Wednesday, 10 February 2016

A Journey of Discovery to Dumfriesshire

Today dawned bright but icy. But after a long period of rain I had to get out on the bike. So, well wrapped up, I headed south. 
The CBF on the back roads near Kirkconnel
Dumfries. It looks nice now but the River Nith flooded the town last month.
Al fresco dining in February!
If you follow this blog you'll know that I like castles. There are plenty of them in Scotland and there's nothing like an ancient pile of rubble to improve the landscape. But today I'm seeking an older type of fortification. Prior to stone, castles were made of earth and wood. These were know as "motte and bailey" castles. The motte was a mound onto which a keep was built and the bailey was an enclosed area. They were surrounded by a ditch and timber palisade fence.

This type of castle was introduced by the Normans in the 11th century and replaced by stone castles by the end of the 13th century. A good example of the motte and bailey is near the village of Haugh of Urr* in Dumfriesshire. It was built in the mid 12th century and is notable for the size of the bailey - about 5 acres - so space for a fair sized village. 

* A splendid name - rhymes with the Scottish "loch" - a sound not used in English - so they have trouble with this.

The Motte of Urr

Seeing it is one thing but getting to it another. Access is via a ford - but not today.
I doubt that a car or bike would ever be able to cross the River Urr
An aerial  view shows the layout.
How it would have looked.
The earthworks are in good condition 700 years after the castle was abandoned.
Part of the ditch is filled with water - so this is the moat around the motte
From the top of the motte there is a good view along the River Urr
Spottes Hall in Haugh of Urr - a 18th century country house
The church in Parton
The 16th century old church in the grounds (it seems common in Scotland to leave the ruin of an old church in the grounds of a newer one)
Inside the old church is the grave of probably Scotland's greatest scientist, James Clerk Maxwell.
Snowdrops in the graveyard - the first flowers of the year to bloom

Outside the town there is an old railway bridge over Loch Ken. I would have liked to explore but it was well fenced off.
The sun - a rare sight recently.

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