Archive for the ‘Architechture’ Category

During my two week trip to Scotland, I visited thirteen castles.  I’d be hard-pressed to say which was my favorite, although I can narrow it down to Tioram, Finlairig, Linlithgow, Urquhart, and Eileen Donan.  If I absolutely had to, I could probably narrow it down to Tioram and Finlairig.

This week’s (or month’s, depending on my schedule) picture in the sidebar is Castle Tioram, pronounced Cheerum, and Gaelic for dry.  Yes, this is Castle Dry, surrounded by water.  It’s named after the tidal island, Eileen Tioram, on which it sits in Loch Moidart in the western Highlands of Scotland, the former stronghold of the MacDonalds.  Winston Churchill called it  one of the most beautiful places he knew.  It was once important, not for beauty, but because it guarded important waterways.

Tioram sits on the lands of the great Somerled of the 12th Century.  On his death, his territory was divided among his sons, with the Moidart section becoming part of the Garmoran lands, and eventually being inherited by Christina MacRuari, one of Bruce’s supporters, in the 14th Century.  It is mentioned in a charter by Christina, which rewards an Arthur Campbell for the service of a 20 oar galley.  However, the Garmoran lands, including Tioram, were also later given by Christina to her half brother Ruari.  Tradition says that Christina’s niece, Amy, built Tioram, though many sources say it is more likely she upgraded an existing structure.

Tioram seems to have housed a fascinating cast of Clanranalds over the years, until it was burned in 1715 on the orders of the last chief of the direct line, when he joined the Jacobite Rising.  His intention was to keep it from being used by the Hanoverians.  It has been an unoccupied ruin since that time.  Currently, the entrance is barred, due to the danger of falling masonry.

Pictures of the interior of Tioram were one of my first inspirations for the image of a man waking up in a foreign time, surrounded by ruins when he’d gone to sleep in a complete castle, so it was high on my list of must-sees as I planned my trip to Scotland.  Unlike Urqhart or Linlithgow, there is no visitors’ center, no placards, nothing but the castle sitting alone on its rocky outpost.  I don’t think I was aware, on the drive to it, that access is completely blocked by the incoming tide during part of the day.  However, luck was with me, and I reached the castle at exactly the right time, when the tide was out and the sandbar was exposed so I could walk across.  (The sandbar can be clearly seen in the picture.)  The castle itself sits high on a grassy hill.  It was a cool day, but wonderful to be able to climb all around, look into the entrance, and look out along the water routes the castle guards. 

Visit Dark Isle for more pictures of Tioram, including a couple shots of inside the walls.  Or take a virtual visit to  Tioram!

As just a sidenote, I would like to mention that The World of the Blue Bells Trilogy now has nearly 700 subscribers!  Thank you to all who have subscribed.

This week’s picture in the sidebar is of Castle Finlairig, an unexpected find during my trip to Scotland.

When I knew I was going to make the trip, I carefully planned my itinerary to include the places Shawn, Niall, and Amy would see and experience.  One of Shawn’s first experiences, on arriving in 1314, is a many-days’ hike through Scotland’s rugged Highlands.  He, of course, is not used to such physical exertion. 

I had hoped to make a four-day hike, myself, but two weeks, with stops in Inverness, Stirling, Bannockburn, and driving out to the Rannoch Moor, and across the central Highlands where Shawn and Allene hike, didn’t leave four days to spare.  But I did make some very long (for me) walks and find a ‘hill’ to climb, at the very least.  That happened to be Sron a’ Chlachain, The Nose of the Village, rising above the village of Killin near Loch Tay.

On the appointed day of experiencing what Shawn would, in making a long-distance hike for which he was not prepared, we set out to make about a five mile walk around Killin and climb Sron a’ Chlachain all in the same day.  Our host at the hostel was a rather interesting man with fascinating stories to tell.  It is from him that I learned about the concept of ley lines, which make an appearance in Book Two of the Blue Bells Trilogy as people try to make sense of the mysterious events at Glenmirril.

This host also told us about Castle Finlairig, and suggested we watch for it.  It wasn’t on the itinerary, but as much as there are good reasons for having A Plan in the first place, there are also good reasons for being flexible and sometimes taking a detour from The Plan.  I’m so glad we did!

Our host told us to look for a small path.  He warned us several times this path was small, and hard to spot, so to really watch carefully.  I’m nothing if not literal!  After a long walk through pastures full of sheep, and around one edge of Loch Tay, up a small hill to a gnarled tree with multiple spreading branches low to the ground, surrounded by Scotland’s famous fields of bluebells, we came to the path where we must watch for Finlairig’s miniscule, microscopic, guaranteed-to-miss-it-if-you-don’t-watch-with-a-magnifying-glass path.

I found it!

It was a dirt track, about six inches wide, pushing through spring foliage.  We followed it through, edging through ferns and ducking under limbs in the path, and burst out into a small clearing, isolated and silent, with a massive square mausoleum still standing, and one tower of a castle still reaching for the patch of blue sky above the clearing, along with several of its walls in disrepair.  Trees and rich, green grass grew all around.  On the far side of the clearing stood two white, lichen-covered Celtic crosses, more than four feet high.

This was Finlairig!

We passed through the arched door of the tower (you can see in the picture), which was open to the world on the other side, to find narrow halls and a rough way to reach what was once the second floor.  On the other side, we saw what must have been a great hall, still with a wall and a half but now filled with grass and a tree.

We studied the charter stone over the arched doorway, and the Celtic crosses, and found out it had been the home of the Campbells.  I couldn’t have planned it better!

I found the place enchanting–and I don’t use that word often or lightly.  But it was easy, in the solitude and silence and sense of age, to imagine anything might happen there.  Thanks to an unexpected departure from The Plan, Finlairig, though it isn’t named, got written into Blue Bells of Scotland. 

*The giveaway drawing for an electronic copy of Blue Bells of Scotland happens January 31.  Sign up as a follower at my blogspot site to enter.