Tuesday 20 December 2022

Scotland By Rail - Stirling Castle

An icy afternoon visiting Stirling Castle.

Leaving coastal Burntisland where our snow of several days ago had melted within hours of falling, I forgot to think that more elevated, non-coastal Stirling might still have some. As got off the train onto crunching platforms our five year old was delighted - as was I! We love snow and ice in our family. Winter is meant to be cold. It makes the world seem so fresh.

Leo du Feu
Community Rail Champion

We skated our way up the steep and picturesque old streets to the castle, me enjoying being back in this place we explored often as children. I pushed and pulled the baby and buggy and thought what a good toboggan the buggy might make on the way down. Oren made the most of every treacherous patch of iced over snow we came to.

The lovely little park sandwiched between Spittal Street, Baker Street and Bank Street (can you have a sandwich with three slices??) half way up the hill was looking especially beautiful, a great arena to play in.


Reaching the top the Ochil Hills looked stunning with their snow tops, Wallace Monument dark in front of them. Oren found lots of snow mountains to climb in the car park while I looked down freezingly at that rather wonderful Old Town Cemetery and wondered how it can be that children don't feel the cold.

I made this pastel piece in my studio a few days later.

Inside the castle we explored and played. As dusk fell the Great Hall looked stunning from the outside and stunning from the inside, Christmas tree in place and stage all set up for a performance of A Christmas Carol with a very nice wintery snowy scene.

In the Royal chambers a French courtier - dressed for the part and holding her needlework - pointed out some of the eleven unicorns in and around the Hunt of the Unicorn tapestries. The tapestries took years to weave and cost £2 million. I remember watching them gradually taking shape on visits to the castle when I was much younger. 

The costumed courtier brought alive for us what it would have been like to visit this room for an audience with the Queen. We'd know we were really important if the Queen invited us next door, past her guards, for a private hearing in her bedchamber, at the desk beside the four poster bed - where she probably didn't actually sleep.

In the vaults we played with musical instruments, interactive screens, a court jester. Learned about where pigments and dyes came from in the 1500s...

Views from the castle down to the Queen's Knot and King's Knot

Stirling Castle is a great day out. Entrance is free to Historic Scotland members. Booking is recommended but not always necessary.

Trains to Stirling are three an hour from Edinburgh, journey time 40-50 minutes. Even more frequent from Glasgow Queen Street and journey time of only around half an hour.

Check before your journey at - www.scotrail.co.uk

Thank you for reading my Scotland By Rail blog.

Spread the word and let me know about your own favourite railway days out.

Leo du Feu
ScotRail Community Rail Champion
December 2022

#ScotlandByRail on social media 

Tuesday 29 November 2022

Scotland By Rail - Newtongrange - National Mining Museum Scotland

National Mining Museum Scotland, acrylic, 16.5x25cm

A family railway day out to Newtongrange on the Borders Line, to visit the National Mining Museum Scotland.

Each time I go on the Borders Railway Line I remember so strongly the first time I travelled on it as a newly (re)opened line back in 2015 - 2015/09/scotland-by-rail-new-borders-railway.

I can't describe how exciting it was to suddenly have a new railway line to explore! I can't wait until another new bit, the Levenmouth Rail Link, opens in hopefully not much more than a year from now:

Here are a couple of my past Scotland By Rail Borders Line trips:

2 - Stow - sheep, river, well, 5 dippers, up into the hills
(There seem to be puns flying everywhere in this one. It must have been before having children)

Anyway, back to Newtongrange:

In Edinburgh, Waverlying goodbye to uncle Roan:

Then on to the Tweedbank train, destination Newtongrange and the National Mining Museum.

brothers in love (one of them not given much choice)

It was a cold day at last. We played spot the frost as we travelled along the line. Little pockets visible here and there in shady spots where the pale yellow winter sun hadn't ever reached.

Newtongrange station. Spot the roof of the Mining Museum.

Newtongrange station, zigzaggy footpath past the car park and up to the village.

And off to the National Mining Museum Scotland, a lovely hedged footpath leading directly to it from the station car park. The museum is about a minute away.

But I like to explore a place when I first arrive, not just head straight indoors. And we were hungry. So about turn, up that zigzaggy station footpath and into Newtongrange village. A main street of red-brick miners' cottages, red-brick miners cottages leading perpendicularly off it. Go onto Google Maps satellite view and have a look at the layout of the village centre, it's quite remarkable.

beautiful yarrow and pithead winding wheel

Miners Memorial and Newtongrange Church

naughty doggy

Welfare Park, a great big green space

Then to the National Mining Museum:

The two display / exhibition sections of the museum are top class. If I was going by myself (without young children!) I'd want to spend a couple of hours reading and looking at everything before then touring around the pithead itself.

Many remarkable images:

Models helping it all feel real:

Bonawe Historic Iron Furnace, a Historic Environment Scotland site and another Scotland By Rail day - Taynuilt station on the line to Oban.
I thought I'd blogged this years ago but it appears not. Oops.
My closest is Loch Awe - walk to Cruachan Dam and special St Conan's Kirk

More models to explore, buttons to press:

Now the National Mining Museum Scotland

Not a model. A huge long elevated tunnel - the Gantry:

nb the miners are models.

The Gantry connected the Lady Victoria Colliery to the Pithead baths, canteens and the old Lingerwood Pit on the other side of what is now the A7 road.

A lot of things really terrible to imagine:

A model of Coaltown of Wemyss, a picturesque mining village on the coastal bus route north from Kirkcaldy. Another great day out with estate parkland walk down to the shore and Fife Coastal Path. I must blog it.

In the pub with Sir Harry Lauder.


At the pithead:

The actual lift used to transport miners down and up:

Looking out. Imagine what it felt like seeing sky again after a day hundreds of feet under ground. Especially imagine what it felt like for those young boys.

National Mining Museum Scotland, acrylic, 16.5x25cm

Mining family. Spot...?

At the coalface. Pit supports. Compare these to the photo of a miner slithering between stubby wooden struts

the outside of that elevated tunnel (model miners inside)

other Midlothian Things To Do

The National Mining Museum Scotland is open daily.

There are tours you can book on or you can go around entirely solo. We spent about two hours there but I could and would like to spend much longer than that

The museum has a nice cafe but you should check which days it is open. If you need food on a cafe-closed day there is The Dean Tavern only a ten minute walk away down the main street (name - Main Street) of Newtongrange. Really nice to do that as you get to have a feel for the village as in my pics above. Along that street there is also a Scotmid (with hot food), a Coop and a Best-one newsagent. 

There are lots of festive things at the museum this December (2022), such as screenings of the Polar Express, The Snowman and more; Santa's Grotto; a panto... - https://www.nationalminingmuseum.com/experience/whats-on/


Getting to Newtongrange:

Trains from Edinburgh Waverley are half hourly Monday to Saturday and hourly on Sundays. The journey takes about 20 minutes. 

Check ScotRail 'Buy Tickets' in advance of your journey - www.scotrail.co.uk


Thank you for reading my Scotland By Rail blog.

Spread the word and let me know about your own favourite railway days out.

Leo du Feu
ScotRail Community Rail Champion
November 2022

#ScotlandByRail on social media