Saturday, December 19, 2009

Saturday Adventures are Possible Even in December

Entry for 5 December 2009:

1. Lovely morning for a run: About +5 degrees Celsius and no rain (for a change), I passed 10 other runners. Running along the River Kelvin, at about mile 5 of a 6-mile run, I passed an elderly couple by the Ha’ Penny Bridge. The man, speaking Glaswegian Scots, called out something to me that didn’t register. His tone was friendly though, so I smiled and waved to him. As I ran over the bridge, however, I retrieved his comment from temporary auditory memory, played it back to myself a couple of times, and discovered that what he’d said was, “Impressive, young man, impressive!”

2. Craignethan Castle is probably the last of the major nearby castles, and it’s a good one, too. Perched high overlooking a bend in the River Nethan, we approached it from behind. When we arrived about 1 in the afternoon, there were no other cars in the car park/parking lot. A surveillance camera surveyed the otherwise empty lot. The castle lay below us, with a series of defensive structures to protect from attackers coming from this direction. We descended to the entrance to the outer wall. The steward/keeper greeted us cheerily as we entered the shop/office. We asked her how many people she’d had today. “Counting you… two!”, she said. She lives in the 17th century house built into the outer wall from the ruins of the high inner wall that (like most true castles in Scotland) had been pulled down to diminish the castle’s military significance.

After chatting with her for a bit and getting advice about the best bits to see, we began our ramble about the castle. By the this time, we have perfected a standard sort of castle ramble, wandering around the outer castle yard (or bailey), exploring all available nooks and crannies, wandering up and down narrow spiral stairs and dank basements, dripping in the rain, reading all the signs, taking pictures of every potentially interesting sight, trying to imagine what life there must have been.

About halfway through our damp ramble, we looked up the hill and saw another car and a couple coming down the path carrying a baby. In spite of the baby, they were moving much faster than we and soon caught up with us. They turned out the be fellow Americans, based in the Lake District and up for a day of castles: Craignethan was their third castle of the day (after Dumbarton and Bothwell). Apparently, only Americans are crazy enough to wander around damp and derelict Scottish castles in December! Well, there really aren’t too many castles in North America, so we have to make up for it while we’re here.

As I said to Kenneth later on Skype, Craignethan is a serious defensive castle worth a closer look, especially in nicer weather, featuring the latest in 16th century military defensive technology. In the late autumn, with the trees nearly bare and the river rushing below, we enjoyed its somber desolation, then went into the shop to warm up with a cup of hot chocolate and another chat with the steward.

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