Kellie Castle

I have to begin by saying I did not like Kellie much. Kellie has a very good garden, but it is severely disadvantaged by some aspects of the house as it seems to me. There is a section which supposedly remains directly from the Medieval period — or, rather, two sections of the house are from the Medieval period with the inter-connection having been built later.

Or maybe I actually did like it?… Difficult to say now. I had some good discussions about the Covenanters and the Jacobites with whom the family in this house was involved (/not involved). Some of this family history was absolutely phenomenal and the people working here know it to a very good level for all four of the families to live here.

However, the stuff I did not appreciate as much — and this is strongly personal as I just don’t have that much of an interest in certain modern arts — is the reconstructions organised by the Lorimers. They also turned the original Medieval guard tower into an art salon, which is probably the worst offense to my conscience.

Nevertheless, the garden at Kellie is absolutely wonderful and definitely deserves a wander around. Better yet, even if the castle itself is closed, you can go for a walk in the gardens…

The walled garden at Kellie Castle

Ravenscraig Castle

I am not quite sure what I expected when I went to Ravenscraig. I knew it wasn’t going to be the biggest place in the world, but I think I was hoping for something more than about 100 square feet. Although that’s a bit disparaging… Ravenscraig actually was fun. It was permeated with a strength of some kind which I would associate with its imposing position.

Indeed, though the castle was more ruin than structure (also worth noting: no walls to climb on!) there was something there. Take a look:

Ravenscraig Castle

So, this is what is left. There is a drawbridge still and the façade is still intact. The north-eastern tower is mostly in ruins, but that provides probably the best place to climb on if someone was daring. However, I’d not recommend it and I did not try this myself as it was quite rainy.

The wall one can see on the picture forms what seems to have been the main westward defense though a considerably cliff-face also falls off to that side. The sea is behind the view point in that photo, and also to both east and west (or, at least, the beach is). The main original keep is the grand structure on the left of the picture.

Overall, the feeling I get looking at all of this, and remembering the stormy Atlantic behind me is that the lairds who lived here must have not been very bored. I am sure they had plenty to do even if philosophy was not on their mind, but they could have easily been very philosophical on a short winter’s day with a North Sea storm buffeting their masonry.

Dunfermline Palace

I happened to Dunfermline by accident, heading further into Fife. Being close enough, I figured I should take a look, as I’d heard that the place was an ancient capital.

Be that as it is, Dunfermline itself is not the focus of my post. The former abbey and palace structure, however, is. Naturally, it wasn’t open as it should have been as there was a problem with water and the Historic Environment Scotland person had had to reduce the opening hours.

In any case, I got to go around the place and take a look at most of it. The view to the outer wall was pretty good, and indeed the main attraction in my mind. The rest of the structures were quite crumbled and not particularly interesting, though of course the new cathedral is worthy of taking a look at.

Dunfermline Palace

This image hopefully gives an idea of the former strength of the place. An odd thing I noted was that the ground outside seems to vary considerably in topography, with this area where the building used to exist nearly the only level area. The forest outside, or rather the park, was actually quite impressive. It obviously did not stretch to the walls of the palace in the olden days, but has got to it now.

This palace and the abbey were the work of David I, the son of Margaret of England, a princess devoted to piety. This original royal beginning also ensured that later kings would be patrons of this site, up to Charles I who was born here. I am not certain I got the sense of this royal history here, but it is interesting to ponder.

I think a walk in the park would be most worthwhile in Dunfermline, especially with the occasional hope of catching a glimpse of the palace through the woodland. Nevertheless, as my destinations were further into Fife, I did not opt for that walk. Maybe I should have.

Caerlaverock Castle

Mighty as Caerlaverock Castle,
Siege it feared not, scorned surrender…

I saw Caerlaverock in the rain. I think she should be seen in the rain. The ruins, impressive as they were, were granted a pensive atmosphere by the drizzle.

Admittedly, the massive rain also meant that I more ran than walked through the place, but I did manage to get to everywhere on the main site. I was quite impressed by the several levels of the halls as well as all of the remnants of the buildings. The structure of this castle is not particularly complex, but I found it wonderful nonetheless.

In shape it was like a shield…

The central plaza had the mystic sense one might expect, with an added improvement the presence of the slightly faded (six centuries of open rain can have an impact on the ornamentation even if Protestant looters don’t) carvings on all walls. The rear wall and the structures there looked most interesting, but they are also the most ruined. It’s good of me to wish it to be more intact, but at the same time there’s a lot to be said to the character of it just now.

