The first thing that came to my mind was the blue tartan rug layed upon the corridors leading us through oddly-angled rooms and appartements when we visited the mysterious Cawdor Castle, which dates back to the late 14th century.
Cawdor Castle is set amid gardens in the parish of Cawdor, approximately 10 miles (16 km) east of Inverness and 5 miles (8.0 km) southwest of Nairn in Scotland. The castle is built around a 15th-century tower house, with substantial additions in later centuries. Originally a property of the Clan Calder, it passed to the Campbells in the 16th century. It remains in Campbell ownership, and is now home to the Dowager Countess Cawdor, stepmother of Colin Campbell, 7th Earl Cawdor.
The castle is perhaps best known for its literary connection to William Shakespeare’s tragedy Macbeth, in which the title character is made “Thane of Cawdor“. However, the story is highly fictionalised, and the castle itself, which is never directly referred to in Macbeth, was built many years after the life of the 11th-century King Macbeth.
” (…) This expansive corner of Scotland is known simply as Cawdor. It is an 80-square-mile estate that has belonged to the Thanes of Cawdor and their family since the 13th century. Today, the property is in the nurturing hands of the seventh Earl of Cawdor and 25th Thane, Colin, and his wife, Isabella, who moved into the valley shortly after they married in 1994.
Since then, they have transformed what was once a lonely and slightly neglected place into a magical and lively spot (…) The cottage has now been expanded to become the family’s nine-bedroom house. Drynachan Lodge, which was built in 1820 and added to over the next 100 years, is about 1,000 yards up the valley from Carnoch, and is where shooting parties stay.
But perhaps the most charming lodging is a tree house that Colin built for their four children (Jean, 14, James, 13, Eleanor, 11, and Beatrice, 7) amongst a clutch of alder trees on the riverbank.
The trees grow through the house, which is built entirely from reclaimed windows and doors found in cottages on the estate, and the roof is tiled in Canadian cedar shingles, giving it an almost Mad Hatter–ish look.
Colin, who trained as an architect, built it between 2003 and 2005. At the time, he was commuting to London during the week to work at Odey Asset Management as an analyst. The tree house was a way for him to reconnect to the land and his young family.
In 2006, he left finance to give his full attention to the estate. “I loved Odey, I absolutely loved it, but I succumbed to the siren call of the highlands,” says Colin. (…)
“What they have managed to do in this ancient, timeless place is to make it present in a way that means it is actually possible to dive into the landscape and actively take a part in it—the river up to your hip, the heather bouncing you about the hill, the practical wilderness in your own hand,” says Scottish actress Tilda Swinton, the Cawdors’ friend and neighbor.
So many estates have had to look at very public ways of bringing in revenue to keep them afloat: concerts, festivals, even zoos. The glorious thing about Cawdor is that the family has simply capitalized on what they have always had and run it along very traditional lines. Today, there is a young spirit to the land, which teems with youthful keepers and their families. With sheep roaming on the moor, partridges flying in vast skies overhead and shots heard in the distance from time to time, the landscape has changed little in its 800 years. The couple have been wise to choose the Drynachan Valley as their home, their children growing up in this idyllic place, contributing to its regeneration. “Colin and Isabella’s curatorship of that land is a profound achievement,” Swinton says. “There is magic in that valley. It’s impossible not to taste it.”
Her father Hugh, 25th Thane of Cawdor, sunking into madness with self-destructive behavior took her from an idyllic fairytale childhood to a nightmare.
I find it very courageous on her part to have written this memoir…
Liza Campbell (born 24 September 1959 as Lady Elizabeth Campbell), is an artist, calligrapher, columnist and writer, born in the north of Scotland and currently living in London, England.
She is the second daughter of Hugh Campbell, 6th Earl Cawdor (1932–1993) by his first wife, the former Cathryn Hinde and the last child of an Earl Cawdor to have been born at Cawdor Castle, which has previously been erroneously associated with Shakespeare’s Macbeth. (Her older sister Lady Emma Campbell was also born there, but her brothers and younger sister were born elsewhere, as were the children of the present Earl.)
