Fyvie Castle

Side of castle
There has been a castle on the site of Fyvie since around the 13th century. It was originally a square fort built around a courtyard, but with successive phases of construction it became a grand house built on part of the square outline, with major phases of construction in the early 17th century, the 18th century, and the 1890′s. The South Front preserves the original entrance and the lower part of the original South front. The last owner sold the castle and most of its contents to the National Trust for Scotland in 1984.
Internally, the castle contains a series of grand, fully furnished Victorian interiors, and, dating from the sixteenth century, a fine spiral staircase or ‘wheel-stair’.
In the grounds is a grand lake.
(visited 6 May 2014)

Fyvie lake


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Criagievar Castle,

Criegievar castle view NTS
Craigevar Castle was built in the late 16th century by the Mortimers of Craigievar. Like many of the Scottish ‘castles’ it is more a defensible house than a castle. In the early 17th century a new owner ‘Danzig Willie’ removed the parts above the fourth floor and had them replaced with a highly decorated array of turrets, dormer windows and balustraded viewing platforms. Internally, the castle has moulded plaster ceilings dating from 1624. A new roof and other minor alterations were made in the 19th century.
The thick-walled ground floor has a lobby protected by a heavy door and the traditional Scottish iron grille or ‘yell’, two cellars and the kitchen. Above is the double-height Hall with a vaulted and plastered ceiling, and a small musicians’ gallery above the screens passage.
Above the Hall are two floors with bedrooms, and above that a floor with the maids’ room and the Long Room, originally a long gallery with (almost certainly) a fine plaster ceiling, but later partitioned up for servants’ rooms, and opened up again in the 1950′s.
The castle is surrounded by an extensive park with trees.

Craigievar Castle view Upper floors ext

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Edinburgh Castle

View from walls
Scottish Heritage
The most famous building in Edinburgh. If you are expecting massive medieval walls and a keep or towers on the lines of English or Welsh castles, you may find Edinburgh Castle a bit of a disappointment. The crags, with a wall across the neck behind the shooting-gallery of the Castle esplanade, were enough to see off medieval attackers. Cannon fire in various sieges demolished most of the original medieval buildings, and what stands today are mostly barracks and halls of later date. A few bits were rebuilt by the Victorians to make the castle look more like a Victorian baroque castle.
However there is much to see, enough to keep a visitor busy for several hours.
The St Margaret’s chapel is the oldest building. There are regimental museums, and around a square you will find a Royal Palace built for James VI, the Scottish Crown Jewels, a magnificent Great Hall, and the massive Scottish National War Memorial. There are prisons of war, and a medieval prison. A modern gun is fired at 1pm, and you can look at Mons Meg, a medieval large-bore cannon.

A regular adult ticket costs £16 (2014), but if you have a qualifying English Heritage card you get in free, haha.
The Edinburgh Council really don’t want you coming to their city centre by car, so unless you are willing to pay over £13 for a day’s parking, come by bus, train, or the new tram.

Great Hall interior

Great Hall

Cromwell period soldier

Cromwell period soldier

Royal Palace, tower


Defender's view, cannon

Defender’s view

Mons Meg cannon

Mons Meg

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Willow Tea Rooms, Glasgow

Tea Room interior Tea rooms were a Glasgow institution in the Edwardian era. Among them were the Willow Tea Rooms, with interiors designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh for Kate Cranston. Tea rooms fell out of favour, but with renewed interest in Mackintosh, the Willow Tea Rooms were recreated. Some parts of the interiors are original.
Actually, Mackintosh is not a difficult style to copy, judging by the ‘Rennie Mackintosh Hotel’ at which I stayed, originally a temperance hotel.
The tea rooms are part of the ‘Mackintosh Tour’, so they are used to people popping in to have a look, but remember that their main business is to sell teas and souvenirs.
The Willow Tea Rooms are at 217 Sauchihall Street and 97 Buchanan Street.

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Gallery of Modern Art, Glasgow

GoMA main hall Gallery
GoMA is housed in an elegant neo-classical building in Royal Exchange Square in the city centre. It is claimed to be Scotland’s most visited modern art gallery (presumably because it’s free and in the city centre.) Previously, the building was a business and commercial exchange. The main hall is used for changing exhibitions, and there are smaller spaces upstairs. There is also a general public library in the basement.
The exhibition in the photos is Aleksandra Domanovic ‘Things to Come’ (Modern gender-conscious art with images from sci-fi and manga).
It is recommended that you travel by public transport if visiting GoMA.
Visit date 4 May 2014.

