Normally I write blog posts about my travels in chronological order. However, best-laid plans go awry at times, don’t they? I try to keep them in order to make it easy on myself and so you can follow along as if you were there with me. I can’t possibly write blog posts as fast as I visit places though, so most of the time I’m writing about something that happened in the recent past. At this time, however, I have already returned home from my trip and am now trying to catch up where I was after a month’s time has passed since my departure!
I’m writing this posting “out of order” because I feel it belongs with the blog post I wrote just recently and it seems logical to add it now. In that other post, I had been telling you about our first visit to see the formal gardens at the House of Dun on May 14th. During the process of writing that post, I discovered AFTER visiting it that I had ancestral ties to this place like so many others! You’d think I’d learn! Also, I discovered that we didn’t explore a couple of other features on the property as well; ones we wouldn’t want to miss: the Lady Augusta’s Walk, the old graveyard nor the old castle site, so Lindsay and I returned a second time to check them out on June 5th.
Upon arrival the second time around, we parked the car and headed straight for the gate that took us on a very interesting walk down through the woodlands along a creek in a ravine.
The path meandered along and was flanked with pretty woodland type flowers.
Then we took a few steps down as we entered into a bit of a tree tunnel with the pathway hugging the old castle defensive walls on one side and trees and tall bushes on the other until it opened up and a bridge appeared spanning the ravine offering access to the other side.
We could also see the creek below and a lovely secluded picnic area upstream in the distance.
We crossed the bridge and soon discovered an old ice house built into the side of the bank from long, long ago where the Lords and Ladies stored their blocks of ice.
After exploring the ice house, we came upon a gate nearby which led us into the old walled castle area. We walked through it toward the left until we reached the Erskine family burial grounds on the far left side of the massive enclosure.
Once inside the graveyard, we checked out all of the graves within from the Erskine family.
We could also see another graveyard beyond the family plot railings and what looked like an old church so we went back out of the family plot, to the big gate in the castle walls, which, in turn, led us to yet another gate to the other churchyard.
In 1375, my 19th great-grandfather, Robert Erskine (1310-1385) and his wife Beatrix Lindsay, purchased the Dun Estate. He, or one of his early descendants, built a tower house on a spot about a quarter of a mile west of the current House of Dun. This is the area we are currently exploring.
The building inside the graveyard evidently was the original parish church according to archeological findings and was later turned into the family mausoleum. Perhaps some of my distant relatives are buried within its walls and in its chambers. The Erskine family graves in the other enclosure appear to be for later generations of the Lairds of Dun.
The old building is quite interesting architecturally and so are the various headstones in the churchyard. I couldn’t get access inside the mausoleum, so I can’t determine who is buried inside nor if any of my relatives are in there but it was still really cool to see and the possibility of them being in there is rather high.
After exploring the churchyard, we walked back inside the castle walls and walked around its perimeter some more. There is still an existing archway on the site which leads into what was the inner courtyard of the original castle. The archway is the only remaining remnants of the castle (besides the castle walls).
The castle continued to be the Erskine family home until the early years of the 1700s when David Erskine, the 13th Laird of Dun, and a wealthy lawyer, decided he needed something more comfortable and prestigious. So he built the current House of Dun across the creek and up the hill from the castle where the views were better suited to his liking.
According to Undiscovered Scotland:
“By the 1600s it was increasingly common for Scotland’s many noble or landed families to begin to feel that their ancestral castles no longer met their needs or aspirations. They responded in many different ways. In some cases, castles evolved outwards into something larger and more comfortable. In other cases the family simply built a grand house and abandoned the old castle, leaving it to become a picturesque garden ornament.
David Erskine took a bolder approach. He pulled down Dun Castle sometime before 1723, then turned his attention to the house he wanted to replace it with.” (Clarification here – I am not related to any of the Erskines who built the current House of Dun except perhaps by very distant cousins.)
Inside the castle walls, we found some informal gardens cared for by local residents. Wish I could tend to those gardens! What a perfect spot and talk about an effective deer fence those castle walls make! The vegetable and flower gardens were quite extensive but barely put a dent in the massive space within the castle walls. If I were there I’m afraid I would try to fill every inch within the walls with gardens!
We then left the castle walls and worked our way along more of the woodland pathways as we made our way back to the car park. We barely scratched the surface of the pathways. They extend all the way around to the other side of the House of Dun along the outside perimeter of the estate. It will be fun sometime to return and follow more of them discovering their hidden treasures!
It was so pretty in that wild woodland garden with lots of unusual plants and specimens. It was also fun to explore up and down, over and under – where the paths led us.
Next, we decided to tour the new grand house that was built in the 1700’s by David Erskine. Before we did, however, we decided to get a bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich and a couple of lattes at the Erskine’s Tea Room and relax before touring the “new” house.
After our satisfying lunch, we began the tour of the inside of House of Dun.
If you were standing on the front steps looking out, this is the view you would see. (below) Everything is about symmetry in this design.
Let’s head inside and see what they have to offer, shall we?!
There was only one other couple, besides Lindsay and I, so the tour guide only had the four of us to take around. That made it really nice and very personalized.
