I spotted a point on my map* that said “Blackadder” near the Whiteadder river, so I went on another adventure in my car because I had to see this for myself. It was 2012 and I was on my way back from Edinburgh heading south.
Being, of course, a huge fan of Rowan Atkinson and Tony Robinson’s comedy show “Blackadder” I had to take a detour and see for myself that this was a real place. I wanted a photo of the sign that said “Welcome to Blackadder.”
I followed the route on the map (see also, my article on how to buy a good road atlas) until I reached the Whiteadder River, along with a signpost for the village of Whiteadder.
After driving around the open farmland of Northumberland for an hour, I spotted this handwritten signpost that said Blackadder Mains is this way (in Scots English, “Mains” isn’t part of the town/village name, it’s a short way of saying “town center” or “village center”). I was hopeful that there’d be some shops or whatnot that I could photograph, along with the “Welcome To Blackadder” sign I wanted to see.
I turned down the road thinking it must be past the two farm buildings I could see. Wrong. Turns out, despite what the mapmakers must have found hilariously funny, Blackadder isn’t really a village. It’s a hamlet at best, but probably actually a farm. There were a couple of buildings side by side and that was it. One of the buildings was a barn. The best part? When I stopped to take a picture, I discovered that visitors to Blackadder are so rare that the people here came out of their buildings to demand to know what I was doing. And asked me to leave before I could get a photo. There was definitely not a sign saying “Welcome to Blackadder.”
So the moral of the story is that maps are not better than Sat-Nav, despite what techno-luddites (usually trying to look good in front of old people) might tell you, they have their flaws. One of them being that generally the cartographers haven’t visited every place on the map and can’t always guarantee that the information is correct. I would imagine that Blackadder is only marked on the map because otherwise there would have been a big empty space, and mapmakers detest empty spaces on maps, they don’t want people thinking they didn’t do their job properly. Google maps, on the other hand, offers you a satellite view of your destination so you can check that you’re really going where you think you are going, and if you’ve got half a brain you’re not going to mindlessly follow the “turn left” instructions on a sat-nav any more than you would with a paper map. Maps can be useful, but sat-nav is more helpful.
I also don’t think places should have signs saying “Mains” if they don’t have at least one shop (or, y’know, three houses) because it’s misleading. Maybe that’s why the sign was written in marker pen. What it probably should have said was “Blackadder Farm.” At the end of the day, however, it’s sort of funny that this is the place that bears the same name as the scheming weasel of a man from the popular comedy series.
If you want to visit a nice place in this area, go to Berwick Upon Tweed. They have petrol stations and other modern conveniences such as shops that are closed on a Sunday and closed after 5 on a weekday, and they also have car parking. There is a nice river and they’re not too far from Lindisfarne (which I will write about soon) which is a great day out in and of itself.
*A map is a piece of paper that behaves like the screen of a Sat-Nav. For advice on choosing sheet maps, check out this article
By all accounts, Ludwig II was a mad king. Of course, madness is subjective, but most people agree that it’s a bit off the wall to build yourself a fantastic fairytale castle, then spend your kingdom’s vast fortune to build another one across the way, just so you have something nice to look at from your own, fabulous castle. It’s even more ridiculous to hear that Ludwig II married a girl, then moved her into the other castle. I’m sure that made for interesting sex, sending a messenger on the forty minute walk to ask: “Your castle or mine?” Only to receive a reply, eighty minutes later: “Oh, not tonight darling, I have a headache.” May as well save oneself the effort and grab a villager instead. Perhaps this explains why Hohenschwangau castle (often mistakenly called Hohenschwanstein castle) was quite near to the village of Schwangau and Neuschwanstein castle was way off in the distance. Old Mrs Ludwig II couldn’t exactly complain if she couldn’t see anything that her husband was doing. Perhaps if Henry VIII had adopted this two-castles-on-two-mountainsides approach, he could have saved himself all the nuisance of having to dispose of unwanted wives after the warranty period.
But he didn’t think of it.
