Let me take you back to Scotland for a minute. It’s been a while, but I still have a few details I would like to share from my favourite castle: Dunnottar.
We’ll start by the entrance. Walk through the gates, follow the narrow lane up towards the main buildings. Just inside the gate there’s a door on the left. The door is locked. On the right there’s a hole in the wall which has for a long time been closed (it’s the first time I’ve seen it available to visitors). I’ve just found unexplored ground and feel the excitement rise. The ground is a little slippery, the doorways are low and we have to bend our heads to enter. The hole is a narrow tunnel that turns further to the right and leads to a small room of only a few square metres. There is no roof though so light streams down from holes in the wall further up that have functioned as window in the floors above us. On the wall opposite us is an old looking door with a padlock…
We cannot go any further. Only our imagination is left to explore the room behind the door, the scent of wet stone, the enclosed rooms, and the mystery of what might have been. We return to the entrance of the castle and continue up the cobbled road leading up to the main buildings. We turn left and pass a small room. The room is dark, but the air changes and, although invisible in the darkness, you can feel the walls surrounding you. We have no torch, but a few flashes from the camera reveals a room that looks like it was never finished. There’s stones and rubble in the corners, and one wall is sloped, as if though someone have started digging to increase the size of the room, but given up. We return to the fresh air outside. Continue further up the road, passing a small hut where the entrance tickets are sold. We turn right, see a small tunnel in front of us. A railing has been set up on the right side, as the cobbles are slippery. The cobblestones are small and round, similar to those found on the surrounding beaches. Images of people crouching over the steps in front of us appear in our minds. Crouching while roughly jamming the stones into the ground. We do not want to lose our footing on the slippery stones so our eyes fix on the step in front of us. The cobblestones form a pattern. The image of the centuries-old stone layers change, they place the cobblestones with greater precision, patterns are debated and decisions are made…
At the far end of the castle we enter a rather large room, but the ceiling is low. A window at the far edge has increased in size over the years and is now simply a big hole in the wall. A placard on the wall near the entrance tells horrific storied of people who’ve been held captive in the room. More than a hundred souls have been trapped here at the same time. The room feels cold. It chills you to the bone. The hole in the wall opens for the rays of the sun to reach the dirt floor. We walk slowly over to the hole. The rays reach us and their warmth make us even more aware of the cold we feel inside. The outer wall runs straight down to the cliffs and ferocious sea. To our right there’s a small stretch of grass it’s far from the hole, impossible to reach, but by tilting the camera, finding the right angle, it looks like it could be reached with a careful, strong, and lucky leap. The view is beautiful. We shudder. Of those who escaped there were few survivors…
I’ll continue bragging about this wonderful place. As with most castles, Dunnottar has seen many changes from then the first building was erected and until the last was built. The buildings are thus of different sizes, different styles, and they also seem to have deteriorated and fallen apart differently over the years. Every time I’m there I see something new, and every time I’m there I fall in love with the place all over again.
Some of the buildings have been rebuilt, but many are simply left as is. This gives the castle enough variation for me to be entertained for hours on end. I don’t care much for castles that are still in use, nor am I as interested in castles that have completely fallen apart. Or well, ruined castles are intriguing and most often what I would prefer, but Dunnottar gives me a perfect balance of new and old; restored, ruined and maintained.
It was a rather grey afternoon we spent at Dunnottar this time. We were there for a few hours, we stayed for as long as we could after driving up from Edinburgh. I know I suffered from a fever while I was there, and I remember the short walk from the car to the castle, as well as the short walk going back, as quite strenuous, but I can’t even remember having a soar throat during the hours we spent inside the castle walls. This magical place will take all your pains away!
I soon lost my lovely travel companions as different motives attracted us and pulled our cameras in various directions. After exploring the lot we suddenly found ourselves at the same spot at the same time and continued onwards together.
As we walked, stopped and photographed, I noticed that all three lenses were always pointing in different directions, despite us girls standing fairly close – an image of the diversity Dunnottar holds.
Dunnottar Castle is my all time favourite castle. It is the location of the castle and the surrounding nature that really attracts me to it, and that as well as the fact that I’m left to explore the grounds exactly as I please makes this my favourite.
I wanted to tell you about this some time ago, as the last few posts from my Scotland road trip, but as you know, suddenly came December, and suddenly came London, and Dunnottar had to wait.
The castle is just a short walk from Stonehaven, which again is a few miles south of Aberdeen on the North-East coast of Scotland. The location of the castle is to die for, and one can clearly see the advantages of having such a stronghold in times of trouble.
It costs about a fiver to get in (we’re talking local currency here) and then you’re left to roam the grounds. There are signs here and there telling you where it’s not safe to climb, and also a few plaques of information placed here and there.
