Tuesday, 29 December 2015

1st Marquess of Tweeddale

THE MARQUESSES OF TWEEDDALE WERE THE GREATEST LANDOWNERS IN HADDINGTONSHIRE, WITH 20,468 ACRES


This illustrious family, and that of Hay, Earls of Erroll, are descended from a common ancestor, namely,

WILLIAM II DE HAYA, who settled in Lothian more than eight centuries ago, and filled the office of royal butler during the reigns of MALCOLM IV of Scotland and WILLIAM THE LION of Scotland.

From the youngest son of this personage lineally descended

JOHN HAY (1450-1508), who was raised to the peerage, in 1488, as Lord Hay of Yester; which barony descended, uninterruptedly, to

JOHN (1593-1653), 8th Lord, who inherited, at the decease of his father, in 1609, and was created, in 1646, Earl of Tweeddale.
This nobleman married firstly, Lady Jean Seton, daughter of Alexander, 1st Earl of Dunfermline, in 1624; and secondly, Lady Margaret Montgomerie, daughter of Alexander, 6th Earl of Eglinton, in 1641.
His lordship died in 1653, and was succeeded by his son,

JOHN (1626-97), 2nd Earl. This nobleman was advanced, in 1694, to the dignities of Viscount Walden, Earl of Gifford, and MARQUESS OF TWEEDDALE.

He married Lady Jane Scott, daughter of Walter, 1st Earl of Buccleuch, by whom he had five sons and two daughters. His eldest son,

JOHN (1645-1713), 2nd Marquess, who wedded, in 1666, Lady Anne Maitland, only daughter and heiress of John, Duke of Lauderdale, by whom he had three sons. The eldest son,

CHARLES (1670-1715), 3rd Marquess, was succeeded by his son,

JOHN (1695-1762), 4th Marquess, whose son,

GEORGE (1758-70), 5th Marquess, died a minor, when the family honours reverted to his uncle,

GEORGE (1700-87), 6th Marquess, who died without issue, when the family honours reverted to his kinsman,

GEORGE (1753-1804), 7th Marquess, great-grandson of John, the 2nd Marquess (through his youngest son, Lord William Hay).

This nobleman married, in 1785, Lady Hannah Charlotte Maitland, daughter of James, Earl of Lauderdale, by whom he had issue,

GEORGE (1787-1876), 8th Marquess.
The heir presumptive is the present holder's younger brother Lord Alistair James Montagu Hay, Master of Tweeddale (b 1955).


YESTER HOUSE, near Gifford, Haddingtonshire, was built by the architect James Smith for John, 2nd Marquess of Tweeddale.

Smith was assisted by his partner Alexander MacGill and although work began in 1697, progress was slow and the house was not completed for more than 20 years.

By 1729, the 4th Marquess was already planning modernisation. He turned to William Adam, who provided a new roof, some exterior detail and remodelled the interior.

The saloon, by William, John and Robert Adam, was described by painter Gavin Hamilton (1723-98) as "the finest room at least in Scotland".

None of Smith's original interior remains today, but the Adam work is of remarkable quality.

Robert Adam was commissioned once again to restyle the exterior (1789), but only the north side was completed due to Adam's death in 1792.

The architect Robert Brown re-oriented the interior in the 1830s, moving the main entrance to the West. To achieve this, the West wing was demolished.

The original entrance was converted to a dining-room and the garden parlour to a fine drawing-room.

Robert Rowand Anderson made further changes (1877).

The estate was sold after the death of the 12th Marquess in 1967.

In 1972, it was bought by the Italian-American composer Gian Carlo Menotti. After Menotti's death, the house was marketed by his family with a price of between £12 million and £15 million.

The house is said to have a gross internal area of 34,580 square feet.

In September, 2010, the guide price was reduced to £8 million, with the exclusion of 120 hectares (300 acres) of woodlands from the sale; and two months later, it was reported that the house was being purchased by the musician Lady Gaga, although this was denied by the estate agent.
Yester was built on the site of a previous 16th Century tower house, which itself had been a replacement for the original 13th Century Yester Castle, the ruins of which are still to be found a mile to the south-east.
First published in December, 2013.  Tweeddale arms courtesy of European Heraldry.

