Sunday, July 22, 2012

Saturday Adventures in Ayrshire: Crossraguel Abbey & The Bachelors Club

Entry for 21 July 2012:

For this week’s Saturday Adventure we got off to an early start, allowing us to see more than we usually do.   We started at a lovely, underrated Historic Scotland site: Crossraguel Abbey, a ruined abbey mostly from the 13th and 15th centuries, miraculously well-preserved from the dissolution of the monasteries and the ravages of the Reformation.  Much of the church, cloister and two impressive tower houses are largely intact.  Sitting right on the A77 about an hour’s drive south and west from Glasgow, the grounds are very well-kept. The fields around it were busy with harvesting.  We happily rambled around the place for a couple of hours, exploring all the nooks and crannies we could find, examining the ancient stonework, tracing the path of the little underground watercourse built for the latrine, and climbing the four story 15th century gatehouse tower, with wonderful views of the surrounding country side.  The site specializes in information and exhibits about stonework, so we even got to try our hands at some stone carving on a piece of local sandstone, using the maul and (very dull) chisel supplied. 

After that, we borrowed the key from the Historic Scotland woman in charge of the Crossraguel Abbey site and took brief side trip to the remains of Maybole Collegiate Church in the nearby village. It's another ruined church from the 14th century, the most puzzling feature is which is the presence of a wall, a much later addition, that half-blocks one of the church's two doors.   

At this point it was not yet even 3pm, so on the way back to Glasgow we are stopped at the Bachelor’s Club in Tarbolton, where Scotland’s national poet, Robert Burns took dancing lessons, started a debating club, and generally hung out with other unmarried men from the area.  The docent, a cheery and intense old fellow, was very pleased to see us, reminded us that 21 July was the anniversary of Robert Burns’ death, and happily showed us around the place, which is remarkably small and well-kept.  The family of the owner lived downstairs in two small rooms (which also housed their two cows), but upstairs was a largish room that passed for the Tarbolton town hall.  This room is about the size of our bedroom in Hyndland and is filled with original chairs, all 300 and 400 years old, as well as other pieces of period furniture and lots of Burns memorabilia.  The docent was full of useful and entertaining stories and gladly chattered at us until we ran out of time and had to excuse ourselves.  We complimented him on his story-telling and noted that he probably had many more things he could tell us.  As we left, he told us he planned to retired by the end of the year and said, “You’ve made my day.”  Later, at dinner with our friends Franny and Robert, we toasted Robert Burns on the occasion 216th anniversary of his death at the age of 37.

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