Drama and melancholy at Castle Campbell

Drama and melancholy at Castle Campbell

As I browsed my Historic Scotland Members’ Handbook (see previous post for full excitement), looking for a May bank holiday activity that didn’t involve shouting at the kids while Errol worked wood, my attention was caught by Castle Campbell. The guidebook said it was poised high in the Ochil hills, caught between two ravines through which tumbled, on one side, the Burn of Sorrow and, on the other, the Burn of Care. How awesome is that?! I love Scotland’s drama and melancholy, it’s so thrillingly depressing. The Book said you had to leave the car in the car park and hike 40 minutes up through the Dollar Glen to get to the castle but you know what? I decided we were up to it. Despite the kids’ complaining that they didn’t want to go out, Errol returning grumpily from an abortive morning’s work and the rain which kept falling I decided to focus on the sun between the showers and simply pack some spare socks. That’s how hardy I am after 18 months in Scotland. Well, my gamble paid off! The glen was extremely pretty, with the two burns rushing down through steep, mossy walls covered with wild garlic, ferns and other bright green vegetation. The steepness was mildly scary with Whingey, who doesn’t really have full control of his limbs, but we made it to the castle in the sunshine and inside just before the deluge. And it doesn’t get better than that up here. The very welcoming chap at reception told us there was a picnic room next to the toilets and indeed there was: a lovely sandstone room...
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...