Sunday, 13 April 2008

Loch Leven Castle

Historic Scotland's free entry day was on Sunday, so like a fair few others we took the opportunity of a free boat trip to Loch Leven Castle.

Ducks bobbed on the choppy grey water as the cheerful boatman took us across the loch, the surrounding hills falling away as we reached open water, huge clouds sailing stately across the sky. No one else seemed to be on the loch except two trout fishermen in a small rowing boat. Gliders rode the winds above the escarpments of the Lomond Hills and Benarty. The small castle sits on an island in the loch, and doesn't take long to explore. It is best known for Mary, Queen of Scots, who spent an unhappy year imprisoned here from June 1567 and May 1568, between her defeats at Carberry and Langside. She escaped disguised as a maid, and, given the intimacy of the castle, one wonders how this was accomplished undetected.

My favourite story about the castle is older. In 1301 it was beseiged by an English force. They decided to dam the outlet to the loch to flood the defender, John Comyn, out. But, as John wondered what could be done, the English force retreated to a neary church to feast and celebrate Michaelmas. While they were away, Comyn's men undermined the dam: and after they came back, drunk, the Scots seized their opportunity, rowed across the loch with muffled oars as their enemies slept, and burst the dam, drowning the force below.

The moral of this story: don't camp beneath temporary dams.

View from a window in Loch Leven Castle:
Loch Leven Castle

There is another curiosity about Loch Leven, overlooked by the Lomond Hills, and drained by the River Leven. That is that there is another Loch Leven, overlooked by a Lomond, and drained by a River Leven - but at some point in history, this other Loch Leven was renamed Loch Lomond. Why were there two such similarly named lochs and hills so close to each other in Central Scotland?

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