Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A Castle! Ooh! Aah!

This past Saturday my friend Sabrina and I joined the International Student Centre on a trip to Culzean Castle. That's Culzean, pronounced cuh-LAY-in. Yes, I know there's a z in there. I don't pretend that the pronunciation of Gaelic things makes sense.

Anyhow, we visited this delightful castle, which is on the west coast, about 2 1/2 hours by bus from Edinburgh.

See, there it is. Historically, the castle and its grounds belonged to the Kennedy family, but it is now owned by the National Trust for Scotland. We rode there on a charter bus with 70 of our closest friends. And I do mean closest. I have never seen a bus designed to fit so many people into such a small space. Across each row, there were a total of five seats, three on one side of the aisle, two on the other. The seats and the aisle were each about 2/3 the width of a normal bus seat. Needless to say, not the most comfortable of rides. But,seeing as I woke up at 7:30am that Saturday, I spent most of my time in the sardine can sleeping.

Upon our arrival at Culzean Castle, we were given maps and told when to meet for our castle tour. As it turns out, the land upon which Culzean Castle sits is quite expansive. It includes lakes, forests, lush meadows, a beach, some lovely cliffs, and even some enticing caves, where we were unable to explore because the tide was too high.

Our first stop before the castle tour was the beach. At this point, we were still hoping to find the caves. No dice, but we did get to enjoy that crisp autumn sea air. The beach at Culzean is not exactly a place you would go sunbathing, but it was still a beautiful sight.

After our beach adventure, we set out along a road through the forest to find the park's secondhand bookshop. I bet you're wondering why the castle grounds need a secondhand bookshop. I assure you, it has not been there since ancient times. It's quite a nice scheme, actually. All of their books are donated, and all of the proceeds go toward castle upkeep. It's a nice alternative to selling souvenirs and knickknacks, I say. Of course, they have those too.

Around 1:30pm Sabrina and I returned to the castle for our tour. No photos were allowed inside, but trust me when I tell you it is amazing. Every room screams decadence. Marble fireplaces, ornate rugs, sculpted ceilings. Oh and of course, each room is equipped with a bell for summoning servants, who moved through the house using secret passageways so that the masters never had to see the help. The walls boast portraits of the various earls and marquesses of the family, most of whom were named Archibald. Our guide was a delightful man named Mark, who was just full of knowledge about the various lords of the family. He even told us the origin of the phrase "to lose face," which apparently comes from the makeup women used to wear in the olden days. They would put a layer of wax under their makeup to fill in their pox-scars, and when they sat by the fire, their faces would start melting off. De-LIGHT-ful.

Post-tour, we went in search of the swan pond. That's right. SWAN POND! On the way, we found the Walled Garden, which made me feel like I was in the Secret Garden, only it was a little better tended and a little less secret than I would have liked.

The swan pond was about a 10-minute walk from the garden, and about five minutes after we got there we had to head back to the bus. But we did have time for a couple of pictures. As one of my compatriots commented, "I've never been so close to a swan without it trying to bite me." It's always a good day when you can get close to a swan and not get attacked. 

After that, it was a quick walk back to the cramped bus by way of the deer park. Because when you are super-wealthy, you keep your own field full of deer. That's just how it works. 

I hope you enjoyed my trip to Culzean Castle, dear readers. I hope to have many more adventures in old Scottish places. So stayed tuned!

Below you will find more pictures of the castle and grounds. All photo credits for this post go to Miss Sabrina Uswak, who has sweet photo-editing skills and the foresight to bring a digital camera that didn't die within the first 20 minutes of our arrival. 

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1 comment:

  1. Too cool! Looks like a really beautiful day trip