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Archive for the ‘Churchyards’ Category

Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of the living.” – Miriam Beard

Some places leave a lasting impression on the visitor and, for me, Iceland is one such place.

Clean fresh air, steam rising out of the ground, subtle colours in the landscape, black rock, ice and barely discernible roads are some of the things that spring to mind when I think of Iceland.

Here’s what I mean:

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Looking down on the coastal town of Seyðisfjörður on Iceland’s east coast. My chum and I arrived by air into the capital, Reykjavik, but left on a ferry from here, bound for the Faroe Islands.

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All over the country you see steam rising out of the ground, and in this case it was coming up out of a river. They get hot water for free in Iceland, thanks to all the geothermal energy, and it left my skin feeling very soft although unfortunately tainted by the stench of rotten eggs.

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Crater lake at Landmannalaugar. The shades of green and brown were striking.

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Curious textures and colours in the rocks at Landmannalaugar.

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Black sand, black rock, there’s a lot of it about in Iceland.

We drove right across the middle of the country, from the south-west to the north coast. This route is closed for about 9 months of the year over the autumn, winter and spring, but even when it’s open it’s not exactly obvious where the roads are:

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Er…which way do we go?

We drove for miles over rough black rock, seeing very few other vehicles or signs of habitation. I found it surprisingly beautiful.

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It’s a good idea to squeeze as much fuel into your tank as possible before setting off across the middle of Iceland; there are no petrol stations on this route.

We had to cross quite a few rivers, which I found both terrifying and exhilarating (I wasn’t doing the driving). The key is to avoid still water, which can be deceptively deep, and aim for the rough looking bits where there are rocks just beneath the surface.

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About to cross…

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Crossing….

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Phew – made it!

Although there was a lot of black rock around, some bits of the country were very green:

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Sunny cemetery with little turf-roofed church.

Perhaps one of the things people expect when they go to Iceland is ice, particularly in the form of glaciers.

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Vatnajökull ice cap – the biggest in Europe, going by volume.

One thing about glaciers is that although they look nice and white when you see them at a distance, close-up they’re really quite dirty.

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Me on a glacier, with grubby rocks stuck inside the ice.

Another thing I wasn’t expecting about glaciers is the way they make eery creaking noises. I noticed this particularly in Norway once where I was in a hollow next to a glacier surrounded by mountains. The creaking noises, along with the sound of tumbling ice, echoed round the valley in a manner that fairly set my senses on edge.

At the foot of the Vatnajökull ice cap was the Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon, a blue lake of floating bergs that had calved off the glacier:

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Jokulsarlon glacier lagoon with floating ice sculptures.

I believe many of the bergs melt in the lagoon, but I saw some drifting off under the bridge along the coast road out into the North Altlantic Ocean:

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Icebergs off to the seaside for their holidays.

I’ve been lucky enough to visit Iceland twice, and on both trips I was helping out as field assistant to a geology chum of mine. Amongst other rock-related activities we went to look at some columnar basalt.

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I felt as if I were standing in Middle-earth looking at this scene. J R R Tolkein apparently drew inspiration for The Lord of the Rings from the Icelandic sagas, and studied Old Icelandic at university, although whether he ever visited Iceland himself I don’t know.

I hope I get the chance to go back to Iceland again, and if you’re thinking you might fancy a trip there yourself I would highly recommend it.

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Clouds over Iceland

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Neighbourhood Watch.

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As promised in my last post, I am about to present you with several skulls and a host of cherubs.

They were found in Glamis churchyard, a most interesting and slightly spooky place, even in broad daylight.

Before any of that, however, I would like to make up for not including any edible treats in my last post and am starting off here with a pavlova I made for pudding not so long ago.

Pavlova

Pavlova made with brown sugar meringue, whipped cream, strawberries and blueberries.

Back to the graveyard, and several skulls:

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This skull was skulking at the foot of a headstone.

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This one, complete with crossbones beneath, has been embedded into the wall outside the graveyard. I don’t know what it’s doing there or where it came from.

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The skull projects quite spectacularly from the wall.

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I found gazing into the emtpy stone eye sockets slightly disconcerting.

Another skull at the foot of a most elaborately decorated headstone:

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A skull at the bottom and a cheery cherub up the top, with Masonic symbols in the middle and Corinthian pillars either side = a headstone and a half.

There seems to be something of a skull theme going on in Glamis.

In the nearby Glamis Castle, childhood home of the Queen Mother and well worth a visit if you’re ever in the area, there is said to be a Room of Skulls.

