Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Flodden Wall, Edinburgh

The Flodden Wall
Greyfriar's Kirk

The Flodden Wall was a defensive barrier built around old Edinburgh soon after the defeat of the massed Scottish armies at the battle of Flodden in 1513. It was built as a reaction to the perceived threat of an English invasion of Scotland. The construction of the wall continued right through the 16th century, but it was a poorly planned and inefficient defensive barrier. During the 'Rough Wooing', Edinburgh was sacked by English forces, with the gates to the city being left opened by drunken Scottish guards (so the story goes!!)

This sad and sorry photo is the only one I have of one of the remaining portions of the wall. This particular stretch once enclosed the whole of Greyfriars Kirk. Now it simply cuts the graveyard in half. As a consequence, one half of the graveyard is within the old city limits....the other is outside. From the middle of the 17th century the wall was dismantled piece by piece, as it was preventing the city from expanding to the South.

In July 2008, whilst building work was being undertaken at the King's Stables end of the Grassmarket, a small portion of the wall was unearthed. This small patch of the wall, now buried beneath the road foundations, has been marked with brass plates so that tourists can see where the wall was.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Holyrood Palace, Edinburgh

Holyrood Palace

Holyrood Palace lays to the North of one of Edinburgh's most famous landmarks, Arthur's Seat. The palace and the abbey behind it are approached from the West along either Holyrood Road or Canongate both streets lined with some of Edinburgh's finest buildings. The palace consists of an impressive complex of buildings dating from various periods, and now used as the official residence of the Queen when she's visiting Scotland.

Facade of the palace, showing the North and South towers.

In 1128, King David I was hunting in what is now Holyrood Park, when he was attacked by a stag. As the animal confronted him, he had a vision of a cross, or a 'rood' between its antlers. He believed he was seeing a representation of a relic of the cross of jesus that his mother Queen Margaret had in her posession. He survived the confrontation, and whilst sleeping the next night, had a dream where he was told to build an Augustinian monastery on the spot he had seen the stag. A guest house was also built on this site, to accomodate the monastery's many visitors.

In 1501, King James IV of Scotland built a Royal palace on the site of the guesthouse....and from this time on, Holyrood as it had become known, became the official residence of Scottish kings and queens. The palace also assumed the role of official residence of the English monarchy after the union of the crowns in 1603. The new palace contained a new chapel along side the monastery, seperate living quarters for both the king and the queen, a hall and a gallery. A gatehouse was also added to the complex at this time, fragments of which are said to survive in the Abbey courthouse.

Replica of Linlithgo Palace fountain.

Between 1528 and 1536, James V of Scotland extended the palace, adding a new north western tower and a new facade to the west frontage of the palace. The new tower was later to become the apartments where Mary Queen of Scots, his daughter, would spend much of her time after her husband, Francis II of France died. It was in this tower that David Rizzio, whom Mary's husband Lord Darnley believed Mary was having an affair with, was front of Mary.

In 1567, after Mary's husband Lord Darnley was murdered, Mary married her lover James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell at Holyrood Palace. Later that year, Mary was imprisoned on the orders of Elizabeth I of England. She was never able to return to Holyrood palace again.

In 1603, upon the union of the crowns, James VI of Scotland also became James I of England. He moved to his new court in London. He visited Holyrood once more in 1617, and the palace then ceased to be the home of the royal court.

In 1633, Jame's son, Charles I was crowned at Holyrood Abbey. It was probably this occasion that prompted Charles to order the refurbishment of the palace, and it was brought back into royal favour. In 1646, Charles gave the title of Keeper of the Holyroodhouse to the 1st Duke of Hamilton and his heirs....a title that has been passed down the generations. The Duke's descendants still hold apartments in the palace even today.

In 1650, during the years of Oliver Cromwell's Commonwealth, the palace was home to a garrison of troops from his New Model Army. It was during this time that the palace was damaged by fire. At Cromwell's death, and the demise of the Commonwealth under his son Richard in 1661, Charles II was crowned in Scotland. Between 1671 and 1679, Charles ordered that Holyrood palace be reconstructed and repaired. When the work was done, it became the residence of Charles' brother James, Duke of York, later to became James VII of Scotland, and James II of England.

Main entrance to the palace.

In 1707, the title of King of Scotland ceased to exist under the Act of Union which united the English and Scottish parliaments in a new United parliament. The palace was hence used for the election of Scottish peers to the new British parliament.

When the Jacobite rebellion took off in 1745, Prince Charles (Bonnie Prince Charlie) held court at Holyrood palace. This continued until the rebellion was put down by the Duke of Cumberland, after the Prince's army was chased to its final battle at Culloden on April 16th 1746

In 1768, the roof of the Abbey church finaly collapsed after years of neglect. No repairs were ever made, and the church stands today pretty much as it did then.

