Sunday, April 11, 2010

Early April Saturday Adventures

Entry for 10 April 2010:

1. Castle Gloume. For our Easter Saturday Adventure, we drove northeast into Fife, through the town of Dollar, and up the Dollar Glen on a steep and winding single lane road. There’d been a blizzard in most of Scotland, including Fife, a few days before, but now the snow was quickly melting in milder temperatures that had arrived in the meantime.

The ruins of Castle Gloume, better know for the past 500 years as Castle Campbell, sit on a ridge between the Burn of Care and the Burn of Sorrow, now in full spate from snow melt. Unlike many of our castle visits, there were actually quite a few people wandering around the place. Although the temperatures were milder, it was not particularly warm either, and there were strong winds up on the ridge. For this reason, we were pleased to be able to sit down to a lunch of sandwiches and warm soup. After this, we wandered over the ruin, up and down the stairs connecting the four levels and roof of the castle keep, where we admired the spectacular view far to the south, across the Firth of Forth. Over the millennia, the water rushing off the Ochil Hills has cut deep through the rock, affording dramatic views down narrow crevasses.

After a satisfying castle ramble, I left Diane to take the easy path back to the car, while I walked and ran along the path down into one of the two narrow glens surrounding the castle. The path wound along the rushing burn, sometimes next to the watercourse, sometimes on bridges suspended above the water. It was green, noisy, magical… and worth the steep climb back up the hill to where we’d parked the car.

2. Holmwood House and Greenbank Garden. Then, today, we picked up two more local National Trust properties. First, we visited Holmwood House, in Cathcart, on the south side of Glasgow. Actually, we’d been past it a couple of weeks earlier on our visit to Linn Park, along the White Cart Water. I’d noticed an impressive building in the distance, up the hill from the path we’d been walking, which turned out to be Holmwood House, built in the 1850’s by Alexander “Greek” Thompson, the other famous Glaswegian architect (besides Charles Rennie MacIntosh). Thompson’s buildings, in a high Greek Revival style, can be found around Glasgow, including Great Western Terrace, which is 5 minutes walk from our flat in Hyndland.

The restoration of Holmwood House from its former neglect is very much a work in progress: The outside has been restored to its original condition, partly to prevent further damage to the interior, but also to provide an impressive approach. However, the restoration on the inside not particularly far along. There is an amazing dining room on the ground floor, featuring doors and fireplace with ornate classical Greek decoration, and illustrations from the Iliad running along both sides of the room, flanking a partially restored illustration of Homer and his muse, with the Olympian gods looking down from above. The most amazing thing is that this has somehow survived 150 years of neglect and abuse, including having been wall papered over to make the room into a chapel in the 1950’s. There is also an elaborately decorated drawing room upstairs, with bas relief stars on the ceiling.

I found that I really like the geometrical starkness of the Greek designs, including meander patterns and spiky thistle/floral themes in the runners, fireplaces, doors, exterior stonework and elsewhere. Viewed from the front, the house is designed to remind you of the Acropolis, with temple-like architectural features piled one on top of the other. At the top of the staircase, there is a circular lantern/cupola decorated on the inside with carved statues of Greek mythological creatures known as chimeras (also referred to locally as the “Holmwood Cats”).

As usual, the high point was a mini-tour by a voluble veteran docent, an old fellow who gleefully entertained us with stories and details about the place.

3. Greenbank Garden. After Holmwood, the day was still so lovely that we felt that we needed to spend more of it outside, so we drove down to another National Trust property, a few miles south. Greenbank Garden was much more crowded than Holmwood, but made a pleasant contrast. After a quick snack in the Tea Room, we wandered the walled, formal garden, which is divided into many varied smaller gardens on different themes. It’s very early in the season, so not much beyond crocuses (crocusoi?) and daffodils was in flower, but the space is charming, with its numerous hidden nooks and benches, fountains, hourglasses, topiary, and so on. People were sitting in the sun enjoying the day. After the long winter, it was a real pleasure to wander around and enjoy the sunshine and mild temperatures. Spring in Glasgow!

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