Of Castles and Pictish Stones

Traveling during a pandemic has had its own number of hoops through which we have jumped.  First order of business today was taking our Day-2, COVID-19 tests.  We’d purchased three testing kits each for a cost of approximately $200; one for before we left Michigan, the Day Two test kit, and a third that might allow us back into our country of origin.  This one involved scraping both tonsils and nasal passages, prompting rounds of sneezing and/or gagging.  

I had planned this day and knew there would be some significant driving to all points.  Once we were on the road our task was to locate the Post where our testing kits could be mailed to a lab somewhere in the United Kingdom.  Together Bill and Sally were able to locate the mailbox while I waiting a bit impatiently, idling illegally in the street.

Glamis Castle

We arrived at Glamis (Glahmz) Castle in time for our 10:30 a.m. tour that I had booked in advance.  The self-tour was downloaded onto our phones and off we went to explore. Sally had been through the castle before and knew some of the ghost stories associated with different rooms therein.  

Glamis Castle was known as the childhood home of the “Queen Mum”, Queen Elizabeth’s Mother.  The castle originated as a Royal Hunting Lodge nearly 1,000 years ago.  An actual castle was built in the 1300s.  After additions and rebuilding it is best described as a medieval towerhouse.  There was much sordid history associated with Glamis.  Several ghosts were said to be residing therein, including the Gray Lady and a young page who froze to death.  The castle was also the setting for William Shakespeare’s play “Macbeth”. 

After our castle tour we explored the grounds and gardens.  A forrest of immense Douglas fir trees was dotted with wooden sculptures depicting various scenes from “Macbeth”.  Mushrooms and fungi were noted on the soft ground under the trees.  One could nearly envision potions and poisons being concocted from the woods and gardens.  It was a great place to spend a couple hours exploring.  The Italian Garden was really lovely!

When traveling in Ireland, I have used the website “The Megalithic Portal” to locate stone circle and other antiquities.  This site provides a rating scale of quality, accessibility, and condition of ancient sites that help determine – for me anyway – how far off the beaten path one might want to wander to see them.  On the agenda for today was visiting several Pictish Stones located near Glamis en route to our final destination for the day.

According to thegreatcoursesdaily.com, the Picts were an ancient tribal confederation of people who lived in eastern and northern Scotland.  It was the Romans who named this group “Picts”.  The Pictish stones we visited were believed to be carved around 600 – 800 A.D., after the Picts converted to Christianity.  Our first stone was within 3 miles of Glamis Castle, located among the churchyard ruins in Eassie, it is often referred to as “The Eassie Stone”.  The stone dates to 600 A.D. and was found in a stream below the churchyard.  It was protected from elements and humans by a plastic shield.

Farther to the northeast were the Aberlemno stones.  The first we visited was in another churchyard just off B9134.  The stone was in front of the church, but of course it was more of an adventure to use the stone style to gain access. 

Three more stones were located just farther up the road, situated right along B9134. I was delighted to visit these lovely stones and feel their connection to another time.

Though the day had started out mostly sunny, we had now switched to definitely cloudy.  I hoped we could have a dry visit to Dunnottar Castle, located on the North Sea just south of Stonehaven.  I had seen pictures of this ruins and my feet desperately wanted to scamper about there.  The drive to Dunnottar was within 1.5 hours of the Aberlemno stones.

Once arrived, there was a long pathway down and then many steps more, before making an ascent up uneven stairs to Dunnottar Castle.  The first stone building erected there was the chapel consecrated in 1276 A.D.  Twenty years later the place was overrun by Sir William Wallace and a large massacre ensued.  The Keep was erected in 1392 A.D. by Sir William Keith.  There were descriptive signs throughout as well as depictions of how the place would have looked “back in the day”.  We spent a good hour there exploring what remains. 

A mist made the rocky path slick as we worked our way out through the Pends.  It was hard to fathom how horses and carts would travel up and down to the castle.  It had to be with great difficulty.  I was most grateful that I had gotten myself into better shape before making the hike to and from this place.  I have to say that I was really proud of sister Sally for the 10,000+ steps she put in for the day!  I think she may have pushed her comfort zone.  She likes to say that her other sister (Penny) takes her for ice cream, but I like to torture her – something to that effect anyway.

It was roughly a 2-hour drive back to Aberfeldy for an okay meal at The Blackwatch pub and restaurant.  Bill had a steak and ale pie that was very tasty.  There wasn’t a lot on the menu that appealed to Sally and I but we refueled none-the-less.  When we returned to our condo, Sally spent well over an hour still trying to locate her luggage that had yet to be delivered to our lodgings.  Records showed that it had arrived in Edinburgh the same day we had but was “out for delivery” until Wednesday!  We won’t even be here on Wednesday.  I swear my sister is a saint!  Perhaps tomorrow we will go clothes shopping?

1 thought on “Of Castles and Pictish Stones

  1. Again I thank you for the travels! Great adventures to be sitting on my sofa!

    Liked by 2 people

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