Sunday, 3 June 2007

Three Scottish Piles

Scotland is well known for its castles. And well it should be - they are gorgeous and allow us a small glimpse into history, and a way of life which may well be gone forever. They also make an excellent backdrop for weddings and other special occasions. Every country should have a few.

Take this one for example:

This is Culzean Castle on the Ayrshire coast. On a clear day you can see Arran from its front windows and it has a 500acre garden including a deer park. A lovely place for horse riding, but, perhaps a bit tricky if you're trying to locate a lost welly. It is the former home of the Marquess of Ailsa but, as is not uncommon these days, the family couldn't find the funds to pay the necessary taxes on the property, or pay the army of cleaners/gardeners/ maintenance folk to look after the place. Having a small issue with the arctic conditions in Scotland I would also hazard a guess that the heating bills were a touch staggering.

Anyway, the castle was gifted to the National Trust for Scotland and now anyone with £12 can spend a day there. I like to pretend it's all mine. The trick is to dress down - lots of tweed and green boots - and stride confidently while wielding a riding crop. I probably don't fool anyone but I have had a few long looks.

Of course, not all lairds have handed over their homes. Take this one:

That's Blair Castle in Perthshire - ancient seat of the Dukes and Earls of Atholl. It is beautiful and also boasts some significant acreage, but it is telling that the current Earl lives in South Africa. This family's solution to the tax/staffing/utilities issue has been to open the family home to the public. I suppose if he's lapping up the sunshine in SA he probably doesn't find this too intrusive.

It is a really lovely spot - beautiful art exhibits and fantastic furnishings. Bambi quite liked it - that's her saying, 'Mine, mine, mine!'.

But the prize for Eccentric Things to do with your Scottish Pile goes to the Earl of Glasgow. His wee spot, Kelburn Castle, currently looks like this:

He has let a team of Brazilian Graffiti artists loose on it! The castle is still owned by the family but the grounds are open to the public. What makes this place particularly special is that it has been developed exclusively with whimsy in mind. It is home to the Secret Forest - glorious woodland punctuated with goblin houses, woodcutter huts, crocodile swamps, giant's castles and a maze.

Theoretically, it's targeted at children, and all the houses and tunnels are built to child scale, but who can't love a place so full of imagination and fun. Bambi certainly tired of it before Granny and I did!

And I bet you thought this post was going to be about hemorrhoids!


Katie said...

I want to live in a colourful castle!

lady macleod said...

Well my dear good woman I can see you and Mistress Bambi take to the castle life quite well. I especially like your fashion choices and Bambi's very Scottish way of claiming land!

Cursed Tea said...

Glad to see a pic of the coloured castle - I'd heard he's doing it because he's going to have have major finishing work done to it in a years time - so he thought why not graffiti it first!! - brilliant!!

By the way the wedding backdrop comment made me smile - Eileen Donan Castle (where "Highlander" was filmed) on the way to the Skye Bridge, was proposed by my American hubby as a great setting for our wedding - I coughed and spluttered and pointed out that yes the Americans would think it brilliant but my friends and family would think I'd lost my marbles!! We had a church (v nice - Queen Victoria built it - must thank her in heaven) and a hunting lodge (Mar lodge) with 300 stag heads on the ceiling of the ball room!! - I think maybe the Americans had thought we'd lost our marbles in the end....


The Good Woman said...

Hi Katie - me too!

Lady M - if only our methods lead to actual ownership...

CT - I'm taking Granny to Plockton later this week so will see Eileen Donan. I'll let you know whether I'm swinging towards it or stag head city next week!

And Kelburn is looking fantastic.

Gwen said...

I went to see Kelburn a couple of weeks ago when they had only just started. It was pretty colourful then - but now - wow. Have they now finished or is there more to be done?

The Good Woman said...

HI Gwen. It is finished now but a lot of the cranes and equipment are still around. I'm planning to go back for a gander in a few weeks when it's all cleared up and looking as it should (well, um, for a graffiti-ed pile that is!)