Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Visiting with the relos.

Today was a very good day indeed. We checked out of our hotel in Glasgow in the morning, and headed to Dunottar Castle, which dates from the 14th Century and was the seat of the powerful Earls Marischal of Scotland, the Keiths. That’s right, we were off to take a peek at our castle!

The day started with a glitch or two, of course. First of all the Audi decided to direct us to a motorway which would take us east, and when we were driving on it, it decided that actually the road didn’t exist and kept freaking out that we were off road! What are you doing!? Turn around! The blue line of life was gone, and we were just a little arrow in the middle of a big black field. I know for a fact that we were actually on a road, but seeing as I had no earthly idea where to go we got off the motorway and tried to find a road that the poor Audi recognised. Reunited with the magical blue line of destiny, we went to a Maccas drive thru for some sustenance. Oh no: one of those ordering voice box thingys. They are bad enough when the person on the other end is speaking with an Australian accent. As much as I LOVE the Scottish accent I never have any idea what they are saying, and I suspect they don’t know what I’m saying, so it was rather disastrous. I ordered hash browns and a bacon and egg mcmuffin. ‘No brreakfast left.’ Okay then, I’ll have a cheeseburger meal and a nugget meal. ‘Rrr bsigrr wrrsight?’ Errr, no sauce thanks. Silence. ‘Was that from the brreakfast menu or the main menu?’ Oh, sorry! Just the main menu!! We left with most of our order correct, which was impressive, but apparently when I say ‘coke’ it sounds like ‘sprite zero.’ Poor Mads. Man I am going to be screwed in Europe...

First view of Dunottar Castle

Anyway, we made it to Dunottar, and it is incredible!! Not just because of the family connection, which was pretty cool in itself: to see all the references to the Keiths (that’s us!) and know that my ancestors lived here (I’ve never really experienced that before. It’s a strange feeling that I’m not sure I can express adequately. There was something special and very cool about looking through the same windows that people in my family tree looked through 500 years ago, or standing by a fireplace or walking through a room).  As well as all that, the castle is so amazingly awesome! It is exactly what you picture when you think of an old, ruined castle. To begin with it is built on what is almost an island: this big mound of land surrounded by cliffs and ocean on all sides, connected to the mainland by only a narrow strip. The landscape is very dramatic and beautiful.

Very cool, isolated location - how the heck did they build it up there?!

Mads surveying her domain...

Whereas I look like a goobah but here I am at Dunottar!

Had to back her on to the edge of a cliff but I got her in a selfie!!

Me being very brave, sitting on the edge of a very high cliff. 

Then there is the castle itself: it is mostly ruins, the stones turning green with moss, but there is enough of it left that you can tell what the rooms were, features of the buildings are still intact, there are multiple storeys still existing that you can explore. In the keep, which was built in the 14th Century, there are fireplaces and windows and whole rooms, as well as a spiral staircase that leads up to an incredible first floor open to the sky. There are stables; and a chapel. The kitchen just about blew my socks off, it’s still a complete room, with a stone trough and an oven in which you can see the charred bricks. There is another room with a brewery (Ben would be happy) and a bread oven. On the first floor of this building are the Countess Suite and the Marischal Suite with killer views out to sea – fireplaces, doorways and windows still intact, and in the Marischal suite there is even a stone clockface built into the wall. You can roam around everywhere and really explore the place, it is just so much fun to be there! I’d recommend anyone go, what a place to get the imagination going!!

In we go! 

Me outside the Keep

The fireplace in the Keep, ground floor

In the Keep

Staircase in the Keep

Window in the Keep with very handy seats, good for enjoying the view.

The Smithy. You can still see the huge chimney and fireplace.

More old, worn, mossy stairs!!

Apparently Mary Queen of Scots stayed here when she visited.

The stone trough in the kitchen

Not a great pic but if you look closely you can see the ovens, still a bit charred.

Mads checking the view from the Whig Vault: this room has a rather horrible history, nearly 200 people who rebelled against the King were held in this long room without sanitation, having to buy their food from the guards for many weeks. Some managed to escape out of this window, but most of them were captured again. 

The brewery

I can totally see myself as a Countess...

In the Marischal Suite. The bedroom is in the next room, apparently King Charles II stayed in there when he visited.

Fireplace in the Marischal's bedroom.

Do I look like a Keith?

Mads kindly demonstrates what you do in the dining room. 

After exploring just about every square inch of that castle, we drove into Stonehaven, a sweet little harbour village nearby, which is basically your stereotypical UK fishing village – very pretty! Once again we courted disaster in the Audi when Mads opened her coke too fast and it exploded all over her trademark pink coat. Luckily it cleaned up okay (as did the Audi, which I was slightly more concerned about). We drove out via the harbour, noticing some very cute little kids building sandcastles on the beach... in hooded parkas and wellingtons, mind you; as well as a street called Keith Place (us again! So famous!) and it was off to Edinburgh!

Driving in the Awesome Audi

Stonehaven Harbour, note the kiddies making sandcastles on the 'beach'. Very cute little town. 

Passing more giant Scottish hills, castles and a Loch or two, we arrived in Edinburgh at about 6ish. First impressions are it is very pretty; you can tell it is, or at least has been, a very wealthy city. Yummy (and cheap!) tapas for dinner around the corner, and home in time for Britain’s Got Talent. I’m excited for more sightseeing and exploring tomorrow. 

Tapas in Edinburgh!

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