Archive for the House Category

The Lost Gardens of Penicuik

Posted in Caves, Edinburgh, Gardens, History, House, Landscape, Ruins with tags , , , , , , , , on February 1, 2014 by mysearchformagic

Nestled at the feet of the Pentland Hills not far from Edinburgh, Penicuik is a fairly quiet, unexceptional town, not the kind of place you would expect to find magic. But on its outskirts lies the estate of Penicuik House, a grand mansion which is now a stately ruin. The huge gardens which surround it were once some of the most impressive in Scotland, but since the house was gutted by fire in 1899 they have been slowly returning to nature. The result is a wonderfully wild and picturesque landscape now known as the “Lost Gardens of Penicuik”.

The stately ruins of Penicuik House

The stately ruins of Penicuik House

Penicuik House has long been the home of the Clerk family, and indeed they still live in the imposing stable block near the ruins of the late 18th Century house. Sir John Clerk of Penicuik, the famous antiquarian and politician who lived here until 1755, was responsible for much of what we see in the gardens today. A huge fan of ancient Rome, he littered the grounds with picturesque neoclassical fountains, and even built a dramatic cave leading to a lake based on the famous grotto at Pausillipo near Naples.

The view from Penicuik House towards the Low Pond

The view from Penicuik House towards the Low Pond

In the 18th Century the gardens at Penicuik were compared to the romantic landscape of Tivoli near Rome, famous for its huge waterfalls and rugged cliffs. Nowadays the place is rather overgrown, and on the day I visited the Pentlands were cloaked in heavy grey clouds, but this sense of brooding neglect only added to the magical atmosphere.

A picturesque gorge in the grounds of Penicuik House

A picturesque gorge in the grounds of Penicuik House

Some areas of the garden, including that ‘Roman’ cave, are still off limits to visitors, and in need of restoration. The opulent terraces are hidden in the overgrowth, the once proud gates are rusted and its crumbling walls covered in moss. The impressive ruins of Penicuik House itself are currently being consolidated, and a new project has also recently been launched to revive the large walled gardens which sit close by. It’s good to see the gardens of Penicuik being brought back to life, but I hope they still retain their wild, overgrown magic.

A neoclassical fountain with Latin inscription in the gardens of Penicuik House

A neoclassical fountain with Latin inscription in the gardens of Penicuik House

The inclement weather on the day of my visit prevented me from fully exploring the “Lost Gardens of Penicuik”, but you can be sure that I will be back there soon to soak up its unique, enchanting atmosphere of elegant, magical decay.

A lichen-covered gate in the grounds of Penicuik House

A lichen-covered gate in the grounds of Penicuik House

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Place Sainte-Anne, Rennes

Posted in Brittany, History, House with tags , , , on January 19, 2014 by mysearchformagic

I’ve made a few brief visits to Rennes over the years, but on my recent trip to Brittany I finally got to explore the town properly. I discovered the ancient heart of the city, and plenty of wonderful streets lined with colourful houses like these in the Place Sainte-Anne.

Colourful houses in the Place Sainte-Anne, Rennes

Colourful houses in the Place Sainte-Anne, Rennes

Wandering through the maze of cobbled streets in the medieval quarter of Rennes, it is easy to feel like you have stepped into a fairytale. Truly magical!

A Magical Breton Christmas

Posted in Brittany, Christmas, Church, History, House with tags , , , , , , , , , on December 26, 2013 by mysearchformagic

This year I am spending the holidays in the lovely French town of Malestroit.

Chritstmas lights in Malestroit

Chritstmas lights in Malestroit

With its pretty medieval quarter dotted with strange sculptures, Malestroit is always a pretty special place. At this time of year the locals decorate the main square with Christmas lights and place a huge tree next to the ancient church. As you can see from these photographs, the results are rather wonderful.

The medieval houses of Malestroit

The medieval houses of Malestroit

On a dark evening, the chill air filled with the sweet smell of wood smoke, the atmosphere here is truly magical.

But the great thing about Christmas is that it can be magical, wherever you are.

The church of St Gilles, Malestroit

The church of St Gilles, Malestroit

So here’s to a happy, and of course very magical, 2014!

Halloween Decorations, Atlanta

Posted in Ghosts, Hallowe'en, House, Superstition, Witches with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 29, 2013 by mysearchformagic

I’ve often heard how much they love Halloween over in the USA, but it was only on a visit to Atlanta, Georgia last week that I discovered quite how much.

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These houses in the suburb of East Point give you an idea of the amount of effort some people go to when it comes to putting up Halloween decorations. Forget about a couple of sorry-looking pumpkin lanterns, these guys really go to town – giant cobwebs, gravestones all over the lawns, hanging corpses and much, much more.