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Stuart Hall Album

I am indebted to those who send me old pictures of Northern Ireland's proud heritage.

Stuart Hall is a good example.

It gives me great pleasure to post these old images.

The Earls Castle Stewart were the second-greatest landowners in County Tyrone, with 32,615 acres in the 1870s.

Lord and Lady Castle Stewart still live at the estate. 
Stuart Hall was built about 1760.


It was originally a three-storey Georgian block with a pillared porch, joined to an old tower-house by a 19th century Gothic wing.

The top two storeys of the main block were later removed, giving it the appearance of a Georgian bungalow.

The mansion house was burnt by the IRA in July, 1972, and subsequently demolished.


A bungalow was built on the site in 1987.

Stuart Hall was actually larger than it appeared from the entrance front, due to high basement or storey to the rear.
Paul Wood has kindly sent me some old photographs taken by his grandfather, William Homewood, who used to travel with the family to Ireland and Scotland.

His grandmother told him that the people (in the photos) were very kind.

It is thought that the gamekeeper's wife was the housekeeper.
They are ca 1919-22. Paul Wood's mother was brought up at Old Lodge on the estate.

I'm afraid I don't know the names of the gamekeeper and his wife.
I have written at length about Stuart Hall near Stewartstown in County Tyrone.
First published in November, 2010.

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

6th Earl of Erne (1937-2015)

I am deeply saddened to learn of the death of the Right Honourable Henry George Victor John Earl of Erne KCVO today.

Lord Erne was a true friend of Northern Ireland, particularly his beloved Couny Fermanagh and Crom.

He shall be sorely missed.

I convey my sincere condolences to Lord Erne's family.

Ormiston Restoration


I met an old school pal for breakfast at S D Bell's this morning.

I fancied the scrambled eggs and granary toast, which were tip-top.

Major restoration work is progressing today, 23rd December, 2015, at Ormiston, in east Belfast.


Ormiston was the former residence of Sir Edward Harland Bt; and the Viscount Pirrie.


The Hawthornden Road lodge of ca 1867 has a new slate roof and awaits further renovation.

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Tesco Vintage Port

I happened to be at a massive Tesco store near me this morning at nine o'clock and bagged a bot of their finest vintage port, viz. the 1997 Vinho Do Porto, by Symington Family Estates.

Christopher Bellew, on his fine new blog, has apprised us - not to add tipped us off - about this.

It currently costs £16.

Monday, 21 December 2015

Connswater Progress

February, 2015

In February, 2015, I photographed the river Conn's Water at Holywood Arches health centre, Belfast, where the river is culverted for a short distance.

December, 2015

Today I revisited the same location and, as we can see, the Connswater Greenway scheme is progressing well.

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Belvoir House

West front

I am grateful to the Northern Ireland Forestry Service for providing me with photographs of Belvoir House, Newtownbreda, Belfast, which enables me to share my passion and fascination of Belvoir with others.
BELVOIR HOUSE was a large, three storey, mid-18th century mansion set in a demesne of 6,348 acres in 1876.

The top storey was treated as an attic, above the cornice.

It had a seven-bay front and a three-bay break-front centre with four giant Doric pilasters supporting a pediment, flanked by two oculi.

East front

There was a curved bow on the eastern side elevation.

At the apex of the pediment the Bateson baronets' coat-of-arms was prominently displayed, their crest being a bat's wing; and their motto Nocte Volamus.

The great mansion boasted an impressive staircase hall and the stairs had a cast-iron balustrade.

The original owners of Belvoir were the Hill-Trevors, Viscounts Dungannon, who, in turn, sold the estate to the Batesons, Barons Deramore.
Lord Dungannon's seat at Belvoir was probably the largest and grandest private dwelling in Belfast, and remained thus until its deplorable demolition. The only other possible contenders would have been Lord Donegall's Tudor-Revival pile at Ormeau Park; or Orangefield, residence of the Houston family of bankers.
Belvoir House was demolished on the 18th February, 1961, by the NI Forest Service.

The site is now the main car park.

