Fantastic Ruin at Balloch, Loch Lomond
Woodbank House, Balloch
Tucked away behind the trees in a corner of the village of Balloch lies an impressively ruinous and mostly forgotten grand mansion known as Woodbank House. This Grade A listed pile has its origins in the 1670s when the land on which it sits was settled on James and Sarah Lindsay the original building on the site was known as Stuckrodger. Charles Scott of Dalquhurn acquired the house in 1774 and the name was changed to Woodbank. Further additions to the property were made after William Ewing Gilmour moved into the house in 1885. A contemporary painting of Ewing Gilmour can be found here: artuk.org/discover/artworks/mr-william-ewing-gilmour-194895 and a brief biography of the said man can be found here: www.valeofleven.org.uk/famousfolk/industrials.html?fbclid=IwAR2bKvYkvZIwHVb4AiagWof9peMdTwSzMg51Q8mZ8XZAHAy6QPMT-c4qrLg
In 1930s the house was turned into the Woodbank Hotel. In 1979 a plan to reopen as Hamilton House Hotel with the 18 bedrooms converted into 8 luxury apartments was short-lived. The new hotel closed in 1981.
Plans for further use were rejected by the council and the house soon fell into disrepair. Approaches were made to the owner who was reluctant to sell. A major fire in 1996 put paid to everything.
Listed as two stories with cellars little remains of the building now but the exterior walls - some in a very precarious state. Charred roof timbers from the 1996 fire lie within buried and grown over by vegetation.
Despite its decrepitude and the risk of falling slates or masonry the ruin appears to be popular with dog walker and others as the perimeter paths are very accessible. Surprisingly protective fencing and window barricading have been removed and access to the site is unhindered. The building is dangerous though and certainly not a place to take children. However, it retains an intriguing fascination.
Plans have recently been submitted by a large leisure park operator to acquire the land on which Woodbank's ruins stand and install a holiday park scenario. These plans refer to an element of refurbishment for Woodbank House - once the chalets have been built.
On the western facade a crest carved into the stone is the same as that on the Masonic Lodge building in Alexandria. It reads "Nil Penna Sed Usus” which translated means “Not the pen (plume) but its use”. It is part of the family crest of the Gilmour family. (Ewing Gilmour moved into the house in 1885 after which this south west wing was built)
Adjacent to the house are extensive former stables - also in a poor state of repair..
The future remains in the balance but it would be shame to see this architectural piece disappear completely.
Apple Harvest looking good at Appletree Luxury Self Catering Cottage Loch Lomond
Fingers crossed for a good harvest
We're hoping for a bumper year for apples here at Shandon Farm and Appletree Cottage.
The last two years late frosts put paid to spectacular blossom leaving it a dirty brown colour. Very little fruit pollination and setting survived the frosts.
This year however things are looking more positive
We started planting one hundred trees in 2014. Since then we have grafted the scions (cuttings) from the trees onto root stock bringing the total number of trees up to 400.
Some apples grow in clusters of more than two or three. These clusters require thinning to bunches of about two or three. Thinning is also required on thin branches which have too many apples and are in danger of breaking. Thinning can be done chemically or by hand. We do it by hand - which takes a bit of time but is a very satisfying day in the orchard.
So hopefully things are looking up and we'll get a good crop this year. We press what we grow into apple juice which we pasteurise so it last longer and also use the apple pulp for making jellies, marmalade and our popular black butter.
Exploring West Wymess, Fife
An Unexpected Surprise
Well, surprises are unexpected generally.
A friend of ours has just moved to the village of West Wymess in Fife. Just east of Kirkcaldy this former ancient mining village is right on the shore of the Firth of Forth with fantastic views across to Edinburgh.
We'd never been to this area before. After a wander around the village we found our way by accident to Wymess Castle which has a fantastic walled garden open to the public.
More can be found out about the gardens here: www.wemysscastlegardens.com
Open during the summer months the walled garden is on the large Wymess Castle estate. It takes a little bit of finding but there were a couple of helpful groundsmen who showed us the way. We discovered after we left that the estate prefer you to book - see link above
The walled garden dates from the mid 18th Century. Designed by Walter Nicol it had vented walls with the idea of providing stone fruit. There are remains of a Neo classical orangery along with many other features.
The gardens had lain derelict with just a few trees and a number of geese for many years until Charlotte and Michael Wymess started to put things in order in 1993. The results of their efforts over the years are quite stunning and well worth a visit.
The walled garden is just above the coastline and slightly to the east of West Wymess village.
After a wander round the gardens we headed back to the village and took a stroll down by the harbour and along the Main Street where an impressive tollbooth tower is awaiting some refurbishment.
The village - a former coal mining village - has been derelict in places over the years. Slowly however buildings are coming back to life. It is very peaceful and well worth a visit if you're over that way. Its about an hour and a half drive from Appletree Cottage.
Train trip Upper Helensburgh to Oban from Appletree Luxury Self Catering Cottage
West Highland Line Excursion
Earlier this year we took a fantastic trip up the West Highland Line to Mallaig.
