The bridge safely negotiated, the house lies ahead of you - actually, we arrived after dark, which was a strange sensation. Would the key work? Could we find the light switches? Did we remember which box the dogfood was in? Unpack first, and then explore!
We quickly discovered, to the enormous delight of the two dogs, that there were two staircases, an elegant main one (I loved the figures in the hallway):
and a spiral stair in the little tower (which you can see on the left-hand-side in the picture of the house). The dogs did happy circuits until we firmly closed the door to the tower and unpacked their food. The tower was the exclusive retreat of younger son for our stay. The fireplace in his room had some interesting original stonework in it - a rainspout, perhaps:
The house is very modestly sized, with just two main rooms downstairs, dining room and drawing room. We cooked elaborately in the minuscule kitchen (both OH and elder son arrived with a battery of cooks' knives, knowing holiday lets of old!), which opens out onto a minuscule private garden, within the curtain walls, which would be perfect for picnics in warmer weather.
Did I mention weather? That weekend was the start of a real cold snap, the sharpest there had been that year. That fire was more than cosmetic, it was vital! If you peer at the right side of the fireplace, you can see the most splendid chainmail fire curtain. There's a guest book in the drawing room which makes very entertaining reading, but one thing which stands out is that everyone who has been there in winter has commented on how icily cold the house is. Some speculate about ghosts. I put it down to this:
Photograph by supergolden
That's the drawing room and dining room, with the big windows. Below them are three floors of nothing, with little or no window glass -- those are the so-called dungeons, actually the original kitchen and more service rooms, but pretty grisly nonetheless. And cold. Because you may remember from the first picture of the house that it's only two storeys high. It's actually perched on the edge of the promontory, and the lower floors descend into the glen below, a drop of 60 feet. This is the kitchen, where those parties used to be held. There was a single lightbulb in the centre of the ceiling at this level, and no incentive to linger. Reluctantly, because it seems very pathetic at this remove, this was as far as I got. Well, someone had to stay with the dogs, and there was no way I was letting them carry on down to the unlit depths.
A floor down, another kitchen and another enormous fireplace. And no electricity. Good thing we'd brought torches for taking the dogs out last thing.
We wondered what lived here. Judging from the heap of sticks on the floor they had been in residence for a long time. Owls? Ravens?
Someone else who'd been in residence for a long time. Younger son said this was the biggest spider he'd ever seen. There were obviously going to be a lot more of them, judging by the size of the bundle of eggs she was guarding.
At the end of the day there was a very sleepy puppy (don't tell the Landmark Trust! but we did take lots of blankets to protect the sofas). It was a pity she needed to go out at 3am -- as I stood on the frost-rimed lawn in my nightie and greatcoat, I was horribly conscious of all those ruins around me, the yawning gulf beneath my feet, the ghosts -- including a ghastly hound who bays. Do spectral hounds have the same habits as living ones? In which case, my two girls were going to be like magnets...but actually, the only howling likely to be heard that night was mine, as I recalled the 3-storey nursery for giant spiders!
Only OH was truly unmoved by the possibility of ghosts, I think, he has no imagination at all. Possibly he was preoccupied with trying not to die of exposure and add to their number, as were we all. I have never been so cold in my life. It was a mistake, too, to underestimate my fear of heights. The bridge terrified me, and I found it hard to trust to the dogs' good sense after hearing that the river in the glen has claimed a number who fell in. The Bolter was only a puppy, and not misnamed, although unlikely to take off in strange surroundings. In retrospect, I'm not quite sure whether it was a magical experience or a nightmare -- perhaps it was as magical as our family does! It certainly offered some insight into the life in a country house in, say, the 18th century, though thankfully, we didn't have to manage with candles as well. OH would have been glad, I think, of a television, but he did have the most awful cold. Actually, the most 18th-century bit was that we all rushed for the shower the minute we got home -- it had been too cold to shed any garments in order to wash while we were there. The castle did have a shower, at the top of the stone steps down to the basement kitchen! But even the "proper" bathroom was arctic.
Rosslyn Castle by Vic Sharp
One of the things we did during our stay, of course, was to visit the chapel. This was during the period when work was being done on the roof, so we didn't take views of the outside, but we did go up on the scaffolding for a very different view of the building:
Sadly, photography is no longer allowed inside the chapel -- I would love to be able to spend hours in there with a camera, although it always seems to be busy now, even on the gloomiest of days. Even busy, I think it's the most remarkable church I know, and it's no wonder that so many stories have grown up around it. The castle, too, is a wonderfully romantic place, and it's gratifying to stay in such a building and know that while doing so you are helping to preserve it. And honestly, they are not always freezing - we were unlucky with a weekend when the frost on the ground didn't melt all day but just sharpened with each night. But I'd certainly recommend hotwater bottles, just in case!