Well, not really, but I did have a whole day exploring some of Ayrshire’s hidden gems often closed to the public, courtesy of Doors Open Day weekend 1 on the Sunday. I spent the saturday with some of my friends doing our own architectural tour, stopped off at the Lighthouse for an awe inspiring view over Glasgow City Centre.
Travelling to Ayrshire from Glasgow can be a little on the expensive side, but not if you have an SPT daytripper ticket. This lets you travel all over the old Strathclyde area, using many modes of transport. On non Doors Open weekends, I tend to adopt this as somewhat of a challenge, using as many modes of transport to get as far as possible (yes, it is technically possible to do them all including bus, subway, train and ferry.. I will save this particular expedition for another blog post).
Back to Ayrshire, one of the best things about having a daytripper is the possibility of sitting on the top deck of the bus, on the big wean seats (for all non Glasgow-ers reading this, that means embracing your inner child and sitting at the front seat of the double decker bus at the top), also at getting on and off anywhere you like. The scariest bit is scratching off the ticket foil though, no prizes if you accidentally scratch the wrong day!
This particular double decker bus journey was met with much fun views of people in tutu’s and all sorts of flourescent garb going along the Kingston Bridge as it was the day of the Great Scottish run.
On the way to Ayr I got a splendid view of the “Pure Dead Brilliant” Prestwick airport and flying man sculptures. Does watching planes take off count as a mode of transport? sadly, I don’t think Daytrippers are accepted on aeroplanes :-). Just before the airport you get the most amazing view of the sea, Arran stretches out before you and the water glistens with a spectacular sense of joy. The West Coast of Scotland in the sun is indeed a beautiful sight to behold.
On the edge of Ayr we were greeted with play on words shop number 1, a nod to Ayrshire’s famous poet. Do you think he enjoyed his fried goodies? This BBC website explains more.
I have been to Ayr many, many times, but Doors Open Day gives a great excuse to go and have a nosy again. There are a great number of architectural gems in the town, it’s amazing to think that a lot of people will only go to the shops and the beach and back and that’s it! Arriving in Ayr bus station (actual mode of transport 1) one is met straight away with two buildings in the same street open for our delight. The Scottish Episcopal Church of Scotland had their blue balloons out, waving at us from the end of the street. The nearest property was the masonic hall, so we ventured in and upstairs. What beautiful rippled coloured stained glass, originally from Newnham School. Each part of the window was constructed from glass of a different texture, held together with lead cames. The top parts had been changed to include various masonic symbols. One of them said “tempus fugit” which if my Latin serves me well (I never did Latin at school, but I did learn “sinister dexter sinister dexter” while walking along the Roman Wall) means “time flies”. Time does indeed fly, for how did it get to be September already? Back downstairs we admired the building from the outside.
Holy Trinity church service was still on as it was a Sunday morning; we got to hear the choir belting out a hymn and the sound bouncing off the walls, what acoustics! Peeked in and admired the spaciousness, and also the beautiful vaulting in the ceiling of the porch area. There was also a beautiful door knocker, spikey ironwork (as featured in the blog entry “why I love September in Scotland (and it’s nearest neighbour)”.
Took a wander to the Tourist Information in Sandgate to pick up a map we could draw on and plot out the buildings we might see. The TIC is in a beautiful limewashed building, not in itself a Doors Open attraction, but it’s truely spectacular vernacular. You can’t help but stare. The staff in the TIC are so helpful, they know everything about Ayr and will happily print things off their computer for you if needs be. We picked up paper versions of the Doors Open brochures, and a number of “for later” leaflets about cycle routes and walking routes off the Ayr to Stranraer train line. My “Ayrshire and Arran: An Illustrated Architectural Guide” book (RIAS publications, by Rob Close… many places in Scotland have these guides and I’m still building my collection!) told me this property is “17th century onwards”. Crazy crowsteps. There is also a sign on the building which explains the story of Lady Cathcart’s house. John Louden McAdam, road engineer was reputedly born in this building, we had seen the remains of his works while doing the Ayr Way last year (near Muirkirk). Just think, all those miles of motorway as a result of this building!
The Town Hall is beautifully adorned with Griffins. There was an event on, “tea and tunes in the tower” so we were able to see inside. There’s gorgeous civic stained glass, especially the Provost’s room. Nearby 1930’s buildings in the High Street still have a painted “Burton’s” advert on. Much to see and notice.
Stopped off for tea and tray bake at Ayr’s oldest restaurant, “the Swan” which has a nice view of the old bridge. Wickedly nice chocolate caramel, and yummy proper coffee. The photos on the wall were also quite interesting, old Ayr very much in the frame.
The route which we chose to get to the “ten rooms” exhibition passed the covenanter’s grave, and offered beautiful views of the bridges, the river, and its noisy but pretty geese. We also passed two other amusingly named outlets, “Ar’Tea cafe and gallery” and “Neet Wheat” health food shop.
We spent quite a happy while wandering around “Ten rooms at Holmston House”. I was particularly taken with the work of David Croft Smith (Journey 14 was colourful and striking, the video below shows some of his work), and loved the work of Ian McNicol. Spectacular prints of all kinds, beautiful etchings and wood carvings, imaginatively arranged showing architectural features of buildings in Glasgow. He had a programme out for Glasgow Print Studio, it makes me want to pick up my linocutting again. Unusually for me, I did not do any drawing the whole day, I was too absorbed in the art and architecture! I love that handcrafted effect which you get from prints, where ink is not quite all there. Some of Ian McNicol’s work is featured on their page although this does not include the architectural images to which I refer.
St. Andrew’s Parish Church in Park Circus church was next on our list, a helpful guide told us all about the stained glass here (each lower window is different), and also the story of the steeple construction (a generous parishioner donated the funds to construct it). The upper floor balcony offered a good view of the main church, and a close up of the other glass, which is beautifully aged with little roundels teaming with light from the Ayrshire sun.
County buildings is half a sheriff court and half Council Offices. i think if I worked there I would never get any work done, the view out of the windows and over the sea is fantastic! The rooms are all named after towns and villages in South Ayrshire, and the Council crest (with its motto chosen as a response to a competition for local people) is also seen in the flooring to the entrance area. One of the most amusing features of this building was its bannisters, carved griffins or dragons invite you upstairs. The gates are also quite impressive, framing the entrances off Wellington Square.
As closing time of Doors Open properties emerges, we retired to a lovely chip shop (well, chips always taste best by the sea!) and then decided to play pot luck with transport. What was due next? At the bus station we were met with a few queues but no pending buses, so we went to the train station and decided to get the first train which came. The view up the Clyde coast is beautiful, Arran and Cumbrae islands, golf courses and sparking sea. It was o its way back to Glasgow, but far too soon to end our day so a lottery of stops ended up in Kilwinning. We had never been there before and the guide told us that it had an 1187+ abbey which beats St Andrew’s Cathedral and Westminster Abbey in bulk. What’s not to like? A monument which makes such claims is clearly worthy of a good nosy. What we found was a beautiful mixture of a building, oh if stones could speak. The aesthetics of eroded stone clearly on display and also some archaeological excavations underway. One of the most striking features of the area around the Abbey was a particular grave which had the scariest yet most interesting carvings I think I have ever seen, sulking skulls.
The High Street has “The Mother Lodge”, red sandstone carving on a building which is the home of freemasonry. Having known next to nothing about this subject at the start of the day, here we had viewed two of these buildings in one day.
Here is a selection of Doors Open Day images from week 1 wanders.