Yet, the Caerlaverock we see today is the second instalment of the structure. The first one lies abandoned slightly away from the one. I have to say, I passed on the old one as understand there is very little there, but thinking back now, I wish I had gone to investigate, rain or no rain.

The last stand of this castle was against the Covernanters in 1640, and it managed to hold out for 13 weeks. More impressive, though are the lists of times it was an object of curiosity in the preceding centuries, with the Edwardian conquests of Scotland often focussing on conquering Caerlaverock. Nevertheless, the Covenanter attack could be considered a particularly unfortunate incident as the Maxwells had only in the preceding decade decided to focus less on security and more on the ornamentation of the place.

Lastly… I have great difficulty actually remembering the name of the place. I don’t know why. That might also be why I have used it slightly more in these posts to try to remember it better.

Caerlaverock Castle

Falkland Palace

Falkland. The place which gave the name to the eponymous islands — or rather, which gave the name to the Lord of the Admiralty for whom the Falkland Sound was named, which later got transferred to the surrounding islands.

This is a truly beautiful palace with a very Scottish feel, as I guess it should. Supposedly it was here that James VI heard he was now also James I (and then he ennobled the local lord whose descendant the Lord of the Admiralty later on was).

Admittedly, a large part of this palace — the main central hall — has fallen into disrepair and no longer exists. The buildings on the other side from here were converted into bedrooms which they were not during the original occupancy of the palace, and hence a lot of the original lore of the place has been lost.

Nevertheless, these places have been done up nicely by Historic Environment Scotland to represent an idea of what life in the High Medieval Ages could have looked like. But, when I look back at the pictures I took at Falkland, I am not as impressed as when I think back at it.

It was a typically Scottish day, with more rain than sun and most of it not falling directly towards the ground, though I’d still consider parallel rain a more Norfolkian event. In any case, there are things to see, and I’d recommend a visit to Falkland if you are in the area. I would definitely go back, if only to ponder some more about the ruins.

The other thing worth noting, not visible on the picture below, is the amazing front gatehouse. That also serves as an entryway into the building itself and leads into the first bedrooms that a guest can visit. Oh!.. and the first rooms had portraits of both Charles’ which was definitely a nice touch.

Falkland Palace

Hermitage Castle

No, not the one in St Petersburg. Nor the one in Perthshire. The Hermitage in the Borders is what we’re talking about today…

Oh Hermitage, Oh Strength of Liddlesdale…

The keep that is the jewel of the bloodiest vale of Britain is well worth visiting. I will first tell you about what got me to go there… I ended up discussing with a Historic Scotland person in one of their other sites which places were worth recommending. And what the guy said was that he recommends Hermitage as the feeling he got there was something different. I cannot remember the exact words he used, but spooky works. Or eerie.

I knew I had to go there after that conversation… and how happy am I to have gone!

Hermitage is not the largest castle you’ll ever visit. Indeed, it is likely to be one of the smaller ones. It is not one of the mightiest or most imposing. There’s not moat, there’s hardly any buildings to the outside of the keep (there is a chapel which I actually forgot to go to, I realised afterwards).

What does exist is this keep. A mighty stonework that stands proud amidst the moors. The approach to it is fortunately forested, and that helps a bit, adding to the sense of mystery.

What I felt at the place was this eerieness that had been mentioned by my unknowing guide. I cannot put my hand on it, but I imagine it has to do with the history these stones have seen. So many years have passed, and Hermitage has been a visible landmark through many difficult struggles. Or, even when official struggles were not about, the Border Reivers no doubt were.

The state of disrepair inside helped. It was not complete, but rain — for indeed this was a rainy day — soaked through everywhere. There were no dry places even though masonry extended to metres above in every direction.

Absolutely amazing, but I think you need the weather to help you with the visit. The Borders in sunlight is almost unimaginable…

Hermitage

Morton Castle

Morton was beautiful. The castle overlooks a small loch that is surrounded by some woodlands. The barren moors are visible in the distance, and the ruins of the castle are the centrepiece of this landscape.

Mind, Morton Castle itself is not particularly large or mighty. The “castle” or so it could be termed is the remains of a great hall. The structure of another floor is visible, but it cannot be accessed. The entryway is a staircase over some collapsed masonry even though a door still exists in the walls.

