Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Slain's Castle

Actual Date of this event: 15 August and 20 August

Before I arrived to Aberdeen, I had heard about the AWA Book Club. I have never been part of a book club before but have been interested. Growing up, I did NOT like to read one bit. It was like pulling teeth. In fact, I only remember reading two books when was in school: The Outsiders and Lord Of The Flies. I am not sure if I ever read the books I was required to read in school or if I didnt like them, causing me to forget that I actually read them. It wasnt until Harry Potter came around that I began to enjoy reading. I began reading Harry Potter toward the end of college and could not get enough of it. Since then, I branched out and began reading non-children's literature (well every once in a while I get pulled back in). I have been more of a summer reader though because I would be too tired and busy during the year to read. This past year while teaching, I actually read about 5 books. It was a first and I even started branching out from my "chick-lit" genre. So when I heard about the book club in Aberdeen, I thought I would give it a try to learn about new books/genres, and I am sure I will have more time to read now that I am not teaching.

Last Wednesday, the book club met to discuss The Winter Sea (also released as Sophia's Secret). It is a book based just north of Aberdeen in a town called Cruden Bay. As soon as I began reading the book, I was pretty hooked because it talks so much about the Scottish history and uses Scottish lingo that I am learning more of each day. It is also pretty cool that this town is only a 45 min drive away and includes a castle! I only learned what book the group was meeting to discuss a few days before so I did not get a chance to finish the book before the meeting - I got a bit less than halfway. Not a big deal although I did learn the ending. But again not a big deal. After discussing the book, we decided it would be great to do a day trip to hike around the castle and see what the author Susanna Kearsley was describing.

Yesterday, the book club decided to do the hike around Slain's castle (find the hike here) since it was planned to be a gorgeous day (third one in a row). We left Aberdeen around 9:45, and all five of us were excited to explore the area where the book took place. And we were excited for the sun and warmth! As we drove, we began to see fog ahead - called haar in Scotland. Frustration was building up in all of us, but we drove all that way and we were not turning back. We passed over a river on the drive and, well, we only knew there was river there because we could see it on the GPS. We arrived in Cruden Bay and it was pretty cool so we had to put our jackets on.

We began on an extremely muddy trail. With my running shoes, I stepped as much around the mud as possible or else I would have problems the whole rest of the way. I avoided it, so it was all good. The muddy path luckily ended after we got out of the forest.

We walked through some very narrow trees and could see hills to our left and could hear a stream to our right. In front of us, we knew there were cliffs and the sea but we could not see them. We attempted to take some pictures, but it was just impossible to get any good shots.

We stayed along the path, and eventually ran into the castle. The haar did not allow us to take any good pictures at this point. So frustrating!

We walked to the right of the castle where we could see just how much this thing was on the edge. It was all we heard about in the book, so we had to check it out. And on the cliff it was!

We attempted to take pictures of the North Sea. Not possible.

So we took some pictures of ourselves and determined where to go on the trail next.

Now we were no longer on a clear path. We were walking through a foot wide muddy path with overgrown grass and weeds. This was the point where my running shoes were no longer staying dry. Because the haar was rolling in - literally, we could see it - the overgrown grass was soaking our jeans and shoes.

We took lots of pictures of the cliffs and sea which ended up being pictures of the haar.

In the directions of the hike, we were told we would eventually reach an arch in the cliffs, so we walked a pretty good distance and never reached it. We may have either not gone far enough or not have seen it due to the haar. So we decided it was time to turn around and go back to explore the castle.

The path was very close to the down slope off the cliff.
We never found this area :-(
No one keep's up with Slain's Castle, so inside we found overgrown grass and plants, lots of trash and some graffiti. It is a shame because it could be super cool to view. It is fenced off to keep people from entering, but the gate is wide open, so of course we went inside. The castle is said to have inspired Bram Stoker's novel, Dracula. To find out more about the castle, go here. Here are some of my best shots:

people carved into the stairwell
three floors up
view out of a window in the stairwell
windowless room with trash

looks out to the sea
graffiti on the corridor wall

this fireplaces shows that there was a second floor
another wing
When we were finished exploring the castle, we began to head back to the car to go for lunch. We noticed the haar was not as bad, so we were able to get a few shots of the castle from the distance and of the cliffs we missed in the beginning.

For lunch, we had to go to St. Olaf Hotel because it was mentioned several times in the books and MOST IMPORTANTLY, this is where the author stayed to begin research and write. And of course we got some Sticky Toffee Pudding for dessert.

We mentioned to the owner that we were visiting the hotel because of the book. She remember Susanna Kearsley staying at the hotel and offered to show us the room where she stayed. She also showed us the guest book where Susanna Kearsley signed. It was a very cool experience. The view from the room was amazing! You could see the castle, the sea and the golf course all at the same time.

The castle is in the distance... could not capture it in the picture.

The Group in Room 4 (photo courtesy of Tanvi Aiyer)
We had a great drive back since the haar was dying now. The sea was beautiful. The clouds were fluffy.  The sun was beaming. And it was 74 degrees! Hopefully, we will be able to visit the castle again soon with full views!

Country roads are only two lanes (one lane each way), and it is very difficult to pass a slow vehicle because the lanes are so skinny.


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