Today the forest park extends to 185 acres.

Belvoir House was considered a candidate for the new Parliament of Northern Ireland as a possible seat of Government before the Stormont Estate was chosen.

Belvoir was also contemplated by HM Government as the official residence of the new Governor of Northern Ireland (Hillsborough Castle, or Government House as it became known, was chosen instead). 
                         
The two governments felt that the surrounding demesne and parkland was too extensive at the time.

The picture at the very top shows the west entrance front, which was opposite the present stable-yard where the RSPB has its office.

The west side of the house was long, so the actual door entrance would have been beyond the stables (the rear courtyard buildings and the conservatory attached to the House, at ground floor level, cannot be seen in the picture).

North front

The picture immediately above shows the garden front with its portico, facing northwards towards the motte and the formal gardens below.

The Irish Aesthete has written about the house and posted several good images.

Ben Simon has published A Treasured Landscape: The Heritage Of Belvoir Park.

First published in May, 2009.

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Skillin's Wood


I spent the morning at Skillin's Wood, near Greyabbey, County Down, this morning.

I met Tomasz and other National Trust volunteers at the Mount Stewart schoolhouse, where we gathered the equipment and drove the mile or two to the wood.


Skillin's Wood overlooks the village of Greyabbey on the inside; and Mid Island to its west.


There were fourteen of us today.


Our task was to construct a wattle fence bird "lookout" at the shoreline.

We finished at about one o'clock, motored back to the schoolhouse, and all congregated for the annual Christmas party.


Sausage-rolls, cocktail sausages, chicken, quiche, chilli con carne, soup, more nibbles, a Yule log, chocolate cake, crisps and much more bore down on the table.

I think Maureen made the Yule-log and Christmas cake - sumptuous, Maureen; thank you!


One of the long-term volunteers, Sebastian, was leaving, so we presented him with two wildlife books and a card.

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Balfour of Balbirnie

THE FAMILY OF BALFOUR OF BALBIRNIE WERE THE LARGEST LANDOWNERS IN THE COUNTY OF FIFE, WITH 10,590 ACRES

The surname of Balfour was originally assumed from the barony and castle of Balfour, a beautiful seat, standing near the confluence of the rivers Ore and Leven.

And so early as 1229, we find Ingelram de Balfour, Vicecomes de Fife, a witness to a charter granted to the monastery of Aberbrothwick.

The family of Balfour was originally styled 'of Dovan'.

ANDREW BALFOUR filled the office of Sheriff Depute of Fife, in 1483. His son,

JOHN BALFOUR, of Lawlethan, by 1499, had received a charter of Dovan from Andrew Laundin of Balgonie, which he proceeded to share between his sons,
Thomas, of Dovan;
David, of Lawlethan (d 1546).
The estates passed uniterruptedly until 1596, when the Dovan family found themselves in impecunious circumstances; and thereafter the property was mortgaged to the Pitcairns of Forthar.

Due to the grant of 1499, Martin Balfour of Lawlethan was able to prove his right to some of the lands of Dovan, enabling the right to the lands to be sold to Sir Andrew Balfour of Montquhannie.

Martin Balfour of Lawlethan, dying in 1624, and was succeeded by

GEORGE BALFOUR, 1ST OF BALBIRNIE (d 1665), who became a clothier in London and Edinburgh, and purchased the estate of Balbirnie, in 1642. His eldest son,

ROBERT BALFOUR, 2ND OF BALBIRNIE (1641-1713), whose younger sons succeeded in turn to Lawlethan, which estate was finally lost to creditors in 1692. His son,

GEORGE BALFOUR, 3RD OF BALBIRNIE (1664-1743), bought back Lawlethan in 1716. His son,

ROBERT BALFOUR, 4TH OF BALBIRNIE (1698-1766), was later styled Balfour-Ramsay after his marriage to Ann, daughter of  Sir Andrew Ramsay Bt, of Whitehill, in 1736. He was MP for Edinburghshire, 1751-54. His eldest son,

JOHN BALFOUR, 5TH OF BALBIRNIE (1739-1813), purchased the estates of Dovan and Forthar, and of Whittingehame, Haddington, in East Lothian. His eldest son,

