Letters from Scotland
By Jonathon Farrell



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Linlithgow Palace
.photos by Jonathon Farrell


Ravenscraig Castle

Hello everyone!

As usual, I am a week late again. But this past week was spent in its entirety on essay writing, so there has not really been very much to talk about. Much of last week was spent on work too, actually. 

After spring break, I took a few days to actually rest, and as everyone began to trickle back in, we all shared stories about our breaks. Most people seem to have gone to Paris. 

One of the more exciting stories I heard was from two of my friends who went to Paris for a few days, and then hiked across all of Corsica - that must have been quite an adventure! Personally, I think my trip around Ireland was best though!

After that, I slowly got back into a working pattern, though it took me a few days to achieve anything. The most exciting thing I have done in the past few weeks was a field trip for my Scottish Castles course - that was a great time. 

We left St. Andrews at 9 a.m., and visited four castles over the day. Our first stop was Ravenscraig, in the Town of Kirkcaldy. This castle was fairly small and mostly in ruins, but we toured all around it, and of course, the professor told us its history and design functions, the most interesting being its adaptations for gunpowder warfare, such as stout round towers. 

The next stop was in Aberdour, to see the castle of the same name. This one was in use for much longer - much of it had been converted into a 17th Century palace, complete with grand dining rooms and excessive decoration. The old part of the castle was not in such good shape - in fact, a large chunk of the tower house (the main enclosed part) had fallen off, and lay in one piece on the ground. 

After that, we headed to Linlithgow, which I thought was very impressive. This one was built as a royal palace, and is situated between Edinburgh and Stirling. The castle itself was in very good condition, with all the original staircases and what-not intact, so we spent a long time thoroughly exploring it. 

The natural setting of the palace was very nice too; it is in a large park, with a lake behind and fields in the distance. I found myself wondering on the trip if anyone else on our bus was watching all the fields as closely as I was! My farm boy upbringing had me amazed at how far along everything here is - the canola is blooming, the wheat is already a few inches high, etc. All this while I was hearing of snow forecast for you at home! 

Anyway, the next stop was a very famous castle - Doune. Although you may not recognize it by that name ... it is more famous as the Monty Python castle, as this is where all the castle scenes in the Holy Grail movie were shot.

So, we all had great fun roaming around and finding all the settings for our favourite scenes, from the French taunting King Arthur to the farm animals being thrown from the walls, or the temptation of Sir Galahad in the Castle Anthrax. This was a lot of fun for everyone; all of us in university, there on a scholarly field trip, giggling and imagining the movie scenes. 

After that, it was back to St. Andrews for the end of the trip.

The only other interesting thing to happen all week was the Kate Kennedy Procession, which is a tradition that has been going on here for - I think it was - 187 years. This was a parade of people dressed as every famous Scottish character you can think of, from Robert the Bruce and William Wallace to Sir Walter Scott, Robbie Burns, and more than 100 others, culminating with Kate Kennedy herself (not that I know who that is!).

This week, there has been a game going on in hall called Assassins, and it has caused quite an uproar. I, myself, did not enter, but I have still been used as a shield. Everyone received a ball with someone else's name on it, and they were to "assassinate" that person without any witnesses. 

I have been dragged all over the place with friends so that there would always be a witness around, and my room is often used as a staging point for attacks, or a refuge in times of danger. It has been a lot of fun, but I am glad I am not directly involved - people are so paranoid about it all, and I had so much work to do! 

But I handed in that essay yesterday, and today I am having a break. I have decided that though they are not properly commemorating Easter for the weekend, I will give myself today, tomorrow, and Monday off, and then dive back in to essay writing.



Aberdour Castle


Doune Castle


Jonathon Farrell, son of Geoff and Sandra Farrell of Huron-Kinloss, is studying at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland this school year, through a student exchange program at Queen's University, Kingston, where he is a third-year student.

 Hope all of you have a good Easter! Mine will not be the most exciting, and nowhere near as good as it would be if I were at home, where they are currently having a marvellous feast. But hey, I just remember that I'm in Scotland and I'm fine.


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Saturday, April 23, 2011