Tag Archives: tourism

Day 3: Caerlaverock Castle – Touring Scotland with Ciara Ballintyne

Caerlaverock Castle

Caerlaverock Castle

This is it—the day we go to see the castle that inspired Caisteal Aingeal an Bhais from In the Company of the Dead. It was almost like stepping into the book.

Dad was with me, so I had someone to haul around, pointing at things saying “this is where Lyram’s suite would have been, but the floor has long since rotted out” and “this is the stairwell that led to Ellaeva’s room” and “look, I think I can see the murder holes in the barbican!”

It was definitely a highlight of the trip, though I hesitate to say it was the highlight because it happened so early. But maybe it was.

Caerlverock Castle courtyard as viewed from the tower

View from the top of that turnpike stair the kids made me climb

Driving to Caerlaverock is interesting because it’s basically a castle in the middle of nowhere. You’re driving through all these fields, down narrow, windy roads with not much to see on either side because of high walls, high fences, high hedges, or any combination thereof, and then suddenly this castle appears in the distance. That in itself is kind of incredible.

Secondly, it’s triangular. If you missed my earlier post on this castle when I was in planning phase, this castle is unique in the United Kingdom (possibly all of Europe) as it only has three walls forming a triangle shape fronted by a double gatetower at the top point where the entrance is located. The shape itself is fascinating. It’s also a moated castle,

A signed copy of In the Company of the Dead

A signed copy of In the Company of the Dead

with some evidence that there was at one stage a second wall and/or moat, making this a concentric-ringed castle as well. You can still see the mounds of the moats/walls outside the castle.

Caerlaverock is a really good castle for kids, although mine made me climb up this ruined turnpike stairway that is so narrow you literally cannot do it without the help of the rope strung up the central pillar. Consider yourself warned. Also, there is a great playground for kids, and a decent café.

While I was there, I signed five copies of In the Company of the Dead, so there are now five limited editions in existence signed at the castle. One of them I have already given away to one of my biggest fans, but there is another up for grabs in my Christmas Giveaway.

Entering Scotland

Tank crossing

Tank crossing – because that’s a sign you see everyday

English countryside - somewhere north of York

English countryside – somewhere north of York

Scottish Border

Welcome to Scotland

Because I started in the middle, I kind of forgot to say this was the day we drove from York to Scotland. The English countryside, which I’d not driven before, isn’t really much like Scotland at all, and I was a little disappointed because I wasn’t getting that “homecoming” feeling I had last time, and then the countryside started to get steeper and rockier and then bam! There it was.

We also drove through Penrith, England. This is interesting because I was born in Penrith, Australia, and my parents still live there. In fact, Mum one day had a guy come in the shop where she works and ask her where the castle was. She gave him a funny look and told him she thought he had the wrong Penrith. We missed the castle, but Mum and Dad saw it in passing and assured me there is, actually, a castle in Penrith. Just not our Penrith.

I hung out with the camera trying to get a shot as we crossed the border, with some success.

After we saw Caerlaverock Castle we drove to Fife and spent the night at a nice little cottage at Kilconquhar Castle not far from St Andrews.

Me signing a copy of In the Company of the Dead at Caedrlaverock Castle

Me signing a copy of In the Company of the Dead at Caerlaverock Castle

Edinburgh: Touring Scotland with Ciara Ballintyne

Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh Castle

Of course in our trip to Scotland, we simply must stop at the capital.

Edinburgh Castle

Hubby and I saw Edinburgh Castle last trip, but I’m sure Dad will want to see it and I’d like to take the kids.

The castle was constructed over the better part of a millennium, with St Margaret’s Chapel dating back to the 12th century, the Great Hall to 1510, when it was erected by James IV, the Half Moon Battery was erected by the Regent Morton in the late 16th century, and the Scottish National War Memorial was built as recently as after the First World War!

If you visit the castle, you can see the Honours (Crown Jewels) of Scotland. There are replicas you can take photos of, and then the actual Honours are kept in a separate room under strict guard where no photography is allowed. They say no photography is permitted in the Sistine Chapel, and most people take photos anyway – but here, when they say no photography, they mean it. Almost as much as they do in the Tomb of the Popes. Security reasons, I expect.

At Edinburgh Castle you can also see the Stone of Destiny, the famous 15th century gun Mons Meg, the One O’ Clock Gun and the National War Museum of Scotland. I can’t say as I recall any of them, but we didn’t have a guided tour of the castle, and I found it far more confusing than any of the other, smaller castles we visited.

