Sunday 1 March 2020


The finger found Doune, a small village about an hour from Edinburgh; it even had a castle nearby. The idea was that we did not want to start searching around Edinburgh for any hotel after a long flight that arrived late in the afternoon. The thought was that, if we hired a car, we could drive out of town into a small regional village and enjoy the hospitality of a little country hotel free from the pressures of the city. So it was that Doune was chosen.

Everything went to plan, even the navigating, until we arrived at the small hotel at Doune that we had booked. Arrival came with relaxing thoughts of a drink, a meal, a shower, and a sleep; but things went astray. When stepping out of the parked car, my bare foot landed in a spill of liquid tar that had been thoughtlessly left over from the recent resurfacing. The only thing missing were the feathers.

After hopping into the hotel's unattended reception area, and then deeper into the building to the noises in what one discovered was the kitchen, the question was put to the worker who turned out to be the owner: "Do you have any white spirits?" After explaining my request to a bewildered face, there was a numbness and inaction that surely meant that no one knew what to do.

I asked again for some solvent, but it seemed no one had anything. It was 5:30pm on Saturday, so all the local shops were closed. The indignant husband went out to check the issue, and promptly spread dirt over the spill, a response that seemed a little late.

As there was no immediate solution, I hopped back to the entry foyer and sat down. If anyone wants to strike up a conversation with everyone entering a bar, just dip your foot into tar and wait. In no time at all, a local had a solution - not white spirits, but Magic Wipes. He jumped into his car and, after about ten minutes, returned with two cylinders of magic cleaning cloths. He squatted down and began scrubbing with complete faith in what seemed to be an impossibility. One felt like Jesus with this stranger on his knees in front of me, cleaning my foot.

The magic worked eventually, but it was slow and a little tedious. After about half an hour of scrubbing and chatting to all new arrivals, the foot was clean enough to have the sock and shoe replaced. It was not perfect, as the floor of the shower later revealed, but it was OK, sufficient for one to get to the bar for a much-anticipated drink and a meal. So it was that we had arrived at Doune, where the local advice was: "Buy your grog in England, it's cheaper!"

In the morning, after a good sleep, a cup of tea was made and the curtains were drawn. We were opposite a pretty little church that had the characteristics of a ‘Hunt’ building. One says it this way, only because one knows that Horbury Hunt* had a standing order with a bookshop in London to have his architectural references sent out to Australia. He kept himself informed of the work in the UK, and no doubt, in his home, Canada, too.

This little kirk was of this ‘Huntian’ era. It was simple in form, built of stone, with a little porch to one side, and a bellcote on the central ridge. The colonial world used brickwork with stone trims, with identical concepts and forms. The detailing was precise and rigorous. The church had all of the characteristics that one knew as 'Hunt.' One had to photograph this place.

After breakfast, we packed up, paid, thanked the proprietor, and exited the parking area, making a quick turn to the left, then another to the right, to park on the side road near the church. The sign declared it to be an Episcopalian Church in Scotland. One strolled in through the formal, axial gateway in the light drizzle, and walked around the building, starting at the lovely, welcoming porch. Everything reminded one of the Hunt work in Australia. This was a little gem.

The camera recorded what the eye admired, and, with the rain getting heavier, one moved out, back to the car, past the minister who was arriving to open for the morning service. One would not be so bold as to follow the minister in to see the interior, but the style was known, familiar: stonework, exposed timber framing, and stained joinery.

So this was 'Hunt in Scotland.' One had seen 'Hunt in Ireland,' see: the scope of the style of work of the time must have been pervasive, and did fixate on a certain approach, a certain fashion. Hunt mastered this style in Australia and turned it into a unique, local expression that still resonates in the bush as good, rigorous, local architecture. It stands today as an example of what is possible if one is committed to one's work, as Hunt surely was. It is an engagement that can be seen in the Doune kirk too, and one that is missed in much of today's self-important bluster.

Driving out of the village, a small sign appeared pointing down a narrow track that veered off to the right: Doune Castle. We had passed the intersection, so drove on until we could safely turn back. It was an awkward acute left turn onto the track that twisted through a forested area, and arrived in front of the pretty gate house on the edge of a large, open car park. The castle loomed above the void; it was huge: see - . . . This was not a pretend castle as the visitor numbers suddenly proved: it was a landmark. In no time at all, the buses pulled in and the flood of tourists aimed for the door. It had started to drizzle again, so I took the wet path around the mass of stone, alone.

The gate house.

. . . . .

The hotel.

Our room.


The kirkyard wall.

 For more on Horbury Hunt, see: and Google Images.