Craigmillar: a surprisingly good castle

Craigmillar: a surprisingly good castle

In exciting news, I got membership to Historic Scotland, mainly to force us off our backsides (and Errol out of his workroom/garden where he hobbies away) and into exploring our adopted country, seeing as it’s beautiful. So expect many castles to come, because we get in free now to most of them (well, for a bargain price of £7 a month)! Craigmillar Castle is in the suburbs of Edinburgh, with lovely open views to the south side of Arthur’s Seat. It’s set in parkland and from the approach doesn’t look like much – “It’s not a castle, it’s a ruin!” remarked Stroppy – but from closer up it’s pretty well preserved. As you go in through the attractive main door you find yourself in a lovely courtyard with a great, ancient, gnarly yew tree growing in the middle. ‘Ah’, I thought. ‘I might even enjoy this visit as well.’ The castle itself is compact but surprisingly easy to get lost in: did we just come up that staircase? Or was it this one? And the rooms themselves are unusually homely– it could be the warm sandstone colour as opposed to granite, which I believe was the fashion for many castles of the day. It’s easy to imagine Mary Queen of Scots sighing in her chamber over her plan trend the life of her vain and treacherous husband, Lord Darnley. Did she have any regrets as she closed the velvet curtains around her four-poster that night? Probably not, as Darnley had just murdered her private secretary David Rizzio, rumoured to be the father of her child. There are a lot of fascinating...
Why the Edinburgh Festival is better than Glastonbury

Why the Edinburgh Festival is better than Glastonbury

As my friend and I queued and shuffled, trailing four stumbling children, to get through the festival crowds on Princes Street, a woman with a clipboard approached my friend about her credit rating. Su-Ling reeled away, shocked. ‘No!’ she cried. ‘She can’t ask me that! It’s just wrong!’ That lady was from another place: normal life. A strange place of jobs, houses, rent and credit ratings. I remember thinking when I went to Glastonbury a very long time ago that it was like a whole alternative town (now a city!), a glimpse of how life could be if things were different. I was 17. Now that I’m nearly 40 I don’t want things to be THAT different – I never want to go to a portaloo in dungarees again for example. But I want them to be a bit different. During the festival, like at Glastonbury, life is about something else – fun, spontaneity, bumbling from show to show never quite getting there on time, seeing funny stuff, beautiful stuff, mind opening, life-affirming stuff. Where the number of people bravely getting up there to share something they feel about life with the world is amazing. Even if what they feel seems best expressed by gyrating in a lycra faun suit with platform hooves. And the fact that so many of us are open to this alternative world, where laughing, or being amazed, or made to think, or listening to some new and brilliant music is a million times more important than your credit rating, makes you happy again to be part of the human race. And I do mean...