I am running a risk of letting the knitting holidays get on top of me! I have come back from Roslin just over one month ago and, I suppose Christmas is to blame, I have not had the time nor head space to sit down and to sum up (if such a thing is indeed possible) the trip. Firstly, as is often the case with events planned long time in advance, the trip has crept up on me. And it was fine too – everything was handled well in advance. The group of visiting Ladies has shaped up marvellously and I was very much looking forward to spending some time with them all.
I travelled to Edinburgh a little early and have stayed in a lovely little hotel situated on the Royal Mile, which was a treat. The weather, as you may well expect at this time of year, was not brilliant. And I forgot only one thing – an umbrella, which was easily remedied! I met up with a friend I have made at Saddell Castle, who was a perfect stranger when she’s turned up for the very first Stitchville knitting holiday, but is now a very good friend (she was the “wild card” of the previous holiday). It was just great to catch up and to be shown about by a proper Edinburghian. We went off, surprise surprise, to her local knitting group’s meeting in a little quaint café where we spent a lovely albeit short while, as we had to dash off to a performance that night.
Upon arrival in Roslin, at which point I was quite in need of a little rest, I ordered a cab to take me (and my heavy bags) to the castle. Imagine my surprise when the cab driver turfed me out at the bottom of the hill, assertively proclaiming that he is not going up that mud track, as it is simply too dangerous! There was no reasoning with him. So I got out and bravely took on the barely there hill. We have worked on the cab drivers with tremendous success – at the end of the holiday the very same cab driver braved the hill to take one of us to the airport!
I like the first day of holidays. It’s a day of taking the place in, of welcomes and unpacking. We chilled quite a lot on the first weekend of the holiday. There was a core group of 5 people who were there for the whole 10 days, whilst the “orbital” two positions were held by three sets of two visiting Ladies. One of us, particularly interested in facts (and not particularly interested in knitting, which BTW is allowed as we are a very open bunch) was telling us interesting stories about the castle, which she has read about in the many interesting books from the castle’s library.
It was quite a surprise when the Rumbustious Group arrived on Monday. Monday was a birthday also. The fire was roaring big in an impressive fireplace in the drawing-room and in the dining room also. All doors downstairs were flung open. On that day we have achieved the unthinkable – the big and spacious castle actually felt cosy! I have invaded the Chef’s kitchen to make a birthday cake…
Back to the Rumbustious Ladies… We had so much fun! We took to regularly going to bed past midnight – that’s how engaging and exciting the conversations were. We just could not drop them. We, however, would end up dropping the stitches in the heat of conversation and because it was very late. With only one single bedroom, most of us shared. May I say that, actually and counterintuitively for many grown up women – particularly these going on a holiday with other women, some of whom are perfect strangers to start with at least, this has proven to be a real highlight for me. I have shared a room with a dear friend of mine and it was such a treat! Needless to say, the conversations went on even after the lights went out. I was reminded of my childhood, when sleepovers used to be such a fun thing to do (it made me think of a friend I am no longer in touch with, who I used to share similar moments with when I was a child – and yes, I did call her when I came back home!). These days I’m the one organising sleepovers (really, they should be called “wakeovers”) for my own children! So it made a change and was quite a record too – 10 nights!
The soft discipline of the first knitting holiday, when we would get out onto the beach to do some stretches in the morning, simply wasn’t there. I slept in every morning without fail. Actually, this made me quite worried about slotting back into my early bird routine on my return home, which has proven to be an unjustified concern. The countryside around the castle was pretty enough, but it simply could not match – at least for me – the amazing outdoors of the Kintyre Peninsula and the beautiful bay the Saddell Castle overlooks. I knitted as much as I could – whenever I was not organising stuff or teaching. I’ve made this hat and this snood at Rosslyn, as well as some simple leg warmers for my daughter, and this scarf:
She has chosen the yarn herself when she was 6 years old. It is so mad that I really couldn’t think of what to do with it, so it was stashed with piles of other yarn, biding its time… It ended up as a long stripy scarf.
The group output was tremendous. There were piles of projects cast-off, cast-on and at any imaginable stage in between.
The second weekend was yet different – very mellow and incredibly relaxed, with a touch of a “phew!” to it. It seemed we have reached some sort of relaxation plateau. It was just perfect. On that weekend I have finally braved the dungeons! It took us a while to find an entrance to it, which has turned out to be in plain view… The splendid top floors of the castle rest upon something quite different. A cold and wet three floors of glassless windows and almost cave-like rooms. We were told by the caretaker that the floor directly below the ground floor used to be the kitchens and servants’ quarters. There appeared to be another kitchen on the floor below that, and more rooms, which could have been the servants’ rooms. The lowest floor used to be a prison and it was the most dreary and wettest of all! The energy down there felt quite heavy, which has prompted me to return to the cosy drawing-room upstairs where I could immerse myself again in the comforting knitting and an interesting conversation, of which there is never a lack on these holidays. Some of us ventured into the dungeons, some of us did not. I wanted to understand the place, so I went.
I can tell you that no amount of books, essays and lectures can make it more poignant how different and divided the society was back in the days of this castle’s glory. And it looked pretty amazing in its heyday:
As we have found out a few days after our arrival, the place is atop ghost hunters’ list (I had no idea there was one). Apparently, on the day of our arrival a group of ghost hunters has just left! Little did we know about it. Being sensitive souls though, with quite accurate energy meters built-in, we thought that the energy was a little “off” at the castle when we got there. Luckily, we had a “spirit pro” with us, who has very admiringly sorted the place out for us. It was an experience, to be sure. Apparently, the ghosts of the White Lady and the Grey Lady dwell in the castle, accompanied by a ghost of a greyhound, whose favourite spot is on the top of the stone staircase. Legends abound! Rosslyn Chapel was a magnificent cherry on the cake with its many stories and legends also:
The reason I keep on choosing these amazing historic locations rather than characterless modern hotels (perhaps warmer and more comfortable, but painfully sterile and boring) is precisely because they are so educational by their very nature. I can and most probably will forget a holiday in one of these aforementioned contemporary hotels, but I most certainly will not forget this one!
On the way back (by train, which is by far the most knitting friendly mode of transport) I designed and made these:
These booties are seamless and the pattern for them has been published yesterday! They are part of Stitchville’s new collection called “Fairer World”, which is a fundraising collection. But it’s a subject for another post.