This room, now walled up, tells a particularly nasty tale. It contains the remains of the Ogilvie family, who came to Glamis in the 15th Century seeking protection from their enemies. Instead of being welcomed and well treated by the castle inmates, they were put into a chamber and left there to await their demise.

On a cheerier note, how about some cherubs?

There were lots of them in Glamis churchyard, each with its own character and expression.

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Last one (there were more but I realise I’m already pushing my luck):

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The day I visited this graveyard, and the one in the previous post, was a day on which I had very little appetite due to feeling a bit under the weather.

My delightful assistant and I did partake of a little luncheon between graveyards, but I wasn’t in the mood for photographing it and in any case the interior of the cafe we had it in wasn’t conducive to photography, being rather dark.

However, I’m pleased to say that I have since indulged in a number of small treats, including a piece of deliciously moist gingerbread at the excellent Caoldair Coffee Shop near Laggan:

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Delicious gingerbread with a mug of Darjeeling tea. The gingerbread had occasional nuggets of crystalised ginger in it, making it even more exciting.

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An arresting sign on the road just before Caoldair.

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Outdoor seating at Caoldair (there are tables inside, too).

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Part of the interior at Caoldair, with all manner of things for sale including clothing, pottery, toiletries, cards and toys.

By the way, if you liked the look of the pavlova at the top of this post you might be interested to know that it’s been made into a note card and is available for puchase on Etsy, here, along with several other teatime-related cards, including the photo from the front of my Tearoom Delights book:

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You might recall that I put four of my other cards for sale on ebay to see if they would sell in an auction. They didn’t sell there, but I have sold a few on Etsy, so thank you very much to my lovely customers.

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Needing a change of scene yesterday, I whisked delightful assistant no.1 off to the peaceful countryside of Angus.

It was a muggy sort of day, not cold, but not sunny; the sort of day when, if feeling slightly out of sorts or under the weather, refreshment could be gained from a slow amble around quiet places.

En route to a lunch stop, we were diverted by a nice little church with an interesting looking graveyard:

Carmyllie Parish Church, originally built in 1609 (various alterations and additions have been made since). Inside, there’s said to be a pew dating back to 1657 but the building was locked so we couldn’t get in to take a peek.

There were some splendid gravestones to be seen, several of which had an agricultural theme.

This one, as well as having the most impressive stone carved rope I think I’ve ever seen on a headstone, had the motto, “We plow in hope”:

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Over 200 years old and still very clear.

Not all of the headstones were in quite such good nick, but this one from 1799 possessed unusual shaping across the top:

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A headstone inspired by a bat? That’s what the little peaks at the top made me think of.

It also had an open pair of scissors  and what looked like an iron carved into one side. The burial spot of a tailor, perhaps?

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I couldn’t make out a date on this next one, but I would guess it was erected in the late 1700s. It had some notable features:

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Near the top there was a little sort of tableau featuring a lady in the centre with an angel or cherub on either side of her:

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The little chap on the right appears to be flying, while the little chap on the left appears to be affecting a teapot-like pose.

I thought she was wearing a crown, and there certainly was something above her head that seemed to be the right sort of shape, but beneath that and encircling her head there was what could have been a halo. She was cradling an infant, although whether or not said infant also had a halo was hard to tell. This wasn’t a Roman Catholic graveyard and so I think it unlikely that the lady pictured was the Blessed Virgin, but perhaps she was, or maybe the headstone marked the burial place of a mother who died along with her small child. Unfortunately, I was unable to decipher the inscription beneath the picture.

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In any case, she looked serene:

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Some of the stones featured fancy swirls and flourishes, like the one on the left of the picture below:

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And one was bedecked with magnificently carved foliage:

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Fabulous foliage on a carved stone cross at Carmyllie Parish Church.

As it turned out, this was only the first of two fascinating graveyards visited yesterday.

If you think you can stomach another post along the same lines, tune in next time for several skulls and a host of cherubs.

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Continuing on from my previous post, we arrived at the House of Menzies and tootled indoors out of the rain in search of a little luncheon.

From the outside of the building, which was constructed in the 1840s, the inside is perhaps something of a surprise.

Straight ahead was an open log fire, with jewellery and other gifts for sale beyond.

To the left there were more gifty things, and an area selling wines and whiskies:

To the right was the bit we were after, the cafe:

For our liquid refreshment, delightful assistant no.1 had orange and passionfruit juice, delightful assistant no.2 had Bundaberg ginger beer and I had my usual, a pot of tea.

