Scotland: The Fife Coast 3

 

[ Photo Gallery # 98 ]

The Fife Coast: 3

Kellie Castle, Cambo Gardens and Hew Lorimer

Kellie Castle is situated near Arncroach, about 5 kilometres north of Pittenweem in Fife on the Scottish East coast.

The castle is one of fairytale stone towers and stepped gables.  The oldest parts are 14th century, but much of the rest of was refurbished and added to in the late 19th century by the Lorimers, a famous artistic family.  Indoors can be found elaborate plaster ceilings and painted panelling, together with fine furniture designed by Sir Robert Lorimer, who spent much of his childhood at Kellie.

Not far away, near to St.Andrews, is the Cambo Walled Gardens.  This Victorian walled garden has been brought up to date with the introduction of lovely woodland walks leading beside a sparkling burn down to the nearby sea.

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Kellie Castle, Fife

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The Hew Lorimer Studio

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Hew Lorimer

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Sculpture by Hew Lorimer

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Sculpture by Hew Lorimer

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Sculpture in the castle grounds by Hew Lorimer

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In Cambo Walled Gardens

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In Cambo Walled Gardens

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In Cambo Walled Gardens

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Scotland – The Fife Coast: 2

[ Photo Gallery # 97 ]

The Fife Coast: 2

Elie, Anstruther, Crail, & Fife Ness

 

Continuing my journey along the Scottish East Coast, my Photo Gallery today displays more views of some of the delightful coastal villages along this  seaboard. . .

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Elie is a small coastal town and former royal burgh in Fife, on the north coast of the Firth of Forth.

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The shoreline and jetty at Elie

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Anstruther is a small town in Fife, Scotland, nine miles south-southeast of St. Andrews. The two halves of the town are divided by a stream, known as the Dreel Burn.

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The harbour at Anstruther

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View seawards to the harbour entrance at Anstruther

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 The stout harbour wall at Crail, a former royal burgh in the East Neuk of Fife.

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A gull’s nest viewed from the cliffs at Crail

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The harbour at Crail

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Two views from Fife Ness, a headland forming the most eastern point in Fife

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The (Very) Outer Hebrides

From time to time I intend to reproduce, usually with minor changes, a few of my earliest WordPress posts from ‘Roland’s Ragbag’.  These will be ones which were, and are still, of particular import to me and which most of my current followers and readers will not have seen or read before.  For those of you who may have come across the earlier versions, I do hope you will consider them to be worthy of a second airing.


 

ON . . .  Flannan Isle, St.Kilda, and ‘Coffin Road’

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The Outer Hebrides – showing Flannan Isle

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In 2012, on a Round Britain cruise, I passed close to the Flannan Isles and to St.Kilda.  This was, for me, meant to be the highlight of the cruise, as I had in the past read much about both these remote places – the outermost islands of the Outer Hebrides – St.Kilda in fact being the furthest west point of the whole British Isles.  Unfortunately, the weather, as is often the case in those parts, was not good.  The sea was rough and the islands shrouded in mist.  I did manage a few photographs of St.Kilda, covered in mist and seabirds, but that was it. . .

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St.Kilda in the mist … Photos by WHB – 2012

Flannan Isle is in fact a small archipelago of seven rocks, sometimes known as ‘The Seven Hunters’.  It has held great interest for me ever since, way back in my school days, just about my first introduction to narrative poetry was through the re-telling, by Wilfred Wilson Gibson, of the story of the three missing lighthouse men in his poem  ‘Flannan Isle’ (q.v.).  The story, for those not familiar with it, has echoes of the story of the missing crew of the ‘Mary Celeste’.

The Flannan Isle lighthouse was constructed in 1899 by David and Charles Stevenson.  Just a year later, when investigating why the light was not lit, 3 men landed on the isle but could find no trace of the 3 lighthouse keepers.  Although the table in the lighthouse was set with food, and although the rules of procedure insisted that one man should always remain in the lighthouse, no trace of any of them was ever found.   The full story is recounted in Gibson’s poem.  I have always remembered in particular the emotive last verse:

‘We seem’d to stand for an endless while,  Though still no word was said,
Three men alive on Flannan Isle,  Who thought on three men dead.’

