Just One More Castle

And not just any castle!  I love castles (as you might have guessed) and grew up thinking there was a ‘typical’ kind of Castle, probably due to Disney and Cinderella, but I’ve learned they are as diverse as the characters who built and inhabited them.

Yesterday was another beautiful day in Scotland, and I was pinching my cheeks that I woke up and was still here. In Aberdeen, the sky was somewhat cloudy, but I spotted a ‘sucker hole’ in the clouds off to the north.

“Didn’t you say Fyvie Castle is north of Aberdeen, Lindsay?”

“Aye, just about an hour away.”

“Well, in that case, I see a ‘sucker hole’ in the clouds in that direction that we should go follow!”

map

It turned out to be an absolutely gorgeous drive and perfect for a visit to one more Castle before I go home. As if to offer promise all things bright and beautiful, we suddenly found ourselves driving right under and through this spectacular splendor! Note the deep blue of the sky above the bow as compared to the light blue under its graceful arc.

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img_2592Lindsay commented that I was like a kid in a sweety shop when it came to rainbows.  I told him, “Pull over, pull over! I’ve got to get some photos of this!”

It was magnificent and even doubled momentarily, although I barely got a shot of it being double by the time I got out of the car. I was, however, rewarded with a clear shot of where the pot of gold lays where it touched down through the trees.

Now, if that’s not an omen of treasure ahead, I don’t know what is!

A short time later, we also were enjoying this spectacular view as well!

Welcome to Fyvie castle!

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This place has been added on to by four different families: Gordon, Meldrum, Seton, and finally Forbes-Leith. Originally it was a square-shaped fortress. About where I am standing, and taking this photograph, would have been the fourth corner of the original Castle with walls, about the height of the ground floor, spanning the distance to both the right and left towers. The ground in front of us would have been the inner medieval courtyard with people living and working inside its walls in wooden structures. The original Keep is that mid-center area along the left-hand wall. We’ll take a closer look at the original front door at that time when we go around the other side to have a look.

The Gordon’s had to forfeit their Castle after Culloden, and the Castle was given to the Meldrum family afterward as a reward for their allegiance to the British forces during the Jacobite Risings. They made improvements and made their mark on the place as did the succeeding families throughout time, each adding a level, a tower, etc. Usually, there are heraldic devices and symbolism on a castle from just one Clan, but this one has four, and it amazes me that each succeeding family did not remove the previous owners’ marks!

Before heading inside, let’s take a walk around the other side, walking on the sunny side of the street as it were…

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This chestnut tree was absolutely amazing, with its ancient branches reaching out for sunlight along the ground.  The memories this tree must have of lords and ladies clambering about underneath and up in the limbs looking for ‘conkers’ to compete with!

You might ask like I did, what is conkers?  Well, let me digress here from the Castle momentarily and share with you what I learned from Lindsay what this favorite game is all about…

The Horse Chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) was first introduced to Britain from the Balkans in the late 16th century, but it was not until about 200 years later that the fruits of the horse chestnut trees were used to play ‘conkers.’

The game of conkers probably evolved from a game called ‘conquerors,’ which was initially played with snail (conch) shells. A variant of the game was later played with hazelnuts, on strings. By the 20th century, these earlier games had almost universally been replaced by the version we now know using horse chestnuts.

The autumn is the beginning of the season for the game when all over the country, children start collecting conkers. You will find them on the ground around horse chestnut trees. They come in prickly green cases. Collect a number of these and break open the cases to reveal the shiny brown conkers.

Choose one conker (a nice big round shiny one) and then bore a hole through the middle of it. Thread a piece of string through the hole and tie a knot at one end, so that it doesn’t pull through. The string should be long enough to wrap twice around your clenched hand and still have about 10 inches left.

A toss of the coin usually decides who starts first – but in the playground, this is more often a matter of whoever shouts something like ‘Obli, obli oh, my first go.’

Each player has their conker on its knotted string. Players take turns hitting their opponent’s conker.

If you are the one whose conker is to be hit first, let it hang down from the string which is wrapped around your hand. A 10-inch drop is about right. You must hold it at the height your opponent chooses, and you must keep it perfectly still.

Your opponent, the striker, wraps their conker string round his hand just like yours. He then takes the conker in the other hand and draws it back for the strike. Releasing the conker, he swings it down by the string held in the other hand and tries to hit her/his opponent’s conker with it. If he misses, he is allowed up to two further goes. If the strings tangle, the first player to call ‘strings’ or ‘snags’ gets an extra shot.

