My personal blog as a 'grown-up' Goth and Romantic living in the Highlands of Scotland. I write about the places I go, the things I see and my thoughts on life as a Goth and the subculture, and things in the broader realm of the Gothic and darkly Romantic. Sometimes I write about music I like and sometimes I review things. This blog often includes architectural photography, graveyards and other images from the darker side of life.

Goth is not just about imitating each other, it is a creative movement and subculture that grew out of post-punk and is based on seeing beauty in the dark places of the world, the expression of that in Goth rock. It looks back to the various ways throughout history in which people have confronted and explored the macabre, the dark and the taboo, and as such I'm going to post about more than the just the standards of the subculture (Siouxsie, Sisters of Mercy, Bauhaus, et al) and look at things by people who might not consider themselves anything to do with the subculture, but have eyes for the dark places. The Gothic should not be limited by what is already within it; inspiration comes from all places, the key is to look with open eyes, listen carefully and think with an open mind..

Sunday, 12 August 2018

Cardigan/Aberteifi - Castle and Historic Church

As I mentioned in my previous post, I was in Wales a few weeks ago, visiting my Dad. While I was there, I visited three castles and a few old churches. I'm not sure quite how 'Gothic' in the spooky sense of the word this is, but it is Gothic in the architectural sense. It's hard to feel spooky on a day with such bright sunshine - glorious for many, but too warm for me!

This post does include a spider photograph, so if you're averse to spiders, then don't scroll past the ornate door. I have put it as the last photograph so you can still appreciate the others without having to look at spiders. 

Restored curtain wall, Cardigan Castle. Photo by me.
Cardigan/Aberteifi is on the River Teifi, and we went there to visit the indoor market, and have a look around. I had had been there before, and knew it had a castle, and it was restored in 2014 (which I had read about). The first time I had been to Cardigan was before that, and while I think local council owned it at the time, it was in disrepair after having been neglected by its previous owner and inhabitant for many decades. Unfortunately, while the entrance fee was modest, I didn't have enough money on me, so I didn't get to go inside the grounds. From what I gather, most of the buildings on site are later, but it has nice gardens, and I was hoping to at least look at the gardens, but it was not to be. I did take a couple of photographs of the exterior, however.

Secondary wall, embankment, and then primary wall with tower...
And a much later additional house/cottage, affiliated with the castle. Photo by me.
Another gem was a rather lovely medieval church that has been extended several times over the centuries. The church is The Priory Church of Our Lady of Cardigan (I don't know what that is in Welsh, although I did read it and I've since forgotten it). It is in a very beautiful graveyard, and next to a hospital but also next to a busy road. I did take some exterior photographs, but they didn't turn out very well. I apologise for no good overview photographs. My partner Raven also took some nice photographs, so with his permission, I have included those too. 

Photograph by myself. Gravestones in rows through yew trees.
The graveyard is mostly older graves, although I did not go around and get a particularly good average for the estimate age - looked like mostly 1700s and 1800s gravestones.They are almost all made of the same sort of grey stone as the church and the castle, and most are a slab given a roughly arched shape with text - not like some of the Protestant chapel yards, full of urns and obelisks, or a chapel on a hill we visited, which had a much wider variety of stones. (Unfortunately I accidentally deleted many of the photos of that particular chapel! )

Photo by Raven. 
This is the far corner of the graveyard. All along the back wall are grave-stones laid vertical, with the climbing plants sort of taking over in places. I don't know if they are memorials from plots that were re-used, or if this is just where fallen-over stones got placed, or if there were just a lot of people buried along the wall. 

I also think this photo goes to show what a bright and sunny day it was - very hot, a few wispy white clouds, and scorching brightness. Personally, I found it too hot; I overheat easily and get sun-burnt just as easily, so I prefer cloudier, cooler days. Some people love the sun, but I have to hide under hats, long-sleeved floaty clothes and lots of sun-screen.  
Dead Tree. Photo by Raven 
I'm not sure what kind of tree this was when it was alive. There were plenty of yew trees, but yews are poisonous to other plants, so I doubt that there would be other plants growing from it if it were a yew. The tree stump felt almost sculptural, and its timbers bleached grey-white seemed fitting with the stone and almost skeletal itself. 

