Monday 22 May 2017

P.M. and M.P.

It was hard to avoid the faux-Royal Wedding this weekend. Weddings generally, and the English upper-class variety especially, are a quaint ritual, notable for the bizarre costumes and archaic language and customs; but harmlessly diverting and easy enough on the eye, I suppose. Pippa Middleton's dress was certainly lovely; though its price of $70,000 was just obscene. What really caught my eye, however, was the photo in Saturday morning's paper of what the caption declared to be the (fiancé) Matthews family country estate near Loch Ness: a picturesque towering castle on a small island in a lake.
That looks familiar, I thought, sure that I'd seen it on my first visit to Scotland in 2007. Trawling through the photos took a while: Scotland is not short of a castle or two, and I visited my share on that trip (though not, it has to be said, as many as on a much shorter drive through Wales, which really has gone to town, castle-wise. I defy anyone to keep them straight in their head afterwards, without a cheat sheet). In the end, I found it and, though there are similarities, it clearly wasn't the same one. No bridge, for a start. 
So I shrugged my shoulders and went on with my day. Night-time came and, sprawled passively on the sofa, I found myself watching - again - Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Still pretty funny, I was thinking - and then noticed the location for Camelot. Another castle, a different one this time, but again I thought I'd been there. And I had: it's Doune Castle, near Stirling. Which is a beautiful town, by the way, and well worth visiting (even though, according to my notebook, what struck me most was seeing gorse used there as a garden shrub).
Well, I thought, I got one castle right at least. The movie continued until, just before its jokey ending, there was another castle, which Arthur and his men began to storm to claim the Holy Grail (which, by the way, throughout my youth I thought was a bird, a puzzlingly venerated cousin of the quail. Luckily no-one ever found me out - but nor, to my shame, did I ever look it up. It was only when Indiana Jones came along that I learned my mistake. Good thing cinemas are dark). 
And there it was, the eminently picturesque Castle Stalker that I thought I'd recognised this morning. My own photo (at the top) doesn't do it justice, I freely admit; but I don't want to blame the camera since, two days after I took this photo, I managed to drop it over a cliff on the Isle of Skye and kill it stone dead. Sorry, camera.

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