The letter I almost drew a blank on my castle hunt. None in England or Wales, however, much to my delight, I discovered Scotland has Inverurie Bass, which is the remains of a Norman motte and bailey.
I’d no idea that the Norman design of castle reached so far north. Inverurie is NW of Aberdeen and was built in the 1100s by the Earl of Garioch, a descent of the kings of Scotland.
Although there is still a visible mound, the rest of the bailey area is a cemetery where once stood a church, which was later demolished.
Robert the Bruce used the castle as a base and fought a battle a few miles away, and again in the Jacobean period, the castle was the site of a second battle. The Jacobites beat the Hanoverian army in 1745.
As well as gravestones, there are stone fragments from the church. These stones have engraved into the Pictish symbols. Scottish history is complex and the Picts (known as the painted people) were a tribal grouping who lived in the NE of Scotland during the Iron Age and Early Medieval. They had their own language, which is now extinct, and built stone stele with carved symbols. The symbols remain something of a mystery and may possibly be a written language.
The Bass is one of several early castles built in Scotland, many of which have disappeared without trace. What lies in its place is another collection of stones – gravestones, uniformly laid out and encircling the legacy of a long forgotten fortification. As for the Picts, they were swallowed up by the Gaels, who created the Kingdom of Alba, modern day Scotland.
“What you doing, Da?” The little boy kicked the blades of grass at his feet and watched his father run his hand over the surface of the stone.
“I sending a message to somebody.”
His father raised the chisel and hammer and started tapping. “I don’t know yet. It might take some time to reach them. Years, maybe centuries.”
“Do you think they’ll know what it means?”
“Sure. Why not?”
“It’s just. They say we will become lost.”
“Nah, never happen. Look around you. We’ve farms, communities and if we feel threatened, we paint our faces and they run away. We defeated the Romans, the Angles. Nobody can touch us.”
“So, this stone will tell of our history? Is that the message?”
The stone splintered, leaving a groove. “It’s our legacy. When all else has tumbled into dust, these stones will stay standing.”