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The whole story was brought vividly back to me when I recently read Peter May‘s 2016 book, ‘Coffin Road’.   Gripping from the very beginning, It is a top-quality read – the best book I have read for a long long time.

‘A man is washed up on a deserted beach on the Hebridean Isle of Harris, barely alive. He has no idea who he is or how he got there. The only clue to his identity is a map tracing a track called the Coffin Road.’

Flannan Isle itself, and the story of the three lighthouse men, are central to the story. There is a very strong plot and, as well as being a first-class thriller, the story has a cogent environmental message concerning the dangers of science being exploited for profit unrestrained by ethics.  As in others of his books, Peter May brings the Hebridean landscape to vivid life in all its rugged beauty, as well as realistically conveying the wildness of both the Hebridean sea and its weather.

I also learnt a lot about Bees from ‘The Coffin Road’ !!!   I thoroughly recommend it.

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Scotland – The Black Isle

[ Photo Blog #59 ]

 The Black Isle lies in North-East Scotland.  It is said to derive its name from the fact that, since snow hardly ever lies there in winter, the promontory looks black while the surrounding country is white.  However, contrary to its name, the Black Isle is not in fact an island.  It is a peninsula, surrounded on three sides by  water, with Cromarty Firth to the north, Beauly Firth to the south and the Moray Firth to the east.  The nearest large centre of population is Inverness.

The area has long been famous for its rich agricultural farming land.  It is also well known as a great place to enjoy wildlife – from dolphins to deer, from osprey to otters, from seals to Scots Pine. The peninsula is steeped in history, with castles, cairns and even a cathedral and three museums.  Wherever you look there are beautiful views – if you discount the many oil rigs which are often moored in the firths for servicing purposes. Ben Nevis can be seen to the west on a clear day, and a network of quiet roads and forest tracks make the area easy to explore.

CHANONRY POINT:   A famous place for spotting the Moray Forth dolphins from the shore. ( the photo of dolphins below was taken here, but it is from a postcard as my own attempt to photograph them just managed to capture a fin!).  On the opposite side of the firth from here is the historic military base of Fort George.

( Notes adapted from ‘Visit Scotland, black-isle.info, wikipedia )

My photographs are from a visit I made to the area in 2003.

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Looking north across the Firth of Cromarty

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Roadside nasturtiums

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Roadside floral display – Rosebay Willow herb (?)

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Oil rig awaiting servicing in the Cromarty Firth

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Oil rig on the Moray Firth 

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Gull on the shoreline at Chanonry Point

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Chanonry Point on the Moray Firth – the ideal spot to view dolphins

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The lighthouse at Chanonry Point

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Dolphins leaping in the Firth

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Oyster Catcher at Chanonry Point

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View southwards across the Moray Firth to Fort George

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A closer view of Fort George

 

 

 

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Stone commemorating the story of the ‘The Brahan Seer’  (click for the Wikipedia reference). 

 

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Scotland – 4 Lochs in the Southern Highlands

[ Photo Blog #51 ]

Mainland Scotland has 6,160 miles (9,910 km) of coastline.  Including the numerous islands, this increases to some 10,250 miles (16,500 km).  The west coast in particular is heavily indented, with long promontories separated by fjord-like sea lochs.  In addition to these, there are more than 30,000 freshwater lochs in Scotland.  I give below a selection containing a dozen of my photographs, taken in 2001, of just four of these inland lochs – Loch Earn, Loch Fyne, Loch Lawyers and Loch Voil – all in the southern reaches of the Western Highlands . . . 