In Britain, we never really consider Henry VIII a mad king, perhaps because he knew which end the crown was supposed to go on, and didn’t roam Buckingham Palace in his nightwear, and anyway, when he was compared to Charles I (who was so despotic, he caused the only English civil war) or George III (who figuratively wore his underpants on his head), he gets a free pass. I think it comes down to the fact that, historically, we have tended to respect the institution of marriage a little too much. Henry VIII was married to each of the six women who he wronged, but that’s fine because he married them. If, as a bachelor, he had treated just one of those women properly but not married her, that would have been a scandal. But beheading two wives? That was reasonable, because he was married to them at the time. I think the other reason we don’t remember any of our kings as properly, truly mad (rather than just bloody stupid), is because we’ve never had a proper despot on the throne. Add to that the fact that we still have a monarchy and the Germans don’t, and it’s perhaps easier to see why the Germans embrace the madness of their erstwhile monarchy and open it up for tourists to see at low low prices (Austria’s got the market pretty well cornered on this too, but I’ll come to that in another article).
Ludwig II is suggested to have schizotypal personality disorder for which there is evidence from his autopsy – he died in 1886 under highly mysterious circumstances the day after he was dethroned for extremely paranoid behavior. Fascinatingly, he was claimed to have drowned and it was recorded as a suicide, but he was known to be a good swimmer and there was no water in his lungs. Add to that the further mystery that his psychiatric doctor was with him at the time – and the doctor was found dead with head and neck wounds and markings concurrent with strangulation.
There are plenty of things in Germany which are spectacular, or ludicrous, or despotic, but nothing in Germany is quite as spectacularly, ludicrously, despotically fabulous as the twin castles of Hohenschwangau and Neuschwanstein. We were so taken by them that we actually went to see them twice.
The drive was painful in both directions due to bad traffic around Munich. We parked in Fussen for a breather and that was when we saw the first of the two castles. I’ve been told by quite a few people that Schloss Hohenschwangau is supposed to be the best one, but Schloss Neuschwanstein was the first one I saw and it captured my imagination far more. It was fit for a princess. It looked like a Disney castle. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a castle that was quite so… well… castley. If someone distilled pure essence of castle and made a castle out of it, Neuschwanstein would be the result. This castle belonged to every Disney Princess who ever lived.
We didn’t go inside either castle because (on the way to Salzburg) by the time we’d fought our way through traffic they were both closed for the day. The same thing happened when we drove here on the way back from Rome, so I’ve not seen first-hand what they look like inside, but when they look like this from the outside, I can’t wait until we actually get to go in. Photography is not allowed inside the castles.
The castles look even better in real life and I think they were well worth the effort of driving here even though we didn’t go inside – I don’t think there’s anything like them to be found side-by-side like this anywhere else in the world.
Make it Happen:
There’s two parts to this – getting to Schwangau and then getting to the actual castles. Once you’re in Schwangau the rest is pretty damn easy (as long as you DON’T mistakenly go to SCHWANAU which is 3 HOURS AWAY from where the fairytale castles are).
Drive straight to Schwangau from your home address – this is what I did, it took two full driving days and one overnight stay in a layby in central Germany to get here after 5pm from the North of England.
By public transport it’s really sketchy, which is why I never got here on my Interrail trip – basically Schwangau is a little bit remote and doesn’t have it’s own train station. There is a direct train from Munich to Fussen which takes 2 hours 6 minutes, then you’re on your own to get to Schwangau (Google says it’s a 45 minute walk or a 12 minute cycle – so if you’re reasonably fit and mobile you can probably walk it in under 30 minutes; it wasn’t far at all by car), but if you’re willing to get a taxi this is another option from Fussen. I can’t find bus info.
Getting to the Castles from Schwangau:
Hohenschwangau is a very easy stroll from the centre of Schwangau.
Neuschwanstein is slightly less accessible, you can take a 45 minute walk if you’re feeling sporty.
The more common option to get to Neuschwanstein is to take the tourist buses (run by private companies) which costs about E2.60 there and back again. I think there’s still some walking involved and the buses are unsuitable for disabled people due to the terrain between where the bus stops and getting into the castle.
The most awesome option by far to get to Neuschwanstein is to take a horse drawn carriage, at E6 there and E3 back again. There is a 15 minute uphill walk from where the carriage drops you off. If you’re feeling especially fancy, you can also ride in a carriage to Hohenschwangau castle for E4.50 there and E2 back again.
Entrance to the two castles on a twin ticket was 9am-6pm (summer) or 10am-4pm (winter) and cost E12 each or E23 for a combined ticket. For more information click here.
