Our last “favourite place” of 2016 is shared by Hazel Buchan Cameron. Thank you very much to Hazel for submitting this piece and the accompanying photographs.
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My favourite place in Scotland
by Hazel Buchan Cameron
I first discovered the tiny Innerpeffray Library near Crieff from signage that made me curious. I was a single mother of three children, one still a baby, so finding time for excursions wasn’t easy. However, I’d always loved libraries so this was a ‘must visit’ place almost on my doorstep.
When I finally found time to visit, I followed the sign pointing toward a rural landscape of fields, trees and a couple of buildings which looked like old farmhouses. I wasn’t sure if I’d followed the sign correctly, but then arrived at a large tree dominating the centre of a small car park next to a house. There were no other cars and nowhere else to go. A further sign pointed along a grassy path. This really was a library in a field – how strange – and not only in a field but tucked behind an old chapel and sitting on a steep slope above the River Earn with a spectacular vista across mountainous countryside.
A doorway led to a spiral stone staircase. On arriving at the top, I felt I’d entered a time portal and gone back several hundred years, and in a way, I had. A distinguished-looking gentleman greeted me with an understandable mix of surprise and horror… children, and lots of them. As the car park had indicated, I was the only visitor, so I received his full attention; unfortunately, he did not receive mine because I was so amazed by the beauty of this small room filled with cabinets of books that I could not concentrate. In equal measure I was both thrilled and dumbstruck to be there. The library originated in 1680 and was the first public lending library in Scotland, and here it still was with many of the same books.
It would be 20 years before I visited again, having moved back to the area, this time with no children but even more curiosity. Now, each time I go, it’s never long enough, and I discover another piece of magic. Almost every book has something waiting to be revealed: a signature inside the cover, an illuminating paragraph about coffee making, notes in the margin of a rare travel book, a picture of an even rarer bird. Sometimes it’s an illustration that leads on to another story. There are old maps and forgotten poetry. The one thing that can’t be captured in words is the atmosphere of the building, which now has a visitor room alongside the library. It does not feel old or austere but welcoming: it holds so much gravitas in the lightest way. There is no amount of time that could satisfy my curiosity of its contents.
Thank you Hazel for a lovely piece.
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