Joined: January 2nd, 2015, 7:17 pm

April 10th, 2018, 7:57 pm #256

Day 5:  Stirling Castle

We packed up early (ish) and drove the hour or so it took to get to Stirling.  I visited the town and castle 12 years ago, and always thought it was such a beautiful area.  The castle's situation in a wide and long valley on a rocky outcrop right in the middle of the valley reminded me exactly of what Edoras in Lord of the Rings would have been like.  It is also a must see for anyone.  The picture below is from the castle ramparts of the town (as well as Stirling Bridge) and the Wallace Memorial in the background.   Stirling Photostitch - Copy.jpg
I took that picture in August of 2005 when we had beautiful weather...this time it was absolutely pouring...all day!  Oh well, we had such beautiful weather during all of our trip so far, so I guess we were due for some rain.  🙄

Our tour guide (named Claire!) was great at timing our outdoor jaunts between the various buildings to the minute or two when the rain slacked off to just pouring, down from deluge!  When I had visited the castle in 2005 it was beautiful, but quite empty inside, and you had to do a whole lot of imagining of what it must have looked like in its heyday.  In 2002 a major effort was underway, behind the scenes, to do a very large-scale restoration of 5 rooms inside the Royal Apartments.  It was a massive undertaking, costing 20 million pounds and 13 years to complete.  I can say that it was absolutely worth every penny!  In one of the first rooms was a staff member dressed as a court jester, who could answer the many questions I had.  He talked to us about the famous Stirling Heads, a series of 56 Scottish Renaissance oak carvings of heads (busts) of many of the kings and queens of Scotland, Biblical figures, Roman Caesars, as well as English kings.  They adorned the ceiling in the King's Presence Chamber, but after King James VI of Scotland (James I of England) left for London, the castle fell into decay and by 1777 the ceiling had collapsed destroying all but 38 of the heads.  The castle also suffered damage during the Jacobite Rising from English soldiers.  The heads were painstakingly restored to their original brilliance and displayed as they would haven been in James V's time.  The castle has some of the originals on display in another part of it, where the process of restoration and recreation is explained.   IMG_5212 - Copy.JPG
In another room was a series of seven recreated and very famous tapestries called The Hunt for the Unicorn.  They are absolutely breathtaking to see, and when you talk with the staff members about the process that was undertaken it gives you a whole new appreciation for them.  A bit of the story...in 1998 the decision to clean the series of original tapestries (which are in NY) was made, so once the tapestries had their linen backings taken off, they were properly cleaned and dried revealing the vibrant colours and the excellent condition of them.   It was thought, then, that perhaps they could be recreated.  A series of digital photos were taken of the front and back, and the images merged.  There was so much data that two mathematicians were hired to work out the calculations!  From this, a pattern (called cartoon) was created and the colours computer matched to most closely resemble the originals.  I'm sure there are thousands of colours in each of the tapestries; all the colour threads would be solid colours so the shading and highlighting was painstakingly created with different colours.  Then two teams of master weavers were assembled from around the world (Canada, Australia, US, Japan, Russia, Europe, Britain and more but I can't remember them all), one team working at a studio in Sussex and the other right on the Castle grounds in the area called the Nether Bailey.  The tapestries were woven from right to left (laid down on their sides), on the largest looms that could be constructed.  They were woven this way so that there was the least amount of colour changes that had to be made, but also it has to do with the way the knotting lays down.  If you think about it and look at the picture below, most of the subjects are vertical...the people, legs, tree trunks, animals, etc...so it would make it easier to weave from the side.  Also, then you weren't restricted by the size of the loom if you wanted to make the tapestry wider.  There is so much detail and accuracy in each of the tapestries, right down to being able to easily identify each of the individual flower types.  Amazing!  The staff lady also explained that even though the story initially just looks like it is about the hunt for the Unicorn, it is also about the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, with lots of hidden meanings everywhere, a lot of them identifiable as Catholic.  The recreation is such a wonder, and it's easy to see why the originals were so prized...and expensive.  The vibrant colours of these will never fade because instead of the traditional silk thread the weavers used mercerised cotton.  Lots of information I know, but I was truly enthralled by the tapestries and the effort to recreate them.  The great reveal was in 2012, along with the rest of the restoration of those rooms.  I've tried to leave this file a bit bigger, so you can see the detail...hopefully it works!
IMG_5231 - Copy.JPG
After visiting the main buildings we went down to the kitchens, which were recreated to look like they would have been in Mary Queen of Scots' time, complete with plaster people, animals and all kinds of food and cooking equipment and utensils.  It was great to see.  They even had a book with recipes from the time!  I was going to include a couple of pictures, but my posts keep getting too long.  We also went to the armoury and the Nether Bailey, where the tapestries were woven and the loom is still there with a life-size picture of the Canadian weaver (Ruth) working away.  There were also a few videos as well as examples of test squares that you can inspect closeup that the weavers did in preparation for doing the real project.  Honestly, Stirling Castle could easily be an all day visit there is so much to see, but we had other places we needed to see and experience, so just after lunchtime, we left...on to the next place!  Both my husband and myself thought Stirling Castle was the most amazing place we had seen, and we highly recommend going there.   
Last edited by Zahia on April 12th, 2018, 6:23 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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audiobooklover
Clan Fraser
Joined: July 19th, 2010, 10:09 pm

