Wednesday, August 12, 2009


Wonderful visit to Drumlanrig Castle in Dumfries and Galloway a few days ago. Hard to say which was more beautiful - the house or the gardens. The house is open only during the summer although I believe tours can be arranged at other times. The house is full of unexpected delights - like the ancient leather wallcovering, and the needlework said to have been done by Mary Queen of Scots. Mind you - if all the pieces of needlework said to have been done by the unfortunate Queen of Scots were to be laid end to end, they would stretch a considerable distance! - however, this one is fabulously authentic and the castle is a likely enough home for it, with all the family's royal associations.
Drumlanrig is also full of fine artworks, the most renowned of which is probably Rembrandt's 'Old Woman Reading' which is well displayed and lit. You can see it here. According to the guide, opinion divides as to whether she looks faintly sinister or marvellously restful. I'm of the latter opinion - there is something soothing and reassuring about this old lady, so absorbed in her book - a picture that you want to stand and gaze at for a very long time. One other thing that struck me: it was so lovely to see this picture in a domestic setting, however grand! It was a reminder that such artworks were not, in the main, intended to be hung in galleries, surrounded by other pictures, and certainly not surrounded by labels telling us what we ought to think about them. The castle tour was excellent value for money - the gardens were beautiful, so were the little craft and food shops in the courtyard, there were plenty of picnic tables (but if you're taking a picnic, do buy your fresh sausage rolls in the food shop at the castle!) and as a bonus, the cycle museum was unexpectedly enthralling - who would have thought that bicycles could be so fascinating?

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