Castle Bagging

Castle Bagging

While on holiday (vacation for you Americans), besides the awesome scenery and mountains, Scotland’s ancient castles are certainly worth the time to visit.

I think the concept finally dawned on me the morning of rainy Mallaig. We were on the road to Skye and just leaving our posh hotel by the sea.  The mist and fog was there and we motored out to catch the Ferry to Skye.  I discovered a castle to see just on the other side at Armadale.  Amidst the drizzle, Armadale Castle was well done and the gardens around it very beautiful.  Inside was museum-like and not up to Eli’s standards.  He was disappointed and we were heading out and to see the Cullen Hills of Skye. These hills are a known climber’s haunt and I was ready to see some real crags. Ben Nevis had got me fired up.

Now the Cullen Hills are just teeth-like mountains and it sure was going to be hard to see them from the damp and rainy trail.  Visibility was low, and there were a few sucker windows of sun or perhaps it was just a brightening in the sky, daring us to commit, to tromp off in to the wilds and only then turn on us, and pelt down the rain and soak us all.

It’s then I realized it.  While I was interested in tromping in the wilds and seeing the hills or just bagging the peaks around me, my son Eli was interested in all the castles.  So the trip turned and became the search for castles to bag. Now, what is this slang about bagging?  Way back in my Adirondack youth, there was a term called “peak bagging” to describe folks who were possessed in hiking the 46 high peaks (over 4000′).  So this term was coined by some visionary to describe the sake of dashing up peaks to mark them off the list of 46.  So, borrowing the analogy, we now have castle-bagging.

Yes, castle-bagging was now the mission!

So it was then, at the fork between peaks (Cullen Hills in the fog) or Eilean Donan to the right, the castles won and off to the mainland we were.  Since we couldn’t see much of Skye due to the weather, it did seem like a good choice at the time.  And the rest is short history. 

So how many you say?  Eli and I bagged 23 castles in 5 days.  Not too shabby for our first foray into Scotland.