I love visiting Castle Fraser…usually!
Castle Fraser, around 4 miles from my house, is the nearest property that’s owned and managed by the National Trust for Scotland (NTS). It’s reputed to be one of the grandest of the Castles of Mar and has a very elaborate Z -plan structure. Its building was started in 1575, it was completed in 1636, and was the ancestral home of the Fraser clan. However, there have also been changes and additions to the original building during later centuries.
The Castles of Mar are so named since they are sited on the very large province of MAR, a huge tract of north-east Scotland which was one of the 7 divisions of ‘Celtic’ Scotland during ancient Pictish eras – those formerly and loosely named the Dark Ages (approx. 5th/10th centuries). The province of Mar, it’s believed, was named after Mormaer. A mormaor is the Scottish Gaelic name for the stewards of land who were the next level down from the Pictish king. (N.B. there are different spellings of the word) These 7 areas, later named ‘earldoms’, were found north of the Central belt – i.e. north of the line between Edinburgh and Glasgow.
When we moved to Aberdeenshire 27 years ago, we took out NTS family membership and visited many of its sites (members pay no entry fee). However, the NTS doesn’t only maintain castles. It has loads of different types of properties in its portfolio. There’s a palace, smaller houses and cottages, fabulous gardens, small museums, historic monuments, country parks, a water mill, nature reserves…some 129 venues and too many to mention here individually, though you can see them listed here: http://www.nts.org.uk/Buildings/Properties/
Some of these places require visitor entry fees to see interiors, though many don’t if you’re only visiting gardens or outdoor venues. Having the totally free option of wandering the outside of a castle appeals to many tourists who either aren’t interested in seeing the historical interiors, or more likely have limited time to appreciate the amazing collections of artefacts each site may contain.
Over the intervening years since 1988, we’ve renewed our annual membership (currently approx. $112) and have continued to visit more ‘new to us’ properties across the length and breadth of Scotland. We’ve revisited many favourites and enjoy reading the NTS member magazines three times a year, the latest being the one shown here. (image courtesy of NTS/ Graham McKean)
Inside the magazine are details of what’s happening regarding conservation in some properties; updates on newly opened venues; and very importantly for me – the events which are organised on some of the properties.
I’ve attended outdoor theatre performances on NTS lawns and music recitals in the Great Halls of NTS castles. I’ve walked nature trails and visited Steam Fairs and special exhibitions– my membership card getting me reduced entry price to some of these extra events. I’ve even taken a Hot Air Balloon trip, leaving at dawn, from Castle Fraser. (photo is a bit dark I’m afraid)
…& this brings me to my Writerly Optimism Big Time!
The extra events at NTS properties across Scotland are incredibly well organised and some can accommodate a few thousand people at specific venues, but what Scotland isn’t known for is its reliable weather when it comes to those outdoor displays and demonstrations.
This time last year, I signed myself up to take a stall at the Roman Chariot Event at Castle Fraser to sell my books. It was a completely drenching wash-out, hardly anyone turned up, and it came with authentic thunder and lightning as an added ‘free’ extra. I didn’t see the ghost of the Castle Fraser green room floating past my stall, but the thunder peals were certainly loud enough to disturb her!
So will I ever learn about chancing Scottish weather in order to sell some of my books and get some local exposure as a novelist? Probably not, because if The Devil’s Horsemen can attend straight from filming The Game of Thrones to come to this year’s ‘Rumbling Romans and Wicked Warriors’ event – then so can I. I’ve been avidly watching the weather reports this past week and willing it not to rain. Is that likely? Nope. Not according to recent updates. In addition to rain, it might also be pretty windy and I’m not sure my gazebo will withstand that either. I guess, optimistically speaking if the gazebo remains pegged down, I’ll be getting my first chance to see if the waterproofing done to it on a sunny day in June 2015 has worked.
Am I mad? Would you have another go if there were potentially 3000 visitors to the event even though the turnout last year was maybe around 400?
As an author wearing my promotions hat, I’m also hoping to be able to take some great photographs that I can use in future internet promotion– though if I’m busy selling my books ( fingers crossed) I’ll be too busy to do that. Since my last blog post here on Writing Wranglers and Warriors, I’ve been to my publisher’s seminar and learned that I’m – apparently – already using many of the recommended techniques for promoting my work. The pity is that I can’t manage to do them consistently.
a) I’m blogging (sometimes)
b) having guests on my blog and doing some guest posting myself (recently there’s been a slow down on that one)
c) using related images to enhance my blog, Facebook, & Twitter posts is highly recommended (so I need those lovely photos, rain or not!)
I’ll be making sure to have lots of plastic sheeting available to cover my precious stock of Celtic/Roman Britain adventure books.
NOW– where’s my rainjacket, and the largest umbrella in the house? Wish me luck? (wink, wink, insert smiley face here)
Have a lovely weekend, everyone.
Nancy Jardine writes:
time travel historical adventure for Middle Grade/ YA readers and older (Rubidium Time Travel Series)