Wednesday, 19 January 2011

A Busman's Break, from Cathie Devitt

What is one to do when left with the post-festive blues? Having stuffed the family with traditional fayre, fallen victim to a mild, but irritating, dose of the flu, and coped with the unexpected bereavement of a close family member, I was feeling jaded and in need of some TLC far away from my hectic life.

Bearing in mind the freezing weather that Scotland experienced in 2010 (Global temperature warmed to near record levels say climate scientists from the Met Office), I was reluctant to travel far.

How surprised was I to discover the perfect sanctuary less than 25 miles from my home, on the map, but a whole world apart in terms of the tranquillity and scenic landscape.

Gartmore House sits within 75 acres of private gardens 2.5 miles from Aberfoyle, gateway to the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park.

On checking in at the reception desk, I discovered that Gartmore House is the family home of a fellow writer: Robert Bontine Cunninghame Graham.

Unfamiliar with the name I delved further into Robert’s history and was delighted to discover that he was a great author,with friends such as George Bernard Shaw and Oscar Wilde in his address book.

Born of Spanish descent on 24th May 1852, Robert was the eldest son of a family of three and as the eldest, he claimed his right to the Earldom of Strathearn, Mentieth and Airth on the side of his father, William Cunninghame Graham Bontine of Ardoch and Gartmore.

There is great sadness within the biography of Robert’s life. Overcome with grief on the death of his wife Gabriella in 1906, Robert dug her grave with his own hands in the old priory at Inchmahome Island on the lake of Menteith.

Gabriella was an artist, writer and poet. Robert’s death followed thirty years later in 1936 at the age of eighty four.

I felt privileged to sit by the coal fire in the main drawing room, glass in hand, book on my lap, in the company of a kindred spirit. I appreciated the magic of sharing time in this wonderful venue. Just “being”.

The snow fell heavily on the night of our arrival and dusted the grounds in sparkling virgin snow. A stroll to walk off the huge breakfast seemed reasonable. Walking through winding footpaths I stopped for a moment.

‘Listen,’ I said.

‘I can’t hear anything.’

‘My point exactly,’ I replied.

I often take short breaks away to concentrate on my own writing. This, however, was not my intention when I visited Gartmore House in January 2011. I sought only peace and rest.

Trust me to book in on the annual weekend of “Georgina’s Quilters” which only led to my curiosity being fired up even more. We were welcomed into the workroom that the ladies were using over their very productive weekend.

A wonderland of colours and fabrics enhanced by the backdrop of a bay window overlooking snow-capped hills.

As the ladies worked by hand and machine, I admired their creations which varied in size, colour, textures and design. ( A story for another time).

Typical writer, I ended up buying a crisp new notebook from the woollen mill shop in Aberfoyle, and here I am writing the first of many memories that I have from my weekend.

Cathie Devitt


Find out more about Don Roberto on Wikipedia.

Find out more about Gartmore House here.

Find out more about the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park here.

Find out more about the Weather in Scotland from the Met Office here.

Find out more about Cathie Devitt - Writer


Rosemary Gemmell said...

Great post, Cathie, and gorgeous photos. Sounds like the perfect place for writing.

Vikki said...

Sounds like a great getaway! And that first photo is stunning

chris gibbs said...

I left a comment yesterday 20 Jan saying how much I enjoyed Cathie's descriptive account. I felt I was there too.

Don't think it 'went' somehow - will try again!

Chris Gibbs

Cathie said...

Thank you for all the comments. The photos were not taken by me alas, but by Brian, who is a dab hand at that sort of thing, which left me to stroll with my hands in my pockets.
I call it teamwork.
Cheers Brian!