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..

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) 


  1. Great to see such an in depth walk through round the castle and it's grounds

    1. Thankyou :) Hopefully there'll be more of Cawdor Castle up in future

  2. This is really an amazing post. What a piece of history you and Raven got to explore. You mentioned Lady Cawdor more than once in this piece. So I'm assuming that the castle has essentially, been under the ownership of the same family since it's construction. Seven hundred years, give or take a little, seems an incredible amount of time for a family to retain possession of such a beautiful and historic place.

    I can understand why that couple referred to you as Lady Macbeth. You chose the perfect outfit to visit such an historic place. Of course, I've not ever seen Lady Macbeth portrayed with blue hair, but again, you totally fit in with the aesthetics of that castle.

    Thank you for these wonderful photos as well as providing so much history and detail about this historic place. Hopefully, you'll find that SD card.

    1. The events involving Muriel meant that the castle changed hands through marriage, but from what I've read, it's essentially been a family castle for the whole time, despite all the frictions and feuds between clans. Rait Castle - not too far from Cawdor - was left in ruin due to feud over ownership between two families.

      My favourite portrayal of Lady Macbeth is Ellen Terry in the glittering green gown, especially in the painting by John Singer Sargent. The costume/gown she wore for the performance has been restored a few years back - it's really quite something!

      If I can find the SD card I'll post up the photos I took - they were much more building-orientated! I'd probably go into more detail about architectural stuff if I can get those pictures up.

  3. I love your look and the place is just wonderful too! I wish I can visit this place for a photoshoot someday.


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