Sunday, 22 July 2012

Renton Hill Fort, Dunbartonshire

                                                                         View Renton Hill Fort in a larger map

Today I went out with a group from the Scottish Wildlife Trust to Renton in Dunbartonshire to explore the area for flora and fauna around the Carmen Reservoir. The day started bright and sunny, but as the train arrived at Renton railway station at 10.35, it had turned cloudy and a little cold.

Walk leader, David, was very knowledgeable on plants and wildlife and during the walk he pointed out many thing of interest which I would have missed if I had been walking by myself. The soil around Renton has an underlying stratum of calcium carbonate and this is a suitable environment for orchids to grow.

Common Spotted Orchid
 Common Spotted Orchid

There were a large number of Common Spotted Orchids seen throughout the walk- there are one of over 50 wild orchid species in Britain. The close-up view of the petals below shows the pattern in greater detail.

Close-up of Common Spotted Orchid
More Orchids

Another plant which David pointed out was Sneezewart. This plant has medicinal uses and the leaves can be eaten raw or cooked to treat a variety of medical conditions. The leaf is chewed to relieve toothache. The dried, powdered leaves can be used as a sneezing powder and as an insect repellent.

 Red Clover

Another plant which can be used for medicinal purposes, Red clover, was also seen on the walk. This can be used to treat conditions such as whooping cough, respiratory problems and skin inflammations. It is also thought it helps to purify the blood by helping the body to get rid of excess fluid.

Red Clover
Whorled Caraway Yarrow

This flower favours a westerly location and is found in west Scotland, Cornwall, south west Wales and south west Ireland. It favours damp conditions - the area around Renton is quite boggy in places and is a rare flower.

Whorled Caraway Yarrow

While on the walk we also saw a Kestrel, some Meadow Pippits and some butterflies and moths. I managed to get photographs of two moths - Six Spot Burnet Moth and an unidentified one.

Six Spot Burnet Moth
The Six Spot Burnet Moth is a day-flying moth which can be seen between June and August. As the above photograph shows, it is quite an attractive moth.

A baby frog was also spotted in the grass and I managed to get a photograph. It was tiny, but fortunately nobody stood on it.

Bog Pimpernel

This is another rare plant found in boggy ground. It is common in England but very rarely found in Scotland. There were quite a few plants in a small area.

Bog Pimpernel
 Bog Asphodel (Bone Breaker)

Another plant found in peaty soil. Bog Asphodel is also know as 'bone breaker' as it was once thought that if cattle ate it their bones would become brittle. However, this is more likely due to the plant growing on calcium-deficient soil than the plant itself.

Bone Breaker

The walk was on very marshy ground and there were a few small hills to climb, but nothing too strenouous.

Walking group

Excellent views of the River Clyde and the surrounding area could be seen from the higher ground. Greenock, Kilcreggan and Argyle were in view to the west. To the south, Whitelees Windfarm in Eaglesham could be seen in the distance.

View to the West
The walk concluded at Carman Reservoir. On the reservoir a pair of adult Coot and a juvenile were seen on the water, along with a Little Grebe.We then walked the short distance up the Renton to Cardross road and arrived back at the point where we had started earlier in the day.

It had been an enjoyable and interesting day.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Linlithgow Palace - Birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots

                                                                                   View Linlithgow in a larger map
I have often passed through Linlithgow on the train when travelling from Glasgow to Edinburgh and decided that it was time to stop at this historic town to visit the birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots in Linlithgow Palace.

This impressive building can be seen as the train approaches the station and it is only a short walk from there to the palace. The palace is now a ruin, but is still worth visiting because of its historical significance. It is managed by Historic Scotland, a government body. At the height of its splendour, the palace was one of the finest in Europe.

St Michael's Church Spire

The modern main entrance was built for King James V around 1535 and gave access to the ‘peel’ or outer enclosure surrounding the palace. Above the arch are carved the arms of the four European Orders of Chivalry to which James V belonged: the Garter, bestowed by his uncle Henry VIII of England, the Thistle, which James himself founded, the Golden Fleece, given him by the Emperor Charles V and St Michael by Francis I of France. 

