On Friday, 9th June, 37 u3a members, 28 from Seaham Harbour u3a, 8 from Seaham and District u3a and 1 from Houghton u3a, set out for Scotland on a dull day.
Our first stop was at Paxton House in the Scottish Borders near Berwick upon Tweed. It is a beautiful country house built for Patrick Home in an unsuccessful attempt to woo a Prussian heiress. It was built between 1758 and 1766, under the supervision of James Nesbit, with extensive interiors by Robert Adam, as well as furniture by Thomas Chippendale, and paintings from Scotland’s national collection. Some remarkably preserved Georgian costumes delighted us with their colour and flamboyant style. The sun came out to show off this grand house to its full potential. Our guided tour of the house brought history alive. The grounds were vast with plenty of scope to explore or take it easy. The House was one of the first houses in Scotland to pump water from a spring up to a tank at the top of the house. Technology in the 18th Century at its best.
From Paxton House we journeyed on to Stirling, to the King Robert Hotel, right next to the exhibition hall for the Battle of Bannockburn, 1314, when Robert the Bruce, King of Scots defeated the English King, Edward ll. A landmark moment in Scottish history. A short rest and then a wholesome dinner and drinks.
Saturday arrived with full sun. The clear air allowed us a great view of the battle site which allowed the Scots a tremendous advantage over the English army. They could see the English army miles into the distance. Today saw a coach ride to Loch Lomond, via an outlet centre, market and folk dressed up for Comic Character Day, a charity event for a local hospital. A stop at an hotel for freshly baked scones, cake, and coffee, followed by some with a walk to the loch side with its peaceful surroundings and mountains. After our onward journey we stopped for refreshments before driving through beautiful Callander, and back to the hotel for dinner.
Sunday’s early rain soon developed into a very hot day. The jewel in our weekend was the visit to Dumfries House near Cumnock in East Ayrshire. This 18th Century house and 2500 acres of land were rescued by the Prince’s Regeneration Trust Foundation. The house is noted for its original 18th Century carpets and furniture, including specially commissioned Thomas Chippendale pieces. In 2003 the House first came to the attention of the then Prince Charles. But in 2007 the house and contents were to be broken up and sold. Charles began the process of saving this for the nation. A £45 million deal secured the House and its large collection of Chippendale furniture. The vision was to restore the House to its former glory, The restoration of the House required specialist knowledge and many local people became apprentices and developed valuable skills. The proof is in the seeing. The restoration is magnificent and truly fit, not only for a King, but the nation’s people. The gardens and grounds are just as magnificent.
All too soon our weekend came to an end and homeward bound we set off, tired but delighted with our experiences.
N.B. You might be interested in watching the BBC programme “The Repair Shop” which was broadcast on 26th October 2022. “Charles and Dumfries House”.