Disabled, Wheelchair and Pushchair Access:
You can’t drive to the entrances, the closest parking is in Schwangau village centre which costs about E5, or there’s free parking even further down the hill in two large lay-bys. Neuschwanstein appears to sadly be generally unsuitable for wheelchair users or people with mobility-related disabilities due to its design (although some people have had success getting around, I think this has to be taken as the exception; if you’re planning a trip for a busload of pensioners, you’ll have to give Neuschwanstein a miss, but if you push your own wheelchair and you’ve got someone to help out on the hilly bits, you will be able to get around enough to see some of Neuschwanstein). Pushchairs can get to Neuschwanstein but if you’re not reasonably fit you will be utterly shattered afterwards. If you have an invisible disability such as CFS or MS you may have extreme difficulty with Neuschwanstein because the bus queues are a lot of standing around waiting and the walk is hilly with no real breaks; if you’re having a low-energy day, I’d skip Neuschwanstein and go for Hohenschwangau instead. Hohenschwangau on the other hand appears to be reasonably accessible if you can make it up the much gentler hill to the entrance (but if in doubt, double check this when you buy tickets, because everyone’s level of ability is different) and pushchairs are no problem at Hohenschwangau. Everything I saw of both castles and Schwangau village was hills rather than steps.
For accommodation I strongly suggest you avoid the expensive hotels of Schwangau and instead stay in the beautiful large village of Fussen, as there is much more choice, it’s a bigger town and there’s lots of cheaper options and more amenities. If arriving by train, staying in Fussen will also break up the journey a bit. I found the absolute best selection of accommodation from Booking.com but do book early as it’s a popular but relatively undeveloped area, and when we were travelling to Schwangau/Fussen from Rome, I tried to book us a hotel for 2 days ahead but the cheapest options that were left started at 150 Euros which was out of my price range (this was September prices). By contrast, there are currently options for mid-August available starting at £43 for two people, which is obviously a significant saving. By comparison, for the same example date (12-13th August) hotels in Schwangau start at £93 per night for mid-August if you book now.
Has anyone else been to see these fabulous castles? Let me know what you thought in the comments.
This article contains affiliate links, it doesn’t affect the prices you pay for anything, and if you choose to book accommodation from links on this page it just means I can buy food and petrol and all that lovely stuff (which gives me more time to write articles like this one).
So I’m currently on this massive hypomanic spree that’s seen me start the week by driving to Snowdonia National Park on Monday (10th) and climbing mount Snowdon, and will end the current week with me being in Aberdeen or possibly Skye, I haven’t quite decided yet. Suffice to say people are getting worn out from being around me.
We started Snowdon after I’d been up all night the night before, so I was able to start getting ready pretty early, and we set off on the three hour drive around 9am in the morning. The internet said to allow 6 hours up and down to climb Snowdon, so we knew we had plenty of time.
We arrived around 1:30pm due to traffic and parked in a pretty decent car park that was a fair bit cheaper than the one 100m down the road. I would recommend parking in a municipal car park – we paid £4 (normally £5, drops to £4 after 1pm) and the other one was charging £7 but so many people were parked there for some reason! There was the option of a train to the top but I wanted to walk up.
We followed the signs for the mountain and followed an easy tarmac track as it started to ascend, until we got to a point where the tarmac became a track made of aggregate. There were plenty of sheep but no goats.
Up was up, and there was so very much of it. We didn’t have enough water, since SOMEBODY (naming no names but it wasn’t me) drank nearly the whole bottle in one gulp, but there was a little cafe/shop about half way up the mountain, so we bought more water, and it wasn’t a complete rip off. I also had a rocket lolly for the sugar as I needed a bit of energy. We had taken some Linda McCartney meatfree sausage rolls with us that I’d cooked, and these ended up being our lunch. They were tasty as usual. The path passed under the train track for the first time.
We got to a point where the path passed the train track a second time, and then the whole experience took a turn for the worse. Literally it was like someone had put a hood up over the whole area and all we could see in every direction was pure white fog. It stayed this way for the rest of the journey.
We reached the top and it reminded me of that level in Tomb Raider II where Lara is jumping around on pieces of rock – I think it was called Floating Islands, it was one of the last levels in the game anyway, and the greenery and lack of any sort of view beyond the edges of rocky outcrops at the top of Snowdon reminded me of this. We avoided the cafe/train station and anyway they were closed, and we just got back down again, we didn’t rush as much as on Ben Lomond because it wasn’t as cold, but I was certainly glad of my snowboarding gloves. We reached the top at 5:10pm.
