Category Archives: history

Rob Roy’s Grave and Dalnair Castle Lodge: Touring Scotland with Ciara Ballintyne



We’ll be staying in the Trossachs as a base of operations for about two weeks. Last night I discovered Dalnair Castle Lodge, and I’ve absolutely fallen in love with it. It’s a Scottish baronial gatehouse in the village of Croftamie in the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park. The village pub and restaurant is a 5 minute walk, and the lodge has that quintessential feature – a castellated turret. Because, you know, turrets are a must.

The catch – it’s expensive. Of course, we are travelling in peak season (which I never do in Australia) so I may just have to accept accommodation is going to be expensive no matter what I do.


Also, it’s perfect. We’re travelling with my parents, so something that offers two ‘main-type’ bedrooms with own bathrooms is a must, and a second sitting room with TV would be useful so they can have their own space. The Castle Lodge offers upstairs bedrooms for us and the girls, with a bathroom, while downstairs offers my parents a double bedroom with own bathroom, and a ‘reading room’ separate from the main sitting room so they can watch TV separately if they desire. So much of the accommodation that is big enough to accommodate us only offers one double room with the others all being twins or singles, so this is a rare find.


Rob Roy’s Grave


Now that we’re settled in, we’ll be off on a relaxed sightseeing programme. I’ve already been to Rob Roy’s Grave, but I would like to go again and take my Dad. We saw some beautiful scenery on the way, and stopped at
Monachyle Mohr hotel for lunch afterward.

You can find Rob Roy’s grave at Balquhidder Parish church in the village of Balquhidder. We never would have found it the first time (or even known it existed) except for the advice of our host, Donnie, at Ballochneck House.


Balquhidder kirkyard is interesting in its own right and reflects Celtic worship for 4000 years, being situated in what the Celts believed to be a ‘thin place’ between our world and the spiritual world. The hill above the kirkyard is called Tom nan Aingeal, meaning ‘hill of fire’ as it was used by Druids as a site for sacred fires at Beltane and Samhain.


The first known church was built here in 1250 by Abbot Labhran; his heirs became known as the Clan MacLaren. A stone in the kirkyard records how the MacLarens were attacked by the MacGregors of Glen Dochart. In 1558, the MacGregors murdered 18 MacLaren families and got away with it! This was one of the factors (along with killing several hundred Colquhouns in 1603) that later led to the outlawing of the entire Clan MacGregor. As a result, even the name MacGregor became a capital offence.

In case you don’t know, Rob Roy was a MacGregor – although since he died in the 18th century, I think it’s safe to say he wasn’t directly responsible for any of the murders in the 16th and 17th centuries. That outlawing lasted a long time, and I can see how a hundred years later you might feel justifiably aggrieved by not being allowed to use your clan name. His gravestone was added to the kirkyard in 1981 and bears the inscription ‘MacGregor Despite Them’. 

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!


If you enjoyed this post, please feel free to check out my previous posts if you haven’t already. If you’re finding yourself here often, you might like to join as a member, sign up to the blog through RSS or email, or sign-up to my newsletter. Check out my July Newsletter if you missed it.


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Mjölnir – Hammer of Thor: The Mythology Series




Mjolnir 2
A 4.6 cm gold-plated silver Mjölnir
pendant from Bredsättra parish, Runsten
hundred, Borgholm municipality, Öland,
Kalmar county, Sweden.
This post is late because I was busy busting my arse to get Stalking the Demon to my editor, which I managed around lunch-time yesterday.

So. Thor’s hammer. Every wonder why the handle is so short? Me neither – until I had to write this post.

Now it’s been brought to my attention, of course I realise that the typical warhammer is a long-hafted, two-handed weapon. Mjölnir, by comparison, has a haft so short it can only be wielded one-handed – more like a mallet.

It turns out there’s a reason. Loki bet his head with the two dwarf brothers, Sindri and Brokkr, that they could not make items more beautiful than the dwarves who made Odin’s spear. The brothers accepted the challenge.

Sindri placed a pig skin in the forge and instructed Brokkr to pump the bellows and not stop until he returns and removes the skin. As Brokkr pumped the bellows, Loki assumeed the shape of a fly and bit Brokkr’s arm. Nonetheless, Brokkr resolutely kept pumping the bellows. When Sindri took the pig skin from the forge it had become Freyr’s boar.

This scenario is repeated with some gold in the forge, and that time Loki bit Brokkr on the neck, but he persisted and the gold becomes Odin’s ring, Draupnir.

The third time iron is placed in the forge. As Brokkr worked the bellows, Loki bit him on the eyelid, so hard it drew blood. When the blood ran into Brokkr’s eye, he was forced to stop the bellows long enough to wipe his eye clear. When Sindri pulled the iron from the forge, it had become Mjölnir, but the handle was shorter than he planned.

So basically it was Loki’s fault.

Interestingly, when the brothers presented the hammer to Thor they put a bit of PR spin on this defect by telling him the hammer was so small he could “keep it in his sark” (shirt).

Mjölnir was a mighty weapon capable of levelling mountains and no matter how hard or far Thor threw it, it would always return to his hand.

I find the etymology of the name interesting myself. Mjölnir is usually interpreted to mean ‘that which smashes’ from the verb molva (to smash) which is similar to the Slavic molot and Latin malleus (which is where the English word mallet comes from).

