Where Romance and History Meet - www.heartsthroughhistory.com/

Friday, June 10, 2011

Crichton Castle, Scotland

CRICHTON CASTLE
MIDLOTHIAN, SCOTLAND

Crichtoun! Though now thy miry court
But pens the lazy steer and sheep,
Thy turrets rude, and totter'd Keep,
Have been the Minstrel's loved resort.
-Marmion, Sir Walter Scott
The remarkable thing about Crichton Castle is its deceptive surroundings. Stark and lonely, the castle sits in a place devoid of habitation, as if forsaken by the whole world. Indeed, nothing has been built in this part of Scotland in over five hundred years. But yet Crichton is only mere minutes from the capitol city of Edinburgh.
Now a ruin, the castle is maintained for visitors by Historic Scotland. Today, June 10, it is closed. This is important to know in case my post inspires you to pop down the A68 and visit the castle for the afternoon. Not that many of us are able to do this, but wouldn't it be great to leave your office in a major urban center and in a few minutes be standing in the Great Hall where Jamie Hepburn watched his sister marry the Queen of Scots' brither?
'Tis so easy to get carried away.
The castle began like many others in the Scottish Borders as a simple peel tower. Overlooking the Tyne River valley, it had been built in the late fourteenth century by John de Crichton who, like his Norman ancestors, valued a fortified residence. Eventually this tower house became the central component to several expansions carried out by his descendants and survives today as one of the oldest examples built in Scotland. John's son became Lord High Chancellor and added the great hall to Crichton to reflect his family's growing power. But it was his acquisition of another castle, belonging to the murdered earl of Douglas, that forever linked the name of Bothwell to Crichton.
Eventually the castle, along with the earldom of
Bothwell, was given to the mighty Hepburn
family. It was under the tenure of the notorious and aforementioned fourth earl, James Hepburn, that Crichton saw its most tumultuous days. The castle was alternately sacked, given to a wife later divorced and finally forfeited to the Crown. The last earl of Bothwell, Jamie's nephew Francis, was a favorite of James VI and regained possession of Crichton. It was he who gave the castle its most distinctive feature, an Italianate courtyard with a faceted surface that he designed from his memory of travels abroad.
The Renaissance had penetrated even the most remote corner of the wild Scottish borders.
Crichton was a ruin by the time Scott's Marmion had been published to great acclaim in Regency England. The Age of Reason that inspired the neoclassical facelift of Crichton's courtyard had given way to the Age of Romanticism and its fascination with the crumbling and abandoned. Scott's words, brimming with longing and charged emotion, made Crichton into a mystic symbol of a vanished world. No wonder his readers later flocked to see the castle rendered in J. M. Turner's lovely watercolor.
Even Jane Austen had to acknowledge the breathless excitement over ruins that Scott's poetry might evoke. Her sensible heroine in Persuasion, Anne Elliott, cautiously debated the merits of Marmion with Captain Benwick, but privately hoped her companion might not confine himself solely to poetry and the danger it can pose to a melancholy heart.
It has been several years since I've visited Crichton. On approach, I was quite convinced the map had led me astray through pasture and hillside occupied by sheep and little else. But as Crichton Collegiate Church appeared, it seemed the destination must be close by, and it was. The car park was situated some distance away from the castle, necessitating a hike up a "terrace" of bracken and stinging nettle. But the view was well worth the journey. Nothing can compare to the sight of Crichton as it gazes sullenly across the valley towards Borthwick castle, which had the temerity to be restored and converted into a hotel.
At the entrance, a very nice man who was looking after things inspected our passes. He seemed glad of the company, having a jolly, informative manner completely at odds with Crichton's isolated and mournful demeanor. Remarkably, the fellow had just finished cleaning (!?!) the castle's pit prison which is at the top of a railed stairway. He proceeded to describe the variety of sticks, tourist pamphlets and bones (presumably animal and not human) that he had fished out of the deep, dark hole.
Of course every castle has a ghost and we were duly told of the apparition seen by visitors of a horse and rider riding up to Crichton and disappearing into its exterior wall where a former entrance once was before it had been bricked up. Others have mentioned an apparition sometimes seen in the ruined stable block some distance from the castle.
And one more thing: Crichton is a popular geo-cache location. I've been told that's because it is a muggle-free area. Go there and you will understand why.
Visit Angelyn at her blog http://www.angelynschmid.com/ for more forays into the Regency era and historic buildings throughout the United Kingdom.

10 comments:

Paisley Kirkpatrick said...

Wonderful, wonderful post. I love castles and anything Scottish is a favorite of mine. What a history this place has - hmmmm my ancestory is from the Douglas Clan. I know some of those ancestors of mine were not favorites of the royalty.

Thanks for taking me there today. :)

Caroline Clemmons said...

Thanks for the lovely trip to Scotland--always a welcome diversion.

Angelique Armae said...

Thanks for the fabulous post! I love castles, so enjoyed reading this.

Angelyn said...

Thank you all for your compliments! Crichton is pretty amazing. And so is the Douglas clan---the venerable Margaret Douglas (Mary Queen of Scots' mother-in-law) is an enduring favorite.

Jody said...

Wonderful post, and a castle I have missed in this area of Scotland. I was suprised to see how close it was to Dalkeith and Bonnyrigg as well as Roslin. I have to wonder how much of the land around it though is owned by Historic Scotland, hence little urban sprawl from the north.

Last time in Scotland spent a 10 days in Roslin and spent a lot of time in the Borders, this castle from the outside reminds me a bit of the stone fortress at Hermitage but the Italian touch is quite remarkable.

BTW was Margaret Douglas the daughter of Queen Margaret Tudor and Archibald Douglas? I too find the Douglas family one of the most interesting misunderstood of the Scottish Borders. Great post.

Diana Cosby said...

Interesting, thanks for the wonderful post as pictures!

Angelyn said...

Jody and Diana---glad you liked the post. There's an old 70s novel called the Green Salamander that gives Margaret's perspective on her rather interesting love life plus what I think passes for an apology from an indulgent mother. Margaret was indeed Henry VIII's niece and at times highly favored by him. Another Douglas, known as the Earl of Morton, was convicted of killing her son, Henry Darnley after he was deposed as regent for Margaret's grandson.

PS--congratulations, Diana--I love following your successes!

Diana Cosby said...

Angelyn said...

Jody and Diana---glad you liked the post. There's an old 70s novel called the Green Salamander that gives Margaret's perspective on her rather interesting love life plus what I think passes for an apology from an indulgent mother. Margaret was indeed Henry VIII's niece and at times highly favored by him. Another Douglas, known as the Earl of Morton, was convicted of killing her son, Henry Darnley after he was deposed as regent for Margaret's grandson.

~Thanks for sharing. As I research, I find so much fascinating info. :) It's easy to lose hours, days, months and years to researching. *G*

PS--congratulations, Diana--I love following your successes!

~Thank you so much, Angelyn! It's as exciting as humbling. I wish you the best as well!

Teresa Reasor said...

I loved the blog. I LOVE castles of any kind. Beautiful place.
Thanks for posting this.
Teresa R.

Angelyn said...

Glad you liked it, Teresa.