Choosing from the tempting food menu was a little trickier but, after some deliberation, we settled on our options.

Delightful assistant no.1 had Caesar salad (with two different dressings very helpfully put into little dishes on the side, to allow her to choose which she wanted):

Delightful assistant no.2 went for a toasted panini with roasted vegetables:

And I had a curried lentil burger with spinach and tomato, which was jolly tasty:

After that we felt too full for puddings, but before we left delightful assistant no.2 reacquainted himself with one of House of Menzies’ prize attractions:

Having satisfied himself that all the little wooden trains were running nicely on their tracks, he joined us back in the car and we buzzed off in the direction of the scenic village of Kenmore, which sits at one end of Loch Tay.

As I was driving along a small road, a curious building by the roadside caught my eye. While the assistants stayed put in the warm car, I jumped out to take a closer look:

The house, which was uninhabited, appeared to have been abandoned some time ago.

Despite its somewhat neglected state, some interesting architectural details remained:

When I walked round to the back of the house, I found that part of the roof had caved in, and that the whole building was slowly becoming a part of the hillside.

This business of making a front porch out of tree trunks is something I associate with this part of Perthshire, and for some reason the trunks are usually painted red. I don’t think they’re always paired with such an interesting wooden roof structure though:

Dragging myself away from this fascinating little property, we drove on to Kenmore, where I left the delightful assistants dozing in the car while I nipped out to examine Kenmore Parish Church.

Unfortunately, the weather had turned rather grey. On a sunny day the war memorial in the foreground and the church with its lychgate and Loch Tay beyond makes for an attractive scene:

As I walked round the churchyard, I saw a small owl perched on a tree stump and thought it added a nice touch to the surroundings:

When I reached the doorway I was utterly delighted to find that the church was open for visitors.

The church building was built in 1760, although most of what you see inside today dates back to a renovation in 1870. The interior included some beautiful stained glass windows:

I can’t recall ever having seen anything quite like these in a church before, but in addition to the stained class there were two windows of etched glass:

One of the etched windows was dedicated to long-serving Elder of the Kirk, Duncan Miller, who was an engineer, farmer and fisherman, as well as being a member of the Royal Company of Archers (the Queen’s official bodyguard in Scotland). My favourite part of the window was a bit with some sheep (sheeeeeps!) on it:

Each church pew had its own unique pew cushion design, which I thought was a very pleasing situation:

Back out in the churchyard, as well as the owl mentioned previously, I found another bird. The headstone told a sad story, but somehow the little puffin warmed my heart:

When I finally joined the patient assistants back in the car (both of whom had apparently enjoyed a relaxing snooze in my absence), we agreed to head for home.

Our lunch having settled, we felt we might have room for a little something on the way, and so we called in at the Allium Garden Centre in Ballinluig for a pit stop.

Just as I was starting to photograph our afternoon tea treats my camera battery died. I took a few pictures with my phone camera, but they look very small on the screen and, not being a technical wizard or any sort, I have no idea how to enlarge them.

I wasn’t going to have any cake, since it was getting close to dinner time and all I really wanted was a drink (an extremely good decaf cappuccino, as it turned out), but the assistants both chose a sweet treat. Delightful assistant no.2 had a surprisingly tasty chocolate oaty nutty traybake composition and delightful assistant no.1 asked for a piece of the lemon drizzle cake.

When the waitress brought our orders over, she brought two plates with lemon drizzle cake on, one of which was a smaller slice. She explained that once she’d cut a portion from what remained of the large lemon drizzle cake for delightful assistant no.1, there was just this wee bit left which was too small to serve as a portion. In the circumstances, she generously decided to give it to us as a free extra.

I’m not saying it tasted better for being free, but it was an exceptionally good piece of cake, very lemony and a highly satisfactory end to the day’s outing.

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This time last year there was an interesting piece in the Scottish news about the small village of Dull in Perthshire.

The story concerned the village of Dull forging a link with the equally uninspiringly named town of Boring in Oregon, USA.

Along with everyone else, I thought this a splendid idea. When I heard that signs had been erected outside Dull to highlight this pairing I was keen to see them.

It took me a while to get round to doing this, but a few days ago I bundled the delightful assistants into my car and we sped off towards Dull, which lies in a quiet and pretty part of rural Perthshire.