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I know that some people bemoan the commercialisation of Halloween, and I certainly saw plenty of that on my recent trip, including everything from pumpkin flavoured lattes to the constant advertisements for the latest horror blockbuster and supermarket aisles brimming with candy and junky plastic toys. But I loved these decorated houses with all their spooky accoutrements. The work and imagination involved the putting them together is astounding.

Zombies and corpses outside a Halloween house

Zombies and corpses outside a Halloween house

Strolling past these houses as the sun sets and a long dark night begins, well that is definitely a magical experience, even if I didn’t get to experience the crowds which apparently visit them on Halloween night itself.

Happy Halloween y’all!

Enter if you dare!

Enter if you dare!

Tomorrow, Elmgreen & Dragset

Posted in Art, House, London, Museum with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 16, 2013 by mysearchformagic

There’s been outrage in Kensington over the last couple of weeks. Passers-by can’t help but notice the enormous billboard outside the world-renowned Victoria and Albert Museum announcing that a luxury flat is for sale within the museum itself. Shocked locals are calling up to express their disgust at the idea that part of this historic institution is being sold off. A few people have been in touch expressing an interest in buying it. All of them have been informed that the billboard is an elaborate wheeze created by artistic duo Elmgreen & Dragset as part of their latest installation, entitled Tomorrow.

Controversial hoardings outside the V&A, London

Controversial hoardings outside the V&A, London

I was lucky enough to attend an evening private view of Tomorrow this week. Typically of Elmgreen & Dragset, the installation involves a complex back story – in fact they describe the work as the set from an unrealised film.

The opulent drawing room of Tomorrow All images courtesy of the artists and Victoria Miro, London

The opulent drawing room of Tomorrow
All images courtesy of the artists and Victoria Miro, London

Grand galleries which once housed the V&A’s tapestry collection have been magically transformed into a vast apartment, the home of ageing architectural academic Norman Swann. Born to a wealthy family, Swann has never quite lived up to his potential; none of his designs have ever been built, and now he is old and washed up, out of money and being forced to put the apartment on the market. Visitors to Tomorrow are invited to stroll around the huge, rather soulless chandelier-lit space, taking in the massed ephemera of Swann’s long life.

A strange figure cowers in the fireplace in Tomorrow All images courtesy of the artists and Victoria Miro, London

A strange figure cowers in the fireplace in Tomorrow
All images courtesy of the artists and Victoria Miro, London

But things are never quite what they seem in Elmgreen & Dragset’s world. Take a look beyond the expensive antique furniture and opulent oil paintings and you will notice lots of strange details dotted around the installation. A crack snakes it way across the huge dining table, cutting through the plates on top and the chairs which sit around it. A lifelike mannequin of a schoolboy cowers in a fireplace below a painted portrait of himself. A spooky dummy in a French maid’s outfit stands frozen in the hallway. A gilded vulture leers expectantly over Swann’s luxurious bed.

The luxurious bedroom of Tomorrow All images courtesy of the artists and Victoria Miro, London

The luxurious bedroom of Tomorrow
All images courtesy of the artists and Victoria Miro, London

Elmgreen & Dragset provide visitors to the show with a booklet which they have written themselves, a script to the so-called ‘unrealised film’ for which this apartment is the set. I prefer to dream up my own narrative to fit the scene. As you wander around Tomorrow it is impossible not to let your imagination ramble through all sorts of bizarre, magical connotations. What the script that you concoct will look like, well who is to know? The possibilities are tantalisingly endless.

The cracked dining table, Tomorrow All images courtesy of the artists and Victoria Miro, London

The cracked dining table, Tomorrow
All images courtesy of the artists and Victoria Miro, London

Elmgreen & Dragset’s Tomorrow will be open until 2nd January 2014 at the Victoria & Albert Museum in South Kensington.
http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/exhibitions/tomorrow-elmgreen-dragset/

A Magical Doorway, Rochefort-en-Terre

Posted in Brittany, Castle, House with tags , , , , , , on July 24, 2013 by mysearchformagic

Back to Brittany this week, more specifically to Rochefort-en-Terre. I spotted an intriguing doorway in the wall which surrounds the ancient chateau of this picture-postcard pretty Morbihan village.

A magical doorway, Rochefort-en-Terre

A magical doorway, Rochefort-en-Terre

I’d love to know what lies behind the strange carvings on the solid oak door. Unfortunately, as you can see, it is signposted as strictly ‘Privé’.

But then sometimes, when it comes to searching for magic,  a bit of mystery is more fun. Then you can really let your imagination run wild…