The Church of The Holy Rude, Stirling

Galloway was such a lovely area to explore; I enjoyed its many treasures immensely.  Even though I managed to pack in quite a bit of what it has to offer, I now know that I barely scratched the surface and that I will once again return to enjoy its magnificent beauty once again in the future. But leave I must; it’s time to head north once again.

I followed picturesque country roads north in the morning hours before I intersected with the main highway, the “M9,” north and east eventually returning to Stirling by early afternoon.  map

Last year I spent a few days in this lovely town, but like Galloway, didn’t get to see all that I had hoped to.  Hence, this is my return trip to a familiar and welcoming place.  My lodgings were at the Stirling Youth Hostel just a few doors down from the castle.  A very handy location!

The hostel is in an historic building in a beautiful setting and I was greeted by a familiar face, John the “Chef”!  He even remembered me from last year!  Amazing, considering how many people go through this place.  He’s really nice and quite the character, loving to tease and interact with the guests.  He made me feel right at home and let me know he was busy cooking a Scottish favorite – Steak Pie and another world-wide favorite – Macaroni & Cheese for dinner!  Perfect! I put my order in pronto!

I had arrived a bit early to check-in however, so I went for a nice walk to stretch my legs after being in the car all morning.  It was a nice afternoon and I had arrived with enough time to catch one or two of the sights I had missed last year just a couple of doors up from the hostel.

First stop was right next door, the old Prison.  Although it was closed for tours for the season I still got to walk around it and take a few pictures.

Afterward I continued up the street passing some other interesting buildings along the way…  I particularly got a kick out of the sign above the doorway on the one…

Next came one of the places I wanted to visit – The Church of the Holy Rude!


There’s the door and it’s still open today – let’s head inside – this is going to be really good!


The church of the Holy Rude (or “Rood”) is an old medieval word signifying the Cross of the Crucifixion.

The first church on this site was founded by King David I, King of Scots, in 1129.  It was destroyed however by fire in 1406.  Shortly afterwards a grant was made by the Lord Chamberlain of Scotland to have a new church built and the Nave, South Aisle and Tower were completed about 1414.  This part of the church, with its rounded Scots pillars, its Gothic arches and its original oak timbered roof now appears, after many changes, much as it was when it was first built.

Because the church was not large enough for the congregation, the choir (or eastern) part was built between 1507 and 1546 by local tradesmen under the inspired direction of John Coutts, Master Mason.

In 1656, following a quarrel between the two ministers of the church at the time and their followers, the Town Council had a partition built where the crossing now is, thus forming two charges, the East Church and the West Church, each with its own minister.






Stirling Castle has long been a favored residence of the Scottish monarchs, and was developed as a Renaissance palace during the reigns of the later Stewart Kings. The Church of the Holy Rude, adjacent to the castle, became similarly associated with the monarchy, hosting royal baptisms and coronations. It is one of three churches still in use in Britain that have been the sites of coronations.



The Angel window was so high up it was difficult to get a decent picture of it even when one zooms in on it!

There were so many amazingly beautiful stained glass windows. I was in total awe in how ornate and detailed they are!

Below is some information about some of them.


Outside once again, I was floating on air after spending considerable time admiring the church’s majestic beauty and quiet tranquility.  I felt so fortunate and grateful to have finally had the opportunity to marvel in its glory.

Across the drive from the front door of the church stands yet another intriguing building,

img_8483Cowane’s Hospital,  a 17th-century almshouse in the Old Town of Stirling. It was established in 1637 with a bequest of 40,000 merks from the estate of the merchant John Cowane (1570–1633).

Subsequently converted for use as a Guild Hall the building is considered by Historic Scotland to be “a rare survival of 17th century burgh architecture and one of the finest buildings of its kind in Scotland.”

There’s the churchyard, (and the intersection where the Google car  recorded me on a stroll last year) might as well continue on my walk and have yet another stroll through it up to the castle.  If I recall correctly the castle gift shop has some wonderful items that would make great souvenir gifts for my sweeties back home!


There is such a delightful view looking west below to gaze out at on a nice calm and soothing afternoon like today.