Grave with ornate carving. Photo by Raven.
This gravestone near the entrance was interesting - it had some sort of crest surrounded by a laurel wreath or other foliage, but it has suffered the ravages of time - the central design, presumably a monogram, is pretty much illegible, and any motto or similar on the banner beneath the leaves has long since de-laminated. I think perhaps the topmost leafs have lost some mass, too. It's interesting to see a headstone carved in the shape of a Dutch gable, too. 

Architectural salvage. Photograph by Raven.
I'm not sure which part of the building this detail came from - I couldn't even figure it out by looking at it - it's some part of some Gothic details, but it's also a broken jigsaw piece of architectural history.  Raven took this photograph of it - I guess it looks sort of abandoned in this corner of the porch, but really it's a sign that someone's put it there so it doesn't get discarded. I don't know where on the building it used to belong - perhaps part of something that has since been altered, so it can't go back - but whatever it was, it is put there where it is not forgotten.  It's almost on display. 

Monk. Photograph by me
This monk's head terminates the arch over the porch. It looks like one of the more recent additions to the church. From what I gather of the church's history, I think at some point it was connected to a monastery as well as a priory (I'm really no expert on this), which I guess is why they used monks as a decorative motif. There's one at both ends of the archway, looking solemnly upon all those who enter the church. I don't know if they are representative of specific people or not.

Ornate ironmongery.  Photograph by me. 
Both Raven and I admired the ornate doors - I don't know how old they are, perhaps Victorian, perhaps earlier, but they have the most fabulous swirling ironwork on them.  I have a thing for doors and windows - maybe it's liminality of them. I also really appreciate when something that doesn't need to be ornate gets an artistic treatment. Plenty of church doors have much simpler hinges, some have fancier, but it's nice to see something like this. Someone put enough time, money and effort in for this to be not just an ordinary door - probably several people; someone to make the timbers into a door, someone (or some people) to do the metalwork, someone who designed it, someone who paid for it... Someone who checked that it would fit in the aperture of the door frame! It's not as common these days, to have such things made, and I think we're losing out. 

There are several stained glass windows in the church - framed by stone tracery that looks very, very old indeed - but maybe not as old as the apertures in the walls, as they look like they once had larger arches and arched tracery rather than arches in rectangles. I don't know exactly how many phases of construction and alteration there have been (I counted at least 5) but it's got so much history built into the walls. It was really quite fascinating. 

Spider, photograph by me.
I really like spiders. Raven, not so much. I saw this spindly one on its thread in the porch window. 

Saturday, 11 August 2018

Domesticated: Study Decor

Originally, when I set up Domesticated Goth, I intended it to be about crafts, homemaking, cooking and decorating - a blog to give people ideas on how to make Gothic things for their house, small art projects, etc. Unfortunately, I moved into a rental apartment that had strict rules on decorating, and that put a real dampener on that idea, and instead the blog evolved into a more general Gothic & Goth lifestyle bog, with Gothic tourism, art projects, accounts of my involvement with Gothic Lolita, photography, the odd musical post (I am terrible at writing about music intelligently) and discussion of the Goth subculture itself. 

Three years ago, however, Raven and I bought a house - we didn't buy it outright, we have a mortgage on it, and it's not a very big house, but it's where we call home. Over that time, we've been decorating. Not all of the house is Gothic (the living & dining rooms are open-plan with each other, and have a more earthy, slightly witchy sort of feel, with lots of greens, dark wood and natural and Pagan motifs) and some rooms are more Gothic than others. There's also still a lot of work to be done, so many rooms are still very incomplete; we don't have much money, so we can't hire people to decorate for us, and we barely have the time and the money to do it ourselves, so it has been dragging on. However, my study is the smallest room that isn't a bathroom, and therefore it's one of the more complete.

Spiderweb candelabra and skulls are still quite 'Hallowe'en'
My initial idea was to decorate it in a deliberately kitschy, Hallowe'en-esque sort of way - LOTS of skulls, cartoon bat decals on the windows and ceilings, and quite a vivid purple (Valspar's 'Purple Storm'). However, having had the room for 3 years, I feel that style both feels a bit overbearing and doesn't really reflect my personal aesthetic any more, as I've definitely got further and further into a Romantic, Gothic and very Victorian/anachronistic sort of aesthetic, and I want my study to feel more like it is inhabited by a vampire from an Anne Rice novel than one from a Tim Burton movie. I've still got the vinyl decals on my window because I simply can't get them off, and I think I'm going to have to use a heat-gun to remove them!

