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This evening, I am posting information on one of Glasgow’s most renowned architects, Alexander ‘Greek’ Thomson (1817-1875), who has left a most interesting and diverse legacy of buildings in the Glasgow conurbation.

Thomson is a candidate for the position of greatest mind in Scottish architecture. He earned the nickname ‘Greek’ because of his belief that the architecture of ancient Greece could be the the basis of truly modern architecture notwithstanding which Thomson never actually visited Greece.

Thomson did not slavishly copy Greek designs but used Greek architecture as a living language to inspire his own designs. He was flexible and willing to include new inventions of the day ( e.g. plate glass and cast-iron) in his buildings.

Thomson had a wide canvas working in the expanding city of Glasgow and his prodigious output included commercial, warehouses, tenements, terraces of houses (row houses), villas and churches.

Thomson had a spiritual streak (he was a devout Christian) and interested in philosophical ideas and images of Old Testament catastrophes which also influenced his work.

Thomson’s early work was influenced by Italian Romanesque, Scottish Baronial. and Gothic. He subsequntly converted to the superiority of the Greek ideal.

Examples of his work include:

The St Vincent St Church, Grecian Buildings, Egyptian Halls (video below), Gordon Street Warehouse (above), Eton Terrace, The Sixty Steps, Great Western Terrace, Caledonia St Church, Millbrae Crescent and Holmwood House.

I hope to put up a web page dedicated to Thomson by end 2010.

Read more on Alexander Greek Thomson, Glasgow Architect…




This afternoon, I have decided to focus on Balmoral Castle which is located in the Highlands of Scotland, close to the banks of the River Dee and near to the village of Braemar.

In course of my private, guided tours of Scotland, I visit Balmoral a few times each year. On balance this is a worthwhile experience.

The castle is owned in a private capacity by the British Royal family. The grounds and one room of the Castle (the Ballroom) are open to the public during the summer months. Obviously, most visitors are motivated by the Royal connection but behind that a visit to the Castle is a pleasant enough experience (provided the weather is clement) with grounds and gardens to explore and admire. There is a magnificent avenue of trees, under half a mile in length, after the main entrance gates. Many of these trees were probably planted at the time of Prince Albert in the 19th century. Species include Noble Silver Fir and Grand Silver Fir.

Queen Victoria was inspired to purchase the property in 1848 and wrote to her uncle Leopold “… the scenery all around is the finest almost I have seen anywhere…we are certainly in the finest part of the Highlands and quite in the heart of them, and the soil and climate are the driest I almost saw anywhere. You can walk for ever…and then the wilderness, the solitariness of everything is so delightful, so refreshing, the people are so good and so simple…” The property has been in Royal ownership ever since.

Video no 1 below shows the sunken rose garden which, like the other gardens, is designed to be in flower when the Royal Family are in residence. There is a path which leads down to the River Dee and a beautiful riverside walk.

At the Castle there are also rest rooms, refreshment facilities and a shop. A visit will typically last about two hours.

Video no 2 below shows being led across the front of the castle.

Read more on Balmoral Castle, Scotland…




This evening I am focusing on what may well be the most photographed castle in Scotland, Eilean Donan or island of Donan. This castle is strategically positioned at the junction of three sea lochs, Loch Long, Loch Duich and Loch Alsh. This location was important in bygone days when the sea was the major highway. Equally important for modern visitors, the castle is conveniently situated on the route between Loch Ness and Isle of Skye.


The actual site has a history dating back to the Iron Age. In the 13th century there was a castle on the site when it was held by Kenneth Mackenzie. Subsequently, in 1362, the MacRae clan came to the area and became constables of the castle in 1511. After attacks by the MacDonalds in 1539 and the Jacobites in 1715 the castle was ruined and abandoned after bombardment by Government frigates in 1719.

During the early years of the 20th century the castle was rebuilt under the supervision of Lt.Col, John MacRae-Gilstrap and Farquhar MacRae. This rebuild was based on the ground plan of earlier phases of the castle and took from 1913 until 1932 to complete at cost of GBP250K, an enormous sum of money in those days.

Key features of the castle are: Courtyard, Billeting Room, Banqueting Hall, Bedrooms and Kitchen with the latter very much reflecting the style of the 1930s. Outside there is the war memorial plaque which records all those members of the MacRae Clan who died in WW1.

The castle featured in the film the Highlander with Sean Connery and Christopher Lambert plus minor roles in other films and TV programmes.

Read more on Eilean Donan Castle, Scotland…