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| Enchantment on the Isle of Mull
I think many of us reach a stage in our lives where we want to experience more than the splendor that America offers. This is the frame of mind I found myself in while celebrating my sixtieth birthday. I felt the call of adventure and the necessity to be a modern day Nelly Bly. You might recall the historical notoriety of Nelly’s greatest adventure in 1899 when she set out to break the record of Jules Verne's hero in Around The World in Eighty Days. She made it in seventy-two days, six hours and ten minutes! The last lap of her trip was on a private train from San Francisco to New York, where she was met by brass bands at every stop.
I certainly didn’t expect brass bands and must admit that my adventures were a little tamer than Nelly’s, but I did have some interesting experiences while touring gardens in Scotland and England. Do join me in my latest adventure with my final destination being the Findhorn Community on the Isle of Erraid.
| Chillingham Castle: The Most Haunted Castle in Great Britain
While I was in Queensferry, I decided to drive Passion to Chillingham Castle on the Scottish border. I had gone there on a previous journey and toured the gardens. During that visit, I had the pleasure of meeting Sir Humphry and the Honorable Lady Wakefield, whose ancestors, the Grey family, have lived in the castle since the thirteenth century. The castle itself is the epitome of what I think a castle should look and feel like. I was able to envision the carts, horses, open fire pits, and jovial camaraderie of soldiers and travelers in the huge cobblestone inner courtyard.
| Floors Castle in Kelso
I awoke the next day at Chillingham Castle to typical wet English weather and departed with Passion for a day trip to Wigtownshire to tour the Logan Botanic Gardens. The drive through the countryside was magnificent, and on the way to my destination I stopped at Floors Castle in Kelso. This palatial home, originally built between 1721 and 1726 by William Adam, is the home of the Duke and Duchess of Roxburghe. It’s the largest inhabited mansion in Britain, replete with turrets, chimneys and castellations, and was the setting for the film, Greystone. I availed myself of their small ground level restaurant, purchased their home cooked and nicely packaged lunch complete with a floral rice paper napkin, and strolled into the walled garden.
The photographs you see here attest to the beauty of Floors Castle, a place that employs a staff of ten gardeners. I particularly enjoyed the espalier artistry of the many varieties of fruiting trees along the walls. This garden is tucked away to the west of the castle, and it’s said that Queen Victoria took tea here during her visit in 1867. Many of the same great gardening traditions remain, and flowers for the main house are still cut from the packed herbaceous borders. Ornamental borders also coexist alongside the soft fruit and vegetable beds surrounding the peach glass house, and perhaps the most remarkable features of the garden are the original Victorian iron poles dripping with huge swags of crimson American pillar Rambling Roses and purple Clematis. Beneath the tunnel of color and scent great swathes of Grasses, Lupines, Geraniums, Campanulas and Euphorbias blow in the breeze, creating an appealing color palette. I noticed that Acaena ‘Kupferteppich’ flowed across the paving in front of one of the glass houses, and I pictured how pretty it must look in the summer with its coppery green foliage and red thistle-like small flowers.
|The castle grounds offer magnificent views over the River Tweed and a large formal walled garden with a great deal of recent planting. I was particularly impressed with the use of favorite plantings in unusual ways in the walled garden, for example, the use of Goldenrod in profuse clumps to set the tonal qualities of yellows and silver blues. In the photograph below, the foreground is the bright daisy-like Coreopsis grandiflora, followed by successive waves of Solidago ‘golden wings’ and Echinops bannaticus. Overhead is a rope swag of bright red Roses. Gertrude Jeykll originated the use of roping for Rose swags to mark off garden areas.
Continued on Next Page link below
|The photograph above displays colorful drifts of burgundy and bright red Dahlias, interspersed with the hairy foliage and daisy-like golden globes of Helianthus and the tall candlestick blooms of Eremurus bungei. Varieties of Roses, Clematis, and Honeysuckle were trained on wires along the brick walls as espaliers and formed interesting patterns of light and dark. Euonymus alatus was trained as a tall hedgerow in one part of the garden. Its brilliant red foliage is highlighted by golden Rudbeckia, planted in drifts at its feet.|
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Findhorn Page I
| I like to fly into Edinburgh for these gardening adventures because of the small airport and the general cleanliness of the place. Also, I have a friend with a bed and breakfast nearby in Queensferry. I enjoy riding in the glass-top tier of the double decker bus to Enterprise to pick up my smart car, and I love the scenery of the cobblestone streets, roundabouts and very early stone architecture. The smart cars in Europe all have nametags proudly installed on the doors. The last one I rented was aptly named, Passion. It was quite comfortable and roomy enough for one adventurer.
I always manage to accomplish these trips on a tight budget and still have fun. Visiting friends and staying a few days here and there takes care of the problem of accommodation and exorbitant fees. I consider the rental car an indispensable expenditure that allows me the freedom to travel willy-nilly wherever I want to go, which is usually off the beaten path. I love the challenge of driving a standard shift vehicle on the left side of the road as opposed to the right. Do you realize that even the seating and shifting are the opposite of ours? However, I digress. Let me return to my last trip overseas when my ultimate destination was the Isle of Erraid and the Findhorn Community living on this granite island.
|The courtyard is accessed through huge oaken doors and a wide cobble ramp with enough room for the horses and coaches to enter. The Great Hall just off the courtyard is an Elizabethan chamber. It has a typical stone flagged floor and is decorated with tapestries, suits of armor, weapons and the antlers of deer and wild cattle. The place has a rare quality, having survived all those years since the courtly days of old.
Chillingham Castle is reportedly one of the most haunted castles in England. It has persisted through great sieges and hosted many kings, from Henry III in 1255 and Edward I in 1298 to the Prince of Wales in 1872 and present day members of the royal family. On this my second visit to Chillingham, I found that Lady Wakefield had carried off a successful restoration of a formal parterre that was installed in the early part of the nineteenth century. The beds are all box edged, designed after Italian gardens from the same period and are a rare example of landscape design from 1828. They’re the work of the royal garden designer, Sir Jeffrey Wyatville, an English architect and garden designer who was fresh from his royal triumphs at Windsor Castle. The famous herbaceous border here is the longest in Northern England, and when I visited, Lady Wakefield, secateur in hand, Wellies on her feet, and a sweater to ward against the wind, was hard at work trimming it. Despite their titles, these people are regular folks, and Sir. Humphry is quite a raconteur and loves to tell stories about the border wars and the famed herd of white cattle at Chillingham.
| Amazing Spaces that Inspire and Delight
A mostly non-fictional accounting of my latest adventure. I write with copious delight and a heart and soul that belongs to the Outer Hebrides....
|Torwood (Torwoodhead) Castle is a ruin near the village of Torwood, in the Falkirk Council area of central Scotland. It was built for Alexander Forrester by the Lords Forrester, who supplied the Crown with timber and were in charge of a royal hunting area. Built in 1566 and considered a Scottish Baronial style castle, Torwood was once the seat of Clan Forrester.
A local, Gordon MacLachlan Millar, worked the last 40 years of his life renovating the stonework. The Castle is now under the care of the Torwood Castle Trust.
|Although the castle is not open to the public, it can be enjoyed by the public for photography and walks around the mainbuildings and inside the ruined walls.
I want to thank Stirlingshire native, Bergie Bigheid for allowing me to post his video here. It is my opinion that this video not only introduces Torwood Castle, but also celebrates the mood of Scotland with it splendid music and mood imagery.