Monday, August 31
After another large breakfast (haggis-free in spite of enjoying the sample the night before) we trundled off to our last destination, Dirleton Castle, Judy and Max’s ancestral home.
Another blue-sky-bright-sun morning greeted us, and we drove south, crossing over to Edinburgh, then east towards the headland. We arrived and found ourselves in the lovely medieval town of Dirleton and the grounds of the castle.
Judy and Max were related through their father’s side to the original builders, the de Vaux family, Anglo-Normans who arrived here in the 1100s, one of the many English families invited by David I, King of Scotland (1124-53), as support for his rule.
The de Vaux’s occupied their home for several centuries, passing it to the Haliburtons via marriage with a de Vaux heiress in the 1300s. Another marriage in the early 1500s brought the castle under the ownership of the Ruthvens. As one of the staff who greeted us mentioned, this castle was a favorite of a lot of women due to the females determining the lineage of ownership.
The woman who gave us our tickets and explained a bit about the property was pretty great. When it came up Judy and Max were related to the original owners, Max jokingly made a reference to the fact that, since this was their ancestors’ home, there probably would be some sort of benefit . The staffer smiled and asked which part of the castle he’d like to clean. Good comeback!
To reach the actual ruins we strolled through a beautiful garden.
Max later noticed this particular one had captured an award for having the longest herbaceous border. All you gardeners probably know what ‘herbaceous border’ means, but, Max thoughtfully asked and heard it’s defined as a collection of perennial plants arranged closely together in a riot of color and shape. It was stunning.
And, it was another opportunity to snap a family photo of brother and sister.
Wandering along a climbing path we made it to the actual remains of this 900-year-old structure.
Always up for some light-hearted moments, Max re-enacted what could have been a possible event while Judy wisely stayed out of the fray. Considering Doug’s grandmother was born not too far from here, who’s to say his relatives didn’t visit the castle. They probably would have received a warmer welcome.
The self-directed tour was easy and interesting because of the plaques alerting us in what room we actually were standing. More descriptive signs provided details about the specific room. Believe it or not, I find it extremely easy to get lost wandering around these tumbling buildings, so I’m always on the look-out for something to answer my silent question ‘so NOW where the heck am I?’.
One of the most imposing was the Great Hall, which was part of the original castle. Here, the de Vauxs would hold large banquets eating at one end on a raised platform overlooking their guests and staff. The display mentioned there was an emphasis on cleanliness and politeness, which they defined as not dipping your hands too deeply into the communal bowls and not slurping your drinks. Lovely.
Underneath and carved out of the foundation’s rocks were the vaults holding the household’s provisions. Each separate storage area was under lock and key indicating the value of sustenance.
Walking under the main gate to the ramp we saw the murder hole where defending troops would pour boiling water or oil onto the attackers. Not something I’d want to test by being first in line.
Once outside, looking back at the main entrance we got a better view of the fortifications–this was, after all, designed to withstand sieges and attacks, and saw its share.
After an hour we had completed our tour and headed for the formal garden next to the bowling lawn. Like many castles we’ve seen, Dirleton fell into disrepair through lack of use. In the mid 1600s the owner, Sir John Nisbet, moved to more comfortable housing in nearby Archerfield. However, the ruins became a folly, which is why gardens, such as the formal Victorian one below,
and the splendid herbaceous one featured earlier, thrive here today.
Exiting the castle grounds we wandered around the town and to the church putting off our good-bye to Judy and Doug. Fortunately, we have more family and friends visiting in the future, which helps soften the leave-taking, but, you know me, I hate the good-byes.
We returned to the little car park nestled under the castle’s grounds. Judy and Doug were heading west, back to Glasgow while we were driving south to JUANONA. Fierce, heartfelt hugs were shared around and then we hopped in our car.
Our Haggis Land tour had come to a close but the memories can last forever.
Happy anniversary (September 3rd!) and may you both have many, many more haggis explorations in the future :) xox L&M