Campbell was raised in Cawdor Castle during the Sixties, and studied art at Chelsea. She lived in Mauritius, Kenya (Nairobi) and in Indonesia between 1990 and 1996.
As an artist, Liza Campbell worked in an art gallery, and has had exhibitions of engraved soapstone at All Saints Gallery, Babbington House and the Sladmore Gallery. More recently, she has shown collages at the Michael Naimski Gallery.
For four years, from 2000, she wrote a back page column Adventures of a Past It Girl.
Campbell was the second of five children, and the second daughter of three daughters. Her parents divorced in 1979 after 22 years of marriage.
In 1990, she married William Robert Charles “Willie” Athill, a big-game fisherman, with whom she lived on a desert island for two years. By that marriage, she has two children, a daughter Storm (b. 1990) and a son Atticus (b. 1992).She is now divorced from Athill, the marriage having broken down in 1993.
Last time I opened our photo albums to share with you pictures of Scotland in its gorgeous spring yellow colour but YELLOW is only one of the many wonderful colours which give Scotland such an irresistible charm. Today, I would like to make you discover the country in its most lovely shades of BLUE, a fresh and vivifying colour which sublimates the beauty of the Scottish landscapes.
“BLUE” generally conjures up images of the sunny landscapes which attract crowds of tourists each summer to the southern countries: Italy, Spain, Greece or Provence and Côte d’Azur in France, to mention only a few European destinations, but the Northern countries are far from being deprived of that wonderful colour and the pictures we’ve taken in Scotland during our different travels there will show you blue seas and skies that would make the Mediterranean countries green with envy!
We’ve taken a lot of pictures in Scotland illustrating our Scottish “blue” thematic. From pastel to vivid colours, from the lightest to the darkest blues, from sapphire to turquoise transparencies, all shades of blue are to be found in beautiful Alba according to season, weather and time.
But blue is at its best in the Scottish landscapes and I invite you to follow us along the road, mainly on the road to the isles…
We have been very lucky to be able to see some of the most beautiful Scottish landscapes under a blue sky though the magic of Scotland derives from ALL its colours as illustrated in the magnificent rainbows which often draw big colourful arches in the Scottish sky, sometimes three at the same time.
We often stayed voiceless in front of awe-inspiring seascapes like that of Bass Rock which you can see on the above photo. We lingered a long time on the sea-shore of North-Berwick and in the shade of Tantallon Castle, watching clouds of gannets landing on and off this steep and cragged island.
But our most unforgettable memories of seascapes undoubtedly come from our trips to the western-coast islands: Mull, Iona, Staffa, Handa Island and the outer Hebrides.
To see the picturesque little town of Oban slowly disappear in the background while the ship sails away towards unknown lands is a memorable experience. The stunning “Colosseum”, the distillery, the colourful houses, the mossy ruins of Donolly castle have been engraved in our memory forever.
While sailing on towards the isle of Mull you can see a number of mythical milestones, each with a fascinating story to tell. On the above photo you can see the island of Lismore with its white lighthouse proudly standing ahead like a boat’s prow challenging the elements.
The Oban-Mull ferry lands at Craignure and, when the weather is not too bad, we plant our tent at Balmeanach campsite, our favourite campsite there. A minimum of three days is necessary to visit Mull, Iona and Staffa for there are many places of interest to see there. In the area of Craignure Duart Castle is worth the visit but alas Torosay Castle and its magnificent garden are no longer open to the visitors. We loved this place very much.
If you want to go to Iona, and for that matter to Staffa, you must go to Fionnphort to take the little ferry which will carry you across waters that, contrary to appearances, can be dangerous. You can’t take your car to visitIona and if you want to stay for one or more nights there it’s highly recommended to book a room well in advance in a hotel or a B & B. The place is generally crowded. About 140 000 visitors come to Iona each year either for religious purposes, following in the footsteps of St Columba who settled there in AD 563, or as simple tourists following in the steps of many prestigious travellers: Martin Martin (1703), Samuel Johnson and his friend Boswell (1773), William Daniell (1813)…
There are some things which you never forget and never wish to repeat, because you feel that they could never happen again in exactly the same way. I looked at Iona and knew it to be one of the most beautiful sights in Scotland.
