Stepping Back in Time at House of Dun

Last week, my family and I headed up to St Cyrus, near Montrose for a well earned holiday. It was our first time in this area and I can say, we weren’t disappointed. It’s a very beautiful part of the Scottish coastline with stunning views and a crazy amount of stately homes and castles as well as a huge amount of history going back thousands of years.

St Cyrus beach from the cliff path.

There’s so much to see and do in this area and it’s ideal for a short break away.
Whilst on holiday, we visited House of Dun, near Montrose. This Georgian house is one of magnificence and grandeur and we’ll worth a visit.

View of the stable block and way in.

It was designed by William Adam and it was completed in 1743 to replace the draughty old tower house of the Erskine’s.

Rear view looking over the Montrose Basin.

The Erskine’s had lived on this land from the 1300’s up to 1980 when the house and it’s belongings were bequeathed to the National Trust for Scotland.

Courtyard view to the west of the house. The white building in the middle was a larder.
Entrance into the courtyard.

 I’ll not pretend to know the history of this house or family so I’ll leave it there, you can find plenty of information online if you’re interested.

The walled garden joined to the east of the house.
Rear view looking down to the Montrose Basin.

If you’ve not been here before, I’d highly recommend a visit. A guided tour of the house takes about 45 minutes or so then you’ve got the fantastic grounds to explore, all the way down to the Montrose Basin. If you take your time and wander down the many paths you’ll be sure to come across some really interesting things to see. As well as the house with all of its magnificent artwork, there’s two walled gardens, an ice house, cemetery and more. It’s a really great day out!

One of the falls on the woodland walk.
The family mausoleum.

Below, is a selection of images taken inside the house whilst on the tour. The tour guides were great, especially Louisa who plays the part of the Lady of the House, Violet Jacob. They’re dressed in period costumes and tell you the story of the house and the family, they helped to make it a really great day out. They were knowledgeable too, my kids asked questions as did I and a few other guests also. My only complaint, I wanted to go round again and take my time to admire the amazing furniture and artworks and photograph things at my leisure. Not much of a complaint though is it?

As always, thank you for taking the time to read this. Feel free to share it far and wide and if you’re in the area, stop by for a visit, you won’t be disappointed, it’s well worth the money!

All the best, Paul.

Exploring Taymouth Castle

In 2017, I had the privilege of receiving an invite to attend a private group tour of the magnificent Taymouth Castle. All doors were open, no restrictions made and photos were allowed anywhere we chose, how could I possibly say no! Well of course I didn’t, I spent nearly the whole day there and what a magnificent day it was!

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View from the front ©

This symbol of luxury and wealth is situated about a mile to the east of Kenmore on Loch Tay. The current building was built in the 19th century however it rests on the cellars of the older Balloch Castle which was built in 1552.

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The tower, built on top of the original castle ©

The lands of Taymouth or Balloch Castle as it was once known was the home of Clan Campbell for many centuries and remained in their ownership up until 1922. As you may know, the Campbells are one of Scotlands most notorious Clans with many a story told and many a battle fought. There have been records of them since at least the 13th century however their origins apparently go back much further, back to the time of the Britons of Strathclyde. They have always been a clan with ambition and one rarely crossed without consequence, they have been involved in more battles than I have time to write about and have helped end many a rival clans ambitions, sometimes even ending the clan itself. There was a time they owned land from the east coast to the west coast, land that formed a belt across Scotland which meant they knew the movements of anyone crossing through and you can be sure you only crossed the Campbells lands if they let you. They were a clan of means and they knew it and with the ability to raise an army numbering in the thousands they had little to fear.

Continue reading “Exploring Taymouth Castle”

Eastend House.

Autumn is definitely my most favourite season, the crisp air and the vibrant colours stir emotions like no other season does. It may be colder and there’s less daylight however in my opinion it’s the best time to be out walking and exploring.

In fairness, I’ve missed most of this Autumn, a lack of time and if I am honest with myself, a lack of enthusiasm too. However last Sunday I was up and out early, determined to catch something of this most vibrant season before it goes again for another year.

The Carmichael Estate is one of my most favourite places to go and wander, it’s large, it’s beautiful and it is bursting at the seams with history. I have been there a few times before over the years however I have only photographed part of it and that was in the day’s when I kept my camera on “AUTO” having no idea how to use it. This time I ventured to an area that I have no photos of at all, the grounds of Eastend house.

I parked at the estates farm shop and walked down to the house, it’s not far, a 10 minute walk, no more than 15 minutes if you dally. It’s an easy walk and flat, starting off on a tarmac road and changing to a muddy track after the lodge house. You walk along what once would have been a lovely driveway into the property, with mature trees and large bright green bushes.