My window, with its bat stickers as well as SunSeal mandalas
There are a lot of pentagrams and stars hanging up in my window.
Some of the vinyl decals, those of Gothic architecture and Gothic arches, I will keep. I feel like it's still in keeping with the reproduction 1820s Gothic Revival wallpaper of window tracery, especially the arcade of grey/silver arches - something I need to get a good photograph of! I'm in two minds about the vinyl decals of buildings. I'm not sure if they are too cartoonish to look good, or if their simplicity is a good thing, or whether they should go entirely, or whether I should carefully take a scalpel to them and give them a few more details to make them a bit classier (including making some of the Romanesque arches into Gothic ones!). I don't want to make my study too Victorian either; my 1960's house doesn't have high enough ceilings to really pull off the Victorian look without feeling claustrophobic; the spaces are too horizontal. 

The rounded arches and lack of details annoy me!
I have two favourite sections of my study so far, my 'book nook' reading corner, and my feature wall. My study has a weird L-shape, with a short stubby bit over the staircase, and an above-the-stairs cupboard that I store manga and art materials in. In the stubby area, I have a book-case, a corner unit, a wicker peacock-back chair (inspired by Morticia Addams) and a two-handed broadsword! The broadsword is a claymore, the distinctive variation from Scotland. 

My book nook. Chair pulled out to get a good photograph.
The bookcase is all non-fiction. The top shelf is architecture books, the middle shelf history, culture and anthropology, and the bottom shelf is for big A4+ size books, mostly art, but a few history ones too. It's not big enough for all of my art and architecture or history books, but it's got a few. More shelving is actually something my study desperately needs, and is something I've been working on. Some friends of mine are moving to Scandinavia, and have a lovely double-Gothic-arch bookcase that I would like to buy off them, and I've put two new above-door shelves up in my study, one above the main door for ornaments, and one above the cubby door for notebooks (you can see a bracket for it, sans shelf, in the photo above). I'm awaiting some more shelves in our bedroom, so that I can move all my fiction books out of their stacks under my study desk! I've also got a stack of art books under my study desk, and another stack of art books next to the book-case, all of art books too big to go on the bottom shelf of the bookcase. I've got a few shelves above my desk, but they're for art materials, not books. 

Cubby visible in mirror!
My cubby needs a lot of work; it already has shelves, but they're too broadly spaced out, but too close to simply put an additional shelf in between - I need to take the existing shelves out and put new ones in.  There's also a crack where the back board of the cupboard has come away from the wall, and I'm not sure what the best way to deal with that is, as the problem appears to be lack of an allowance for the expansion and contraction of the building. I think perhaps an L-shaped piece of wood, attached to the brick wall and not the board, will cover the gap while allowing the different materials to expand and contract sensibly. I'm not sure whether the back wall of the cubby should have wallpaper or be painted, and if so, what colours. I also want to save up to get an electrician in, both to move the main overhead light at the conjunction of the two parts of the study, but also to install an additional light in the ceiling of the cubby, so I can see what's in there better. 

The purple and gold book is actually a Harry Potter themed lamp! They're available ::here:: and at the time of writing, they're on sale below half price at £35 (hence why I could afford one!). I'm a bit of a Harry Potter fan, so this was perfect. If there had been a silver on purple version, I would have loved that even more. I had the cover text customised to 'Liber Lux' - book of light (probably slightly wonky Latin; it's been over 12 years since I studied Latin!). When you open it up, the pages light up, and create a lovely ambient glow. I put mine on a mini-lectern/book stand so I can use it while I'm letter-writing or whatnot.

My mini-bodhran and a Gods' Eye weave.
Another thing I use my study for is music practice. I have my bodhran and my doumbek, my fiddle and a whole lot of recorders (flûte à bec, not for recording music), whistles and flutes. Eventually I wish to move my harmonium (pedal organ) up into my study, but my staircase is steep and winding, and Raven and I alone are not strong enough to carry it upstairs; I think it's a four-person job, but not a four-person staircase! I'd like to get a piano for the living-room to sit where the harmonium currently is; I used to play, and my nice piano is at my father's house. 

