Kinross Tourist Information Centre, just off the M9 Motorway, was our meeting point on a cold but clear, late winter Saturday. Due to some tight access situations later in the day, it was decided to minimise the larger than usual number of cars, and to pool our resources. The reduced number of vehicles then set out on a one-day tour of castles in the Kinross area. Many of the tour attendees would also be attending the SCA's "Restoration" Conference, which was set for the next day, at Fernie Castle Hotel.
Our first destination was TULLIBOLE CASTLE, a short drive from Kinross. This is a fine tower-house and is occupied by descendants of its early inhabitants. Our host addressed us from his motorised wheelchair in the snow-covered garden. After a splendid talk on the building, its preservation, its main features and the history of its occupying family, we were invited to meet again in the first floor great hall. Internally, we could trace some of the development stages of the tower. Some other features and alterations were not so easily understood.
We drove on to ARNOT TOWER, which stands beside a fine house of a much later period. While no restoration or consolidation has been carried out and none is currently planned, our hostess expressed a hope that something might be done one day. To help the owners' appreciation of their property, we provided a commentary describing what we were able to see during our brief visit. The ruined tower sits in the corner of what has been a courtyard within a barmkin wall. Large sections of the barmkin wall, including a simple gateway and support corbels for ancillary buildings, remain. Some string-course at the wall-head defines where the original parapet stood. Within the parapet, some of the attic gable can be seen. The tower has had no openings in the two walls that face outwards from the barmkin, only the two faces looking into the courtyard having windows. The ground floor barrel vault has fallen in, leaving only the evidence of its springing. The turnpike stairwell and that corner of the building that contained the doorway have long since collapsed. On the internal walls large corbels project, showing where the original floor beams were supported.
Our next visit involved a short drive to STRATHENDRY CASTLE. This is an occupied tower with a series of outbuildings that form a courtyard. The tower has an unusual parapet arrangement, this being on one side only. A signal fire-basket is attached to the parapet wall. The back of the tower has a semi-circular stair tower rising from ground floor to attic level.
Following lunch we made our way to BALVAIRD CASTLE, which is open to the public. This is such a superb example of medieval defensive architecture that it is worth several visits. Unfortunately we were out-with normal opening times and could not see the inside of the tower. This ensured that we concentrated our eyes and imaginations on the externals of the building and the surrounding ruins. Balvaird has had much consolidation and restoration carried out. Its generally good condition and the fine stonework make this a most interesting place.
The remains at BURLEIGH are a further fine example of Scottish castle architecture. Here, a simple square tower and a section of barmkin are complemented by a corner tower that guards the entrance gate. The corner tower starts at ground level in circular form and is then corbelled out to create a square caphouse. Several shot-holes enliven the walls.
To end another successful SCA tour, we had been given permission to visit and enter ELCHO CASTLE outwith normal opening times. While this involved a detour, we were all delighted to have this opportunity. Elcho stands on the south shore of the river Tay. It is in an elevated position above the river and is protected by a vertical rock face created by the quarry that provided the original building material for the castle. We were privileged to have Lord Wemyss personally open the castle for us on our arrival. We spent the last of the daylight hours exploring the surprising number of stairways within the building. These give access to a large number of private rooms, most of which have their own fireplace and garderobe arrangements. Enough remains to give one a feeling of the intrigue which would have gone on in such a large household.
THANKS TO OUR HOSTS