Castles

Duntulm Castle, Skye, Scotland

Duntulm Castle with spectacular views of the Outer Hebrides, you can understand the reason they built it there, and no, not just for the view, although I would have done.  The castle, with sheer cliffs on three sides, stands ruined on the north coast of Trotternish, on the Isle of Skye in Scotland, near the hamlet of Duntulm.  We were on our round the ‘Island Road Trip’, a week ago on holiday and I suddenly noticed the ruins, not sure how I missed them in pervious years…..most probably busy looking at the view.  We didn’t have time to stop, as we had a ferry to catch and we still had a long way to go, so the photos were taken out of the car window….. again.

 

A little history…..Duntulm is believed to have been first fortified in the Iron Age, and the site continues to be associated with the name Dùn Dhaibhidh or “David’s Fort”.  Later in life it was fortified by the Norse, and subsequently by their successors, the MacLeods of Skye. It would have been while it was under the MacLeod’s tenure that James V visited the castle in 1540, where he was impressed by its strength and the quality of the hospitality on offer.  In the 17th century it was the seat of the chiefs of Clan MacDonald of Sleat.  The MacDonalds abandoned the castle in about 1730 in favour of nearby Monkstadt House and then Armadale Castle in Sleat.  We did visit Armadale Castle, which has a lovely garden, and I will post about it later.  

 A little haunting for you…. a nursemaid accidentally dropped the baby son of the clan chief from a castle window above the cliffs.  The ghost of the nursemaid, killed in retribution, is still said to wander the ruins. She is apparently kept company by the ghost of Hugh MacDonald, who plotted against the rightful clan chief in the 1600s, and who was starved to death in the dungeon at Duntulm.   

There were quite substantial ruins left in the 1880, a large keep several stories high, which would have looked quite impressive on the cliff top.  But, as with many of theses castle ruins, the stone work was removed for building projects and other parts corroded away, or just fell into the sea.  

May 2017

 

The Royal Castle of Tarbert, Argyll, Scotland

We finally made the climb up to Tarbert Castle, on our visit of May 2016, and it was worth the effort in the hot sunshine.  The views were beautiful, but there isn’t that much left of the castle, and really what you can see is a remains of a Tower House or Keep, built in 1494 by James IV, and I have taken photos of  the notice boards which will tell you about it.  As you walk up to the Tower House or Keep, you walk through the inner and outer baileys, which are just humps in the ground now, and all that is left of the ancient 1292 castle.  When the castle fell into disrepair in 1760, most of the stone disappeared down the hill to the village, and I’m guessing that a lot of those village cottages have Royal Castle walls.  But what I really remember most about the visit, apart from the fantastic views, were the hundreds of bluebells just covering the hillside, really beautiful.  We then had to rush down the hill to catch our ferry to Islay, as we had lingered far too long in the sunshine.

 

Hill Top Castle – Reifenstein Castle (Castel Tasso) South Tyrol, Italy

On a train trip to Italy from the UK in 2016, I saw some wonderful castles and churches from the train window.  I think my favourite castles, were the ones perched up high on a hill top.  This one I especially liked, as you can see the old stone castle walls surrounding the castle complex.  I think we were going through Austria, or it could have been Italy 🙂

Update – After a bit of research, which I should have carried out before I posted, I found the castle.  I also found another photo of the castle.

Reifenstein Castle (Castel Tasso) South Tyrol, Italy, there are apparently some wonderful frescoes inside the castle, so well worth a visit.

Dumbarton Castle, Dumbarton, West of Glasgow, Scotland

Last year May 2016, we stayed over night at Dumbarton in Scotland, on our way back from staying on the Islands of Jura and Islay, two Inner Hebridean Islands off the west coast of Scotland.  Dumbarton, is really just somewhere we pass through on our way to the West Coast, but it does have a castle and we were meeting up with some of our family for the night, at a hotel, so it was a chance to see the castle.  The only snag was……. I had to get up early to visit, well we both did, that was husbands condition for having a look.  So these photos were taken at 7.00 am ….thank goodness it wasn’t raining or foggy.  I had ten minutes to run from the car park, take photos and run back…….we had a long way to drive home.

I had always thought the castle was on an island, seen from the other side of the Clyde, it looks like it could be, but it sits on Dumbarton Rock, a plug of volcano basalt.  Of course it was closed at that time of the morning and also lots of scaffolding, which is always a good sign of maintenance work being carried out.

There is very little remaining of the castle, but there is enough to fire your imagination, from just the location.

A little history ……..This rock was home to a settlement called Alcluith (meaning ‘Clyde Rock’), whose first records appear as early as 450AD. There was likely a simple fortress as part of this settlement, “Dun Breatann” meaning ‘Fortress of the Britons’.

 

Over the next several hundred years, Dumbarton Rock was besieged, fell, was regained and fell again before the settlement was destroyed by Viking raiders.

