As Storm Frank rages outside and hampers our efforts to escape Edinburgh I’ve been reflecting on some of our 2015 adventures.
Having a history geek Mum means the Wee White Dug visits a fair number of historical sites in a year. He loves exploring castles and rushes around them at breakneck speed sniffing out every nook and crannie.
So while Frank blows a hoolie I thought I’d share some of our favourite Scottish castles of 2015.
The photo above is of Dunnottar Castle by Stonehaven in Aberdeenshire. If you’re a Disney fan you may recognise it as the castle in Brave.
Dunnottar is a dramatic medieval fortress, which sits perched on top of rugged cliffs. The site has been inhabited since Pitish times.
On a nice day, unlike today the best way to visit the castle is by following the coastal path from the pretty harbour town of Stonehaven. The path winds its way along cliff tops, past some spectacular rock formations and lovely open countryside.
Struggling for attention behind a rather hairy Wee White Dug is Castle Stalker. It sits on a tidal islet in Loch Laich near Port Appin in the Scottish Highlands.
If it looks familiar, maybe it’s because you’re a fan of the 1975 classic Monty Python and the Holy Grail? Stalker makes an appearance in the closing scene of the film as the Castle of Aaaaarrrrrrggghhh.
Above is the rather ominous looking 15th century fortress known as Blackness Castle. Sitting on the shore of the Firth of Forth and resembling a huge boat from above, it’s often referred to as the ship that never sailed.
It’s an atmospheric site which I find more than a little unsettling.
The keen eyed Outlander fans amongst you may recognise Blackness as the filming location for Fort William in series one of the TV show. This is where poor Jamie is whipped by arch villain Randall.
Not far from this site stands the real life Lallybroch aka Midhope Castle.
My favourite castle of 2015 was Hermitage Castle which sits in an eerie and remote spot on the Scottish Border near Hawick. The castle’s origins can be traced back to the 13th century. Hermitage Castle has a turbulent history, due to its important strategic location on the Scottish Border not far from Auld Enemy (England) territory.
If those sinister, grey walls could talk they’d weave us a gruesome tale of bloodshed, battle and turmoil.
Next, let’s visit a less terrifying location before we end up having nightmares. Sticking with the Scottish Borders let’s check out Smailholm Tower near Kelso.
“And still I thought that shatter’d tower the mightiest work of human power.” (Sir Walter Scott)
Smailholm Tower is a classic Scottish tower house. It was built in the 1400s. Loved by Sir Walter Scott, it’s survived the elements and centuries of border raids and attacks.
It’s a beautiful site and it’s hard to imagine it as anything other than the peaceful place it is today.
Smailholm Tower is hands down the prettiest historic site we visited this year. It really took my breath away.
Next up is Barnbougle Castle which stands majestically on the Firth of Forth at Dalmeny.
Barnbougle dates back to the 13th century but was extensively restored in the 19th century. We pass it frequently on a favourite local walk of ours. A mere stone throw from Edinburgh you can enjoy deserted beaches and wonderful views but shhhhh don’t tell anyone as we’d like to keep it all to ourselves!
Like all castles worth their salt, Barnbougle has a wonderful legend attached to it. During the Crusades the castle’s occupant, Sir Roger Mowbray went off to fight in the Holy Land. Sir Roger was mortally wounded in battle and at that very same moment his faithful hound back home began to howl uncontrollably. It died of grief, pining for its dead master.
There’s a spot near the castle named Hound Point. Legend has it that when the master of the household is about to breathe his last a ghostly hound can be heard howling. Some even claim to have seen it!
I hope you’ve enjoyed our whistle stop tour around some of our favourite castles of 2015. I’ll leave you with a photo of Casper goofing around at Craigmillar Castle which is on the outskirts of Edinburgh.
Craigmillar is a remarkably well preserved medieval ruin with links to Mary Queen of Scots who stayed there.
Casper and I will be out and about exploring Scotland again soon.
Until next time ………