Angus: Dundee, Arbroath, Brechin
Ø July 23 Dundee and Aberdeen (Tuesday) Link to more picture here.
When planning my trip, prior to having Mandra ask to join me, my itinerary was to leave Edinburgh by train for Dundee, “park” my bag to see the two cathedrals there, then proceed north by train to Montrose, where I would again leave my bag to take a bus to and from Brechin, before the final train leg to Aberdeen. The Montrose plan was difficult, as it is a small town with no bag storage options. I began looking at hiring a taxi to bring me and the bag to Brechin and back, but the cab firm was being difficult. Then Mandra planned to join me, and that would involve more non-cathedral stops.
So I hunted around and found a private Blue Badge guide named Elma. Working by email with both of us, we developed an itinerary for the day where Mandra and I would take an hour train ride north to meet her, and we would the travel in her car as we visited places from both of our lists.
At the Haymarket flat in Edinburgh we were up, packed, cleaned up the flat and out to the train station with 15 minutes to spare. The Arbroath train at 9:03 got us to Leuchars in an hour, and allowed me to get some shots of the suspension bridge while under way. At Leuchars Elma meet us on the platform. Up the ramp and over the tracks, we descended and go both bags into the trunk. We headed northwest to the approach for the Tay Road Bridge so that we could look at the shipyards of #Dundee where drilling platform repairs were underway.
After crossing the River Tay (the train crosses further upstream passing through Wormit), we headed up to the #DundeeLaw. A volcanic plug, it sits high above the city affording a splendid view. A Wullie was situated just under a radio-microwave tower, and Mandra and I learned of
Elma’s passion for taking his photos as she discovers a new one. Winding our way down the hill, we pulled into Overgate Mall parking lot. Exiting the shopping complex, we walked a bit on pedestrian friendly plazas and streets before venturing into the Cathedral Church of St Paul, the Scottish Episcopal see. With an extremely narrow entry footprint on the street,
the dominating stone spire is up three sets of steps from the sidewalk. Widening behind the tower, the axis is more northwest (entrance) to southeast (high altar) and is set between the backs of shops on Castle and Commercial Streets. The manse sits at the corner of High and Commercial, above the retail space.
The white stone arches in the nave are gothic, supporting the dark wooden vault. Fixed wooden pews run from the center aisle to the side aisle along the columns and continue to the outside walls. The high altar has a mosaic reredos with carved stone ornamentation. Stained-glass windows are darker, Victorian in period, filling the window arches around the nave and apse. Above the entrance, a loft had a window, but too much light came through to distinguish.
Returning to High Street, we walked past the photo op Desperate Dan Statue, a familiar cartoon character in Britain. More Wullies popped up here and there. As we were leaving the pedestrian space outside the combined Steeple and St Marys churches, Meadowside St Paul’s sat on the corner and caught my eye. Another 4-5 doors down was the Cathedral Church of St Andrew positioned as St Paul’s is, similarly on the southeast side of the street. Seat for the Catholic Diocese of Dunkeld since 1923, it was built in 1836 with a Victorian Gothic façade. With a light gray stone front, the rectangular layout has an open nave with white walls and a blue ceiling. The altars are both raised, up red carpeted stairs from the main floor, with a simple trellis table (following Vatican II changes) in front of the older high altar and reredos with paintings of musical angels. The pipe organ is in the loft over the rear entrance.
Walking back towards the Mall, Irma had us stop in Tesco to select a premade sandwich which we took across the street and sat on the wall surrounding the green of Steeple Church. With Dundee so near the sea, gulls were aggressively attempting to get what they perceived as their share of our lunch. Finishing up quickly, we entered the mall, found our way to the car, and exited out of town to the east. We stopped at #Carnoustie where we looked at the beach and the short course of the (sometime host of the) British Open.
Next stop was #Arbroath, a coastal town that is the site of the former Arbroath Abbey and famous for the 1320 Declaration of Arbroath, a Scottish parliament missive to the Pope relating the services of Robert the Bruce and affirming the independence of Scots. Of interest to Mandra were the #PictishStones and carvings which have been recovered during recent restorations. Alighting from the car, our passes got us into the museum and property. Similar to what I’d viewed of the ruins at St Andrew’s Cathedral, remains of stone walls and pillar footings outline where buildings had been. Climbing wherever I could, I enjoyed exploring the property in the brilliant sunshine. After 40 minutes we got back in the car.
Our route took us pretty close to north, through Friockheim to Brechin. Since medieval times, this inland town has been a religious and educational center. In #Brechin, the tributary Skinner’s Burn flows into the River South Esk which feeds into the wide natural harbor at Montrose in Angus. Originally dedicated to the Holy Trinity, the Brechin Cathedral now is a
Church of Scotland parish church. Alterations in the 13th and 14th centuries were subsequently undone due to neglect following the Reformation. Restorations began in 1806, which are now considered as having done more damage than good. Walls and ceilings have been put up about a hundred years later, and the building approaches its original state. A cruciform layout, with the altar at the east, and main entry to the north, it feels like a wonderful small Gothic church. With a steeple tower and a tall narrow round tower to the west, the chancel is to the east. There is simplicity, without a screen, of open choir benches and a carved wooden altar in front of 5 armless chairs.
Many older stones: grave markers, memorials, statues are on display, including some historic finds. The stained-glass is twentieth century, with bold drawings portraying a strong message. Old mixes well with new, evidencing a vibrant church. Outside, the gravestones combine the ancient lore with the fashion of the times. After an hour (it was approaching 5) we headed back to the car.
Leaving Brechin, we were some 40 miles from our B&B destination in Aberdeen, and still had a few stops to make. We backtracked to the #Aberlemno Pictish Stones. The Crescent Stone, The Serpent Stone, The Roadside Cross and The Churchyard Cross: all predate the Norman Conquest and are marvels to observe out in the elements. Research continues to attempt to decipher the hidden messages of these carvings from a people driven to near extinction by those Frenchmen.
Approaching Stonehaven, we pulled off to a bluff overlooking #Dunnottar Castle. Medieval fortress, the ruins are set out on a rocky headland with a phenomenal view of the North Sea.
Walking across a grass field, we observed folks making the journey out to the castle grounds. Involving the skills of a Billy goat, the three of us deferred, and Elma sent me off to the south to a vantage point where better photographic angles were available. We came around the bend and stopped at an overlook into the harbor at #Stonehaven, where a group of kayakers were preparing to leave on their evening exercise. A stirring sight in the late afternoon light was the Stonehaven War Memorial, an open “temple” commemorating the World War I dead from Scotland.
Returning for a final time to the car, Elma drove us north along the coast into #Aberdeen. The B&B was on Constitution Street, and our host had expected us earlier, as his daughter was in a soccer match. Arriving a short while after we did (probably about 7:30), we pushed our bags into the room and started settling in. Hungry as we’d only had the sandwich about midday, we set out to find dinner, we walked to Castle Street and into Old Blackfriars Inn, which touts itself as having an ecclesiastical flair. Pub food, I started with a Tower IPA and asked for fish and chips. I topped off the evening with a single malt scotch from Old Pulteney. And my journal fills only one page for this entire day!