For the past two months, we’ve been been travelling around the UK with visits to Portugal for a wonderful family wedding, and to Paris to assuage an unwavering, heady addiction. But we are, of course, en route to Scotland – our spiritual home.
Some of our time has been devoted to research for my next book: I was especially interested in the Scottish forays over the border into England, though there was much to tempt us on the way.
Over the next few posts I’ll be exploring the highlights of this particular aspect of our journey. If my Ipad chooses to cooperate, you might get to see some shots of these gorgeous places. I hope so!
Our first night after leaving London was spent in the old village of Clare with its ruined castle and priory. Everything is so close, involving just a few hours drive. Some of you will know that Robert the Bruce’s grandmother was a de Clare so there were possible links with the town. However for the most part, connections with the de Clare earls of Gloucester would have been further west in the Marches.
But because it’s on the way south to Writtle, one of the Bruce manors inherited from his grandmother, I expected Robert must have called in here from time to time, especially since it was a place with connections to one of his friends: Ralph de Monthermer, as a young squire, he stole the heart of Joan of Acre, the widowed countess of the earl of Gloucester, and earned the extreme ire of her father, Edward I – a terrific love story and an amazing woman by all accounts. Ralph survived, was later knighted and served successfully under his father in law as one of his commanders. But it is thought he was the knight who saved Robert’s life by warning him of his imminent arrest in London, allowing him time to escape north. Ralph’s wife, Joan, is buried in the priory along with its later patron, Elizabeth de Burgh, who was married to the brother of (another) Elizabeth de Burgh – Robert’s second wife. I find all these connections infinitely fascinating…
At Clare, we stayed in an intriguing 14th century cottage with low ceilings, rough hewn beams, old murky portraits and probably a ghost or two, as well as three friendly black labs. The Cobbles B&B was hosted by Alistair and Woolfy who we found had many Scottish connections and interests. Would love to have stayed longer and shared a few drams but the road was calling us. Next stop – the castles of Richmond and Barnard!