Scottish Adventure: Cawdor Castle and Gardens

I’ve returned to continue my Scottish adventures! One of the reasons I was excited to visit Scotland was because I love history and touring historical sites. And, as my readers may know, I’m also a bit of an actor, and one of my favorite playwrights is the immortal Bard of Avon, William Shakespeare. With that in mind, how could I pass up a visit to the castle that bears the name of one of his most infamous characters, the Thane of Cawdor, also known as the Scottish King, Macbeth?

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Of course, the real King Macbeth lived centuries before Cawdor Castle was built, but the seed was planted in my mind. Imagine my delight when I found out that Cawdor is not just an historical site, but also a working residence for the Dowager Countess Cawdor. So we got to see a castle that has both preserved its history and maintained its functionality. The castle was begun in the fifteenth century and passed from the Calder family to the Campbells in the 16th century. The current Earl of Cawdor is the Dowager Countess’ stepson and their feud over the family home is something of a tabloid sensation at times. But the castle itself and the grounds are lovely, showing the marks of both the history of the place and the personal style of the current Lady in residence.

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We went through the castle tour first, as we’d arrived just as they’d opened and wanted to avoid any crowds. Then, we took advantage of a sunny late morning and thoroughly explored the gardens and nature trails. The castle itself is stunning. Each room is not only impeccably decorated, but also has a sign that shows some mark of personality and wit in the description of each room. As we walked through the rooms, I noticed a particular theme of gemstone orbs as part of the decor. One in particular was set up in a bedroom on a stand, almost like a crystal ball. I was curious about it, since it almost seemed like a tongue-in-cheek reference to the witches of the Scottish play, so I asked a docent. Apparently, the Lady in residence has a particular interest in New Age philosophies and has heard that the orbs contain healing powers, which can help calm those who touch them. I remarked that I thought if I had visitors touring my home every day for the summer, I might want every option available to calm me down!

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After finishing the tour of the castle, we wandered to the gardens. They are beautiful and well-maintained, but have enough roughness around the edges to feel like a real person’s gardens, and not a professional display. I overheard one of the gardeners talking and it seems we did not choose the absolute best time to visit, but there were plenty of beautiful flowers, as well as some hidden treasures. A large circular bush had a slit in one side, which kept the secret of a small courtyard with a fountain. The theme of orbs continued throughout the garden decor. And the walls of the garden crawled with sprawling, romantic vines.

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After a morning of exploring, we chose to have a bite to eat in the cafe, which offered up the standard fare we’d found at other attractions: homemade sandwiches, soup, cakes, and tea or coffee. After a sandwich and some tea (for me) and coffee (for Mr. Tweed), we bid goodbye to the lovely place.

On Enjoying Shakespeare

I’ve teased in the past about a recent project in which I’m involved. Well, we opened two weekends ago. I’ve spent the last few months rehearsing a production of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. I’ve loved to act since I was a young child, and I’ve been doing Shakespeare since I started in a local theater school’s company over 20 years ago, but I hadn’t had a chance to perform the Bard since returning to the stage two years ago after graduate school.

My first Shakespeare role was Ferdinand in The Tempest and it rather set the tone for many of my Shakespearean roles. I’ve played as many male characters as female ones. And that’s the beauty of Shakespeare: he creates characters that often transcend stereotypes and categories despite drawing on familiar tropes of comedy and tragedy. And I just love getting into these characters.

The language is what frightens some people when they think of Shakespeare, but the language is what I love. His words are his canvas and he paints beautiful pictures, both with the word meanings and with the sounds of the words themselves. My most recent role is that of Feste and he dallies nicely with words. It was a challenge to memorize some of his more mouthful pieces, but so, so fun to deliver them. He talks circles around most of the characters in the show (with the exception of the other two characters I’ve played in Twelfth Night in the past: Maria and Olivia).

But the language of Shakespeare truly has to be heard to be appreciated. Reading the text on the page has little of the same appeal. A colleague of mine commented that he’s decided to try to read his way through Shakespeare’s complete works, to which I responded with a grimace. That sounds like truly grim work. But a Shakespeare club? Get together a group of friends to read scenes from Shakespeare as a way of getting through the works? Fantastic! I suggested he at the very least look up films of the various plays that have had films made of them. So you don’t get much of the histories, but the more popular tragedies and comedies have some representation.

Above all, I think that most people take Shakespeare too seriously. He’s fun. He’s a playwright who chose to insert knee-slappingly funny bits into some of his most serious plays, often at the most intense points in the main action. He did this because he wasn’t catering to the enjoyers of high art, but the enjoyers of entertainment. Shakespeare is a reminder that sometimes in the darkest times, laughter is necessary. Sometimes you need the drunken porter or the nostalgic gravedigger to break up the intensity of life. Take the laughs as they come and let them temper the tragedy just a bit.

I’d love to hear anyone else’s views on Shakespeare, acted or read. And who wants to start a Shakespeare club?

On Holiday Illness, plus Topics to Come

When I was a young child, I always fell ill on Christmas, usually while we were at my father’s family’s Christmas dinner celebration. It was a mixed blessing because I got to escape the clamor of a large Catholic family with many active boys and go have a lie-down in an empty room. But I was always really sick, often with something like strep throat, which had to wait until the doctor’s office opened again to be treated.

Since then, I’ve had a few Christmas colds, usually happening during years when I’d been rather overworked leading up to the holidays and finally had some time off the week between Christmas and New Year’s. This year, I had no such luck, but instead found myself having an unexpected holiday extension when I woke up with a low-grade fever and a raw throat yesterday. My throat had been feeling poorly for a couple of days, but I had thought I was getting better. Evidently I was wrong.

Today, I am back at work and feeling better, if not entirely well. And I will be previewing some posts to come:

  1. Of course I will want to post about my holidays. Our trip back from Boyfriend’s family’s house was almost an ethereal journey as the way was mostly bathed in thick, white fog. We did not indulge in quite so many radio plays this year, but instead largely were entertained by the second season of Serial. And of course, there were some fabulous gifts.
  2. I’ve been in rehearsals for a community theatre production of one of William Shakespeare’s best-known comedies, and I had almost forgotten how much I enjoy acting the Bard. This time, I’ve also got one of the standing best roles in most of his plays…
  3. Finally, while working on my vintage-inspired capsule wardrobe, I stumbled upon the site eShakti. Other bloggers have had mixed results with them, so I contacted them about a blogger sample. I honestly wasn’t expecting it before the middle of January, but it arrived yesterday. Once my health and the weather clear up, I’ll have to have a little photo shoot and share my thoughts.

So there are exciting things to come. Stay tuned and keep warm! I hope everyone had lovely holidays and are gliding into another wonderful new year.