Neolithic Sites
Roman Sites
Round Towers

Index by Name
Index by Date




Glenluce Abbey
Park Castle
Mochrum House
Sorbie Tower
Sorbie Motte

Whithorn Pictish Stones
Whitfhorn Priory
Carsluith Castle
Barholm Castle
Cardoness Castle
Rusco Tower
Plunton Castle


May 23

Woke to pouring rain, driving rain -- raining sideways and making whitecaps in the nearby fields - it looked horrible! What a change from yesterday. It eased a bit during breakfast (and eventually cleared up nicely) but it made us what to go back to bed and nap for a few hours. At breakfast, we met the other guests - a nice couple who were "Caravanning" up here in Scotland form England. They were going around and visiting all the gardens. They didn't stay in their caravan every night, of course (obviously, since they stayed here) but we talked a bit about the huge popularity of the things in the UK.

Seriously - "caravanning" (what we would call RV-ing in most cases) is very popular and the tow-behind RVs and full-size RV busses are all over the place. Many larger towns have big caravan parks with all the hookups and other amenities. A lot of people also have pop-up campers, but this is considered a sub-standard way of traveling, as far as we can tell. The full recreational vehicle has beds and a kitchen and probably a television and all the rest. It's a cheap way to travel, no hotels needed, and being self-contained means you have more freedom to just wander around. Of course, I can't imagine actually DRIVING one of those monstrosities on the narrow little roads in Scotland (we have had the bad luck to be stuck behind one for miles and miles). A lot of people that we talk to at the various B&Bs are always enthusiastic about coming to the States and renting a caravan and driving around. Quite a few don't have a good idea of the distances involved (that is, planning to visit LA, Chicago, Boston, and Disneyworld is a two week driving vacation), but everyone agrees it would be the best way to "see America". On some level, I have to agree, although RV-ing isn't something we've really considered.

Our landlady had done all our laundry (yeah!) although we caused much consternation by apparently putting THREE white socks in the bag and she was sure she'd lost one and was quite upset about it. We were just so happy that someone else had done our laundry that we wouldn't have noticed if a whole pair of pants had cone missing! One sock? Piffle.

A FINE bit of Scottish weather

So, wrapped up in waterproof clothing and warm socks, we packed up and went to Glenluce Abbey. No one was there, although the gate was open, so we wandered around in the driving drizzle. It's interesting that they've rebuilt part of the cloister walk (which was nice as a way to get out of the rain), but there isn't much left of the church here, much less the rest of the buildings, and the chapel (which is the "interesting" part, according o the notes) is locked. The caretaker must have figured no one would be out in the rain yet. We did check the opening times, and we were there after the posted time, but we must have missed something.

We squelched back to see Parke Castle (after a couple of go-rounds trying to hit the right road). Park is a rather forbidding looking tower house - very gray -- with modern windows and I think it might be a residence now . It sure looks like there are lamps and chairs in there (no, we didn't peer into the windows, but some of them are awfully large). There's a weird window on one side of the tower that is beveled IN, instead of the other way around. Most windows in these towers are very small and mounted in the outer wall -- inside, the thick ness of the wall is angled in to the window like a funnel. The window sill inside might be 4'x4', but the window is 1'x1'. Here, there is a window that is exactly opposite -- a small window on the inner surface of the wall and a huge funnel facing OUT. I've never seen that before.

We spied Mochrum House from the road, but it's private and behind at least two gates (all closed and locked). It looks like an interesting castle -- an older tower house and additional wings, I'd love to get a closer look. Despite our discussion of 'right of way" yesterday, we aren't shirty enough to barge into someone's yard and take pictures - not behind a gate when it clearly looks lived in, at any rate. I scooted around the wall a bit and shot a few interesting pictures, but nothing detailed.

Back down the road towards Whitthorn (the cradle of Scottish Christianity). In the end, not so interesting, really, unless you on a pilgrimage, or something), but we stopped in Sorbie to see the tower there when we spotted signs on the side of the road. It's locked up tight and plastered with warnings about how dangerous it is..yet there is a notice that tomorrow is the "open day" for Clan Hannay, where, I presume, they open the tower and let people clamber through it. Clan Hannay Society is a recent 'invention', according to the notice board - a few people with the same name realized they had some sort of familial link, and formed a society for the family. Near the tower is the original Sorbie Motte - the sit of an earlier wooden palisade castle. The current castle is on another man-made mound. It's enough work to build the castle, but imagine building the huge dirt mound foundation is a bit daunting. IN some cases, the mound is enormous (see Duffus) and would have taken longer to "build" then the walls!

