At long last, I have gone on another castling adventure.  It feels like ages, although technically it has only been a few weeks.  I think I am becoming spoiled.

 It all started a week ago when I was flipping through my Historic Scotland pamphlet and I happened to check the weather for the following weekend and it promised to look the same as it had looked for the past couple of weeks: like this.

So, I sent out a mass invitation to fellow castle loving friends and the need to escape resonated with them all.  Plans were made.

 It turned out that a short (and cheap!) train ride from Edinburgh is a small town called Linlithgow where a conveniently located palace sits nearby, along with the option of a quick bus ride to another castle.

Perfect for a morning’s expedition.

Welcome to Linlithgow!

 It amuses me greatly how a bank can look so impressive with its old stone architecture and towers and such…

and then there are Winnie the Pooh decals in the windows.

I do not understand this culture that I am in.

 This, as Hannah pointed out, is the town’s claim to fame (aside from the palace, of course).  It is a fountain.  Yay!

 We turned a corner and there it was, the road up to the castle.  My heart began to palpitate with joy.  Finally! Finally!

I think my manic grin lasted for the next ten hours…


(Notice the lamp posts!)

 Yeah, remember how the weather had promised to be all sunny and such?  Of course, within a couple days of the actual adventure, the weather turned into this.  Way to conform to a stereotype, Scotland.  Really!

Naturally, the day after our adventure, the skies clear to a brilliant blue and it warms up considerably.

The weather gods continue to laugh.

 The church looked so appealing, but it was locked.  Of course, my rule is that mysterious/impressive doors that are closed must be tested.  You know, just in case.

 Misty, dim, grey, and forbidding.

Stereotypical, yes, but it does make the stone construction look very impressive somehow.

 A bit of town through the arch…

 We didn’t go straight into the castle.  The scenery around it appealed to my companions too much and I could afford to be patient.  Linlithgow Palace wasn’t going anywhere.  So we proceeded around the side to explore the loch and the grounds.

 Loch! Grounds!

Also, birds!!!!

 Napoleon will tell you that some rules are meant to be broken.

As we walked around the back of the castle, I was impressed with the old, branching trees.  Even in the winter, they are somehow beautiful.

 Also, they are big.

 Pure, utter joy.

 The path goes all the way around the lake, a good two and a half miles.  It takes about an hour, depending on how fast you walk.  We meandered.

 My sneaky photography was noticed.  I remained very still so as to avoid being attacked.

 The bird watchers fell behind as they caught sight of this or that amazing species.  We passed by many other very serious bird people.  This is apparently a good spot for birds.

 I found birds too!  These are swans.  I figured that out myself!

 The swans expected food from the intruding humans.  They waited expectantly.

Binoculars and a bird book were not satisfactory substitutions.

 A beautiful swan…

 A beautiful swan giving me a dirty look for photographing but not feeding it…

 A demonic duck.  I did not get too close.

 My main reason for wanting to make the walk was to get some good views of the castle from across the lake.  Like this one.  So misty and cold looking.  I would love to come back in the spring.

 The castle through some reed type stuff.

 The castle from yet another vantage point…

 Yep… the castle again.  Hey, they are my favorite thing, so I will photograph them as much as I like, thank you!

 The long, long road we have come by.  We were waiting for our bird friends to catch up.

 Let’s just say… they were distracted.

It’s a field!  Yay!

 Finally, we were heading back toward the castle.

 Closer… closer… closer…

Actually, this picture is more to emphasize the awesomeness of this tree (the the bonus of a castle in the background).  The branches were all squiggly and interesting and it was so dark and mysterious.

Definitely a magic tree.

 The lake we have just circumnavigated. 

 I don’t know why.  I just thought it was pretty.

 Black, black branches.

 Yay, castle! Time to go in, right?

Nope.  One more stop.  St Michael’s, the church, was open when we returned, so we stopped in there first.

We were welcomed by several friendly caretakers who bid us enter, wander at will, and photograph as much as we pleased.

I liked them immediately.

 The church was filled with glorious stained glass.

 It amazes me to think of coming here for church each Sunday.  Do people walk in and pause, catching their breath, awed by the beauty of it each time?  Or do they not even notice anymore?

I know that every time I walk past buildings like St Giles along the Royal Mile, I can’t help feeling amazed at how beautiful they are.  I think I would never cease to get chills of wonder if I worshiped in a church like this.

