Today I took up my itinerary with a vengeance—planning to visit Burntisland, Falkland and St. Andrews in a day and spend a couple of hours with my dad’s Aunt Lena. It did not work out that way… But two out of three ain’t bad!
I drove to Burntisland this morning to visit Rossend Castle, where Mary, Queen of Scots stayed February 1563. It was at Rossend where Pierre de Bocosel de Chastelard, a French messenger (some say spy) and poet, hid under Mary’s bed and surprised her. Supposedly he was dying of love for her, but he had a knife and this was the second time he’d comprised Mary’s reputation—Mary’s detractors, especially John Knox, made mileage out of the scandal. Mary took a hard-line and executed Chastelard at the Mercat Cross in St. Andrews. His last words fueled the scandal: “Adieu, most beautiful and cruel princess in the world.” Chastelard is the subject of a play by Charles Algernon Swinburne, in which he is a warrior-poet who is also Mary Stuart’s courtier and lover. The twist? Mary Beaton also loves him. This is all fiction of course, but it gives a writer some ideas…
The castle was a disappointment. The stone walls are now covered in pebble whitewash (horrors), which is more period 20thCentury than anything else. The grounds were a mess, but then I understand it was—or is–up for sale. A postal worker happened by and I asked him about the area, and he pointed the Keeper’s house out to me (or what he believed had been), the exterior of which was a bit more of what I was expecting.
The only other place of note personal – the castle overlooked the Burntisland Shipyard where my grandfather Donnelly worked as a plumber’s mate from about 1941-1970.
I made my way up the A921 through Kirkcaldy to Falkland, which is not all that far – about 15 miles. But the roads are very windy here and I nearly came to blows with the Garmin SatNav! It sent me back and forth through Kirkcaldy to the point where I was sure there was a real person behind the Garmin just messing with me. Finally I stopped listening to the Garmin woman and made my own way to Falkland without any trouble.
Falkland is a beautiful town set at the foot of the Lomond Hills–exactly where you’d expect to find a royal hunting lodge. Falkland Palace was a favorite hunting long of the Stewart monarchs, especially James IV, James V and Queen Mary.
It was also the home of Mary Beaton’s grandfather and father, who were Keepers of the palace so it was exciting to see where young Beaton would have been born and where she would have visited her family when she was not with Queen Mary. I entered through the Keeper’s residence, long renovated by the Bute family but there was enough effort made to give several rooms at 16th Century feel, and plenty of portraits around of the Stewarts. I could very much picture Queen Mary galloping across the fields with the Four Maries, playing tennis in the court (the oldest tennis court in the world, I’m told). Unfortunately, I could not take any photographs inside.
Headed off to St. Andrews with a quick stopover to see my dad’s aunt who was in Glenrothes at a nursing home. But as I got in the car to leave, I noticed the right front tire was flat as a pancake, which scuppered my plans for St. Andrews and I spent the afternoon dealing with car matters—very frustrating.