Friday, 23 August 2013

Falkland Palace in the sun

Small Cat is asleep on my legs. I only sat down at my computer to check a couple of things quickly, but Small Cat decided that standing on my keyboard waving her tail in my face was a good idea. So I put my feet up on the footstool and she promptly settled down on my legs (ha! Pavlov's kitteh!). Of course now I can't move. I just can't. I can't disturb a sleeping cat. It's just wrong.  So I shall write a blog-post instead, or rather I'll finish one which I started a few days ago, all about Falkland Palace.

As we were in no particular hurry coming home from our trip to St. Andrews, we stopped at Falkland Palace on the way.  In fact we arrived early and had a wander round Falkland which was quiet and sleepy and attractive and a bit eerie because no-one was around. There was music and the sound of a vacuum-cleaner coming from a pub/hotel so it wasn't completely silent. We met a very friendly cat and eventually saw someone walking a dog so we were reassured then that the populace hadn't been abducted by aliens.

Eventually we headed to Falkland Palace itself, making use of our newly acquired NTS membership, and we enjoyed it very much which is why it's getting its own blog-post instead of being tacked onto the St. Andrews one.

The palace itself was moderately interesting - it was built by James IV and James V on the site of an older castle and became a country residence for the Stuart monarchs, rather like Balmoral is for the Windsors.   There's not a huge amount to it now really as the East Range was destroyed by fire in 1654, but it must have been pretty impressive at one time.  I'm not really all that gone on the lives of the monarchy or political history, so although it was mildly interesting, my interest was mostly taken by the details of the furnishings - the woodwork and tapestries and the gloomy portraits.  The highlight for us all though, I think, was the garden - we spent ages in it!

The first bit we came to (as you come out of the gift shop building, in the background of that picture) is a courtyard with big chess pieces. And draughts pieces as well if that's your thing. I can't play either game. Miss M and my Beloved quickly became engrossed in a game of chess, so the Boy and I wandered off to look around the garden. I think we came back three or four times and they were still engrossed. When Miss M was telling me about it she said, 'Chess is quite easy really - you just have to know how all the pieces move and work out the best places to move them to and work out where the other person might move their pieces and how that will affect your pieces'.  And that is why I don't play chess. Still, they were happy and the Boy and I had a great time exploring the garden.

It was just about the perfect garden for exploring, new bits to find at every corner, beautiful flowers..

and plants (does echinops count as a flower?) with stone walls as a backdrop..

steps up and down and mad urns..

a gate in a wall..


pond life..

insect life..

And an optimistically roofless tennis court. 

Quite an old one. Really old in fact. It was built for James V in 1539 and from reading various bits of information there and watching the entertaining video, Real Tennis seems to be an intriguing and somewhat eccentric game, that makes its successor, lawn tennis, look a bit tediously symmetrical and rule-driven. Bounce it off the gallery roof? Why not? 

Miss M had abandoned chess by this time and joined us in the garden. She was quite taken with the tennis court.  Here she is playing imaginary real tennis against an imaginary opponent (Boy wouldn't cooperate).

Extra points for getting the ball out of the holes (lunes) in the wall. That bit's true. Even more points if you knock out a passing peasant at the same time. That bit's not true. Probably. Oh, and in Real Tennis the net is meant to be saggy - I approve of that very much!

Back to the garden, with fragrant roses and space to run (and run and run) around.

So you see why we spent so long there.

1 comment:

Mrs. Micawber said...

Miss M is obviously a budding chess genius. I don't play chess either - like Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride, "I have no gift for strategy."

What a very lovely garden. Real tennis sounds a bit like our racquetball, except for the lunes.