April 11th, 2018, 1:26 am #257

Wow!  That sounds really cool.  It's really interesting to find out how they do things like restore or recreate works of art.

A few months ago I saw an exhibit on the St. John's Bible, which was the first handwritten-on-parchment bible created in several hundred years.  They used a mix of old and new techniques such as laying out each page on a computer and creating a brand new font that looked similar to ancient texts but was also easily readable; but also using ink that was hundreds of years old (the guy who initiated the project found and purchased 144 old bars of ink - to which you add liquid to use - and they used 142 of them to complete the project) and feather quills and such.  I found it all quite fascinating.  For similar reasons I loved reading your descriptions here.

Thanks again for letting us all travel to Scotland vicariously.  
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Joined: August 7th, 2017, 4:50 am

April 11th, 2018, 2:42 am #258

I'm planning to visit Stirling Castle and your background info and photos make me want to go all the more.  Thanks!
If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all. ~ Oscar Wilde
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'I noticed you capped all my best quotations,' said Lymond absently. ~ The Ringed Castle
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Joined: January 2nd, 2015, 7:17 pm

April 11th, 2018, 8:27 pm #259

I guess when Gutenberg printed the first Bible it must have signaled the beginning of the end for handwritten Bibles; such a revolutionary machine!  I am thankful that all throughout Britain (and Europe too) there are projects of restoration and recreation happening all the time, keeping the master crafts alive and constantly training up apprentices.  So much of history is lost, but when people take time to preserve and recreate things it is heartwarming...and interesting!  Thanks for sharing that, ABL.  I had no idea there were 'bars of ink'!  And it was great luck that he had just enough to complete the project.  Whew!  Was it a traveling exhibit?  

LeslieEmrys, I would go back to Stirling Castle in a heartbeat!  I'm very excited for you, and I'm really looking forward to reading all about it and seeing your pictures when you get back!  When we got back from our trip I spent the next two months furiously writing everything down in journals (I didn't have any time while we were touring) and I'm so glad I did!  I took over 5000 pictures and video, plus my husband had his cell phone and I had mine, so I was able (with a little help from Wikipedia and Google maps) to recreate a lot of detail about our trip.  Oh, you're going to have so much fun!! 😊
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Suec
Clan Fraser
Suec
Clan Fraser
Joined: September 25th, 2012, 9:08 am

April 11th, 2018, 9:14 pm #260

I do love your summaries of your various visits . Stirling Castle is a favourite of mine and the restorations are great. Please carry on you bring it all to life.
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audiobooklover
Clan Fraser
Joined: July 19th, 2010, 10:09 pm

April 11th, 2018, 9:46 pm #261

Here is the link about the St John's Bible.  I saw it at a traveling exhibit.  Well, a limited number of pages were at that exhibit.  There is a gallery at St John's University where you can see it and I'm not sure where the traveling exhibits may be.  Eventually, they will bind all the pages together into seven books (it would be waaaaaay too heavy as a single book), but for now, I know there have been multiple traveling exhibits.  Not sure of details.  But, it was well worth seeing, IMO.
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Joined: January 2nd, 2015, 7:17 pm

April 12th, 2018, 6:26 pm #262

Thanks, Suec!  I'm glad you're enjoying them.  It sounds as though you've been up to Scotland (once or twice!) and I would love to hear your stories, too...and see pictures!

