Blackness Castle

Blackness Castle

Blackness Castle is an imposing stronghold, and one clearly built for war and as a garrison castle rather than primarily as a residence. It also doubled as a state prison.

Located on the shores of the Firth of Forth, the castle is colourfully called ‘the ship that never sailed’. Apparently the side of the castle standing alongside the Firth resembles a ship, with the narrow end resembling a ship’s bow in the water and the other a square stern. As the castle has three towers, this adds to the resemblance, creating the impression of three masts.

If you don’t have the opportunity to see the castle from the Firth, you can appreciate the shape of the castle from the North Tower by looking each way to the other towers (the ‘stern’ and ‘stem’ towers). The North Tower also features the access to ‘the pit’ in its lowest level: the worst of the prisoner accommodations. When the tide was in, the pit got rather wet.

The walls of the castle offer spectacular views across the Firth to Fife, with the best views to be had from the roof of the Central Tower, which is the highest point in the castle.

In the 1500s, the castle served as an artillery fortification. It was at this time that it came into the possession of King James II, who was responsible for the major reconstruction of the castle and turned it into one the strongest fortifications of its time. It features a labyrinthine entrance (which I admit I’m quite keen to see after just finishing the first draft of In the Company of the Dead) and a caponier – this is a passage within the external wall of the entrance itself which allows the defenders to shoot into the backs of any attackers who have breached the gate. The square ‘stern’ tower at the south had 5.5m thick walls capable of surviving significant bombardment and housing cannons to return 360 degree fire. If you’re still in feet, that’s roughly 18ft thick.

At the same time, and all the way through to the 1800s, the castle was a convenient prison for noblemen and other highly-ranked dissidents, including Cardinal David Beaton (Archbishop of St Andrews) and the 6th Earl of Angus. It later held Covenanters and foreign sailors and prisoners of war.

The castle is located 6km north-east of Linlithgow on the Firth of Forth off the A904. Entry costs £5.50 for adults and £3.30 for children.

Pony Trekking

Pony Trekking

Dad and I love horses. Dad owned a horse as a boy, and I had two different horses over a 5 year period before I had my eldest daughter. Shortly after, I was forced to choose between writing and horses and writing won out as the ‘cheaper and less time-consuming activity’ – an assumption that, in hindsight, may have been fallacious.

Nevertheless I still enjoy a good ride and I try to make a point of riding in places I visit. Aside from the surrounds of Sydney, I have ridden on Stockton Beach in Port Stephens, Australia, on the beach at Cape Tribulation, QLD, Australia, down the Appia Way in Rome, Italy and in County Killarney, Ireland. Last time I was in Scotland I didn’t get to ride and regretted it when I saw a group going out in Tomintoul.

My husband isn’t much for horses, and neither is Mum, but I see no reason why Dad and I shouldn’t enjoy a ride through the Trossachs – we might even take one or both of my girls with us!

Touring Scotland with Ciara Ballintyne

Ciara Ballintyne is visiting Scotland in 2016 – join her on a virtual tour of Scotland and other parts of Great Britain as she plans her trip. Somewhere you think she should go or stay? Please comment!

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