Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Melrose is where the heart is


What’s not to like?

It occurs to me that I’ve never met anyone who admits to disliking castles. Proper ones that is, preferably ruined. Nothing worse than a castle full of inhabitants. That's always the fatal flaw with Bamburgh Castle as far as I'm concerned. No, a proper castle should be in a degree of ruin and in the middle of nowhere, though Richmond Castle’s all right and is indeed in the middle of Richmond. Abbeys are good as well. I recommend Melrose which comes with its own vampire and Robert the Bruce’s heart. Tynemouth Priory is excellent value as it’s also a castle, a WWII gun emplacement and a coastguard station. It’s a sort of English Heritage version of a transformer toy. Dryburgh Abbey not only has Walter Scott buried there (with his biographer Lockhart buried at his feet) but also Earl Haig. That was a surprise. His tombstone is, by his request apparently, the same simple one that was used for the war graves in France and Belgium which would be touching if he wasn’t responsible for there being quite so many of them.

Battlefields, on the other hand, can be a touch dull. I have a soft spot for them but can sympathise with the 1/3rd of my uncles who slowly froze as I tramped around the Culloden battlefield occasionally shouting out excitedly that I’d found the place where young Wolfe of Quebec fame had probably stood, or some such. Earlier this year, myself and 50% of my brothers and sisters-in-law (and their dog) visited Bosworth field. Except, as you've probably read, it appears we didn’t. The actual site of battle seems to have been a couple of miles away according to new archaeology. Most of the site, it has to be said, is just fields, but in a meadow by the canal is a strangely affecting monument to the memory of Richard III marking the spot where, local tradition has it, he was killed. Someone had left a white rose there. And now it’s possible that it has no link to the battle at all. Ah well.

Stick to castles. You know where you are with them.

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