Monday, 1 August 2016

Camping holiday 2016 - Part Three: Dunstaffnage Castle

Our next trip was to head over towards Oban and on the way we stopped off at the Castle Stalker View Point to take some photos. Castle Stalker is privately owned but you can head over if you book one of their boat trips.  The history of the castle is pretty all over the place.  Lots of death, lots of taking it off one clan and then another taking it back.  When I was reading up about its history, all I could think of was Game of Thrones. It's seen a lot of drama.  If you fancy having a read yourself, head over to the Castle Stalker website to get a bit of background info.

We then headed over towards Oban to Dunstaffnage Castle. The castle sits on a rocky outcrop with views across Loch Etive.  It's one of the oldest castles in Scotland and was built before 1240 by Duncan MacDougall.  He was the son of Dubhgall, the Lord of Lorn who's father was the famous warlord Somerled who called himself 'The King of the Isles'. Somerled had mixed Gaelic and Norse parentage.

 Robert the Bruce went on to capture the castle in 1308 in the Wars of Independence. It was then passed to the Campbell earls of Argyll in the 1460s. The Campbells made changes to the castle and by 1796 they mainly stayed in the 'new house' section and tower. There was a huge fire in 1810 but a tenant continued to stay in the new house until 1888. The Duke of Argyll at this time wanted to rebuild the castle to its former glory but only succeeded in restoring the gatehouse in 1903.  When the keepership passed on to the 20th captain in 1908, he wanted to have the castle restored so he could live in it. The duke didn't want this to happen and it ended up in courts in 1923.  They ruled that even though the duke owned the castle, the captain was the hereditary keeper so had a right to live there. Unfortunately during the First World War, the captain spent many years as a prisoner of war and while away the roof of the 'new house' collapsed. Repairs were carried out when he returned but his original plans of full restoration faltered. When the 21st captain then succeeded in 1958 both himself and the duke agreed to entrust the castle for State care.

 Once you climb up the steep worn steps into the castle interior, you are met with a ruin but at the same time are overawed at the length of time it's continued to stand through centuries of battle, weather and fire. This wall really made me want to draw it. The detail in the stonework is amazing.

I loved this ornate fireplace which would have heated the first floor of the 'new house'. This house was built for Aeneas Campbell, the 11th Captain and his lady, Lillias Campbell, in 1725. With the detail still sitting there now it's amazing to think what it must have looked like at the time.

From when I was a wee girl, I've always loved to stand in castles like these and try to really imagine the people that would have walked through these rooms. You can see from the walls that there were different levels to the castle. The castle once housed a great hall which was the main part of the original castle. This was thought to have been linked with the north west range where the lord's accommodation was. He could easily wander out of his private chambers right into the great hall to deal with the business of the day. There would have been great feasts and entertainment within these walls, as well as tenants coming to pay their rents and also criminals standing trial.

A seal matrix which was made from lead in around the 13th or 14th century was found on the beach near the castle and by the inscription, it was thought to have been used by the Lord of the Isles within these walls. 

We were able to walk along the restored wall-walk which existed around the top of the castle walls from when it was built. This was perfect for defending the castle on its more vulnerable side. I have to say, my knees were feeling a bit wobbly up here. The view from the top was amazing though but I saw no advancing armies, just my dad and the dog waiting patiently below.

 We had such a good day for taking in the views over the marina. It was then a careful descent back down the stairs. Dogs were actually welcome into the castle but on looking at the stairs we didn't think Keira would manage them.  We also had visions of her pulling us off the side which was the bigger deterrent.

After having a walk around Dunstaffnage we headed towards Oban.  We drove around the streets but didn't stop as Keira was in a bit on an excitable mood.  We did however end up having a walk around a quieter place which was the Oban Cemetery.  It's not a proper holiday for us unless we've visited the odd cemetery! We had a look for some family graves we know are there but the graveyard was so big so unfortunately we didn't find them. On entering the graveyard though, something bizarre happened. My parents had wandered off to another area but my eye had been caught by a big black object sitting on a gravestone. I just stood staring at it and I couldn't properly focus on what it was.  It was hunched over, larger than your average cat including its long ears.  The only feature I could focus on was its big yellow eyes.  I stood staring at it staring at me while  saying to my parents, 'can you see this? Is that real or a statue?', but they'd moved on.  I decided to walk up the hill towards it.  I wasn't too far away and it wasn't moving to I figured it was a statue.  As I grew nearer, still not able to focus on any detail for some reason, it leapt to the side and completely disappeared. I stood calling on it, and searched the whole area but it was gone. So there's either a large black cat with lightening speed living in the graveyard or something spooky. Or I need my eyes tested.

My holiday posts continue tomorrow but if you missed out on the previous parts you can fine part one here and part two here.

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