Players take alternate hits at their opponent’s conker. The game is won when one player destroys the other’s conker. If a player drops his conker or it is knocked from his hand, the other player can shout ‘stamps’ and immediately stamps on the conker, but should its owner first shout ‘no stamps,’ then ‘stamps’ is disallowed and the conker hopefully remains intact.

In playground tournaments, a winning conker can then go on to do battle with other conkers, each victory adding to the conker’s score. A conker which has won one battle is called a ‘one-er,’ two battles a ‘two-er’ and so on. So, for example, you might overhear a child saying, “I beat his fiver with my two-er.” In this case, and depending on which rules you play by, the winning two-er might simply become a three-er, or it might become an eight-er (two previous victories plus the victory over the fiver plus the five-score of the fiver). In this way, winning conkers can quickly accumulate quite big scores!

Folks are pretty serious about their game of ‘conkers,’ and at the World Conker Championships, they even crown their winners King & Queen!

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Okay, back to the Castle. Let’s take a closer look at the details on this side.  Speaking of features, so that’s how they keep the window trim painted way up high!

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Now a little closer still to admire some finer details…

Below is the original ‘front door.’ You can also see the specific levels of the Castle; first, the two lower round towers with the slit hole windows for archers, then the second level when they made the towers taller. They would have moved the front door up one level to the location of the first window to have access by a ladder which could have been hauled up into the Keep to prevent marauders from following them. And finally the top-level, added by the fourth and final family – the Forbes-Leith clan.

The Forbes-Leith Laird was responsible for the various adornments and additions of turrets, extensive improvements, like electricity, plumbing, and modernization of the Castle. He was a wealthy steel magnate and collector and admirer of fine art. (The interior is extensively decorated with many famous paintings by Raeburn and numerous other noted artists.)

Above the second level doorway was the infamous ‘murder hole’ which hot lead could be poured through raining down over the heads of unwanted visitors!

Lindsay and I thoroughly enjoyed touring the interior for well over an hour or so. Sorry, but I was not allowed to take photographs inside. You’ll just have to come and enjoy for yourselves; however, it is well worth it. It is a fascinating castle to visit, and it has earned a spot in the top 5 of my most favorites!

It’s loaded to the hilt with magnificent furnishings, artwork, and other finery. Having had four different families since the middle ages, the Castle is also ripe with history and new items. For example, a ‘weeping stone,’ a fascinating ‘Harvey Regulator’ clock which is older than the clock in the Tower of London (and still keeping perfect time). There is a beautiful hall with excellent acoustical ceilings for musical concerts with a ‘player’ organ with ‘playing rolls.’ There are stunning Tiffany lamps, Venetian lamplight posts, Delft blue Tulip Vases, and gilded china settings. Finally, there is a broad sweeping stone spiral staircase that they used as a final ascent to the finish line on the third floor for horse races. If that isn’t enough, it’s even haunted with about 4 or 5 resident ghosts.

“Most Haunted” has conducted seances here and filmed the ghosts appearing. Our tour guide recently witnessed the appearance of one such spirit in the corridor and attests to its validity!  Fascinating, absolutely fascinating!

With its many levels, corridors, stairways, turrets, and rooms to explore in each of the various levels and towers of the Castle, it offered a cornucopia of treasures to behold.

Before we left, Lindsay and I enjoyed a piece of Carrot cake, Millionaire bar, and a couple of Lattes in the castles’ Tea Room while we absorbed all the priceless beauties we had just feasted our eyes upon.

Although it was getting late in the day, and the growing season, I still wanted to venture into the Walled Gardens for a peek…

…and was not disappointed!

Below are beautiful little Chinese Lanterns changing color in the beds, and dahlia tubers which have been lifted and put to bed in the cold frame for planting next spring.  The gardeners’ work is never done!

As we meandered back along the long drive into the Castle and out the gate, we were also gifted some more spectacular afternoon autumnal scenery along the Loch, which borders the winding route…

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Although the shy (and rare) Red Squirrel scooted off in the brush before I could get a picture of him, the Mallard hens were more than happy to hurry over to have their portrait taken amidst this beautiful setting adding character and female charm for my frame.

Further along, Swans and Geese added another peaceful scene…

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What a bountiful day filled with surprises and delights for the senses!  Even the sunset participated by topping-off a ‘pearfect’ day!