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Grand Avenue ©

I arrived just after the sun had come up, it was still climbing and casting the most magnificent glow into the woods, bathing everything in a golden light. The colours were fantastic, everything was over saturated and vibrant, the different shades of red and yellow leaves became more of a rusty-red and orange, it was a beautiful morning to be out and it definitely took me more than 15 minutes to make it to the house.

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Walking up the drive ©

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After photographing the drive and some trees I moved on, heading to the walled garden. The wall itself is still intact however there is nothing to be seen inside, it’s just overgrown grass punctuated here and there with some trees and bushes. I can’t say I spent much time there, I had a quick look and moved on.

At this stage let me point out that there are various holiday cottages for rent throughout the Carmichael Estate and you will come across a couple of them over in this area. I would ask that if you choose to explore this area please be conscientious of anyone who may be staying here and grant them some privacy.

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The house itself is situated right next to the walled garden and can be approached from both the front or rear, you will also find the coach house and stables not far from the house.

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South view of Eastend House ©

The house although beautiful is in a bad way, windows have gone, walls are cracking, stones are missing and inside the floors have collapsed. It’s in a very bad state of repair and I would not recommend entering the house. It’s dangerous and you would be risking your life, the owner also has CCTV installed and does not take kindly to anyone attempting to enter the property. For the record, I have never ventured inside Eastend however you can see the damage just from looking through windows. There are pictures online and videos on YouTube should you wish to see inside.

Not far from the house is a lovely pond and another cottage. It was so serene that I had to stop and take it in. Some birds, the tricking of water and the occasional rustling of leaves was all that was to be heard, absolute bliss.

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The pond ©

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Cottage for hire next to the pond ©

It was an odd little spot, the trees on one side of the pond were all Autumnal yet the side where the cottage sat was nearly all green with frost covering everything, both sides in complete contrast with each other.

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Alternative view of the pond facing south west ©

It was a bitterly cold morning, minus 3 degrees so after a short break I walked around the coach house area then snapped a couple of pictures of the front of Eastend then headed back to the car. It always amazes me that in every picture of the front door to Eastend House the blue door is punchy and bright, it’s as though it refuses to give in and be like the rest of the house.

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The front view of Eastend with the bright blue door ©

If you haven’t visited the Carmichael Estate before then I would highly recommend it, there are two ruined houses, lots of cottages and plenty of lovely places to walk, you can easily lose a day here. Let me also add that there is a small farm shop where you park, a wax museum detailing the history of the area and a lovely little tea room you can visit.

I will hopefully head back down here again soon and take some pictures of the rest of the estate to share with you all.

Paul.

© As always, all images subject to copyright and cannot be used or shared without prior permission.

Photo Opportunities & Walks, in and Around Lanarkshire

Updated on the 10th of May 2021

Anyone who knows me will know that I love the outdoors, I love exploring and finding places to walk and to take photographs. I’m always on the lookout for new places to explore and capture and I am happy to share my knowledge with others in the hope they can benefit from it too. So, that’s what this post is all about, I’ve put together a list of some places that I’ve enjoyed going to for my photography however there are a few places that I have not yet visited. I have researched these sites and they’ve been added to my list of locations to visit as I’m confident they offer great local opportunities. I have listed all of the locations on the Google map below, clicking on the location will give you some information about the site. I have split the map into photo locations and walks so it’s easier to select which one you want, you can filter the options by clicking the square symbol with the arrow on the top left of the map.

If anyone reading this wishes to contribute to the list please feel free to drop a comment. However please leave a description and Google Maps coordinates so it’s easy for others to find.

Lastly I would like to ask anyone who visits any of these sites that you show respect and please do not enter the buildings as some are in a bad way and can be dangerous. Also some are privately owned like Cambusnethan and Eastend and their owners do not want anyone entering the buildings.
If you wish to get in contact regarding anything within this post on please feel free to email me at questions@viewthroughthelens.co.uk

Well I hope after reading this you find somewhere worth exploring and photographing. If you do please feel free to let me know how it went, would you recommend the sites I’ve chosen? If you want to link any pictures you’ve taken into the comments then please do.

Thanks very much for reading, hope you find something of interest.
Paul

Below you will find some websites that I find are a great help when I’m looking for places to visit. I’ve mentioned a few times about looking at old maps before heading to some of these sites so you can get an idea of what once was there and what may still be. I would normally look up pictures on Instagram and Flickr as well as a Google search. It helps you give you an idea of what you may want to capture.

