Doors Open Day

Every September across Scotland hundreds of buildings not normally open to the public open their doors to visitors for free as part of Doors Open Days.

On Saturday 9 September a number of churches in Perthshire were taking part in the festival. The delightful assistants took advantage of the occasion to have a day out in their local area peeking inside a few of these interesting buildings. First on the list was Abbey Church in Coupar Angus, which they had often passed by in the car but never been inside.

Abbey Church
Abbey Church, viewed from Queen Street in Coupar Angus.

The present church building was built in 1865, long after a previous church on the same site had been destroyed in the 1600s. The original church was an abbey, established in 1150, run by Cistercian monks. The monks were talented farmers, turning the surrounding fields into farmland. Their hard work many centuries ago laid the foundations for the agricultural community that thrives in the area today.

Only a small portion of the original abbey remains in one corner of the graveyard, sealed off with wire fencing and supported with wooden struts to prevent it from crumbling completely.

Abbey ruins
The only remaining portion of Coupar Angus Abbey ruins.

The assistants strolled into the church to see what was what, and were met by the minister, who proceeded to relate interesting facts about the building.

DAs popping into Abbey Church
Delightful assistants entering Coupar Angus Abbey Church.

The room was dominated by enormous organ pipes at one end and a magnificent hammerbeam roof above, constructed by a Dundee shipyard and designed to look like the hull of a sailing ship.

The organ was being played by an unlikely looking chap with long dark hair and tattoos. The assistants sat down, on very comfortable chairs, and listened to the splendid sounds being belted out into the cavernous space. According to the minister, the pipes on show were purely decorative (the real pipes being hidden behind them and protected from dust by a cover).

Abbey Church inside
Coupar Angus Abbey Church with organ pipes and nautical-style hammerbeam roof.

Through the back of the church, accessed via the doorway on the left in the picture above, the assistants were shown a new kitchen and a curious set of gravestones set into the wall of another room. In recent years, when a new extension was designed, building permission was granted on the understanding that these gravestones would form part of the inside wall.  The assistants declared they had never seen anything like it, and everyone agreed it was a most unusual feature.

abbey church gravestones indoors
Gravestones set into the wall at Coupar Angus Abbey Church.

Back inside the main body of the church, the assistants admired some of the stained glass windows, which ran along both side walls, before wandering outside to take a look at the graveyard.

abbey church stained glass windows
Stained glass windows in Coupar Angus Abbey Church.

The graveyard was remarkably extensive and contained some headstones considerably older than the present church building. The delightful assistants struggled to read some of the words and dates but enjoyed the carvings of skeletons, cherubs and other adornments.

Abbey church gravestone cheruby

Abbey church gravestone

abbey church old gravestone

abbey church visitors trying to read gravestones
Delightful assistants trying to decipher old carvings in Coupar Angus Abbey Church graveyard.

When they’d had their fill of gravestones, it was time to think about their stomachs. They had been offered tea and coffee in the church, but declined it in order to keep their appetites keen for a spot of luncheon.

There was another church they were interested in visiting at the village of Invergowrie, about 12 miles from Coupar Angus. By the time they got there it would be bang on lunchtime, and with the promise of an enticing-sounding cafe they’d heard about, they wasted no time considering other options. They left Abbey Church with gladness, having enjoyed their first church of the day.

Abbey church visitors happily considering luncheon
Delightful assistants in Coupar Angus Abbey Church graveyard.

When they reached Invergowrie, they were pleased to see two churches with ‘Doors Open Days’ signs and balloons on their entrances, but dismayed to find that their promised cafe was full with no seats available. Not wishing to hang around waiting for a table to become free, they dashed down the road to the nearby Glendoick Garden Centre, which offered a good cafe and plenty of free parking. Both assistants chose cheese and tomato croissants while their chauffeur sank into a bowl of thick vegetable broth with a delicious herb scone.

Glendoick cheese and tomato croissant
Freshly baked croissant stuffed with cheese and tomato at Glendoick Garden Centre.
Glendoick veggie broth with herb scone
Tasty vegetable broth with a delicious herb scone at Glendoick Garden Centre.

Rather than having puddings at Glendoick, they went straight to the next church viewing, with the idea of finding another eatery for sweet treats afterwards. They sped back to Invergowrie, and drove into the car park of All Souls Episcopal Church. As they arrived the rain came on. It was bouncing off the windscreen so heavily that they stayed in the car for a while until it eased off. By that time, delightful assistant no.2 was feeling pleasantly weary and opted to stay in the car for a small sleep while his spouse and their chauffeur enjoyed the ecclesiastical architecture.

Although it was built at around the same time as Coupar Angus Abbey Church, All Souls was a very different affair. It immediately struck both visitors as having the feel of a Roman Catholic church, with a high altar and carved stations of the cross around the walls.

DSC05448
All Souls Episcopal Church, Invergowrie.

Two enthusiastic ladies from the church thrust laminated information sheets into the visitors’ hands and pointed out various features. The minister appeared and told them a little about the building, and the visitors took themselves off to the Lady Chapel: a small chamber where Wednesday morning services were conducted and attended by only 3 or 4 people each week. The space contained some attractive mosaic work.

