Dunglass

Not far from Dunbar is the Torness nuclear power station. It is a major employer in the local area and a landmark for all those passing on the A1 or the railway so they know they are edging closer to home. Torness, to be fair, is not bonny; it is a grey boxy building devoid of much charm. Plus it is a nuclear power station so environmental considerations outweigh the architectural merits of the place. Those who live nearby are issued with special tablets in case everything goes wrong and the Civil Nuclear Constabulary patrol the local area, as they were the other day when we went to Dunglass Collegiate Church, about 3 miles away on the border between East Lothian and the Scottish Borders. Dunglass had long been on my list and en route to Northumberland, we stopped in for a wee look on a mild December morning.

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Dunglass Collegiate Church is a fine looking church, sitting on a hill in the Dunglass estate with a view down to the sea at Thorntonloch and of course to Torness too. It is ruined now, roofed but open to the elements, used as a barn at one point and before that as a burial place and chapel for the Hall and Hume families. At the time, I was trying to write an essay for my OU course about the nobility in early modern Europe (now thankfully resolved and submitted) and imagined the noble families using this place as their own private sanctuary in life and in death too.

Of particular interest were two monuments in the south transept, one to Lady Helen Hall, 1762-1837, whose ‘powerful mental qualifications and accomplishments rendered her a conspicuous member of her time’, and the other to her husband Sir James Hall, who had a particular interest in geology, significant in the area due to Siccar Point being nearby, one of Hutton’s Uncomformaties, which helped to define how we understand the earth’s makeup today.

We didn’t linger long though it definitely merits a longer visit on a warmer and brighter day, perhaps to sit with a book and to look out to sea and to appreciate the light’s effect on the grey, sandstone walls of the church. The closest similar place I know is Seton Collegiate Church, between Port Seton and Longniddry, which I last visited about five or six years ago and where I sat on a hot summer’s day with a copy of Jules Verne’s Around The World In Eighty Days in hand, reading and basking in my surroundings. Dunglass will definitely be on my list for next year, perhaps combined with a walk down into Bilsdean Glen with its fine waterfall and maybe even a walk along the John Muir Link past Torness towards Skateraw, Barns Ness and eventually Dunbar. In the meantime, I am glad to have gotten there, even on the way somewhere else.

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