Hamlet, Mel Gibson and Seagulls…

Good afternoon!  Hope you are keeping warm on this miserable October day – I’ve finally cracked and switched the heating on so I’m nice and toasty (I have pretended this is to make thesis writing more tolerable but it’s mostly for the cat’s benefit…)

Last weekend we took a trip to Dunnottar Castle just outside Stonehaven, where Mel Gibson filmed Hamlet all the way back in 1990 – hence the tenuous link in the title of this post.  To make up for my lack of imagination, here is a low quality and pretty cringe-worthy clip of Mel acting his wee socks off.  You’re welcome.

Ok, back to the actual point of this post.  The drive to the castle was pretty easy, but you need to be careful to actually go past Stonehaven and not overshoot the carpark, as my husband informed me this was “a confusing turn off”, hmm…  Nevertheless, once we arrived and (eventually) managed to park we headed down towards the castle.  We were lucky enough to have chosen a lovely bright crisp day, despite it being October, and the castle looked stunning.

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View from the car park towards the Castle

To get to the castle, you first have to navigate the steps down the cliff face and then partially back up the other side to enter the fortress.  These were pretty steep, and although we chuckled at people struggling on their way up as we headed down, we found it tiring on our return to the car.  *note to self, don’t laugh until you’ve done it yourself*  This means the castle probably isn’t an appropriate day trip if you are have mobility issues or a pram – in fact we saw several abandoned buggies on the route!

Upon entering, you are required to pay £6 to look around.  Now I usually don’t mind this, as I know the money goes to a good cause and helps with upkeep, but I thought £6 each was a bit steep (no pun intended!), especially as there were no concessions for seniors/students.  Additionally, I don’t know what this money was used for, as the only facilities available were an unlit ‘information point’ which would have benefited massively from a light bulb or two (especially as unless you purchased a guidebook there was very little other information available!) and a pretty basic toilet block.

Dunnottar was pretty busy the day we visited with about 40 people looking around, but as the site is fairly large you didn’t feel crowded at all, and had plenty of space to explore all of the different chambers and enjoy the beautiful views you get from its location at the top of the cliffs.

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An attempt at a panorama with my new phone – the wind was making me wobble a bit!

According to the website, a fortress has been the site of the castle since Pictish times (5000 – 700 AD) and the name Dunnottar stems from the Pictish word “Dun” which means hill fort or place of strength.  In more recent times William Wallace, Mary Queen of Scots and King Charles II all spent time at the castle, a fact that most visitors would be unaware of unless they had checked the website beforehand, since it wasn’t publicised well (if at all).

Despite my gripes about cost and lack of signage, we really enjoyed spending an hour or two exploring the grounds and wished we had brought a picnic with us as there was ample space to spread out!  Lastly, if anyone is watching the pennies, there are some cliff top paths that give great views of the castle’s exterior without the need to pay the entrance fee…  Not sure what the situation with parking would be though, as the car park is designated for visitors only.  Girl in the Granite does not advocate parking irresponsibly, hehe!

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“Stand and gaze while I take your photo!”

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