St Andrews to Lindores Abbey

Again today the cloud base in St Andrews was down at zero as I set out on my ride, a far cry from a beautiful day in spring (2020) when I cycled to Lindor Abbey

Monday rest day and I slept on until after 8 o’clock although I had been in bed before 10 o’clock the evening before. I whiled away the day not doing very much and later went off down to the harbour and sat there a while, daydreaming, I didn’t seem to have any get up and go this morning.

Tuesday a completely new ball game, up with the larks feeling good to go, lights, camera, action. There was still a chill in the morning air as I travelled the road into Cupar, by now a well-worn path. I stayed on the A91 all the way to Melville Lodges roundabout and just a few hundred yards further on I called in to see the Windmill converted to a Dove Cot.

The dovecot is circular and was apparently converted from a windmill. The internal diameter is 12 feet and the walls are 3 feet thick. The roof is covered with Scottish slate, unlike welsh slate, these are a bit misshaped and when laid have a unique textured look. The dovecot stands upon a flat-topped mound 20.0m in diameter and 3.0m high. Beneath the mound is a barrel-vaulted mound measuring 12.0m deep by 3.0m wide and 2.5m high, there is no apparent communication with the dovecote above. There is a similar mill with a vaulted chamber below at Dunbarney Perthshire, dated, mid to late 17th century.

Back on the A91 I turned off for Collessie, at first I thought I had turned onto a farm track by mistake, but no, up a wee climb and I was in Collessie. On the way up I passed a field with five horses, thereto was a young foul, all seemed to be of a heavy horse breed with big feet. Which for some reason reminded me of the film Notting Hill.

In the film Anna Scott (played by Julia Roberts) was chilling on the settee in William Thatcher’s (played by Hugh Grant) living room,

Anna, “you have big feet”

William, “yes”

Anna, you know what they say about big fee?

William “no, what do they say about big feet?”

Anna, “big feet – big – shoe size”

When I returned home, I looked up Newton Farm and found the breed of horse to be Clydesdale, and that the farmer was one Ronnie Black, dedicated to saving the breed.

There is a Pictish standing stone in the field beyond the farm. Carved on the surface of the stone is a large human figure and two symbols. The figure is walking towards the left and carrying a large rectangular shield and a spear. There is an arch symbol over traces of what has been identified as a Pictish beast. I have seen pictures of this stone but since we are in lock-down and to get to the stone you have to go through the farm and farmers field to get to it, I though better left for another day.

It was such a beautiful day, and all around I found all manner of wild fauna and lots and lots of primroses.

I stopped off at the church to drink from my bottle and wander around, the church it’s actually up for sale, I could imagine the sales pitch “well-maintained building, very quiet neighbours”. Although only a few miles from Cupar this village seems far from the maddening crowds.

I dropped down the steep narrow road turned right at the bottom and headed for Lindores Loch, this is God’s own country the road follows closely the railway line to Dundee, weaving its way along the valley floor. A train did pass along the line as I cycle on and I was surprised how quiet it was. The loch was a mirror with the odd willow the wisp scurrying across its surface. This is cycling at its best.

I left the road after the village of Lindores to visit the church on the far bank of the loch, both gates were chained shut but I still managed to get a good idea of its size and shape, the bell-tower with its large swinging bells was a surprise. When I lived in Bingley I took up bell ringing, we practised every Tuesday and rang peels on a Sunday, also if there was a wedding, we would ring the bells then. I did learn to manage the bell, holding it at the top of its stroke, but my timing was all over the place (is that a bum note I hear you play there Walter) The bells made so much noise I often wondered if anyone noticed my mistiming? Strangely enough, if I did not try to concentrate so hard and simply let the rhythm take charge I was better, better as in relative.

The present church was built in 1826/27, to a design by William Bum, replacing the pre-reformation church, St Magridin’s, which stands as a ruin nearby. That church was consecrated by Bishop David de Bernham in 1242 and in pre-Reformation days was under the control of Lindores Abbey. Abdie and Dunbog parishes became a united charge under one minister from December 1965, with the church building in Dunbog closing in 1983 upon the ecclesiastical parish of Abdie and Dunbog being linked with Newburgh.

The parish seems original to have had the name Lindores. However, when Lindores Abbey was granted a charter in 1178, the monks kept the old name and thereafter called the parish Abdie (or Abden), meaning “The lands pertaining to the Abbey of God”.

Back on the A913 I turned left for the Den of Lindores, this is a long downhill run all the way into Newburgh. I stopped off at the old castle ruin to take some photographs and a lad pulled up on his bike for a blether. His was an electric bicycle, in that typical Dutch style (sit up and beg). I said I may have to buy one of those in a few years time, to aid me on the hills. He said he bought it when he retired (did not say when he retired but later told me he was 71 years old) and has covered 4 thousand miles on the bike, now that’s a lot of miles. He told me that the buildings we were standing next to were the old farm steading. They were bought some years back and the buyer removed the roofs and was intending to pull them down and build houses there in their place. He had not heard anything more about the building of houses since, (possibly the buildings are listed and can not be knocked down). I got the feeling he would have blathered all day, so I made my excuses and went off to photograph the old ruined castle.

On into Newburgh village turning at the filling station and into Lindores Abbey. This is a massive site, it must have been one impressive abbey in its day. The remains of the abbey are very fragmented but it is still possible to work out the basic layout. The Cloisters were straight ahead as you enter the gate. To the right of what would have been a quadrangle are the Chapter House, so-called because this is where the daily reading of the chapter, the rules of St Benedict read aloud (learning by rot) and what remains of the south wing of the Choir. Beyond the Cloister quadrangle is the remanent of the wall that would have formed the main building the North Aisle and Nave with a Bell Tower in the north-west corner. You will see the round stumps of pillars that would have once held up the roof in the Nave. The remains of two child-size stone coffins, which are said to belong to Earl David’s children can still be seen in the south transept.

The Abbey was founded in 1190 by David earl of Huntingdon (grandson

of David 1st) it was inhabited by Tironensians monks, the Tironensians had a number of important houses in Scotland but it was very much a Scottish sect and hardly found outside Scotland. David 1st was a great patron of the Tironensians and founded an abbey at Selkirk (later moved to Kelso) and was the first house of the ‘reformed’ Benedictine religious orders.

I returned home on the A913 into Cupar where I picked up the A91 for home. Using the main roads is fine during the ‘stay at home’ shutdown, for the traffic is light and the road surfaces in better condition than ‘B’ roads and unclassified, so it is much easier to keep a good momentum going. Today was a bit special.

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