(H.V. Morton In Scotland Again Methuen 1933)
There are o many interesting things to do and visit in Iona: the Abbey founded by St Columba in AD 563 and St Oran’s Chapel, the very ancient site where 48 kings of Scotland are buried including Macbeth, the beautiful pink sandstone ruins of Iona Nunnery, the lovely beaches, the hill of Dun I from which you can have a magnificent panoramic view of the area…
Great masses of red granite streaked with white quartz and felspar are piled up on the Mull coast. They slope down to miles of pure white sand. This sand is forme by the shell of land snails. It lies for miles beneath the Sound of Iona. When the sun shines you look at bright green water moving over its white bed. Here and there are streaks of deep purple formed by drift weed. Never, except around the Balearic Islands, off the coast of Spain, have I seen such clear sea water. And the sun shines over the cliffs of red granite and the white sands, and across the green water is the small hilly isle of Iona, its green fields shining in the sunlight, its miniature mountains faintly blue and scarred by tiny corries full of shadow, at their feet the cathedral and the ruins of the Celtic monastery.
I sat in the little ferry boat and looked down to the bed of the sound. The water was so limpid that every ridge on the sea bed was visible, and the sun’s light rippled below over the white sands in successive waves. I could see the beds of weed at the bottom of the sea, and once we passed over a shoal of small silver fish.
The island is austere and windswept yet remarkably fertile. The coastline has a magic and mysticism which, to me, rivals or even surpasses that of the acknowledged religious sites. The shell-sands are clean and white, the rocks have subtle colours tinged with rose and the sea ranges from deep violet to translucent emerald green. There is a sparkle and clarity in the air which is unique to this island and which has proved a challenge and delight to many artists.
(The Scottish Islands- Hamish Haswell-Smith Canongate 2004)
On our way to Staffa, aboard the Iolaire… what a trip ! How I would have liked to understand every word of the Captain’s speech… we could only guess beyond his strong accent what made the other passengers burst out of laughter so often .
Staffa is a small island situated in the Inner Hebrides, in Argyll and Bute. Its name which was given by the Vikings means stave or pillar which can’t be more appropriate to describe the spectacular basaltic columns which shaped the island 59 million years ago. The place has been immortalised by great artists and writers such as Turner, William Daniell, Felix Mendelsshom and Jules Verne in Le Rayon Vert.
To visit Staffa we embarked on the Iolaire, a little boat starting from Iona. The meteorological conditions are not always good enough to sail and one year, the departure had to be cancelled. We were very disappointed though we quite understood the need for safety navigation rules. And the captain knows best!
During our 45 minute sea journey we learned fascinating things about the history and legends of the small islands we sailed by – fortunately we had a French transcription of the captain’s tale though we were very happy when we happened to catch one or two of his ‘bons mots”.
During our boat trip from Iona to Staffa we could see a few seals basking on the rocks or playing in the blue water and as we approached the magnificent island of Staffa , a small assembly of cormorants discussing on a rock and a solitary gull perched above a basaltic rock. We were given enough time to discover the island and the “clou du spectacle” was the sight of several puffins who didn’t seem to be afraid of us ! We nearly missed the boat and though I do love the place I can’t imagine to be obliged to spend a night here…
After visiting Iona and Staffa you can follow, if you are a good driver and not afraid of a risky driving experience, the magnificent scenic road which leads from Fionnphort to the lovely little port of Tobermory.
A mysterious object at the left of our picture. Don’t ask me what it is. We can’t remember to have seen it when we stopped here and none of us has the least idea of what it can be !