Raven, in front of a resin crow figure from TKMaxx
The silver and black damask bag behind has love-letters he sent me.
The silver and black box below has letters from friends and family.
I also have a desk, which is where my computer sits, and where I do a lot of my art-work. I haven't taken any proper photographs of the desk itself, because currently my desktop is just some MDF (medium-density fibreboard) and I'd like to get something like some black sparkle formica to make desk-top. I've been looking at the wonderful geode-inspired resin art-work of ::Mrs ColorBerry:: (which is totally incredible; I seriously recommend checking it out!) and I'd like to learn to do something similar to make a cool poured-resin worktop for my desk, although I wonder how heavy that would be! Raven built my desk, and to get ornate table-legs, he cut some banister spindles down to size! 
Hand-painted skulls, and easy DIY project. Just prime then paint!
I do like skull motifs, even if they are sometimes a bit kitschy. These three are small skull decorations from Hallowe'en - £2 for a pack of 9 - which I repainted using nail-polish, to immortalise some of my favourite nail-polish combinations. The iridescent green and purple one is my favourite. These skulls are tiny, about and inch and a half high each. 

I love the Art Nouveau packaging
I love burning incense in my study, although it tends to leave an ashy, dusty mess around the burner. I keep the incense for my study (which has cheesy names like 'Werewolf's Bite' or 'Gothic Prayer') in that purple vase. I used to have dried roses in the vase, but they just disintegrated entirely. I love the Art Nouveau packaging for the 'Yesteryears' incense, so I keep that particular incense out on display. The wall faces on the window aperture are painted a lighter purple (I think it's called either 'Lightning Bolt' or 'Haunting Melody'; I can't remember which of those two I eventually settled on. More Valspar paint.) 

My favourite part of my study is the wall behind where I sit at my desk. I painted it black, with silver glitter dusted into the paint, and it is the feature wall I use to display art work. The art work is on rotation. Currently I've got a lenticular image of a crow on a skull, which I think is from Alchemy Gothic, and a postcard of a cat as Moriarty (having stolen the crown jewels). Half of the picture frames are from TKMaxx and Dunelm Mill, and the other half are thrifted. I'm starting to swap out the artwork for fine art images. Not really visible in this picture, but the image in the concentric rectangles frame at the upper left is a postcard of a Edward Burne Jones sketch  (it is of a woman looking down to her left, with a crown of golden leaves, done in chalks or pastels on a purple background, you can see a version ::here::). I'm going to hopefully fill all the frames with classic art soon, just need to accumulate prints/postcards at the right size. The picture of my father (at work, he's an archaeologist) on the far right is going to be re-framed in a black frame and moved to our bedroom, where we have a wall of friends and family pictures.

Display wall from the other angle, with sword.
Also note the Gothic Revival wallpaper in grey.
You may have noticed I have another sword. I collect them, especially antiques. The sword on my display wall is an antique officer's dress sword from the 1870s-1880s, from Italy, with a beautifully engraved blade. I love the duality of beautifully made weaponry; both artistic and aesthetic, yet designed for a lethal function. There are dents along the spine of the dress sword that indicate it's been used in some form of combat, and I wonder if someone fought a duel with it. It's definitely not a battle weapon (unlike say, a cavalry sabre). 

Unfinished wall with broken sconce; the mirror got shattered.

As you can see, this is not a complete over view of my study, and there is much left to do. I'm going to put a Gothic arched cabinet over my radiator, and I've got facings to put on the shelves over my door. I need to take more pictures of things I have added to my study, like the two new shelves. I still don't have a final floor covering; I've got a rug over floor-boards as I can't afford enough laminate flooring to cover my study yet (however I do have a roll of underlay!). I'm going to try and 3D print a single tile of cornice, then make a mould, and then use that to make dozens of foam ones, in order to get a repeating Gothic arch design to go around where the ceiling connects to the walls. I've already painted skirting board gloss black, but I can't put that in until I've got the laminate floor down. I still don't have enough shelving, as detailed above, and I still have lots of stuff in boxes. 

