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May 2018

Highland Coat of Arms

It turns out that Macbeth bloke was real, doing in a Duncan but that was back in battle in 1040 and a bit before any Thane of Cawdor came along.

There were no meddlings from his missus, neither, and while there was a Banquo, as for his ghost and the witches, Willie might well have scribbled at the top of  page 1... 'Based on a true story, sort of.'

Five miles south-west of Nairn, Cawdor Castle is where the real Thane of Calder[1] used to get his head down while he still had it.

That's a joke, of course, things had calmed right down, territory-wise, by the time this new pad was proposed in the late-14th century.

[1] Cawdor is the English interlopers' interpretation.

Over time, Thane became Earl and Calder became Campbell[1] but that was more through marriage than murder and the Calder-Cawdor-Campbells, or whatever they call themselves these days, still call this place home, sort of.

The sinisterly titled Dowager Countess Cawdor is stepmum to the current incumbent, the 7th Earl of Cawdor. With the help of an Edinburgh courthouse, she kicked him out of the castle[2] along with his wife and three kids in an act that wouldn't be out of place in the play.

[1] This pair are trying to convince themselves these are the good Campbells, not the ones who had a hand in those doings with the McDonalds down in Argyll.
[2] Relations are still said to be, erm, strained.

She's the head of Cawdor Castle Ltd, you see, and didn't want their dirty washing all over the floor of what she sees as a revenue-generating tourist attraction.

She'll let you in, however, for just north of a  Walter Scott although there's a garden-only option for a nudge over a  Nan Shepherd.

Highlights inside include the inevitable, old kitchen that's full of big pans and plastic pumpkins but it comes with its own well down to the burn that runs below.

The tree in the cellar is where a donkey laden with a gold chest came to rest, they say, which is a bit of a burdensome way to choose a building site. The tree's now dead but not so much down to it being over 600 years old, more to do with somebody building a big castle on it.

Upstairs there's more modern art than you might imagine and a small painting of a dog, not shown, by  Edwin Landseer, no less, he of Monarch of the Glen fame.

Sarah Mary Cawdor was a favourite lady-in-waiting to Queen Victoria, you see, and, she who wasn't often amused, arranged for the canine to be kidnapped for the purposes of the portrait.

The painting would go missing for several years due to Alister Campbell, not that one but a black sheep of the family, gambling away the proceeds, probably. The family managed to track it down, which is how it's back hanging here, and wasn't all that worth the extra £4.80 entrance fee?

Outside there are three gardens, one wild, one walled and this one, floral. Not being botanical types, unless you're talking about a clear bottle with 'London' or 'Plymouth' printed on it, this is unfamiliar territory, florally.

What is known is that it looks good and it smells good and it's all down to the dowager who still gets her green fingers dirty, probably.

That and commissioning rather random bits of artwork with this one making use of some old slates from the roof.

There's another globe near the entrance and that one's been done in bronze by a Dane and is the best birdfeeder that's ever been seen and there's been a few.

Some old distant Campbell or other studied fencing in France but not wooden ones, rather a foil to the Law, and the real reason for him revising in the Rhone. On his return, he created this early 18th-century garden by nicking the layout from those in the Loire and all because he preferred a gentler form of deadheading, possibly.

One thing that is known when it's seen is... a Minotaur! It sits in the middle of a maze that came when the, even older, walled garden was remodelled in the 1980s.

Not by the dowager, though, she was too busy plonking modern water features behind the topiary between evictions.

They filmed some of Game of Thrones[1] here and that's another joke, of course, so this ain't no '  High Sparrow'.

More like the unmistakable song thrush doing some fine work in that department and although it's said unmistakable, it might be a mistle, maybe?

[1] No, it hasn't been watched so please stop asking if it has, thanks.

The wild garden sits behind the castle, above the burn, and needs not nearly as much tending as the floral or walled efforts.

It looks not unlike the one an old next door neighbour used to have only without the bikes and sofas in it. They say it's rich in biodiversity, though, even if you don't think that lichen really counts.

Over the bridge are a couple of short trails where a candidate for Scotland's tallest tree lives.

There's also a padlocked gate to Cawdor village that looks like skinflints can snuck over and in for free, not that there's any encouraging that sort of thing, obviously.

Access is all through a door that a thoughtless, young, American lad will leave open for you despite a clear sign saying not to. Idiot.

With the hurlyburly of the castle all done, Cawdor itself is a small, conservation village from where skinflints can snuck into the castle over a padlocked gate for free.

Conservation, of course, means that its buildings are largely untouched and it still functions, in a way, as the original estate village since it's home to a small number of those doing blooming good work in the castle gardens.

  Cawdor Tavern

Next to a bowling green, your one and only option for sustenance if you're not visiting the castle.

It's also the one and only parking provider in the village should you fancy a snoop around here after the castle.

The picturesque Parish Church is expectedly popular for local weddings and the red, timber well makes for some good, post 'I Do' pics, probably.

There's a much better snap of this, actually, but it was shot facing south-west and directly into the sun. No problem, a quick bit of PhotoShop™ping will see to the lighting but all to no avail, just couldn't eliminate that  lens flare...

"Out, damned spot! out, I say!"