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Loch Earn – from Achray House

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Sunrise on Lock Earn – 1

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Sunrise on Loch Earn -2

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Sunrise on Loch Earn – 3

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Sunset on Loch Earn

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Loch Fyne – towards Inverary

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Loch Fyne – 2

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Loch Fyne – 3

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Loch Lawyers

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Loch Voil 1

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Loch Voil – 2

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Loch Voil – 3

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Gwen JOHN – Rodin’s stalker

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‘Winged Victory – sculpture by Auguste Rodin… modelled by Gwen John

Gwen JOHN – Rodin’s stalker

sucked into his circle
seduced by his attention
the youthful innocent
charmed
awakened
flattered and captured
by his reputation
the innocent ingénue
capitulated
sat
posed
exposed
her youthful innocence
to his gnarled advances
he
an old cracked vase

now linked
to her driven impulsion
her aroused possessiveness
his fate
brought upon himself
his penance for taking her
in her prime
using her
then when she had fully succumbed
to his ardour
discarding her like a broken vase herself
now he was reaping the seed he had sown
being punished in his decrepitude
by her youthful zest
her constant attentions
her clinging ardour
demanding and draining
pressing constantly for his attention
now enfeebling him
the shards of his desire
scattered on the potters floor
Winged Victory de-flowered
disposed of
its remnants scattered
as so many others
the artist’s detritus
swept into a corner of his studio
to take their place
alongside those other rejected manikins
all now redundant.

she became the stalker
the stalker stalked
the predator compromised by his own lust
and trapped in his rapacious past
impotent now and fearful
his winged victory over her
turned turtle
finally repaid
by her triumph over him
resolved only
at his death


Gwen John (1876-1939) , sister of the renowned Welsh painter, Augustus John (1878-1961),  grew up in Pembrokeshire, Wales.  After leaving Britain for France in 1904 she became first the model, then the lover, of the much-older Auguste Rodin (1840-1917) .  Their relationship lasted a decade and shaped the remainder of the Welsh artist’s life and work.

In her lifetime Gwen John was primarily known merely as an appendage to both her brother and to Rodin.  She died on the outbreak of WW2, unrecognised as a serious artist.  In more recent years, however, following rediscovery of her work by art scholars since the 1970s, her own artistic work has undergone a re-appraisal.  

 She is now considered, particularly as a portrait painter, to be almost on a par to her brother.  In fact, Augustus is quoted as saying before he died in 1861, that “In 50 years Gwen will be better known than I am as an artist”.

The story of Gwen John’s intense infatuation with Rodin can be readily discovered on the internet. 

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Gwen John – Self portrait – 1899

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SELKIE-The Seal Woman – 1

SELKIES (said to be a diminutive form of the Scottish word for ‘seal’) are mythical creatures which feature in much Celtic literature and folklore.  These stories and the alleged sightings of these shape-shifting creatures are mostly centred on the Hebridean Islands of Scotland and the island groups of the Orkneys, the Shetlands, and further north in the Faroe Islands and around the Icelandic coastline.

Sea-going and fishing communities in these places have their stories to tell about these creatures.  Unlike mermaids, they are not half-human and half-fish.  Selkies, both male and female, are said to live as seals when in the sea, but shed their skin to become humans when on land.

 The legend takes many different forms, but it is generally thought that whenever a selkie and a human meet when both are in human form, the two will always fall in love. Such tales, however, never have a happy ending as the selkie will always at some point have to answer the call of the sea.  Even if their human partner hides the seal skin away, then, as soon as it is discovered, the Selkie will be unable to resist returning to its life as a seal, often leaving his or her children behind.

 Some interpretations of the legends maintain that, in this way, many sea-faring families, having lost their father, brother, grandfather at sea and the body never being recovered, explain the absence to the children as their loved one having re-joined the seal community (‘Gone to join the seal folk’) and will one day return.

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By the sculptor Hans Pauli Olsen – ‘The Seal Woman of Mikladalur’ statue on Kalsoy (2014).  In old Faroese folklore it was believed that at certain times the seals came out of the sea, stripped their seal-skins and became real human beings, dancing on the shore. But before sunrise they had to take on their skins again to be able to return to the sea – their natural element.