In 1822, the palace was again rennovated, this time for the visit of George IV. King George also ordered that the state apartments that had belonged to Mary Queen of Scots should be preserved.

During the 1830's the palace was used as a palace of exile for the Compte de Artois who was the younger brother of Louis XVI, whilst France was going through its revolution. He stayed at the palace for two years, leaving in 1832 for permanent exile in Austria. The palace didn't recover its title of Royal residence again until 1842, when Queen Victoria made her first visit.

In 1922, further rennovation work was carried out, this time to bring the palace into the 20th century. Running water and electricity were two of the utilities added at this time.

If you visit, I'd strongly suggest not just looking around the grounds of the palace and the Abbey next door. The interior is fascinating too, and contains many items once in the possession of Mary Queen of Scots, as well as other members of the English and Scottish royal families.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Carnasserie Castle, Carnasserie

Carnasserie Castle

The remains of Carnasserie Castle lay to the West of the A816, about a mile and a half North of Kilmartin, and about six miles South West of Ford.

Built between 1565 and 1572, the castle is a combination of Hall and Tower House, built by John Carswell, Bishop of the Isles, with some remodelling done during the 17th century.

The remains consist of the five storey tower house, three storey hall and a four storey stair tower.

Photo courtesy of John Jefferies.

Castle Tioram, Loch Moidart

Castle Tioram
Loch Moidart
The remains of Castle Tioram (pronounced Cheerum) lay to the South East of the island of Eileen Shona, on a small tidal island. From this point, the castle's inhabitants would have been able to control sea borne traffic through the safe waters of Loch Moidart.

The castle was probably built in the early part of the 14th century and was the home of the MacDonalds. There is documentary evidence to suggest that there was a fortified building of some sort on the island some time before this. This early 13th century castle would have consisted of a simple curtain wall, within which would have been a collection of timber buildings. The walls have been built on the bedrock without any foundations! Sometime during the 14th century, the curtain wall's height was increased, and a tower house was added, built in stone against the east part of the curtain wall.

In 1715, during the Jacobite rising, the castle was set alight by the Scots, so that it wouldn't fall into the hands of the Hanoverian forces. Since its partial destruction it has been uninhabited. Although the castle is closed to the public, the island can be accessed and the external walls easily seen when walking around the island.

Photo courtesy of John Jefferies.

Criccieth Castle, Criccieth

Criccieth Castle

The magnificent castle at Criccieth sits on a rocky outcrop looking over the town below it, and the sea to its south. The castle's past has been affected by both Welsh and English hands, with the original castle being built by Welsh Princes sometime between 1230 and 1240, and later additions attributable to the English. The castle was most likely built by the Welsh, with the prominent twin towered gate house being the defining part of this building. The castle was later captured by Edward I, who strengthened the fortifications, and adapted the twin towered gatehouse so that it could be used as a huge catapult. These fortifications were tested after the castle had been adapted, when it was placed under siege by the Welsh. The attackers were however, unable to prevent supplies being sent to the castle by a sea route, and the defenders held out.

In 1404, the castle was captured by the cheiftan Owain Glyn Dwr. He set fire to it and destroyed it to such an extent that it would never be used as a fortification again. The remains are open to the public.

Check this link out for some more photos and information.

Photo courtesy of John Jefferies.

Dunstaffnage Castle, nr Oban

Dunstaffnage Castle
nr Oban

Dunstaffnage Castle sits on the West side of Dunstaffnage Bay, and to the South of Eilean Mor in Scotland. The first thing that strikes you about this 13th century castle, is that it literally sits on top of a huge outcrop of rock. This outcrop is so integral to the fabric of the castle, that the lines of the walls were altered to best make use of this natural defence.

The castle was probably built in 1275 by the Lords of Lorn, either Duncan or Ewan MacDougall. Robert the Bruce captured it in 1309, and in 1470 it passed into the hands of the Campbells.
The castle's walls are anything up to 10 feet thick in places, and ringed with a continuous wall walk. There are three towers built into the walls, standing at the North, East and West, with the 16th century gatehouse built into the West tower.

The castle has been in the hands of the Campbells for over 500 years. It was occupied by them up until 1810 when it was rendered uninhabitable by a fire. The castle is still the seat of the Campbell Captains of Dunstaffnage, and as a symbol of the clan's continued occupancy of the castle, the current Captain must spend one night a year in the Gatehouse.

To the west of the castle, the ruins of a 13th century chapel can still be seen.

Photos courtesy of John Jefferies.