Archive for March, 2011

Check the end of the post for the continuing blog hop and dynamic story writing contest, both of which have prizes!

Elsewhere, I have mentioned that I planned my trip to Scotland carefully in order to visit all the locations in Blue Bells of Scotland. But I made several unplanned stops. It was our first full day in Scotland, after sleeping off the jet lag, and the battlefield of Bannockburn was on the itinerary. However, on the drive from our hotel in Edinburgh to Bannockburn, we saw the sign for Linlithgow. It had such a pleasant sound, who could resist? So we went. I think sometimes the unplanned and unexpected turn out to be the highlights. Linlithgow was certainly one of them, and as I later learned that it plays a part in Bruce’s story, I was especially glad I took a detour from my careful itinerary!

Of course, what I walked through is not what Bruce walked through. The present Linlithgow Palace was begun by James I in 1492, and took roughly a century to complete–giving a whole new meaning to ‘they don’t build ‘em like they used to!’ What stood there before had been destroyed by fire sweeping through the town that same year.

Previously, David I (1124-53) built a royal residence in this location. In 1296, Edward I (Longshanks, or Hammer of the Scots) invaded Scotland and in 1302 began the building of a defense around the royal residence. Bruce himself, following his habit, had much of the palace destroyed after the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314, so that it couldn’t be used by the English against Scotland.

Today, Linlithgow is ‘a ruin,’ but a very complete one. It lacks a roof. It is not refurbished or full of displays or re-creations of past life, like some other castles. It is a large quadrangle, with a tower at each corner. You can walk the halls, much like you see here, and go through the chambers and ante-chambers, empty, but full of sunlight from large windows. You can go up to the walk along the rooftop and go into a stone gazebo at the top, where medieval graffitti can still be seen, suggesting Margaret sat in the bower by the hour, carving where she probably should not have been. (At least when my boys used to write on the walls with crayon, it scrubbed off!)

The palace stands on the shores of a loch, with beautiful stretches of green grass and parkland–a perfect place for a picnic!

What I found most interesting about Linlithgow was the way voices echoed and could be heard from quite a distance. As I wandered the halls at my own pace, I became separated from my party. I would turn a corner and suddenly hear them talking–but they were nowhere to be seen! And it was difficult to tell from which directions the voices came, or how near they might be.

The scale of the whole place is awe-inspiring. In our current houses, our ceilings are fairly low. It is an experience to walk through halls and stand in rooms with ceilings soaring 15 or 20 feet above your head, and hearths big enough to walk into!

We also went deep into the bowels of Linlithgow, to the kitchens down a long, dank flight of stairs. In one chamber was not only a hearth, but a great circular stone brazier in the center of the room. Windows high above let in light, although not enough that I’d want to be the cooks who worked there all day. I suppose the fires would have brightened the place quite a bit. Going further down from the kitchens, I found the dungeons. I use something very like this layout for the castle of the thieving MacDougall’s son in book 2 of the trilogy, The Minstrel Boy, when someone–we won’t say who–goes where he’s told not to! (However, I found Linlithgow to be a very light and airy place, whereas the home of MacDougall’s son is not!)

I definitely hope to visit Linlithgow on my next trip to Scotland. In the meantime, I hope you’ve enjoyed a little bit of a virtual tour, and if you ever get a chance, go!

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SITE NEWS:  I’m pleased to say there are now approximately 800 followers of The World of the Blue Bells Trilogy!

BLOG HOP: Jump on over to my other blog and sign up as a follower to enter to win a signed copy of Blue Bells of Scotland, and from there, go to any of nearly 200 other sites to sign up to win their prizes!  You MUST leave a comment with your contact information, as I need to be able to contact you to let you know you won!

DYNAMIC STORY WRITING CONTEST:  Stop at Pia Beradrino’s blog and add your 3-5 CENT-ences to the story begun by myself and 3 other authors.  Each author will choose one winner to receive a signed copy of her book, and one winner will be chosen overall to receive a $20 gift card.  We’re having fun with this!  What is Bill up to???  What is KATE up to???  Come and add your spin!

