Sunday, 30 July 2017

Crichton Castle

What is this, you ask? Two posts in a week?!

Its the summer and its busy season for us! We always try and fit in lots of walks for Missy in the good weather - often just being somewhere new is just as good for her as a mammoth trek round the normal stomping grounds. 

Crichton Castle is another Historic Scotland site (and I did the maths, we have more than made the money back on the passes - the jousting really helped towards that!) in the Edinburgh area. Its not one that I would consider well known, I mean, I'm local to the area and had no idea it existed, so this was a surprising little gem of a castle for us.

Built in the 1400s and expanded in the 1500s, the most eye catching feature of this castle was the beautiful facade upon the inner wall - seeing as its made of sandstone and open to the elements, I was surprised at how well its held up. Most of the stairs are broad and were easy for Missy to manage without tying everyone up in knots, and the odd shape and build of the castle really comes into its own as you try and figure out how on earth people have gotten onto the higher landings. 

The wonderful facade
As usual with the Scottish castles, just trying to figure out which family had it when (and of course how does Mary Queen of Scots figure in this one as she's somehow involved in all the castles (hint: she attended a wedding at this one, which is the most strenuous link I've seen yet!)). The set up of this castle was more 'rugged' than most - there was a fair trek to begin with along a gravel path and a lot of the floors where very uneven - not a problem for us, but worth bearing in mind if your mobility isn't great. 

The day had defied expectation and it turned into a beautiful evening and we decided to follow the lead of some other dog walkers and check out the grounds about the castle. We weren't disappointed as we very quickly dropped into some woodland and then into a wide open grassland of wild flowers and thistles. there was just enough of a breeze to keep the midges away too - overall a very nice walk and day out! And on that note, it was off back home to a nice cup of tea and a choc ice!

Thursday, 27 July 2017

White Peak Alpacas

I was down Manchester this weekend with one of the strangest car loads ever - my mother, Missy and a kitten!

This little fella. He's now been named Ziggy, which suits his fairly crazy personality perfectly. Long story short, my sister used to have three cats - two girls and a boy. The male sadly passed away last year after accidentally consuming antifreeze (if you notice a puddle under your car, always clean it up!) and they've noticed that they are now having problems with toms coming into the garden and spraying and just generally being a pain.
The solution was simple, get a male kitten. The older girls wouldn't view him as a threat so he'd integrate into the household easily, and once he's a bit older and outside, just his very presence will stop the other toms.
And I know someone who fosters cats. The moment I showed my sister Ziggy, she'd fallen for him and, only a day younger than my brand new nephew, it had to be fate!

And that was why Missy and I were in Manchester (my mum is literally just hitching a ride with anyone going down that neck of the woods!). I'd decided to dabble with this whole AirBnB craze (I know, I'm late to that party) and found somewhere literally 15 minutes away.

With only one full day available to us, my sister recommended the White Peak Alpacas farm. It's not a big fancy show farm or anything like that, it's a couple who breed alpacas for their wool and sell them too. It's a labour of love and you can really feel that when chatting away to them. The woman who owns the place was absolutely great with my niece and let her help feed the chickens and got my mum to kiss an alpaca (not bad for a woman who didn't know what one was that morning!)

My sister had asked about dogs on an earlier visit and was told that it was a 'selective' dog policy, meaning that dogs that were non-reactive and calm were welcome, but not those that would jump about and bark at the alpacas. Since Missy fitted the bill, it went very well and all the alpacas were very curious about the little black and tan dog - I can't say Missy felt the same though! She was very happy to stand and watch them and have a really good sniff at the fur on the fence, but she was not keen on having a herd approach her and would very calmly step backwards away from the fence and look at me for reassurance. My brother in law had worked out a nice walk for us as well and, not used to the different access code that England has, I was rather glad for his directions, even if we did have to stop for a while after he was 'attacked' by a frog!

A very quick weekend that was little more than a flying visit. I was very glad to get home to a nice cup of tea, I wont lie!

And I may have indulged myself with some truly terrific slippers.....

Sunday, 2 July 2017

Linlithgow Jousting

A very busy day today!

This weekend was annual jousting at Linlithgow Palace and, for the first time since I knew it existed, its landed on a weekend I'm not rota'd to work - so there was absolutely no way I wasn't going.

We started the day early and had a wander about the castle before it got too busy (and it did get very busy!) so that we could legitimately tick it off the castle to-do list. Missy has well and truly conquered the spiral staircase although we accidentally wrapped a few people up in her lead winding up and down! Everyone was in good humour though and she was quickly the centre of attention and got lots of pats and cuddles.

The event itself was much more than I expected. The historical reenactment societies were out and there was a host of medieval games to play, armour to try on and gruesome stories of torture and battle to revolt and enthral all the kids. Between the two jousting shows, the jester show, the dragon puppet and the games, we actually ran out of time to look at all the things on offer. 

Missys rapt attention
The jousts were cleverly done - we had our villain (Sir Checkmate) and our Knight-of-the-Flowers-knock-off good guy and they did tremendously well with their banter and theatrics. The horsemanship was impressive as they managed to not wound each other whilst keeping in character and shoeing off the various skills expected of a knight (I think we were all relived when the heads they were to cut in half turned out to be of the lettuce sort!)

The last standout moments were the jesters and the 'dragon training'. The jesters stood out because they were absolutely brilliant fun to watch with perfect comedic timing. They had the whole crowd laughing and cheering from the word go. The dragon training was actually a giant puppet. There was a puppeteer in the head and then all along the cloth body were holes with hoods on them for kids to go in. The day out was a whole family one so I had my niece and nephew with me and, as they were asking for volunteers, I was being silly and jumping and waving going 'me, me!' trying to encourage them to show some interest in participating and I got chosen! I was put to the head of the group and I think the idea was that the kids behind me could follow my lead/I could be trusted not to run into the puppeteer. Either way, it was tremendous fun running about in circles roaring and jingling the bells that were sewn into the body. I don't think I'm going to be allowed to live it down anytime soon, but that really doesn't bother me - all this being grown up malarkey is just boring!
Although the hubby has decided that I'm not allowed to be left unattended again at these things! He'd literally nipped off to the privy to find me parading about as a dragon, so I can hardly blame him for saying so!