Main Hall with art

Main Hall


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Glasgow Cathedral

Glasgow Cathedral was founded in the 12th century and is still in use as a church today. Unusually, it is owned by Historic Scotland. It is open daily for visitors when not in use for services.
The Cathedral has an extensive Lower Church under the south transept and the eastern end. There are relics of the cathedral’s long history, and some modern stained glass.
Inside, the Cathedral is rather dark. It is an impressive building, and worth a visit.
There is a striking Necropolis on a hill nearby.
Admission is free.
Visited May 2014

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Kelvingrove, Glasgow

Kelvingrove from East Museum
The Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum is one of the most visited museums in Scotland. It is housed in a magnificent Victorian building. The Kelvingrove is generally included in the ‘Mackintosh Trail’ as it has a significant collection of Charles Rennie Mackintosh designs. If you are interested in Scottish art, the Kelvingrove also has collections of the Glasgow Boys and the Scottish Colourists.
The magnificent Centre Hall contains a pipe organ, and on the day I visited there was an organ recital.
For kids, the West Court contains a lot of stuffed wild animals and a Spitfire.
Not to be missed. Admission is free.

The nearest Underground stop is Kelvin Hall. There is a pay car park on the park side of the building.

Centre Hall

Centre Hall

Mackintosh panel

Mackintosh panel

Hall with organ

Hall with organ

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Magdalen College, Oxford

Magdalen College front Private
Magdalen College (impress your friends by explaining that it’s pronounced ‘maudlin’) was founded in 1458, and the present buildings were erected at various dates between then and the 21st century. The college has been visited by kings and princes, and has had famous students including Edward VIII (when Prince of Wales). 20th century fellows include the English scholar and theologian C. S. Lewis and the historian A. J. P. Taylor.
Today the College has a large number of students, many living in the historic rooms on the campus, and an endowment of around £170 million.
Visitors are welcomed at certain times (entrance charges payable) and allowed to wander around the public areas (not the student areas) and admire the historic buildings. The Chapel and Choir are famous, and the Chapel, with its largely 19th century interior, is very impressive. The Hall is also worth seeing, as are the quad with the cloister and gargoyles, and the exteriors of other buildings.
The guidebook supplied isn’t very good as it does not have a map or pictures to help you figure out what you are supposed to be looking at. (Clue: it starts to your extreme right on entering the first open space). Best bring your own.

Car parking in the area is very limited, so I advise using the Oxford Park & Ride instead.
The Botanical Gardens are across the road, and there are other colleges nearby whose quads can be visited, and river walks.

Chapel wall with niches

Chapel Niche Wall

Chapel interior

Chapel interior

Hall interior


'New Building' frontage

New Building (1733)

Cloisters quad

Cloisters quad

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Oxford Botanic Garden

Ornamental round pond private
The University of Oxford Botanic Garden (founded 1621) is the oldest botanic garden in Britain. A square walled space, the Walled Garden, contains rectangular beds with the scientific collection of plants from many countries, and beyond the walls are the Lower Garden housing the ornamental plants, and glasshouses.
Two of the formal plots in the Walled Garden contain plants of use in medicine.
The most interesting section of the Lower Garden is the Merton Borders, a sustainable and diverse planting, from seed and unfertilised, of plants from three dry grassland areas of the world. Intensive care and seasonal replanting is avoided. As well as being an interesting concept, it looks very pretty.
One of the glass houses contains cacti.
The Gardens have literary associations including Tolkien and “His Dark Materials.”
(Visit date: July 2014)
The Garden is opposite Magdalen College. Admission fees apply.
If travelling by car, note that there is very limited parking other than the Oxford Park & Ride.

Merton Border - multicoloured flowers

Merton Border

Tall cacti in glasshouse

Tall cacti

Cacti in glasshouse


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Callanish Standing Stones, Lewis

Callanish_8206 Historic Scotland
The Callanish standing stones (Calanais in Gaelic) are a cross-shaped array of slim stones, centred on a circle of taller stones. The remains of a chambered tomb are in the centre. They were erected 4500 to 5000 years ago, making them one of the oldest man-made structures in Britain (or anywhere).
About 1000 years after it was constructed, the site was abandoned, and with a change of climate, the site gradually became blanketed with peat to a depth of about five feet, partly burying and preserving the stones. In the 19th century, with greater interest in monuments, the peat was removed and the site taken into State care.
The tall slim stones, with their mysterious alignments are an unique and striking sight. Well worth a visit.

There is a car park and visitor centre nearby.
Callanish stones - wide view Tall Callanish stone Callanish stones, burial chamber Callanish stone close-up

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