alexander, First Lord of Montgomerie 1429-1470

Held several important positions and was created lord Montgomerie by James II in 1441.

Alexander, Second Lord Montgomerie 1470-1483

Remained loyal to Stewart dynasty in turbulent times.

Third Earl of Eglinton accompanied Mary Queen of Scots from France to Scotland in 1561. Defeated at Battle of Langside

Hugh, First Earl of Eglinton 1483-1545

Fought against James III at Sauchieburn. Rewarded by James IV with new title.

Hugh, Second Earl of Eglinton 1545-1546

Supporter of the Stewart dynasty.

Hugh, Third Earl of Eglinton 1546-1585

Supporter of Mary Queen of Scots but acknowledged James VI

Hugh, Fourth Earl of Eglinton 1585-1586

Murdered by the Cunninghames in context of long-running feud.

Hugh, Fifth Earl of Eglinton 1586-1612

Granted Barony of Kilwinning by James VI

Alexander, Sixth Earl of Eglinton 1612-1661.

Sir Alexander Seton, cousin of Fifth Earl succeeded to title. Became a Privy Councillor. Signed National Covenant.

Hugh, Seventh Earl of Eglinton 1661-1669

Lands forfeited under Cromwell's rule and imprisoned by English.

Alexander, Eighth Earl of Eglinton 1669-1701

Family lands were restored in 1660, he lived in Yorkshire and passed estate to his son.

Alexander, Ninth Earl of Eglinton 1701-1729

Controlled family lands for 53 years. Peer in London and Privy Councillor.

Alexander, Tenth Earl of Eglinton 1729-1769

Succeeded to title at age 6. Became a good custodian of family estates.

Archibald, Eleventh Earl of Eglinton 1769-1796

Succeeded to title on brother's murder. A military man, he led the 78th Regiment of Highlanders during Seven Years War 1756-1763. Became a politician on return from the military.

Hugh, Twelfth Earl of Eglinton 1796-1819

Died without a son and title passed to the Montgomeries' Coilsfield branch. Age 57 when succeeded to the title. Increased family debts via investments in industrial projects.

Archibald, Thirteenth Earl of Eglinton 1819-1861

Knight of the Thistle but spent extravagantly during early years.

Archibald, fourteenth Earl of Eglinton 1861-1892

Ailing family fortunes aggravated by collapse of the Glasgow Bank in 1878

George Arnulph, Fifteenth Earl of Eglinton 1892-1919

Lord Lieutenant of Ayrshire. Unable to halt decline in family fortunes.

Archibald Seton Montgomerie.

Failing finances forced removal from Eglinton Castle which subsequently became a ruin as per video below.


video

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Montgomery Ancestry Tour, Scotland

Monday, October 05, 2009

Today, I had great pleasure in providing a 'Montgomery' themed ancestry tour for two guests from the U.S.A.

After collection at Lochwinnoch, we drove north to view the 20 bedroom castle at Skelmorlie which dates from 1502. Historically, the castle was owned by the second Earl of Eglinton who led the Montgomery clan in support of Mary Queen of Scots in battle.

Next we drove down the coast to Largs, a pleasant seaside town, for a coffee stop. Then on to Ardrossan Harbour which was built by the Montgomerys of Eglinton Castle, a project which caused the family considerable financial distress at the time. From Ardrossan we could view the Isle of Arran which was granted to Hugh, the 3rd Lord Montgomery in the 15th century.

A next objective was Kerelaw Castle which was not easy find, being located in the midst of a social housing scheme in Stevenston. In fact, there are just ruins evident as a function of destruction by fire when the Montgomerys burnt this Cunninghame castle in 1488.

Next, we moved on to Eglinton Castle, near Irvine. This is a ruined 18th century castellated mansion located in a pleasant public park. See video for more information and views.

En route to Troon we stopped at Annick Bridge close to which Hugh Montgomery, 4th Earl, was murdered in 1586 by the Cunninghams of Colbeith and Robertland.

At Troon we enjoyed a spot of lunch at a pub close to the harbour, which was good value.

Our final destination was Polnoon Castle and Eaglesham both of which have strong Montgomery connections.

Polnnon Castle is little more than a pile of rubble in a field having been abandoned by end of the 17th century.The castle was built using proceeds of a ransom paid to Sir John Montgomerie by Sir Henry 'Hotspur' Percy after the Battle of Otterburn in 1388. See previous blog posting for more information.

The conservation village has close links with the Montgomerys dating from the late 1760s when Alexander Montgomerie, 10th Earl of Eglinton, decided to bring order to the local collection of crofts and farms. We visited the church burial ground where can be found records of many deceased Montgomerys recorded on grave-markers. There are also Montgomery place names and a Montgomery armorial stone over the (closed) Cross Keys pub.

En route to lodgings we viewed the Eaglesham Moor wind farm (largest in Europe) and photographed a herd of deer.

This is Annick Bridge close to which occurred the murder of Hugh Montgomery.

Place name at Eaglesham

Skelmorlie Castle
Marina at Ardrossan Harbour

Ruins of Kerelaw Castle, Stevenston.


Ruins of Eglinton Castle
Coat of Arms at former stables at Eglinton Castle. Inscription reads "Garde Bien" or Careful.