Lady Chapel at All Souls
Lady Chapel in All Souls Episcopal Church, Invergowrie.

Mosaic work in Lady Chapel 2

Mosaic work in Lady Chapel

The visitors learned that even on a Sunday the congregation of All Souls was small, and no doubt the upkeep of such a large and elaborate building was a challenge. Many church buildings across Scotland, having fallen into disuse in recent years, have been sold and renovated to become private houses or given alternative uses. This particular building would certainly make for an interesting home, but deep pockets would be required to make it habitable for everyday use.

After politely refusing the offer of hot beverages and home baking at All Souls, the visitors went back outside, where the rain had stopped and the sun was coming out. Delightful assistant no.2 was sound asleep, but woke up when the car doors were opened. He had enjoyed a lovely restful half hour’s doze and confirmed that he felt up to joining his companions for one last church of the day. A short distance along the road they drove into the grounds of Invergowrire Parish Church, constructed not long after All Souls but in a very different style.

Invergowrie Parish Church
Invergowrie Parish Church.
Invergowrie churchs
Invergowrie Churches, close in age and geographical location but very different in style. Invergowrie Parish Church on the left with square castellated tower and All Souls Episcopal Church with tall pointed spire.

As with the outside, the inside of the Church of Scotland building was very different from All Souls Episcopal. An airy sense of light and space was created by lots of large windows and a beautiful open timber roof.

Invergowrie Parish Church inside
Light, airy space inside Invergowrie Parish Church.
Invergowrie Parish Church roof
Open timber roof inside Invergowrie Parish Church.

A lady was playing the organ and the delightful assistants sat down in a pew to listen, and to admire the magnificent stained glass window above the altar.

Invergowrie church listening to organ

The stained glass window was installed in 2009 and had many points of interest. An information sheet had been given to the assistants, explaining the symbolism of the design. As Delightful Assistant no.2 noted, the sheet was almost more complex than the window itself.

Invergowrie stained glass window

One of the features that particularly stood out to the assistants was the praying hands on the outer edges that morphed into doves.

DSC05472

By the time they had taken in as much as they could, they felt ready for a change of scene and a little refreshment. Being close to the Scottish Antiques and Arts Centre at Abernyte, which contained the splendid Cafe Circa, they hopped into the car and hot-footed it cake-wards.

Cafe circa
Cafe Circa in the Scottish Antiques and Arts Centre, Abernyte.

After examining the cake counter they settled into sofas and cogitated the hot beverage options from the menu. Delightful assistant no.1 opted for one of her favourite cakes, Victoria sponge, slooshed down with an Americano with cold milk, while her spouse chose his usual coffee option, a cappuccino, and paired it with an orange, apricot and almond cake. Their chauffeur was enticed by the carrot cake and selected a layered latte to go with it. While they waited for their treats to arrive, some of them took the opportunity for a bit of shut-eye.

Dozing DA
Dozing octogenarian, making the most of Cafe Circa’s sofas and cushions.
Cafe Circa Victoria sponge
Victoria sponge at Cafe Circa.
Cafe Circa carrot cake
Carrot cake at Cafe Circa.
Cafe Circa orange, apricot and almond cake
Orange, apricot and almond cake at Cafe Circa.

They all enjoyed their cakes and coffees, and by the time they left the antiques centre it had turned into a beautiful afternoon with golden autumn sunshine. It had been a most interesting day and they drifted home happily, well satisfied in soul and stomach.

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12 thoughts on “Doors Open Day

    1. The cakes were excellent, I must say. Doors Open Days has been around for a while now. I remember it being on some years ago when I lived in Edinburgh, although I don’t know if it was all across Scotland back then. Apparently it started in France in 1984 and is known as Heritage Open Days in England.

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  1. Well, what a treat to find when I logged in today! Almost felt that I was there. The churches were fascinating and I would be hard pressed to say which I liked best. Loved the graveyard art and it is amazing the work and skill that went into creating it. I liked All Souls for the ancient look of it, although it seemed somber and imposing. I found the Church of Scotland a bit more cheerful and possibly hopeful?🙂 It was a wonderful tour that you gave us, and I am always in favor of “going cakeward” (I have to remember that one!). I would loved to have been there and would have chosen the Victorian song cake, but you gave me the next best thing with a wonderful post. Best regards to the winsome twosome!

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    1. Thank you kindly, Wendy, I’m delighted you enjoyed the tour. The old gravestones are indeed works of art, and it would be tricky to choose a favourite church as they each had their own charms. Delightful Assistant no.1 certainly enjoyed her Victoria sponge.

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  2. Ahh, what a delightful day! Your posts always make me smile. I love all the reports from all the churches, but particularly the first at Coupar Angus with its amazing roof, and Invergowrie’s glorious window. A lovely tour of some fascinating places – Doors Open Day is a great idea. I’ve got to say those cakes almost steal the show, nevertheless!

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  3. I love exploring old churches and especially graveyards. What a wonderful thing to do. The cakes all look heavenly but I would have loved to try the orange, apricot and almond cake. Glad to see your dad takes advantage of napping opportunities. ❤

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