ABL, thanks.  I looked at the link and it looks amazing.  I didn't realize that it was an Illuminated Bible.  Wow, what an undertaking!
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Suec
Clan Fraser
Suec
Clan Fraser
Joined: September 25th, 2012, 9:08 am

April 14th, 2018, 8:16 pm #263

I will be in Scotland again this summer for a week. Normally my visits are to see relatives or as is the case this year again taking my grandchildren up for a holiday so excursions tend to centre around their interests and boredom thresholds !
I was interested in your Edinburgh ghost walk as I have been on  a tour of Mary King’s Close in Edinburgh which was buried for a couple of hundred years when the new town was built on top of the existing tenements. It was quite spooky.
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Joined: January 2nd, 2015, 7:17 pm

April 16th, 2018, 4:29 am #264

Suec, it was really hard to choose between Mary King's Close and the Mercat Tour; they seemed quite different from each other.  I would love to hear your impression of it...and if you have any pictures...😊 The night before we went on the Ghost Walk I happened in on the shop of Mary King's Close (to use the loo!) and they were just setting up for their first whisky night, where they would sample premium single malts whilst in the company of 'ghost stories'.  It looked like quite the fun experience, but a bit dear for us.  Maybe next time...
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Joined: January 2nd, 2015, 7:17 pm

April 16th, 2018, 9:50 pm #265

Day 5 continued:  Doune Castle

After leaving Stirling Castle, we drove the short distance (only 10 miles!) to Doune Castle...aka...Castle Leoch!!  We were very excited to see the outline of the castle through the trees.  It was a  very gloomy, cold and rainy day, much like when Jamie and Claire first came to the castle after many days of riding.  First of all, it gave me an appreciation for what the cast and crew must have had to endure, weatherwise.  It certainly was real Scottish weather though!  My husband and I were looking forward to poking around in this most Outlander of Castles.    IMG_5413 - Copy - Copy.JPG
We knew, from reading online, that Terry Gilliam (from Month Python's the Holy Grail movie) was the narrator of the self-guided tour and that it was amazing...but what we were pleasantly surprised to find out was that there had been Outlander-themed additions to the tour, and it was narrated by Jamie Fraser Himself!!  Well, ok...Sam Heughan.  How exciting!  Terry Gilliam's narration was awesome; he would give the history of the Castle, plus give tidbits of fun information about the filming that was done at the castle and sometimes there would be an audio clip of the part of the movie that was filmed at that location.  It's really great, and it made me want to watch the movie again right away!  Then we got to one of the three locations where Sam would discuss the filming of Outlander.  The first was in the courtyard pictured below.  I'm sure when Monty Python was filmed in 1975 there wasn't a whole lot of protecting done of the castle and the grounds, but in today's filming climate, there seems to be a whole lot that the crews have to do to preserve things.  Jamie, I mean Sam, explained how they got the courtyard to look the way it did in Castle Leoch;  they couldn't risk damage to the cobbled stones, so they first dumped six tons of sand down on top of tarps, then got fake stones and put them down, spreading them over top so that they looked properly laid down followed by tons of soil (which of course turned to mud in the Scottish winter!).  After doing all of that, only the ground was prepared.  Next they built a whole bunch of huts and lean-to's in the courtyard.  They were first filming in the fall of 2013 and they returned in the spring of 2014 to the castle to finish filming, but they left all of the props and building add-ons up over winter.  By the time they returned, the birds had helped themselves to the thatched roof to build their nests, so much of the roof needed to be replaced!  Too funny!  They also built structures that were outside of the castle walls leading up to the entrance.  Everything was made to look like it belonged there, and had been there for centuries!  What struck us about the courtyard was just how small it was!  Camera angles and special lenses (with probably lots of post-production) made it look so large in Outlander!  
IMG_5382 - Copy.JPG When Claire (in Season 1 Ep 2) was up on the ramparts watching Dougal sparring with Hamish in the courtyard, the ramparts looked fine, but in reality, they're very treacherous to walk on because the stones are so uneven.  They are currently restoring the ramparts and you can't walk on them.  I'm sure with all the money that Doune Castle received from Starz for filming rights for Outlander, there will be a whole lot more restoring in the future.  It will be interesting to see other people's pictures as time goes on.  

