Castles are in extreme abundance here in Scotland. They are everywhere, which is impressive. From what I hear, the castles in Ireland are few and far between, however, the ones in Scotland live on. But for as many castles as there are in Scotland, I’m sad to say I have only seen two.
Early in June I went to a castle called Stirling castle, which had been renovated and completed with rough decor and a few well placed actors. I went with my friends from Denver who were there for a short time and really enjoyed myself. It was a large spectacle of a castle with several living spaces, halls, entertaining areas, etc. Stirling castle was a political stronghold, for sure.
The other castle I have been to is called Hailes castle. It’s near East Linton and reachable by foot. Many people say
that you should only see one castle while in Scotland because once you’ve seen one “you’ve seen them all.”
Well, I’m here to tell you that’s not true.
I really enjoyed Hailes castle. I guess if you are simply looking to put tick marks in your list of tourist spots, it’s not exactly the place to go, but if you are like me and enjoy finding small adventures in unseen places, Hailes Castle is a great place to go.
I walked over from the farm on a bright sunny day. It was about a two mile walk with a great view of the beautiful agricultural country side. It was a little hot and sweaty, but I made it to Hailes in one piece. I was surprised that there were probably fifteen other people there. I didn’t realize it would even be that busy. But there also seemed to be hiking paths nearby.
The grass was well-kept, as seems common for all public places in Scotland (even random benches). There was no entrance fee (score!) but there was the typical plaque giving a brief history of the castle and a lovely little stream that flowed right on the edge of the property. Hailes castle had apparently been transferred through several families who acted as lords of the surrounding area. They even had a hall where they administered justice (as well as catholic masses) and prison pits that lacked any windows and only an air shaft. I would not have wanted to be a criminal in the middle ages, that’s for sure.
Strangely, it appeared that at one point the family lived in the same room as, or right next to, the prison pit.
There was also an area on a lower level that was used for constant bread and ale making. The gaps in the walls where the bread ovens used to be were large enough to walk into and I can only image the massive amounts of bread baked there. As far as the ale, y’all probably know that people used to rarely drink water unless they were very poor, mostly because it wasn’t clean. There was actually a hierarchy of drinks according to the families financial status. This castle apparently drank ale, while the wealthier castles would have consumed wine. So that probably can give you a good idea of the financial and political level of this particular castle.
To no surprise, the castle was backed against a creek. It was a beautiful view, to look out on the creek and then also all the land beyond it. I enjoyed walking around and imagining what it might have been like for those living in the castle. What was it like to look out the windows and see water rushing past? What was it like to be here in the dark, cold, rainy winters? What was it like to walk into the lower level and smell bread and ale being made? What was it like to walk past the prison pit… actually, I didn’t like thinking about that.
I’m not sure I have much more I can say on this experience, other than when people say that once you’ve seen one castle “you’ve seen them all,” don’t believe them. And just because a castle isn’t a big tourist spot, if you’re nearby check it out. It’s worth it.