Our starting point was Helensburgh Upper. The station, about half an hour's drive from Appletree Cottage, is at the top of Sinclair Street, the A818 as you drive into Helensburgh.
This is not to be confused with Helensburgh Central down closer to the shore.
We asked the guard who had alighted the train which coaches we should be boarding for Mallaig. He told us the rear two coaches were going there.
Climbing aboard we were pleased to find table seats were available and sat down to enjoy the journey.
It was quite a good day to be doing this journey - overcast and damp! The trees beside the track had nearly a full compliment of leaves but the views were still good. We effortlessly passed through Garelochhead, and it was not long before we were winding our way along the shores of Loch Long
At Crianlarich junction the train split. The front portion left first (conveniently!) and headed west onto the former Calendar and Oban line to Oban. This line was truncated by a landfall in the sixties, causing closure of the section between Crianlarich and Callander one month prematurely - before the Beeching Axe was to fall.
From Crianlarich the Fort William section starts to climb the northern slopes of Strath Fillan. Far below on the other side of the glen we can see the railway line to Oban threading its way through the trees beside the river.
After a brief stop at Tyndrum Upper (the tiny village of Tyndrum has two stations. Often mispronounced Tindrum it actually derives from the Gaelic Tigh an Druim (house on the ridge).
And soon we are over the ridge, the march summit and heading towards the famous Horshoe Curve
Horseshoe Curve between Tyndrum Upper and Bridge of Orchy is a three-mile meander for the railway on an almost constant gradient of 1:50. The railway hugs the hillside to maintain gradient crossing a nine span viaduct over the Alt Kinglass burn
After our next station, Bridge of Orchy we start the long climb up to Rannoch Moor. Since last visiting this area in the late 1990s there has been much forestation and for several miles, we travel through planted pine forest. Eventually, not long before reaching Rannoch Station the pines give way to the natural moorland.
From Rannoch to Corrour there are some good views across Rannoch Moor. A wild and lonely place. There are the remains of Corrour Old Lodge on the distant eastern slopes. Popular since Victorian times with shooting parties it burnt down in 1946. All that remains now are the desolate ruins.
After Corrour station we start our descent to the shores of Loch Treig then through the villages of Tulloch, Roy Bridge and Spean Bridge to Fort William.
The stations on this section are well maintained and preserved.
After a brief stop at Fort William the train reverses to Mallaig. This journey like the section before it is stunning, with views of wild moorland, sandy bays and magnificent hills.
The rain had started to come down quite heavily so pictures from the train are not brilliant but the rain in no way spoilt our views of beautiful surroundings.
On our arrival at Mallaig Station we were greeted by a magnificent steam train on the other platform. This train forms part of the "Jacobite" service. A steam hauled excursion from Fort William to Mallaig running twice a day in the summer months.
The rain had stopped so we had a wander round Mallaig village. The harbour was busy with fishing vessels as well as private boats and of course the ferry to Skye.
We had just a couple of hours to explore Mallaig before it was time to board the train back home. The journey was four and a half hours each way from Helensburgh Upper to Mallaig but the time flew. What a great thing to do on a rainy day!
The Drymen Show by Loch Lomond
One of the oldest Agricultural Shows in Scotland has made a stunning return this year.
Established in 1816 the Drymen Show has been an annual event usually on the last Saturday in May. The last two years' Covid problems caused cancellation but this year 2022 it is back in style - and by all accounts with a record turn-out.
The show is always scheduled for the last Saturday in May. Only major downpours have interrupted events.
On this year's return after two years attendees were not disappointed with the huge array of entertainments, competitions and sunshine on offer.
Entry by cash or card was speedy and a vast free parking area is provided. Souvenir programmes offered the chance to win prizes in the draw later in the afternoon.
A great array of craft tents, stalls selling local gin and whiskies, cakes, food outlets and many other wares align the entrance way to the event.
Cattle and Sheep
The judging of cattle and sheep takes place next to the main ring and commences not long after the show opens in the morning. There is a huge variety of sheep and some very fine highland cattle on show. Sheep shearing demonstration start later in the afternoon..
Teams of heavy horses were spectacular, drawing their drays around the main ring. It is so seldom one sees these magnificent animals at work.
The main ring was fully operational by lunchtime with displays of horsemanship, tractor pulling competitions, races, vintage car and tractor rallies, tug of war, fancy dress parades and the giving of prizes.
Other attractions are many. A stage with many musical performances is close to the main ring. A series of musicians performed in successions
For the young and energetic brigade there is a good funfair at one end or the site behind a good array of agricultural equipment supplier stalls. Occasional screams of excitement and terror drift across the informative commentary of the main ring.
Other tents include the local schools' art tent, pet tent and of course the beer tent,
The day's proceedings were rounded off with a tug of war and an Orcadian Strip the Willow.
On the return walk back from the show we took the public footpath from the south side of Drymen Bridge back to Appletree Cottage. (we'd gone down the railway path and through Croftamie Village on the way there) On the way we snapped this fantastic view of the distant Campsie hills with Dumgoyne's peak evident in centre frame.
All in all a great day out.