Caerlaverock Castle’s Ruinous Allure

October 1, 2014 by Keith Savage
Caerlaverock Castle, Dumfries & Galloway, Scotland

The south of Scotland gets horrendously short shrift by the vast majority of visitors. Even Scots tend to go north, perhaps in an attempt to avoid the English pouring over the border (perhaps history does repeat itself?). I am, of course, kidding – about the English, that is. The south is summarily dismissed by all but the most time-rich and curious travelers. More’s the pity, for, as the scene of many long-remembered battles for Scottish Independence, the south is littered with the ruins of stout fortifications and victimized places of worship.

For a history buff like me, the south ranks very highly indeed. Read more...

State of the Savage: September 2014

September 24, 2014 by Keith Savage
Keith on Driftbourne

Just last week, one of the most important moments in Scottish history, the independence referendum, came and went. I followed along from my home in Wisconsin by streaming BBC coverage and denting a couple bottles of whisky with friends. As the night wore on and the results came back for each voting area, it became clear that the Scottish people had voted against independence. My friends and I turned down the volume, focused on the Scotch, made plans for future weekends, had a pipe – that sort of thing.

It didn’t really hit me until later.

Stirlingshire came back against independence, and the BBC’s weird, angular map of Scotland was all red save for a few, tiny blips of blue… Read more...

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...