We Visit Gatehouse of Fleet in Scotland

anteroom21 Rotarian and their partners took part in our two days at the Cally Palace Hotel over the weekend of the 18/19th May. Leaving Hexham on the Friday, most of us met up at the Devil’s Porridge Museum near Annan for a snack in their cafe before a tour of the museum itself. After an introduction by the chief guide, we were left to wander round and see how, due to a shortage of explosive for shells in WW1, a complete factory and assembly line for the manufacture of cordite was erected in just over 6 months. The factory stretched for 9 miles from Annan in Scotland to Longtown in England and was able to produce 800 tons of cordite – the propellant in shells and cartridges – a week. The workers were mainly women who mixed the “porridge” of cotton, nitro-glycerine and other chemicals before this highly flammable mix was rolled out, kiln dried and cut into string like pieces – hence the name cordite – before being sent on to the filling stations elsewhere. A remarkable and interesting story. This small museum is well worth a visit if you are in the area.
diningWe then made our various ways to the hotel at Gatehouse of Fleet. A beautiful building set in a large park with a lake and an excellent golf course. Some of us walked in the grounds  before dinner, others went for a swim in the indoor pool before we assembled for pre-dinner drinks at 7pm. Dinner was served in the magnificent dining room, where we sat at two long tables separated from the other guests by a grand piano. Whilst gentle music is acceptable, this piano was much too loud and intrusive and detracted from an otherwise splendid meal of four courses. The venison was especially tender. Coffee and tea were served in the spacious drawing room before we retired for the night.
walkAfter an excellent breakfast on the Saturday morning, some elected to play golf or do their own thing, but most of us went for a walk led, as usual, by John Robinson. The walk took us through woodland down to a sheltered bay on the beach and back through a winding lane past a ruined church, under the A75 and back through churchthe woods to the hotel. After the 6 mile walk, the afternoon was spent following more leisurely pursuits. Dinner was again at 7pm, another very good meal but accompanied by the piano until our complaints were heard and it stopped playing.
GardensSunday started with a leisurely breakfast, before we booked out of the hotel to make our various ways back to Hexham. A number of us took the opportunity to visit Threave Gardens at Castle Douglas. The gardens were in their springtime glory and well worth the stop. They extend over 68 acres and are very well kept with not a weed in sight. The walled garden is devoted mainly to vegetables and fruit but also has some interesting flowers and an array of original cold frames which are still in use. The azealeas were particularly good for our visit.
An excellent weekend, helped by the weather which, although not very sunny, at least stayed dry. Our thanks to Roger and Andy for organising the events.

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