Posts Tagged ‘Dumfries and Galloway’

Walk Around Some Of Glenkiln Sculptures (16 July 2011)

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011

Sometimes you come across something truly beautiful.  Something simple, yet seemingly perfect.  So it was the other day when, on the way from a week near Kirkcudbright in Dumfries & Galloway we turned off the A75 near Dumfries to Shawhead and then to Glenkiln.  My parents had given us the heads up about the Glenkiln Sculptures.

Nestled amongst the gentle lowland hills in the Borderlands, Sir William Keswick, a local laird, has placed statues by Epstein, Moore and Rodin.  While open to the public, the Glenkiln sculptures are kept beneath the radar screen as unscrupulous vandals have attacked them in the past for their nihilist follies.  Anyway, you drive up single track lanes until you reach the head of the Glenkiln Reservoir and park in a tiny car park beside an sculpture by Auguste RodinSt John the Baptist”, who stands in classical poise on top of a small mound surveying the glen and the black faced sheep.  It is a strong, masculine and Romano-Grecian style of artistry of a taught muscled St John who holds out his arm with a crooked finger beckoning to us the people, the flock (or perhaps the sheep are the flock and we are the sheep).  The sculpture is a statement of what Rodin could do before he found his own more fluid and sensuous style.  But remember this is not Florence with Donatello’s “David” or Paris with Rodin’s “The Thinker”, because here we are in the Anglo-Scottish Borderlands.

Auguste Rodin Sculpture Of St John the Baptist

Rodin's St John the Baptist

From there, we walked up Shiel Head past a pink painted farmhouse, Margreig, to the brow of the hill to what from a distance looks like a Celtic cross blessing the hill since time immemorial, The Glenkiln Cross.  But as you get closer the cross becomes angular shapes, that become more curved and fluid.  Then as we reached the summit, it seemed to morph into an abstract male form, a dismembered torso, that suggested Michelangelo’s David across the glen.  Although modern and abstract, this sculpture has the feel of a muscular male, but with less strength than languid, gym-trained muscularatory.  Taught muscles that hint at gym strength with real-life weakness that comes from a beautifying physique, rather than the brute physical strength of warriors like the Campbells or Douglases from when these Borderlands were fought over by real men and women.  Or perhaps it lends itself more to abstract Mayan and Mexican art with its flowing forms and motifs.  Then as we went down the hill it became a cross again.

Henry Moore's Cross At Glenkiln Reservoir

Henry Moore's Glenkiln Cross

We then went back to the other end of Glenkiln Reservoir to the Henry MooreKing And Queen”.  I parked in a lay-by and walked up a slight incline to this most exquisite of sculptures.  This pair sits quietly contemplating the view towards Skeoch across the water.  It is a truly intimate piece with this delightful pair lovingly sitting, close to each other, happy and peaceful in their own moment of quietness.  This King and Queen are an old couple, comfortable in each others’ company, solid together but becoming weaker with age.  The lines and forms are brilliantly simple with a minimal of detail that conjures up the idea of people, one male and the other female.

Moore's The King And Queen

Moore's The King And Queen

It is two people enjoying a moment together, absorbing the view and thinking back over their lives.  They seem to be considering the view, where humans have reshaped the glen, damning the Old Water to build this small reservoir.  The manmade water has its own beauty like a loch, but the old environment was destroyed to create this new artificial one.   What does humanity do in its own name to satisfy its desire for progress?  Is it good or bad? Why must we destroy something that nature made to create something new that man made?  We have dug up ores and wrought metals to make this gorgeous statue and built a picturesque lake, yet at what damage.  The King asks the Queen “Did we do good?” and she answers “Only time will tell, my dear, but we tried our best.  Isn’t it a beautiful view?”

View Of Glenkiln Reservoir With Moore's King And Queen

View Of Glenkiln Reservoir With Moore's King And Queen

And I walked back down the hill and, while we had not seen all the statues, we all drove to Northumberland as time was pressing and the children had lost interest.

Two places for tea – The Old School House and Galloway Activity Centre

Monday, August 1st, 2011

I seemed to spend the first week of our holidays driving a triangle from Loch Ken to Cream O’ Galloway at Rainton and then to Kirkcudbright, ferrying our kids from activity to activity.  We did manage to break for tea a few times. 

Firstly, there is the delightful Old School House on the A75 itself that serves a good Brodies tea (I had Darjeeling) and a great selection of home made cakes, including brownies, fridge cakes, cheesecakes and a fruit frangipani that I indulged in.  Well worth a stop, should you have the time.  I will do a longer review next year when we revisit Dumfries & Galloway for our jollies.

