Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Exploring Scotland 1 Castle at a Time, Part 18, Brodie Castle

We arrived at Brodie Castle too early and it wasn’t open, but we still wandered around and enjoyed the grounds and took pictures of the castle and of course the Rodney Stone.

Malcolm, Thane of Brodie, was an ancestor of the Pictish aristocracy and there is evidence that he was in possession of the land in 1160. Because of the right of ancestory, Robert the Bruce chartered the property to Malcolm’s son Michael. The castle was constructed in 1567 and 35 generations of Brodies lived in it until recently. It is under the protection of Historic Scotland and the Brodie heirs no longer live there.

Mary Queen of Scots for a brief time confiscated the property when the 12 Earl, a Presbyterian, voiced his opposition to her rule.

In 1645 Lord Lewis Gordon plundered and burnt the castle because the 15th Earl, Alexander, was a Covenanter. ( A covenanter was a Presbyterian who had signed a covenant to uphold that the Presbyterian faith was the sole religion of their country.) Documents that recorded the Brodie lineage were destroyed.

Alexander also helped destroy paintings and carvings in Elgin Cathedral because he thought them idolatrous. He went on to participate in negotiations with Charles II at Breda and the Hague in 1649-1650 and incurred a large debt on Charles behalf for which he wasn’t repaid. The family struggled for generations to pay for the castle’s upkeep.

In 1745 the 19th Earl of Brodie, another Alexander, became Lord of Lyons, King of Arms, responsible for the heraldry in Scotland. His wife Mary Sleigh designed the gardens around the castle.

In 1832 the 24th Earl married a wealthy heiress and it was she who paid for the repairs that were done in 1824 to both the grounds and the castle and wiped out the debt that burdened the Brodie family.

The 1567 castle was incorporated an earlier structure into its design. The five story towers are from that time, while the long extension on the right was designed in 1824 by William Burn. I enjoyed the Victorian dairy Historic Scotland had renovated. And enjoyed reading about who worked at it and etc.

It gave me a feel for how a real castle worked with the herb garden, the dairy, you could picture how such a place could be self sufficient.

Tomorrow I'll be talking about Tolquhon Castle.
Write on,
Teresa R.

Exploring Scotland 1 Castle at a Time, Part 17, The Old Kirk andThe Rodney Stone at Brodie Castle

We stayed in some beautiful unusual places. The Old Kirk was one of them.

It was a traditional Scottish kirk built in 1856 converted into a bed and breakfast. Hillary and Herbie McFarland were our hosts. The McFarlands had retired, moved from Ireland to Scotland and bought the place specifically to run as a bed and breakfast.

It’s a gorgeous place. Its location was just outside Forres in Dyke which is in the Moray area.

It had a very large double sitting room upstairs for the guests so you could relax there if you didn’t want to stay in your room. I’m a night owl so I enjoyed being able to write late at night without disturbing my traveling companion.

Excuse my clutter on the table. I had set up my lap top on the table in the center to work on and was the only one up.

And the stained glass window that took up one whole wall didn't hurt to look at every time I was thinking something through. Talk about great working conditions.

We stayed at the Old Kirk for two nights and used it as our home base to explore the area of Moray. 
About a mile from the Old Kirk was Brodie Castle so we decided to make it our first stop our first morning there. And what should I see as soon as we pulled into the drive to the castle A PICTISH SYMBOL STONE!!!

This particular stone is known as the Rodney Stone. It was discovered in 1782 while they were digging the foundation for a new parish church for Dyke and Moy.  It has been dated from the 9th century. It was moved to its present location in 1842.
It is named the Rodney stone because it was, at one time, used as a commemorative stone of a victory fought by an Admiral Lord Rodney. Perhaps more appropriately it should have been named after the gravedigger who unearthed it, his name was Rotteney.
There are Druid symbols on this side but a cross on the other.  The double disks at the bottom could mean the sun and moon, since the Druids worshiped the sun. Light and Dark, Male and Female, also Life and Death. 

Above the discs is an animal. It has been speculated that it could be either a horse or a stag. There was a horse cult near the area but most of the carved horses recovered have had riders. The article in Archaeology that I read said it was too solid to be a Kelpie, the Caledonian equine personification for water.  It is more likely a stag because that was a known totem of the more ancient Picts in areas that were highly forested, and at the time this stone was carved the area was covered by forests.

At the top are two sea serpent like mythical creatures gnashing their teeth at one another. It is believed that these represents some kind of upheaval like a flood , an approaching war, some pestilence that invaded the area or some horrible loss.