Ruins of Polnoon Castle near Eaglesham



Eaglesham Kirk, in the burial ground of which can be found many Montgomery grave markers.

Stag at Eaglesham

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Enjoyed reading about the Montgomery tour that my daughter and son in law were shown. Nice to keep track of our world travelers. Have a good day. Phyllis Montgomery Smith

October 06, 2009  

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Glenfiddich Whisky Distillery, Scotland

Sunday, October 04, 2009


This evening, I am posting information on the famous Glenfiddich Distillery which supplies the world's biggest selling single malt Scotch whisky.

This distillery was founded by one William Grant, who came very humble origins in Dufftown and after various jobs including a cobbler and quarry worker he became bookkeeper at the town's distillery and from then on went to build his own distillery, literally with his own bare hands, a task which was completed in 1887.

Glenfiddich means 'the valley of the deer', hence logo at top of this posting. The key to the distillery is the nearby Robbie Dhu spring and burn (small stream), both of which provide essential supplies of clear water for the whisky making process.

Whisky production entails a complicated process of malting, mashing, fermentation, distillation and maturation. In Glenfiddich's case the end result is the classic 12 year old which outsells by a factor of two its nearest rival.

Glenfiddich is still owned and managed by the Grant family.

Excellent tours are provided for visitors.

Contact me for more information on whisky tours of Speyside.





video

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Prehistoric Rock Art Scotland

Saturday, October 03, 2009

One of my many interests is prehistory to which end I have a dedicated page on my catswhiskerstours website.



Hitherto, my knowledge of prehistoric rock art has come from my visits to Kilmartin Glen in the west of Scotland, a very rich site full of stone circles, burial cairns, standing stones and rock art. The latter is particularly well demonstrated at a site named Achnabreck where there is a particularly heavy concentration of motives pecked into the rock surface using stone tools perhaps dating back some 3000 years.



Having just re-read my reference books on Achnabreck and elsewhere, I have noticed that all the recorded circular motifs are made of concentric circles.



In the course of recent tour in Scotland I visited a castle where the threshold consisted of, what appears to be, an interesting piece of rock art which could be construed as to represent a human eye. Although now covered with a protective mat, this heavily worn carving would appear to be of significance. Apart from the possible representation of an eye, to my mind this particular carving is different in that it was made using a continuous swirl effect as distinct from concentric circles.

The images above and below show the same carving, albeit from slightly different angles.





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Stirling Castle, Scotland

Friday, October 02, 2009

Today, we took a trip up to Stirling Castle from Glasgow.

This is one of Scotland's top tourist attractions which has much to offer the visitor including:

  • Superb views from the high elevation ( in good weather!)
  • The Great Hall with its gold coloured exterior (to indicate wealth and power)
  • Former Royal Palace (currently undergoing restoration).
  • The usual architecture and functions of a medieval castle, on a large scale.
  • Tapestry weaving.
  • A Renaissance inspired Chapel Royal dating from 1594.
  • A military museum, reflecting the long connection with the British Army.
  • Close proximity to two historic battle sites, namely Bannockburn in 1314 and Stirling Bridge in 1297.
This image shows the interior of the Chapel Royal with tapestries which have been woven by hand using old techniques.


Exterior of the Great Hall dating from 1503. The largest such hall ever built in Scotland.
This video shows the exterior of the Royal Palace and the Forework.

video

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Dun Eistean, Clan Morrison, Lewis, Scotland

Thursday, October 01, 2009

This afternoon, I am focusing on an historic site on the Isle of Lewis, Hebrides which does not appear on many of the standard tourist trail maps, but is, nevertheless of such historic significance that Glasgow University undertook a prolonged archaeological investigation over the period 2000-2004.

The site is situated at the north of the island, close to the Butt of Lewis. The site can be accessed by car but this entails navigating a rough farm track over a distance of about 1 mile together with a couple of farm gates.

Upon arrival the visitor will not be presented with the usual stone ruins and the like but a mound on a small islet which can only be accessed via a footbridge over a ravine which in its day would have formed a natural, defensive moat. It is believed that, up until late medieval times, this was the power base of the Morrisons whose authority may have derived from the Lords of the Isles but collapsed when the Lordship came to an end in the late 15th century.

Aerial photographs of the apparently innocuous mound reveal the outlines of buildings which, as a result of archaeological investigations by Glasgow University 2000-2004, have revealed a complex site comprising:

  • A rectangular dwelling with central hearths.
  • A Gatehouse and storage buildings or shelters.
  • A Triangular enclosure which defended the west of the island (facing the sea).
  • Corn-drying kilns and a barn used for storing and drying barley.
  • A settlement area with a central living space together with turf and stone buildings.
  • Pond to collect fresh water.
  • A rectangular tower or keep which once may have been 4 metres (12 feet) high.
  • A defensive perimeter wall of turf with stone facing.
More information and photographs can be found at the Ness Heritage Centre at Habost which is a combined local museum and family history centre for the locality.

The small island is now owned by Clan Morrison Society.

Contact me for more information and/or private tours of Lewis, which is a fascinating island full of history, heritage, wildlife, spectacular scenery, Gaelic culture and much more.

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