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Step back in Time
Lochleven Castle (Tayside)
Member Name: marco69uk
Lochleven Castle (Tayside)
Date: 05/06/01, updated on 07/08/01 (117 review reads)
Advantages: Not usually crowded
Disadvantages: Only open in the summer, Closes during bad weather
Her darkness was complete, a blindfold over her eyes, the moonless night and overcast sky mirroring the feeling of desolation in her heart. A chill wind blew across the loch making her shiver uncontrollably, with her hands tied behind her she could not easily move in the bottom of the small boat. Her simple woollen dress, torn and filthy from days on the run, now soaked with the loch’s putrid water that was seeping in at the bottom. This journey could not end soon enough for Mary.
She knew the castle well; she had spent many happy days there in past years as the guest of the Laird of LochLeven but now she was to be its prisoner. The castle covered the island, it’s curtain wall reaching to the loch side deterring any unwelcome guests, the loch itself threatening to envelope anyone escaping in it’s murky depths.
The boat was now approaching the small jetty that projected out from the island, the boat oars still rhythmically dipping in and out of the water, the sound muffled by the fresh breeze. She knew that there was now no hope of escape and resigned herself to her fate. A soft thud let her know that they had arrived and the boat rocked slightly as her captors secured it to the landing place.
Ok it may not have happened exactly like that, it’s just my imagination, but I am assured by the official guide book that Mary Queen of Scots was imprisoned in LochLeven castle around 1567 and made a spectacular escape a year later. Other well known occupiers being William (Braveheart) Wallace, who captured it from the English I around 1300 and Robert the Bruce who first used it as state prison from 1316.
Its pivotal role in Scottish history was largely due to its strategic location between Stirling, Perth and Edinburgh, it’s strong natural defences insuring its defence against subsequent English attacks.
In 1672 the Castle was replaced as the
residence of the Laird of Lochleven by the building of the nearby Kinross house. The gardens of which were designed to include the view of what was now a medieval ruin.
The castle is situated on Castle Island, Lochleven, near Kinross, Perthshire, Scotland, just off the M90 north of Edinburgh, south of Perth. From either direction come off the M90 at junction 5, head towards the centre of Kinross and look out for signs to Kinross house, a left turn off the main street. This brings you on to a private road with a grassed recreation/picnic/play area on the right, the road leading on up to the house. As you come to the end of the recreation area, park your car in the numerous spaces provided and you will see the jetty for the castle boat straight ahead of you, the only way of getting to the island.
We often holiday in Scotland, this particular year we were staying at nearby Milnathort so Lochleven castle was one of the local attractions in the various guides and booklets left at the rented cottage. We always seem to leave ‘local’ attractions to near the end of our holidays and this was no exception. The first time we found where it was, the weather let us down, my wife on seeing the small ferry bobbing up and down on the Loch was put off for good. It was not until the day before we were due to leave that I had another opportunity, my wife was packing, the wind had dropped and the sun was shining. So of I went with my two children to see what the castle was like.
The ferry leaves for the island about every 40 minutes. We were lucky and arrived at the jetty just as it was leaving. It only operates in the summer and not at all in bad weather, as I said this was a perfect day the loch like a millpond, so it was no problem at all to get the kids into the boat which holds about 8-10 people.
As I got on I expected to pay the man on the boat for our trip. You do not pay when you get on the boat, you do not pay when you get off th
e boat, you pay in a little kiosk to the left of the jetty hidden away on the island. This payment is for entry to the castle, so in theory the actual ferry trip is free, although the castle is really the only thing to see on the island.
It takes about 20 minutes on the ferry, we got off, bought our tickets in the little shop, which also sells cold drinks, guide books etc (no ice cream, we found out) and had a look around the castle.
Over the years the level of the loch has lowered, the castle used to cover the whole island, the water of the loch would have touched the curtain wall. The island is now bigger and overgrown with trees at either end, the north and south jetties in the middle, with the familiar cropped grass of heritage properties creating a space for picnic tables in front of the castle.
Although not a large castle it does have all the elements that children expect of a real castle i.e. a complete curtain wall with a gate and a little cannon; a tower house with recognisable rooms, including a cellar and a smaller round tower with defensive gunholes, built into the outer wall.
You can also take a short walk through the wooded area on the East Side of the island behind the castle. We were joined, on this walk by the caretaker’s black Labrador dog, which was quite friendly and amused the children.
I think we must have spent about two hours on the island. If we had brought a picnic we could have perhaps spent a bit longer. It is not the sort of place you could spend the whole day, as there is not enough to do for the children, but it is still well worth a visit.
Prices are: £3.50 Adult
You can phone the castle direct on 07778 0404483
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