I feel like I’m playing catch up with most things at the moment; the housework (particularly laundry), a list of things I’ve been trying to accomplish for weeks now (print photos/organise the October holidays/write thank you cards); my blog. When life gets that bit more hectic, time to just sit and write gets buried under the piles of washing/ironing/dishes/to do lists; mislaid with that one lonely sock at the bottom of the basket. When we have a run of long nights and colds my aims reduce dramatically to just-get-through-the-day.
I have a list of blog posts still to come from our summer holiday adventures – bear with me, I will get there. (In case you’re new, this is the blog of a mother of two who is still very much getting used to the constant plate spinning that working motherhood demands).
What I do want to tell you is that I love having a family membership to the National Trust of Scotland and just before the end of the summer holidays we squeezed in another castle visit. And so I decided to combine the stories of our summer visits to two lovely castles into this one post. Dear reader, if you aren’t already acquainted let me introduce you to Brodie and Kellie.
Brodie Castle, just outside Forres in Moray, is probably the NTS property where I have spent the most time. I camped in its grounds as a Guide; I have been to Christmas Fairs and outdoor theatre productions (Much Ado About Nothing about 8 years ago, it was wonderful); I pushed my firstborn in his buggy around the grounds and walked with him around the pond as a toddler. I have explored a great deal of the 71 hectare estate over the years. It is, quite simply, a lovely place to visit and walk. The romantic, blushing pink 16th century castle is fascinating to tour, although we didn’t make it round this time.
This summer when staying with family in Findhorn we saw that there was a Beatrix Potter trail around the grounds and dragonfly making for kids. The littlest was due a nap so we left her with daddy to sleep in her buggy and the grandparents, Isaac and I set off. The first stop was to make a dragonfly, a great little craft that didn’t take very long and Isaac was able to do most of it himself.
The Beatrix Potter nature trail was an event to mark the 150th anniversary of the author’s birth. There was a short trail through the walled garden and into the woods, where you had to find and write down the names of the characters, and a second, longer woodland trail with signs that had a picture and fun facts about the different animals plus a letter to note down. (At the end you had to unscrabble the word/phrase from the letters).
Once we had completed the Beatrix Potter trail we set off on the longer trail, asking Isaac to look out for animal signs. Both were really lovely trails for his age – he loved trying to spot the Beatrix Potter characters and he also enjoyed spotting the different animals. I very much enjoyed the trail through very tranquil woodland and I even learnt some new things – did you know that a male fox is called a todd? (Ah! We all exclaimed, hence Mr Todd). Or that a woodpecker can peck up to 20 times a second?!
We looped round to Rodney’s Stone, an impressive Pictish monument, and back to the castle tea room just as the heavens opened. We sat at a table outside, under one of their huge umbrellas, with cups of steaming tea – with the rain pouring all around us it was actually a lovely end to the afternoon. It did mean, however, that the littles couldn’t explore the wonderful woodland play park but we’ll save that for another day.
I arrived at Kellie Castle covered in my daughter’s sick. (I apologise to anyone who sat near me in the cafe). She had literally thrown up about a few minutes’ drive from the car park (note – we were following sat nav, which took us down a, bumpy, old farm track that probably didn’t help my daughter’s car sickness). I had taken the train with the wee ones to Dundee where we were met by my lovely, and quite unflappable, friend who drove us on our jaunt to Fife. It meant that the littles weren’t in the car too long (thankfully!) as it is is around a 45 minute drive south of Dundee.
Said friend (who is a primary teacher) wasn’t the least fazed by my daughter emptying the contents of her breakfast and morning snack all over her car and headed to the cafe with my son whilst I cleaned my daughter and myself up (she, at least, had a change of clothes). Like most NTS properties I’ve visited there was a charming little tea room which served a light lunch of soup and sandwiches (plus much-needed and all-important coffee).
We explored the castle after lunch; the oldest part of Kellie Castle dates to 1360 but the castle as you see it today was completed around 1613. I would like to return to take time to explore it without chasing my speedy 1 year old from room to room with a slightly frazzled refrain of: ‘Don’t touch that – no don’t touch – Flora don’t touch – Flora!’. Whilst I pursued Hurricane Flora, my lovely friend talked to Isaac about the rooms and their contents, asking him what he liked about the room and pointing out things he might be interested in (the highlight seemed to be the nursery room).
We headed outside to let the little legs run free and watched as they chased each other about the grounds in delight. It is a picturesque setting, surrounded by woodland and looking straight out towards Bass Rock.
We then walked round to the walled garden where I promptly fell in love. Oh. How. Beautiful. I think it was one of the most enchanting walled gardens I’ve visited, a peaceful little oasis with a lavender lined central walkway and a gorgeous sundial. I, very kindly, abandoned my friend with my noisy children and snuck off to take photos, tucked behind some flowers and drinking in a moment of calm. And the lovely scent of the flowers.
I asked Isaac on the train journey home what his favourite things about the castle were, and he told me:
2. The nursery room with the doll’s tea party and the rocking horse
3. His lunch
4. The Queen’s bed (he thinks all castles have had a Queen in residence)
My own highlights of the castle? The wonderful painted panelling and plasterwork on the ceilings, the library and the room with a beautiful big desk and gorgeous wallpaper. The views towards the Firth of Forth. And, of course, the walled garden.
Next time we shall explore the woodlands – I think an autumn trip might be calling…
If you’re interested in becoming a member of the National Trust for Scotland you can get 3 months’ free here.