The descent was a killer, and my bones under my knees were protesting painfully at every step, which was a nuisance because there was so much down to descend and I heartily wished for a scooter or some rollerskates (but my skates were at home and anyway they’re aggressive inlines so no good for cross country) so I could save my leg bones the trouble. When I got back to the tarmac I did the rest backwards and pretty much everyone who passed me started to do the same, it was a LOT easier and I think it saved my toenails.
We stopped to catch our breath enjoy the view for a minute just at the exact moment when a shepherd was gathering his sheep with his sheepdog and a whistle. I’d seen it all before on One Man And His Dog (the reality TV show about shepherding from years ago) but in the area I’m from we have fields and gates, so as a child it was rare to see the sheep being gathered up by a dog like that. It was very special to be able to watch this and I tried to get some good photos but I only had my phone with me (my camera weighs 1lb I’m not taking that up a mountain!!) so I don’t think they came out so good. Judge for yourself:
At the bottom, a cup of tea would have been nice but everywhere in Llanberis seems to close at 5 which is odd for a tourist hub. I think a lot of people avoid the Llanberis path because it’s seen as the “easy” tourist path, but as a seasoned hillwalker I found it to be both a challenge but not unachievable. The length of the walk makes it the longest with the most ascent of any of the Snowdon paths and I am not sure you should legitimately be able to say “I’ve climbed Snowdon” if you’ve never done Llanberis because all the other routes start about half way up so the ascent is far less! I thoroughly enjoyed the tourist path because there was hardly anyone on it and I hope that this was just a quiet day because I’d hate for the halfway cafe and the places in Llanberis to go out of business just because people are walking route snobs.
The other thing about Llanberis is that’s where the train goes from, so a lot of people get the train up and walk back down again. I balked at the price because it’s £15 for a single or £20 for a return ticket on the train!! I thought about how many shanks’s ponies I could buy for that much money and decided it wasn’t worth the price of a pair of shoes to go up in a train, even an awesome uphill mountain train.
In the absence of any open eateries, we went back to Conwy and got a McDonald’s from the retail park drive thru then drove home. I was glad we ate something because every freaking motorway between Conwy and our house was closed and I had to divert the car so many times!
Longtime readers will have realized I never ever miss a Travel Tuesday post. Yesterday, I decided that rather than pre-scheduling, I wanted to talk about the trip I was actually going to be on when I was due to post (if you see what I mean). At 3am yesterday morning, I got back out of bed to go to Dublin to see The Who. I just got back at 11am when I started writing this post (yeah I got interrupted by something VERY important to do with our house’s roof). Tired now. I packed some other stuff into my 24 hours in Dublin, I’ll do a separate article each on Dublin and Newgrange in future posts.
Anyway, I digressed, so I’ve cut my digression into a separate article, and I haven’t had much sleep due to sleeping last night for about an hour, all on the cold stone floor of an airport, so I will keep rambling I’m afraid.
The Who concert didn’t start well for me: When you’ve flown abroad and spent time hiring a car, the absolute last thing you want to hear is “your tickets been declined” at three different doors. I did eventually get in to find out I was seated next to the lighting rig. In case you’re wondering, that’s a terrible place to sit because the sound quality is as shit as a tyrannosaurus with dysentery.
It’s a shame because I was actually closer to the front (at the back of this venue) than I was to Marilyn Manson 2 weeks ago at Download, and I could see and hear a lot better at Download because they’ve got sound engineers who know how sound waves travel, and know they need to angle the goddamn speakers to point at the crowd, not aim it all at somewhere in the middle. The high notes were painfully shrill and the bass was non-existent. I fashioned myself some earplugs out of toilet paper so I could overcome the distortion as best as possible in order to actually enjoy the gig.
At the beginning there was a slideshow of The Who pictures and trivia. I wrote some of the more interesting things down to share with you, because I can’t not take notes when someone puts words on a PowerPoint and plays it to me:
Apparently the proper name for their “target” motif is a “roundel” which is symbolic of Mod culture (I knew I didn’t like it for some reason, presumably because I inherited a dislike of scooters *cough*hairdryers*cough* in favour of real motorbikes – but then, I always thought the mod vs rocker thing was a bit of a non starter because they all dropped off the face of the earth when the hippie movement turned up and I think it was probably a lot of the same people wearing a different badge – psychedelia instead of “mod” or “rocker” but no-one seems to really know).