On the other side is a beautiful Celtic cross. 

For both Druid Symbols and Christian Symbols to be carved on one stone, it has been speculated that the person who carved it was conflicted about giving up the old beliefs for the new and were sort of covering all bases during a time of strife.  The cross bar of the cross has been defaced at some time, but it is still beautiful.


Along the edge of the stone Ogham has been carved but is very warn.  The translation proposed was EDDARNONQ.  It is speculated that it may be a name, a spell, or just a boundary mark. It isn't known for certain. Or even what language might have been used, since Scottish Ogham could have a mixture of Old Norse, Gaelic, or Latin mixed in.

Since seeing the stone I've spent hours going over the pictures I took of it. It was one of the highlights of my trip, since druid symbols and Ogham are an important part of my story line for my current work in progress.

Tomorrow I'll talk about Brodie Castle and the history of the Brodies. Having the stone placed here may have brought it exactly where it needed to be. It may have been returned home.   
                                                                       Write on,
                                                                       Teresa R.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Exploring Scotland 1 Castle at a Time, Part 16, Kildrummy Castle

In the Ballater area, in the middle of a green field surrounded by sheep pastures, stands the ruins of a once magnificent castle.

Kildrummy castle was built in 1250 by the Earl of Marr. But the Earl wasn’t the only one who had a hand in seeing the castle completed.  Master James of St. John, Edward I’s master stone mason, was paid a large sum by Edward in 1303 after a visit to the castle. So, it's implied that Edward paid for some of the work to be done on the castle. It is known that he suggested to the Earl that the wide trench that surrounds Killdrummy be dug to make it more difficult to attack.

As you come upon the Castle from a narrow track the possibility of the place, the beauty that it must have been, is there within the grasp of your imagination.

Kildrummy was built in a D shape with seven story tall barrel towers on each end of the long straight bar of the D. Equal distances between the back towers, which were the families living quarters, and the front guard towers were two more drum towers.

The Great Hall was structured against the back wall of the castle. And the chapel on the East wall closest to one of the large seven story towers.

In 1306 Edward invaded Scotland and dispatched an army under his son’s command to attack the castle being held by Neil Bruce for his brother Robert. Neil fought off an extended siege, but was betrayed by the castle blacksmith, a man by the name of Osborne. Neil and all his men were hanged. And I’ve read that Osborne was rewarded with gold, melted and poured down his throat.

This is an artists rendering of what the castle may have looked like in it's hay-day. It's on a sign at the sight.

After being repaired, in 1335 the castle was attacked again. Robert the Bruce’s sister, Lady Christian Bruce, commanded her husband’s forces in his absence and defended the Castle. She was successful in holding off the attack until her husband, Sir Andrew Murray, arrived. Go Lady Christian!

In 1357 King David II attacked the castle and defeated the Earl of Mar. In 1435, King James I took control of the castle and for several decades the structure was strengthened and improved.

In 1507 the Elphinstone Family took possession of the castle. The family settled in for the next 182 years. But in 1686 the Jacobites occupied the castle during the uprising and damaged the castle. In 1715 the 25th Earl of Marr led a Jacobite uprising that was defeated. He fled to France leaving the castle to fall into ruin. In his absence, the Castle was used as a convenient quarry for building materials in the area.

In 1898 Colonel James Ogston acquired the castle and tried for the rest of his life to restore the castle. After his death the castle was placed in Historic Scotland’s care.

Kildrummy may be a ruin but it's beauty and the beauty of the surrounding area makes it well worth the drive to explore it. I would have loved to have seen it at its most glorious.

Tomorrow I'll be blogging about Brody Castle and the Pict stone discovered there. Also, I'll be posting some pictures of the Band B we stayed at called the Old Kirk.  It's a B and B created, you guessed it, from an old Scottish Kirk, it was truly beautiful.

Write on,
Teresa R.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Exploring Scotland 1 Castle at a Time, Part 15, Corgarff Castle

One of the most unusual castles that we saw while in Scotland was Corgarff Castle. Perched atop a high ridge in the middle of a plateau that stretches for miles, it’s a lonely sight. When I first saw it I thought it looked more like a huge manor house.

Corgarff used to have gray harling on the outside. Now it’s a striking white. At one time the Castle would have been surrounded by a rectangular curtain wall. The stones littering the ground may have been part of that wall.

The curtain wall is actually an eight pointed star shape with a narrow stone courtyard between the wall and the house. While we were there they were doing some repair work and we couldn’t photograph the structure completely.