At Tobermory you can take a ferry for Kilchoan, a village situated on the Ardnamurchan peninsula, in Lochaber, Highland. More breathtaking landscapes are waiting for you all along the road there!
In the distance, on the above photo, you can see Mingary Castle… I was very happy to learn that this old castle is being restored… last time we went there the place was overgrown with weeds and we could hardly approach it…
Remote, little known, it would have been so easy to allow Mingary to collapse into a picturesque ruin. That work has now started to rescue it is thanks to the efforts of the man who owns the Ardnamurchan Estate and Mingary itself, Donald Houston, who has set up the Mingary Castle Preservation & Restoration Trust.
The Trust is now in the process of restoring the castle to its former grandeur, this site will allow you to follow the process of exploration, analysis and careful renovation as it happens, and to investigate the long and intricate history of this Scottish treasure. You also have the opportunity to be part of its future; this is a challenging and costly venture and any support that you can provide will help to secure Mingary Castle for future generations.
The Trust faces a huge task, not least in researching and recording before the work of stabilising and preservation can begin. An appeal for funds will be launched shortly, and it is hoped that people from all over the world will join together in helping to preserve this wonderful piece of Scottish history.
Each time we visit Scotland we never miss to go to the North and as the lovely little island of Handa is situated on our road we’ve already visited it twice. But, as we say in France “‘Jamais deux sans trois”.
The place is worth several visits and it’s never the same. Handa island is managed by the Scottish Wildlife Trust as a nature reserve and in summer it shelters no less than 100,000 birds. Those who are not scared of heights, as I am , can watch colonies of birds such guillemots and razorbills neisting in the vertiginous cliffs. Far from this dangerous place we could take pictures of a superb great skua but we didn’t see the funny and kind puffins as in Staffa. The island is a paradise for ornithologists but also for archaeologists and historians who will certainly be interested by the ruins of an old village and graveyard dating back to Handa last inhabitants. In the early 1800s about 60 people lived on this island but following the 1847 potato blight they all emigrated to Nova Scotia in Canada.
The sandy beaches and blue waters of Vatersay just over the bridge…
Vatersay (Scottish Gaelic: Bhatarsaigh) is an inhabited island in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland. Vatersay is also the name of the only village on the island.
The westernmost permanently inhabited place in Scotland, Vatersay is linked to Barra by a causeway completed in 1991. At low tide, the island is also linked to the islet of Uineasan to the east.
Wildlife on the island includes otters, seals and herons. Bonnie Prince Charlie’s flower (Calystegia soldanella), reputedly originating from French seeds dropped by Bonnie Prince Charlie is, in Scotland, found only on Vatersay and Eriskay.
I would not end this page of our ‘blue’ thematic without recalling our unforgettable travel on the ‘blue road‘ in Quebec, following the path of Kenneth White along the St Lawrence river up to end of the road.
Kenneth White is a great Scottish-French author who has created and developed all over the world the concept of geopoetics … a poet who opens roads…
Bonjour Janice, Marie-Agnès et Jean-Claude – Hello again from Scotland! I think you once told me, Janice, that our posts on Oscar Slater were among the most-read here at Scotiana – some people, I’m sure, may find it almost impossible to believe that such a shocking story could be true! Quite understandable [...]
Hello again! Ca va? – How are you all? We must have exchanged hundreds of messages in the last few years by email – and are now getting to know each other really well – so it seems astonishing that it’s over 12 months since our last [...]
(Kenilworth by Walter Scott, French edition adapted by Emile Pech, Boivin & Cie Editeurs 1929)
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Indeed, behind long-loved fables of gallants and fairy tales, are great stories, but … are they true?
Let’s take for example the fable about Sir Walter Raleigh, a very handsome gentleman, quick-witted gallant, who’s story is said to have laid down his cloak over a mud puddle when Elizabeth I, Queen of England passing [...]
As a child touring Scotland I constantly nagged my parents to visit stone circles, brochs and standing stones. As I grew older I began to realise that many of these ancient sites had stories told of them and I found these stories as [...]