The drummer who’s been touring with The Who since 1996 is Ringo Starr’s son – Zak Starkey. Having seen him in action I can say he is an excellent drummer. There’s something that separates a good drummer from an outstanding drummer, and whatever it is, Zak Starkey has got it. I guess when your “Uncle Keith” (Keith Moon) buys you your first drum kit, you’re going to probably be inspired to become a great drummer. He has more than earned his unofficial membership as an honorary member of The Who. What’s bizarre is the photo above shows a figure with black hair and white face standing behind him, and I just looked for a picture of Keith Moon and he looked like this on Wikipedia:
I don’t know who replaced Moon from 1978 (when he died) to 1996, but John Entwhistle was replaced straight away when he died in 2002 by Pino Palladino. I found out by experience that he can pull out a canny bass solo when he feels like it.
I often feel like replacement members in a band as legendary as The Who have to be twice as good as the originals they replace. Taking Pink Floyd as a comparable example, Syd Barrett was replaced by Dave Gilmour, who is responsible for the characteristic sound of Pink Floyd as they were when they made it really really big. In fact, Gilmour was so good that his membership overshadowed Syd’s, and tragically, Syd was not welcomed back when his manager tried to arrange a “surprise reunion” at the recording of Wish You Were Here. Another example is Myles Kennedy, currently touring with Slash (of Guns N Roses) and I would say that their rendition of Anastasia (which gives me chills) must make Axl Rose green with envy that he missed out on being part of such a fantastic piece of music, not only that but Myles can cover all the old Guns N Roses stuff and you wouldn’t know it wasn’t Axl singing. I was very impressed by that. And I was very impressed last night in The Who Hits 50 in Dublin by Pino and Zak; certainly they are very, very good players and they are by no means a lesser substitute for John (E) or Keith. You’re not getting second best, you’re getting first best from people whose life path brought them here from a different place.
Apparently Keith Moon used Premier Drums. In 1967 they gave him a Pictures of Lily version (the famous Day Glow Victorian pictures of a similar style to the Monty Python’s Flying Circus animations). Keith Moon used this drum kit for 2 years, calling it something like (and I’m sorry if this is slightly wrong, the slide disappeared as I was scribbling it) “Keith Moon Patent Exploding Drummer Kit.”
The guitar smashing was apparently inspired by one Malcolm Cecil, a teacher at Ealing Tech, who did a performance where he sawed through his cello, inspiring Pete Townshend to think about the deeper artistic statement of it (yeah folks were all doing a lot of weird stuff back then). Pete smashed his guitars with the stated purpose of making an art statement about value and cost, as well as proving that there would be no encores after the guitar was wrecked. Apparently, because it’s become too commonplace and too many artists do it, he doesn’t smash guitars as a spectacle. Since 2000, 4 guitars have been smashed total – one in 2000, two in 2002 and one in 2004, although these were apparently because he was displeased with the performance of the instrument and wanted “to prevent a bad guitar from returning.”
The Union Jack jacket was inspired by Pop Art (the art movement) and David Bowie was inspired to get one for his 1997 Earthlings album as a throwback to The Who (also that year, Geri Halliwell made headlines when she wore to the Brit Awards a Union Flag dress which was very very short, but this wasn’t mentioned in The Who Turns 50’s slideshow, presumably because it’s less cool to inspire the Spice Girls than to inspire David Bowie, who was after all a contemporary of The Who).
Apparently The Who played at Woodstock. They didn’t like it because they had to leave the van miles away and one of them was carrying a tiny baby at the time.
The supporting band:
The supporting band were called The Last Internationale. The lead singer had a powerful voice but she was shrill despite not being high pitched, which was a distinct disadvantage. This was when I made earplugs because my ears were in pain and I guess it serves me right for going to a The Who concert with a migraine.
I wasn’t very impressed with them because they seemed to have no idea what to do with a crowd that big, and I think the best way they could have warmed the crowd up would be to leave. They failed to win me over, and I’m not sure that what they were playing classes as music, but they at least started to get my attention, from about their 3rd or 4th song, which was called something like “Wanted Now” and by their finale they were successfully demonstrating that it was possible to play and jump around at the same time, which seemed to be their party trick. Apparently they’ve just released their first single in the US so you’ll probably hear about them s’more soon unless they bomb on the charts. Not sure Wal-Mart will add them to the playlist though since they tend to avoid rock-y sounds, but you never know.
A very long wait during changeover while the stage is re-set:
I don’t want a sausage inna bun.
