Tag Archive: castles

pebbles were here


monday was a designated pebbles family history day; part of the initial impetus for the joint holiday in scotland had been the idea of visiting the places that had been important to the scottish quarter of the pebbles ancestry.  accordingly we set out to visit the one known living relative with whom contact has been maintained through the years – my (let me get this straight) great-half-aunt-in-law, who sounds delightfully like maggie smith’s portrayal of prof mcgonagall.  we had a lovely morning tea with her, chatting and lavishing attention on her sloth-bear-like dog, meg, by turns.


from there we had four more local stops on the list: the schoolhouse where one of the great-pebbles (either great or great great, not sure – we’ll just say ‘grrrrreat’) went to school in the early 1900s, now a (rather austere) private residence; the cottage where the same great-pebbles lived as a child (sadly torn down since the pebbles senior was last there), in the tiny and deliciously named hamlet of bog end; coodham, the manor house across the road where that great-pebbles’ father had worked as a gardener (now being renovated into luxury apartments); and the cottage nearby on a hill where he (the gardening pebbles) had been born, to annie raeside, whose family name we have both taken as a common middle name.  (got all that?  … me neither.)







we lunched in alloway, famous as robbie burns’ birthplace; his thatched cottage has been turned into a nice little informational display, and the brig’o’doon is an impressive bit of masonry.









in the late afternoon we did indeed have time for culzean castle (pronounced ‘culleen’), an imposing edifice directly above the sea, which had been a medieval fortress/castle and was renovated into its present stateliness in the 1800s by robert adam. the extensive grounds include a number of arched viaducts and bridges, the castle keep and main house (including an entranceway/armory with wall decor made entirely of weaponry – bayonets, long blades, short swords, daggers, muskets, and over 700 flintlock revolvers), apartments given to eisenhower for his strategic role in operation overlord, walled gardens, mysterious outbuildings and grottoes scattered through the surrounding woods, and a huge man-made lake.  we spent several pleasant hours strolling and admiring, then returned to ayr for a good dinner and sleep and early travels north the next day.



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ae bonny land

scotland, a place i have wanted to visit since, well, forever.  i have a week of it behind me now and am fairly certain i will need to visit again someday – we did many good things, but (like my first trip to new zealand… uh oh) i am left realizing how many more things i want to come back and do next time.  the only thing lacking was internet access, which is why i’ve been awol since leaving england, so bear with me as i work through the whole backlog of our travels oot and aboot.

seems only logical to start from the beginning. we flew up from stansted and landed in prestwick, under a slaty blue-grey sky and over fields that looked much lusher and greener than those further south. we were met by the pebbles senior (my father- and stepmother-in-law), our traveling companions for the week; they took us to our hotel to leave our ever-swelling luggage (thanks to upcoming birthdays and christmas), and to note the presence of a ben & jerry’s ice cream vending machine in the lobby (!!), then for a quick jaunt around ayr and the general region.  it was noticeably crisp on the west coast (i believe ‘bracing’ was the chosen word) and we went for a (very) quick stroll by the beach in watery late afternoon sun, with a stiff breeze carrying wheeling seagulls above the choppy sea.

back in the warm sheltered pod of our rental car (our home for many hours of the ensuing week), we cruised south to take in a few more local sights along the coast.  we were duly confounded by the ‘electric brae’ (and wished we had thought to bring a soccer ball for testing, as another holidaying family had done), resolved to go back the next day for a more thorough look at culzean castle if time permitted, and went for another wander in the gathering dusk among the picturesque seaside ruins of dunure castle.

leeds castle

sick of castles yet?  i’ve been to two more you haven’t even seen!  but i’m not sure they’ll make it up here tonight… we’ve moved on to scotland (soooo excited) and had an action-packed day of pebbles family history, robbie burns territory, and, you guessed it, another castle.  but i get ahead of myself.  this one is leeds castle (confusingly, in kent), where we spent our last full day in england – actually only day-before-yesterday, but it already feels like years ago.  craziness.

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dover castle

today i scooted down to dover in the afternoon, to catch up with a friend from tonmo.  we spent about four hours walking around dover castle, an amazing assemblage of buildings and tunnels on 46 acres.  the castle grounds boast, among other things, a first-century CE roman lighthouse (pharos) and 1000+ years of english military and political history.  best of all (in my opinion), a newly opened £2 million project has restored the inside of the keep (built starting in 1180!) to approximately how it would have looked during the reign of henry II.  it was like walking around inside a fairy tale.  pardon the small photographic novel below – i was smitten!

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windsor castle

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reception at city hall

on the opening night of the conference, a welcome reception was held at what may  have been ‘city hall,’ but no one is really sure – buses took us there and brought us back, and the building itself was kind of castley and apparently also functioned as a museum.  the reception was out in the gardens, which were lovely, and we wandered around admiring the mini castle on an island in the pond, the sunset behind the main tower of the building, and the pairs of goldfish that made up the table centerpieces.  (i sincerely hope they got to live in the pond or somewhere else nice, after their decorative duties.)

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el castro

yesterday morning i went up to a large park in the middle of vigo, on a hill overlooking the city.  ‘el castro’ includes the ruins of a celtiberian fort, plus several separate monuments and gardens, and offers spectacular views over the city.

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we spent two days in göteborg, sweden, arriving mid-afternoon by bus from oslo.  the fall colors were at their peak and we spent two gorgeous days wandering around in a daze, drinking them in.  we also passed the statue of poseidon (with his large, er, fish) in the götaplats many times, walked through haga, and made the requisite pilgrimage (in its homeland after all!) to IKEA for swedish meatballs.  we explored the massive slottskogen park and spent a rather long time watching a young male moose munching dreamily on a bundle of twigs.

Slottskogen trees 2Slottskogen treesSlottskogen ducksMagpie

one of my oldest friends, taz (pen pals since about 1991) showed us around, hosted us for a lovely dinner with her fiancé, and they also took us to the wonderful bohus fästning, a fort/castle/ruin at what used to be the norwegian border.  we explored alcoves, towers, tunnels and walls, and then picnicked like true kings in the courtyard.

Bohus view 2Bohus viewBohus townBohus mapBohus arch

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castles & canals

hoo boy, do i have a lot of catching up to do.  i’m in finland and the last photos here are from over two weeks ago!

on the sunday we were up north in england, we saw a few castles (belvoir, newark, nottingham, including a tour of mortimer’s hole), as well as some nice canals (the trent in newark and also a different canal in nottingham), the trip to jerusalem, and, of course, all the local peebles relatives.  and a litter of two-week-old kittens!

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castle of good hope

(31 may) yesterday afternoon i visited the castle of good hope, the oldest building in south africa and its military seat.  the castle is pentagonal and used to sit on the seashore (the dungeon floor was made of wet sand), until a large amount of land was ‘reclaimed’ and became the downtown area.  i had lunch (something interesting called ‘waterbluitjie soup,’ which as far as i can tell means soup made from water lilies – tasted a little like asparagus) and looked over my map to get my bearings, then wandered around a bit on my own before taking an official tour.  some of the highlights included the several-hundred-year-old graffiti on the cell doors, which have since been reversed on their hinges so you can see the carvings (made using nails pulled from the prisoners’ boots); the reconstructed dolphin pool; and the museum collections of colonial furniture and black-and-white portaits of san people taken in the early 1900’s.  oh, and the brass plaque outside – see below.  :)

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