Monday, 30 July 2012

Crichton Castle

You may remember that we visited Crichton graveyard earlier this year (view the post here) and that we planned a return visit once the summer had arrived. Well today I decided there was no point in waiting any longer as it will most likely not reach us till next year. But as we had some intermittent sunshine and we felt like a day out, off we went to see Crichton Castle. It's an Historic Scotland property and can only be reached by strolling along a path that gets pretty steep towards the end. As advised in the Historic Scotland membership guide we were wearing "stout footwear" so no problem. In fact it was a pleasure to stroll along, admire the views of the castle and the Tyne valley as well as the wealth of wild flowers.
 The castle is a very impressive sight but even the stable building seen above must have been something special to behold. Just looks at the buttresses at the side of the building. I particularly loved the horseshoe shaped window that you can see there. It's apparently haunted by the spirit of William Crichton, the original builder of the castle. Sadly I didn't meet him!
The inside of the castle didn't disappoint either and even better we had it virtually to ourselves. The diamond encrusted facade (seen above, and also my blip for today) was added around 1580 by Francis Stewart who might have been influenced by his travels on the Continent, specially the Palazzo dei Diamanti in Ferrara, Italy. It was revolutionary for Scotland in his day.
The castle started life in 1400 as a tower house, erected by John de Crichton and later (1488) passed into the hands of the Earls of Bothwell, afterWilliam, third Lord Crichton, had an affair with Margaret, the sister of James III, and as a result they had a child. After this he was implicated in a conspiracy against the king involving James’ younger brother, Alexander, Duke of Albany. In 1485 he was forced to forfeit all he owned and all his titles and was lucky to escape with his life. From this point onwards the link between the Crichtons and their castle was broken..The best known of the Bothwells was the 4th Earl who was married to Mary, Queen of Scots. She must have visited this place many times over. The castle was later mentioned in Marmion, a work published in 1815 by Sir Walter Scott,  and the novel’s eponymous hero was the fictional owner of Crichton. This is how Scott describes the place:

That castle rises on the steep
of the green vale of Tyne;
And far beneath, where slow they creep
from pool to eddy, dark and deep,
where alders moist and willows weep
you hear her screams repine.
The towers in different ages rose; 
Their various architecture shows
The builders' various hands; 
A mighty mass that could oppose, 
When deadliest hatred fired its foes, 
The vengeful Douglas bands


 The views in all directions are astonishing specially when seen through the battlements of the castle. Above you can just discern the Crichton church standing amidst the trees.
And the castle must have looked incredibly menacing to any enemies approaching, specially when the clouds appeared much as they did today. "Looming" describes it well.
Wondering around outside the castle walls I could not help noticing these giant plants seen above,  and the caretaker told us it was a Greater Burdock. It very much resembles a thistle and the flowers are surrounded by spiny balls (or burs) which attach themselves to whatever is passing. Another one for the wishlist!
We didn't escape without being rained on (that's almost guaranteed in this summer of 2012) but it proved to be a passing shower and didn't last long. It enhanced the smell of the countryside when we walked back to the car.
One of the additional delights of the castle were the many bird nests tucked here, there and everywhere. Above a swallow nest with babies eagerly awaiting the provision of more food. As we were keeping the parents from flying in, we only stopped long enough to take the above picture.

It's amazing how one afternoon outing can make you feel like you've been on holiday but that seems to be how time works and we had a very enjoyable and instructive time. Definitely a place to visit should you be in the neighbourhood, although it's virtually impossible to get to without a car.

4 comments:

Lenna Young Andrews said...

sounds like a wonderful place to visit to me! 1580? wow. I am glad you had such a good day away exploring ; )

Jewels said...

Lovely Frieda - really enjoyed all the details you provided. So when was the castle "abandoned" - if only the walls could talk! Cheers, J

Linda said...

oh thank you Frieda for taking me along on your visit-what an extraordinary shell of a castle with such wonderful photo opsand views!

Linda said...

Oh the history in this castle! i can't imagine a house from the 1400. Wonderful way to spend a day.

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