I don’t want a sausage inna bun.
I don’t want a sausage inna bun.
I should have had a second lunch before the show.
I don’t want a sausage inna bun.
Or a programme.
Yes, it will be a collector’s item in 20 years’ time but will the increase in value justify the space I’d need to keep it in my house just for that reason? Nope. Imagine if I did that with every potentially valuable item, I’d end up keeping millions of things just for the sake of selling them again at some point in the future. It’s hoarding, and it’s the complete opposite of minimalism.
Maybe I should distract myself with a sausage inna bun?
NO! I don’t want a sausage inna bun!
The trouble is, the snacks available are either full of sugar (eg skittles) or they are hot dogs. Which are also very bad for me as I cannot tolerate pork at all and I’d probably get more nutritional value from eating the programme than the sausage inna bun.
Half to two thirds of the attendees didn’t turn up until 5 minutes before The Who started – I think about 50 people in consecutive seats all arrived at once, presumably a late coach, but the others just seemed to have it sussed to avoid all the waiting. They’ve clearly been before. There was so very much waiting.
Here’s as much of the setlist as I managed to write down:
Song 1 and 2: ???
Song 3: Who are you?
Song 4: The Kids Are Alright [sic]
Song 5: I can see for miles.
Song 6: My generation. Which had a verse which was a drum-underscored bass solo. Excellent.
Song 7: Behind Blue Eyes.
Song 8: Bargain.
Song 9: I wasn’t sure at the time, thought it was “join the river” which was really confusing but it’s actually “join together.” I’d never heard it before.
Song 10: You’d Better You Bet.
Song 11: I’m one.
Song 12: Love Reign O’Er Me
Song 13: Eminence Front
Song 14: A quick one (while he’s away).
The heat was problematic, and the temperature control was non-existent. I was sat by the lighting rig. Lights get HOT at concerts. But I wasn’t the only one suffering. The band paused after a song to try and get someone to do something about the temperature. They weren’t precious about it though, and even made a bit of a song out of it while they waited for someone to put a fan on, the Air Con, or get them some water because it was far too hot.
Sadly, at this point in the concert, I was overcome with heat and listened to the next two from the doorway. I think if it’d been brought back with something I had wanted to hear after A Quick One (while he’s away) I would have stuck around, but the last one I’d actually heard before (and I’m not an ignoramus I just don’t know their whole back catalogue) was #8, and number 15 was nothing I recognized so I decided we must be nearly finished, and that I would just go back to the car hire place and return the car. When I looked up what I’d missed, I found that only two (Pinball Wizard and Baba O’Riley) of the five remaining songs were ones I’d wanted to hear. I know it’s good for a band to play what THEY want not just what fans want, but when you’ve got such a fabulous back catalogue I don’t know why you would pick below average pop-tastic songs unless they just can’t play the others any more or hate them so much that they can’t stand them. Who knows.
See what I did there.
I did it again there. Instead of a question mark, the full stop makes it a statement which answers the question which would be posed if there was a question mark.
Anyway, I enjoyed what I saw of The Who, despite the heat and stress of the two people in front of me being coked up twats and very tall and talking nineteen to the dozen with grand gestures and snogging (like, the gross kind that 15 year olds do to show everyone in the vicinity that they’re going out, not the passionate kind of snog that people in love do) and stretching whilst talking and snogging and basically doing as much as they could to ruin my view and then trying to feel me up (I shit you not), and despite the fact the sound quality was awful in that part of the 3 Arena, it was still a very good show. I was struck by how much interaction The Who had with the audience – literally, after every song they would talk for a bit and tell you a bit about the background to the next one. It was fascinating. I made brief notes because I didn’t want note-taking to get in the way of enjoying the show. But they didn’t short-change on the songs, either, and they played plenty (although theirs tend to be shorter than most other bands I listen to, because they were always more poppy when they were making big hits).
Afterwards I balked at how much parking had cost – my ticket came up as E30 when it should have been E12 for event parking, but I had to get the car out of the car park because it was a hire car so I just paid.
So lots of things conspiring to put a downer on the day, and I wasn’t necessarily in the right place to be as caught up in the hype as I would have been if I hadn’t needed to manage a migraine, but even though I left early I was happy with what I’d seen, felt it just about justified the effort and more than justified the expenditure (which was STILL cheaper and more convenient than going to London) and think I can definitely tick them off my Bands Bucket List. I should post that list at some point in its entirety.