If my readers are interested, I can update the blog with progress on my study, and with how other rooms are decorated. Please comment if you want to see more of the Gothic décor in my house. There's the witchy living & dining area mentioned before, a French belle-epoque inspired aesethetic, just with added skulls, for our main bedroom, a more modern take on Gothic decor for the spare bedroom/games room and the kitchen. The upstairs hallway is going to be quite opulent, with some really fabulous wall-paper, but I'm still currently stripping the original wallpaper! 

I also suggest checking out two Gothic DIY blogs:
::GIY: Goth It Yourself::, which is currently on hiatus, but which has an archive of PLENTY of projects worth reading and looking at, and
::Me And Annabel Lee:: which is also full of wonderful Gothic decorating and craft ideas and tutorials. 

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Castell Arberth/Narberth Castle

A few weeks ago, Raven and I went to stay with my Dad. I came across this castle by accident - My Dad got Raven to drive him on an errand, and the route went past this castle mound, which was partially obscured by how the road goes down a deep cut in the hill below it. I asked if we could visit the castle on the way back, and we did. If any of my readers are familiar with the Mabinogion, then they will recognise Castell Arberth as one of the chief courts of Pwyll, father of Pryderi. 

Narberth Cemetery

On our way to the castle we went into a cemetery by mistake - we were looking for the path up to the castle mound, and thought this might be through the cemetery, as the graveyard path initially seemed to slope up. The cemetery was founded in the 1930s, so most of the graves are 20thC, I think with some more recent ones. As it is quite a recently used/active cemetery, I only took one picture of the general cemetery area, rather than any of specific graves, and certainly no posing with the gravestones. 

Remains of the castle sticking up like fangs from the ground

The castle was up a different path. You can't see much of it from the road, only one of the towers, but once up there, a lot more of the castle is visible. It is hard, from what is left, to visualise that it was once a mighty fortress, at least the second built on that site, and was built sometime after 1246 (you can read the CADW page ::here::). There were signs around the place with artist's impressions of the original castle, but I think the windows in the paintings are a tad more Gothic than might have been based on the actual window shapes remaining. However, there may have been more pointed tracery in stone frames now long gone. 

This is just part of a broken tower, once attached to a building
It was a damp, muggy day, with a dull grey sky, so I apologise in advance for the photographs being hazy and the skies being boring. I took all the photographs on my phone, as well, as I still haven't got a replacement camera. I'm currently unemployed, so it will be a while before I can afford a decent camera.

Raven was there too, and he took a couple of pictures of me.

Window into the cellar
The most complete part of the building is the pantry/kitchen cellar, with its tough barrel vault weathering the test of time. It's the building that Raven's standing in front of in the picture above. A lot of the stone from the castle was reused to build the town/village of Narberth (Arberth in Welsh) that surrounds. It's a very craggy-looking ruin, and the exterior walls, which would have likely been rendered and whitewashed to avoid the stone walls providing hand-holds, and to add an extra layer of protection from the elements, are now bare, with much of the walls' cores exposed. 

What is left of the great hall. 
The castle was built on a promontory, with a steep drop down to the graveyard below, and even further to the current road level. Geographically, it's quite a defensible location. I think the castle walls merge into a deliberate escarpment to the right of the buildings pictured above. Looking out over the trees now is quite magical. The vegetation there is very lush - West Wales is where parts of what is known as the 'Celtic Rainforest' grows - dense and green, watered by the decidedly soggy climate and warmed by the warm air currents that pass the West of the British Isles, brought by the Gulf Stream. 

Through the windows
The buildings were stabilised in 2005, after an extensive project to stop further ruination of what is left. Unfortunately, there has been graffiti since then, limiting what I could photograph (I don't want to put swear words, crudely drawn phallic images and suchlike on my blog) and also damaging the stonework as it would be difficult to remove the spray paint from the walls without also damaging the surfaces of the stones. It saddens me that I often go to castles and other ancient monuments and there's litter, beer cans (and sometimes worse) and graffiti - the results of people disrespecting their heritage. Ones that charge for entry tend to have less, but I think it's more the supervision of stewards than the price that changes things. 