Modern entrance to Linlithgow Palace

Next to the entrance is St Michael's Church, which was used as a place of worship by Scottish Kings and Queens. Mary Queen of Scots was baptised there. The aluminium crown at the top of the tower was built in 1964 and represents the crown of thorns placed on the head of Christ by the Roman soldiers just before his crucifixion.

Inside the Palace

North side of the palace with east side on right and west side on left

East side (left) and north side (right)

The palace is completely enclosed and it must have been a magnificent sight when in use.  In the courtyard is a fountain which was built by James V around 1538. It is in tiers, with a crown at the top representing the king's superiority. A Christian Cross sits on top of the crown to represent the authority of God. On some days the fountain is fully functioning, but on my visit it was turned off.

When the fountain was being made, the stonemason made a mistake and left a piece of stone sticking out so fashioned it into a small dog. The young Mary loved this part of the fountain and the stonemason received a pay rise for it. The small dog can be see in the photograph below:

Small dog carving
Small dog carving at bottom right

The east side is the oldest of the four sides of the palace and dates from1430. The main entrance was originally on this side. The Great Hall is situated in this part of the palace.

The Great Hall

The Great hall had one of the finest interiors in Scotland. This is where large banquets would be held, as well as sittings of parliament. It is a very large room and has a magnificent fireplace which was added in 1500 by James IV. This fireplace has three compartments which could accommodate a large tree trunk.

Fireplace in Great Hall

Royal Apartments

The apartments, situated in the west side of the palace, were built in the reign of James IV in around 1500 and conisist of a king's hall, king's presence chamber and king's bedchamber. Both Mary Queen of Scots and her father James V were born in the Royal Apartments in Linlithgow Palace.  

Presence Chamber from above

The king's hall was the largest room where the king could meet his subjects and contained few furnishings. The presence chamber was where the king could meet his guests. More important people would meet the king in the presence chamber. The king's bedchamber was the most important room and only close friends would have access to this room. The king's strongroom was also in his bedchamber and was accessed by a small hatch on the floor.

The fireplace in the bedchamber is unusual as it has a small closet where the king could sit to get warmed up. It also was used as a hiding place if the palace was invaded. To avoid suffocation, it was well ventilated.
Fireplace in king's bedchamber with chamber in the left
 North Range

This dates from the 1620's in the reign of James VI after the previous one collapsed. It had four floors and comprised mainly of living accommodation, except for the first floor which had the long gallery or principal room.

Long gallery

A basement was at the bottom and the rest of the north range was used as accommodation for courtiers and officials of the royal household. In total there were 14 two-roomed suites and 39 fireplaces. From the north range there are good views of Linlithgow Loch.

In 1746 a fire started in the north range and quickly spread to the whole palace.

Queen Margaret's Bower

At the corners of each of the areas of the castle are towers reached by turnpike stairs. Only one is open to the public, Queen Margaret's Bower. At the top of this tower, situated between the west and north range, is a small chamber with wall seats. Queen Margaret sat there in the autumn of 1513 to await the return of her husband, James IV, from Flodden where the Scots were fighting the English. Sadly her husband never returned, having being killed in battle.


The Stewart Kings believed in 'devine right' ie their powers conferred by God. The small chapel was built by James IV around 1492 and about the only clues that the room was used as a chapel are small crossed carved into the wall. There are six visible now, although there probably were more.  

Cross engraved on wall of chapel
Ground Floors

These were used for storage and for stabling the horses. The guardsroom was also and there was a small underground prison with no light of ventilation. Children were lowered into the prison in a basket, women were lowered on a rope and the men were thrown down into the prison.  As it was quite a distance from the ground, many men must have suffered broken bones.


The original entrance was on the east side and it can be seen above. There was a drawbridge into the palace and above the entrance were the royal arms flanked by a pair of angels. The long slots to the fight of the entrance held the beams from which the drawbridge was suspended.

Royal apartments and north range

The palace overlooks Linlithgow Loch and is an important area for wildlife and plants. It was formed in the last Ice Age when a large piece of ice from a glacier was left in the land which caused a depression when it melted. Daubenton's Bats feed on the loch at night. The loch is also home to many waterfowl including great crested grebes and mute swans.

The walk around the loch is 2.5 miles and gives good views of the north range and royal apartments from a distance.
Guided Tours

Costumed junior guides are available to take visitors round the palace. There is so much to see inside the palace and it is possible to spend 2-3 hours there and another hour walking around the Loch outside the palace.

