Throwback: Culross and Cochrane

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Cochrane and the Culross town house

(This isn’t exactly a throwback, because although I went to Culross years ago and took photos then, I’ve lost them, so all the photos are new. But never mind.)

Culross on the south coast of Fife is a wonderfully preserved place, with a jumble of old houses and little cobbled streets and an old market cross tucked into a tiny square, and a bright yellow palace which they swear is how it would have looked originally!

It’s not Thomas Cochrane’s birthplace – he was born over in the west somewhere – but it is where he grew up.

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Culross houses

The main street now leads along the sea front, and it’s there that the main open square is, with the statue of Cochrane. The statue is fairly new – apparently it was put up because visitors from South America kept asking where his memorial was.

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Cochrane statue and inscription

The inscription in front of it is impossible to get a good picture of – there’s no high point where you can stand – but it’s a slightly cut down version of the inscription on his gravestone in Westminster Abbey.

THOMAS COCHRANE G.C.B. ADMIRAL OF THE FLEET
Marquis of Maranham Brazil TENTH EARL OF DUNDONALD
BY THE CONFIDENCE WHICH HIS GENIUS HIS SCIENCE
AND HIS EXTRAORDINARY DARING INSPIRED
BY HIS HEROIC EXERTIONS IN THE CAUSE OF FREEDOM
HIS GREAT SERVICE ALIKE TO HIS OWN COUNTRY
TO GREECE TO BRAZIL AND PERU HE ACHIEVED
A NAME ILLUSTRIOUS THROUGHOUT THE WORLD
FOR COURAGE PATRIOTISM AND CHIVALRY

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Cochrane statue

Behind the sea front the old streets run steeeply up to the church on the hill, built in – and out of – the ruins of the original abbey.

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Abbey remains

The plaques in the porch recording gifts to the poor include one from Lady Mary Cochrane, who brought Culross into the Cochrane family (and who also has a dance – probably originally named for a tune, but if so the tune doesn’t seem to have survived.)

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Church plaques

Cochrane’s childhood home was Culross Abbey House, on the hill in behind the church.

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The church and Abbey House

If I had realised this earlier I would have gone up to see if there was a view from the gate, but by the time I’d got down the hill I wasn’t going back up again.

You get a pretty good view from the shore, anyway – the house has been remodelled over the years, but has now been restored to something like the original state.

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Culross Abbey House

Down on the shore a little clump of houses is called Cochrane Haven – according to the plaque on them named specifically for the admiral, and not for the family as local landowners.

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Cochrane Haven
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Cochrane Haven sign

The Scott Monument

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Scott in his monument

Surprisingly, although I tend to climb to the highest point of any city I visit – I’ve been up many towers and spires – I’ve lived in Edinburgh for about 30 years without ever climbing the Scott Monument. So since I’m on a monument kick at the moment it had to be time to do it.

The momument itself is Victorian, of course, but Scott himself was one of the most influential authors of late Georgian times. It’s definitely an impressive monument, although too elaboate Victorian for my tastes.

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Towering spires

The monument is covered in little statues representing Scottish poets and characters from Scott’s novels.

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Statues and carving

In among the pillars at the bottom there is a statue of Scott and his dog Maida.

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Scott

Climbing the monument was quite an adventure – there are several gallery levels where you come out, with a small museum on the first of them, and the stairs get narrower and narrower as you head to the top.

The views are worth it, though, in all directions – looking towards North Bridge and Arthur’s Seat and Salisbury Crags, and the monuments on Calton Hill, up towards the Old Town and the castle with the Pentlands showing beyond, or looking out over the New Town (and Lord Melville’s monument) towards the sea.

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North Bridge and Salisbury Crags
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Calton Hill and the Balmoral Hotel
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The old town and the Pentlands
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To the sea