We woke to a bright blue sky, ate a leisurely breakfast and then walked the expansive gardens of Douneside House. Wow. The lady who used to own the place was quite the gardener and her trust goes to keeping the gardens in immaculate shape. They also have an “infinity lawn” that seems to stretch on forever.
We then drove on to see Craigievar Castle, a pink tower house/castle that was the inspiration for the Cinderella castle. It’s easy to see why. Incredibly preserved. Had an internal tour, up many flights of spiral staircases into the turrets. My favorite part was the “priest’s hidey hole.” The family was apparently stubbornly Catholic, which at one time was dangerous in Scotland. So if soldiers or visitors or government types showed up, and they had a priest visiting or any vestments and articles that gave away their Catholic faith, they would shove him and those items into this small, dark place to the side of one of the spiral staircases and cover it with a block of wood.
Craigievar Castle is now part of the National Trust for Scotland. At some point it became too expensive for many noble families to keep their hereditary castles and manors, so they sold them to the Trust. In the early 1950’s Scotland instituted a “roof tax” and “window tax” on dwellings. That explains why many old buildings still stand but are abandoned and have no roofs, and people have bricked up a lot of their windows.
We learned that Scotland’s national animal is the unicorn (ha!), and their representative plant is the thistle, like the rose is for England.
Outside the castle were many enormous beech trees, as well as monkey puzzle trees. Some of the trunks had to be twelve to fourteen feet in diameter. The monkey puzzle tree you see in the photos had huge “needles” which were like razor blades, and in 1975 the tree was 65 feet high and 12 feet 2 inches in girth. Who knows how big it is now, 43 years later. They were jaw-dropping.
We ate lunch in Alford at a wonderful little bistro, then drove on to the Highlands and Muckrach Country House for the night. Even though it’s in the 80’s today (Fahrenheit, of course), you can still see a bit of snow up on the mountains in the Highlands.
Oh, some more tidbits. Scotland rebelliously uses inches, feet and miles for distance, speedometers and speed limits, and pints for ale, of course. But it uses centigrade for temperature and the 24-hour clock.