For old maps I use the National Library of Scotland, it’s free and has extensive coverage and the maps can be overlaid. http://maps.nls.uk/geo/explore/#zoom=5&lat=56.0000&lon=-4.0000&layers=1

I also get a lot of ideas from a Facebook groups I am part of. The main ones are “Lost Houses of Clyde Valley”. https://www.facebook.com/groups/1475717922681828/ and “Castles, Mansions and Historic Houses of Scotland”. https://www.facebook.com/groups/642086055910658/permalink/803741759745086/

There is also the excellent “Blantyre Project”. http://www.blantyreproject.com/

RAW Around the Ages. A Day at Loch Leven.

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Before I start, I’ll apologise for the lower resolution images used on this post. In this trip out I used only my mobile phone (LG G2) for photos. I recently unlocked my phone and have since installed a custom camera that allows manual settings and Adobe DNG RAW files. So all photos were taken as RAW then edited using Snapseed on my phone. I was curious to see how far I could push my phone and what image details could be recovered when editing. It’s certainly not going to replace my DSLR however most of the photos came out better than I expected especially the ones with blown out sky. Anyway, there ok viewed on a tablet or phone but not so good on a laptop or PC.

Now moving on to my lovely walk around the loch.

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Last weekend my wife and I had our annual night of freedom from the kids. We booked into the Green Hotel in Kinross for a night and were very much looking forward our day and a half of peace and quiet. After a nice afternoon at the hotel and a lovely meal that night we were well relaxed and rested. We had decided we would go walking the following day but had not decided where and spent some time looking at various places to visit. However, we finally decided that we had Loch Leven at our door so we should use it.

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This is Loch Leven in Perth and Kinross, the fresh water one, not to be confused with the sea loch up on the west coast of Scotland near the village of Glencoe. The loch has a heritage trail that you can walk round, its just over 13 miles (21km) in length and is fairly flat and easy to walk. It is a very pleasant walk although, it is a long walk if you do it all.

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There are plenty of benches to rest upon, I’d say you’ll find one every 10 minutes or so and there is some lovely spots for picnics too. The benches are lovely, they all have a phrase or saying carved into them, I really should have taken a picture of one of them. You don’t have to walk the full 13 miles, there are various points you may stop at and enjoy the view as well as a few places you can stop for a quick refreshment.

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We chose to walk it all and stop at Vane Farm, its an RSPB site with a nice little cafe where we refuelled with cake and coffee. image

If you start at Kinross and walk around clockwise it’s about 9 miles to Vane Farm. There’s a tunnel that goes under the road, you walk down the steps and it’s only 2 minutes on the other side. You can drive here and park up then take a walk around the reserve from here also. image

It’s a busy place, lots of walkers, joggers and cyclists however I was very impressed with how little rubbish there was laying around and there was not much dog mess either. The council are doing a good job of keeping it clean and tidy.
It has some beautiful view points and you have good views of the islands in the loch. There are 7 islands visible these days although this was not always the case, prior to the loch being drained it covered a far wider area and there were only a couple of islands visible.

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Loch Leven Castle sits on one of the islands, this was where Mary Queen of Scots was held prisoner in 1567. It can be reached by ferry at certain times of the year and is managed by Historic Scotland. Unfortunately due to it being a good distance away and with me using only my mobile I have no decent pictures of the castle, sorry. There is also St Serfs Inch which is the largest of the islands and was once the home of a monastic sect and had a priory built on it. The history of this area goes back a long way. Loch Leven is an RSPB nature reserve and a site of special scientific interest.

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If your in the area and are looking for a relaxing walk then I would recommend it. The whole walk is estimated to take around 5 to 6 hours depending on fitness however it can be walked quicker, we managed it in just over 4 hours, this was with a coffee stop included. As I said though you can shorten the walk if you wish and there is decent public transport options to help you with that.
If after reading this you feel the need to explore the area and decide to stay a night or 2 my review of the Green Hotel is on TripAdvisor from 27th February. All reviews for this hotel can be found here http://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/194060?m=19905

As always, thanks for reading.
Paul

A Walk Through History

First of all let me apologise as its been weeks between posts, I just can’t seem to find the time to keep this site going, however I am determined I’m not giving up. Most weekends I have been out somewhere and I do have photos to post. I think though I am going to have to start taking pictures in JPEG instead of RAW as this is mainly what holds me up, I never seem to get time to process them!

Anyway enough of my apologetic whining!

So, a few months back I stumbled upon a reference online to a castle I had never heard of, Torwood. After some reading up I found that it’s not to far a drive and that there was not only the ruin of a castle but the ruin of broch also, known as Tappoch broch. For those who do not know of brochs they area very old fortified dwellings once common in Scotland and Ireland, around 2000 – 3000 years old. Needless to say the 1st chance I had I took a trip over.

