An orderly pile of stones

So far our castle touring in the UK has been thwarted by comprehensive fencing and warning signs. Fair enough. I grew up in Pittsburgh where in the last few years entire buses have been swallowed right in downtown and bridges had so many large chunks falling onto traffic below that they built a covered bridge under the bridge to protect the main artery underneath. I never saw a warning sign or a fence so I’m just saying that I took my chances. But it’s good to know that the kind folks in the UK are on the job and being so careful. After all, these structures are quite old and it seems prudent to inspect something that was built in the 1600’s. In all honesty some of these are just a pile of orderly stones but many are absolutely sublimely magnificent. Some look like they were thrown up because somebody was trying to kill them and it’s harder to kill somebody who was clever enough to build a stone wall to hide behind.

Here in Shetland they built exclusively out of stone because back in the early days there were far fewer trees than you can find today. But you really have to work hard to find a tree in Shetland, even now.

When Marce found a castle way up here in Unst structurally sound enough that you can go inside and have a nosey just to feel the space and the wonder of it all, I jumped at the chance. Like anything on Unst it wasn’t far and you can even park overnight.

The castle was built in 1598 for the ruthless Lawrence Bruce, who Shetlanders say used blood and eggs as mortar. Their blood and their eggs apparently. Unloved in Muness, Larry borrowed Earl Patrick Stewart’s master builder Andrew Crawford who was supposed to be working on Stewart’s castle in Scalloway. This annoyed Stewart who was even more ruthless and corrupt than Larry. Turns out Andrew Crawford had mad skills as a builder in stone and it shows in both structures.

Muness is the UK’s most northern castle. A lot of things in Unst are UK’s “most northern.”

This is one of the earliest uses of straight (scale and platt) stairs instead of the previously almost universal spiral staircase.

You can see a weapon port on bench, many were fake throughout the castle.

The great hall shows the replacement lintel above the huge fireplace. The original carved one is in the national museum in Edinburgh in an effort to preserve the fine oak carving. The well thought-out spaces that interconnect to stairways with magnificent craftsmanship and balance attest to the skill and taste of the builders.

It was a privilege spending the night next to this beautiful icon. You might think it’s spooky or possibly risky but I don’t know. I’ve driven the streets of Pittsburgh without a care in the world.

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