When last you saw us, we were hanging out in the lobby of our first hotel, which was originally the home of the Scotsman Newspaper. The Scotsman Newspaper people were very tony, evidently. Their main building was quite elegant. Even the elevator looks impressive:
The main entrance to the old newspaper was in what is no the restaurant. That carved wood stuff is really in play there:
And it flirts heavily with the vaulted ceilings:
But that's not what I wanted to show you today. We left this grandeur, and piled into a taxi (whose driver was absolutely delightful, by the way). Soon, we were motoring through the countryside, passing hard by those wonderful hedgerows you read about in British Mystery novels, as well as cruising past lovely billowy hilly pastures with cows and sheep and such. Lots of sheep. Lots of cows. Lots of lovely.
My favorite sheepfold was one we passed by on the road to Borthwick:
Note the lone black sheep. She (he??) really was the only black sheep in the field. And while these lovely creatures were very curious, looking at me with interest on the day we walked past this field, they were not particularly friendly. No sheepy faces were presented for scritches here. Just up the road, however, was a pasture with several horses, all of whom did com up for scritches.
Here, we see the castle that was to be our home for two days just appearing in the distance:
It's off to the left there, past the lovely little church. I'm afraid I've forgotten the name of that church (having failed to take notes since I was so very sure I'd have gotten all this posted long before now).
The road into the castle actually looks quite inviting doesn't it? (And off ot the left in this shot, you can see one of the friendly horses).
But, when you get past those trees a bit, you notice that this particular castle is really more imposing than inviting.
There are "lovely" stories about those two towers. They'll give you a flavor of the folks who built this beastie in 1430. Evidently, when they had prisoners, they tended to put them to death. In an "effort" to be "fair" or perhaps "generous," they offered prisoners an option. They'd take them up to the top of one tower and if the prisoner could leap from one tower to the other successfully, they'd let the fellow go free.
Of course, the prisoner would shackled with his hands behind his back. And with a ball an chain attached to his ankles. And would not be given a running start...
Well, they'd have a veritable forest of pikes at the bottom to catch those who fell. As if this isn't foreboding enough, they'd leave the fallen on those pikes as a warning to any who approached.
The folks at Borthwick Castle are much much friendlier now. As you come 'round the side, it's not quite as forbidding... This leads to the back way out,
And this lovely garden would be lovely for a picnic (well, if the weather were a little less "soft" and a tad warmer.
But it remains true that one has to climb the stairs of an old stronghold to get into the main hall.
That wee door just at the top of the stairs there goes into their office. It has the only internet on the premises (and the lovely manager allowed me to check my email twice a day while I was there. Thanks to her, I was able to correspond with the director of the Massage Therapy Program I'm now in, and get back to her in time to ensure that I did, in fact, get into the program).
Once inside we were greeted by a charming charming lady, who swiftly sent a fellow to haul our luggage up to our room. While I'm not usually one to feel comfortable making someone else haul my suit case around very far, I was grateful to escape hauling my case up to our room. These stairs were the only way up...
These stairs are another element of this castle that demonstrates that it was designed with defense as it's number one priority. You'll note the clockwise curl as you go upward. That is because the residents (and the guards) slept upstairs. If an enemy had managed to breach the walls, and actually get into the building, they'd have to go up these stairs to reach anyone of importance. That would mean that their sword arms would be hampered by the narrower side of the stair (and that stone post), while the defending guards coming down would have free use of their sword arms on the way down.
One thing that you can't see here -- the stairs aren't even. If you're battling your way up, you'll trip now and then on a short or tall stair.
And the defense system continues right up to the bedroom door!
Golf pro is not standing on a step or anything here. And he's not a great towering fellow either. At 5'8", he's likely not appreciably taller than most of the folks who built and lived in this caslte. So why is the door so short? No, it's not because this room was originally occupied by hobbits or children. It's so that invaders would have to stoop to get in, and defenders would thus be able to lop their heads off before they even got into a chamber door.
Now, this wee tiny room (which you can see in the back ground) was not the room we'd reserved and pre-paid for. It was quaint and cozy, and had all the amenities you'd want except space. But we'd actually reserved a nicer room. Why then, is Golf Pro standing beside that door with an occupier's air? Because we encountered one of the risks of staying in small venues with only a few rooms.
Evidently, the folks who had stayed in "our" room the night before had flushed something inappropriate down the loo. When it didn't flush readily, and in fact the loo overflowed, they neglected to tell anyone. Apparently they did this several times (perhaps in the hopes that repeated efforts would get whatever the offending item was to escape through the pipes). Thus, the management did not know there was a problem until the folks had long since checked out and departed. The repeated flushing meant that the folks on hand were unable to restore the loo to functionality, and a plumber would be required. But it was mid-Friday afternoon by this point. No plumber would be available until Monday.
Our hostess apologized all over herself. She was so very embarrassed to have to put us in that room (in which a staff member evidently stayed most of the time). They started their compensation for the trouble by giving us a lovely bottle of wine with dinner. The wine was so good we took it's picture so that perhaps some day we can have another such bottle.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. Before we sat down to dinner, we sat in this grat room, sipping tea and then enjoying a before dinner drink (neither of which made it to our bill).
To take this picture, I stood in the minstrel's gallery, through which one passed to get to our room. As you can see, the fireplace is lit. Yes, it was August. But yes, the fire was a very good idea. It never gets hot in a building whose outer stone walls are four feet thick.
And yes, that fireplace is as enormous as you think it is. Only the tallest fellows need duck their heads when they go in to put more wood in that fire grate.
Dinner was exquisite. Again. And for breakfast, they rearranged the room to look like this:
Still embarrassed by having put us in a room that wasn't what we'd been expecting, our hosts upgraded our breakfast (from the continental one that was free, to the hot breakfast with lovely eggs and bacon and such) for free, and then, for our second night, upgraded us to the best room in the house.
My next missive will include a bit more of this edifice's fascinating history, some bucolic views out the window, and a last look around Edinburgh before we headed out to Perthshire.