It did start as a rather dreary morning however it brightened quickly and turned out to be a splendid day albeit a little to bright for pictures as you’ll see, a few burnt out skies! We found a small layby just after the village of Torwood and parked up. There is a rather nice walk up the hill through some forest by a disused mine and quarry. Had it not been raining I would have a great 1st picture to show. The quarry is flooded and there has to be hundreds of old tyres floating in it. However there was a few ducks all swimming around between the tyres not seeming to mind the horrible looking water. It would have been an interesting shot. Now it’s not to long a walk from the car to the broch, maybe a mile, mile and half although it’s all uphill however it doesn’t take to long. It’s a nice enough walk through the forest however it’s not any different from any other, nothing special to see, although I’ll mention that this was once a royal forest used for hunting and for timber.

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Once you reach the broch its a little underwhelming as it’s just an overgrown hill, until you get near to the crown of the hill that is. As you get closer you see the stonework, the ditch surrounding it and the stairs going into it.

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Its walls can’t be more than maybe 7 feet at their highest but there is enough left to see that this was once quite large with thick defensible walls.

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Standing on the hill with the trees cleared away it would have looked quite imposing I would imagine. At this point it was about 7am and the sun was getting higher and the clouds were clearing away although it was a little chilly. We stayed there for about an hour or so, got some pictures, went exploring then moved on further up the hill towards the castle. The walk from there to the castle again could be no more than a mile and its a fairly easy walk, a slight incline then a slight decline and it levels out.

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You come onto a gravel road that leads to the castle and some house near by, you get a great view from here across rolling fields. In the distance you can see the Falkirk Wheel.

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Just of to the side of the road thee is a path and you get a nice side view of the castle from there.

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A view from the road

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Falkirk Wheel in the distance

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The castle is now only a shadow of its former self with only one building still standing, however any castle enthusiast can see that this castle was once much larger with a central courtyard and high walls on all sides, it’s a real shame only this small part now exists. The castle is a ruin and is not accessible, I believe it’s privately owned.

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Entrance road to the castle

There is not much shade around the castle and the sun was bright at this point so as you can see I managed to get the sky blown out a little in a couple of shots. Now had I not plans for later that day I would have liked to explore around the area some more as it looks as though there was more places for a wonder and I am sure more photos to be had however it just means another trip some point later in the year, hopefully!

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We didn’t head back the same way, we followed the road down by the houses presuming it would bring us out in Torwood village, which it did.It was a pleasant tree-lined avenue with lots of daffodils lining the way.

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The walk back was all downhill and in a straight line, it took about 20 minutes and that was with me stopping to take a couple of pictures.

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Now as luck would have it, we made it back to the car, packed our gear in the boot and as it closed it began to rain, then pour. I love those days when the weather is on your side!

Now I have purposely not written about the history of the two sites, I would have been here all day! I would encourage anyone who may be interested in either site to a take a trip over and explore and there is info online for both sites too should you wish read up. I will say though, One thing I found interesting was, the day started with the walk up to the broch which is around 2500 years old, then we came to the castle that is around 450 years old and then the last part of the walk took us to the modern-day village, which is very modern in places with a lot of houses built this century. Hence the title of my post as it was a walk through the ages.

As always, let me thank you for reading through and again I apologise for the length of time it takes me to get things updated.

Paul

One Miserable Morning

I’ve made a decision to go out walking every 2nd Saturday morning (it’s my day off). Yesterday was that Saturday.
5:40am, up and out the door. Grey clouds and heavy rain, a real miserable morning to be doing anything. A quick look at the weather and over towards Edinburgh seemed dry (for the time being anyway). I drove over in that direction and headed towards Blackness Castle. I knew I wasn’t going to get any clear shots of the Forth bridges

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and I knew it would be windy and cold, as long as it wasn’t pouring down with rain I could live with this compromise. Well as you can guess, it rained! I was there less than 10 minutes and what little light there was vanished, the clouds got darker and the rain poured!

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I had driven 40 minutes so regardless of weather I went at it. My camera is a Pentax K-X, not waterproof and neither are my lenses so I was being very careful, no long exposures no slow shutter speeds. Just a quick snap before it got soaked!

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I was lucky enough that the tide was out so I managed to get some shots from out on the rather pebbly (and slippy) beach. Which was helpful as I had decided to only use my 50mm yesterday morning, I thought it would make my morning more interesting.

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I found this carved into one of the rocks out on the beach. (below)

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Well after a very wet 45 minutes I decided to get back into the car and have coffee and some chocolate. It was not the morning I had planned and the majority of my pictures were very dull but hey that’s how it goes sometimes. Let’s hope the next trip out in 2 weeks is better!

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Thanks for reading,

Paul