Yes, No, Maybe the Duke Will Know: A Timely Visit to Drumlanrig Castle

September 17, 2014 by Keith Savage
The 'Pink Palace' of Drumlanrig Castle

My time in Moniaive was filled with pleasant surprises, not least the Three Glens Luxury Eco House, which turned out to be one of my favorite accommodations anywhere. Neil and Mary proved to be excellent and friendly hosts, spending their evenings with me and inviting me into their home. One evening before dinner, Neil posed a question I’m likely to hear only once in my lifetime.

“Would you like to meet the Duke?” he asked, a big grin on his face.

I paused, the glass of Bailie Nicol Jarvie halfway to my mouth. “Um, yes.” I believe those were my words. Read more...

The Lost Love of Sweetheart Abbey

September 10, 2014 by Keith Savage
Sweetheart Abbey, Dumfries & Galloway, Scotland

The story of Sweetheart Abbey, south of Dumfries and close to the River Nith, is a divisive one, for it will either warm your heart or make you shudder, and in that sense the ensuing story is a character litmus test. I didn’t know this prior to my visit. What I knew was that after visiting Crossraguel Abbey, Dundrennan Abbey, and Glenluce Abbey, my abbey hunting in Dumfries & Galloway would come to an end here at Sweetheart Abbey, perhaps the region’s most famous example.

First of all, Sweetheart Abbey is one of a pair of amazing sites about 20-minutes drive south of Dumfries near the Solway Coast. Caerlaverock Castle completes the pair… Read more...

Journey to the Isle of Whithorn

September 3, 2014 by Keith Savage
St. Ninian's Chapel at Isle of Whithorn

You would be forgiven any confusion upon hearing that Isle of Whithorn is one of the most southerly towns on mainland Scotland. How could an island be on the mainland? That was the question that spurred me onward from Kirkcudbright and late into the day after visiting Glenluce Abbey and Castle Kennedy. Most people don’t pay much attention to the extreme south of Dumfries & Galloway, largely composed of a horn of land jutting into the Solway Firth called The Machars and variously described as disconsolate, desolate, and grim. It’s a safe bet that I will proceed directly to these locations after hearing such ill tidings for I’ve found that my opinion of these s0-called bleak places is often at odds with those of the locals. Read more...

The Black Heart of the Dee, Threave Castle

August 27, 2014 by Keith Savage
Threave Castle, Dumfries & Galloway, Scotland

I write about castles a lot. Maybe it’s the bright-eyed kid in me whose flights of fancy used to lead to devouring every Dragonlance and Forgotten Realms book I could find. That could well be the impetus for my adult escapades, the ceaseless driving over desolate Scottish moors and rolling hills in the search for ruins to lay new eyes upon. When driving won’t suffice, I take to footpaths and even boats to reach the more elusive sites, and these obstacles always add to the experience. Castles are big, bold, beautiful reminders of a few important points that are easy to forget in the slush of modern life: The world can change, we are not the culmination, and that fantasy is often just a name for the paths we have not chosen. Read more...

The Bones of Belief: The Ruins of Glenluce Abbey

August 20, 2014 by Keith Savage
Glenluce Abbey, Dumfries & Galloway, Scotland

Southern Scotland was once the setting for a huge population of Catholic monks dedicated to the various monastic orders of their time. Benedictine, Cistercian, Dominican, and Augustinian monasteries may not have taken center stage in the play of historical events – that is part of what it means to be a monk – but the past would be a much darker, forgotten void without the work of monks who set about recording events in the world beyond their quiet walls. Much of what we know of the so-called Dark Ages is courtesy of the scribes of the various monasteries that thrived in that period. But seeing the tumble-down Glenluce Abbey, I’m reminded of a deep irony: These walls have fallen and the history of the brothers themselves has been lost. Read more...