I took that picture standing in my bunny pyjamas on the castle lawn with three kids, three dogs and a budgie. There was no fire or disaster, just a malfunctioning alarm, or maybe it was the ghost. Yes, let’s blame it on ghosts, ghouls and phantoms; I’m sure they were responsible for continually setting off the motion sensors in the middle of the night during my winter sojourn. But that was summer, Brodie Castlewas busy with visitors and altogether less creepy. I stayed in the property manager’s flat several times that year, looking after things for her, most efficiently as you can see.
I am fortunate to live in a place that has so many of these large historic buildings dotted about the countryside. Castles take us out of where we are; some transport us into the decadent, usually bygone, lives of rich families, while others encourage imagination to run amok in the ruins.
My earliest castle related memory is of ruinous, rambling Tolquhon:
For me it is synonymous with life getting a little bit better. Childhood took an upturn after the birth of my brother; gone were the silent Sundays when my parents read the papers and my sister and I had to be very, very quiet in our room. We went places. Fun things happened, and Tolquhon was one of them.
I do like the bee boles or ‘skeps’:
Later, with my own children, just about every castle in Northern Scotland was explored. We ran around the roof of the medieval tower of Drum (safer than it looks):
Admired the gardens at Ballindalloch, before being greeted by Lady Macpherson-Grant and her extended family, including a new grandchild in a pram, in the entrance hall.
The scariest has to be Slains Castle, not actually very old, built to look Gothic, now ruined. It’s very dangerous out there on the cliffs, someone once fell to their death, so I don’t advise visiting. It inspired Bram Stoker to write Dracula, there are plans to turn it into a theme hotel, and umm, I don’t always heed my own advice:
Great sea views:
In summary: castles, they’re great. Get out there. Visit them (the safe ones). They’re so very different from our homes (unless you live in a castle), entirely dissimilar to modern office buildings, television screens and city streets. They can be cold and damp and ancient. Sometimes they’re lavish and royal. They smell of the past. They hold stories in their old walls and can unlock them in us.
Rapunzel’s Tower appears over the trees in Drinnie’s Wood, dark and mysterious, a fairytale setting at the top of a hill. No hair is let down in answer to my call. Maybe the newly installed CCTV reveals me to be neither prince nor abusive mother figure so I am ignored? Or maybe the words on the council sign are true and the Drinnie’s Wood Observatory really is only open May-September.
Onwards and upwards. And downwards. Up the wrong path and back again. Up another, almost identical, path and ta-da!
The Elusive Loudon Wood Stone Circle
It evaded me for years, this place. The entry to the narrow path is hidden by low hanging pine branches, and it wasn’t until the advent of Google Earth that I finally pinpointed its exact location.
I do like the white tree that stands opposite the large recumbent stone:
Most stone circles in Aberdeenshire are imbued with a deep peacefulness. This one seems alive somehow, buzzing with an undercurrent of ancient energy, like a radio still tuned to the past. Carved stone:
Back to the present and a newly planted wind turbine, another tower I would like to look inside; see the inviting steps and door at the bottom? Surprisingly large up close – diagonal was the only way to get the whole thing in shot – and surprisingly quiet, whoosh-whooshing us gently into the future.
I crossed the boardwalk slowly, being careful not to catch my slippers in the gaps between wood. My foot is a lot better, though I still can’t wear proper shoes or put my heel right down on the ground, but I was determined to walk on the beach. So, on the way home from a hospital visit, I stopped at Balmedie.
Beautiful isn’t it? Yet, I felt panicked when I saw the loch was being drained. I stood like an angry Lorax at the side, pointing at trees that had been felled to carve an ugly canal in the bank, asking irate questions: Why? When will it be fixed? Why?
Beautiful Aikey Brae. Of the 150 or so recumbent stone circles in the North East of Scotland, this is my favourite.
I used to live close by and enjoyed many a summer picnic and winter stroll there. One year I watched a solar eclipse, with my children, sat right in the middle of the circle. The setting made it feel timeless and magical.
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