Corgarff was built in 1550 by John Forbes of Towie. It was built within the path of the quickest route between Deeside and Speyside. The Forbes were supporters of James VI. Their neighbors the Gordons were supporters of Queen Mary. Their different political views sparked a feud between the two clans. In 1571 Adam Gordon tried to take Corgarff. The Forbes men folk were gone and Margaret Forbes refused to surrender and shot at the Gordons striking one of the men in the leg. Adam Gordon set fire to the castle and burnt it to the ground killing Margaret and 27 other women and children inside.

In 1607 the castle was taken over by a local bandits until 1628 when the Earl of Marr acquired it. In 1645 the Marquis of Montross used it as a base during the Civil War. Then in 1689 the castle was burned by Jacobite supporters to prevent supporters of William of Orange from using it.

In 1715 the 25th Earl of Marr launched the Jacobite uprising from Kildrummy Castle. Corgarff Castle was burned again when the uprising was defeated and the Earl’s estates were forfeited.

The castle was returned to the Forbes family. But during the next Jacobite uprising it was used as an arms storage facility by the Jacobites. 300 government troops surprised the Jacobites and they fled leaving the stockpile behind which was confiscated.

In 1748 Corgarff was converted into a military barracks. The 50 soldiers who lived there patrolled for Scotsmen who disobeyed the no kilt edict after Culloden, or smuggled whiskey or weapons. It was the army who built the two small wings onto the tower house.

By 1802 it was a farmhouse. But the government purchased it again to run patrols searching for whiskey distillation. The army left in 1831.

Before the first World War it had become the home of the Ross sisters.

After they left it began to decline. Historic Scotland acquired it in 1961 and restored it to the condition it was in in 1748 as a barracks. This would have been the view the troops would have seen from the windows above. A lonely call to duty to be sure.

Tomorrow I'll be talking about a castle I mentioned in this blog. Kildrummy Castle.  Teresa R.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Exploring Scotland 1 Castle at a Time, Part 14, Craigievar Castle


We decided to visit Craigivar Castle because our hostess told us how interesting it was and it proved true. The first thing you notice is how PINK the tower house is. The process that produces the color is called harling. The castle itself is created from stone but on the exterior a layer of lime based cement has been adhered to it to weatherproof it. Lime is pourous and allows the stone to breath and the moisture to evaporate so that it doesn't get trapped inside the material and damage the stone.  While the surface is still wet, the pigment, which is actually red sandstone, is pressed into the material. Thus, Craigievar attained it's lovely pink color.  The red sandstone is even in the gravel of the drive giving it a pinkish cast too.

Another interesting architectural feature of the Castle was the corbelling used to support the weight of the drum towers builting into the structure.


The Castle reminded me of the Disney world castle because of the Cone shaped roofs.

Craigievar was started in 1610 by the Mortimer family but financial problems kept them from finishing the structure.  William Forbes, a very rich merchant, bought the Castle and completed it in the 1620's.  It remained in his family for 350 years. 

   It has many of it's original features.  An iron yett hangs at the door. A yett was an interwoven gate created with iron strips welded together in such a way that they couldn't be dismantled by anything less than a blow torch. They are indigenous to  Scotland. In all the castles we went to, we only saw two, the one at Craigivar and one at Dunvegan Castle on Skye.

In the great hall, they had a screens passage which is like a doorway with a  platform built high above it where minstrels would sit and play for the Lord of the castle and his guests. Craigievar is the only castle in Scotland to still have one.  

The plaster ceilings date from 1625 and 1626 are similar to the ones at Glamis Castle.
The small windows and doorways of the castle prevented furniture from being moved out of the castle, thus some of the pieces were actually built inside the castle.  And some of them have been inspired by changes in needs. Like the bathtub built inside a box bed--a bed framed into the wall like a captains bunk.
We were so lucky to be able to get to tour the castle. It's been closed nearly three years for repairs to the exterior harling. The finishing touches to that were being done while we were there. 

The castle originally had a walled enclosure around it with small  towers at each corner. This was called a barmkin. The walls weren't as high and  the towers attached much smaller than in a larger castle.  Cattle would be brought into the enclosure to protect them during raids.  

I think Craigievar was interesting because of the untouched quality that it retained. Because of the small doors much of the original furniture and fittings have been inside the castle since it was built so it retains that frozen in time element. That may be true for now but during World War I it was used as a hospital and housed injured Belgian troops.  

 There were pink crabapples and  red maples behind the castle that created a beautiful backdrop to the pink of the castle.

Tomorrow I'll be talking about one of the most unusually constructed Castles in Scotland.
Write on,
Teresa R.