I have had a bit of trouble with ‘D’. I can name several villages but I feel it is the big towns that folk are more likely to be interested in so I am going to take a quick look at Dover from a historical point of view. Before that there is one place that I have to mention; a place that I visited several years ago with my family and one that stirred up the novel that is rough drafted and sitting in my desk drawer. This place is a castle in Scotland, near Stonehaven and is the most amazing place I have been to, surpassing Edinburgh Castle just by its situation.
Dunnottar Castle was one of the places I have been that made such an impression in me that my mind instantly built a picture of what it might have been like. Its situation totally blew me away and I could have stayed there forever, had it not been a ruin of course. Perched high on the cliffs the ruined castle has sea on all sides apart from one, the way in. This entrance was a long winding pathway down steps hewn in the rock for the most way, through what seemed to be a cave of an entrance. There are pictures on the following website and a lot of details about the castle. Because of copyright laws I cannot publish any pictures from that site so the link is the next best thing. http://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/stonehaven/dunnottarcastle/
The only other entrance to the castle is by boat and a hefty climb up the path in the castle cliffs. The bottom of the path can be seen in the picture on the left to give you some idea of the difficulty there might be to get to the top and making Dunnottar castle practically impenetrable but even so it is an important site in Scottish history and many sieges took place there. The history of the site goes back to sometime between 5000 BC to 700 AD, but there is no exact known date. As I am giving several links to information sites and I haven’t done enough research on it I will just mention my thoughts on this amazing place.
The atmosphere is completely awesome, and by awesome I mean it in the true sense of the word. I defy anyone visiting there to come away without a sense of wonder and carrying a few ghosts from history in their minds. It gets you that way. As you stand and look out of the windows the fresh sea air tosses your hair and takes your breath, sea birds dive and soar past the deep stone ledges of the windows as they swoop to rest on the cliffs below. A look out of the window has to be the most breathtaking view ever. I have been up in mountains, in valleys and on wonderful coastlines but nothing compares to this view for me.
The cliffs are a sheer 160 feet and the sea crashes onto the rocks below. The castle is built into the cliff so close to the edge that no one could ever escape from those windows, nor the castle itself. Although most of the castle is ruined there are some areas that have been renovated and the ‘Drawing Room’ can be used for that very special meal I believe, though I cannot imagine caterers taking food all the way down that path. The keep and vault are well preserved and even a picture leaves one with that sense of awe so do look at the linked site.
Far from being just another ruin, the castle is also used for Weddings. The ceremony can be held anywhere in the castle from the Smithy to the Chapel but I guess the guests must all have to be fit to walk the pathway into the castle as access by wheelchair must be impossible, but what a perfect place for a special day . http://www.dunnottarcastle.co.uk/uploads/dunnotter_leaflet_2011.pdf
Another reason to enjoy the castle, and I don’t just mean the historical re-enactments that take place throughout the year, is the amazing variety of wildlife around. There are boat trips that take you round the cliffs beneath the castle where you can see caves and observe sea birds like the guillemots, razor bill and kittiwakes that breed on the cliffs. Although fewer than the first three I mentioned you can also see puffins, shags and herring gulls too. Of course the sea has it own attraction in the seals and dolphins that appear from time to time.
Dunnottar is one of the most memorable places I have visited. I should love to go back there one day but these days difficulty in walking won’t allow me to climb the rocky pathways and uneven floors but, I live in hope. Meanwhile the feeling that the place leaves you with has been such inspiration for my writing, just thinking about it has rekindled that excitement, so all is not lost.
I haven’t given up on Dover because the history there is also amazing but because I struggled with it I shall revisit at a later date, meanwhile on to ‘E’.