However, with all of this ruin the spectacular location of this keep becomes more noteworthy. One can imagine the ancient lairds who lived here keeping an eye out on the loch… or maybe climbing down to where the tree-line meets the waters to go for a swim… or wondering about what is going on in the next dale…

I did not go for a walk around the loch as the day I was there was particularly rainy and watery but I imagine the view from the other side could be worth the trek. I did go far enough along to see a wonderfully positioned bench, on which a sunnier day could be enjoyed in the shade of this great hall.

Morton Castle

Culzean Castle

Culzean is an iconic castle in Ayrshire. It is indeed so iconic that it has been featured on Scottish banknotes for the last thirty years. However, what possibly makes it more iconic is its association with the winner of World War II, President Eisenhower.

Along with the castle featuring in ‘Coast’, there is also a mystic aura I always heard when people mentioned the place down in England. Inexplicable really, but there was a sense of the Highlander aura, even though Culzean is so far from the Highlands…

If I had to try and explain it, I would say it has to do with both the majestic coastline as well as what one can see: Ailsa Craig — but one has to be careful and look at where one is. Seeing Ailsa needs careful positioning on the grounds, as from most places it is exactly beyond the coastline, just a bit too far to the south. However, from a few promontories, it is possible to spot the outlying granitic island (also featured in the same ‘Coast’ episode as the castle itself). The other momentous place that can be seen from the castle is the Isle of Arran, parts of which I have described beforehand. Arran is similarly poetic in its nature to Ailsa, but a lot more visible (and, hence, inspirational?).

Causeway to Culzean

One of my favourite sights on the grounds there was the faux-causeway. I don’t know whether it was the spectacular nature of the construction, meant to remind people of the ancient nature of the Kennedy’s seat, or the simple enjoyment of a Lord’s pleasure that had it built like that, but the result is entirely wonderful.

Admittedly, I found parts of the rest of the grounds very underwhelming, especially with late 20th century pavilions installed, but it is understandable with regards to the grounds acting as a community centre for sports and local people from what I took in while I was there. The walks by the cliffside and the sea were both nevertheless unspoilt and amazing to experience.

Lastly, a word on the American president Mr Eisenhower. A suite in the rooms of the castle is dedicated to the man, having been granted as a residence for him for his contributions to the Allied effort in World War Two. He did not visit often, but he did at times, and going through the tour there are suitable moments where the American President is honoured as he should have been. Admittedly, I think the Kennedy’s could have done better by focussing on the man on the front and promising to host a WWII serviceman if they were to visit, but it was a good gesture nevertheless.

Culzean Castle

Lastly, I’ll present the motto of the Kennedy’s, the Marquesses of Ailsa and Earls of Cassilis:

Avisez la fin. [Consider the end.]

Culross Abbey

I happened on Culross by chance, I was heading further along into Fife and I saw the sign. I am happy I chose to go for the detour because Culross Abbey is an interesting site. There’s a new church next to the old ruins, and the ruins are magnificent.

The day I had chosen was not the sunniest of possible ones (the grey cloud cover often comes through as endless sunlight in my pictures). Typically to Fife, there was some rain. These conditions made the site stand out as much as the random bits of masonry do everywhere — indeed, the state of deconstruction is possibly the most worthy thing to see here.

It brings to mind ‘Ruin’:

This masonry is wondrous; fates broke it
courtyard pavements were smashed; the work of giants is decaying.
Roofs are fallen, ruinous towers,
the frosty gate with frost on cement is ravaged,
chipped roofs are torn, fallen,
undermined by old age.

Culross Abbey

Bothwell Castle

Bothwell, ‘The most magnificent ruin in Scotland’, lies on a hill at a bend of the Clyde, overlooking the river. An imposing stronghold which has been the key to the region since its inception in 1242, this is a wonderful site to visit.

Firstly, I’d note that Bothwell at present is less than it was expected to be by at least some of its masters. Several buildings to the exterior of its present standing wall were never built, including another gatehouse. However, the groundwork for these is present and it’s quite interesting to see.

Nevertheless, of the buildings which are still standing both the exterior wall and the interior buildings are beautiful. The Great Hall is magnificently ornamented though the higher levels exist no more.

It is also one of the castles Edward I of England took when he attacked Scotland during succession disputes. As a powerful lowland stronghold, Bothwell therefore has changed hands many a time, even not noting the various Scottish families to have owned it: the Olifards, the Morays, the Douglases, before becoming a royal stronghold.

It feels to me as if the greatness of these generations is more perceptible here than in some other places. This castle reflects the centuries of history it has experienced, and it does so well. The mighty Bothwell…

Bothwell Castle