Secondly, much more functional and certainly less indulgent, you could turn off the A713 to the Galloway Activity Centre and is a couple of miles from Parton.  It is a sailing centre*, but the food here is home baked and reasonably priced, so great if you are happy to have your tea in a mug and to take out your teabag yourself.  The shortbread, chocolate brownies and chocolate cake with pears are all heavenly and you can watch the boats or windsurfers floating on Loch Ken from the safety of the decking outside or the newly enlarged viewing area indoors.  And pricing is ideal: hot chocolate £1.20; tea or coffee £1.00; scone £1.25; shortbread 60p or £1.00 depending on size; tray bakes £1.35; brownie £1.00; and tarts £1.25.

*  You can also do windsurfing, power boating, kayaking, mountain biking, archery, laser quest, climbing wall, abseiling, zip wire etc, or further down the loch there is a water ski centre.

Of Ice Cream In Dumfries and Galloway

Saturday, July 31st, 2010

My blog posts about Dumfries and Galloway would not be complete without talking about Cream O’Galloway, an ice cream producer between Gatehouse of Fleet and Kirkcudbright.  We seem to spend much of our family holiday centred around their farm at Rainton, where they have developed a tasteful and sustainable attraction around the Cream O’Galloway ice cream factory experience.

Cream O'Galloway Visitor Centre

Cream O'Galloway Visitor Centre

There are indoor wooden play areas for under 6s and older children, as well as outdoor climbing areas in the woods pitched at varying degrees of skill, athleticism, ranging from the simple to the hard work – I am no longer as agile as I once was so Level 4 is too much bending down, twisting and turning and scrabbling through tunnels for me; I actually do think it is easier for people below 4 foot in height as that’s the level of the holes and obstacles have been built for.  Then there are tracks for mountain biking past the wind turbine, zip wires, chutes, and a race track for go-carts, as well as nature trails and gentle ambles. 

Cream O’Galloway also have farm tours, pond dipping, ice cream making sessions (my third year in a row and this year we made vanilla, honeycomb and chocolate chip flavour ice cream) and ice cream tasting sessions as well as other nature tours later in the year when the tourists and holiday-makers become less evident.  In 2009, we bought a year’s pass and this year (2010) we got a week pass for the second week, which are both really good value and are worth it if you will be visiting more than about 4 and 2 times, respectively. 

Karting At Cream O'Galloway

Karting At Cream O'Galloway

The kids love it so we love it.  The tea could be better and after one week an alternative to burgers would be great, but we did discover the veggie burger this year which was a welcome break for meat, meat and meat.  My favourite burger is the double Mexican burger; most of their burgers I think are better as singles, but with the Mexican you can put a dollop of spicy guacamole, tomato salsa and soured cream in the middle, which is totally fabulous.  As I have already said, it is worth a trip out of your way to track down their organic, 21 day matured steaks that you can get in the cafe area before going into the main attraction.

Then, their ice cream is, also, worth a special detour to taste and savour.  Oh and everything is organic and some is also Fairtrade.

Cream O’Galloway is a really successful farmer’s diversification scheme.  The farm, Rainton Farm, is a dairy farm with a smallish herd of Ayrshire kine.  The farm went organic with the Soil Association many years ago and is at the forefront of ethical, organic dairy farming, so for example they are currently building a new milking parlour and anearobic digester, while they are the only commercial dairy herd that keeps the mother and calf together for the first 6+ months and milks the mother only once a day rather than twice a day.  The milk is delicious as it comes from a grass fed cows and an ocean air pasture, so the milk is the dairy equivalent of salt marsh lamb.  Most of the milk gets sold into one of the dairy groups, so finding its way into the major supermarkets, mixed in with other milks.

Rainton Farm Herd At Cream O'Galloway

Rainton Farm Herd At Cream O'Galloway

Dairy At Rainton For Cream O'Galloway

Dairy At Rainton For Cream O'Galloway

Some of the fresh, unpasteurised milk is taken every morning after the morning milking to the ice cream factory which is just in a small converted threshing barn.  In fact, it is remarkably small and compact, full of gleaming stainless steel machines and vats; the milk is pasteurised before it goes into the vats and ice cream machines as part of the manufacturing process.

The ice cream is tasty and there is a great range of flavours, with all of it using their organic milk (but not all certified as organic) and some of it Fairtrade as well.  Our family’s favourite flavours are:

You can get quite a lot of their flavours in some of the supermarkets in Scotland, such as Morrisons and Tesco and then loads of independent stores – use their stockist finder to locate your nearest one.

We still rank the Cream O’Galloway centre in our family top ice cream parlours as in an earlier blog.