 The church had several huge needlepoints hanging on the columns that represented historical people and events related to the church, such as this illustrious visitor, Mary, Queen of Scots.

The detail of each one was amazing.

 Not long after we arrived, the organist came to practice, so not only did we get to experience the visual beauty of the cathedral, but we also enjoyed the magnificent pipes of the organ as we wandered about.

 The beautiful window at the front of the church.

 We didn’t think we were allowed to get any closer than the velvet cord that blocked the middle aisle, but the caretakers enthusiastically pushed us forward and practically begged us to go up and appreciate the details of the window.

So we did.

 Another needlepoint work shows the different trades that people of Linlithgow practiced.  They were famed for their shoes, apparently.  Notice the little shoe in the top right corner.

 I would absolutely have loved to buy a replica kit for this to sew because it looks like such a fun one to do.

 Finally, finally we entered the castle.  After sitting down to lunch in a room off to the side, we began our touring of Linlithgow Palace.

 This magnificent fountain is only turned on during a couple of months in the summer, and then only on Sundays.

 Linlithgow Palace is a delight of a castle to explore.  Some castles are so ruined that you can practically see the whole thing upon entering because the walls have been broken down.  Others simply don’t have much left to see.

This one managed to draw each one of the five of us in our group into its magic.  We all became separated from each other and wandered completely alone through the empty halls.

For a brief, splendid bit of time, the sky broke and you could see blue.  It reflected off the water beautifully.

 This structure is so huge and so intact, it really shouldn’t be called a ruin at all.

I am still not convinced I saw every bit of it.

 From practically every room, you can see back into the main courtyard with that distinctive fountain.

 One tower leads up to the highest vantage point where the whole castle spreads out beneath you and you can see the surrounding landscape and the entire lake.

 This palace has a stunning history behind it with one monarch after another staying in it at some point in their reign. 

 I had Napoleon’s whole-hearted consent.

 With not a soul to be seen, the chilly wind whispering outside, and light coming in through tall windows, it was easy to imagine that I had been transported back to another time or sent to another place.  Narnia at last?

 There were always multiple choices at the end of each room.  To go up or down or left or right?  How can I see this whole place?  Where to go next?

 An old chapel built onto the palace with its tall windows.  Were they filled with stained glass at one time?

 St. Michael’s through a window.

 Caught by the sunlight.  It was so cold that every bit of light that made it through was worth soaking in.

 Can you imagine what this place looked like in the height of its grandeur?

 It was definitely time to claim a new castle.  Linlithgow is now my palace!

We had begun to find each other again, but Hannah was still separated from us, peering out from a tower across the courtyard.  We tried to shout instructions to her on how to get to our particular tower.

 You can see practically the whole town from here.  Probably because it’s such a small town, but still…

 Hannah made it to a closer tower, but not our tower.  She peered out from behind bars at us before making her next attempt.

 Up at the top of that tallest tower, it was easy to get a little overwhelmed with vertigo.  It was very high!  Lluvia stayed safely inside the little room at the top and away from the edge.

 Something was written over the door, but it was faded and worn down and so was impossible to read.

 She made it! It took three towers, but she was successful at last.  Our group was finally together again.

 I attempted to make Napoleon look impressive enough to match the castle.  I admit, this castle made it difficult, but with that hat, how could you not be impressed with Nap?

 This arch used to be the main gate into the castle.  What a perfect view!

 The large old buttresses still support the wall.

 Most excellent front doors.  I am happy with my new castle, indeed.

 Definitely, it deserves a hug. And thus, we bonded.

We had already had a long day, my friends and I, and since one of our number was ill and two others had busy days ahead of them, the fellowship was temporarily disbanded.  Three went home, but two went bravely forth to see the second castle.

Guess which group I was a part of?

 Welcome to Blackness Castle!  This is the military fortress that protects the pretty, but not very defensible Linlithgow Palace from invasions.  It was also used to store provisions during different wars in Scottish history.  Many have tried to conquer it.  None have succeeded.

Until now.

Hannah and I arrived at the coastal town of Blackness, famed for…

Well, there is a castle there, not much else.

It felt quite remote today.

 We’re going to pretend this picture is an intentional photograph of the grey sky and not my Utter Fail of an attempt to take a picture of me and Hannah from behind walking towards the castle.

 I call this existential photograph: ‘The Lost Beach’.

 Unlike Linlithgow, Blackness was not built to be pretty.  It was built to withstand invasion.