I went through that doorway.
I did see a family taking their children for a stroll, which is a good thing - nice to see children being taken to such things at young age, hopefully to grow up more respectful of the castle than those who spray-painted the graffiti. I get really angry about people damaging historical buildings.

Inside what's left of the great hall
You can see corbels jutting from the walls where once sat the joists for the first floor. I don't know if there was a second storey on this part. The towers definitely had ground floor, first floor and second floor at least, probably with battlements behind crenelations. All of that is gone now. You can also see where they changed their mind about a window and walled it up into an alcove. 

Note corbel and hole in the wall where a beam once slotted in
I probably spent longer exploring and taking photographs than we really had time for. I find such ruins quite captivating. 800 years is pretty ancient in many ways, but it's actually relatively recent in Welsh history. Near Narberth/Arberth is a truly ancient hill-fort that is thousands of years old. It's somewhat overwhelming at times just how much history there is, layered all around us. I'll have to visit more of the really ancient stuff and blog about that, too. 

The arches are roughly Gothic, but it's hard to tell what the windows looked like with any more detail than that. The castle, like most medieval castles, also had a chapel, which I would expect to have church-like Gothic windows, maybe once having stained glass. Now there's just a hole in the wall. I wonder what happened to the glass. 

The hat and cloak make me look particularly severe.
Raven took a picture of me looking very serious by a window. I'm such a tourist sometimes - I want an 'I was there' picture of me at the places I visit. You can see how much better the resolution is on Raven's phone camera than on mine. I visited two other castles while I was in Wales, and I'll update my blog with those in the near future. 

Saturday, 23 June 2018

Cawdor Castle - 2017 Visit

Last year, Raven took me to Cawdor Castle for my birthday. I wanted to post about it nearer the time, but I lost my SD card with the photos I'd taken. I've been there ::before::, and the first time I was there, it was with the HTC smartphone that didn't have a good camera at all, no proper camera, and in dreary weather. This time, it was May, the weather was bright and sunny, and I made sure to bring a camera with me. Raven also took a lot of photographs while we were there, so there's plenty of photographs from him in this blog! If I find my SD card, I'll do a second post about this trip with my photos on it. I'm really grateful to Raven for letting me use his photographs; I'm really sad about having lost my SD card, especially as it had more than just Cawdor Castle on it. I took a LOT of photographs of the castle building itself, and I really wish they weren't lost.

Photos in this blog-post are in a carousel gallery - if you click on a photo, it will enlarge, and you can navigate between photos with the arrow keys. I've had a couple of messages about 'tiny pictures' so I thought I would clarify. 

Photo by Raven of me walking up to the castle
Cawdor Castle was initially built as a defensive castle in the 14thC by the Thanes of Cawdor. It's since become more of country mansion house with later, less defensible extensions, but it has a rich and interesting history. This time, we went inside the castle as well as seeing the grounds, paying the extra entrance fee, so I got to see more the castle and learn about the castle history - which is my favourite reason to visit castles! You can visit the official Cawdor Castle website ::here::

When I temporarily had blue hair!
Selfies by me. 
I went on the trip during the time I had ::temporarily blue hair::. I keep ending up with unintentional blue hair - I've currently got unintentional blue highlights in my black hair because the black dye is not quite as opaque as I imagined, and also doesn't adhere so well to where my hair was previously green. However, in this instance, my hair turned blue after I washed it, and had originally been green and purple. My current theory is that it's because I'd been using dandruff shampoo, and some ingredient in that caused it to wash out certain pigments from the dye, leaving the blue. 

The first thing I did at the castle was go and get a hot chocolate, and I think either a pain-au-chocolat or a savoury muffin - it's been over a year, I can't remember what I ate. I do remember that whatever it was, it was tasty! The hot chocolate was rather yummy, with frothy cream and marshmallows - a more luxurious hot drink than my usual tea as a birthday treat. 

My hair nearly matched the cup. Photo by Raven 

Photo by Raven, edits by me.
Once thoroughly refreshed, we went for a wander around the castle. Near the entrance to the cafe, I spotted this alcove. As well as looking out of the window at the castle grounds, and being impressed by the immense thickness of the walls, I persuaded Raven to take some aesthetic pictures of me.