Be sure to scroll to the end of the article for information about the Lucky Leprechaun Blog Hop and Giant giveaway, and how to enter to win over 150 prizes.

Edward Bruce: Last High King of Ireland

For hundreds of years, the Highlands of Scotland shared more culture with Ireland, across the water, than with England, on its southern border. For 18 months in the early 14th Century, Ireland even had Edward Bruce, brother of the Scottish king, Robert the Bruce, as its High King.

Like the best stories, it all started long ago, and far away. Of course, that’s relative. For those who lived in ancient Ireland, the story was neither long ago, nor far away. At the end of the 2nd Century, there lived an Irish prince, Cairbre Righfada, who distinguished himself in battle. In reward, he was given what is now County Antrim, Ireland, and the Argylshire area of Scotland, both of which he named Dalriada. The Picts of Scotland, however, were powerful, so Cairbre Righfada and his descendents remained in Antrim for another two hundred years. In the 500’s, his descendents, Loam and Fergus, became the first kings in the Scottish Dalriada. Fergus’s descendent, Kenneth MacAlpin, united the Scots and Picts in the 9th century to become the first king of all Scotland.

Through these years and beyond, thanks to their common history, the two countries shared a great deal. Even the name Scots derives from scoti, the Roman name for the Irish people, which Fergus and Loam brought with them. The languages of Irish and Scottish Gaelic, although distinct today, both derived from Middle Irish. The music of harp and bagpipes, the myths and legends, and forms of dress were all similar in the Highlands and Ireland. Even their saints passed freely from one country to another: Columba and Fillan, two of the great Scottish saints, were both Irish, while some say St. Patrick, the most famous saint of Ireland, was born in Scotland. Family trees stretched their branches wide across the Irish Sea.

The line of Cairbre Righfada continued more than a thousand years, to Scotland’s Alexander III. It is his death, in 1286, that precipitated the Wars of Independence, and brought Robert Bruce, King of Scots, a descendent of the great Irish king Brian Boru and the kings of Leinster, back to his Irish roots.

In 1314, Robert the Bruce led Scotland to resounding victory over England’s might, yet Edward II of England continued to hold Scottish castles and assert his right to rule. Like Scotland, Ireland had long suffered English occupation. The Ulster chiefs, encouraged by Bruce’s success at Bannockburn, and regarding him as part of their own nation, thanks to his heritage, invited Edward Bruce to lead them against the English and become king of Ireland. With such strong familial and cultural ties, it is no wonder the Bruces attempted to unite militarily against their common oppressor. Bruce wrote to the Irish kings: Whereas we…share the same national ancestry and are urged to come together more eagerly and joyfully in friendship by a common language and by common custom, we have sent you our beloved kinsman…to negotiate with you in our name about permanently strengthening and maintaining inviolate the special friendship between us and you, so that with God’s will our nation (nostra nacio, referring to Scotland and Ireland as one nation) may be able to recover her ancient liberty.

In May 1315, Edward Bruce sailed to Ireland with 6,000 men, landing on the coast of Antrim from which his ancestors had come. After a year of successful battles, he was crowned High King in May 1316. However, the Irish chiefs beyond Ulster were not so enthusiastic about Edward Bruce. They regarded the situation not as military unity, but as a Scots invasion, not so different from English occupation. In October 1318, Edward’s brief kingship ended with his death in the Battle of Faughart. Ironically, or maybe not, considering the long history of shared culture , Ireland’s last High King was a Scot.

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The Lucky Leprechaun Blog Hop starts from my other blog.  To enter, all you need to do is become a follower and leave me a comment on the Irish-Scottish Connection post there telling me which follower you are and leaving contact information.  I need to be able to tell you if you win!

At the bottom of the post there, you will find a list of 272 blogs sponsoring giveaways for St. Patrick’s Day!  Pick one and go!  Each blog will have the same list, so you can continue clicking through, signing up to win as many prizes as you like.  All prizes are book-related.

Start here! Have fun!