 Big, thick walls of dark stone make for an imposing sort of structure. 

 Off in the mist, you can see the Forth Bridge extending across the firth.

 Bravely, Hannah dared to sally forth into the blackness of Blackness Castle.

 What madness drove her in there?

Well, mostly because it was the only way in.

 Nap has less need for aesthetic appeal.  Nap likes power.  Nap likes force.  Nap likes impenetrable fortresses of awesomeness.

Nap really liked Blackness Castle.

 Narrow slits afford a nice, but somewhat slim view of the firth.

 While it might not be the prettiest or the funnest of castles, it is a good, solid fortress, so I went ahead and claimed it.  Blackness Castle has now been conquered.  Little do they know…

 Fun fact: this castle is known as ‘the ship that never sailed’.  Can you see why?  It’s hard to really capture the full size and shape of it from here, but it’s the best I could do.  The front tapers to a thin line.  It looks like a ship.  Many of the towers and rooms have ship-related names.  They really enjoyed the ship theme, I think.

 Welcome to the one and only room that had any sort of decoration or distinction. Every floor was pretty much the same.

Yes, it has a table. No, there are no chairs.

Hannah and I developed theories about the designer of this castle.

General: ‘This is a military fortress and it will be sensible.  None of that decorative, distinctive nonsense that other castles have.’

Nervous Lieutenant: ‘Um, sir, it’s shaped like a ship…’

General: ‘Shut up!’

 Hannah in Stealth Mode

 So we reached the top of one of the towers and there was a door that was shut.  Since I knew that one of the towers afforded a rooftop view, I was determined to open this door.

Me:  It’s just stuck!
Hannah:  I think it’s locked.
Me: No, just stuck.  *shove against door*
Hannah: I don’t think we’re supposed to…
Me: *SHOVE*
Door: *concedes defeat*

 Okay, so I don’t think we were supposed to be up here.  The roof had lots of edges that were very low and would be quite easy to fall off of… But the door opened.

 We finally left the castle behind.  But since the bus between Blackness and Linlithgow only runs every few hours, we still had three hours before we were able to return home.  Since there was quite literally nothing to do in town, we decided to explore the coast.

 The path claimed there was a beach this way.  We will find the beach.

 A distinct lack of beachness so far…

 Stunning sunlight…

 Also, a very lonely trash can.

 Hey, look! Beach!

It turned out to be quite nice, if a little cold.  Not the sort of beach that you wanted to lounge about on and dip a toe into the water.

Well, unless you wanted that toe to turn several different interesting shades of blue and purple before it gave up the ghost and fell off, anyway.

 The sound of a lively stream is very soothing.

 Hannah braces herself for a death-defying leap across the rushing stream.

 The terrifying mid-air shot!  Does she make it???

 VICTORY!

Okay, so we were trying to find things to do at this point.  We were making our own adventure.  It was fun.

 I do really like this shot.

 We entered a wooded area because we saw other people in it and deemed it safe.  It became a new sort of adventure wherein we made random decisions on where to go and made many discoveries.

 One such adventure: sheep stalking.  They had no idea we were peering at them from behind the trees.  One or two looked up searchingly toward the treeline as if they could feel eyes on them…  Bwahaha!

 Also, a tree graveyard. We were nervous about setting foot in such a haunted place where the souls of many trees might still lurk. But it was the Only Way!   There were what seemed like dozens of fallen trees.  Thankfully, we made it out of the woods alive and arrived back in town.

 In town, there were precisely two places that might hold warmth and welcome.  The first place we tried that advertised food and drink was the Blackness Inn.  It looked sufficiently interesting and storybook-like.

It was also closed.

Well done, Blackness.

 We went on down the road to see if there was anything else in town, but when we reached this church just around the corner, we reached the edge of civilization. There was simply nothing else.

So we turned back and entered the Blackness Boat Club.

It turned out to be the hot spot in town, but only offered alcoholic beverages, not food.  So we sat, grateful at least for the warmth, and awaited the arrival of the bus.

 You know it’s a fabulous place when they turn bathrooms into puns.

I suppose we should have realized that we were in the middle of nowhere when the bus driver advised us that we should await the bus by ‘the trash bin’.

Exhausted and ready to return to warmth and civilization, we climbed onto the blessedly on-time bus, from thence to the train, and back home again.

Despite the unexpected occurrences in our adventure (and isn’t that what makes it an adventure?), I call this expedition an unqualified success.