LIEUTENANT-GENERAL ROBERT BALFOUR, 6TH OF BALBIRNIE (1772-1837), of Balbirnie House,
whose younger brother, James Maitland Balfour, inherited Whittingehame and married Lady Blanche Cecil, daughter to the 2nd Marquis of Salisbury.
Their son, the Rt Hon Sir Arthur James Balfour, KG OM DL, became Prime Minister and was later created 1st Earl of Balfour.
He was succeeded by his eldest son,

COLONEL JOHN BALFOUR JP DL, 7TH OF BALBIRNIE (1811-95), of Balbirnie House, whose eldest son, Robert, served in the Grenadier Guards and died of wounds received at the Battle of Tel el Kebir in Egypt in 1882. His second son,

EDWARD BALFOUR JP DL, 8TH OF BALBIRNIE (1849-1927), of Balbirnie House, whose eldest son, Robert, was killed in action in 1914. His younger son,

BRIGADIER EDWARD WILLIAM STURGIS BALFOUR CVO DSO OBE JP DL, 9TH OF BALBIRNIE (1884-1955), of Balbirnie House, served in the 1st World War; DSO, 1915; OBE, 1919. His son,

MAJOR JOHN CHARLES BALFOUR MC JP DL, 10TH OF BALBIRNIE (1919-2008), of Balbirnie House, served in North Africa and Europe in the 2nd World War and was awarded the Military Cross in 1942; DL and JP for Fife, 1957-58; and Vice Lord-Lieutenant for Fife, 1988-96.

Robert Balfour, present and 11th of Balbirbie, owns and manages the Balbirnie estate, which comprises 5,000 acres.


BALBIRNIE HOUSE, Glenrothes, Fife, was completed in 1817 as a re-build of an 18th-century building, itself a replacement for a 17th-century dwelling.

The home of the Balfour family from 1640, the house was sold in 1969 and opened as a hotel in 1990.

The grounds now comprise a large public park and a golf course.

Ca 1640, the Balbirnie estate was acquired by the family of Balfour.

A 17th-century house on the estate was remodelled or replaced in the later 18th century for John Balfour.

The architecture of these works, completed around 1782, has been attributed to both James Nisbet and to John Baxter, Junior.


In 1815, further changes were begun by General Balfour, to designs by the architect Richard Crichton.

Some £16,000 was spent on extending the south-west front, and constructing the portico at the south-east.

At the same time, the landscape gardener Thomas White provided plans for the improvement of the 18th-century parkland.

Further alterations, comprising offices, were carried out in 1860.

The plant collection was expanded from the mid-19th century with seeds sent from India by George Balfour, a friend of plant collector William Hooker.

In 1969, the house and estate was acquired by the Glenrothes Development Corporation, who were then building the new town of Glenrothes.

A golf course was laid out in the grounds, while the house was converted into council offices.

The mansion house was sold to a private owner who redeveloped it as a 30-bedroom hotel, opened in 1990 by the Rt Hon Sir Malcolm Rifkind KCMG QC MP, then Secretary of State for Scotland.

416 acres of parkland and woodland remain in the ownership of Fife Council as a public park.

Robert Balfour, the present and 11th of Balbirnie, owns and manages the Balbirnie estate itself.

The Balfours had a town residence at 14 Carlton House Terrace, London.

Monday, 14 December 2015

The Cranberry Sauce


Cranberry Sauce was made today at Belmont GHQ.

Having obtained the requisite main ingredient, caster sugar is dissolved with some water in a saucepan.


The juice of a clementine and its finely-grated zest is added; and a glass of port.

Thereafter the berries are added and the mixture is simmered for ten or fifteen minutes, until the desired consistency is reached.


The sauce will be refrigerated till required.

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Killynether Woods

I haven't been to Killynether Woods since January, 2014.

Killynether, near Newtownards, County Down, has been a property of the National Trust since 1937, when it was bequeathed by Miss J H Weir.


It comprises 42 acres.

Today we were coppicing hazel, as we usually do.


There must have been about ten of us today.

