Visit to Doune Castle - 26 Aug 2017
We decide to head off to visit DOUNE CASTLE about half an hour’s drive away. A favourite stop on the filming locations trail for the hit TV series Outlander the castle was also the set for many scenes of the 1974 hit film Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Leaving Appletree Cottage we head west along the A811 stopping briefly at east end of the village of Bucklyvie for some excellent refreshment at the newly opened roadside café.
From Bucklyvie we continue along the A811. We see Gargunnock village some distance away on the hill to the right. Then we turn left by Gargunnock Sawmill (B8075 signposted Doune)
We continue along this road for a mile or so and turn left at the end onto the A84. Just after turning left there is a great new Farm Shop by the roadside which is worth a visit. We continue along the last couple of miles and cross the bridge over the Teith River into Doune village following the signs to Doune Castle
To get to the castle we drove through the village and turned right (signposted Doune Castle) at the end of the main street.
We made our way along the single track road and soon the castle came into sight. It was a Saturday and parking was tight but we managed to find a space in the small carpark.
The exterior of the castle was clearly recognisable both as the factional Leoch Castle, the seat of the McKenzie clan in the Outlander TV series and multiple locations from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
We entered through the huge open oak doors and bought our tickets. (£6 for Adults and £3.50 for children at time of writing).
Free with each ticket is a headset guide to the castle narrated mostly by Python Terry Jones with a couple of notes form Sam Heughan who plays Jamie Fraser in Outlander.
Terry Jones’ notes are particularly interesting.
A brief history...
Doune Castle is situated on high ground and defended by rivers on two sides where the Ardoch Burn meets the River Teith. It is thought that the Castle was built in the thirteenth century on a site previously occupied by some other fortification. Following damage in the Wars of Independence the castle was rebuilt by Robert Stewart, Duke of Albany sometime in the late 14th century. Albany who was Regent of Scotland (1388 - 1420) and was the son of Robert the Second of Scotland had great plans for the enhancement of the castle but did not survive to see them through. Occupying one of the main routes to the highlands the castle was of significant strategic importance. There is a good story of how, after the Battle of Falkirk in 1746 (part of the Jacobite uprising) the Jacobites took several prisoners back to Doune Castle and incarcerated them in the upper storey of the Castle's kitchen block. Among the prisoners, was a minister called John Witherspoon. Being a young (23) and enterprising chap, he tore up some material and knotted it together to use as a rope and escape to the ground. Shortly after this Witherspoon emigrated to the America and became the only clergy member to sign the Declaration of Independence.
Inside Doune Castle
After passing through the entrance tunnel we were in the courtyard with its well in the centre. The courtyard was used as the interior of Swamp Castle for the wedding massacre scene (the exterior was Bodiam Castle in East Sussex) The large wall of the courtyard (the one without any windows) was used as Guy de Lombard’s Castle from which livestock was catapulted onto the unsuspecting seekers of the Holy Grail.
A flight of steps from the courtyard leads up to the Kitchens with the servery and the Great Hall.
The kitchen has a hugely impressive seventeen foot wide fireplace, large enough to roast an entire ox. Serving hatches allowed food to be passed to servants who would distribute it to those feasting in the main hall.
In The Holy Grail the kitchens were used as Castle Anthrax where Sir Galahad is unwillingly rescued from Zoot and her girlfriends. The Great Hall was the location of the Knights of the round table song and dance routine.
Doune Castle is a fantastic castle to explore. It is like a medieval labyrinth. There are lots of narrow passages, stairways where you least expect them, many bedrooms, halls, cellars, minstrels galleries, nooks and crannies.
Most of the castle is open to the public so you are free to roam as you wish. The height of the doorways serve as a reminder as to how much smaller the human form was four hundred years ago!
Upstairs in the Duchess' hall is the setting for a famous scene from Swamp Castle in the Holy Grail - "One day lad, all this will be yours!"
A gift shop in one of the cellars of the castle sells both OUTLANDER and MONTY PYTHON souvenirs including Outlander Tartan Shawls, Outlander Cookbook and half coconut shells for the Python fans!
As well as Outlander and Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Doune Castle has been used by other productions as a filming location including Game of Thrones (Winterfell Castle) and
Ivanhoe (BBC) and featuring in Sir Walter Scott's novel Waverley (1814)
After two very satisfying hours we returned our guide headsets and left through the entrance through which a Trojan Rabbit was once dragged!
Conclusion: A great family day out and well worth the money.