Friday, November 21, 2008

Remembering The Romance

***Disclaimer: This is a really long post! But there are great pictures so please don't miss them just because you could care less about my writing!***
A few days ago I had the chance to sneak a movie in during nap time. I had ordered "Elizabeth: The Golden Age" from Netflix. I love period films, pre-20th century, and almost anything with castles in it. I am sad that Jane Austen didn't have 30 books to turn into movies. I have become fond of the BBC movies based on Charles Dickens writings, and I am thrilled that Netflix keeps telling me about all of the other movies that I may love in these genres.

I wish I liked reading a bit more but for now, especially in the season of having a preschooler, a quick movie works well.

So, back to watching "Elizabeth: The Golden Age." Toward the beginning of the movie they showed a castle. The movie called it Fotheringhay, which is the castle in which Mary Queen of Scots was beheaded at. But as I looked at the castle I thought, "no way! That isn't Fotheringhay! That looks like Eilean Donan! I have been there!"

I waited until the end of the movie and jumped online to look up the castle they used for the movie. I was right! It was Eilean Donan! This was my FAVORITE castle in the highlands of Scotland. And I began to reminisce the trip my mom and I took together 5 years ago to Great Britain. I decided that since this trip romanced my heart so much with the rich history and the magnificent castles that it would be fun to do a blog post about the castles we visited on our trip.

Really, this post is all about me getting to walk down memory lane. But the fun thing about blogging is that others can join in! So if you are like me and are naively swept off your feet by towering spires, drawbridges, and great halls then please enjoy the walk. I know that the reality of life in corsets and ballgowns was not all glamour. I cannot help but think I would have been cold all of the time if I had lived in a stone mansion without electricity. However, I find it much more enticing to forget the reality and be romanced.

My mother's grandfather was Scottish. We come from the McLaughlan clan. Before our trip I had never been interested in my ancestry. But since we would be in Scotland I found myself desiring to learn and see all I could about my Scottish roots. The first castles we visited happened to be our clan's castles. This first picture is of the "new" castle, built in the 1800's.

This next picture is of the old castle ruins, built somewhere before 1300

We then made our way north and saw our first REAL castle. This is Inveraray Castle in Scotland. Beautiful, isn't it?

I quickly learned that there were old castles, and REALLY old castles. Here is Inverlochy, which is obviously ruins now.

And now for my favorite, Eilean Donan, the castle in the movie. Awwwe. Memories. I do remember getting a little mad that I couldn't go all the way up in the towers though. As we exited the highlands and made our way into northeast Scotland we were able to visit this beauty, Cawdor Castle. This one had the drawbridge like you see in the movies.

Cawdor also had amazing gardens, like this one with the traditional hedges.
After visiting Cawdor Castle we drove to a town called Tomintoul. This was the area in which family records indicated my 3 and 4 x's great grandparents lived. It took us a little while to locate the actual property and parish church but it was worth the time it took. Here is the church my ancestors married in:We began to head south as we made our way through the country. Stirling Castle rose above the city of Stirling atop an unusual lone mountain. The views were spectacular.

We made plans to spend several days in Edinburgh so that we would have the opportunity to take a driving break and see what this large city had to offer. The Edinburgh castle was enormous, and like Stirling it towered over the city. There was a great audio tour that we were able to take and it was so enjoyable. Here is a picture of one of the rooms in Edinburgh Castle.

While in Edinburgh we saw a Monet exhibit and also a Faberge exhibit. And the Queen of England's official Scottish residence is in Edinburgh. Below shows this, called The Palace of the Holyrood House:As we crossed into England we stopped at Carlisle. This castle also was one of the places where Mary Stuart (Queen of Scots) was imprisoned. We walked the very grounds that she walked within the walls. Carlisle was a fort used in many of the battles between Scotland and England. If you look toward the bottom of the picture you can see the grassy ditch that was once a moat.
We made our way into Wales where we were didn't tour any castles, however enjoyed the unique language and quaintness immensely. And then crossed back into England and stayed in York.

There were some unique historical learning opportunities in York. York was a city built on many previous cities. I learned that every time a people group was overtaken by another their city was burned and another rebuilt on top. And York had an odor about it that corresponded with the history. We got to see a very good representation of this "demolish and build" history in the under croft of the York Minster. Here is a picture of the York Minster (which is the largest cathedral in northern Europe):

The under croft, or crypt, was the old church under the existing church, which they had been able to dig out. I think going in the crypt was the coolest creepy thing I have ever experienced. There was an old, old small sanctuary that we walked through and the original baptismal bowl carved of stone. There was also a wall that had four layers of history, Roman, Norman, Saxon and something else. Below is a picture of a Norman column:

York was built over the top of a Viking kingdom known as Jorvik. Jorvik was conquered by the Normans in 1066, so there would have been various "layers" of cities between Jorvik and York. They actually excavated this town at some point. Today there is a Viking Discovery Centre that is home to an indoor ride through a re-creation of a viking village. The ride is complete with fake people, huts, sounds, and even smells. It wasn't pleasant riding past the public viking potties. No joke!

Here is the remaining piece of the York Castle:

North of York we visited the Castle Howard. This is actually still the part-time residence of an obviously well-to-do British family. Can you imagine? We were not able to tour the parts of the castle that are currently occupied by the family but they have graciously allowed for part of this monster to be open to public tours. I am surprised they had room to spare for public isn't like there are spare rooms in this place!

The property was gianormous. Check out this aerial view:

Here is a bedroom:
As we made our way toward London we stopped of at the famous Warwick Castle. At Warwick there were life-size wax people that made you feel as though you were truly peering in on what life was like at its peak. This was also the only castle that displayed and explained the cruelty of the old torture chambers. Freaky.
I was awed by this wax figure of Princess Diana, whom has a special place in my heart because my dear grandpa once told me he thought I looked like her.

Most people in the US might think that Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles live at Buckingham Palace most of the time. And although they do at times, their main residence is outside of London. This is Windsor:

Shabby, isn't it? The place was enormous. We were able to see only parts of the interior, including the hall for banquets. We also saw the changing of the guard here at Windsor.

And in London we visited the Tower of London, seen below:

The Tower of London is home to the crown jewels. We were able to see them by standing on a conveyor belt that took us through the rooms where these elaborate jewels are kept safe and secure. This is just a fraction of the crowns that are on display: Westminster Abbey is the place in which royal coronations take place and where the deceased monarchs are buried. I was disappointed with my experience here because I found it quite odd that the interior of a church be a shrine for dead kings and queens. Here is the tomb of Elizabeth I:

Ahh. Now that I have re-walked the trip across Great Britain I am longing for a good castle movie! However, this post has taken up way too much of nap time to think this Prairie Mama is going to get a movie in!


Beck said...

That was fun! I enjoyed your little stroll through Great Britan and was pleased to join you. My mom's family was from Scotland too. The Bankheads were a small family of serfs that managed the lands of the Boyd clan. I've always wanted to travel to Scotland myself.

Son of Renaissance said...

Just came across this blog and wanted to say I enjoyed reading about the vacation! The pictures showing all the castles are great, and I can attest to the whole "vacation" thing...I grew up on a cattle ranch and even now that I'm not working on it, I still can't get much time off. Great writing - =) SOR