Archive for the ‘Scotland’ Category

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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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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.