It was suggested to me today, as I wrestled yet another smelly shopping trolley from yet another smelly West Lothian bog, that finding large items of hidden junk on community clean-ups was akin to going big game trophy hunting. What do you reckon? Do you think it will catch on? I’m not sure I can see those nobheads who pose with dead animals going for it myself, but I do feel a whole new line of ‘Ben poses with…..’ photos coming on 😉
arch of the fore entrance ▴ linlithgow palace, west lothian, scotland
king james v commissioned the entrance to linlithgow palace around 1533. the four european orders of chivalry to which james v belonged are engraved above the arch of the fore entrance: “the order of the garter”, “the order of the thistle”, “the order of the golden fleece”, and “the order of st. michael”.
This was the view of Linlithgow today from Cockleroy Hill, as the weird blue-sky no-rain spell of weather continues. Back home in Fife’s Lomond Hills my weather station sizzled to 17.2C this afternoon. The last time it was that warm at home was…..wait for it…..225 days ago!! And it hasn’t rained for two weeks!!!
Over the course of the last few months I’ve been quietly snapping away at the various fungi I’ve encountered in West Lothian and the Lomond Hills of Fife.
I’ll readily admit now that I’m not a fungi person by any stretch of the imagination. I do find them utterly fascinating and will snap hundreds of photos of them, but I find identifying them difficult.
This isn’t surprising, for there are believed to be around 12,000 known species of fungi in Scotland. And identifying them can be even more problematic because the ones that we can see above ground change appearance at different stages of their lives.
It’s entirely possible to find two fungi in different places that look completely different, only to find they’re the same species at different points in their life cycle. As the dome-shaped caps open up into parasols, it’s easy to get confused. And I do. Regularly.
Binns Tower, Dalyell’s Folly and The Wager are all names for the same turret located at the top of a steep hill on the ‘House of the Binns’ Estate in Linlithgow. It’s said to be visited by a long dead Pictish warrior, the Ghost of ‘Bloody Tam Dalyell’ and overlooks a pond said to be occupied by a malevolent water spirit known as Green Jeanie. Designed by Alexander Allan in 1826 it is positioned at the highest point of the park and designed to both overlook and be seen by the neighbouring landowners – the Hopes – a family that Sir James Dalyell was quite content to upset.
The tower was commissioned by Sir James Dalyell in 1825 and legend has it that it was the result of a bet to see which gentleman of the area could spend £100 in the most pointless but witty way. Sir James won the wager when he proposed building a tower that would overlook his neighbour’s estate. Rivalry had existed between the Hopes, recently wealthy from their banking enterprises and the Dalyells who perceived themselves as ‘elder’ and therefore more aristocratic gentry even though their original fortune had been made by Thomas Dalyell in London around 1605 – some say by supplying butter to the King.
The tower is three stories tall and built to match the architecture of the main house. It has faux battlements and was built with a spiral staircase that went all the way to the viewing platform at the top. It is roughly 36ft tall and uses the bedrock of the hill for its foundations. The ground floor was originally made from limestone mortar and surrounded by a gravel enclosure. Over the decades since its construction it fell into disrepair and is said to have become quite unsafe. In 1994 the ‘House of Binns’ and the associated estate were gifted to the national Trust of Scotland. In 2002 Dalyells great folly was restored by The Pollock Hammond Partnership.
It is the highest point in the region for many miles and shares the hilltop with an official ‘trig’ beacon. Its superb location offers excellent views of the Firth of Forth, the Pentland Hills, Blackness Castle and the estate itself including the now ruined stables and the Scottish Baronial manor house. It is located 4.5 miles east of the Forth Bridge and 14 miles from Edinburgh City centre
The Hill of Binns where the tower is located is apparently a hot spot for strange behaviour and supernatural phenomena. In fact, there are so many stories and legends it hard to choose which ones are best. Here are few to mull over:
THE SPIRITS OF WARRIORS PICTS
Local legend holds that the hill was once a hill fort used by ancient Britons. They held out against all odds and were the last tribe of Picts in the region to be defeated by the roman invaders. In the end, the Romans were forced to retreat back to what is now Hadrian’s Wall in northern England. Many visitors to the estate have claimed to see the wizened figure of an old man dressed in cloths from this period. According to witnesses he collects wood which he then stacks into pyres.
THE GHOST OF A BRUTAL GENERAL
The house was once occupied by General Tarn Dalyell who by all accounts was a ruthless soldier and willing instrument of suppression. According to legend it was the same general that introduced the ‘thumbscrew’ torture into Scotland. He was said to regularly talk to the Devil and even played cards with him on a regular basis. On dark moonless nights people have claimed to see the ghost of the General riding a snow white horse across the ruined bridge and up to the tower – even though it was only built long after he had died.
MEDITATION WITH THE DEVIL
Just below the tower is a cave where General Tarn is said to have retreated to meditate although many wonder exactly what sort of meditation would attract such a violent and brutal man. There are those that believe the cave may have once been linked to a tunnel that is said to have run from the house to Blackness Castle. The tunnel was sealed up by Robert Dalyell during the 1740’s after a dog entered the gloom and was never seen again. There were also reports that the air that came out of the opening was foul and poisonous.
As a proud Yorkshireman and Englishman it saddens me to say that our needs have often been overlooked and ignored at the expense of minority groups even from our own borders. Since the start of devolution and now with an impending vote on Scottish independence the main political parties have tried their utmost to pimp themselves out in a vain effort to win support in the Highlands for a “No” vote and maintain the Union as it currently stands. Scotland is a parasite on the mother nation of England that has become far too comfortable with it’s current position, their arrogance will cost them dearly in the coming years.
The West Lothian question not withstanding I firmly believe that it is time for Scotland to go and be allowed to wallow in their own country, content that their fate as a Celtic people is entirely in their own hands. No doubt when things start to fail and the messianic vision that Salmond has promised drifts from view, the stark and harsh realities becoming too much for many former British subjects I will be the first at the border to turn them away. England has been strong alone before and will be strong again.
A new wave of English nationalism will erupt as we once again fly the cross of St George, high and mighty, above our island nation. Safe and secure in the knowledge that we are indivisible and the Scottish problem will plague us no longer, no more will Westminster have to pander to Scottish blackmail from afar. Threatening the menace of independence, playing on emotional and historical ties in order to extract tribute from London and the richer Home Counties. Theirs is an uncompromising form of hard nosed political manoeuvring that seeks to hide the truth in a web of shadows and misinformation, all while a self-serving cabal of Scottish liberal socialists scheme to engineer the downfall of Britain and the continuing appropriation of funds from a Westminster government that is all to ready to give in to Salmond’s demands.
We will obviously have a lot of trouble in the immediate future but once the native Scots have been returned north of the border and an elaborate series of border checks and controls have been established then England will be able to assert our own national identity once more. No longer will be have to be ashamed of being English, ashamed of flying our flag and our history.
Probably my favourite small stretch of road in West Lothian, after the rain this afternoon. I love how the canopy almost folds over the road to create a tunnel. And the green this time of year is surely the greenest the plants get all year? :)