This morning, as I prepared to start writing this blog, I grabbed my coffee, turned on the laptop and started downloading all my photos (which can take a while!) In the meantime, I decided to check my email.

I was delighted to find a response to a message I’d sent a couple of days ago to Richard Eccles from Castle Roy. He had asked me if I would be willing to write a letter explaining any connections I might have to Castle Roy and as the winner of that fabulous bottle of Tamdhu to further support their fundraising efforts.

I told him I would be more than happy to do so. After I wrote the blog post entitled ‘And the Winner Is,’ I thought I should send him a link to the post, to see if something along those lines would be ‘suitable’ to include in the letter he had asked me to write.

In his email this morning, he replied, “Hello ‘Lady’ Claudia! Many thanks for such an excellent article with plenty of great photos. Patricia and I were thrilled as I am sure Stuart Black will be who donated the Whisky that you won. To see it’s name out on the ‘www’ is fantastic. Patricia has already put it up on Facebook, which is sure to raise the Castle’s profile and get our fundraising efforts out there. Have a good trip back to the States and an enjoyable festive season. Let us know when you return, and you can come over and see how far we have got with the final part of the consolidation. All the very best, Richard.”

Of course, I was delighted that he liked it so well, but I felt especially ‘warmed’ that they shared it on their Castle Roy Facebook Page! That’ll be some excellent coverage for my travel blog!

Then I opened up my next email, a link to my horoscope for yesterday. After that nice plug for my blog, it didn’t surprise me to read:

Oct 26, 2016

You are going to be in the public spotlight today, Sagittarius, whether you want to or not. This is the effect of the Virgo Moon in your tenth house of the public image today. So you need to smile big, and smile often, and the world will smile right back at you today. Be practical about this, and tend to the details like it’s your job. Because it might be today. It will be in the little details where you will win big today, and in a very public way! What are you hoping to be admired for today, Sag?

What a ‘pearfect’ topper to already ‘pearfect’ day in Scotland! It was even ‘written in the stars!’

Besides, it also serves as an appropriate ending of my “Adventures in Scotland – 2016” blog posts. Yep, you heard me right, we’ve come to the end of this year’s shenanigans.

I’ve had so much fun and traveled so many roads. I have picked up a few new Scottish terms, had a wonderful time making memories with loved ones & family, and thoroughly enjoyed the company of old friends. I have also made a whole load of new friends, laughed till I thought I’d pee my britches, and dug in the clarty dubs discovering buried headstones. I have found the whereabouts of many of my own ancient ancestors across the land, seen some absolutely stunning panoramic vistas. I learned A LOT. Ate a ton of fish ‘n chips and delectable seafood, and tasted some divine desserts til I thought I would burst. I have breathed the mountain air, man, crossed the Munros high, man, crossed the moors near Beahlach & Lecht, and driven part of the Route 500. I won a rare and valuable bottle of Whisky, have had my heart touched and warmed by so many friendly Scottish and Irish people – EVERYTHING I could have possibly wished for and then some!  Dreams really do come true!

The time has come however to let my old laptop have a rest (I’ve posted 44 posts with 307 visitors who enjoyed 2,267 views!), spend the last couple of days just hanging-out with Lindsay, enjoying a wee dram (or two, or three since we won’t be doing any more driving!), see if my suitcase can hold all the delightful treasures I’ve collected throughout my journeys (like that pound of feathers my guardian angel bestowed upon me) and the souvenirs I’ve purchased for my loved ones back home who have been holding down the fort, paying the bills and feeding my cat, Buddy, while I’ve been off gallivanting about having the time of my life!

Although I am a wee bit ‘knackered’ and ‘cream-crackered,’ I’ve really enjoyed sharing all of my travels with YOU!  I do benefit myself by capturing my travels in a ‘journal’ of sorts, but it is so much more fun and meaningful knowing that you are looking forward to my posts and enjoying them almost as much as I do.  Thanks for your lovely comments, your devotion, and your enthusiasm regarding my efforts. It’s a lot of work, to be sure, but it, like so many other efforts, is oh-so-worth-it ~ a labor of love!

Slainte Mhatch!

Lady Claudia

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Glossary:

Slainte Mhatch (Slanj~Evaa) = Cheers, Best of Health

Knackered (nack~ird) or Cream Crackered = worn out, thoroughly tired.

 

Author: Claudia Frew

Adventuresome, independent, and fun-loving 68-year young American great-grandmother who loves to travel; often going solo!

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