Time to head back to the hostel now, have some of John’s delicious concoctions and settle in for the evening because tomorrow I have another big day planned – visit the William Wallace Monument, Cambuskenneth (another ancient Abbey), and see if I can find the Fords of Frew just west of Stirling out in the countryside somewhere.  Another adventure awaiting… until then.









Thistle Inn

It was a long day exploring Threave Gardens in the morning and then Sweetheart Abbey on the Solway Coast.  I headed back to my room at The Thistle Inn in the quaint and friendly village of Crossmichael.

I really enjoyed my stay here.  My hosts, Nick and Dee, treated me so great!  They upgraded my room out of the kindness of their hearts and it was so comfy and convenient to the sights and attractions I wanted to explore!

Dee is a fantastic cook and I had the pleasure to enjoy some fresh scallops in brandywine sauce that evening. It was absolutely delicious.

After dinner I was in for a real treat – it was “Quiz Night” at the pub and all the locals showed up to enjoy some really great “craic!”

All of the locals really made us “visitors” just feel right at home and I had a LOT of fun laughing and having the time of my life! I haven’t had that much fun in a long, long time forging memorable friendships all the while! I especially enjoyed meeting Ed, or “Mr. Magoo – how do you do!” as he would say…he made me laugh and feel ever so welcome. Thank you Ed!

Nick even had a ‘pub dog’ named Kyle.  What a wiggle-worm he was – so full of puppy  energy. It was difficult for Nick to try to get him to hold still for a photo – what a happy dog!

“Enough of that,” Kyle thought, “I’m outta here!”


I’ll never forget my stay at the Thistle Inn and the wonderful people I made friendships with.  When you are in Galloway, be sure to stay at this wonderful little Inn. The people are the best, the food is fantastic, the Inn is located very conveniently to many wonderful sights and attractions and yet out of the hustle bustle of a busy tourist town. You’ll feel right at home….



Solway Coast & Sweetheart Abbey

Threaves Garden and Estate was a joy to visit and I was ready for a nice drive through some more countryside.  I took the tour of the Solway Coast, with anticipation of visiting Sweetheart Abbey at the end.


One particular stop was quite breathtaking; the beach at Sandy Hills.


Another stunning viewpoint was to be found at Drumburn…



I zoomed in on Wardlaw Wood, the site of Celtic iron age and nearby Roman forts.  That wood intrigues me.  That would be a nice place to spend some time exploring on a future trip.



You see how it works; I visit one place as intended and as I go exploring I discover oh-so-many other places along the way that I don’t have time to visit on this current trip.

However, I just tuck it away for future reference for yet another trip back to this wonderful place I love.




Back on the road, I’m sticking to my plan for the day to finish up the day visiting an ancient Abbey – our next stop!


This village really was as pretty as a picture and deserves a whole lot more attention than I had time to devote.  It was getting late in the day and I could feel my tummy grumbling. Didn’t want to spoil my dinner though and eat anything consequential, because I knew there were some fresh scallops waiting for me back at the Thistle Inn this evening… but that’s another story to follow shortly!


Crossmichael & Threaves Garden

On the morning of Wednesday, Sept. 21st, I visited the Crossmichael Parish church.  “Built in 1751, it is a commanding presence in this small village.  The distinctive rare round bell tower was part of the former church (1611), while the earliest grave dates to 1547.”  What a fascinating and historical church and churchyard! The village name comes from Cross of St. Michael, the patron saint of the original church in 1164.

“Government soldiers massacred many men and women without trial, during “The Killing Times” 1684/85. One victim was William Graham, shot dead while surrendering.  His grave can be found in the churchyard. His brother James was executed at Grass Market in Edinburgh.”  Read more about this church’s history in the picture below…

After wandering about the churchyard and admiring the unusual graves, I enjoyed the views of Loch Ken (such a peaceful scene, and a refuge for wildlife as well as water sporting activities) before heading to the Threaves Garden & Estate in Castle Douglas.


Just a few short miles down the road I soon found myself at the entrance to a magnificent garden to thoroughly immerse myself in.


No matter where you go, you can always count on finding a “Tea Room” where you can obtain refreshments, and often full meals!  This lovely building above, which used to be the stables for the estate, offered such fare.

Armed with a very nice Latte, I was set to start treating my eyes to the beauty of the well manicured landscapes set out before me.

