Boats and Moats

So even though we got to bed relatively early, we still managed to wake up late for breakfast. Not as big a deal here as it might be elsewhere, because another great bonus is that Ronnie and Angie do not have an end time for breakfast (woohoo!), but I still felt bad about it because we did specify our preferred time. Breakfast was fantastic, just as all the reviews said it would be.

We decided to take our time today, and rather than trying to see all seven places I had on our itinerary (oiy) we narrowed it down to two must sees, and if we had time for any of the others then they would be a bonus. We did not have time for the other five places.

First up was Threave Castle. This site is on an island in the River Dee which can (supposedly) only be accessed by boat. So yes, we had to be ferried across on a small boat.

Tradition says that Ferguson, native Lord of Galloway originally resided on the island in the 11th century. It is believed to have been destroyed by Edward Bruce (Robert I’s brother) in 1308. Archibald ‘the Grim’, third earl of Douglas, later took the island for the Black Douglas’s and built the tower house and a sprawling complex over the southern third of the island in 1369. This was soon after becoming lord of Galloway. The tower house is the only part that remains today.

In 1455, King James II and the Black Douglases had been at loggerheads for a long time, and finally the King systemically destroyed all the major Douglas strongholds, ending with Threave. Threave was well provisioned and defended, and survived the siege for over two months before the King finally ordered a gun to be brought to the island from Linlithgow Palace. The garrison in the castle eventually surrendered, although more likely through persuasion rather than the threat of the gun. An artillery house erected around the tower in 1447 was a major contributing factor to the castle’s ability to withstand the siege.

Yes, it rained again.

Various keepers stayed at the castle after that, until 1526, when Lord Maxwell was made heritable keeper. He and his family stayed there until 1640, when the castle faced its second and final siege made by the Army of the Covenant. This time they held out for 13 weeks, until King Charles I gave written authorization to Lord Maxwell to surrender. The Covenanters dismantled the castle so that it could not be used again.

The placards at the site reference a secret causeway that ‘people in the know’ could use to walk across to the island, but we didn’t find or see any evidence of that. I guess we’re not people in the know.

All that history to say that we really enjoyed our visit to Threave Castle. It was really quite fascinating.

We followed this with a quick stop at Tesco for some shopping and then lunch before going to Caerlaverock Castle. This was eventually the primary seat of the Maxwell family, after the Romans abandoned southern Scotland and the British lords of Nithsdale ruled over the lands (400 AD).

The Nithsdale lords built a fort on the site that would later accommodate the first castle in 950 AD. The lands were granted to the Maxwells in1220 by Alexander II of Scotland. They built the first castle, but it was too small, and it was built on a clay foundation where it kept flooding and the buildings were deteriorating. There is not much left of the old castle except the footprint of the main walls.

In 1270 the Maxwells built a new castle, where they remained until 1640. The new castle is considered one of Scotland’s great medieval fortresses. It is triangular shaped, with towers at each corner.

The castle faced two sieges in its time: one in 1300 by Edward I of England, the second in 1640 by the Covenanters. A herald in Edward’s army wrote an extremely detailed account of the two-day siege, which chronicled the fact that Edward’s army consisted of 87 knights, 3,000 men, and a number of siege engines against what turned out to be a garrison of just 60 men defending the castle. The Covenanter’s siege lasted 13 weeks with a castle garrison of 200 before the earl of Nithsdale surrendered.

Both the old castle and the new castle had moats, and the new castle had a proper draw bridge. The new castle had substantive fortifications, cannons, and crossbow holes.

In 1634 the first earl of Nithsdale became less concerned about security and more concerned about looking the part of a nobleman, and renovated the east and south sides of the curtain wall to build what became known as the Nithsdale Lodgings. It’s pretty much what it sounds like: a three-story apartment complex within the castle, including a courtyard. Fancy decorations included.

The surrounding countryside is beautiful, and in fact is now a nature preserve. I imagine during the time the castle was occupied they would not have starved, given the arable land, good hunting and fishing, and plentiful berries, mushrooms, and honey.

Yet another fascinating experience, although I admit to feeling more creeped out at the new castle than anywhere else. Don’t know why. Maybe it was all the pigeons living in the ruins…yeah…

We finished the day off at Bruno’s. No, not this Bruno’s:

Although, don’t let the outside fool you; they’ve got the best pizza in Yellowknife (besides mine, of course).

We ate at this Bruno’s:

Bruno’s Italian Restaurant in Dumfries is another place that deserves all the great reviews it has. The meal was phenomenal, the service was great, the servings were just the right size to not feel overfed. Highly recommended!

Adelle and Dan

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