Nicola, Pete, Lola and Nell want to travel the world with a difference. We hope to get a taste of many countries without adding to climate change (with needless emissions from aeroplanes) or having to waste hours of holiday time in airport terminals. We hope our adventures inspire you to take a Grand Tour of your neighbourhood. This post is from Nicola (pic shows the sort of cliff you'd have to scale to get into this castle)
Dunnottar Castle http://www.dunnottarcastle.co.uk/ is privately owned but they sometimes let children in for free... if an accompanying adult will pay #5. The castle's unique position - on it's own cliff edged island about two miles outside Stonehaven - makes it impenetrable any other way than via the ticket office or the back of the kittiwakes that nest noisily around it. Of course people have broken into it - that's why it's a wreck. But it's undoubtedly the best ruin I've ever seen.
On the Saturday we visited there were talks on the hour given by a fascinating curator in obligatory tartan trews (we must remember that we are in Scotland). The curator had a clever technique of explaining why Scotland is covered in such defensive looking homes - "you've got to remember that the clans and tribes and tartans weren't romantic, Scotland was wild then, neighbour fighting neighbour. It would be like Afghanistan is today with war lords controlling and raiding at will."
Sobered by this the children then headed for the lion's den (a pet lion was a sign of power) and the notorious, damp room where 167 people were imprisoned for around three months because they wouldn't convert faiths. When some managed to escape they were caught and tortured - most of the rest were then sent to the West Indies. Which might sound better but was probably as bad as being tortured then.
There are ghosts says the curator, as any "respectable castle" should have. These include several tragic women, a vanishing dog and a pre-Christian spirit known as "the green lady" who mourns for her lost children. The green lady is Nature and her children are us, the ones who went down the Christian/consumerist/ big business model. On the day of the Live Earth concert http://www.liveearth.org/ it was interesting to have another type of reminder that we need to try to find more sustainable ways to live - especially if we have any hope of tackling climate change.
After a thorough explore of the castle - plus a chance to oggle two wedding parties, one with the guests dressed in either kilts (men) or Norwegian long skirts and embrodiered bodices (women) - we picnicked on the stoney beach below. It's a brilliant place for caves and rock pools. The girls were thrilled to get a crab, three prawns, a fish, seaweed and loads of cockles in their trawl. We put them all back of course, with a quick nod of thanks to the green lady...