We lunched under a birch tree; and, for a change (!) I munched on chicken and sweetcorn sandwiches.

Most of of spent five hours coppicing and gathering the branches, which will be used for fencing.

The Colquhoun Baronets

THE COLQUHOUN BARONETS WERE THE GREATEST LANDOWNERS IN DUNBARTONSHIRE, WITH 67,041 ACRES

This is a Scottish family of great antiquity, which has enjoyed a Scottish baronetcy since 1625.
The earliest surname under which the family of COLQUHOUN can be traced is that of Kilpatrick. Sir John Colquhoun of Luss was a descendant of Umphredus de Kilpatrick.
That patent was resigned, however, in 1704, by Sir Humphrey Colquhoun, 5th Baronet, upon condition of its being renewed to his son-in-law, James Grant (1679-1747), who thereafter assumed the name of Colquhoun.

SIR JAMES COLQUHOUN (1714-86), the eighth successor to the patent of 1704, was created a baronet in 1786.

He wedded, in 1772, Mary, one of the co-heiresses of James Falconer, and granddaughter of Lord Falconer of Halkerton, by whom he had issue,

SIR JAMES COLQUHOUN (1741-1805), 2nd Baronet, of Luss, Dunbartonshire, who married, in 1802, Janet, daughter of Sir John Sinclair Bt, of Ulbster.

ROSSDHU HOUSE, near Luss, Dunbartonshire, was built in 1773 to replace a castle the Colquhouns had lived in since the 15th century.

In 1772, (Sir) James Colquhoun had begun to build the present house, which was originally what is now the central block, and completed it in the following year.

Later that year, the celebrated Dr. Johnson and Mr. Boswell were entertained at Rossdhu on their renowned tour of the Hebrides.

His son, Sir James, 2nd Baronet, was a friend and correspondent of Horace Walpole, to whom he gave a goat's horn snuff-mull, was a connoisseur and collector of paintings, landscapes in particular, engravings, ancient coins and rare old china.

The 3rd Baronet lived with discernment during the good taste of the Regency: He enlarged the house, adding two wings and the portico, using the stone from the old castle.

Sir James made the long south drive along the lochside, and built its two superb entrance lodges joined by a beautiful archway surmounted by the Colquhoun heraldic emblems, that form together an architectural gem on the side of the main road.

Draining the marshy "moss" that had guarded the landward side of the castle in the Middle Ages, but was no longer needed to protect the house, Sir James turned it into a deer park and enclosed the policies within a park wall.

Sir James, 4th Baronet and 28th Chief, tragically drowned in Loch Lomond in 1873. He was Lord Lieutenant of Dunbartonshire, as was was his son, Sir James, 5th Baronet, who was visited at Rossdhu by Queen Victoria in 1875.

The 5th Baronet's second wife inherited and sold many of Rossdhu's ancestral treasures when he died in 1907 and was succeeded by his cousin Sir Alan, 6th Baronet and 30th of Luss, KCB (1838-1910).

The Colquhouns signed a 100-year lease for the Estate -  to be made into a golf course -  to Tom Weiskopf's design, with Rossdhu serving as the Clubhouse.

Loch Lomond Golf Club opened in 1994, and has hosted the revived Scottish Open for a number of years.

The Colquhouns only moved a few hundred yards closer to Luss, to take up residence in the former Rossdhu dower house at Camstradden.

The Luss Estate today extends to some 45,000 acres.

First published in December, 2013.

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Man about Town

I ventured into central Belfast this morning.

The little grey cells have been chugging away, considering a special gift for my godmother.

Having alighted at Donegall Square North, opposite City Hall, my eyes were drawn to Molton Brown, supplier of toiletries to the royal household.

Their GHQ seems to be at Shaftesbury Avenue in London.

My mission has come to a happy conclusion, having been served by lovely Catherine in the said shop.

As it happens, I wasn't aware that they received a royal warrant in 2013.

Thereafter I darkened the threshold of possibly the longest established optometrists in Belfast, Petticrew's, of Cornmarket, established in 1887.

I was warmly greeted by Andrew Petticrew, who happened to observe my overcoat.

