Week 59: Just how many castles ARE in Scotland??

So I’ve been wondering how well we are doing on our quest to see all the castles in Scotland.  We have been to 44 castles – in the true sense of a real castle.  We have also been to monuments and palaces and other historical sites that don’t really count as a castle.  I thought that was pretty good.  Well guess again.  There have been over 2000 castles in Scotland.  Not all of them are still around and many only have a visible foundation or a few rocks left but that is a lot of castles.

What exactly is a castle?  There are two key criteria to claim the title of castle for real.  It had to be a domestic residence for at least a minor Laird AND it had to be a defensive structure.  A castle protects from wars.  Most castles were built in the 1100’s to the early 1600’s.  During the 1600’s and later there have been many country homes that have been built for show – and they did not really act as a castle even though they bear the title of a castle.  By the mid-1600’s people were building tower houses that looked like castles but they were never expecting a king to show up and start trying to tear down their walls.

Well, that’s a little information on castles.  Today we added four more castles to our list.  CRAZY!!  But we had a great day.  The sky was blue, the wind was not blowing and we were warm without any kind of a jacket.

But first I want to write about the rest of the week.  Not a lot going on.  We were very busy every day.  And exhausted every night.  But Monday was a bank holiday and President told us to take the day off!!  So Sister Gifford and I did just that.  The weather was nice and we decided it would be fun to see if we could find any sales going on for a new skirt or something.  We have always heard about a town over in the borders named Peebles but we had never been there.  So we decided to check it out.

I had to pull over at one point as we were driving and hop out and take a picture of the road.  There were yellow daffodils as far as the eye could see lining the road we were driving down.  This is something we have been seeing everywhere lately and last week we even drove by some daffodil farms where the flowers were lined up row after row after row in three different shades of color.

At first we just drove around to see what we could see.  A few times we had to remind ourselves that we were there to see the shops and not go on long walks to find a castle.  But we did find a pretty old bridge that had a sign saying it was built in 1702.

A castle named Neidpath Castle.  The gate was locked to drive down to it and we decided not to go for a hike so we only got this picture from up on the road.

We also saw a really neat cemetery with a tower in it and a few nice churches.  As we were walking down the street where all the shops were we turned a corner and walked a ways through some houses.  I loved these sleeping lions at this house.  Usually the lions are sitting up or laying down with their heads up.  I really liked these.We had lunch in a little Italian Restaurant that sat right on top of the entrance to the bridge that crossed the big river right in town.  The food wasn’t that great but the view was wonderful.  We also came across a place we hadn’t read about before we left.

Peebles Cross Kirk is a ruins of a church.  In 1261 a cross and an urn containing ashes were found at this site.  People believed they were the cremated bones of St. Nicholas so they came to pray, seek miracles and bring offerings.  King Alexander III was inspired to build a church at the site.  It was used over the years as a religious house for friars and then a parish church in 1560 after the Protestant Reformation.  This now sits in the middle of a neighborhood surrounded by people’s homes.  We just happened upon it as we were driving.

I taught one day this week with Sister Allred and Sister Osmond.  We taught a nice young man from Shanghai China named Paul.  He committed to be baptised on the 16th.  He also asked if he could come with the sisters as they teach others so he can learn even more.  Next week I should have pictures of him at his baptism.

Well, here we are again to a Saturday.  It seems I was just writing about last week.  The weeks are just flying by even though some of the days seem long.  I’m anxious to come home.  Spring is here and it makes me homesick again.  I want to play with my grandkids and enjoy my family.  But I can say I also love it here and I see a purpose to what I’m doing so I have no problem hanging out here for 19 more weeks.  Look how fast the time goes.  It won’t be long before I’m saying – I can’t believe I’m coming home already.

Today Sister Gifford and I decided to check out a few more castles.  First stop was in Kinross at Lochleven Castle.  This castle sits out on a small island in the middle of a lake (or loch).  This castle was visited by Robert the Bruce in 1313 during the Wars of Independence.  Mary Queen of Scots came to this castle four times.  She was a guest but then in 1567 she was held prisoner.  During that time she miscarried twins and was forced to abdicate her crown to her son, James VI.

We had to get to the island by way of boat.  This boat was just a regular small boat that 12 of us could fit in.  It was a beautiful day and the lake was smooth as glass so it was totally enjoyable.  The crazy thing out here though were the lake flies.  They look like gnats or mini mosquitos (midges they are called here).  The difference is they don’t bite but there were literally billons of them in the air – all over the island.  It was crazy.  They have a two day life cycle and we happened to be there on a day when they all hatched I guess.  But we enjoyed our time out on the island.  We walked around the castle in the thicket enjoying the green mossy ferns and flowers.  The castle was pretty sitting on the lake and the boat was back in one hour to pick us back up.

When we got back on land we headed back to check out a Cashmere Mill that we had passed but was disappointed that there was no sales going on.  Then we got some lunch at a really good restaurant.  I had nachos which were not bad.  I think the salsa was just their pasta sauce but other than that…  The chicken on them was really good.

Next stop was Burleigh Castle.  This was literally just on the side of the road and we couldn’t get inside.  But the structure was really neat and we got out and walked all around it.  It dates back to 1446.  Next we headed over to another



castle named Balvaird Castle.  This castle is only open June, July and August and it sits up on a hill.  The gate at the bottom of the hill was locked so we decided to go ahead and walk up to the castle.  It was a ways up there but it was so worth the hike.  This castle was built in 1500 by Sir Andrew Murray and the family was still living here in 1567 when they inherited the title of Lord Scone.  So they then moved to Scone Palace which of course is a much nicer place.  But the location of this castle was beautiful.  This picture was about half way up the hill. Also, this yellow bush is everywhere in the hills of Scotland right now.  I don’t remember seeing them last year.  But they are very fragrant and seem to be a type of evergreen.  I’m not sure what they are but they are very pretty.

Here are a few more pictures of Balvaird Castle.

We were close enough to the Perth area at this point that we decided to throw in one more castle.  We had gone to Elcho Castle a few months ago because we were nearby but it wasn’t open.  So we decided to go today.  It sits right on the Tay River and it was built around 1560.  It’s very well preserved.  I’m glad I got pictures of it before because it is completely covered in scaffolding now.  But we did go inside and explore.  This was a delightful castle to explore.  Lots of staircases (and they were wide stairs) and lots of hidden little rooms.  We even got out on the roof.  This was a nice surprise and I would put this as one of the castles to try and see.

Well, that wraps up our day.  We ran to the store once we got back to Edinburgh and got stuff to make tacos tomorrow for Mother’s Day.  We are so excited.

Happy Birthday Avery!!  I can’t believe you are turning 11.  Last year in Primary.  Keep practicing that violin.  I love you.

Happy Mother’s Day to my mom and also my mother-in-law.  I love both of you and feel so blessed to have your influences in my life.  Have a wonderful day tomorrow.

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