Off the Beaten Path: Newark Castle

My husband has always been fascinated with castles.  From the earliest years of our marriage he possessed large picture books about castles, movies that take place in the age of castles, role playing games where the quests led to castles, and Legos that he would design and construct into crazy, massive, elaborate castles (yep, he’s kind of a nerd).  And although I thought castles were interesting, I could never quite grasp what all the fuss was about.

And then I went to Scotland.

Most tourists only ever visit Scotland’s “biggies”-Dunnottar, Stirling, Eileen Donan, etc.  And trust me, if you are lucky enough to set your feet on Scottish soil, you will absolutely want to see those.  There are probably ten to fifteen castles throughout the country that are extremely popular with tourists and for good reason-they are stinkin’ awesome!  But I must confess.  As much as I love and appreciate the castles that are well trodden, I am a huge sucker for the ruins.  The quiet, melancholy ones that time has all but forgotten.

Meet Newark Castle.

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Follow the Cobblestone Road-Part 2 (Grassmarket)

Reader, I’m glad you are back!  I am so enjoying writing this blog. Writing is such a fun hobby for me and I feel privileged that you indulge me in sharing something I love.  I hope you are having fun as well, learning a little bit about Scotland.  Thanks for popping by!

A few days ago I gave an introduction to Edinburgh’s Grassmarket by telling you a story of one of the most famed individuals to ever be associated with this area. Raise your hand if you remember her name.  I’m kidding.

Her name was Maggie Dickson, i.e. Half-Hangit Maggie (see previous blog post) and I’m sorry to say, she was not the only one who faced her mortality on those gallows.

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Half-Hangit Maggie

Pull up a chair and let me tell you a story about a woman named Maggie.  Maggie Dickson, that is.  Or as history remembers her, Half-Hangit Maggie.

Maggie Dickson was born in Musselburgh, Scotland in the very early part of the 18th century.  For reasons that are unclear, her husband left her, and she was forced to look for work elsewhere. Fortunately, as good luck would have it, she was able to find work at an inn in Kelso located in the Scottish Borders.

Things were humming along quite nicely until Maggie became involved with the innkeeper’s son.  And, well, you can probably imagine what happened next.  Yep.  Maggie became preggers.

Not wanting to jeopardize her job, she made the decision to conceal her baby bump.  The months ticked by and sadly, her baby was born premature and died.  Still trying to conceal the pregnancy, Maggie decided to place the little body in the nearby River Tweed.  She couldn’t go through with it, though, and chose instead to leave the baby on the bank of the river where, of course, it was discovered.  Maggie’s secret was uncovered and she was arrested for concealing her pregnancy.  It’s likely that she was also accused of killing the child, but accounts of the story differ.

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Follow the Cobblestone Road-Part 1 (The Royal Mile)

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Ramsay Lane, leading up to Edinburgh Castle

On a breeze,
Catch the past.
A cobble mile
Of trodden path.
Feel its life
Course through
Your veins.
You’ll never leave.
All will stay.

-Helen Walker

 

The Number 11’s brakes squealed and let out a whoosh as the bus jerked to a halt on Edinburgh’s busy Princes Street.  The driver opened the door and two people who had never before crossed an ocean now found themselves about to step out into the heart of Scotland’s capital city.  We bubbled with anticipation.  Excited about the day ahead, we climbed off of the red and white double-decker and took our first tentative steps onto the bustling street.  Buses, cabs, cars, bicycles, pedestrians…all were players in the well-organized chaos around us.  Ahead, the Scott Monument-very Gothic and very impressive-pointed sharply toward the sky.  The squeal of a bagpipe cried in the distance.  It was May, the weather was fine, and we had a destination in mind.  Edinburgh’s Old Town and the Royal Mile.

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I Heart Edinburgh

You have probably heard it said that it’s not about the destination but the journey. The Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson once said, “For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.”  I like your point, RLS!  But if your destination is Edinburgh, Scotland, then I want to submit to you that your journey has only just begun.

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Edinburgh, Scotland

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Off the Beaten Path: Hailes Castle

One of the things I love best about our travels in Scotland is finding the places that most tourists have never heard about. That is not to say that the most popular and well-publicized sites aren’t great.  They are!  But there is just something really fun and special about waking in the morning with only a vague outline of what the day will hold.  We check the forecast, consult our atlas, jump in the car, and off we go.

In our travels, we have found some pretty fantastic places and I plan to share them with you over time.  But if I had to pick just one today, one hidden gem to tell you about, it would be Hailes Castle.

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Once Upon a Time…

…there was a fairy tale castle of the most winsome sort that rested on a beautiful parkland and overlooked the cold, shining waters of the Firth of Forth.

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Lauriston was its name and it was a lovely place – with plenty of towers and flowers and beauty and grace.

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Lauriston Castle, Edinburgh

The castle enchanted everyone who visited, both humans and canines alike.

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The construction of Lauriston Castle began as a 16th century tower house that a fellow named Sir Archibald Napier of Merchiston built sometime around 1593.   A grand Jacobean-style extension was added in 1827.

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