This is going to be fun!  Look at what it has to offer!img_8357

Creative sculptures at every turn…


I couldn’t have said it better.  Thank you Albert!img_8266

I want to build one of these shale trees in my yard and make a fountain out of it!

The walled garden (below), let’s go in a take a peek, shall we?

img_8286 I have to admit that at first, while taking pictures of all the beautiful and unusual flowers in the glass house, I thought that this guy was a live person!  I almost asked him a question and felt so silly when I realized he was a mannequin!

img_8320Next is the “Secret Garden,”which should reveal the “sunken garden” within…


In the sunken garden this stunning statue was patiently waiting.


The house was currently being renovated and therefore closed, but it was still beautiful to observe from outside.  Can you imagine living in a place like this?


Is that a waterfall I spy at the bottom of the slope?



And finally a nice stroll through the woodlands, past the pine and the Dawn Redwoods back to the entrance.

A lovely garden with breathtaking views at every turn.  Such a nice way to spend a morning.  Next I’m off for a drive along the coast, the stunning Solway Coast and I’ll be looking for the Sweetheart Abbey.  Be still my heart!

Broughton House & Gardens


While visiting the pretty artists’ colony of Kirkcudbright, I visited this absolutely stunning house; an 18th-century Georgian house and the former home of Scottish painter E.A. Hornel, one of the “Glasgow Boys.”


After his death at the young age of 32, he donated the entire place just the way he left it. It has beecolourfulakingly preserved; a living museum of Hornel’s life and work, packed to the rafters with his paintings and those of his contemporaries, as well as his vast library, which includes one of the world’s biggest collections of works by Robert Burns.


The large paintings hanging in this room are beautiful.  Click on the collection below to see each painting individually.


I really liked the technique they used to keep people from sitting on furniture (which amazingly, is a BIG problem for them!  The guide stated it is quite an effective deterrent!

The next room is Hornel’s studio!  I’d love to have one just like that, wouldn’t you?

Now for the rest of the interior of the house…

Behind the house, which backs onto the River Dee, Hornel’s beautiful and exquisite garden is nestled in a cozy atmosphere. It was greatly influenced by his love of Japan. It is a curious and colourful mixture of both Eastern and Western horticulture and holds interesting sculpture.

Just click on the collage below to open up all of the individual pictures if you like.  Words do not serve it justice. Stroll through the gardens as I saw them. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.  I saw so many unusual flowers and plants I’ve never seen before!  An absolute delight…

This beautiful house is managed by the National Trust for Scotland.  I am so glad I am a member.  They have so many beautiful properties such as this one and as a member, I get free entry whenever I visit one of their properties.  If you plan to visit Scotland, I definitely recommend getting a membership to the National Trust as well as Historic Scotland.  Not only do you support their worthy cause of preserving and maintaining historical sights, but it will save you a bundle in entry fees!

Threave Castle

After spending most of the day in Kirkcudbright, I continued on my way to my next lodging in Crossmichael, a small village just a couple of miles north of the town of Castle Douglas.  Just before the turn off for Crossmichael, I came upon the exit that leads to Threave Castle so I made a quick detour and was greatly rewarded.  Although it was late in the day and they would be closing soon, I had just enough time to visit!



It was about a 15-minute walk through the countryside out to the site of the castle sitting on an island.


I turned the final corner on the path and there it was!  Beautiful.


The castle sits on an island and the only way to get there is by boat.  How fun is that?

I rang the bell provided and the boat was on its way to pick me up.


Soon I was in the boat and on my way with Scott, one of my guides. I was the last visitor of the day and had the place to myself!



Archibald Douglas, Earl of Douglas and Wigtown, Lord of Galloway, Douglas and Bothwell, called Archibald the Grim or Black Archibald, was a late medieval Scottish nobleman. (1328-1400)

He holds significance to me because he was my 17th great grandfather through my dad’s mother!  He was quite the guy; being born a bastard son of James Douglas rose to become the Earl of Wigtown consolidating his power over the whole of Galloway, the first time under one man since 1234. In 1369, Archibald had been appointed Lord of Galloway by King David, “becaus he tuke git trawell to purge the cuntrey of Englis blude”. Archibald’s conquest of Galloway was depicted on his seal, which depicts two “wild men” holding up his arms.