The gatehouse has had to repel those who would attack the castle, so its sturdiness is not just for show. One of the daughters of the clan at Cawdor - 9th Thaness Muriel - was at the centre of a lot of clan dispute when as a teenager she was married off to Sir Campbell. It got very 'Game of Thrones' with battles, kidnaps, plots and Thaness Muriel surviving her husband, living 30 years longer than he did. (You can read about that ::here::, just scroll down to Muriel Calder). If you think the fiction of Macbeth is dramatic, then just look what was actually happening in Cawdor a few before Shakespeare.

I actually don't remember this part of the castle, but it's pretty
Photograph by Raven 
We went around the castle interior first. The castle is still lived in - by the current Lady Cawdor, so not all the rooms can be visited. There's a route through some of the castle that is opened up, with guides at various points who can be asked questions about the castle. I remember we bumped into some American tourists who were just as excited about the castle as I was (and who liked my outfit; I think I got called' Lady Macbeth' in a complimentary way.) and both they and I asked the guides plenty of questions. There was an older chap as a guide and he was incredibly knowledgeable about the castle. I perhaps asked too many questions, but I'm a glutton for knowledge.

Palantir-esque orb
Photo by Raven.
There are a lot of spherical ornaments in Cawdor Castle - I think this is an aesthetic choice of the current lady Cawdor, as she commissioned several of the spherical statues in the castle grounds, and it is by her desk that one of the larger stone/crystal orbs resides. Raven took a photograph of it (to the right, click to enlarge thumbnail image). There's also one in one of the visitable bedrooms that is in a stand that makes it look like Palantir from Middle Earth. There's also an ORIGINAL Charles Addams drawing which I got completely over excited about. I don't have a photograph of that. (Lady Cawdor's art collection is intriguing, and I have so many questions in my head from it!)

There's a really fabulous room, with a tree growing in it, and an adjoining 'secret' other room that had been walled up for a long time. I don't have a photograph of it - it's something I tried hard to photograph, and there might be pictures of it on my SD card, but in the meanwhile there's a picture of it on the ::Cawdor Castle website::, second one along, click to enlarge. The tree is part of a legend about the founding of the castle. The Thane of Cawdor, whose earlier medieval castle was not too far away, wanted to build a bigger and better, stronger fortification. He had a dream in which he was instructed to put a chest of gold upon a donkey's back, and then to follow it to where it lay, and build his castle there. He did this, and the donkey went to lie down under a hawthorne tree, which the castle was built around - the tree is still there, growing through the castle basement, protected as the family's prosperity is thought to be linked to the tree. I keep saying British history is very much like Game of Thrones, but in this case it's more like the Shannara Chronicles.

Historic Kitchen at Cawdor Castle, photo by Raven

Photo by Raven. 
Looking at the historic kitchen was interesting. All those copper pots and pans! It's intriguing to see what utensils they had then compared to now - some things I have no idea what their purpose is, some things that haven't changed much, and some things that seem obvious by their absence. What was even more interesting is that one of the last things you go through in the castle, once you've been through the historic kitchen, is the modern kitchen - presumably for when there are private functions (I'm going to guess Lady Cawdor doesn't let hundreds of visitors walk through the same kitchen her dinner is cooked in each night!).

I really like the recessed windows from an aesthetic perspective - I'm guessing they are small and in such deep alcoves because the kitchen is in the basement, and the castle needs really thick, sturdy walls at that level to hold up everything that is above it, especially as it was defensive. Small windows means less of a void in the wall, and less of a space someone could climb in through - however, wide alcoves means more light as light can enter the room from a variety of angles in relation to the window.  
Modern Kitchen at Cawdor Castle, photo by Raven

Photo by Raven.  Click to expand
In front of historic kitchen window
The comparison between the two definitely makes you think about how much the functional aspects of the castle have changed, and the expected requirements for a kitchen. As an architectural technologist, and one that would like to work on residential properties, things like the types of room that have been used for kitchens over the centuries is something that interests me - for example, the historic kitchen is long and linear, almost in a basement, and with the well in the room, (Not visible in the photograph, Raven would have had his back to it when he took this picture) whereas the modern kitchen is in a much squarer room, and a storey up from this kitchen (I think? It's hard to judge when the various phases of the building aren't all on the same set of levels) - both rooms are relatively bright, with lots of white, but the modern kitchen seems much airier, even though it has dark wooden panelling - perhaps because the ceilings are much higher (high enough to be out of shot!). It's also interesting to note the HUGE copper canopy for the extract fans in the modern kitchen - no such thing centuries back, so it would have been much steamier to work in! 

