[Vacheron Constantin] The Spirit of Travel

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Out of this world: Crawick Multiverse replicates action in the star-filled skies using boulders, lakes and natural landscape, placing a quirky Big Bang in the heart of Scotland

Dreamed up by the Duke of Buccleuch, this piece of cosmic land art on Queensferry estate, Dumfries and Galloway, spans 55 acres and provides a magically grounded interpretation of motions within the universe

PUBLISHED : Monday, 26 September, 2016, 9:25am
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 September, 2016, 5:27pm

From the air, this place looks as if it might have been flung together by a group of wacky, frustrated archaeologists. However, Crawick Multiverse is actually an innovative land-art project that skilfully re-creates various parts of the cosmos. Indeed, through strategically arranging over 2,000 enormous boulders in Dumfries and Galloway in Scotland, the people behind this imaginative venture have conjured up a mini world, the likes of which has never been seen before. The right thing to do, then, would surely be to investigate. 

Crawick is the brainchild of the energetic, fun-loving sixtysomething Duke of Buccleuch, and is located on his sprawling 90,000-acre estate, Queensferry. Historically, there was an open-cast coalmine in the northern reaches of this picturesque domain, but it went bust, leaving the area in an atrocious state. Thus, four years ago, the duke hired an American landscape architect and designer, Charles Jencks of Garden of Cosmic Speculation fame, to carry out an in-depth renovation.

Taking astrology, cosmology and space as themes, what he has come up with is beyond extraordinary. Set in verdant rolling hills, Jencks has used hundreds of megaliths (large stones) to fashion land art that has transformed the countryside. There are nine earthworks in all, covering a total area of 55 acres, and each one is a magical interpretation of a particular phenomenon in the universe. Without doubt, the very heart of this project is the huge “amphitheatre”. This replicates the motion of the sun going through a total eclipse, using a circle of boulders and ridges and two sparkling azure lagoons.

Another eye-catching monument is “Two Galaxy Mounds - Andromeda and the Milky Way”, a pair of clusters of boulders on hilltops, representing how these galaxies are hurtling towards each other, and are predicted to be pulled together by gravity in roughly four billion years. It’s on one side of another striking landform, the “North-South Path”, which splits Crawick Multiverse neatly in two.  Strolling down this atmospheric, 400-metre trail, bordered by gargantuan craggy boulders, is like being on the best sci-fi set that’s ever been seen in the movies.  

Opened last year with a project development cost of £1 million (HK$10,120,000), what’s wonderful about Crawick is that moving around its well thought-out structures is akin to being in a living, breathing al fresco art gallery. Not only this, but the endeavour has been set up so that a tour takes visitors on a journey from the centre of the earth to the furthermost galaxies. On the whole, this makes for a day out that is not only enjoyable for visitors of all ages, but educational too.    

As you would expect from an estate that’s so vast, there are several other exciting activities at Queensferry, including hiking, 4-wheel drive excursions, and an adventure playground. There’s also the duke’s home - the 17th century, 120-room Drumlanrig Castle, which is open to the public at set times.  And approximately 35 minutes drive away, but still in Dumfries and Galloway, one attraction worth visiting is the quaint sandstone cottage where Scotland’s greatest poet, Robert Burns, spent the winter of his life.

Constructed in the 1700s, inside is a treasure trove of contemporaneous exhibits: letters and manuscripts, rare compositions, and furniture. It’s been postulated that the highs and lows evident in many of this bard’s verses were the result of manic depression. Fortunately, if you visit this region of the country, you’ll leave feeling anything but blue.