I was wearing a traditional olive covert overcoat, which I bought in 2001.

Andrew remarked that he owned a very similar one.

Andrew Petticrew is one of the most amicable optometrists you're likely to encounter in Belfast.

In fact, I was there to look at reading glasses and I was given a complimentary pair, despite offering to pay.

If you are reading this, Andrew, may I convey my sincere gratitude? They were put to good use within five minutes.

Belfast has its annual Christmas Market in the grounds of City Hall, so I had a brief look before going home.

Mourne Seafood Bar's Lobster Burger
I have to confess that the Mourne Seafood Bar's Lobster Burger sounded tempting at £7.

Saturday, 5 December 2015

Spanish State Visit

His Majesty the King of Spain, FELIPE VI, accompanied by Queen Letizia, has accepted an invitation from Her Majesty The Queen to pay a state visit to the United Kingdom from the 8th until the 10th March, 2016.

Their Majesties will stay at Windsor Castle.

The last State Visit from Spain was by King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia in 1986.

The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh paid a State Visit to Spain in 1988.

Thursday, 3 December 2015

December Bride's Domain

Simmy Island from Island Taggart

Sam Hanna Bell, MBE,  the celebrated Ulster-Scot novelist and playwright, was brought up at Strangford Lough, County Down, a part of the Province that I know fairly well.

In 1951, he wrote the acclaimed December Bride, a story based in the vicinity of the lough about a servant girl and her relationship with two brothers in conservative Ulster.

Sadly, he died just before the said book's film première.

The 1991 movie was shot in and around Island Taggart, at the derelict farmstead on the top of the island.

Yesterday I was on the beloved 85-acre island again, with eleven other volunteers.

It has been owned by the National Trust since 1985, when it was the property of Paddy Mackie.


I shan't bore you with the details of what we were doing (gorse!), though I shall post a few photographs.

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

1st Duke of Buccleuch

THE DUKES OF BUCCLEUCH AND QUEENSBURY WERE THE GREATEST LANDOWNERS IN DUMFRIESSHIRE, WITH 254,179 ACRES

SIR WALTER SCOTT (1565-1611), knight,
a desendant of Sir Richard le Scot of Murthoxton (now Murdostoun), in Lanarkshire; a powerful chieftain, and a military commander of renown in the Netherlands under the Prince of Orange, Sir Walter was created Lord Scott of Buccleuch, in 1606.
His son,

WALTER, 2nd Lord, was, in 1619, elevated to the dignity of Earl of Buccleuch. This nobleman died in 1633, and leaving no male issue, his eldest daughter,

MARY, became Countess of Buccleuch. Her ladyship married Walter Scott of Harden, but dying childless, the family honours devolved upon her sister,

ANNE (1651-1732), who wedded the unfortunate Duke of Monmouth, illegitimate son of CHARLES II.

In 1663, Their Graces were created DUKE AND DUCHESS OF BUCCLEUCH, Earl and Countess of Dalkeith, and Baron and Baroness Whitechester and Eskdale, with remainder to their heirs male.
The English honours of the Duke of Monmouth, Earl of Doncaster, and Baron Tindale, as well as his Scottish dukedom of Buccleuch, were forfeited upon the execution of that unhappy nobleman for high treason.

The peerages enjoyed by the Duchess, however, in her own right (Duchess of Buccleuch), were not affected by the attainder.
The offspring of this union were James, Earl of Dalkeith, and Henry, created Earl of Deloraine, Viscount Hermitage, and Baron Scott, in 1706, which titles expired with the 4th Earl in 1807.

The Duchess married secondly, Charles, 3rd Lord Cornwallis, and at Her Grace's demise, in 1732, was succeeded by her grandson,

FRANCIS, 2nd Duke (1695-1751), son of Lord Dalkeith.

His lordship obtained a restoration of the earldom of Doncaster, and barony of Scott, of Tindale, in 1743.
He wedded, in 1720, Lady Jane, eldest daughter of James, 2nd Duke of Queensbury, by whom he had issue, a son, and three daughters who died unmarried, with Francis, Earl of Dalkeith, who died in the lifetime of his father, but left a son, Henry, and a posthumous daughter by his countess, Caroline, eldest daughter and co-heiress of John, Duke of Argyll.
The Duke of Buccleuch married a second time, Miss Powell; by whom, however, His Grace had no issue.

