The Semple Trail near Lochwinnoch

While Lymond’s places of interest are well visited, those that are unique to Nicholas are rather less so. This is partly because they are set further away from Edinburgh and the Borders which are the natural focus for most trips, and maybe a little because the scenery is a little less dramatic and there is less evidence on the ground that can be connected to the stories. However for House of Niccolo fans who want to get an idea of the landscape in which Dorothy placed Beltrees and Kilmirren a visit to Castle Semple Loch in the west of Scotland is a worthwhile trip.

The loch is a well-used facility for the local community – there is a sailing club, rowing club, windsurfing, and a bird-watching centre run by the RSPB. Curiously however it hasn’t been possible to walk right round the loch until recently. Following negotiations and path extensions the Semple Trail, the first parts of which were opened in May 2008 by Lord Jamie Semple, is now complete and runs fully around the loch and is already proving popular – indeed someone apparently complained to the council that it hadn’t been gritted during the recent very cold weather that reduced many of Scotland’s roads to near ice rinks!

Readers interested in this area can take  look at a couple of sites:

The Lochwinnoch Village website

which contains a number of interesting pages including some history of the real Crawford family of the area, and an extensive photo gallery which gives a good flavour of the area and includes a picture of the place known as Auld Simon. There’s also a section of old maps which I always find fascinating and some lovely old stories by a former park ranger. It seems to be a thriving community with a good sense of history and the site is worth exploring for a wealth of local information.

The Castle Semple Centre on the Visit Scotland site

Stirling Castle heads recreated and on display

Any readers with an interest in the architecture of Lymond’s time, and particularly anyone who was at the Dunnett Gathering Banquet of 2000 or the later DDRA visit to Stirling Castle will be interested in the news that the replicas of Stirling Heads are on display prior to being painted in bright Renaissance colours and put in place in the King’s Presence Chamber as part of the £12 million restoration of the Royal apartments.

The original 16th century versions were regarded as masterpieces and of great historical importance. The ceiling collapsed in the late 18th century but the some of the heads themselves, which are approximately a metre wide, were preserved and have now been recreated, a task that has taken 5 years. The heads depict members of the Scottish Royal family, other important European rulers, and mythical heros.

The display lasts until the 21st February but pictures of the heads can be seen on the BBC website and comments by the wood-carver John Donaldson can be seen on the Stirling Castle blog.

The palace restoration is due to be finished by 2011 and should be a magnificent attraction for anyone interested in the period.

11th Century Celtic Psalter goes on display

A book which has been only available to research students and is believed to be the oldest book in Scotland is to go on display for three months at Edinburgh University Library – starting on Friday 11th Dec and lasting till the 14th March 2010.

Dating from around Thorfinn’s time, the book contains psalms with vivid illustrations of Celtic and Pictish symbols and is being likened to the Irish Book of Kells. It may indeed have been produced on Iona where the monks were also involved in the Irish masterpiece.

More information on the BBC site.

Hope any Dunnett readers in Scotland can get along there – just a pity the display isn’t on for another month when the attendees at the DDRA AGM might have been able to fit in a visit.

A timeless French street scene

One of the many RSS feeds I monitor from time to time is a photography one, and I just came across a photo that is a “perfect little European medieval street … in Lyon” but since the photographer lost track of his shots there’s a “10% chance it is in Paris”. Wherever it is the first thing I thought of was Lymond and Philippa’s chase through Lyon. See if you agree . It’s certainly a fine photograph