Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Visit to Kirkcudbright and Dundrennan Abbey

I gifted myself an Artist Away Day as per Julia Cameron's book The Artist Way and drove to Kirkcudbright in Dumfries and Galloway, approx. 80 miles from home. This was primarily to visit the exhibition of the Glasgow Boys but as I had never been to Kirkcudbright (for some unknown reason pronounced as Kir-Coo-Bree, which is very confusing!) before so I took the opportunity to have a walk around in the gorgeous sunshine. And if we are ever going to leave where we are now, this will be a place high on my wishlist to relocate to. It's filled with artists' studios, galleries, and of course the beautiful river Dee. Today you could really see what attracted artists to come here and the Glasgow Boys were no exception. Hornel actually lived here and you can visit his house. I enjoyed peeking into all kinds of little alleyways as seen above.

The Glasgow Boys were originally knows as The Glasgow School of Painting but one of their members, Macaulay Stevenson, wrote to say they found this too formal and just called themselves the boys, so the Glasgow Boys they became. They had different individual styles and I specially love the work of Hornel (this is one of his paintings featured on the front of the catalogue). He lived in Kirkcudbright and invited his friends down to paint in the beautiful surroundings. Today, driving through the glorious landscape, I could easily see how inspirational it must have been. Having said that, their paintings featured a very much idealized world even in their days. Bucolic is the word that kept coming to my mind.

I also paid homage to the Glasgow Girls by visiting The Glasgow Style exhibition in the nearby Tolbooth Art Centre, apparently a lovely building but it was covered in scaffolding today. This exhibition showcases the work of Glasgow Artists and Designers, 1890 - 1930, and had some wonderful embroideries. Women were very well represented although some men also had work displayed. They were adherents of the Arts and Crafts movement in Glasgow of whom the architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh is the most famous member. His wife Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh is much less known but just as talented and around her a group of other artists such as Jessie King gathered, who eventually became known collectively as the Glasgow Style. Well worth the visit!

I always try and take a different route home and so I left Kirkcudbright behind me to drive up along the coast till I came to the sign for Dundrennan Abbey. Like all the abbeys in the South of Scotland this is in ruins due to the violent border disputes in the area over the centuries. It was started back in 1142 and was a Cistercian (or White Monks) house. You can still see that it must have been a very impressive building in its day and Mary, Queen of Scots spend her last day on Scottish soil here on the 15th May 1568. On the following morning she set sail in a fishing boat to flee to England where she was imprisoned by her cousin, Queen Elizabeth I. I sort of hope it was a beautiful sunny day like today for the last glimpse of her Kingdom.

I found this effigy of an unknown abbot standing against one of the walls. Judging by the picture in the guidebook it seems to have deterioted a lot in recent times as the picture in the book was a lot clearer than the abbot in his present condition. He came to a bad end because if you look carefully you will see that he has a dagger plunged into his heart. I have saved you the image of the disemboweled body of his assissin which is laying at his feet because you can no longer tell what it is without looking up the information and the picture in the guidebook. Sadly we don't know who the abbot was either. It just goes to show that knife crime is not a modern phenomenon in Scotland! I made him my blip for today since the theme this week is TIME, and he was so well suited to that.

Dundrennan had an admirable extra benefit for me, a peaceful graveyard filled with beautiful tombstones and judging by the dates it's still in use even today. I can imagine people living in the village of Dundrennan looking forward to the day they will be laid to rest in amonst the ruins and the graves of those who went before them, since 1142. It would almost be worth moving there just for that privilege.

Apart from the abbey itself the surrounding landscape looked superb, bathed in sunlight. Most tourists zoom through the Scottish Borders and Dumfries and Galloway on their way to what they consider the major attraction in Scotland, the Highlands. And in a way this is lovely for those of us who love these areas as we get to see it without hordes of other people. For most of the time I was entirely alone in the ruins of Dundrennan Abbey to wander around the place, sit for a bit and enjoy the sunshine, tell myself romantic tales about the monks and to look at each and every gravestone. Such a delight!

A beautiful and memorable Artist Away Day which has filled me with inspiration and also gave me a top-up on my tan! How could a day be better?


Gillian Cooper said...

We were there on holiday a few weeks ago. It's a lovely area. I loved Hornel's studio and garden. There are some great castles round there too

arts4all said...

Your blog always brings fresh delights and inspiration, as well as educational tit-bits. Glad you had a sunny day for your artist-away adventure ;-0

Lenna Young Andrews said...

It looks like a most memorable and wonderful artists day away, frieda. So good!!!

Jewels said...

How lovely Frieda - my Dad was born in Glasgow and I have been able to come over a couple of times. I backpacked through Scotland and England when I was 18 visiting places like this along the way (youth hostels and relatives helped make the trip affordable). I am always envious when I see pics like these on yours and other blogging friends sites who live on the other side of the pond (sigh)...


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