More on Ireland, specifically Dublin and Newgrange, soon…
What do you think of those weird psychedelic photos? I was going to delete them until I saw that some of them looked very artistic, now I’m intrigued by the possibility of interference from the spiritual realm. Glad I bought a silver Virgin Mary medallion (it’s an Irish thing) earlier that afternoon!
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You may or may not have heard of Monty Python’s Flying Circus.
They were a comedy ensemble who, from the late 1960s onwards, blazed a trail of innovative comedy that directly challenged society, television tropes, audience-assumptions, gender roles, and continually pushed the boundaries far beyond that which was deemed “appropriate” at the time they were making it.
Their original BBC series prompted three films, one “And Now for Something Completely Different” was a compilation of clips from their TV show. “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” was their first attempt at a feature film, and was more about challenging the traditional way in which medieval Britain was portrayed in modern media than it was about the actual story of the Holy Grail. “The Life Of Brian” was their story about another bloke who lived in the same town as Jesus and who was not the messiah. That one ruffled a few feathers at the Vatican and I believe a bishop had a televised argument with John Cleese about it on channel 4 (ready the popcorn and cups of tea, it’s over an hour long).
Life of Brian was filmed in Jordan, which is somewhere in Africa. I didn’t really have the budget, bodyguards or bulletproof car required to go to Jordan safely. Instead, I decided to go to Doune Castle in Scotland, where almost all of Monty Python and the Holy Grail was filmed. Also we were in the area, and the road to the Highlands was closed due to heavy snow.
Doune Castle doubled up as the filming location for the following castles in Holy Grail: Camelot, Swamp Castle, Castle Anthrax, and that French castle at the beginning. It was a private castle when they filmed, and the reason it was chosen was because The National Trust for Scotland (as Historic Scotland was known at the time) refused to allow Monty Python to use any of their castles to film (and they’d booked separate ones for each castle in the script) – but the National Trust for Scotland only informed them of this two weeks before they were due to start filming, so they had a last minute struggle to find a privately owned castle that was open enough to the public to actually film in there. Thankfully, Doune Castle fitted the bill perfectly. The castle, originally built in the 13th century, was in excellent preservation condition and had a lot of original features without any visibly different “restoration” (some restoration has been done but it’s surprisingly sensitive for a Victorian repair). It had enough rooms that were visibly different to one another that it could easily be used for the location of the several castles the script required.
We overnighted in the layby in front of the castle in our car camper, making this the first castle we spent the night at during our Scotland trip (before we reached the Mercure Barony Castle Hotel in Peebles), and I have never felt so secure sleeping in the car before. It was nice to get a full night’s sleep without any disturbances from traffic or construction workers either, unlike the previous night. We chose not to overnight in the castle car park as this would have been a) definitely trespassing and b) bad manners. We might have been car gypsies, but we didn’t need to act uncivilised and go round taking advantage of poor defenceless car parks. A bonus of using the layby was that it was on a public road so it was legal to park overnight in Scotland, and it meant we awoke with a beautiful view of the castle in the morning. We left at 7am and drove to Stirling for an early breakfast at McDonald’s before coming back at 9am when the castle was open, because it makes good sense to not be in an obviously wildcamping car at the time of day when all the members of staff are arriving to start their day. I feel very strongly that one must be careful when wildcamping in any vehicle or tent because if the law is abused, it will get taken away, as has happened on the eastern shores of Loch Lomond in the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, which is why we had to park and sleep over an hour away from Ben Lomond on our first night in Scotland. Thanks to the asshats who took advantage, there’s now a bylaw that no vehicle can be occupied overnight (and no tents can be pitched) on that side of Loch Lomond, except in the one paid campsite, and the police drive round and check, and you can get fined and lose your vehicle.
I made a film of my visit to Doune Castle, which you can see here:
Sorry about the bad sound, I didn’t have a camera crew with me to re-record, it was all shot in one go on a mobile phone, and my video editing software is about as good as getting a panda to chew the ends of files and stick them back together with eucalyptus gum. The best I could do was play a piccolo over it all afterwards.
I did have to reduce the resolution on this film because Youtube failed to upload it three times, after taking over 18 hours apiece, and I’ve been trying to upload it since Friday, which is unfortunate but I’m hoping it’s still watchable because I’ve been dying to show you all since I got back.
Have you been to Doune Castle? What did you think of it?