Below is what it may have looked like in its day.


Let’s go inside and start exploring…img_8144-editedimg_8151-editedimg_8155-edited

Around the corner of the inner court shown above, I went around the outside of castle clockwise.


There would have been a “gate” on this opening in the fence from the river which also allowed the water to circulate around the front of the castle in the mote.


Let’s climb the stairs to the front door and go inside now…




The opening below connects to the river, ensuring a fresh water source inside the castle.


There was the prison (or dungeon) as well.  Sure wouldn’t want to end up there!  No windows – no nothing!img_8184img_8189-edited

Now we’ll head upstairs to where the great hall and living quarters were.




Below is the view from the castle looking back at the path I followed down to the dock across the river from the castle.


I imagine this hole in the wall above was probably a safe hold.  There are holes on the left side that probably held hinges to an iron door.

Below left is a view of up the chimney of the massive fireplace and on the right is a gorgeous view looking west.


My time is up and I need to return to the dock, join my guides once again and make the last trip of the day back to the ‘mainland.’



It was a wonderful experience and my guides were superb.  At left is Cat, and a very interesting woman who also enjoys dressing up as a Viking warrior at various Viking reenactments all over the United Kingdom.


Hope you enjoyed the tour as much as I did.  My next stop is Crossmichael.  Tomorrow I will visit Threave Gardens in Castle Douglas and also share with you the “brilliant” time I enjoyed at the pub in the Thistle Inn on quiz night!

Holy Cairn! It’s Kirkcudbright – The Artist’s Town

On Tuesday, the 20th of September, I packed up my bags once again, left Newton Stewart and started to make my way eastward toward Castle Douglas.  I followed the coastline on A75 on a cloudy morning.

I had my sights on reaching Kirkcudbright (pronounced Ka-Coo-bree) because I heard there could have been some “Frews” there once upon a time and in addition, the likelihood of finding something related to the “Stewarts” in my family tree was extremely high.  newton-stewart-to-kirkcudbright

About half-way there along the coastal road I spotted a road sign that read “<– Holy Cairns 1/2 mile.”  Don’t have to ask me twice to be spontaneous – I made a quick left and started up a one track road up a quiet wooded canyon.  At the top, the woods gave way to a clearing and pasture land and Voila! There they were!  Nice!

img_7733This burial chamber with a facade of Standing Stones dates back to the neolithic period between 6,000 to 4,000 years ago!  Holy Moly!  This is fascinating!img_7714img_7716img_7718img_7719img_7720img_7725img_7729

Walking back down the road to Cairn Holy I from Cairn Holy II, the beauty of the view struck me with amazement. Across the bay lies the tip of land that the Galloway Estate sits upon and that I visited yesterday. Beyond that looms the Isle of Man.  No wonder these ancient people chose this spot.

After visiting that sight and feeling a bit under a magic spell, I drove back down through Kirkdale glen and then continued to drive along the coastline until I made it to my destination – Kirkcudbright.

I cruised around the village becoming acquainted with its layout and sights.  I spotted a church, St. Mary’s, and went inside for a peak.

A little further I discovered something unusual, The Stewartry Museum! Ca-Ching!

img_7805It opened in 1893 and has a remarkable collection of a wide range and quality of items which reflect the human and natural history of the Stewartry- the eastern half of Galloway.

I regret I am unable to remember this very nice ladies’ name.  She was so helpful and informative and not only about the items in the museum, but she gave me a good direction of what to visit while I was exploring her town.

Archaeological finds in the kirkyard nearby clearly are evidence of a very early history of people in this area.  Some of the displays in the museum included a lead seal or ‘bulla’ issued by Pope Clement II in the 1040s.  Another significant find was the discovery of a Viking warrior’s grave – complete with sword and other grave goods (below).  The sword has been dated to the 900s!  Finally, a small fragment of a tall Anglo-Saxon style stone cross may show human activity on the kirkyard site in the 700s or 800s.  It may have been the first Christian marker on the site by monks spreading Christianity.


At any rate, there were all kinds of very interesting items to look at and ponder over from times past and I enjoyed the heck out of it.


