I love castles! At this point I don't think I could comprise a full list of castles I have visited as the list is quite long. I do have my favorites though, including ones I love to visit again and again. I was remembering a story today of several years ago when I was on a castle hunt in Scotland with my sister and 3 nieces. I have a castle map which lists all the castles in Scotland....over 2,000 of them! The list includes ancient castles, new castles, castle ruins, fairytale castles and castles that are private homes. I try never to trespass onto anybodies private land but this particular map just listed the castle and not their condition. As we drove up the road to the castle there was a wee bridge that crossed a burn that went around the castle. At this point, I realized we were at a private home and I attempted to turn the car around by backing off the bridge and alongside the burn. Unfortunately I immediately sank to my axles in the bog! We tried everything to get the car out including my pushing while my sister drove. I asked her to give it a little gas but my sister never did anything by halves and I received a wave of mud that covered me from my toes to my nose. At about this time the Laird arrived home with his wife. They both seemed to be in their 70's and had just returned home from church. He told me in a very gruff voice that he would go up to the house, change and then come back down with the range rover. He came back down in a range rover that seemed to be as old as he was and proceeded to chain my car to the rover. I could see that he had done this before and at this time I could also detect a little twinkle in his eye but never a smile...just like my grandfather. We pulled the car out and in the same gruff voice he said "well, you're already here so you may as well come on up the house and have a look". I had just discovered a new way to get myself into private castles!
Another time my mother, sister, 3 nieces, Mario and myself were visiting a castle called Duffus Castle which is a ruins of a castle in the north of Scotland. We had been discussing the name of the castle with many jokes before we arrived. I had been there before but nobody else had. There was about a half inch of snow on the ground and the castle sits up on a small hill. I told everybody that there was a walkway that went around the hill and you could easily access the castle from the back. I then began climbing up the side of the hill as I will always take a short cuts if I can. I heard a holler and looked behind me to see my sister go down. Then they all started going down like dominoes much to the delight of the people who were watching us from up at the castle. I was the only one not to fall. We were all laughing hysterically when my sister said "now we know where the name came from...all those people up there are thinking what doofus' we are for not taking the path to the castle."
On one of my very first castle hunts my brother Cameron and I were exploring Blair Castle in the central Highlands. This is a fully furnished castle owned by the 11th Duke of Atholl. There are guides all over the castle wearing the Murray tartan trews(trousers) with a green sweater. We always like to explore from top to bottom and learn as much as possible about castle and historic sites. This is much easier to do in an uninhabited castle of course but that never stops us. We were on a mission when we walked by a doorway as a man was just coming out dressed in the same trews and sweater. We talked with him for a moment and then hurried on our way. A few rooms later on we came to a room with family portraits and much to our surprise, there he was, the 11th Duke of Atholl staring back at us form a portrait. We just blew off the owner of the castle thinking he was a guide! We learned that day to always check to see if the family flag is flying which lets you know the family is in residence.
Tomorrow I will talk about my favorite castles of Scotland and why they are on my favorites list.
Many happy travels,
Shannon McDonald Tate