Our required car-fixing stop

It was at this point that we discovered that we had a flat tire. The left rear tire had picked up a SCREW (I'm sure from our adventure in the farmyard yesterday afternoon, or perhaps at Culzean, when we first noticed the clicking noise….hm. We thought it was a rock in the tire, but it's definitely NOT a rock. A big-ass screw. We filled the tire with air at the next station we found and searched unsuccessfully for a can of "fix a flat" stuff. We eventually resorted to dropping of the tire at a local mechanic and having the tire patched. This required Mark to jack up the car, remove the tire, put on the teensy spare, and we drove off with the tire waiting for the return of the actual mechanic, who would be back "sometime after lunch". All the while, trapped in Whitthorn, which is a very small place.

Might I point out that this happens on EVERY trip where we have a car? Blew out a tire in Scotland the first time (on the Isle of Skye), spend an extra day in Mina in Egypt when the van had a slow leak, had to get a flat fixed in Ireland, and now this. We apparently need to plan for it . We need to preferentially rent Volkswagens, with the full-size spare, I think. Makes it much easier.

But it's lunch time, so we walked into town and had sandwiches at the small Ravenswood Deli, which was like a tiny slice of Boulder, CO all wrapped up in Scotland. Organic everything, granola-crunchy sort so things, nice sandwiches, fresh juice. They even cleared out a little space for us with a small table so we could eat inside, and we had a nice chat with the Canadian proprietor. I kept trying to convince Mark that we needed to buy a quart of hand-churched Ice Cream from the freezer and just eat it with spoons while sitting here, but he wasn't up for it. Dang. We did grab some cookies, though.

The priory in Whitthorn is just off the main road, through a hanging close - that is, a deep gate with a room over it, 'hanging' between two existing buildings. Up the alley is a small museum containing a fabulous collection of Pictish and early Christian stones and crosses. The knot pattern that you always see labeled 'Celtic' comes from these relics - some of them are incredibly detailed, although it's fun to look at the more complex ones and pick out the errors that creep in - a coil that doesn't overlap properly, or one that dead-ends in the middle of the pattern.

The Abbey itself isn't that remarkable. They make a lot out of being the "first" foundation in Scotland (by St. Ninian, who has about forty other shrines around here) but the remains are scant for an archo-phile like me. Other than a rather overdone story about Robert the Bruce repenting of his rapacious an evil ways an seeking out the Abbey here for forgiveness, there isn't much to see. The floor of the little church is about 4' higher than the foundations, though -- explained by the docent as the roof having caved in and grown over for centuries. They simply filled in the floor to make it level and didn't disturb and of the graves. The only real sign that something is amiss is that the bottom sills of windows are 3-4 feet beneath the ground, and built around with caissons to keep the dirt out. We see this a lot in the older ruins, especially churches. Burials in the church courtyard (or in the church itself) raise the ground levee dramatically. Sligo Abbey in Ireland is almost "full" - as if someone just poured dir t into the surrounding wall, for example.

We decided to be annoying and stop on our way back out of town to see if the tire was done (despite being told that it might take a few hours). We surprised the mechanic a bit, but he was pretty good natured about it (his associate told him we'd be back "Before 5", which around here means "late". But patching a tire is a quick process and he fixed it in the time it took mark to remove the spare and repack it and we were on our way in about half an hour, for less than 20 pounds. In retrospect, I'm sure we were supposed to call the rental place and follow their procedure to get the tire fixed, or wait somewhere while they sent out someone to fix it for us. That would have taken all day and probably been way too annoying for us!

A string of dots

Back on four tires (albeit a slightly unbalanced one, we think) we up through Wigtown and down to Carsluith Castle. It was tempting to stop in Wigtown (the Book Town - chock full of booksellers) but we realized that all it would mean would be me WANTING a ton of books, BUYING a ton of books, and the having to figure out how to get them home. We'd have to buy new luggage. While it would be fun, I'm quite dangerous in a book store and it would have been overwhelming! Mark even offered to drop me off in town and go off and do something else for awhile so I could browse. What a nice guy.

Carsluith Castle is in the parking lot of a smokery restaurant, which is built into one of the castle outbuildings, as far as I can tell. It's a teeny little tower, but you can climb up to the battlements and look around. Mark wanted to stop and get something form the barbeque place, but since I hate barbeque with a passion, we passed.

We followed the dots to Barhelm Tower, which we could see from the road but they little alley petered out before it got to the pinkish tower house. I managed one tree-blocked picture but that’s' it. It looks likes it's being lived in, but there is a Scottish flag flying, which often means that the building is under state care. People don't seem to fly flags here very often, except the nobility, who fly family flags when the person is in residence. The road we're on winds up the hill and we had to do some backup-turn maneuvers to get back down. We stopped once more for me to get a picture of the castle and instead O was confronted with a bunch of dead moles (I think, moles, anyway) tied to the fence. Someone must have had a serious problem with them in the garden!

