Dunstaffnage Castle was completed in 1220, and it would be hard to approach the castle without being impressed by the makers for finding a great location. The castle towers out from a section of rock, and would certaily make any attacker nervous. From the top you can see both the inlet that wraps around the peninsula it is on and the sea out to the West.
Being inside the Castle was an incredible experience. The black stone was intimidating, but after looking at some informative panels, we found out the inside used to be whitewashed. There were smaller buildings that held all the functions of those who lived there, and a great hall, all now gone. Dunstaffnage was seiged and taken in 1309, and it is hard to imagine spending months on end in the enclosure. With all the buildings gone its square was about the size of a tennis court. The well they used still has a reserve of fresh water (though now the pigeons are the main users of the well.)
I was struck by how intentional everything was. They did not throw these building together for no reason. Castles took work, so everything is planned. This was apparent when you got to the top of the tower. I imagine that with some more tree control, you could see just about everything. There was no sneaking up on this position. It was well defensable, and could see a rading fleet from miles away.
Lastly, this intentional attitude was reflected in the chapel. Located off a couple hundred meters, the chapel stood almost under a bluff. It is now a ruin, but even in its current state you can tell they though about everything. The upcroft by it sheilded it from the wind. The wind is fierce in Scotland, and worse near the sea, but when you approach the chapel it gets quiet. The rocks sheild the building, and it starts the entry to the chapel as a calm experience. Just that little detail shows how the world impacted the structures these people made, and how much though they had to put into them for them to stand as long as they have.
Thinking about what I’ll take away, I hope to be as thoughtful as they had to be. Every stone mattered; every window had a purpose. I hope that I can start to live a little more intentionally and be aware of the world I am in. For this trip, that means allowing myself to be in the moment and experience the history of a thoughtful people. But in the future I hope to be more diliberate, thoughtful, and open to listening to my own surroundings.
I can’t wait to head out to Iona tomorrow and see what comes next.