Later, when we visit the kirkyard, you will see this “King of the Galloway Tinkler Gypsies’ grave marker!  He was quite the character!

Below are some examples of the artwork that a very talented lady from this town created. Her name was Jessie M. King.

Below is a portrait of Jessie.  She looks like someone I would enjoy getting to know.


Below is the house she lived in.


The Stewartry museum even contained an original Oppenheimer painting!  Beautiful!

After the museum, I headed to the Tolbooth Art centre which is housed in one of the town’s most historic buildings.





Next, I headed down the street outside enjoying the sights along the way…


img_7858Eventually, I came upon the Broughton House & Garden, an 18th-century townhouse standing on the High Street. It was the home of Scots impressionist artist (one of the ‘Glasgow Boys’),  E. A. Hornel between 1901 and his death in 1933.

During that time Hornel remodelled the house and created the Japanese-influenced gardens. Since 1950 it has been in the care of the National Trust for Scotland, and is maintained as “a living museum of Hornel’s life and work.” The gardens are included on the Inventory of Gardens and Designed Landscapes in Scotland.  Rather than share it with you now, I will dedicate an entire blog just for this fantastic place.

Kirkcudbright sits at the mouth of the River Dee, some 4 miles from the Irish Sea. Its harbour and water is exceedingly beautiful. img_7960

A little further on I stumbled upon this lovely little church, Greyfriar’s Episcopal Church.  I had to go to the corner store to get the skeleton key to enter.  Inside was delightful.  It stand on the Mote Brae, a man-made grassy mound probably constructed in the 12th century as a fortified timber castle motte.  Inside is the MacLellan Aisle, which forms the chancel.

The Latin inscription on the tomb reads:  “The Lord Thomas M’Lelland and his wife, Dame Grissel Maxwell, are laid here and marble covers them both.  Born of these, RD Kirkcudious has erected this tomb in honour of his dear father.  He died in the year of our Lord 1597.”  The MacLelland arms with a ship, seal of the burgh and motto “Think On” are on the top panel.  Sir Thomas and Grissel are portrayed in stone over the arch recess.

Just across the street from Greyfriars church, there was even a castle!  This town has everything all rolled into one!

Back along the harbour, the light was just divine on the water’s smooth surface.img_8064img_8080





Toward the end of the afternoon, I grabbed an “egg mayonnaise” (otherwise known as a ‘deviled egg sandwich’) at the local bakery and headed up the hill above town to the old churchyard known as “The Kirkyard.”img_8116-edited

It was such a beautiful view from up there. St. Cuthbert’s Kirk was on this site.  The first historical reference to the Kirk comes from The Life of St. Cuthbert written by Reginald of Durham in 1170.  It recounts the visit of Ailred, a Cistercian monk from Rievaulx Abbey, to the ‘ancient church’ dedicated to Saint Cuthbert, the patron saint of the Anglian kingdom of Northumbria.  He was attending the Feast Day celebrations at the kirk on the 20th of March 1162.img_8114img_8113-edited

The older part of the churchyard has many interesting head and table stones, bearing invaluable information for family history research.  img_8111-editedimg_8112-edited

“Rough Translation”:

William Hounture and Robert Smith 1684

This monument shall show posterity two headless martyrs under it doth lye by bloody Graham was taken and surprised brought to this town and afterwards were slain by unjust law were sentenced to die. Then first they hanged them, then beheaded cruelly by Captains Douglas and Bruce and Graham of Claverhouse were these that caused them be handled thus and when they were unto the gibbet (hanging tree) come to stop their speech they did beat up the drum and all because that they would not comply with indulgence and bloody prelacy in face of cruel Bruce Douglas and Graham they did maintain that Christ was Lord Supreme and boldly owned both to Covenants at Kirkcudbright thus ended these two sons.

and finally, remember the Tinker who made spoons and mugs from horn in the museum? Well here’s his gravestone.  He sure lived to be a ripe old age.  It’s no wonder he had 17 wives!

It was a simply wonderful day spent in the town of Kirkcudbright and it was so full of surprises around every turn.  I barely scratched the surface in this delightful town.  I plan to visit again on my next trip to my beloved Scotland!