Trip Start May 22, 2005
Trip End Ongoing

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Sunday, August 21, 2005

This weekend we had an unexpected visitor so we decided to show him some of the castles in the area. Umberto is an Italian medical student who came to Scotland for the summer to work, earn some cash and get away from the distractions at home to allow him to study. Well that was the plan at least but, poor guy, he hasn't been having the best time of it. When he arrived in Aberdeen after a 12 hour bus trip from London, he hadn't arranged a place to stay and soon discovered that finding a place with a spare room wasn't going to be easy. Not wanting to carry his bags any further he settled on a room for 100 pounds where he froze for the night when the heating broke. So much for saving was a shame because had we known, he could have stayed with us. Anyway, he went up to a farm north of Aberdeen near Peterculter and discovered his holiday job was cleaning dog poo out of kennels for hours a day! Needless to say he was not having a good time in Scotland and the cooler weather didn't suit either. We resolved to try and put some of that right so we fed, watered and had him stay over on the Friday night before we set off on Saturday to have a look around.

He really wasn't bothered what we did, he was so down about everything that was happening to him so, having explored Drum Castle last weekend, we decided to visit another, this time it was Crathes Castle, just 15 miles from our house.

Back in 1323 when King Robert the Bruce was being so generous giving away land and property (you may remember he gave the Irvines Drum Castle in our last entry), he granted the Burnett family the Crathes estate. The castle was built over a 43 year period from 1553 - 96 and includes an impressive tower house. Once again we opted to wander around the castle and gardens and enjoyed relaxing peacefully on the lawns but to be honest it was quite similar to Drum Castle so we decided to go back to Dunottar and hopefully get to explore inside the ruin this time.

We said we'd go back and sure enough, our next freeloader prompted the visit and this time it was open! As it's not a National Trust property, we paid a yearly membership fee of 7 pounds which allows us to visit as many times as we want to. It's one of our favourite places so I'm really quite excited about visiting it in all weather, it must be an incredibly atmospheric place when the wind is howling as it often does around here! We
explored the ruin pretty throughly and it didn't disappoint at all (you can read about the history of the castle in our pod from our last visit entitled Linn of Dee). The magnificent seascape and craggy rocks can be viewed from almost every angle from every room in the castle and the setting is just wild. There's a chapel and also an eerie, gloomy dungeon / cellar where in 1685 a group of 167 Covenanters were held without food or sanitation for 2 months for the 'crime' of refusing to acknowledge the King's supremacy in spiritual matters. 20 tried to escape, 15 were recaptured and tortured and the rest were eventually transported to the West Indies. It really is one of those places where you think 'if the walls could talk they'd have a lot of stories to tell'.

Umberto went back to the farm that evening and although we didn't see him again, he called us before he left and we gathered his visit to Scotland didn't get much better. I hope we gave hime some happy memories at least. In the meantime we're back planning our next trip....

S & K
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