 
An oversized replica of Mjölnir to promote the movie Thor
An alternate theory compares Mjölnir to the Russian molniya and Welsh melt, which mean lightning. This also fits, since the name Mjölnir then makes it the weapon of the storm god associated with lightning – which indeed Thor is!
In Old Norse texts, Mjölnir is also referred to as hamarr, which in Old Norse could mean stone, rock, cliff or hammer, and which comes from an Indo-European word that has the same derivation as the Sanskrit word, asman. Asman means stone, rock, stone tool, hammer and thunderbolt! 

If you enjoyed this post, please feel free to check out my previous posts if you haven’t already. If you’re finding yourself here often, you might like to join as a member, sign up to the blog through RSS or email, or sign-up to my newsletter. Check out my July Newsletter if you missed it.

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The Scottish Borders: Touring Scotland with Ciara Ballintyne



We’ve made it. Scotland. Ah, breathe in that air.

We never made it as far south as the Scottish Borders last time – Glasgow was as far south as we went – so this is completely new territory for me. We’ve just driven three hours from York, and I expect the kids are restless, so we’ll probably stay somewhere in the Borders overnight, do some sight-seeing, and then push on to our temporary home in the Trossachs tomorrow.


Melrose Abbey


Apparently this is the most famous in ruin in Scotland – and yet I never heard of until this year, when my hairdresser urged me to visit.


Apparently what’s remarkable about the abbey is an elegance not found elsewhere in Scotland. It was built in 1136, and then largely destroyed by the army of King Richard II in 1385. That’s 249 years – well, it stood for longer than Australia has yet existed! It must have been rebuilt at some stage, as the present surviving ruins are actually from the 15th century.


The exterior of the church is unusual for its collection of statuary, including – wait for it – a bagpipe playing pig! Other sculptures include hobgoblins (right down my alley) and cooks with ladles…. Hmm.


Supposedly the heart of Robert the Bruce (he of Braveheart fame and King Robert I of Scotland) is buried at the abbey. This is marked with a carved stone plaque. Why only his heart?


Caerlaverock Castle


If you’ve been following this blog for any time you know that Caisteal Aingeal an Bhais, the castle from my novel In the Company of the Dead (release date unknown) was substantially inspired by Caerlaverock Castle. How could I be in the vicinity and not visit?

The name of this castle may mean ‘fort of the skylark’ and what’s most remarkable about the castle is its triangular design. I’d love to know why it was built this way, but the reason is lost to history. It features three defensive walls of pink limestone joined at each corner by a tower. The north tower is in fact a double-towered gatehouse, and originally housed the lord’s personal suite until the construction of the Nithsdale Lodging in 1630.


Caerlaverock had its fair share of sieges but had two of particular significance. In the first, King Edward I himself besieged the castle. The castle surrendered after only two days – but famously held out for that period with only 60 defenders against an army of 3000.


The other siege of note was Caerlaverock’s last. After holding off besiegers for 13 weeks in 1640, the castle was looted and stripped and the southern wall destroyed.


Walking these ruins will be like stepping into my own book!


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!

If you enjoyed this post, please feel free to check out my previous posts if you haven’t already. If you’re finding yourself here often, you might like to join as a member, sign up to the blog through RSS or email, or sign-up to my newsletter. Check out my July Newsletter if you missed it.

Don’t forget to share the love and spread the word on Twitter, Facebook or StumbleUpon (or other social networking site of your choice) if you know other people who might also enjoy this.

Thanks for stopping by and visiting!

Z-Plan Castle – Castle Fraser



Castle Fraser is located in Aberdeenshire and is the most elaborate of all the Z-plan castles in Scotland.

But wait – what’s a Z-plan castle?

Basically, it’s a castle with a rectangular tower in the middle and two towers at the corners, positioned diagonally opposite each other.

Castle Fraser was built between 1575 and 1636 – and when we say ‘between’, I am pretty sure that means that’s how long construction took, not that we’re unsure of the date. It appears an older square tower occupied the site before Castle Fraser. Funnily enough, the current castle was built by a chap called Michael Fraser. Well, not personally – he planned and funded it. On the northern side of the castle is a panel signed ‘I Bel’ which is believed to be the mark of master mason John Bell, so I guess he built it. Well, not personally. I suppose he supervised other people who built it. Lots of other people. Another master mason, Thomas Leiper, was also involved in the construction.

The castle is five stories high, and after the initial building of the Z-plan castle, an additional two wings were constructed, which obscures the castle’s basic design. The castle was further modernised in the late 18th century, including the addition of a new southern entrance and sash windows, which I suspect weren’t part of the original castle defences. The interiors were then entirely reconstructed again between 1820 and 1850, and the castle was then partially restored by new owners around 1950.

Castle Fraser appeared in the movie The Queen in a scene where Helen Mirren (the Queen) is stranded by a river and sees a stag. She then visits Castle Fraser where she learns the stag has been killed by hunters. 

Castle Fraser is a beautiful impressive castle – if you’re ever in Scotland, consider adding it to your list of sights to see. I think I’ll be stopping by in 2016 when I’m there!

 

This is an A to Z Challenge post. If you enjoyed this post, please feel free to check out my previous posts if you haven’t already. If you’re finding yourself here often, you might like to join as a member, sign up to the blog through RSS or email, or sign-up to my newsletter. Check out my March Newsletter if you missed it.

Don’t forget to share the love and spread the word on Twitter, Facebook or StumbleUpon (or other social networking site of your choice) if you know other people who might also enjoy this. 

Thanks for stopping by and visiting!