The Duke died in 1751, and was succeeded by his grandson,

HENRY, 3rd Duke (1746-1812), KG KT;
Seats ~ Bowhill, Selkirk; Boughton House, Kettering; Drumlanrig Castle, Thornhill, Dumfriesshire.

The Dukes also owned 17,965 acres of land in Northamptonshire.


DRUMLANRIG CASTLE, Thornhill, Dumfriesshire, was built in the late 1600s by William, 1st Duke of Queensbury, on the site of the former 14th & 15th century Douglas stronghold.

The present Castle was created as a mansion in the 17th century, by which time defensive ramparts had given way to comfortable living and large, airy windows.

An earlier, more defensive castle had been built in the middle of the 14th century by the Douglases.

Drumlanrig is built of local pink sandstone on a hill (Drum) at the end of a long ridge overlooking the Nithsdale Hills and the valley of the river Nith.

It was rebuilt with a central courtyard and was in a good enough state to receive JAMES VI on his visit to Scotland in 1617.

Between 1679-91, William, 3rd Earl of Queensberry (later 1st Duke) built a new, large mansion, following the earlier courtyard layout.

Despite almost bankrupting himself as a result of creating his new home, the Duke spent only one night in the building, decided he didn't like it - and returned to Sanquhar Castle.

His son, however, moved in after inheriting the title and estates. Bonnie Prince Charlie spent a night there on his retreat from Derby.


After being allowed to become derelict in the 18th century, Drumlanrig passed to the Duke of Buccleuch, head of the Scott family, in 1810, following a merger of the Douglas and Scott dynasties.

The castle was restored in 1827 and is still the Dumfriesshire home of the Duke of Buccleuch and Queensberry (though his main residence is at Bowhill House in the Scottish Borders).

It is also home to part of the internationally renowned Buccleuch Art Collection. featuring such treasures as Rembrandt’s The Old Woman Reading as well as many other fine paintings, tapestries and objects d’art.

Grand reception rooms, magnificent staircases and ornate period features sit happily beside cosy parlours and the Stableyard, now housing the Stableyard Studios and Stableyard Cafe.

First published in November, 2013.   Buccleuch arms courtesy of European Heraldry.

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Museum Trip

Once Upon A Time, by Arlene McPadden

I visited the Ulster Museum briefly this afternoon.

Stranmillis Road was as busy as ever, so I drove across to College Gardens, almost opposite Deane's at Queen's restaurant.

There was an exhibition by the Royal Ulster Academy at the museum.


A painting of Paddy Mackie at Castle Espie, County Down, by Julian Friers particularly impressed me; as did an exhibit by Arlene McPadden.

Thereafter I went for a stroll at the University quarter.


Almost all of Upper Crescent is for sale or to let.

It's such a shame that the present owners allowed this fine terrace to deteriorate to such a degree.

Nevertheless, let us hope that new owners shall be more sympathetic to one of the city's finest terraces.

Saturday, 28 November 2015

Princess Royal in Belfast

The Princess Royal, Patron, the Mary Peters Trust, accompanied by Vice-Admiral Sir Tim Laurence, attended a Fortieth Anniversary Dinner at City Hall, Donegall Square, Belfast, on Saturday, 28th November, 2015, and was received by Her Majesty's Lord-Lieutenant of the County Borough of Belfast (Mrs. Fionnuala Jay-O'Boyle CBE).

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Island Taggart Trip


I've spent the day with seven other National Trust volunteers on Island Taggart, one of the largest islands on Strangford Lough, County Down.

We met in Killyleagh and took the little boat from an old quay across to Taggart.


Today we were mainly gathering gorse and brambles for burning.


We have a new trolley cart. It is black, with collapsible sides, and can carry up to about 300 kilogrammes.


This cart, which has four pneumatic tyres, proved useful for the logs and tools.

I lunched on tuna and sweetcorn sandwiches today.