I do remember the shop had a very expensive, limited edition whisky that hubby tried, and then left regretful he couldn’t buy one.

The Palace of Holyroodhouse

Holyrood_Palace_gnu1742

Located at the other end of the Royal Mile to Edinburgh castle, this is one place we didn’t make it to last time. This is the Queen’s official residence in Scotland. You can visit:

  • The State Apartments – these contain a number of fine artworks and is used by the queen and the royal family for official ceremonies and entertaining, mostly during Holyrood Week;
  • The Throne Room – seems kind of self-explanatory, right? It’s used for the luncheon for the Knights and Ladies of the Order of the Thistle when a new knight is installed. I have no idea what that is, but I must now know – and of course, want to be one (I don’t think I am eligible though… sad);
  • The Morning Drawing Room – Used for private audiences, such as with the First Minister of Scotland, the Lord High Commissioner, and visiting dignitaries;
  • The Great Gallery – used for the Investiture ceremony when Scottish residents receive an award in one of the tw Honours Lists, it is the biggest room in the palace and contains Jacob de Wet’s portraits of real and legendary kings of Scotland
  • The Historic Apartments – home of Mary, Queen of Scots, including her bedchamber, and her Outer Chamber, the location of her Italian secretary’s murder by her husband.

The Edinburgh Military Tattoo

Edinburgh_Castle_32

We saw the tattoo when we were in Edinburgh, and again when it visited Sydney, Australia in 2010. Hubby has no desire to see it again, complaining of ‘cramped’ quarters, and Mum thinks bagpipes are frankly hideous, but Dad and I intend to go.

Each year the Tattoo is attended by an audience of about 220,000 people, 30% of whom are from overseas! It is quite simply an astonishing performance of pipes and drums and other military bands from around the globe, with the Australian Rats of Tobruk Memorial Pipe and Drums performing the year we were there.

The tattoo is always performed at Edinburgh castle, with the Lone Piper closing the performance from the castle battlements.

Not for anyone without the musical taste to appreciate bagpipes.

Blackness Castle and Pony Trekking in the Trossachs: Touring Scotland with Ciara Ballintyne

Blackness Castle

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!

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, subscribe to the blog or sign-up to my newsletter.

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!

Doune Castle and Cambuskenneth Abbey – Touring Scotland with Ciara Ballintyne

Doune Castle

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA It’s been a few months since I did one of these posts, so in case you’ve forgotten, by this stage in the planned trip the family is ensconced in Dalnair Castle Lodge in Stirlingshire and we’ll be using it as a base of operations for day trips for the next two weeks or so. Here’s a few of the things we might consider doing.

Doune Castle

In 1400, Robert Stewart, known as ‘Scotland’s uncrowned king’, built Doune Castle. He was the younger brother to the weak Robert III, and effectively Scotland’s ruler. His seat at Doune was therefore a ‘virtual’ royal castle.

After his death, Doune Castle actually did become a royal residence, albeit only a ‘royal retreat’. It served as a summer residence from which the Stewarts could relax and hunt in the forests of the Trossachs. This came to an end in 1603 when James VI of Scotland became James I of England.

Doune Castle is exceptional because it was planned ‘in one sitting’. While many castles were built, rebuilt and added on to over the centuries, Doune was not, and remains true to its original design. However, although the design was complete, construction was not, and the south range of buildings was never finished.

Falls of Falloch

Falls of Falloch

This 30ft high waterfall is located in the northern most part of Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park. This is said to be a great spot for a picnic, so it could be a good place to take the kids for lunch one day.

The falls are located three miles from the village of Crianlarch. If you’re travelling down the A82, it’s a good place to stop for a break.

Cambuskenneth Abbey

This ruin is unattended, and so there are a number of information boards around for visitors to learn about the abbey. Perhaps most interestingly, the abbey was the scene of Robert Bruce’s parliament in 1326 (two decades after the death of William Wallace), and also the burial place of James III and his queen, Margaret of Denmark, in the 1480s.

The abbey features a free-standing bell tower (a campanile in the Italian tradition), and is the only one of its kind in Scotland (though The Campanile in Venice is a landmark). It stands 65ft tall and in 1378 replaced the belltower over the central crossing of the abbey when it collapsed.

After its ruination, the abbey was subjected to further depredations through use as a quarry. How the belltower survived intact is unknown, but may be because it was useful as a lookout over the Carse of Stirling.

Cambuskenneth Abbey

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, subscribe to the blog or sign-up to my newsletter.

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!