Raven's really into cooking, so I think he also found the two kitchens quite interesting.

Maze with minotaur (left) and castle (right). Photograph by Raven.
There's a hedge maze (or labyrinth?) at Cawdor, but when we were there, it was closed to visitors because the roots of the shrubbery needed to recover from repetitive trampling. However, it was visible from outside, as was the mythologically suitable minotaur in the centre!

Formal gardens, before their peak, in a cloudy moment. Photo by Raven.

Walking with parasol
Photograph by Dave
After we looked around the castle as much as we could, we then went out to the grounds. Last time I went to Cawdor Castle gardens, we walked mostly through the woodland walk area and didn't go through all of the gardens, but this time we went to the gardens. In the Highlands, early May is more springtime than summer, so the gardens aren't as green and luscious as they probably are in later months. I should probably actually go there around this time of year to best appreciate the gardens! That's not to say that there wasn't greenery - as there was, it's just that the trees, hedges and shrubbery weren't at their maximum foliage. 

The weather was quite bright - not hot, but warm enough that a lacy shrug was enough to keep away the chill. However, it was definitely bright enough for sunglasses and parasol (well, to me at least, but I think I have a low tolerance for bright light.) for most of the day. There were cloudier moments, too, but when the sun came out again it was really quite bright.

Spherical fountain, photograph by Raven. 
As mentioned before, there were several spherical garden statues/fountains at the ground. A really interesting one was made of shards of stacked glass, but I lost the photographs I took of that. The stone sphere fountain in the photograph was made by a Japanese sculptor, and there was a matching crescent moon shaped statue - I think the fountain represents the sun. It's an interesting mixture of modern art and a historical castle and grounds. I think the natural stones helps keep the fountain fitting to the site. 

Pond opposite ticket booth/entrance. Photograph by Raven
Cawdor Castle has two main areas of laid out gardens, and then plenty of grounds, wooded and more pastoral, beyond that. There is a lovely pond near the drive and ticket booth, which Raven photographed. It looked most picturesque, a wonderful capture of springtime, especially with all the white tree blossoms. There are more ponds in the woodland area, but I didn't go there that time - they are also very pretty, especially when viewed from the wooden bridges. 

Photograph by Raven, edits/filters by me.
The last photo from the Castle is me sitting at a small picnic table near the ticket booth, I think having just finished a carton of apple juice or something, and discussing with Raven what the rest of our plans would be. For some reason, sitting there was probably the thing that stuck most clearly in my head. I think it was because I looked up at the new leaves on the tree above me, and the sun, which was quite bright, was glowing through them, so they seemed so incredibly vibrant, almost glass-like. It was later in the afternoon by that point, as we had spent a good few hours at Cawdor Castle, and I tweaked the colours in the photograph just a little to try and best capture what the light felt like when I was there. Sometimes you have to bend reality a little to capture what something feels like.

Raven and I together, phone pic by me. 
As far as birthdays go, I think last year's was one of the best. Sometimes a trip out is better than a party (especially if you're more introverted like me. I end up poking my phone at my own parties because I get 'peopled out'!). Going to Cawdor castle was Raven's treat, so I'm very thankful to him for taking me (even over a year on!). He took me out to dinner, too (which, just before, is when I took the selfie of us together - hence the different makeup and outfit). Raven is very much the romantic, and I'm eternally grateful to him for all these years together - as well as Birthday trips out!

Also, this blog would be much less aesthetically pleasing without his photographic talent! Not just this specific entry (which would just be a big wall of text about how much I like Cawdor Castle otherwise), but in general - he's taken so many of the photographs of me for this blog over the years, and they're always really flattering. I don't look half as good in my own selfies - let alone real life - as I do in Raven's pictures of me. He's got a knack for composition and posing that does well to minimise my many physical flaws and highlight my better features (so, less turkey neck, more cheekbones) and even manages to take pretty pictures of me when I'm not trying to pose (those probably turn out better; I pose awkwardly when I know I'm being photographed)