Once we managed to get back down to the main road, we continued to Cardoness - the best preserved tower house in Scotland, or so says the brochure. IT's just a shell now, but the outer wall and foundations are all in place. The family (McCrannochs) were not particularly nice people, to say the least They were reviled by the locals, and the history of the tower is full of attacks, sieges, imprisonment and the like. It's a bit of a hike up the hill to the tower, although I don't know if it's a manmade motte or note. Probably it is - like al castles, this one started out as a wooden castle and was replaced by the stone tower. Castle building follows a very specific path - mottes, wooden tower with palisades, stone towers, enormous stone fortresses. (books cite).

The tower house - like Cardoness -- is extremely popular in Scotland. They aren't necessarily meant as a fortress, in the sense of a castle as a military installation. They are protective and fortified, of course, but they are, at the core of it, houses. Stone and easily defended, but a farmhouse nonetheless. It's hard to wrap my head around sometimes - the idea that a house would be built with 10' thick walls doesn't quite fit the idea of 'house" to me. I do wonder how many wood buildings have just ceased to exist. Budding in stone is expensive and slow - especially when most people would probably have lived in wattle-and-daub or thatched houses. Wood doesn't survive very well, so there could have been a dozen wooden structures -- a hundred dozen -- that have disappeared for every stone building that remains. Just thinking about our old house, back home -- our town is only about 150 years old, but the houses that remain from the earliest years are all brick buildings. A few wood-frame houses date from about the same period, but most of them are gone. Only the "best" survive. That's probably true of castles as well -- the "Best" castles remained and were inhabited or at least maintained over the years, but the smaller, less important houses started to fall and were either ignored, abandoned, or even dismantled to build other houses.

We're heading to Dalbeattie tonight, so we set off in that direction, with a quick stop at Rusco Tower - which, while labeled as if it is a public site, is someone's house and at the bottom of a long, curving driveway. I walked a bit of the way down for pics, but didn't disturb the family. I would totally love to live in one of these -- I wish I was pushy enough to knock on the door and ask to see inside. That, I imagine, would be considered Very Rude, though, and I just can't do it.

Adventure Girl is thwarted at last

So, back to the road, and a coupe of pictures from the car of what I think is Plunton Castle. We could see it from the road, and tried to circle around to get closer and finally just parked the car and set off across the fields to get closer pictures. Through two sheep fields, over two fences, through a couple of gates -- Mark the whole time commenting on Adventure Girl as we hiked to the castle. Of course, this is where Adventure Girl was thwarted. Stopped I her tracks by an electric fence.

Now, Adventure Girl is pretty all-terrain, and willing to ford streams and climb gates…but a 3' electric fence? Nah, this is where Adventure Girls alter ego - Klutz Woman -- would show up. There was a tiny stile over the fence, which would have gotten us up the other side of the ravine to the castle without a problem. Stiles are easy enough - step on side, swing over, step down. But over an electric fence? I can see exactly what's going to happen here:

Robin steps up on the stile and swings one leg over the fence.

Robin zaps herself in the hoo-hah.

Robin may or may not then fall down on either side of the fence, but ore likely gets stuck and continues to get zapped in the tender bits while Mark laughs so hard he pees himself.

Then, only then, might he assist his lovely wife in disentangling herself from the still buzzing fence.

No, thank you. I’m one of the klutziest people I know. It would happen just like that , I guarantee it.

So we turned back, laughing about Adventure Girl's failed Adventure. Notice, though, that Mark did not volunteer to go over the fence first. With his long legs he'd probably be fine. Oh, no, it was all, "you go over…I'll just stand here with the camera and not wait for you to get zapped…." Riiiiiight. Of course you were.

Now I know the meaning of 'grotty'

At this point, we figured we'd better head to our B&B. We had a terrible time finding a room tonight. We expected that it would get harder to 'wing it' as we got nearer to June (on our last trip, June 1 was the signal for every single tourist who was going to summer in Scotland to arrive. Rooms were hard to find, everything was suddenly packed with people. Still, we figure that something must be going on, for it to be so hard to find a room. At any rate, we finally found a small room at the Clonyard House Hotel near Dalbeattie We felt pretty lucky to get a room at all - we think we go caught in a festival or possible a bank weekend? I can't keep track. Anyway, the old part of the house is interesting, but this might be the dirtiest hotel room I have ever been in. Absolutely the grimiest place ever. I didn't want to take off my shoes. The sheets and towels look clean, but are very worn and gray, but the room is so far past it's prime that is has descended into 'grotty'. Mark offered to just leave, since I was so grossed out, but it's just for one night and we can manage just about everything. (Of course, all of that was discussed and decided before I had a look at the bathroom. Ugh. They're going to get a really, really bad review in Tripadivisor, tell you.

Despite the room, dinner in the bar was quite nice and everyone was very friendly. After dinner we walked around the grounds a bit, attempting to find cell reception so I could call and check on family, but no real luck. We're in the middle of a hole, apparently. We went to bed early, planning to be out and gone as early as possible.