It was about an hour’s drive away, which would have been achieveable in a oner if it weren’t for the fact that it was late morning before we left. In need of sustenance, we stopped en route at one of my favourite tearooms, Legends of Grandtully:

I’ve written about this place before (here) and have already gone on about the exquisite hot chocolate available, but I can’t resist giving it another mention.

As you might have noticed from the sign, Legends is attached to a chocolate centre. If you are remotely interested in chocolate, this is a most appealing prospect.

When we visited the other day I ordered one of their chocolate beverages – the very potent espresso sized hot chocolate ganache, which came topped with a sprinkling of unsweetened cocoa that I found to be a highly satisfactory addition:

If you read my previous post about Mallorca you might recall that it featured another rather spectacular hot chocolate. This one at Legends was similar, and Legends is the only place I’ve found in Scotland that serves up this style of hot chocolate.

I know I mustn’t bang on about it too much because this post is supposed to be about Dull and Boring, but before I leave the subject here’s a close-up of the chocolate’s surface, wrinkled by a teaspoon to demonstrate how thick and glossy it was:

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Delightful assistant no.1 had coffee, delightful assistant no.2 had peppermint tea (the first time he had ever ordered such a herbal beverage in a tearoom), and we all shared a large fruit scone. That might sound a bit feeble, sharing a fruit scone between three, but it was very substantial and to be honest I was rather preoccupied with my hot chocolate; I ate a bit just to be sociable.

From Legends, we drove on, feeling replete and excited about Dull.

When we reached the outer limits of the village, lo and behold, there was the promised sign:

The village of Dull is bypassed by the main road, but if you turn off at the next right after this sign, you can drive along the narrow crescent-shaped loop that takes you through the village itself.

Despite having driven along the main road plenty of times before, to our knowledge none of us had ever taken the little detour through the village, so it was a new experience.

It was very quiet and I thought it had a pleasant atmosphere.

There was an old stone church that I fancied having a closer look at, so we parked next to it and delightful assistant no.2 and myself took a wander through the graveyard. Delightful assistant no.1 has been having a bit of bother with her hip and so she stayed in the car, enjoying the warmth of the sun coming in through the windows.

As with most little churches I try to get into on weekdays, this one was locked, and I’ve since discovered that it hasn’t been used as a church since the 1970s.

It was built on the site of an early Christian monastery and slabs dating back to the 7th and 8th centuries were found in the graveyard during grave-digging in the 19th century. One particularly fine example displaying horsemen is now on display in the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh.

I don’t know if this particular bit of stone (below) has any significance, but someone has gone to a bit of trouble to secure it to the bottom of an outside wall of the building:

There was also a large font sitting next to the front door, which I neglected to photograph, but it’s also thought to be a relic from Pictish times. If that’s the case, it could be 1200 (or more) years old and it’s just sitting there full of water in a disused churchyard, slowly being weathered away by the elements.

Not far from the churchyard, sitting unobtrusively next to a holly tree just outside someone’s garden, there was a big stone cross penned in by a metal fence.

Having read a bit about Dull since visiting it, I wonder if this is one of the Pictish relics that was found in the churchyard. Strangely, although it’s been deliberately protected by the fence, there’s no indication of what it is or why it’s sitting there. I can’t help thinking a sign should be put up to explain its presence.

Another curious sight in Dull was a brightly painted church building just up the hill a bit from the old stone church. I walked up to have a look at it and felt very much as if I were in Iceland or Norway.

Far from being used for public worship, it appeared to be a private residence with a locked gate at the end of its driveway:

The rain was coming on by the time I took the above photo, and our third-of-a-scone each had worn off, so we hot-footed it to nearby eatery, the House of Menzies, which is housed in a refurbished mid-19th century farm building:

I’m worried that this post is going to become ferociously long, because I still have some other places to add to our day out, so I’ll call a brief halt here and take up the tale in my next post.

Tune in next time for a tasty luncheon!

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The weather of late in my part of the world has been somewhat damp, cold and a bit on the miserable side.

My view may be coloured by being laid low by a winter bug (which, I must admit,  isn’t too bad, just a little tiresome on the sore throat front), but on the up side, it’s the perfect sort of weather for wrapping up warmly and mooching around graveyards.

As it happens, the graveyard I mooched around the other day was, for a few moments, bathed in late afternoon sunshine.

This is the entrance to the church and graveyard of Bendochy Parish Church, just outside the Perthshire town of Blairgowrie. The bell apparently dates to 1608:

Bendochy Parish Church

The eagle-eyed might have spotted a curious stone lump to the left of the entrance arch. This is, I believe, a cheese press, although what it’s doing outside the church gates I have no idea:

Bendochy cheese press

Inside the churchyard there are quite a few headstones dating back to the 17th and 18th Centuries.

