Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Midhope Castle

The original castle was built in the mid 15th Century. In 1478 it passed to the Livingstone family. The doorway and lintel were built for George Livingstone, third Earl of Linlithgow. He came into the title in 1646 and kept it until his death in 1690. After the Restoration he was made a member of the Privy Council and led government forces against the Covenanters.

In 1678 the castle was acquired by John Hope who incorporated it into the Hopetoun Estate. He enlarged the castle and that gave it its present appearance.  The old building was used to house estate workers, gamekeepers, foresters, labourers, a groom, carter, gardener, joiner and a number of paupers. The 1851 census recalls that 53 people in 10 families were living at Midhope.

In 1926 the Estate subdivided the castle to provide more, up to date accommodation. By the 1950's the building was derelict. It now has a roof but is otherwise, an empty shell.

The doocot dates from 1695. It is inscribed with the initials J L, standing for James, fourth Earl of Linlithgow. He backed the loosing side in the 1715 Jacobite Rebellion fighting at the Battle of Sheriffmuir and lost his titles and estates.

Carmichael House - restored

Monday, 29 July 2013

Carmichael House and Garden

Carmichael House is an elegant and unusual mansion  house, built in 1734 on the site of an old tower house destroyed by Oliver Cromwell. It is unique in Scotland and consists of three separate but related structures; a central tower flanked by two almost identical, inward facing pavilions, of two stories and an attic,with  gables in the Dutch style and a pediment ornamented with urns.

The origin of this unusual design is said to be simply a failure to realise the original conception. Presumably the family got used to living in a house which required a coach to be in a permanent state of readiness, in the event of bad weather. Later a corridor was added linking the two wings; it must have made a great difference to the way of life at Carmichael House.

The architect is unknown. It could have been one of the Adam brothers as they were related to the Carmichael family by marriage. Or it could have been the work of John Carmichael himself; a cultured and sophisticated man, with a wide range of personal interests. He was an agricultural improver of conviction; he granted his tenants leases of 57 years to encourage them to make  improvements. He mounted great tree planting expeditions and seed he brought back from Russia is believed to have been used at the estate.

Portrait of John Carmichael, third Earl of Hyndford by John Richardson the Elder.
(National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh)

 At the outbreak of the War of the Spanish Succession Hyndford was sent by George 11 as an envoy extraordinary, and plenipotentiary, to mediate between Frederick 11 of Prussia and Maria Theresa of Austria, in the negotiations that led to the Treaty of Breslau. From 1744 to 1749 he was ambassador to Russia. For his service he was duly rewarded; a Knight of the Thistle, a Privy Councillor and Lord of the Bedchamber.

The house faces  South East at the foot of Carmichael Hill. In front of it Hyndford created a magnificent formal garden, on an epic scale. His design stretched across the valley of the Cleuch Burn with Kirkhill to the left and the prominent Tinto in the distance.

In front of the house were terraces with steps down to a central path that led straight to the ornamental canal or Curling Pond. On either side of the path were plantations with walks laid out in the 'wilderness' fashion. In front of the canal is an elegant stone well head that is however, thought to be early 19th Century.

At the far end of the Curling Pond is a semi-circular amphitheater of three steps and beyond it an avenue that led to the skyline. In the fields on either side   five small circular clumps were planted in a quincunx pattern. It is remarkable that so much of this 18th Century garden survives. Even in its present state the Curling Pond has to be one of the most magnificently sited sporting arenas in Scotland.

The last member of the family to live at Carmichael House was Sir Windham Carmichael-Ansthruther, 25th Baron of Carmichael who lived there until the Second World War. In 1952 he removed the roof to reduce his tax bill and held a demolition sale when all the doors, windows, fireplaces and furnishings were sold, leaving only the walls standing and the urns on the pediment.

The Carmichael's heraldic stone horse and all the beautiful carved stone urns  that once lined the terraces were removed to West Mains.

The old house was surrounded with a commercial pine plantation. Those trees have now reached maturity and the house is hidden by the trees.

