Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Dunrobin Castle

Overlooking the North Sea, a walk from the town of Golspie, stands Dunrobin Castle.

The name Dun Robin means Robin's Hill or Fort in Gaelic. Dunrobin is a stately home located in Sutherland, in the Highlands of Scotland. The lands of Sutherland were acquired around the early 1200s by Hugh, Lord of Duffus, grandson of a Flemish nobleman. The castle was first recorded on this site in 1401.

George Granville Sutherland-Leveson-Gower, 2nd Marquis of Stafford, 20th Earl and 2nd Duke of Sutherland, inherited Dunrobin in 1841. He financed the vast mansion that is there today. Almost everything there today dates from the 1840s, when the castle and gardens were redesigned by Sir Charles Barry. Barry had been the architect for the Palace of Westminster, home to the House of Commons.

Presently, there are 189 rooms, making it the largest house in the northern Highlands. Who wants to pitch in and buy it with me? If we get enough, maybe we could each have our own wing! Wouldn't that be nice for writing romantic inspiration?

I know my CP is going crazy now with all of those books!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Dunstaffnage Castle

Dunstaffnage Castle stands at the point where Loch Etive and the Firth of Lorn meet.

Dunstaffnage, the chief seat of Clan MacDougall, guarded the seaward approach from the firth via Loch Etire and the Pass of Brander into the heart of Scotland. When it was built around 1220, Argyll lay on the frontier between the kingdoms of Scotland and Norway. Neither king directly controlled the region. The sons of Somerled, 'King of the Isles', a man of mixed Gaelic and Norse parentage, took over their father's patrimony upon his death in 1164. The eldest, Dubhgall (Dougall), claimed his father's power base of Lorn, ruling over most of Argyll as well as the islands of Mull, Lismore, Kerrera, Scarba, Jura, Coll and Tiree. His son, Duncan MacDougall, Somerland's grandson, built Dunstaffnage Castle.

Sir Duncan MacDougall was a powerful lord with large forces and fleets at his disposal. He moved easily between the two realms competing for his loyalty.

The curtain wall of Dunstaffnage Castle rises up from an immense rock on which it sits. It is over 11 feet thick and almost entirely featureless. The two projecting round towers and gatehouse entrance were not part of the original.

Duncan's son, Ewan, inherited the lordship of Lorn in the 1240s. He became 'king' over all of the isles from Man to Lewis, then transferred his allegiance to Alexander III of Scotland. Ewen was succeeded by his son Alexander. His allegiance was with the English against Robert Bruce. In 1309, the forces of MacDougall and Bruce met on the battlefield. Bruce won, and the MacDougalls' defeat marked the end of their hold on power. The stronghold of the son of Somerled was now the property of the King of Scots. 

The castle was turned over to the Campbells in 1470. They added a gate entrance along with the gate tower for additional protection.

In 1745, Flora MacDonald was held prisoner in the prison tower after she helped Prince Charlie escape dressed as her maid.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Battle of Flodden

The Battle of Flodden or Flodden Field occurred September 9, 1513 in the county of Northumberland (Northern England).

King James IV was obliged to invade England in order to honor the Auld Alliance with France, because France had been attacked by Henry VIII of England who was in cahoots with the Pope.

King James IV was brought to battle by the Earl of Surrey, Earl Marshal of England, and totally routed. King James IV, nine earls, thirteen barons and thousands of others were killed in Scotland's most disastrous battle. King James IV had never wanted war against Henry VIII and had done everything in his power to prevent it. The Auld Alliance, which was extremely useful to France on occasion, was a disastrous union from the Scots point of view.

The following Clans fought at Flodden for the King: Buchanan, Campbell, Fraser, Gordon, MacFarlane, MacKenzie, MacLaren, MacNaughten, Sinclair, Skene and MacLean.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Dunvegan Castle

Dunvegan Castle stands at the head of Loch Dunvegan, clan seat of the MacLeod chiefs from the early 13th century to present day. Dunvegan is the longest continuously occupied house in Scotland.

The oldest parts of the castle were the reconstructed seaward-facing curtain wall and sea gate. They were built by Leod himself, who lorded it over northern Skye and the Outer Hebrides under his king, Haakon IV of Norway. Through the centuries, other parts were added to the stronghold, such as the great tower to the right of the main entrance, and the 'fairy tower' to the left of the main entrance.

Alasdair Crotach MacLeod was the eighth chief. He also built himself a tomb in St. Clement's Church at Rodel, across the Minch on Harris, mountains of which are visible from Dunvegan.

More parts were added and changed over the centuries. In 1790, Lord and Lady MacLeod hired architect Walter Boak to convert the decrepit medieval castle into a modern mansion. Over the next fifty years, some parts were taken down, heightened, larger windows were put in and mock embattled parapets put on. The most significant change was a new, much grander, main entrance facing the land.

This is what welcomes visitors today. In MacLeod's day, there would have been no front door facing the land and visitors would have arrived at the old sea gate, by boat.

I don't think modern day Dunvegan looks too shabby! Verra nice!