Having visitors (from Australia) means awaydays to see things I haven’t made the effort to see yet.  First was Linlithgow Palace, which I regularly see from the train and frequently resolved to visit.  It’s one of those places that you can just about imagine being habitable, even though it’s ruined.  There’s a sense of intimacy – and a glimpse of the romantic:  in a little closet off the king’s bedchamber, looking out over the loch, there are mottos on the ceiling bosses: “belle a vous seul” – beautiful to you alone, and “jamais ailleurs”  – never elsewhere. (Tell that to Queen Margaret as she waited in vain for James IV to return from Flodden.  Walter Scott has it in Marmion: “his own Queen Margaret who, in Lithgow’s home / All lonely sat, and wept the weary hour”;  within a year she had had to flee Scotland.)

Then to Culross and the Merchant’s House (‘Palace’) built by George Bruce at the end of the sixteenth century – an entrepreneur worthy of The Apprentice.  He wanted coal for producing salt by desalination, and found that mining was just as profitable, so did both.  Some of the wood is painted ‘Georgian green’ – partly because the copper sulphate was good against bugs, but also apparently because it marked the household as royalist and not Jacobite …  (You never quite know whether to believe guides.  And is it really true that ‘cabinet ministers’ got their name from attending Louis XIV of France as he sat on the commode (‘Cabinet’) in the mornings?)

And so to Glasgow Art School, for a feast of Rennie Mackintosh (including lunch at the Willow Tea Rooms).  It’s lovely to see a historic building still so very much in use by its contemporary students.  Amazing light and dark; nature and structure; austerity and decoration.  The library (above) is apparently like a clearing in the forest, with dappled light percolating through the trees.  The very modern electric clocks in the Art School were synchronised from the Director’s Office, so there was no excuse for being late for class.

Better get back to work.

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6 Responses to Awaydays

  1. Martin Ritchie says:

    What a great tour! Some fabulous places. Have you sought out the Mackintosh Queen’s Cross Church (in Glasgow) yet? Fantastic building, v. atmospheric and stylish. Full of Biblical symbolism hidden away in the details – that’s one tour worth taking!

  2. Gordon Stables says:

    You missed out The Dunmore Pineapple. A very unique functional building often miscalled a folly. It is best seen from the north side.

  3. Martin Ritchie says:

    I love the Pineapple!

    • kate says:

      I also love The Pineapple, but even better in some respects are the ruins of Dunmore Park, a great Gothic house, further on in the grounds. Technically out of bounds but in fact reachable – last weekend full of very happy ruin-obsessives. Elsewhere on the estate, there’s also the tower with the former burial chamber and the desolate and overgrown family graveyard which was once next to the now demolished Episcopal chapel..

  4. Martin Ritchie says:

    Haven’t done the ruins exploration yet, but I did know about the chapel!

    There are some great archive photos on the RCAHMS website.

    Near where we live at Culross there’s another former Episcopal chapel, St Serf’s at Dunimarle Castle, by architect Robert Rowand Anderson (architect of Alison’s church at Stirling amongst others). Good news is that the new owner of the castle is restoring it after years mouldering away.

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