This Easter Sunday I faced the choice of cycling to Balmoral Castle or to Corgarff Castle. Everyone knows that Balmoral Castle is one of the homes of the British Royal Family and many people would love the chance to visit. Most people will not of heard of Corgarff Castle. Which would you choose?
If you were hoping to read all about Balmoral then I am sorry to disappoint you. I decided to go to the place that nobody has heard of. What persuaded me was this photograph:
Ever since I saw that photo I knew that I had to go to this place. The combination of a brilliant white castle and green and brown wild mountains captured my imagination. The castle is the only sign of human life for miles around and the remoteness appealed to my sense of adventure. The castle had been used as a barracks in the eighteenth century for Government troops and this is when the unique star shaped perimeter wall was added. The wall had slits for muskets to be fired out of.
I could not help but imagine a big screen film with red coat soldiers outnumbered by highlanders. The soldiers are trapped inside the castle with limited supplies and ammunition and desperately defending the perimeter wall with their muskets.
Back to real life. The castle was never actually attacked and was primarily used as a base for patrols that searched for local people wearing kilts (which had been made illegal) or apprehending smugglers.
I was staying in Ballater, Deeside. From here I cycled the 15 miles along the A939 to the castle. Despite being an A-road it was fairly light on traffic, but it has its fair share of hills. At the road's highest point there is barren moorland with hills like an unmixed cake mixture of swirling greys, greens, browns, pale yellow and aubergine.
The landscape is spectacular. It was quite tough cycling, but this made it even more worthwhile and special to arrive at Corgarff Castle.
You cannot drive or cycle right up to the castle entrance. There is a car park to leave your transportation so that you can walk up a steep path where you must watch out for the sheep droppings.
Inside the castle there is not that much to see and a 30 minute visit is easily enough time, but that is not the point. The magic of Corgarff is the location and imagining what it must have been like to be a soldier stationed here. Right at the top of the building the windows rattled in the wind and I imagined what it must have been like to be here in the depths of winter, miles and miles from the nearest town.
Corgarff Castle certainly lived up to the imaginings that the photo had conjured up. I was glad that I had chosen it over Balmoral. Do you think I made the right choice?
My name is Colin Baird and I want to see all of Scotland by bicycle.