My trip to Culzean Castle (pronounced Cull-ain) brought to me my first taste of rural Scotland. Just outside the city of Glasgow, there is nothing but little farming villages, sheep, cows, and green hills as far as the eye can see. It's picturesque, yes, but one can't help but think, as my parents love to say "What do people do out here?".
An hour cruise through the sleepy countryside brought the bus to Culzean country park. What I first noticed was the giant pen of deer and bucks, running, grazing, and bashing horns for dominance. Not a bad welcoming committee to such a cool place! Looking around the parking area, I could see signs pointing in all different directions to various points of interest: a coffee bar, the swan pond, the Castle gardens, a place dubbed "Adventure Park", a walled garden, and the cliff walk. We had the afternoon to explore. There was no time to lose.
I first made my way to the Castle itself. Crossing the old bridge I felt like I was really approaching the estate of some rich aristocratic family of the 18th century. The archways were beautiful, albeit superficial, like much of the Culzean decor. The Castle itself is amazing. Totally gothic and symmetrical, it sits right on the edge of the cliff, gazing over the North Sea. We were told that on a clear day, Northern Ireland would be visible. Unfortunately this day was cloudy with sporadic downpours, so visibility was at a general low.
I could really go on and on about this trip. The beach was beautiful, I felt like I was standing on guard, waiting for any approaching enemy forces, not unlike, "The Count of Monte Cristo"; the swan pond was great and really was the home to many a giant bird; the cliff walk was spectacular, as it winded back and forth over the crashing waves, peopled with plant life I have never seen in my life. What I will say was the tour of the inside of the Castle itself was extremely interesting. I got to get inside of the lives of a truly decadent family. Owned by the Kennedy clan from the mid 17th century forward, each room was meticulously decorated with ornate lamps and artwork adorning all parts and brightly colored "wall cloth" used instead of wallpaper just because it was 10 times more expensive. Everything in this mansion seemed to be a status symbol. There was an armory room with over 3000 pieces of artillery and over 1000 swords placed beautifully around the walls. The tour guide was phenomenal, a humorous Scot who spared no silly detail about the lives of the Kennedy's. My personal favorite fact was that instead of a restroom, each chair in the dining room had a bucket underneath it, so during dinners, instead of excusing yourself from the table, a wealthy guest would move the latch, pull down his or her trousers, and do his business right there, and ring bell so the servant would know to come and empty it. What a life these people had!
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