SELKIE-The Seal Woman

 PART THE FIRST

She came to me from the Sea
shedding her sealskin
on that rock
A gift vouchsafed from the depths
with the alluring tang of the ocean
She captured my innocence
captivated my soul
absorbed my whole being

Communion we had to excess
our feelings of love unexplained
brought us a peace which neither had known
contentment in each other’s warmth

Then I had thought she was mine
to cherish and to love
to share time
and histories
to plan a life together

But it was not to be
her hidden sealskin discovered
she was compelled to answer
the call of the waves

It could not be for ever
our short-lived passion spent
foregone
Hope and desire
subsumed by time
by the sea’s imperative

So I lost her to the ocean
no more was she mine
only my memories remained
I had to grant
respect for her freedom
her heritage
seek solace in memory
and bury my hopes
in the swell of the sea

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 PART The Second – to be published tomorrow . . .

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Sharing the Glow

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Sunset over Loch Earn, Scotland – Photograph  © . . .  WHB 

 

Sharing the Glow

 

I remember that evening –
The sun sinking low,
When you stood beside me
Sharing the glow.

We bathed in that splendour –
That golden sunset,
Drenched in that promise
I’ll never forget.

I held your hand tightly,
Placed a kiss on your lips
In youth, in the gloaming,
The lie was eclipsed.

For then we were young,
Life had not bitten hard.
Our futures seemed certain
But we let down our guard.

I left with a pledge,
But never returned;
Dissolved into dreams
Your derision I earned.

But now we are older,
Life has taken its toll.
Is it too much to ask,
Can I recapture your soul?

Now that same sun is sinking
Setting fire to the sea;
Can this Phoenix bring hope
To you and to me?

Let me hold your hand now,
Place a kiss on your lips,
For bliss in old age
Does all else eclipse.

 

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‘Inversnaid’ by Gerard Manley Hopkins

(Poem No.41 of my favourite short poems)

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‘The Mountain Stream’ … WHB – Pen & Wash – 2000

While in his twenties, Hopkins’s trained as a Jesuit priest, gave up writing poetry at one stage, but returned to it later in his life.  His poems are highly rhythmical and often ‘difficult’ on first reading .   In his poem ‘INVERSNAID’ he looks in wonder at a stream in the Highlands of Scotland near the small Scottish village of that name on the ‘bonnie’ banks of Loch Lomond, where a waterfall plunges down the hillside into a dark pool.

In his poetry, Hopkins developed a number of ground-breaking techniques, including ‘sprung rhythm’, where stresses are counted rather than syllables in a line. His use of language is robust, energetic and, at often experimental.  Like most of his poems, ‘Inversnaid’ is composed using a variety of poetic constructions – alliteration, assonance, repetition, personification, compound words, dialect and archaic words, effects that bring considerable force and energy to his poetry.  Dylan Thomas had a similar feel for language and for the construction of compound words.


Inversnaid

This darksome burn, horseback brown,
His rollrock highroad roaring down,
In coop and in comb the fleece of his foam
Flutes and low to the lake falls home.

A windpuff-bonnet of fáwn-fróth
Turns and twindles over the broth
Of a pool so pitchblack, féll-frówning,
It rounds and rounds Despair to drowning.

Degged with dew, dappled with dew
Are the groins of the braes that the brook treads through,
Wiry heathpacks, flitches of fern,
And the beadbonny ash that sits over the burn.

What would the world be, once bereft
Of wet and of wildness? Let them be left,
O let them be left, wildness and wet;
Long live the weeds and the wilderness yet.

Gerard Manley Hopkins …  (1881)

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Grief’s Threnody

On 4th June, The Isle of Barra came together as “one big family” to celebrate the life of  14 year-old Eilidh Macleod, the “dear, beautiful” teenager who died in the Manchester bombing terrorist attack on 22 May.
Eilidh herself was a piper with Sgoil Lionacleit Pipe Band.

Return to Barra

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Coffin on the sands of Barra
Processed across the bay
Piped to eternity
By the winds of the Hebrides
Lost to the world
That nurtured her here
In youth still full of joy
At large on that southern stage
Whereon she was slaughtered
Bombed to death by bitterness
Unleashed unbidden on humanity
By senseless gross insanity
By gullibility beyond belief
Returned now in remembrance
A life’s peroration

Grief’s threnody
On love’s lasting hold on life

 

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