Culzean Castle – Ayrshire

Is it actually worth it to spend almost 4 hours on trains and buses to get to Ayr and proceed to Culzean Castle?

Well, yes. At least it was for me. I’d love to have a getaway like that closer to Glasgow, but I thoroughly enjoyed spending some time without having sirens constantly wailing around my building, drunk undergrads screaming under my window and my next door neighbor shouting on Skype (no, you don’t need to raise your voice to get the tales of your annoying life over to whomever care about that).

Anyways, Culzean Castle, a.k.a. “Cooleen” Castle for whatever reason lies behind spelling in Gaelic languages, was the home of the “powerful Kennedy family” and is the same castle featured on the back of the 5 £ notes issued by the Royal Bank of Scotland.

There are some quite interesting exhibitions open during the summer, like the one on U.S. President Eisenhower housed in one of the rooms of the castle (the reason behind this being that the Kennedy family donated the castle to the National Trust for Scotland in 1945, on condition that one of the rooms would be given to then General Eisenhower for his merits during WWII). During the winter, or anyway until April, there’s not much to do, except for roaming about and hiking in the rich and picturesque woods surrounding the Castle.

I wish I had studied the Castle a bit before visiting, some of the things I regret missing out are the caves and the Camellia House – here’s some prep info on Culzean on Culzean Experience and the National Trust for Scotland website.

Highlights of the day: the rocky shore and the cliff – that was one of the most amazing scenery I’ve ever seen, and that plus the wind plus the overcast, dark grey sky made the perfect postcard for Scotland I guess. The consistency of the clouds here is quite striking I guess, it almost looks like your looking at the sky from a different angle sometimes, like you’re on top of a hill and you can see the bit of atmosphere between the ground and the layer of clouds.

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The castle itself wasn’t particularly exciting – granted, we didn’t visit the inside, since it’s closed during the winter, but the general ensemble was fantastic, I did feel like I was a Scottish lord (or laird) beholding my possessions from the heights of the cliff, keeping a watchful eye on the sea just in case the enemy decided to attack from there.

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This walkway between the Clocktower Courtyard and the castle was built for the servants, so that they could walk to and from the castle without being seen. (NTS)

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Daffodils! You can always be sure to find the odd group of yellow daffodils peeking from the ground, which always thrills the literature nerd in me because I instantly think of William Wordsworth’s poem “Daffodils”

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed–and gazed–but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

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Yes, I got positively wordsworthian when I saw this

The bookshop. I swear I don’t do that on purpose, but I always manage to stumble into bookshops – and God help me, I love bookshops. Especially second hand bookshops like the one at Culzean Castle. I suppose it has something to do with A.S. Byatt’s Possession and the fact that I know I’m destined to come across some lost letter of one of my many favorite authors, something that will turn all the previous scholarship upside down and change the world. Yes, sometimes I fantasize about literary findings that matter more than actual, important and life-saving scientific research. Back to the bookshop, it’s the most adorable bookshop I have ever been in, and I’ve been in quite a few, though not as many as I wish. The walls were lined with shelves, and they set up a nice lounge area in the middle, where you can chill out I guess, or maybe they even hold events there – I forgot to ask. The two ladies manning the counter were absolutely brilliant, we got into a short conversation on what we were studying, were each of us came from, and they had something to say about every book we bought. I do wish to find a bookshop like that in Glasgow, I visited a few, but I’m still far from going through all the ones I listed in my to-visit list.

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I guess stating that I got three books from there is completely unnecessary, but I got all of them for a fiver, so I guess I’m excused. Kinda. I got a biography of Muriel Spark, a book of quotations on cats (the nicest small hardback ever, and for just 1£!! Can’t resist to that one) and a retelling of the Canterbury Tales in modern English by Peter Ackroyd. All nice additions to my personal library, which keeps growing even if I vowed to buy no more books unless it’s absolutely necessary and try and borrow as much as possible from the library. I started the biography on the train back to Glasgow (there’s no friggin’ way you could read on the bus, what with the dreadful state of the road and all), and so far it’s quite good. 

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