Some of them have fallen over and a few others, that are in the process of falling over, have yellow and black tape on them to warn visitors that they might fall over at any minute. Most of them, however are hanging in there even if looking slightly unstable, as in the case of this one on legs:

Gravestone on legs

One that particularly interested me had a carving of what looked to me at first glance like a robot. On closer inspection I saw that it was a skeleton with some sort of yoke across its shoulders, possibly with buckets hanging down on either side (they seem too long to be the arms).

I don’t know if there’s any religious significance to this, something to do with taking water into the afterlife in order to dowse the flames of hell perhaps? Seems a bit of an assumption on the part of the person commissioning the stone, if that’s the case.

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Another stone that caught my eye had rather an unusual shape and what looked to me like a jolly sort of skull wearing a bowler hat:

Jolly bowler-hatted skull

Headstones these days seem to me to lack the variety of shapes of those from past centuries. You do get some interesting design features, such as the ones I wrote about here, but on the whole the headstone nowadays is almost always a basic slab of stone, sticking up from a flat base.

I was quite taken by this one at Bendochy, made to look like a pile of stones with a scroll at the front. I think it shows a bit of artistry on the part of the designer, not to say skill on the part of the carver:

Artistry in stonemasonry

A combination of textures in a headstone

The forecast for the next couple of days here is for colder weather and snow showers. We’ve been very lucky with the weather this winter so far, with very little snow, which is just the way I like it.

Thankfully, I’m stocked up for cossetting myself indoors, with what remains of kind donations of chocolate received from wellwishers at Christmas:

Chocolate

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After taking tea in Cupar the other day, my delightful assistant and I stumbled upon an attractive and interesting little hamlet, tucked away off a main road.

I was driving through it, slowly taking in its charm but not particularly intending to stop (the weather wasn’t terribly pleasant), when I saw something that isn’t very common in Scotland – a house with a thatched roof:

Thatched roof in Collessie

They do pop up here and there, but I think of this style of roofing as more of an English thing.

First I spotted the one above, and then I saw another:

Another thatched roof in Collessie

I don’t know if Collessie has ever been used as a location for films or TV dramas but I think it definitely has potential.

Collessie

It even has a little stream running under the road:

Collessie burn

There are some interesting old buildings, including this one which has tiny high up windows and a collection of pots, sticks and ornaments outside. It also has a thatched roof:

Interesting building in Collessie

The delightful assistant thought that Collessie could be listed on this blog as an Intriguing Sight, and we were certainly intrigued by the white dome-shaped structure below, which had logs stored in the lower part. I wondered if it might be an oven of some sort:

Curious domed structure

I don’t know quite why I find this next point so satisfying, but it gladdens my heart when I see buildings that can be accessed at different levels front and back:

Different levels in Collessie

We were walking up a little hill through Collessie, at the top of which stood a fine looking church. The churchyard dates back to the 12th century, although the present church was constructed in 1838. Apparently, this building was built because the previous one had started to sink into the graveyard, causing a dampness that was disagreeable to the congregation.

Collessie Kirk

Rather curiously, the churchyard wall had a yellow building stuck into it:

Sir James Melville's tomb

A plaque on the wall next to it declared the yellow building to be the tomb of Sir James Melville (1535-1617) and described him as “a distinguished soldier, courtier and diplomat during the 16th century”. At the age of 14 he was sent to France to attend a young Mary Queen of Scots, later serving both her and her son, James VI, in Scotland.

Sir James Melville plaque

I did try to enter the tomb but the door was locked. I know you can’t generally get inside graves and coffins, but somehow the idea of him being locked inside that building seemed a bit sinister to me.

The locked tomb

We didn’t spend much time in the graveyard, because it was rather chilly, but I did notice one particular gravestone. The white lichen on some of the petals and the yellow on the stamens seemed fittingly positioned:

Lichen on gravestone

If you ever happen to be driving along the A91 between Cupar and Auchtermuchty, I recommend the slight detour that takes you through the delightful hamlet of Collessie.

The detour also takes you past another church, Monimail Parish, just along the road from Collessie. Although, as with Collessie, we couldn’t get into the building itself, we walked all round the church at Monimail and noted that it was very well cared for. Every door was painted in black gloss and all the handles and lock plates were neatly touched up in gold paint.

Monimail Parish Church painted nicely

Monimail Parish Church

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