According to the guidebook, “The House of Dun is the finest surviving modest-sized house designed by William Adam, the pre-eminent Scottish architect of the early 18th century. It has undergone remarkably little change to its original form through the years. Fashions in interior decoration have come and gone and furnishings have changed according to individuals’ tastes but the essence of a family home remains, with its unique combination of genteel grandeur and welcoming atmosphere.”
Inside, the house was quite impressive! We stood in the foyer for a short while as the tour guide gave us a brief history of the house and its inhabitants before we ventured into the main saloon beyond.
What a magnificent room! “The superb plasterwork by Joseph Enzer was one of the final touches to the house and the wonderful array of his allegorical emblems in the saloon still leap from the walls with remarkable freshness. The dominant Roman God of War, Mars, representing the family history and noble pedigree, is balanced against Minerva, Goddess of Wisdom and Peach, a suitable emblem for the house of Lord Dun, a high court judge.
The pastoral emblems above the windows are typical of the 18th-century romanticized view of nature and provide a direct link with the view outside.”
He even used a real basket to plaster, and the plastered seashells are also real. Makes me wonder if the violin is also real and was given a coat of plaster as well! Remarkable plaster work!
The next room we entered was the dining room and its walls were adorned with all kinds of paintings of various family members throughout the ages.
The child on the right in this painting is Millicent Lovett, the 21st and last Laird of Dun, with her mother and sister. We also saw her headstone in the family graveyard earlier.
The woman below with her children is Lady Augusta. She was reportedly very beautiful, with a charming manner and an irresistible speaking voice inherited from her actress mother, Dora Jordan.
She was one of 10 illegitimate children of King William IV and Ms. Jordan. According to the guidebook, “She married the Honourable John Kennedy Erskine, heir to the House of Dun through his mother. Following their wedding, they came north to Dun and embarked on a series of changes to the house.
There are many reminders of Augusta’s royal lineage in the house. She was also a prolific and accomplished needlewoman, creating the woolwork bed hangings bearing the family crest for the red bedroom, decorative silk fire screens and the remarkable embroidered curtains and pelmets depicting floral wreaths and exotic birds that once adorned the saloon but are now in the boudoir. For the wedding of her son, William Henry, she embroidered a silk bedcover with delicate flowers & initials, and the words “From Mother.” The plan for the flower garden is also attributed to her, with ribbon borders and a rose bower in the center.”
Since I also have done a bit of needlework myself, I was particularly impressed with her work. She created so many pieces and of such large proportions! It must have taken her so long to create all of these beautiful and intricate needlework specimens!
We will see many more examples of her work as we visit the various other rooms in the house. For now, we are still in the dining room.
After the dining room, we visited another room which had quite a fine collection of Chinese porcelain and other interesting pieces.
We passed through the Stone Hall, pausing to admire the collection of walking sticks & horse whips displayed on the walls above our heads. This family was quite into horses!
Then we headed upstairs to tour the bedrooms.
This bedroom had a very unusual bathtub called a boot bath adjoining it. Never have seen one quite like it before!
Near the top of the house was this lovely little sitting area with a game table, a piano and a beautiful mother of pearl clock!
At the very top of the house was a large room which the Trust had used as an exhibition area to tell the stories of the House of Dun’s famous inhabitants.
The next room we visited was the red bedroom with the beautiful and ornately embroidered wool bed coverings, family crest and a handmade embroidered quilt by Lady Augusta for her son William for his wedding.
After touring the main part of the house where all the family members hung out, we went back downstairs and to the lower levels of the house where the servants lived and worked. I always enjoy this part of the tour! I can just see them scurrying about and making everything happen.
This was followed by a visit to the nearby wine cellars and the game keeper’s office.
Next came the kitchen!
And for the finale, we toured the Governess’s quarters. Quite charming and cozy!
We really enjoyed the tour and walking some of the woodland pathways. The House of Dun is definitely a place to visit, but be sure to allow a full day for exploring all of its many treasures. As we left the Estate and started up the road for other destinations that day, we noticed a sign pointing the way for the “Bridge of Dun.” We turned down the narrow road and came upon this beautiful bridge as a final surprise! What a delightful find!
Now that I am home once again in Oregon, it’s really fun to review the photos and information I have gathered up to write about the rest of the trip. I still have about 40 folders full of wonderful photos and stories to share with you so this definitely is not the last entry about my 2018 travels! I also have other adventures in California and Washington to embark upon later this summer and fall. I’ll probably be writing about them all right up to the end of the year!
In the meantime, as if I didn’t have anything to do, I decided to move! I have relocated with my daughter and granddaughter to the northern part of Oregon, near Portland, to a lovely little rural town called St. Helens on the banks of the Columbia River. My oldest granddaughter, Nichole, and my great-granddaughter, Alaska, also live nearby so therein lies my biggest motivation to relocate!
There are all kinds of new roads to follow and paths to discover, wrought with fresh material for future blog posts to share with you! The possibilities are endless!
Attitude of Gratitude ~ I am so grateful for the ability to travel and write about the wonderful places I visit. I am grateful for the opportunities that arise and the delightful places I get to share with my readers; all the while hoping to inspire them to seek adventure and surprises themselves.