The history of Linlithgow Palace is fascinating and a visit to the palace gives a better understanding of it.

Further Information

Address: Kirkgate  Linlithgow, West Lothian EH49 7AL

Opening Hours: 

1 April - 30 September, Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun, 9.30 am to 5.30 pm

1 October - 31 March, Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun, 9.30 am to 4.30 pm

Saturday, 7 July 2012

The 'Glenlee' Sailing Ship, Glasgow

View Tall Ship Glasgow in a larger map
The 'Glenlee' is one of only 5 Clyde-built sailing ships left in the world and is berthed outside the new Riverside Museum on the River Clyde in Glasgow. She is also known as the 'Tall Ship' and it is a fitting tribute to her that she has been 'retired' to the city of her birth. 

Glenlee's reflection on windows of Riverside Museum
History of the Glenlee

The 'Glenlee' was built in 1896 by Anderson Rodger and Company for Sterling and Company of Glasgow. Within two years she was sold to Ferguson's of Dundee and at the start of the 20th Century was sold again to R Thomas and Co., managers of the Flint Castle Shipping Company of Liverpool and renamed the 'Islamount'. Under the name of the Islamount she travelled all over the world to places such as Rotterdam, Vancouver, Perti, Chile and Falmouth. 

Glenlee's Deck
 First World War and After

During the First World War she was used by the British Merchant Navy as a cargo vessel. She made her last voyage for the merchant navy in November 1919, sailing from Java to Cette in France with a cargo of sugar. 

 Italian and Spanish Owners

She was then sold to Italian owners in Genoa and given her third name, Clarastella, but only for a very short time before being sold to the Spanish Navy in 1922, as a training vessel. She was renamed the 'Galatea' and was powered by diesel engines and was able to carry 17 officers, 30 petty officers and 260 ratings and boys. 

It is doubtful if she would have survived if she had not been bought by the Spanish Navy.

Glenlee's Wheel
 Clyde Maritime Trust Purchases the Glenlee

She remained as a training vessel until 1969, when she was decommissioned, until being discovered in 1990 in Seville Harbour. She was bought at auction by the Clyde Maritime Trust and cost 40,000 GBP to buy and a further 20,000 GBP to insure, before being towed back to Glasgow and restored. Originally she was berthed at Yorkhill Quay, but was moved further up the Clyde to her new home outside the Harbourside Museum in Glasgow in Spring 2011. 

Below the Glenlee's Decks
 Historic Vessel

In November 1999 it was announced that the Glenlee was recognised as part of the Core Collection of historic vessels in the UK and is one of only 43 vessels recognised by the National Historic Ships Committee as being important in maritime heritage.

Glenlee's Anchor
 The Glenlee Today

Today the Glenlee is open to members of the public who can visit for a small fee of 5.00 GBP. Volunteers help maintain the ship and she can also be hired out for events. It is worth visiting the Glenlee when in Glasgow and take a walk along her decks. She is a reminder of the a bygone age when the banks of the River Clyde were filled with shipyards building some of the best sailing vessels in the world.

Glenlee's Bell
The other remaining Clyde-built sailing ships are:
  • Balclutha (San Francisco)
  • Moshulu (Philadelphia)
  • Falls of the Clyde (Hawaii)
  • Pommern (Finland)
Technical Details

Builder:      A. Rodger & Company of Port Glasgow
 Thursday, 03 December 1896
Ship Type:  
3 masted Barque
Sail Area:   
25,000 sq. Ft.
 1613 grt
 245.5 feet
 37.5 feet
22.5 feet

 Further Information
100 Pointhouse Place
Glasgow, Glasgow City G3 8RS

Summer Opening

March- October 10am-5pm

Winter Opening

November- February 10am-4pm

Travelling Information

By Train/Underground:

Take a low-level train or Underground to Partick station.  The Tall Ship is approximately 8 minutes walk from here

By Bus:

First Bus runs a service number 100, between George Square, The Tall Ship/Riverside and Kelvingrove Art Galleries. Service is approximately every 15 minutes.

By Car:

From the M8 west bound take junction 19 on to the Clydeside expressway (A814), or east bound via the Clyde tunnel and head towards the city centre. Follow the brown tourist signs for The Tall Ship.