Working at Dunnottar Castle means we are in the unique position of seeing the Castle every day, in all weathers and seasons. This means we often notice little things people often miss during their visit to the Castle. We thought we’d share three of these things with you 🙂
Sitting on the Hot Seat
The Keep is the oldest remaining part of the Castle, completed in 1392. It remained the home of the Earls until the grander areas of the Castle were built in the 16th and 17th Centuries.
In the 16th Century the Earl Marischal moved the kitchen downstairs to the old cellar, the biggest room on the ground floor of the Keep. He built the huge fireplace you can still see today. Around the edge of this fireplace, seats have been cut out. These were used by the cooks and servants of the time to keep warm!
Sitting on these steps, looking up the huge chimney, it is easy to imagine friends sitting next to the fire warming their feet, or the cooks sitting at it tending the fire. At the time it would have been one of the warmest seats in the Castle. It’s a great place to imagine the normal day-to-day running of the Castle.
Storage or Prison?
The second thing is the room under the staircase in the Keep. The room is just through the doorway to the left of the fireplace and is home to some of the Castle’s grislier history.
While normally used for storing goods, in 1639 it was used to store three prisoners for two weeks.
Below is an excerpt from a book written in 1925 about the history of Dunnottar Castle.
“Beneath the staircase lies a prison, provided with a latrine, an aumbry [a small cupboard], and a tiny window, the window, however, being blocked by the building of the adjoining storehouse. This may well be the ‘strait dungeon’ in which three anti-Covenanters were warded [kept] in 1639, where they ‘lay fast in the irons… without sun shyne or licht of the heavins,’ for fourteen days.”
The Castle of Dunnottar and its History, Douglas Gordon Barron, 1925.
Why not come and see this room for yourself, and imagine what it might have been like for those three men? It’s not for the faint-hearted!
Pictures in Pebbles
The last thing visitors often miss when entering the Castle (we can forgive them as there’s a lot to see) is something you’re most likely to notice if you watch your footing carefully.
The main stairs leading past the kiosk and up through the pends have pebbles that were put in as part of the refurbishment done by Viscountess Cowdray in the 1920s. Some of the steps have pictures or patterns on them, such as this one with the star.
There are other patterns too, such as swirls and even a Union Jack flag. Let us know if you see any others! We suspect the pebbles were taken from the nearby beach, as a local resident tells us he remembers helping his Grandad to carry buckets of them into the Castle to repair some damaged ones. They do add a little decoration to the walkway.
We wish everyone a very Happy New Year!
Jo-Anna Bean – Assistant Custodian