Dun Carloway – 2

The broch is next mentioned in a report by the local Minister in 1797. By this time, brochs were believed to be watchtowers used as defense against, or by, Vikings. Dun Carloway featured prominently in reports on Western Isles brochs in the latter part of the 1800s, and as a result it was one of the very first ancient monuments in Scotland to be taken into state care. By this time a large a part of the wall had been removed, probably for recycling into the blackhouses built nearby: including the one whose walls still stand nearly complete below the access path.

Today Dun Carloway is approached from the car park past the Doune Broch Centre, built largely underground, and containing an exhibition giving a sense of what life in the broch might well have been like. This is run by Urras nan Tursachan, The Standing Stones Trust (as is the nearby Calanais Visitor Centre), and the broch itself is in the care of Historic Environment Scotland..

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Whitworth Art Gallery – Manchester

I walked from the city centre to the Whitworth Art Gallery within the campus of the University of Manchester. It was Fresher’s Week, the buses were packed, and the streets were full of people from around the world starting their student days by getting to know their classmates in the weak, autumnal sunshine. The Whitworth won the Museum of the Year Award in 2015 and there is no entrance fee to see the collection of 55,000 items. The art has a broad reach ranging from William Blake and JMW Turner via Lucian Freud to an embroidery of the Wikipedia entry for Magna Carta, mainly embroidered by prisoners. The Whitworth has eight paintings by Blake and the most famous is entitled ‘The Ancient of Days’, originally published as the frontispiece to a 1794 work, Europe.

The seventeen Turners cover the 50-year period between 1794 and 1845. One of the earliest is a landscape of Llangollen in Denbighshire. The town in the valley occupies perhaps the bottom quarter of the painting with the rest taken up by dramatic hills and a light sky. But the detail in that bottom quarter, of the church in Llangollen, of the people on a bluff between the painter and the town, and of the bridge over the river has a draughtsman-like precision in every respect. I would contrast this style with a painting entitled ‘Sunset on Wet Sand’ from 1845, which looks like the work of an Impressionist. It’s fascinating to see the change in an artist’s style over their lifetime. When I see some of Turner’s later work, I can’t understand why he’s not considered to be the first of the Impressionist painters.      

The Art Gallery is in Whitworth Park and there are nearly a dozen outdoor artistic works to behold. This park also allows visitors to see the new steel and glass wings of the latest expansion of the gallery. The pattern of bricks in the new extensions reflect an historic textile found in the gallery’s collection. The lightness and airiness of the extensions contrasts sharply with the red-brick solidity and stolidity of the front entrance of the gallery, which made me feel like I was going back to school when I entered. I think the idea is that as I move through the gallery from old to new, the architecture gradually prepares me for going back into the park, back into the natural light of the day, back into the outside world.