From the northern walls you can see a war memorial which fits in beautifully with the atmosphere of the castle. It looks somewhat like a small watchtower or beacon of warning to warn the castle dwellers of the Vikings coming from the north (now, there is little evidence of Viking activity along exactly this stretch of coastline, but go with flow here)
Things didn’t go according to plans after we reached Oban. We didn’t really have any plans as such, at least none that were set in stone, and sometime the things you don’t plan, or the things you would never even imagine, result in memories you’d rather not be without.
We were fortunate enough to find someone with a bit of local knowledge and an opportunity to tail these locals on or way to Edinburgh. The new route would be about an hour longer, but it would include two castles we otherwise wouldn’t have seen, good company, and cheap petrol at a petrol station in Glasgow (which in theory makes up for taking a longer route?).
I do believe it was indeed the most sensibly alternative, as a severe lack of sleep due unforeseen events the day before, could affect my sense of direction, mood, and in general my ability to think. Driving behind a huge white van made life a little easier. Even if it did get quite close every now and again, when I forgot I was driving a Vauxhall with a set of breaks quite different to the set of breaks I operate on a regular basis.
It was, anyhow, the castle I wanted to mention here. I say mention as I have very little to say about it. It seemed to be somewhere in the area of Middle of Nowhere, which made it perfect. Due to a lack of wellies, a flooded river, and travelling companions who weren’t too eager to have shoes and trousers ruined by wading across said river, we only saw it from afar. But in return, nature put on a display of colours that made up for not getting to climb the walls and search every nook of a ruined castle. I’ll let the pictures do the talking.
Drumnadrochit, which could have been a guided boat tour of Loch Ness and hours spent at Urquhart Castle, became instead a lengthy discussion around the breakfast table. We considered the boat trip, but decided against, then we decided on the castle, but didn’t do that either. We did get very close to the castle though, without ever being near it…
We parked near the castle and were ready to go in. A few bus loads of tourists, a visitor’s centre and a wall set up between the parking lot and the castle made us change our minds. I had pictured castle ruins where I could roam around like a kid, climb walls and crawl around to get some good photos. Sharing the castle with that many other tourists was just not all that interesting.
The wall hiding the castle was decorated with friendly signs telling us not to climb the wall, and warning us of the dangerous fall that would make itself present if we did climb the walls. But, those friendly Scots had, of course, been kind enough to put up a railing as tall as the wall. The railing was about a foot from the wall and thus safe to climb without getting too near the dangerous and sudden drop.
Yours truly, not doing anything wrong! Photo taken by one of my fabulous travel companions
I thus managed to get a few photos of the castle, though, through a fence, and most out of focus.
I’m not at all generalising when I say that the sun doesn’t shine often in Cracow. I have been to Cracow once, I stayed for four days, and I, of course, thoroughly studied the weather while in the city. Just like in Switzerland, where I have been twice, and stayed for several hours each time, the sun never makes an appearance. At least not a proper appearance. The pictures taken from the balcony of our hotel room, showing Wawel Castle, show the variation we saw in the weather, and also the lack of sun. This is how it was when we first arrived.
Shortly after our arrival dark clouds rolled over the city, darkening the sky. The castle immediately took on a more somber expression:
There was lightning and thunder coming closer, rolling over the city before again disappearing into the horizon. Then the water sluiced from the following deep grey sky.
It didn’t rain much during our few days in the city, but the sun was timid and hid behind a clouded sky. The first of the photos here well represents the weather we saw.
On our last evening, after hearing about the horrible events in Norway, I took this picture of the castle. I was sitting in the window sill (nothing like this one) trying to sort out my thoughts, which of course was an impossible task at the time. However, after the sun set and it grew dark, the castle was lit up from all possible angles, and I was at least distracted from my thoughts long enough to get my camera out and take this splendid view home with me.
Continuing on the stories from our travelled path around Copenhagen, Denmark, I have to mention Frederiksborg Slot. A friend recommended a visit to the castle. I was very skeptical about bringing a two-year-old to walk in and around an old castle, but my two-year-old loved it. Of course it made it easier that he was the only (strawberry)blond little kid on the site. I think by the time he left a japanese fan club had been established, he had talked to close to a hundred people, and had equally many photos taken of him, both of him alone and him posing with Spanish, Portuguese and American tourists.
The castle is not at all an ideal place to bring a toddler or wee child, unless the child is quiet, social and very eager to meet new people and knows the meaning of ‘don’t touch’. The water fountain outside can be recommended though, I don’t know if there’s always a fire-trucked parked just inside the castle gates, or a bus load of Japanese tourists greeting you when you enter the gates and wanting to play in the fountain with you, but these were definitely the main attractions for Son. After running about the castle for an hour and a half, the ‘børnemuseum’ (children’s museum) in the basement was a nice place to calm down. Son spent some minutes drawing while correcting one of the guide’s language, her Danish pronunciation differed from Son’s Norwegian pronunciation, which he did not approve of.