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Carmichael Estate

The name Carmichael is territorial and comes from Lanarkshire. An ancient hill fort or caer, close to a main route to the north was chosen by Queen Margaret in 1058 as the site of a church which she dedicated to St. Michael. The local people became known as Carmichael after surnames first became fashionable in the 13th Century.

Kirkhill remains at the heart of the Carmichael estate. This is where the former clan chiefs are buried, at the site of the original church. It belongs at once to a distant past and the future, for all the Carmichaels to follow.

The main entrance to the estate is flanked by two pairs of gate piers supporting eagles and pineapples that were installed in 1750. The eagles indicate Carmichael's status as the headquarters of a chief. Pineapples the sign of an agricultural improver. The lodge was built in 1890. Sadly the gates like so so many others, sacrificed needlessly to the war effort.

Wester Mains on the estate is where Richard Carmichael,  the 30th Chief  of the Clan lives. His family have owned the place since at least the 1370's; a tenure of 800 years, which makes they say, a contender for the oldest family farm in Scotland.

The stone recumbent horse has always adorned the Chief of Carmichael's residence. It was moved to Wester Mains when the mansion  was deroofed in 1952. The Chief explained that at the Battle of Bauge in 1421, Sir John Carmichael killed the Duke of Clarence, brother of Henry V of England, breaking his lance and unhorsing him; hence the family crest features a broken lance. The horse is one of the supporters of the family's arms. Its' recumbent attitude but with one foreleg out stretched and a saddle on its back is a visual reference to the clan's motto, 'Toujour prest'.

The doocot  c1750 is often considered one of the finest in Scotland.

The Carmichaels were created Baronets of Nova Scotia in 1628. The head of the family fought against Charles 1 at Marston Moor in 1644 and against the Marquis of Montrose at the Battle of Philiphaugh in 1645. In 1701 the Carmichael's were created Earls of Hyndford, though the title became extinct in 1817. When the direct line died out, the lands and titles passed to the Ansthruthers, who changed their name to Ansthruther-Carmichael. What's in a name; everything.

The main commercial activities of the Estate are letting their charming and secluded cottages and lodges to holidaymakers and by farmed venison which they sell from  shop and from farmers markets. This wonderful meat was until recently, literally beyond price. The only (legal) way to obtain venison was by having your own deer park, or by knowing someone who did. Not any more!http://www.carmichael.co.uk/Carmichael-House.aspx

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

House of the Binns - Binns Tower

 We can see the tower from our kitchen window. It is a beautiful and uplifting embellishment to the landscape. In the Gothick style, it was built in 1826, on the hill above his house by Sir James Dalyell 5th Bt.,the result of an after dinner wager. Who could come up with the most pointless and witty way of spending £100. Sir James won with his proposal of building the tower on top of his hill to overlook the neighbours' estate. The Hope family was newly rich having made a fortune from banking. Any jibe at their expense was appreciated by the old established families of the district. In the event Sir James spent only £29.10s on its' construction. Tradition has it, that the hill is where the Picts made their last stand against the Romans.

Monday, 22 July 2013

Falkland Palace - The Real Tennis Court

The Real or (Royal) Tennis Court was built in 1539 for James V and is the oldest in Britain. James's daughter, Mary Queen of Scots is said to have shocked courtiers by playing in breeches. The court never had a roof. A long way to Wimbledon, but not far to Dunblane. Alec Salmond did not disappoint during  coverage of Andy Murray's victory. In the Royal Box, he whipped out a big Saltire from Mrs Salmond's handbag, and waved it behind David Cameron, seated in front of him. As quickly as the image appeared it was gone, but not before the whole of Scotland and the Home Counties had seen it. The next day the Prime Minister retaliated by inviting Murray to a greeting on the doorstep of Number 10. 1-0 to Salmond.

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Carberry Hill

This stone, at the edge of a wood on Carberry Hill, marks the place where, after her husband Bothwell's escape, Marie Stuart mounted her horse and surrendered to the Lords of the Congregation, on the afternoon of 15th June 1567. Seldom visited, this place is best visited on foot, or even better on horseback. It used to be my favorite ride. The views from the summit are remarkable; in one direction Fa'Side Castle and across the firth to Fife. In the other Arthur's Seat, Edinburgh, and the Pentland Hills.