The second stage begins in the 13th century, when documentation suggests that a medieval castle was built on the the summit by Alexander II of Scotland.

Only the Portcullis Arch (built in the 1300’s) and the Guard House (built in the latter half of the 16th century) remain today.

The third stage of the castles’ development took place between the late 17th and late 18th centuries.  What was left of the existing castle structures were destroyed, and yet another castle was built on this lofty perch.

Artillery fortifications and the ‘French Prison’ are all that’s left today, with very little of the medieval castle (and none of the earlier one) still standing.  

We will return, because the views from the top, on a clear day, must be amazing……thats if I can climb the 547 steps to the remains of the White Tower Crag.   

 

Deal Castle, Kent

The same day that we visited Richborough Roman Fort in 2015, we went to the seaside at Deal on the Kent coast.  On the sea front there sits Deal Castle, which was built by Henry VIII as a fort in 1539.  As I said in the last post, I had forgotten our English Heritage cards, so I just took a few photos of the exterior.  We have been meaning to go back, but that was two years ago, I thought I had better post these photos, to remind us to return.   

 There is a circular keep, 270 feet in diameter, surrounded by 6 circular bastions, and this is all enclosed by an outer wall which consists of 6 circular bastions. These outer bastions controlled access to the dry moat.  The battlements were added in the 18th century. In 1648 it was captured after a short siege by Parliament during the Civil War.  The Castle continued to be used as a defensive position until the end of the 19th century.

 

Richborough Castle / Roman Fort, Nr Sandwich, Kent

I find it quite amazing that you can live somewhere for a few years and still miss things.  We lived in Kent for about four years (this was quite a few years ago now) and visited Sandwich quite a few times, as its a very attractive Kentish town.  But never did I realise that the first Romans had landed and made a Fort at Richborough just down the road, of course the sea was nearer at the time of the Roman Invasion.  But on a trip to see family in 2015 we passed a sign, I swear the sign had never been there before, so course we had to go and investigate and we found the Fort.

A little history…. Richborough Castle, the modern name for what is left of the Roman fort Rutupiae, rears its great bulk against the skyline about one mile from Sandwich and was probably the landing place for the Roman invasion of 43 AD and it appears to have remained in use until the end of Roman rule. Now inland, during the Roman period the site was an island on the south side of the Wantsum Channel.  The site was occupied into the 5th century and reused in Anglo-Saxon and Medieval times. It is now in the care of English Heritage.  Which beings me to a sore point, I forgot our English Heritage cards, it is a little expensive, so I just walked around the outside, trespassed on a farmers field, to get some side views.  Its quite amazing how large this site is, I didn’t get to see the Amphitheatre as its inside the walls, but I would like to return on a nice hot summers day and take some more photos of the interior.  

The Eastnor Castle Experience

We visited Eastnor Castle last year, 2016, to drive cars off road, we had won a ‘Land Rover Experience Day’  which is held in the grounds of the castle.  As it didn’t cost anything and you can choose where you want to take your experience……we or I, of course jumped at the chance of taking it at a Castle.  There were a couple of castles on the list to cloose from, but Eastnor Castle, near Ledbury in Herefordshire sounded interesting.  The day came and so did the rain, it poured, it did stop in the end, but turned into a very dark cloudy and wet day…..not good for photos.  Unfortunately the Castle was closed as a foreign Prince was visiting, but we were allowed to drive by.  This only happened, as I was a little upset….just a little…as the main reason we had chosen this venue, was because of the castle.  So we were allowed to drive by, or rather our instructor was allowed, with us in the car……I was beginning to think, was it really worth it, but as the chance of ever visiting the castle again is highly unlikely, yes it was.  

After we passed by, we went off to play, off roading.  But first some of the history I found on the castle….Eastnor Castle is a 19th-century mock or revival castle, situated in the foot hills of the Malvern Hills, two miles from the town of Ledbury in Herefordshire, England, by the village of Eastnor.  The  Castle is still the family home of the descendants of the builder, Lord Somers, and feels lived in and warm. Visitors are able to view some of the bedrooms and bathrooms as well as the impressive state rooms and Great Hall, which is nearly 60 foot high. There are walks through the grounds and around the lake amongst redwoods and cedars. The 19th century ice house has been restored and is also open to visitors. It was a shame it was closed on the day of our visit, after seeing some of the photos on their web site, it does look quite nice.

I got out of the car to take the photos of the car doing its two wheelie thing, I wanted a record, just incase it toppled over, but of course it didn’t.  Also we had some colourful spectators, very beautiful ones.  After driving around the off road course, we then did a bit of exploring.  The exploring was for me, as I just wanted to take some photos of the Estate that you wouldn’t normally get to see.  We found an empty farmhouse, that I feel sure they will restore to holiday homes or similar in the future, so it was interesting to see the buildings before they carry out the work.

We also found a very happy gardener.

And lastly a house that I would quite happily live in.  So all in all, not a a bad day in the end, despite the weather.