The Stone Circle…and the Stone Castle.

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Today we left the Lakes and drove through many little lanes to see this: a stone circle at Castlerigg. MatchingPegs put me onto the Outlander books when I went and did a thermomix demo for her, which consequently meant 3 or 4 weeks went by that I have no recollection of, since I was totally engrossed by the series, totally resented anything that dragged me away from it and totally wanted a Jamie Fraser of my own, particularly as he grew older.

I raced up here, took some photos, then promptly raced back to the bus as the heavens opened.

 

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This was a stone circle within the circle. It was lovely being able to see this and walk around in within it, with the hills around and the rain softly falling . At first. When it got harder it wasn’t quite as romantic.

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Then at our lunch stop I found this in a bookshop, marked down. I was wandering around on my own so it was perfect to read over my lunch of the best pea soup I’ve ever had. It’s now living in my bag, in case I need to whip it out and occupy myself.

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After lunch we had quite a long drive up to the border to see Hadrian’s Wall. I know it doesn’t look all that impressive and wouldn’t keep out a single Jamie Fraser in its present form, but when it was new it was over 15′ tall. It would’ve been very impressive.

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Centuries of the locals picking apart the wall to use in their houses and churches have left the wall either gone or somewhat shorter. This stretch of it is said to be the longest intact part of it still in existence. It was a museum tacked on at the side.

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Unfortunately the most potent memory I came away with was the incredible stench of sheep manure that was hanging like a cloud of ill omen at the first part of the wall I visited. To be fair, it wasn’t unwashed Roman ghosts wishing us ill, it was the flock of sheep who were in the field the wall is in. Either someone just stepped in a pat just before I got there, or the grass in this area is incredibly injurious to their systems. Either way, I leaped on top of the wall in a mighty bound and picked my way along it back to the museum, where I saw this on the door:

IMG_2236When we drove into another country. Scotland! We were staying at Comloggan Castle, a Victorian manor house that just happens to have a 13th Century castle on the grounds. As you do.

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I was visualising being put up in a room fit for a princess. Some of us on the tour had 4 poster beds in all magnificence. Me? I was put in ‘The Maid’s Chamber.’

It was very nice. I’m a lucky maid.

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When they said they had a castle on the property, I was visualising it set fetchingly in the field next door, with a short walk through cunningly landscaped gardens to reach it.

Well, it was a short walk…

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Look at how close it is!

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The laird does a tour of the castle that take over half an hour. He was really interesting. It was a down-to-earth look at life in the era of when the castle was built and used and it was amazing being able to stand in front of (and then inside of) the castle as he’s talking and be able to see all of the things he was talking about. It was a mishmash of a history lesson and looking at the actual features that survive in the castle itself.

As we climbed up the very narrow spiral stone stairs u to the Great Room, I looked left as I got into the room (thankful I wasn’t a servant having to carry a large tray of food or wine up there) and saw a niche in the walls where minstrels would play during dinners.

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Here he is standing beside the fireplace. Quite a good size, isn’t it? He said that these fireplaces were mainly used as sources of light.

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This little niche in the wall was up beside where the long table would have been. This is where the owner of the castle would go for private convos. The castle in in the Borders, and the people here owed no allegiance to the English or the Scottish thrones. They were basically robber barons, using their reivers to carve out their own little empires.

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Here’s a close up of the convo nook.

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This is the minstrel’s niche again. Look at how thick the walls are.

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This was on the other side of the big table, where the scribes would sit while the baron was doing business during the day.

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One of the most interesting parts of the talk was when we were outside and he was talking about how the castle’s defences worked. Basically, unless you bribed someone to let you in, the castle was basically impregnable. It was never attacked… Edward I or II actually passed within 200 feet of it on his way into Scotland once but just passed it by.

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Here’s the gibbet, where bits of condemned criminals would be placed, in order to be a deterrent to the local population against doing the wrong thing against their local lord. Or, as was more common, people would be placed for public humiliation if they’d done something wrong.

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This place is also used for weddings, so there were some very pretty gardens. People get married up in the great Hall (which is why those two big candelabras were there; purely for artistic licence), but then there are these gardens for people to wander around in and enjoy.

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This leads out to fields where cows and the loudest donkey in Christendom live. I was awake at 5AM the next morning…

Still, at least at that hour of the morning I was the only one trying to access the wifi and so I was back in connection with the hive. 🙂

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I SO want little whimsical touches like this in my garden one day!

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