We went into the Kitchen Tower at one end, and it was empty but you could see Mrs. Fitz's kitchens!  That was fun.  Sam explained that once again, they were not to disturb anything inside the castle, so the crew was allowed to make an 8x8 foot plaster mould of the walls, and from that by changing the size and direction of the mould, made the entire interior of the castle...on a soundstage!  Amazing!  There was no filming done inside the castle!  Yet when you watch it on TV it absolutely looks like it was filmed inside!  They recreated Mrs. Fitz's kitchens as well as the many passageways and staircases throughout.  Wow.  No wonder Outlander costs so much, and takes so long to film.  They also (I can see now) do a lot of post production work: editing, splicing, layering and creating landscapes.  In the real castle, there were no hallways to go down, no Surgery, no Laird's rooms, no Great Hall...nothing!  It was all created!  For some people I guess this would diminish the experience of watching Outlander, but for us, it just made us appreciate the effort all the more.  We can hardly wait to watch it again.  

Castle Doune's real history is rather sad.  The Duke of Albany (in the 1400's) was often away from the castle and at war, so his wife would often be alone, with a small group of her ladies.  The days and months would drag on and so for entertainment, the ladies would take turns reading aloud just so that the Duchess could hear friendly voices.  It sounds very lonely.  Eventually the Duke was killed in battle, and their son was executed for treason.  Very sad.  Only the North and Northwest towers were ever completed, which may explain why it was so small and bare.  In one of the rooms there was a view of the grounds surrounding the castle where Sam explained the filming of the shinty game in Episode 2 (Season 1) and the fun (and competitive spirit) that the actors had filming it.   There were quite a few bruises...  The last narrative that Sam had he explained how difficult it was to learn Gaelic (Gaidhlig).  My husband (before our trip) was trying to learn it too, and can attest to its difficulty.  Jamie speaks Gaelic fluently (of course) so Sam had to spend quite a long time making his words sound natural, as Jamie would revert back to Gaelic whenever he was emotional, either happy, sad or angry.  It was such a treat to have Sam give some of the insights behind the filming of Outlander.  I hope that Historic Scotland continues to add features like that to some of their other properties that were used in Outlander.  

It was still pouring outside, so we went into the gift shop to have a peek.  There was lots of Outlander merchandise, and...a rack full of clothes to try on!!!  At first my husband rolled his eyes but I was excited to try on one of Claire's dresses, so I managed (with the help of the shop lady) to convince my husband to try on a kilt and jacket.  The lady helped me dress (just like Mrs. Fitz helped Claire!), except that I just put the clothes over my own clothes...no undressing necessary!  😉  I had a laugh when she handed me the 'bum roll' and said "just what every woman wants, more bum!"  Then she helped my husband into his costume, which was tricky.  I was amazed at how heavy the dress was, but it makes sense to guard against the cold Scottish weather.  
IMG_5373 - Copy.JPG That was a whole lot of fun!  The shop lady said that since we were such Outlander fans, she would give us directions to another Historic Scotland property that was featured in Outlander...Tullabardine Chapel, but that's for the next post!  😊
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Joined: August 7th, 2017, 4:50 am

April 17th, 2018, 2:03 am #266

I'm bookmarking this post about Doune Castle because it's also on my list of places to visit.  I'll definitely look for that rack of clothes!
If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all. ~ Oscar Wilde
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'I noticed you capped all my best quotations,' said Lymond absently. ~ The Ringed Castle
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audiobooklover
Clan Fraser
Joined: July 19th, 2010, 10:09 pm

April 17th, 2018, 2:58 am #267

Thanks so much for the detailed description.  Love the pic of you and hubby.  I'm so enjoying my virtual trip to Scotland as I live vicariously through you.
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DLT
Clan Fraser
DLT
Clan Fraser
Joined: May 26th, 2012, 7:06 am

April 17th, 2018, 8:40 pm #268

Great details about your trip, Zahia, and lovely photos. Thanks for taking the time to describe it all to us. How interesting that they hardly used any of the actual castle (Leoch) to film in for Outlander. Stirling Castles sounds like a fascinating place to visit.
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Lady Jayne
Clan Fraser
Joined: October 4th, 2009, 7:41 pm

April 21st, 2018, 10:51 pm #269

Zahia, I love the pictures and descriptions of your trip. They are great! Thanks for sharing the picture of you and your husband as well. You both look wonderful.
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NigheanDubh
Clan Fraser
Joined: September 17th, 2009, 3:16 am

April 22nd, 2018, 1:09 am #270

Zahia.  Just amazing and so informative.  The photographs are wonderful.  I love the one of yourself and dh.  
Thank you for taking the time to share so much.  Much appreciated.  
I'm hoping to do Scotland at some point soon.  I will have to remember to return here to re-read what you visited and saw.  
"'I wish to God,' said Gideon with mild exasperation, 'that you'd talk--just once--in prose like other people.'"
--Game of Kings
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