Every so often, I share a bit of my trip to Europe, last summer. I know that this summer is fast approaching (and I haven’t made a dent in telling about this trip), but I love to write and reminisce about visiting Scotland, London and Paris. This is part four – here is part one, part two and part three, if you feel like reading. As always, if this is a place where you’re only in search of recipes, then no worries! Come back soon. If not, grab a cup of tea and enjoy!
The next morning, we were up at a much more reasonable hour, even making breakfast in the main house! We started by driving to Dunstaffnage Castle, just outside of Oban. It was strong, and you could feel the power of the land forming around this former battle front. Clearly a place of survival rather than luxury, it looked over the water as well as a forest that held the chapel. As Dad told us, that forest wouldn’t have existed in the 1200s, as to survive, you would build it in a place where you could see as far as possible, on land and sea.
Inside this roofless fortress, the stairs were slightly uneven, as to ensure that any intruders would surely stumble. The kitchen, which could easily have been the furnace as well, had remnants of sculpted stonework surrounding the oven. I could only imagine how it operated in it’s prime (back when it had a roof). Would there be bread? Haggis? Fiddleheads? Would the cook be inspired or a warrior doing this because they were told? Would it be a place of happiness, sadness or invention? There is no way to know, but I do know that that place would have been essential. It may have been full with food at times, and empty at others. It would have been a place that everyone needed.
Wandering through the rest of the castle (it was not an enormous one, but definitely important to many people), I imagined little kids running around, through the open air.
In the turrets, there was growth emerging from the rain-coated rocks. To make sure that this place would never be gone, they nestled their way into the tiniest of crevices and grew with the endurance that all former inhabitants must have possessed.
Walking outside, through the forest to the chapel, it was hard to believe that the trees weren’t there at one point. It felt like a true enchanted forest, with trees that had been there for hundreds of years and moss covering every bit of them. The moss seemed to protect those trees and keep them from spilling any secrets to unsuspecting passerby. The chapel itself was simple and honest, just like the castle. To the rear, there were burials, some of which were recent and others that were not. They were clearly remembered though, with fresh flowers peeking through.
Relishing in the first castle that my brother and I had seen, we drove to Oban. It was a sweet place, where we had lunch. Honestly, I only needed food. It didn’t matter what it was, as long as it wouldn’t get me sick. A baked potato, with a surprisingly great view was what we found. It disappeared faster than almost any meal on the trip. Once we’d been refueled, we explored this memory-filled place. My parents had experienced their first bite of Scotland nearly 20 years earlier, on their honeymoon. Oban, in this adorable little shop, was where they bought each other wedding presents. Stepping inside, looking at all of the sweet things, I knew I couldn’t leave without something. A little necklace in a celtic knot was what I purchased. Looking around that shop, I played with the rings, wishing I had the power to pull them off. I know myself well enough to know that one that fit wrong (as all of those did) would drive me up the wall. It would end up in my pocket, no doubt getting lost to the abyss of the washing machine, rather than always on my finger.
We stepped back out onto the street, the boys already heading somewhere else, and mom and I admiring the art in the window. The water was meters away and I loved that. I’ve never lived in any place where water is so close. As we wandered through a street or two, we stopped at various places. We admired the cashmere (the real stuff, not the 2 for 10 pound nonsense), we gazed at the tartans, Dad and I inevitably ducked into a camera shop, Mom and I inevitably ducked into a store with cards and local art. As we left those two side-by-side shops, the rain started to come. We rushed about, wondering if a museum was where we wanted to go (it wasn’t), or what else we might see in the hour or two we spent here. Dad brought us to a whisky distillery, which was in the heart of town. He was dreaming of possibly going on a tour, but it was hours away, and no one really cared either way.
Getting back into the car, we drove the way back. Just as we were about to cross a bridge, I mentioned that we had thought about going to a blacksmithing furnace ruins. Everyone was game for that, so we went over that one-way bridge, turned back and drove out through the sweet road to the ruins. They were delightful. I’m so glad we stopped.
Well preserved, a huge space with buildings for horses and the furnace and so much else. The rain there, it was beautiful. I felt it coming, then stepped onto the grass. That grass was like a series of springs, it wrapped around your feet and breathed with dew. Lush and comfy and filled with life. It wasn’t just a green covering of the land, but an essential part of it. It contributed to the land, making it better and more fantastic.
The rain though, it fell onto that gorgeous grass and comforted the soil. It dove into puddles, sputtered off the roof, and highlighted the colours of everything it touched. I was enamoured with that rain.
When we were done, having imagined the life of this place in a time not so long ago, and having seen enough moments for us to enjoy it, we drove back to Fort William. It was lovely and fantastic. One place that had stood out to us while driving out was a little cafe called Castle Stalker. It looked out onto the water, where there was a teeny tiny island holding a castle. When we got there, the rain was just about to come. It was spitting, warning us of the impending tumble of water. We raced out to the view point, and saw what we could of this castle. The wind picked up then. It was rushing and gushing and coaxing the rain to come. Laughter filled the air. Our smiles from that moment, laughing at our luck, with the excitement of hot chocolate ahead, those were unforgettable. I’ll cherish those photos forever.
Hot chocolate for all, some cake or pie or whatever sweets they had for everyone else, and a moment to breathe in the comfy seats. I think they were closing up in a few moments, but they didn’t rush us or anything. When we were all done, we browsed through the gift shop, buying a few postcards. Then, it was really to the B&B. Once we got there, I was hit with a ton of bricks. Carsick for the first time in my life. Dinner? No thanks. A touch of something from the grocery store is all I wanted. Yoghurt, fruit, easy things. Along with some joyful and unexpected local television, I was set.
Have you ever stepped foot in a castle? Or wondered about the stories of ruins? I’d love to hear your stories.